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Pressure Groups

2 Types of Pressure Groups:

  • Sectional (Interest Groups)
    • They exist to further the interests of a partucular group of people
      • Eg; British Medical Association, Law Society, etc
  • Causal (Pressure group)
    • They exist to further a particular idea
      • Eg; Greenpeace, the RSPCA
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Advantages of Pressure Groups

Advantages

  • Raise public awareness
  • Keeps Parliament in touch with what the public wants
  • Large numbers of people are usually involved. More so than in a political party
  • They have expertiese (researched and committed to the cause)
  • Able to use a wide range of methods to promote their cause
    • Demonstrations
    • Lobbying
    • Social Networks
    • Media atrraction
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Disadvantages of Pressure Groups

Disadvantages

  • No guarantee for change
  • Campaigns can spill over into violence or criminal activity
  • Some can be biasd/narrow minded whereas the government have to balance their cause
  • Some groups have disproportionate influence. Therefore law may be changed although the campaign only represented a small minority
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Media

Plays a powerful role in bringing issues to the attention of the Government

Media includes

  • Newspapers
  • Television
  • Radio

An issue can be brought to the public notice and may change public opinion

Examples

Murder of Stephen Lawrence and the acquittal of  the suspects led to the reform of the 'double jeopardy' rule.
From April 2007 a suspect can be retried if new evidence has been found.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Media

Advantages

  • Raises government and public awareness
  • If the media shows public interest in a cause then the government may act to maintain support

Disadvantages

  • The press may be accused of sensationalism and bias; theirfore their campaigns may reflect these points. Tv and Radio have more regulations requiring them to be more politically neutral
  • The Press may stir up moral panic which may lead to rushed or poorly prepared legislation EG; Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
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Law Commission

Established by the Law Commissions Act 1965, It is a permenant body.
5 commissioners are appointed by the Lord Chancellor. The chairman is a High Court Judge and other four either solicitors, barristers or university law lecturers.

Its function is to reform, repeal (Remove Acts that are no longer used) and codify law ( Bring together law on one topic into one act. Makes law simpler and easier to find eg; Land Registration Act 2002). They concentrate on what is called 'pure law' and work by:

  • researching the area of law that is in need of reform
  • then issues a consultation paper that describes current law and problems and look at options for reform
  • They then issue a final report which states positive proposal for reform and research that led to the conclusion
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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Law Commission

Advantages

  • The law is reviewed by those practising it, so they have practical knowledge
  • It ensures that the law is reviewed on a regular basis
  • Whole areas of law can be considered, not just small issues

Disadvantages

  • Suggests that lawyers have too much influence
  • Government may not proritise changing the law (lack of funding or political reasons) so law change can be slow
  • Major area of Criminal Law is still to be reformed (Non-fatal offences against the person)
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European Union

Britain joined the EU in 1973 and since then EU have to be given effect here.

Advantages

  • Creates uniformity in laws in all EU countries

Disadvantages

  • Not always popular with the public
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Parliamentary Sovereignty/Supremacy

Definition came from the case of Dicey who made 3 main points


Parliament can legislate of any subject matter (Parliament Act 1911 and 1949)
No Parliament can be bound by any previous Parliament and Parliament cannot bind a later Parliament (Can make or repeal any law but some laws are so important that they cannot realistically be repealed; Eg; Act of Settlement 1700)
No other body has the right to override or set aside an act of parliament (Even when Act may have been made because of incorrect information Eg; Railway Board v Pickin 1974)

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Limitations of Parliamentary Supremacy

EU Membership

  • Joined EU in 1973 meaning that EU law takes priority over UK law meaning parliament is no longer the supreme law maker
    • Case: Factortame 1991 - Spanish fishermen argued that the Merchant Fishing Act 1988 was against EU law and that it should be suspended, English courts refused because they couldn't suspend an act of Parliament yet the European Court of Justice said that it should be and gave the courts the right to limit parliamentary supremacy in some circumstances.
  • Parliament has to pass laws that comply with EU law

Human Rights Act 1988

  • States that all Acts have to be compatiable with EU Convention on Human Rights.
  • There have been about 20 declarations of incompatability EG; Anti Terrorist Act 2001
  • Has a limited effect on sovereignty; can't make legislation invalid, it can only decare it incompatible
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Limitations cont..

Devolution

Scotland and Wales have power devoluted to them EG; The Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act 1998. Powers don't  include defence or foreign policy, but it does remove some parliamentary sovereignty

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Advantages of Parliamentary Law Making

Scrutiny

  • Stages of legislative process are thorough and allow time for the bill to be examined, debated and amended if necessary. Therefore the finished statute should be free of loop holes and represent the intentions of parliament

Democratic

  • Law is created by elected MPs (Commons). Unelected HL have limited power to delay legislation and the Royal Assent is a formality.
  • At each stage the biil is debated and voted on

Flexibility

  • Private Members Bills allow MPs outside the government propose legislation.
  • Legislation can also be introduced by the HL
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Disadvantages of the Law Making Process

Undemocratic

  • Elements of law making are undemocratic in the HL is an unelected body, as is the monarch but they both have 'a say' in what legislation is passed
  • Government can introduce bills that are not on its manifesto

Government Control

  • Could be argued that government is too powerful as very few Private Members Bills are passed
  • Bills can 'Ping Pong' between the houses (EG; Hunting Act 204)

Slow

  • Time consuming process

Language

  • Thorough process may mean long complex bills which have to be interpreted in courts
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Comments

Smith E

A good resource overall. Slide 6 is very strong on Law Commission material, as is slide 10 on the limitations of sovereignty. Students can flick back and forth between pages, testing how much detail they have retained. 

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