Exam Hint - Follow this framework when answering a
How to answer questions on pressures on Parliament.
Describe the pressure
Discuss how they put pressure on Parliament
Discuss when they put pressure on Parliament
The effect this pressure has
Pressure Groups - Description
Pressure groups are groups that bring matters of their interest to the attention of the public and parliament.
Sectional pressure groups represent interests of particular groups of people such as the NUT (National Union of Teachers).
Causal pressure groups exist to promote a particular cause such as Fathers4Justice and Greenpeace.
Insider pressure groups have strong links with decision makers and are part of the consultation process. Usually sectional groups like the BMA or The Law Society.
Outsider pressure groups hare not consulted in the discussion process of government proposals such as trade unions and charities.
Pressure Groups - How They Put Pressure On
Lobbying MPs - Try to persuade individual members of parliament to support their cause.
Likely to use direct action such as strikes or demonstrations if causal or outsider group who are not consulted in decision making process.
Fathers4Justice - Climb buildings dressed as superheroes to get attention.
NUT - Striking to cause disruption and inconvenience.
Pressure Groups - When They Put Pressure On Parlia
Likely to be during the drafting of a bill and could be consulted by ministers or civil servants.
Also during the time of a general election to try and win parties over or at a time when it will not be convenient to the public in order to get attention from them.
Pressure Groups - The Effect Of The Pressure
As the groups gain more awareness and support, the government may reconsider the law in a particular area. Successful pressure groups may persuade an MP to raise their questions in Parliament.
Backbench MP's can introduce Private Members' Bills during a parliamentary session to reform the law in the interests of pressure groups (unlikely to be successful unless widespread support).
Insider groups likely to be involved in the drafting of a Bill and may be consulted by ministers or civil servants.
Sectional pressure groups likely to be consulted when legislation is being drafted that affects members of the group. Consultation may be arranged following lobbying.
Pressure Groups - Examples
- 2000 - Government agreed to reduce age of consent for homosexual acts in private to 16.
- The League against cruel Sports influenced passage of the Hunting Act 2004 which banned hunting for foxes with dogs.
- Fathers4Justice (fighting for equal rights as women with regards to access to children).
Pressure Groups - Advantages
- Increased support which adds weight to the argument.
- Possible to force through legislation such as teachers receiving 1% pay rise due to strikes.
- Sectional groups have large numbers of members so their causes could be better known.
- Membership of most pressure groups is usually free so anyone interested can join which adds further weight.
- There is wide use of social media which can cause fast support for a group.
Pressure Groups - Disadvantages
- Conflicting interests.
- Some groups are quite extreme and can actually decrease support such as the BNP.
- The tactics are undesirable due to their inconvenience such as teachers striking which has a knock on effect in society.
- Minority view in terms of population.
- Biased in favour of their cause.
Media - Description
Plays an important role in bringing the public's opinion to the government's attention.
Issues with high profiles on television, radio and in newspapers are brought to the attention of the public which can add to the weight of public opinion.
Media - How They Put Pressure On Parliament
The media both represents the public's opinion and influences it.
Puts pressure on parliament by using newspapers, magazines, radio and television to influence public opinion. Free to criticise government policy or bring any issue to the attention of the government.
Members of the public can join pressure groups, write to their MP's or a government minister (very easily using social media), or contact the press.
Pressure groups contact the media to highlight their interest or concern and bring about change.
Media - When They Put Pressure On Parliament
- When there are matters of concern, they are highlighted to the public using the media.
- Just before a general election as parties are more likely to give in to pressure in order to win votes.
- Controversial issues in society such as the London riots, immigration problems or the MP's expenses scandal.
Media - The Effect Of The Pressure
The media can gather public support by regularly raising the issue and dramatising stories to sell them. This forces the government to act because the public becomes concerned.
Media - Examples
- Healthy school dinner campaign by Jamie Oliver.
- 2000 - News of the World influenced the law requiring convicted peadophiles to be placed on a register after a child was murdered by a peadophile.
- The Criminal Justice Act 2003 - Reformed the double jeopardy rule as a result of a media campaign and a Law Commission investigation.
Media - Advantages
- Gets the public opinion heard and the government take action if necessary.
- Brings public issues to the attention of parliament.
- Support pressure groups and publicise them so they gain followers.
- Raises public awareness about new legislation and reveals controversial issues such as the MP's expenses scandal.
- More chance of law being made/reformed due to mass amount of support.
- Anyone can criticise or voice their opinion anytime in any format - whether it be on social media directly messaging an MP or government minister, in the form of an email, or getting in touch with the press.
Media - Disadvantages
- Legislation can be rushed if opinion is too strong and laws won't be clear or well thought out.
- Possibly biased depending on political viewpoint of newspapers - The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Express = Conservatives. Daily Mirror = Labour. The Guardian = Liberal Democrats.
- Newspapers have a political affiliation while radio stations and televisions don't.
- Newspapers dramatise stories which could make parliament think the situation is worse than it really is.
- Newspapers are profit making companies and so will make any story in order to sell it.
Political Parties - Description
Pressure felt from current politcal parties have a significant impact on Parliament such as Labour, the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats.
Political Parties - How They Put Pressure On Parli
Each party publishes a list of reforms they would carry out if they were elected as the next government. This is known as a manifesto and is how the party tries to persuade people to vote for them.
Political Parties - When They Put Pressure On Parl
Around the time of a general election to try and win votes and if elected, will continue to publish objectives.
Possibly when something is happening in their local constituency they may persuade the public that they will fix the problem.
Political Parties - The Effect Of The Pressure
The party with the most MP's with winning seats after a general election form the government. The party then has 5 years to carry out law reforms laid out in their manifesto. The Government elected has a major say on what laws will be put to the HOC and HOL.
Law could be difficult to pass as there may be too many differing opinions in the HOC if there is a hung parliament. This happened after the 2010 general election where both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives were elected as government.
Political Parties - Examples
- Private Members' Bills such as the Household Waste Recycling Act 2003.
- Government Acts such as the Legal Services Act 2007.
- Public Bills such as the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
Political Parties - Advantages
- All parties have proposals for reform ready so they know what to do if elected as government.
- Virtually all government laws will be passed because they have a majority in the HOC which is efficient.
- Political parties are set up to represent the public and their views.
- There is a wide range of parties in the UK so a variety of views are represented.
- All MP's sit in the House of Commons and can challenge the opposition at any time.
Political Parties - Disadvantages
- Different parties may reverse changes made by the last government which is costly and open to criticism.
- In the event of a hung parliament, the 2 leading parties may have differing views which makes it harder to pass law.
- Opposition parties will struggle to make new law representing their views because the government have the majority so will always get their laws passed.
- Party politics makes the process unfair because MP's say no for the hell of it.
The Law Commission - Description
Set up under the Law Commission Act 1965
- Section 3 (1):
- "Keep under review all law"
The Law Commission was set up for this purpose and it is an independent, permanent and full time law reform body. Under this act, the commission has various powers and duties:
- Repeal of obsolete laws
- Simplification and modernisation
The Law Commission - Who Sits On It?
The Commission is made up of 5 commissioners.
1 is the chairman and is usually a High Court Judge who leads fellow commissioners and law reform projects.
The other commissioners are all leaders of a particular department in law such as family law and are experienced lawyers. They are supported by other lawyers, parliamentary draftsmen, researchers and admin staff.
The Law Commission - How It Works
The Law Commission's aim is to ensure current law is "as fair, modern, simple and cost effective as possible". They do this by looking at particular areas of law and researching them, consulting experts, and finally producing a report of reccommendations for Parliament to look at concerning the law. They codify law, eliminate anomalies and repeal obsolete enactments.
The Law Commission - The Work It Does
The Law Commission codifies law which brings all law on a particular topic into one Act of Parliament, making it easier to understand and access.
They also consolidate law which brings all statutory provisions on one topic into a single statute, also making the law easier to understand, access and cross reference.
These 2 processes don't change the law.
They also repeal law which removes legislation no longer in use which "tidies up" the body of laws.
The Law Commission - Example
An example of legislation created following a report by the Law Commission is the Fraud Act 2006 which reformed the law on fraud and deception offences.
The Law Commission - Advantages
- Independant from the Government so not influenced by Parliament.
- Very thorough and in depth in researching and making reccommendations which saves parliamentary time.
- They can investigate research into an area of law through their own investigations.
- They can draft their own Bills when proposing new legislation which can be considered by Parliament.
The Law Commission - Disadvantages
- Up to 1 third of Law Commission recommendations are not implemented.
- The Government are not obliged to follow any of the recommendations which could influence political agenda.
- The Commission has a lack of power as the Government is not obliged to even consult the Law Commission when proposing new laws.
- The Commission has no powers to change or re-write laws.
- Investigations carried out can be lengthy.