Pressure Group Notes

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                          The Nature and Function of Pressure Groups

  • Seek to influence government policy and decision making 
  • Do not aspire to be government or make decisions themselves 



  • Trying to influence decisions 
  • Not make them themselves 


  • Want to influence decisions and their details
  • So how they're implemented and the finer details of them 
  • E.g. = Health and Social Care Act, from 2011-2012, British medical society couldn't stop it being passed, but campaigned for amendments to Bill, to ensure it maintained principles of free NHS.


  • Focus on small range of issues (most)
  • Some are single issued
  • e.g. 'Plane stupid' emerged in 2005, campaign against airport expansion 
  • E.g. 'Justice for Gurkhas' in 2010, natives of Nepal who have fought for British army. Wanted right to settle in Britain after retirement. 
  • Multi-issue groups, look at a range of policies. E.g trade unions-campaign for workers for, conditions, pension, wages and health & safety.

4. Pressure groups work at different levels of government : 

  • They need to identify where decisions are being made and then Apply pressure there:
  1. Level of policy bodies, ministers and civil servants.
  • This is done at early stages of policy development (many govt. policies take years to develop) 
  • As they begin to shape ministers and civil servants get involved 
  • Once details are published, MP's, peers and media give their opinions to debate
  • Public opinion also considered 
  • All this happens before any legislation appears at Westminster 

2.  The Westminster parliament 

  • This is when national policy is being passed at Parliament, as legislation 
  • Pressure groups operate in both Houses of Parliament (and their legislative committees) 

3. The Welsh, Scottish, Northern Ireland, or London governments 

  • When the issue is regional 

4. Local government 

  • When issues are local 

5. Issues that are resolved at European Union level 

  • Eg, agriculture, fisheries and trade, force pressure groups to work with European institutions 
  • Such as: European Commission, European Parliament, Council Of Ministers 

Some examples of pressure group activity in courts:

  • November 2009 in Supreme Court, 'Office of fair trading versus Barclay Banks and others' 
  • Seven banks, backed by British bankers association , successfully overturned ruling that Office of Fair Trading could investigate their systems of charging customers for unauthorised overdrafts. 
  • Office of Fair Trading were representing interests of customers 
  • This was example of pressure groups against each other in courts.

March 2010 in the High Court. 'Hillingdon versus Secretary of State for transport' 

  • A coalition of environmental groups (including green leave and the campaign to protect rural England) successfully forced the govt. to review its decision to build a third runway at Heathrow 
  • Saying plans conflicted with official carbon-emissions control targets 
  • They were successful 

February 2012 in Supreme Court. 'Ravat versus Haliburton' 

  • Various trade unions wanted British workers employed abroad to be protected from unfair dismissal 
  • They were successful 


  • They play a key part in government process, they're involved at all stages of policy and decision making


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