Institutions of the constitution: UK Parliament

House of Commons
democratically elected. Currently has 650 MPs, meaning 326 MPs is needed for legislation to pass through Commons stages
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What does Boundary Commission review Sep 2018 propose?
reducing number of MPs to 600. this would favour the conservatives, labour areas tend to favour people in the coutry. This would lead to more representation of people in suburbs rather than in cities
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Roughly 110 MPs are on gov pay role, they are the government. So it would increase the government dominance if there were 600 MPs and still 110 gov members
this ties into separation of powers- this would manifest absence, since the gov would dominate legislatiur
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How does one become an MP in the house of commons?
1 MP is returned to westminster from each 650 constituencies. candidates with the most vote for the seat becomes MP. it is more likely to generate single party majority governments
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who are main victims of First Past The Post?
Libdems- pick up a lot of second places, rack up a lot of votes but don't get a lot of seats
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Single transferable vote
voters rank candidates in multi-member constituencies (instead of having one MP for north leeds, one for south ect, there would be several for all of leeds)- candidates need to reach specific quota to be elected. once over threshold, second preferenc
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preferences of successful candidate are redistributed until another candidate also reaches quota target, and so on until all constituency seats are filled
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Alternative vote
voters rank each candidate (1-best, etc). if no candidate receives over 50.1% of votes, bottom candidate drops out and his/her votes are redistributed until someone reaches over 50.1%, this keeps single member constituencies
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In 2011, the UK had a raferendum to see if Alternative vote should be used instead of FPTP
YES-32.1%, NO=67.9%, it is now considered off the political agenda
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Holyrood Parliament- additional member system
each voter=2 votes, 1 vote to elect MSP, one vote to elect additional member
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Who can be an MP?
House of Commons Disqualification act 1975 & other statues such as British Nationality Act 1981 lay this out
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people must be over 18, UK, Commonwealth or Eire citizens
Disqualifications include being a judge, peers (People in HoL, except hereditory peers who no longer sit in HoL), judges, civil servants, armed forces,police, members of public authority (this is to do with idea of neutrality in public service)
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bankrupts, people guilty of corrupt or illegal practices under Representation of the People Act 1983 (such as making a false declaration about election expenses= corrupt; paying voters' taxi fares to get them to poll=illegal)
MPs who commit criminal offences and are sentences to imprisonment for more than one year are required to vacate commons seat and there will be a bi-election
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meeting of parliament
Septennial Act 1715- 7 year Parl, Parliament Act 1911- maximum 5 year parl, Parl Act 2011- Fixed-terms parliament Act. Parliaments now often last less than 5 years, e.g. when Prime Minister (normally for reasons of political advantage) asks Queen to
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use prerogative powers to dissolve parliament before 5 years is up
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Government formation and the royal prerogative
After general election result is known- queen uses prerogative powers to appoint Prime Minister. If one single party has 326+ MPs- the leader of that party is invited to become MP
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What if no one party gains overall majority? (a 'hung' parliament), what rules apply then?
e.g. was Gordon Brown constitutionally allowed to stay at 10 Downing Street after result was known ans seek coalition partners or should he have offered his government's resignation immediately? What of Teresa May in March 2017 when Conservatives los
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lost overall majority? Also what of the role of the monarch in such circumstances? past precedents?
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Government formation: Hung Parliaments
Brazier, Constitutional Practice (1994) ch.3 "the only rule.. is open-ended and unhelpful, namely that in choosing a prime minister, queen should commission that person best able to command a stable majority in HoC.. this doesn't take us very far" So
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how would the queen identify who is best? they may not even be a party leader, who may command support of 326+ MPs from various minority parties
assuming such a person could be identified- what if the leader of the largest majority party wants to form a minority government?
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What did Brazier say on hung parliaments?
Politicians should be left to negotiate with each other, the Queen should avoid all suspicion of favouring one solution (set of politicians) over another
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What has happened in previous hung parliaments?
1923 Baldwin, 1974 Heath, 2010 Brown, Nb role of Queen's advisors (esp if party leaders are unable to agree. Brazier comments "A Prime Minister who has failed to obtain a majority... would be following precendents if he were to resign immediately...
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stay to see if he could form a coalition... or wait and meet Parl. ... and remain in office until defeated on a vote of confidence.
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what is a bicameral government?
two chamber government
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june 2017- teresa may's failed gamble
she called an early general election- she missed by 10 votes, reached a 'confidence and supply' agreement with DUP leader Arlene Foster who had 10 additional votes
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When/why did david cameron reseign?
after brextit vote- June 2016. Conservative Party holds internal leadership competition to select new leader and PM. there is no constitutional requirement for a general election
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What was May able to do after becoming PM?
appoint new ministers, dismiss others in post under Cameron, reorganise the gov to comply with her policies and agenda
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Fixed-term ParliamentS Act 2011
it is parliament(s) plural, not just parliament. comes out of coalition government. it sets in advance the date of the next general election (we know it is May 2022)
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there are two mechanisms by which an early general election can be called: no confidence in govt is passed (326+ MPs vote against gov) and no alternative gov is found within 14 Days
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scenario 2
Motion in favour of early election is agreed by at least 66% of MPs (434 MPs). In April 2017, Parliament voted by 522 to 13 for an early General Election (well ahead of scheduled May 2020 scheduled date)
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What is the aim of Fixed-term Parliaments Act?
to stop Governing Party from choosing whatever date is most politically advantageous for itself. Act's opponents argue that provision requiring 2/3 majority for GE to be triggered is fundamentally undemocratic and will help preserve a gov that has lo
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lost the confidence of a simple majority e.g. 51% of HoC
in 1979 when labour Govt lost a vote of confidence by 1 single vote, the outgoing PM (Callaghan) sought and was granted a dissolution of Parl.
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Arguments for Fixed-term Parliaments Act
Removes PMs (and governing party's) ability to gain political advantage by choosing date of next election- will provide stability at time of great economic uncertainty. 66% Mps required for early dissolution, means libs+con nor libs+lab can force dis
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dissolution, only con+lab can
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Arguments against
Takes away power from HoC, in past, 51% of MPs had voted no confidence- Parl. would ususally be dissolved and a general election help. Now PM has option to try form new coalition if between 50% and 66% MPs vote for no confidence- may allow 'lame duck
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administrations to be formed and limp along (meaning weak govs that are able to secure passing into law of their legislative programmes
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FuncTions of the HoC
Pass and amend legislation, authorize and scrutinize public expenditure, scrutinize gov actions (debates, oral/ written questions, select committees- but see criticisms of executive control over internal HoC procedures and appointments to select comm
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Represent constituency interests
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Features of Commons scrutiny- opportunities and limitations
Public Bill Committees (2006-7 reforms) might have something like 11 MPs, normally conservatives would have about 5 (including PM), labour would have 4 or 5 and 1 could be held by a third party e.g. libdems/green- therefore con would need support of
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at least one of the other members to get to 6
Opposition and Backbench MPs- on both sides, get opportunities to influence what is debated in parl. through backbench business committee- set aside 35 days each year for debates chossen by them. this is something outside the control of the gov.
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on fortnightly cycle, MPs can raise complaints or issues of policy in oral questions, and the PM will have to explain or account
written question have their answers written and submitted online
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there is also the Select Committee- it works retrospectively to eximine policy failures by individual government departments
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Legislative Scrutiny- Public bills
detailed scrutiny comes at Committee stage, public bill committee (18-30 MPs) reflect party balance in the HoC, PBC may also receive written & oral evidence on Bill from experts. Sometimes gov proposes amendment even at 2nd stage
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Department Select Committees- powers
Shadow and scritunise gov departments, every department has one. Select Committees enjoy the power to 'send for persons, papers and records' if this is refused, they can report that failure to HoC and HoC can issues fresh command, if they still don't
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comply, they will be in contempt
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Public Accounts Committee (PAC)- scrutiny after expenditure
Role examining that tax payer's money is being spent wisely and efficiently . Auditors are trained to do this and produce regular reports on public expenditure. It is always chaired by an opposition MP
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Functions of the house of Lords
for most of it's existence it was composed of hereditary peers and Church of England bishops; 1911 Act- wanted to create a 2nd Chamber constituted on a popular, non-hereditary basis. 1958- life Peerages Act- lifetime peers created whose titles would
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NOT pass to their descendants (unlike hereditary peers)
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1119 House of Lords Act- got rid of all but 92 of the hereditary peers
Constitutional Reform Act 2005- Justices of the 12- member Supreme Court MAY NOT sit/vote n the HoL. On retirements from SC they may return to HoC as full members. New appointees to SC won't be given HoL seats, ensuring separation of powers
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Functions of the HoL
1. Revision of public bills sent up from Commons. 2. Initiate less controversial public bills, 3. consider subordinate legislation, 4. Scrutinize executive. 5. consider private legislation. 6. act as forum for debates, 7. to be SC of appeal
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Does it retain all these today?
All EXCEPT the judicial function noted in point 7 following the passing into the Constitutional Reform ACT 2005
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Can HoL frustrate Gov. bills?- Salisbury- Addison Convention
does not table wrecking amendments to Gov bills intended to implement manifesto commitments AND(ii) passes the same ithin a reasonable time
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What happens if there is a minority gov?
Probably not, since any arrangement or programme put together by min. gov. and others (as confidence & supply arrangement)
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Reforming HoL
Const. reform act 2005 creates SC and disqualifies Justices of SC from sitting in HoL s.137
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HoL reform- a restraining or revising chamber?
If HL is seen as fully democratic and a restraining element in executive power- it should be entirely elected. If instead HL's chief function seen to be revising chamber drawing upon expertise of leading figures
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What does Boundary Commission review Sep 2018 propose?


reducing number of MPs to 600. this would favour the conservatives, labour areas tend to favour people in the coutry. This would lead to more representation of people in suburbs rather than in cities

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Roughly 110 MPs are on gov pay role, they are the government. So it would increase the government dominance if there were 600 MPs and still 110 gov members


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Card 4


How does one become an MP in the house of commons?


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who are main victims of First Past The Post?


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