Key Terms Unit 2 - The British Constitution

Key Terms taken from the AQA text book made into flash cards.

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A Constitution
The system or body of fundamental principles according to which a nation state or body politic is constituted and governed’ (OED)
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Federal Country
Such as the US divide power between a central (federal) government and a number of state or provincial governments, according to written constitutions.
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The Executive
The branch of government responsible for directing the nation’s affairs and the initiation and execution of laws and policies, e.g. the UK government
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The Legislature
The branch of government responsible for discussing and passing laws (legislation) and acting as a watchdog over the government e.g. the UK parliament
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Separation of Powers
The doctrine that political power should be divided between the executive, legislature and judiciary, in order to prevent an undue concentration of power
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Walter Bagehot
(1826-77) was a 19th century essayist, journalist, one-time editor of The Economist and author of the classic study, The English Constitution (1867)
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Common Law
A body of rules that has evolved over a long period of time. Non-statutory law reflects precedent deriving from centuries of judgements by working judges
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The Bill of Rights 1689
A statute that has become a basic document of English constitutional law. It is largely a statement of certain positive rights which its authors considered that citizens living under a constitutional monarchy ought to possess The Speaker of the House
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The Speaker of the House of Commons
The non-partisan officer of the House of Commons who presides over its debates, determines which members may speak and responsible for maintaining order during debate
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Judicial Review
The power of the courts to overturn executive or legislative actions they hold to be illegal or unconstitutional. The UK has a weak form; the courts can review executive actions, deciding whether the Executive has acted ultra vires (beyond its powers
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The Human Rights Act 1998
The statute which incorporated most of the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. It provides a remedy in UK courts for any branch of a Convention right, without the need for the complaint to go to the European Court
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Conventions
Unwritten rules which govern political conduct. They are traditionally regarded as binding, however they have no legal force Treaty of Rome (1957)
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Treaty of Rome (1957)
The agreement signed by six western European countries to establish the European Economic Community, now known as the European Union (EU)
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Regulations
A type of European law which is binding on all Member States of the EU without the need for any national legislation
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Directives
A type of European law which is binding on all EU Member States as to the result to be achieved, but can be implemented as best suits the needs of individual countries
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The Factortame Case
A landmark constitutional case (involving a fishing dispute) in the UK, which confirmed the primacy of EU law over UK law
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Nationalism
The desire of a nation to be recognised as a state, e.g. Scottish nationalists want Scotland to be governed by the Scots
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Quangos
Publicly funded bodies that operate at arms length from a government department and carry out executive and advisory functions. Their members are not elected and therefore are not accountable to the voters
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Charter 88
Campaigning pressure group set up 300 years after the Glorious revolution to urge the case for constitutional and electoral reform.
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The Judiciary
The branch of government responsible for interpreting and applying the laws in particular cases, e.g. the British judges
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The Supreme Court
The body created to act as the final court of appeal in all matters under English, Welsh and Northern Irish law, from 2009. In effect, it takes over the judicial functions of the House of Lords
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Party Discipline
The system of maintaining the order within the parliamentary parties. MPs are expected to ‘toe the party line’ by voting in favour of their parties’ proposals in the House of Commons
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A Hung Parliament
Parliament in which no single party has sufficient support to form an administration by itself, creating a situation where a coalition or minority government has to be formed
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Elective Dictatorship
The term coined by Lord Hailsham to describe the constitutional imbalance in which excessive power has increased and parliamentary power diminished.
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Question Time
The daily opportunity for back-benchers in parliament to ask questions of government ministers, which they are obligated in the Westminster system of the UK, but it also occurs in several other countries as well.
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Criminal Law
The body of law dealing with crimes, which are offences against the state. The aim of the proceedings is to punish those who have broken the law.
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Civil Law
Relating to the body of law dealing with disputes between individuals or groups in society, in which the aim of proceedings is to win compensation
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The Bar
Comprises lawyers who are qualified as barristers. They are collectively known as ‘members of the bar’
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Judicial Activism
The idea that the courts should be active partners in shaping public policy. Supporters see the courts as having a role in looking after groups denied political influence or clout.
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Kilmuir Guidelines
Principles set out by the then Lord Chancellor that restricted the freedom of judges to speak out on matters of public policy
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Sequestration
The removal of the financial assets from their owner, until he or she complies with a court order
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Judicial Restraint
The idea that the courts should not seek to impose their views on other branches of government. Supporters favour a passive role for the courts which limits them to implementing legislative and executive intentions
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Politicisation of the Judiciary
The growing trend for judges to become involved in political issues
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

Such as the US divide power between a central (federal) government and a number of state or provincial governments, according to written constitutions.

Back

Federal Country

Card 3

Front

The branch of government responsible for directing the nation’s affairs and the initiation and execution of laws and policies, e.g. the UK government

Back

Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4

Front

The branch of government responsible for discussing and passing laws (legislation) and acting as a watchdog over the government e.g. the UK parliament

Back

Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5

Front

The doctrine that political power should be divided between the executive, legislature and judiciary, in order to prevent an undue concentration of power

Back

Preview of the back of card 5
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