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Edexcel Politics 2.1

Edexcel A Level Politics UK Government Component 2.1 The Constitution

What are the three branches of Government? Executive, Parliament, Judiciary
What are the two main functions of a constitution? Sets out the processes that make a political system work, and guarantees the rights and freedoms of citizens.
Give the difference between a right and a freedom. A right is where the Government takes responsibility, whereas a freedom is where the Government takes a step back.
What are the three secondary functions of the constitution? Defining the rules of citizenship, sets out methods of amending the constitution and establishes geographic territories,
When was the Human Rights Act implemented and by which Government? 1998, the Labour Government under Tony Blair.
When did the UK pass the European Committees Act? 1972
When was the Bill of Rights passed and what did it do? 1689 - included provisions for regular Parliaments, free and fair elections, and freedom of speech within Parliament.
When were the Parliament Acts passed and what did they do? 1911 and 1949 - reduced the power of the House of Lords to interfere with the House of Commons. 1911 bill; Lords can't delay money bills, and the veto for non-money bills was replaced with a two year delay. 1949 bill; two year delay reduced to one year.
Give the four main attributes of an uncodified constitution. Several sources, one tier legal system, easily altered (not entrenched), minimal judicial review of legislation.
Give the four main attributes of codified constitution. Single source, two tier legal system, difficult to alter (entrenched), judicial review of legislation.
What is meant by a two tier legal system? A hierarchy of laws - constitutional vs ordinary.
What is entrenchment? When constitutional laws need a 2/3 majority of the vote to be changed.
Why do judges have more power in a codified system? They can strike down laws that conflict with constitutional laws. All political systems are subject to the rule of the courts.
What are the five sources of constitutional authority? W.I.C.C.S - Works of constitutional authority, International treaties and EU laws, Customs and conventions, Common law and Statute law.
What is statute law? Laws passed by Parliament.
What is common law? A body of laws made by the courts such as the Royal Prerogative (declaring what the monarch can and can't do).
What are customs and conventions? Things that aren't actual laws but are instead 'unwritten rules' such as the appointment of a Prime Minister.
What are authoritative works? Useful literature that holds little legal standing.
Outline the five arguments for the UK constitution becoming codified. Educate the public, less likelihood for rash decisions, entrenched Bill of Rights = more protection than HRA, greater clarity for citizens and MPs, judiciary power to assess Parliament's actions.
Outline the five arguments against the UK constitution remaining uncodified. Almost no public demand, allows flexibility, rapid change in times of great need, we have sources that make the constitution accessible, judges are not elected which is undemocratic.
What is the principle of parliamentary sovereignty? The notion that Parliament has unlimited authority and power to make, amend or repeal any law.
Which other people/bodies is it argued have sovereignty? (6) The monarch, Cabinet, the people, devolved assemblies, the EU, and pressure groups.
What are the 8 areas that the EU influences? Agriculture, trade, internal/single market, consumer protection, competition policy, monetary policy, environment and working conditions (ATICCMEW).
Summarise 'executive sovereignty'. Parliament is dominated by the Commons, which is dominated by the majority party, which is controlled by the government, which is led by the Cabinet, which is directed by the Prime Minister. In this sense, it can be argued we have 'elective dictatorship'.
Summarise 'popular sovereignty'. Supreme authority is vested in the people because they vote for the people who make laws, and have the power to get rid of them. Direct democracy has been increasingly enforced in referendums.
Summarise 'shared sovereignty'. After the 1998 Scottish devolution and 2006 Welsh devolution, these powers exercise (limited) sovereignty in their own areas.
Summarise 'European Union sovereignty'. BECOMING OUTDATED; STAY UP TO DATE. The European Community Act 1972 transferred legal sovereignty from the UK to the EU. The only circumstance where the UK retains sovereignty is if the vote requires a unanimous decision; the UK can veto.
Summarise the reasoning behind the argument for the HRA having sovereignty. Judges can declare a law as being in contradiction with the Human Rights Act, after which Parliament has to repeal, amend or defend it in the European Court of Human Rights.
Summarise 'extra parliamentary pressure'. Pressure groups and businesses may lobby or bribe MPs into voting a particular way on certain issues, which undermines the idea that nobody other than Parliament has the power to influence legislation.
Why may the idea of 'executive sovereignty' be challenged? Backbenchers can vote out of line with the wishes of the executive, and we have had two coalition and minority governments since 2010 which undermines elective dictatorship.
Why may the idea of 'popular sovereignty' be challenged? MPs can be elected on a minority vote, such as Alasdair McDonnell who won Belfast South with 24.5% of the popular vote in 2015. Additionally, referendums may be ignored by Parliament if they are not binding.
Why may the idea of 'shared sovereignty' be challenged? Parliament has the power to removed devolved power, as it's written into statute law which can be removed. Devolved governments only have certain lawmaking powers, and parliament still holds sovereignty in many areas.
Why may the idea of 'European Union sovereignty' be challenged? EU laws are being translated into UK law as part of Brexit, so the EU has less and less sovereignty.
Why may the idea of the HRA having sovereignty be challenged? The HRA in itself can be repealed by Parliament.
Why may the idea of 'extra parliamentary pressure' be challenged? Parliament should not be influenced by exterior groups as a whole body.
Summarise how the UK's unitary government system works. Local authorities and devolved governments are given their powers by Westminster in Acts of Parliament that are not entrenched or protected. In this way, Parliament always has power because they have 'loaned' the power out but can take it back.
Summarise how the USA's federal government system works. The relationship between the national government and the state governments is codified in the 10th amendment, which gives to the states all powers not delegated to the federal government in the constitution (economic policy and international affairs).
How may the idea that the UK has a unitary government be challenged? The Quasi-Federal Argument: that we mimic a federal system by the way we have devolved certain power to smaller regions. Additionally, the UK's membership in the EU means powers were delegated upwards to supra national / intergovernmental institutions.
Summarise the demands for constitutional reform in the 1990s. New Labour were sympathetic to demands for modernisation, such as from Charter 88, who wanted stronger open democracy and guarantees of citizen rights. Tory rule had left Scots unhappy after trial of poll tax, and sleaze scandals made reforms popular.
Summarise the House of Lords reforms under Labour. Labour reduced the number of hereditary peers from the majority of the house to 92. This reduced their political opposition but also gave the Lords a more modern appearance, as most were now life peers. This reform meant no party had a large majority.
Summarise electoral reform under Labour. New electoral systems were introduced for elections to Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and European Assemblies. The government commissioned a report into Westminster's system, but no change came about.
Summarise devolution under Labour. Devolution aimed to reduce support for pro-independence parties like the SNP and bring together the unionist and nationalist factions in Northern Ireland. Welsh powers were weaker because support for devolution was as well.
Summarise the 'West Lothian question' and the Barnett formula. The West Lothian question poses the issue that Scottish MPs could vote on English matters, but not the other way around. The Barnett formula was made long before devolution and led to Scotland, Wales and NI obtaining more funding per head than England.
Why was the formation of English regional assemblies abandoned? A referendum on the issue was held in the North East of England in 2004 and the outcome was a decisive rejection.
Give an example of a piece of legislation which contradicts the Human Rights Act. The introduction of control orders in 2005, which allowed authorities to limit freedom of movement of suspicious individuals.
What did the Human Rights Act translate into statute UK law? The European Convention on Human Rights.
How did the creation of the Supreme Court change the dynamic between the judiciary and Parliament? It separated them, as previously the Lords with the highest powers had been Law Lords who sat in the HoL.
In what areas did the coalition government did agree, with regards to the constitution? Openness to further devolution and to parliamentary reform, including a wholly or partially elected House of Lords.
What were the four main areas where the coalition disagreed? HoL reform, constituency boundary reform, electoral system reform and the retention of the HRA.
Summarise the coalition's disagreement over House of Lords reform. The Conservatives became less interested in reforming the House of Lords to integrate an element of democratic election when 91 backbench MPs rebelled.
Summarise the coalition's disagreement over House of Commons boundary reforms. After the Conservatives hijacked the House of Lords reforms, the Lib Dems blocked the path to the reformation of the constituency boundaries as it would have mainly favoured the Conservatives.
Summarise the coalition's disagreement over electoral reform. A May 2011 referendum showed that 68% of people rejected the Lib Dem's proposals to change the FPtP system to AV. This was a major disappointment, as this had been a key factor in entering the coalition.
Summarise the coalition's disagreement over the reform of the Human Rights Act. The Conservatives wanted to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, whereas the Lib Dems wanted to retain the act.
What were the most significant changes to the constitution made since 2010? (4) Devolution, fixed terms, reform of the House of Commons, the Recall of MPs act.
Summarise the devolution in Wales and Scotland since 2010. March 2011: Wales receives more devolved powers after a referendum and can now make policies in 20 areas. 2012: the 2012 Scotland Act granted Scotland more powers, and they were promised more powers as a result of the independence referendum.
Explain EVEL. English votes for English laws was offered in May 2015 as a solution to the West Lothian Question. If a measure that only concerns England / England and Wales, then a body of English / English and Welsh MPs will vote on it without Scottish MPs.
Give an example of a law passed without Scottish influence. The Housing and Planning Bill, 2016.
Summarise the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Passed in 2011, the act took away the PM's power to choose the dates of elections, unless 2/3s of MPs vote in favour of an earlier election or if a new government isn't formed 14 days after a vote of no confidence.
Summarise the reforms of the House of Commons since 2010. Chairs of House of Commons select committees were to be chosen by MPs as opposed to influenced by party leaders. A backbench business committee was established, which chooses topics for debate. These may be influenced by e-petitions from the public.
Summarise the Recall of MPs Act. Passed in 2015, the act means that if an MP is sentenced to a custodial sentence or is suspended from the Commons for more than 21 days, a by-election is triggered if 10% of constituents sign a recall petition.
When was the Magna Carta signed? 1215
What did the Magna Carta do? Established the principle that no one should be deprived of a free and fair treatment under the law. Reduced the powers of the monarch.
When was the Acts of Union signed? 1707
What did the Acts of Union do? Eliminated Scottish independence in their legislative procedure until devolution in 1998.
When was the Act of Settlement signed? 1701
What did the Act of Settlements do? Gave Parliament more power over the monarchy. It prevented Catholics becoming monarchs and foreigners becoming MPs. Parliamentary permission required for monarchs to start wars and leave the country.
Created by: lottieball17



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