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UK Government and Politics - AQA > Constitutions > Flashcards

Flashcards in Constitutions Deck (45)
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Outline 'The Rule of Law' in detail:

The Rule of Law is the legal principle (concept) that law should govern a nation, protecting individuals from arbitrary (oppressive) state action.
All UK citizens must obey the law and are equal under it. The courts can hold government ministers, police officers and public officials accountable for their actions if they have acted outside the law or been negligent to their duties.
Laws passed by parliament must be interpreted and applied by an independent judiciary free from political interference. Rights of citizens are then protected from arbitrary state/executive action.
Aggrieved citizens can take the government or a local authority to court if they feel they have been treated improperly.
Individuals charged under the law are also entitled to a fair trial and should not be imprisoned without due regard for the legal process.
Essential feature of Liberal Democracy.
Parliamentary sovereignty theoretically enables parliament to abolish these rights. However, a sustained effort to overturn the key elements of The Rule of Law would be widely regarded as illegitimate and anti-democratic- making it untenable.


What 4 core principles formed the building blocks of the traditional British Constitution?

1. Parliamentary Sovereignty
2. The Rule of Law
3. The Unitary State
4. Parliamentary Government in a Constitutional Monarchy


Define 'Parliamentary Sovereignty':

- States Westminster Parliament is the supreme law-making body.
- Sovereignty means legal supremacy: Parliament has ultimate law-making authority.
- This legislative supremacy is constructed around 3 propositions:
1. Parliament can legislate on any subject of its choosing
2. Legislation cannot be overturned by any higher authority
3. No parliament can bind it successors.
E.g. Parliament cannot say "no Parliament in the future will be allowed to pass laws against discrimination" because that's binding a future Parliament.


Define 'Sovereignty':

Legal supremacy; absolute law making authority that is not subject (not issued to) to a higher authority.


Define 'Unitary State':

A homogeneous state in which power is concentrated at the political centre and all parts of the State are governed in the same way.


Define 'Union State':

A state in which there are cultural differences and where despite a strong centre, different parts of the state are governed in slightly different ways.


Outline a 'Unitary State' in detail:

- The UK consists of 4 component nations- England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland- It has been a highly centralised state in which sovereignty is located at Westminster.
- In a Unitary Constitution, subnational institutions do not have autonomous powers that are safeguarded. Local government has had little power and regional government has historically been weak or non-existent.
- The UK has been traditionally described as a Unitary state, but the label does not reflect fully its multinational character. An alternative is to see the UK as a Union State.
-A Unitary State exhibits a high degree of both centralisation and standardisation: all parts of the state are governed in the same way and share a common political culture. In a Union State, by contrast, important political and cultural differences remain.


Outline 'Parliamentary Government in a Constitutional Monarchy' in detail:

- Under the UK constitution, government takes place through parliament under a constitutional monarchy.
- Government Ministers are politically accountable to parliament and legally accountable to the Crown, and must face the verdict of the electorate every 5 years.
- Between general elections, a government relies upon its majority in the House of Commons to survive and enact its legislative programme.


Define 'Constitutional Monarchy':

A political system in which the Monarch is the formal Head of State but the Monarchs legal powers are exerted/exercised by Government Ministers.


Define 'Legislature':

The branch of government responsible for making law.


What is meant by the term 'The Executive'?

The branch of government responsible for the implementation of policy.


What is meant by the term 'The Judiciary'?

The branch of government responsible for interpreting the law and deciding upon legal disputes.


What is meant by the term 'Fusion of Powers'?

The mix of personnel (workers) in the executive and legislative branches found in parliamentary systems.


Define the term 'legislative':

Having the power to make laws.


What is the 'Separation of Powers'?

The principle (concept) that the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government should be independent of each other. They should have different functions and distinctive memberships which should not overlap.
The idea emerged in Liberal thought as a means of preventing tyranny and the concentration of absolute power in one body (e.g the Crown).