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Flashcards in The British Constitution Deck (33)
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What is a constitution

Defines the fundamental political principles and establishes the structure, procedures, powers and duties of a government


What is a constitution usually formed due to

Internal upheaval in a country
Eg civil war or revolution


What is the purpose of a constitution

Gives legitimacy to those in power
Protects the freedom of the public
Encourages government stability
Draws attention to goals and values which are important to the state
Creates a fresh start after a period of upheaval


What is the standard format of constitutions

1) preamble - introduction which sets out the core aims and values of the government
2) organisational statement- describing main institutions of government
3) bill of rights- a statement of individual rights and freedoms
4) amendments- additions or changes to the constitution made after its date of ratification


What are the four characteristics of a constitution
Name and explain

Codified- written and brought together in a single,clear document
Uncodified- sources of constitutional powers exist in many different documents and places

Unitary- all power is concentrated in the central govt
Federal- there is a clear division of power between central and various regional units


What type of constitution is the UK argued to have

A quasi-unitary constitution
-has devolved power to the regional government and could not successfully repeal these powers without a constitutional crisis; however laws at Westminster still have precedent over regional laws


What are the three key elements of the British constitution

1) it is uncodified
2) it is unitary
3) it is flexible


How long has the UK constitution been formed over

Centuries, even argued to date back to 1066 and the Norman Conquest


Why is the manga carter significant

It has the first signs of the monarchs power being spread out amongst people
The council of barons paved way for a British parliament


Why is the 1689 bill of rights significant

Influenced by John Locke
Set out basic civil rights
Lays down limits on the powers of the monarch (eg army becomes under power of parliament)
Established free elections which are not influenced by govt


What did the act of settlement 1701 establish

The principle that the monarch could choose its ministers and the ministers have to have the majority support in parliament.


Why are the parliament acts 1911 and 1949 significant

1911-Removed powers of lords to block bills by imposing a maximum 2 year delay
1949-reduced to 1 year


What is the Salisbury doctrine

Means that the lords cannot block any legislation that is within the parties manifesto


What is the European communities act 1972

Legislated the UK to join the European community


What are the UKs five sources of constitution

Statute law
Common law
European laws
Authorative works


Describe statute law

Law derived from acts of parliament and subordinate legislation
It is created by parliament and must be approved by the House of Commons, lords and monarch


Describe common law

Law derived from general customs or traditions and the decisions of judges


What is conventions

Rules or norms of behaviour that are considered binding
They are not codified or legally enforceable


What is parliamentary sovereignty

The idea that parliament has legal supremacy


What is constitutional reform

Is it easy to reform in the UK

The means by which changes are made to the way that the UK is governed

Very easy due to the uncodified nature of the UK constitution


Give two examples of UK constitutional reform

The fixed term parliament act 2011
Freedom of information act 2000


Is constitutional reform easy in America

Not really
A constitutional amendment is required which has to be ratified by the House of Representatives, the senate and 2/3s of the state.


When labour won the 1997 election, they promised a programme of constitutional reform driven by four key themes, what were these themes

MODERNISATION- parliament, central executive and civil service was all outdated
DEMOCRATISATION- participation would be encouraged through electoral reform and the greater use of referendums
DECENTRALISATION-decision making power is devolved to new institutions
RIGHTS-the rights of citizens would be strengthened and safeguarded


What bill protects the rights and freedoms of all citizens

Human Rights Act


What is devolution

The transfer of power from central government to sub national institutions


What does quasi-federalism mean

Where the central government of a unitary state power devolves some of its powers to sub national governments
Exhibits features of a unitary state and a federal state


Blair attempted to acheive electoral reform, this did not happen as such, but what occurred instead

The new devolved institutions adopted different electoral systems

Eg London assembly uses AMS


Additionally labour attempted parliamentary reform, what happened

Abolished all but 92 hereditary peers
This was supposed to be the first of numerous reforms however there has been no second stage as of yet

Also PMQs changed to one half hour slot in middle of the week


What did the constitutional reform act in 2005 acheive

A new UK Supreme Court, they were independent from hoL and were given there own building to emphasise the separation of powers


What did the coalition government achieve in terms of constitutional change

Freedom Bill- protection from public sector intrusions
A referendum on AV voting for UK elections
Set a five year fixed term for parliament
House of Lords act 2014- allowed peers to retire and resign