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Parliament General The Legislative Process Political Parties House of Lords Reform s19 of the HRA
* House of Commons: The dominant House.
* House of Lords: Legislative power limited to imposing a temporary veto on Public Bills. Important as a revising chamber for securing amendments to Bills.
* Queen: Opens each session of Parliament and gives the royal assent to primary legislation.
* The right to vote is exercisable by all Commonwealth citizens who are registered in the register of electors for the constituency in which they wish to vote, are not subject to any legal incapacity to vote (due to mental illness, drunkenness or infirmity they lack the capacity at the moment of voting to understand what they are about to do), and are of voting age.
* Distribution of constituencies - lies broadly on arithmetical equality, but also on the territorial aspect of representation, on the link between the elected member and his constituency, and on the desirability of Parliament boundaries not clashing with local government boundaries. The machinery used to change constituent boundaries needs to be impartial to avoid gerrymandering.
* Parliament must meet regularly, at least every three years, but has met annually since 1689 because it passes legislation that requires renewal every year e.g. taxation and expenditure.
* The HoC's role is to provide the government of the day, to sustain the government in power by passing its legislation, to give or refuse consent to taxation, to authorize control of public expenditure, to secure redress of constituents grievances, and generally to hold the executive to account for its policies and the conduct of government. Executive dominance has made it virtually impossible for the Commons to act as a body collectively committed to holding the gov to account. First Past the Post
* Winner takes all. Each citizen gets one vote, the candidate with the most votes wins.
* Allows an incipient multi-party system to be transmuted in the House of Commons to a two-party system.
* Problem 1: Minority rule - the winner can command a small proportion of the votes, e.g. 5%, so long as it is more than any other candidate commands.
* Problem 2: Inevitable 2 party race: Parties reduce in quantity each term, because voters remember the previous results, and withdraw their votes from extremist candidates, who drop out. The majority of voters didn't initially back either of the two parties, so become disinterested in the democratic process.
* Problem 3: Gerrymandering.
* Problem 4: 3rd Party enters the race, commands votes from those closest to them on the political spectrum, making it less likely that the party they most agree with will win the election.
* A hung parliament, where no one party has a majority, would likely but FPTP reform on the table. Hung parties are becoming different: The three parties of the 1920s meant that the Liberals could choose whether to put Labour or Conservative into power. In 1974 other minor parties meant that the Liberals could not suffice with either Labour or Conservatives.
* Problem 1: Governments can be chosen not by the voters, but by negotiations between the parties
- this is the experience in Scotland and Wales. In Scotland and Wales voters have lost their chance to directly choose their government, as the make up of it is determined, within the context of the election results, by the political parties and their negotiations.
* Due to the nature of the nations votes, a plurality of parties, none of which has an overall majority, is more likely in proportional representation voting. Coalition agreements, confidence and supply agreements (party not in government agrees to support the governments on votes of confidence and budget, so it can ensure its financial arrangements, and will decide other issues on a case by case basis), and co-operation agreements (whereby each party makes some concessions, and agrees to vote a certain way on certain issues) are all ways of dealing with such a situation.
* A referendum would be necessary before voting reforms take place, to stop government from altering the electoral system to its own partisan interest, as President Mitterrand did in France in 1986 to stop his right wing opponents from gaining power - when they did, they quickly reverted back to the old system.
* Various changes are giving the Liberal Democrats a better position. One is the acceptance of referendums into the British constitution - this makes it easy for them to make progress towards their goal of electoral reform. Another is the rise of other minority parties, which take away from the Conservative Labour majority, and give the LDs more power in choosing who to form a coalition with. A minority government would have to gain the support of another to secure a dissolution at a favorable time- this would give them greater bargaining power for a referendum.
* Collective responsibility can be suspended - this might be advantageous in a coalition where no one party's fate is at stake, or where it was a collective decision of the cabinet. Collective responsibility for the departure from collective action. An agreement to differ might hold a coalition together for longer. The principle of collective responsibility is more appropriate to an era of collective duopoly, than to one of multi-party politics where governments are less likely to be unified ideologically.
2. The Legislative Process The Legislative Process
* Parliament has two main functions: 1. To make the law - it is the national legislature. 2. To hold the government of the day to constitutional account. Tomkins thinks that we should reverse the heirachy of legislation over scrutiny. There is a move in constitutional affairs away from a political constitution model, where Parliament holds the government to account, towards a legal constitutionalism, where the courts do.
* Bagehot has argued that the Lords has two functions - the power to delay and the power to revise. The Commons has five - it supplies the government its expressive function, its teaching function, its informing function, and its legislative function.
* Select committees are used in both Houses to check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs. The results are public and may require a response from the government. Commons Select Committees scrutinize the work of government departments. Lords Select Committees are broader, scoping across departments, and concentrate on five main areas: Science, Europe, Economics Communications, and the UK Constitution.
* The Commons Select Committees exist for each government department. They each have a minimum of 11 members, who decide on the line of enquiry, father evidence, and report the findings to the Commons, in a printed form, and on the Parliament website. The government usually has 60 days to reply to the Committees recommendations. Some committees are set up regarding ongoing investigations such as the conduct of individual MPs. Select Committee
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