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Parliament Notes

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This is an extract of our Parliament document, which we sell as part of our Constitutional Law Notes collection written by the top tier of Oxford students.

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Main notes:

1. Parliamentary structure a. Elected house of commons & unelected house of lords i. Divided into frontbenches (those with ministerial positions) and backbenches (those without)
b. There is a convention that a vote of 'no confidence' in the government triggered the dissolution of Parliament and hence a GE
c. Elections held every 5 years, however, within that period,
the PM are able to call an election whenever they wanted until 2011. Thereafter, the Fixed-term
Parliaments Act 2011 provides that an early election can only be held if either 2/3 of the MPs support it or a vote of no confidence passes by simple majority and a new coalition cannot be formed within 14 days (early election is no longer immediate following the vote since other parties will have the option of trying to form a new government)
d. Vote of no confidence & fixed terms are incompatible - the ruling party, with a majority, will be able to engineer such a vote to get an early election

2. Democracy in general a. Fundamentally, a system in which people have a decisive say over how and by whom they are governed - democratic countries embrace the notion that no particular individual or group has any inherent right to govern b. Principal justifications:
i. A normative view of the human condition -
Recognition of the autonomy and moral worth of individuals, a consequence of which is that everyone should have the right to make their own decisions as to how they live their lives -
manifested in civil/human rights given such as FoS/E/
R/M, etc. When the freedom of one person to act transgresses the freedom of another, democracy requires it be collectively resolved in a way that is recognized to be legitimate. Giving everyone a voice ensures that their interests are not overlooked ii. Encouragement of public participation and civic discourse in the business of governance leads to the intellectual flourishing of individuals and the development of moral capacities. Embracing the wisdom of the crowd leads to better results than rule by the few c. Representative & participative democracy i. Modest form of participative democracy might involve ensuring open and continuous dialogue -
e.g. obliging the government to consult the public and take its views into account & govt supplying extensive information to the public ii. In the UK & many other countries, the basis is representative democracy but with elements of participative democracy (referendums, + ci)

3. Democracy in the UK - the House of Commons a. GEs determine the make up of both HoC and the executive government as government ministers are drawn from the party (or a coalition) with a majority in HoC
b. UK citizens, citizens of Ireland and certain commonwealth citizens can all stand for elections to the HoC and vote in parliamentary elections (subject to certain exceptions). However, some people are expressly disqualified from standing for HoC elections - many judges, HoL, civil servants, members of the armed forces,
i. Historically, only a minority of landowners were allowed to vote. This was changed in the
Representation of the People Act 1918 which also empowered women to vote c. Prisoners are not allowed to vote, but this was held by the
ECtHR in 2006 to constitute an indiscriminate violation of the right to vote in, and stand for, elections to national legislatures. The court required UK to comply with ECHR,
but successive governments have delayed implementation of the ruling d. Voting system: FPTP - Problems: It challenges the idea that everyone's vote should matter equally - 1. For in close electoral contests they matter more than when the result is

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