Unit 2 revision

Passing Edexcel Politics Unit 2

These are old mark scheme (prior to the use of section A source questions) but still useful practice

Unit 2 exam practice questions

Government and Politics

Advanced Subsidiary

Unit 2 exam: Governing the UK

  • In the exam you will have to answer two questions
    • one from a choice of two sources in section A and one from a choice of two essay questions in section B. You will have 1 hour and 20 minutes – there are 80 marks – 1 mark a minute. You should spend 40 minutes on each section
  • As part of your revision, work your way through these questions
  • For advice on how to answer each question see the tips at the end of this hand-out
Attempt the following – one a section A question & one section B
Source question

The UK constitution has been reformed since 1997 to a greater extent than ever in its history. The Labour programme of post 1997 was designed to modernise the constitution, as well as making it more democratic, accessible & capable of responding to demands for more openness in government & better protection of civil liberties. Devolution introduced autonomous regional government, while the HRA established a codified set of rights for UK citizens. The more recent introduction of the Supreme Court has made the judiciary more independent & therefore more capable of protecting our rights. Though the pace of change has slowed, the 2010 coalition has proposed further reform. Fixed term parliaments have been established & a serious attempt is being made to reform the House of Lords, creating a partly elected 2nd chamber. Nevertheless, the potentially most far reaching reform – the use of AV for general elections – was rejected in a referendum in 2011.
  1. With reference to the sources, identify two constitutional reforms together with how they were designed to improve the constitution.
  2. With reference to the source & your own knowledge, explain how the reforms have created better protection of rights in the UK
  3. How & to what extent can the UK constitution be criticised?
40 mark question (remember always 2 sides)
  • Assess the arguments in favour of introducing a codified constitution in the UK.

Other constitution 40 mark think through
  • How & to what extent has parliamentary sovereignty been eroded?
  • Asses the arguments for retaining an uncodified constitution
  • How successful has constitutional reform been since 1997?
  • Why have there been growing calls for a codified constitution in the UK?
  • Analyse the importance of conventions within the UK constitution. (A different way of asking for arguments in favour of our flexible constitution)
Attempt the following – one a section A question & one section B
Source question

Despite the arrival of potentially weaker coalition government in 2010, the UK parliament remains relatively powerless in the face of government power. The power of the party whips is based on prime ministerial patronage, party loyalty, collective responsibility & the constant threat that rebellious MP’s will ultimately be dropped by their local party & so lose their seat. In the past, large government have enabled the government to drive through its legislation, despite determined opposition. Departmental select committees & a more active House of Lords are rare examples of parliamentary power. The select committees cannot enforce their recommendations & the House of Lords powers are limited by law. Even under coalition government, most legislative proposals are safe from parliamentary interference. New reforms now being proposed, however, suggest that the tide may be turning & that parliamentary power may increase in the future.
  1. With reference to the sources, outline two reasons why Parliament is dominated by the government
  2. With reference to the source & your own knowledge, how can Parliament check the power of the government?
  3. How has it been proposed to strengthen Parliaments control of the executive?
40 mark question (remember always 2 sides)
  • Has the coalition government made Parliament more effective?

Other Parliament 40 mark think through
  • How effective are Parliamentary committees?
  • Assess the proposals for House of Lords reform.
  • How effective is the House of Commons
  • To what extent have both Houses of Parliament become more effective since 1997?
  • Assess the arguments for retaining a fully appointed 2nd chamber
  • Is Parliament still relevant? (Think about its effectiveness/Exec domination etc)
  • How effective is Parliament in carrying out its representative role?
  • Explain the main factors that limit the effectiveness of Parliament.
Attempt the following – one a section A question & one section B
Source question

Possibly the most significant factor in the maintenance of stable government & prime ministerial power is the doctrine of collective responsibility. The principle requires that all ministers, whether in the cabinet or not, should defend government policy whether or not they disagree with it privately. Any Minster who cannot do this must resign or face dismissal. Perhaps the most famous recent examples of the doctrine at work occurred in 2003 when the foreign secretary, Robin Cook, resigned as he could not defend the UK’s role in the Iraq war of that year. Collective responsibility is a way in which potential dissidents can be ‘gagged’. Furthermore, prime ministerial power is enhanced because the PM can use the doctrine to bring awkward ministers into line
  1. With reference to the sources, identify two reasons why collective responsibility is important
  2. With reference to the source & your own knowledge, how can a PM control his or her ministerial colleagues
  3. Evaluate the main limits on the PM’s control on the rest of government?
40 mark question (remember always 2 sides)
  • How has the coalition government affected the role & function of the PM & the cabinet.
Other Executive 40 mark questions to try
  • ‘Prime Ministers are only powerful as their parties allow them to be.’ Discuss
  • Assess the circumstances the circumstances ministers resign?
  • For what reasons has Cabinet government declined
  • Assess the significance of the conventions of individual and collective ministerial responsibility.
  • How effective are the constraints on the PM? Or what factors limit the PM’s power
  • How powerful is the PM
  • To what extent do PM’s dominate the cabinet?
  • Has the PM become more presidential in recent years?
  • To what extent has cabinet government been replaced by prime ministerial government?

    Advice on how to answer unit 2 questions

Section A = attempt 1 of the source questions - Questions are divided into three parts – (a), (b) & (c)

·         (a) = 5 marks (all AO1) these are closely linked to the source; they rely heavily on comprehension skills

·         (b) = 10 (7 AO1/3 AO2) based on the source, but also draw on your own knowledge

·         (c) = 25 (8 AO1/9 AO2/8 AO3) Mini essay using your own understanding. Remember = a debate = both sides
AO1 = Knowledge & Understanding. Naming something, features/characteristics, describing functions, surveying information, defining terms, describing differences, examples. Marks are gained for accuracy (is it true or false?)
AO2 = Analysis (identify features of something & show how they relate to one another). Examining something closely, providing explanations (setting out purposes/reasons/causal relationships), demonstrating interconnections.
= Evaluation (to make judgements, either about the about its significance/ value). Assessing extent, measuring effectiveness (judging how far something fulfils its purpose), weighing up importance/criticising a viewpoint/strength of an argument, judging the strengths of competing viewpoints.  Parallels/connections/similarities/differences

AO3 = Ability to construct & communicate coherent arguments. Organising points in a logical order, clear line of argument, reaching a conclusion. Use of political vocabulary = use of specialist terminology, relevant to the question
Section B = attempt one 40 Mark question (20 marks AO1; 12 marks AO2; 8 marks AO3) Structure:
  • Answers should have a beginning (introduction), a middle (argument) and an end (conclusion)
  1. Intro should define key terms used in the question, show an understanding of 'the point' of the question (the issue or issues it raises), outline the line of argument to be adopted, possibly indicating the conclusion favoured
  2. Make points in a logically related order. Consider contrasting viewpoints or positions as appropriate (for/against, advantages/disadvantages, benefits/drawbacks, etc). Support points with appropriate evidence (make a point and prove it). Qualify points wherever appropriate (make a point and qualify it – 'However …' 'On the other hand …'). Argue to a conclusion (don't 'sit on the fence', unless the question asks you to)

3.     Conclusions should be clear & short. Start with a one-sentence answer to the question set ('In conclusion, …'). Briefly summarise the key factors that support this conclusion (new material should not be introduced at this stage)
Command words


Break something into its component parts and show how they relate to one another


Present a reasoned case


'Weigh up' a statement, showing arguments in favour and against


Identify similarities


Identify differences


Explain problems, limitations or weaknesses


Say what a word or phrase means


Set out features or characteristics


Examine an issue closely, taking account of differing viewpoints


Describe differences


Make judgments based on evidence


Investigate closely


Show how something works, usually by giving a clear and detailed account of it


Name or set out main features


Set out main characteristics


Express clearly


Present principal points without detail

Terms that are sometimes confused:


The characteristics that define what something is


The roles that highlight what something does


Remember: the structure of unit 2 has changed but the content and the benefit of practicing with these questions is still of value

1. (a) Outline two features of a codified constitution. A codified constitution is a constitution in which key constitutional provisions are collected together within a single legal document, popularly known as a ‘written constitution’. Such constitutions have three key features. 1st, in a codified constitution, the document is authoritative in the sense that it serves as ‘higher’ law, indeed the highest law of the land. This gives rise to a two-tier legal system in which the constitution stands above statute law made by the legislature. 2nd, the provisions of the constitution are effectively entrenched, in the sense that it is difficult to amend or abolish them. The procedure for making and subsequently changing the constitution must thus be in some way more complex and difficult than the procedure for making ordinary laws. 3rd, a codified constitution is judiciable, in the sense that the judiciary is the supreme constitutional arbiter – the constitution means what the senior judiciary say it means. All public bodies are thus subject to the authority of the courts, which can determine that any government action is ‘unconstitutional’.
(b) Explain the main features of the UK constitution.
The main features of the UK constitution are as follows. The UK has an uncodified, or ‘unwritten’ constitution. There are therefore a number of constitutional sources, the main ones being statute law, common law, conventions, works of constitutional authority & European law & treaties. The main principles of the UK constitution are parliamentary sovereignty (the fact that Parliament can make, unmake or amend any law it wishes), the rule of law, the unitary state (reflecting the fact that sovereignty resides in a single institution of central government). There is a lack of separation of powers in that there is a fusion of legislative & executive power.
1(c) why has the UK constitution been criticised?
The UK constitution has been criticised for a number of reasons, including the following. 1st, critics of the UK constitution point out that it is sometimes difficult to know what the constitution says. This is because of a reliance on ‘unwritten’ constitutional sources that have no legal substance. 2nd, the most serious & challenging criticism of the UK constitution is that it tends to give rise to ‘elective dictatorship’. This is a consequence of the fact that sovereignty is vested in a Parliament that is routinely dominated & controlled by the executive. The effect of this is that, in practice, executive power is unconstrained by Parliament & factors other than the need, every few years, to face the electorate. 3rd, the UK constitution is characterised by weak checks & balances between & amongst government institutions. For example, the constitution can be amended by any government by simple act of parliament. The PM tends to dominate the cabinet, the executive usually controls Parliament, & central government has the upper hand over local government. Such concentrations of power, only partly remedied by recent constitutional reforms such as devolution & the wider use of referendums, create the problem that power can be abused. 4th, the UK constitution has been criticised for providing weak protection for individual rights & civil liberties. In part, this is a consequence of elective dictatorship. However, it also reflects a traditional unwillingness to write down individual rights & freedoms, to give them legal substance. Even the HRA provides inadequate protection for rights, as its provisions are not entrenched & can be set aside by Parliament.
2. (a) Outline two features of a presidential system of government
Presidential government is characterised by a variety of features, illustrated by the USA as the classic example of a presidential system. These features include the following:
• A separation of powers between the executive and the legislature, supported by the fact that these two institutions are separately elected. The president has a separate source of authority from the legislature.
• A strict separation of personnel between the executive and the legislature.
• Fixed-term elections, meaning executive cannot dissolve the legislature, & legislature cannot remove the executive.
2 (b) Why is the UK system of government been considered to be parliamentary?
 The UK system of government is often seen as the classic example of parliamentary government, such systems being said to be based on a ‘Westminster model’. At the heart of the UK’s parliamentary system is a fusion of power between the executive & the legislature, meaning that government & Parliament are overlapping & interlocking institutions. This is reflected in an overlap of personnel, such that all ministers must be MPs or peers. Government also rests on the confidence of Parliament & is accountable to Parliament, in that it can be removed by a defeat on a vote of confidence by the Commons. Government, in turn, can dissolve Parliament, meaning that electoral terms are flexible within a maximum of five years. There is a distinction between the posts of head of government (PM) & head of state (monarch).
 2 (c) How effective is Parliament in carrying out its representative role?
Representation is one of the core functions of Parliament. This function is carried out through the elective basis of the Commons. In constitutional theory, representation operates through the relationship between MPs & constituents, the former being able to think for him- or herself on behalf of the latter (acting as a representative not a delegate). In practice the development of the party system means that representation operates through the doctrine of the mandate. This means that the party that wins majority control of the Commons can claim to have popular authority to implement its programme of policies. This process is underpinned by the ability of the public to call the majority party to account through regular, free, fair and democratic elections. However, the representative role of Parliament has been criticised in a variety of ways, including the following. 1st, MPs find it difficult to act as Burkean representatives because their views and actions are so often subject to party control. 2nd, the doctrine of the mandate has been attacked for a variety of reasons, including the fact that there is no mechanism for ensuring that the majority party carries out its manifesto promises. 3rd, the Westminster electoral system has been widely criticised for, for example, distorting party representation in the House of Commons and creating a majority party that very rarely enjoys majority support in the country. 4th, the second chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords, is non-elected & therefore carries out no meaningful representative role. Other criticisms have included the power of the whips on MPs, weakening their ability to represent the public and their constituencies. Neither house is truly socially representative, e.g women and ethnic minorities are under-represented.
3. (a) What is cabinet government?
Cabinet government is a political feature that has 2 key elements. 1st, the cabinet is the institution that links the executive & the legislature, through the fact that its members sit in Parliament and also control the administrative machinery of government. 2nd, cabinet government implies that the cabinet makes policy collectively, all members being, in theory at least, equal. In is classical formulation, this implies that the PM is merely ‘first in name only’. Cabinet government is underpinned by the convention of collective ministerial responsibility.
(b) What are the main sources of prime ministerial power?
There are a number of sources of prime ministerial power. Among the most important are the following. 1st PM’s  have significant powers of patronage, in particular the ability to hire and fire, promote & demote, all ministers including cabinet ministers. 2nd, as party leaders they normally enjoy the loyalty & support of party members in government, in Parliament & in the country at large. 3rd, PM’s benefit from various institutional supports & sources of expert advice, the most important of which are the prime minister’s office and the cabinet office. 4th, prime ministers have direct access to the media through their control over government communications & news management. 5th, PM’s are able to manage and often control the cabinet and the cabinet system. This is done through, for instance, the ability to chair the cabinet, sum up cabinet decisions, create & staff cabinet committees, bypass the cabinet through the use of bilateral meetings, & so on. Prerogative powers are a key source, not least the PM’s pre-eminent position in foreign policy.
(c) Have Prime Ministers become more powerful, or less powerful, in recent years?
The argument that PM’s have become more powerful in recent years is usually linked to the growth of so-called presidentialism. This reflects the ability of PM’s, usually through their control over the media and communications, to distance themselves from their government and party, using what is known as ‘spatial leadership’. Thatcher and Blair are the best examples of ‘presidential’ prime ministers, both of them exercising personal control over their governments ideological direction and strategy. Other ways in which prime ministers have become more powerful include the impact of large majorities in the House of Commons since the 1980s and growing disregard for the cabinet, illustrated by a significant reduction in the number and, under Blair, length of cabinet meetings. However, it can also be argued that prime ministers have become less powerful in certain ways. One indication of this is the decline in party unity which has made MPs more likely to turn on prime ministers who appear to have become electoral liabilities. This contributed to the fall of Thatcher and the decline of Blair. Moreover, Blair was much weaker than his media image suggested, particularly because domestic policy was largely dominated by his Chancellor, Gordon Brown. More intense media focus on the prime minister can also be negative as well as positive in the case of policy failures. For example, Major’s reputation and public standing were badly damaged by the ERM crisis in 1992, while Blair's premiership was ultimately destroyed by Iraq.
Next paper
2 (a) Distinguish between a unitary and a federal constitution
A constitution is a set of rules that govern government & allocate duties, powers & functions to the various government bodies. A unitary constitution is one in which sovereign power is vested in a single institution of central government. In the UK, this institution is Parliament, which exercises sovereignty, in that it can make or unmake any law it wishes. Peripheral; devolved or local institutions exist at the pleasure of Parliament, these bodies having no constitutional autonomy. Federal constitutions, by contrast, are based on principle of shared sovereignty, in that they establish 2 relatively autonomous levels of government. Each level possesses powers that the other level cannot encroach upon. The classic example of a federal constitution is the US constitution, which divides sovereignty between the 3 institutions of federal government & reserves all other powers for ‘the states & the people’. In marking this, consider the following:
• Knowledge & understanding of unitary constitution (AO1) • Knowledge & understanding of federal constitution (AO1)
2 (b) Explain, using examples, the sources of the UK constitution
The UK constitution has a variety of sources, including the following. 1st, statute law is a major source of the constitution in that there is no higher constitutional law and the duties, powers and functions of government bodies are often laid out in Acts of Parliament. This applies in the case of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. 2nd, other constitutional powers are allocated by conventions, non-legal rules that widely accepted as binding (if vague). They include the use by the PM  & other ministers of the Royal Prerogative. 3rd, common law, based on long-established custom, is another source of the UK constitution. The Royal Prerogative is rooted in common law. Case law, or ‘judge-made’ law, is also often identified as a source of the constitution. Fourth, works of constitutional authority (Dicey, Bagehot etc) and widely respected constitutional documents (Magna Carta) help to allocate constitutional roles and responsibility, the former particularly in clarification of convention. Fifth, European law and treaties have become an increasingly important source of the constitution, in that define the relationship between the EU and the UK and allow EU regulations and directives to have direct impact within the UK. In marking this questions, consider the following:
• Knowledge of the major sources of the UK constitution (AO1) • Knowledge of examples of the sources (AO1)
• Analysis of how the sources allocate duties & powers to government bodies or define the relationship between the state & the individual in the UK (AO2)
2 (c) Assess the strengths of the UK constitution
The UK constitution has a variety of alleged strengths; however, each of these has been subject to criticism. Relevant points would include the following. 1st, the UK constitution has been said to be flexible by virtue of its uncodified character. This allows it to be up-to-date and to remain relevant regardless of a changing political environment. On the other hand, flexibility could be a problem, in that it means that changes are ill-considered or that important principles lack safeguard. 2nd, the UK constitution may be regarded as democratic, in that, thanks to parliamentary sovereignty, ultimate constitutional responsibility is vested in Parliament, and in practice in the elected House of Commons. The counter argument here is that, as the Commons is in practice controlled by the executive, parliamentary sovereignty results in elective dictatorship, which is often seen as the key flaw in the UK’s constitutional system. 3rd, the UK constitution reduces the constitutional role of non-elected judges, who cannot strike down Acts of Parliament. Critics of the constitution, however, would ague that judges, by virtue of their legal training and political impartiality, are the most suitable people to be the ultimate constitutional arbiters.4th, the UK constitution has been commended because its organic character, meaning that it is rooted in tradition and history. This may nevertheless mean that it contains out-dated elements, such as the royal prerogative. In marking this questions, consider the following:
• Knowledge & understanding of key strengths of the UK constitution (AO1) • Analysis & explanation of key strengths (AO2) • Evaluation & assessment of the strengths of the constitution in the light of counter-arguments (AO2)
3 (a) Outline the role of a minister
Ministers have a variety of roles. 1st, ministers usually (except those without portfolios) act as head government departments (in the case of senior minister, usually secretaries of state), or are members of the leading group within a department (in the case of junior ministers). As such, their role extends both to policy-making and administrative oversight within the department. 2nd, ministers have a parliamentary role, in that they must answer parliamentary questions (Question Time), provide minister statements & speak in parliamentary debates or relevant departmental matters. This may also extend to appearing before select committee. Ministers also have government roles; in the case of senior ministers this may extend to membership of the cabinet & cabinet committees. All ministers are obliged to support official government policy. Consider the following: • Knowledge & understanding of the departmental role of a minister (AO1) • Knowledge & understanding of the parliamentary & other roles of a minister (AO1)
3 (b) In what circumstances do ministers resign?
Ministers may resign in a number of circumstances. These are sometimes outlined by the conventions of ministerial responsibility. Under the convention of collective ministerial responsibility, ministers must resign, or face being sacked, if the fail to support official government policy in public or Parliament. Under the convention of individual ministerial responsibility, ministers should resign as a result of a policy failure or blunder made by their department. Whereas collective responsibility remains relevant to modern politics, individual responsibility, in its traditional sense, is widely ignored, example of resignations on its basis being very rare. Resignations are more commonly linked to Personal failings & flaws on the part of ministers, particularly those that attract significant media criticism & exposure. In these circumstances, the survival of a minister is linked to the nature of the transgression, the damage that media criticism causes to the government & the majority party, & the support that the minister receives from the prime minister. Good answers are likely to be illustrated with up-to-date and relevant examples.Consider the following:
• Knowledge & understanding of the circumstances of ministerial resignations (AO1) • Knowledge of relevant examples (AO1) • Analysis & evaluation of the significance of the different factors in leading to a resignation(AO2)
3 (c) Assess the limitations on the powers of the Prime Minister
PM’s are subject to a variety of limitations. These include the following. The cabinet is a limit on the PM in that decisions are made collectively and it is possible (although unlikely) for the PM to be out voted. Major cabinet figures, particularly ones with significant support within the party & considerable public reputation, act as a powerful limit on the PM (witness Brown or Blair). However, PMs also possess a variety of powers and controls though which they are usually able to neutralise cabinet resistance. Parliament is another limitation. Opposition parties can criticise the PM, but their influence is limited unless they are electorally strong and especially if the government’s majority is small. Majority party backbenchers can limit the PM by threatening to vote against the government. Although this rarely, in recent year, has threatened the government with defeat, it has forced the PM and government to modify politicise rather than abandon them. The Lords is a limititation on the PM because the governing party does not have majority control of the second chamber. However, the legislative powers of the Lords are weak, and the Commons can always make use of the Parliament Act. Other limits on the PM include major pressure groups, especially those that possess financial or economic power; mass media, as demonstrated by Blair’s unwillingness to press ahead with Euro membership; international organisations, & most notably the EU; & major trading partners & strategic allies, especially the USA as demonstrated by its influence on UK foreign policy in recent years. Consider the following:
• Knowledge and understanding of the limitations on the power of the PM (AO1) • Analysis of how factors limit PM power (AO2) • Evaluation of the significance of different limitations on the PM (AO2)
4 (a) Outline two functions of Parliament
Parliament has a number of functions, including; 1st, Parliament makes laws: it is a sovereign legislature in that it can make & unmake any law it wishes. All law making power in the UK issues ultimately from Parliament. 2nd, Parliament has a representative function, helping to link government to the people. It carries out this function through elections to the Commons & thro the constituency role of MPs. 3rd, Parliament carries our oversight & scrutiny of the executive, helping to ensure responsible government & accountability. 4th, Parliament provides legitimacy, in that policies passed by the Parliament are more likely to be regarded as rightful & binding by UK citizens. Consider the following: • Knowledge & understanding of 1 function of Parliament (AO1) • Knowledge & understanding of a 2nd (AO2)
4 (b) Explain three ways in which Parliament carries out its scrutinizing role?
Parliament carries out its scrutinising role in a variety of ways. These include the following. 1st Question Time provides a weekly opportunity for MPs to ask questions of the PM and also of other leading ministers. The occasion, nevertheless, often degenerates into point-scoring and ‘ya-boo’ politics, rather than the sober analysis of government policy. 2nd, a system of select committees have existed since 1980 to monitor the work of the main government departments. These committees can send for persons, papers and records, and receive evidence from ministers and civil servants. However, factors such as the government majority on the committees serve to limit their effectiveness. 3rd, opposition parties are able to use opposition days and closure motions to embarrass the government.4th, parliamentary programme to scrutiny……… etc • Knowledge and understanding of three forms of parliamentary scrutiny (AO1) • Analysis of how these scrutinising mechanisms operate (AO2) • Evaluation of their significance in checking government power (AO2)
4 (c) Has the UK Parliament become an irrelevant institution?
The UK Parliament is sometimes considered irrelevant. Those who argue this point to the conjunction of 3 major factors. 1st, the Westminster electoral system ids majoritarian & therefore tends to result in single party majority control in the Commons and thus single party government. 2nd, the party system tends to ensure that the governing party is cohesive & unified, allowing its leaders (ministers in government) to dictate in most cases to its MPs. 3rd, the House of Lords is a subordinate chamber, meaning that whichever party controls the Commons controls Parliament. The net result of this is what Hailsham dubbed ‘elective dictatorship’, a condition in which, once elected, governments can do anything they want until the next general elections – Parliament is irrelevant. This view is contested, however. Other point out that Parliament can influence government & government policy in a variety of ways. Majority party backbenchers are not always loyal and obedient, but being better education, they are increasingly critical & questioning of government. The Lords defeats the government more regularly than does the Commons & governments often have to conciliate an upper chamber in which they do not have majority control. In this view, Parliament may not be a policy-making legislature, but it retains a policy influencing role.  In marking this questions, consider the following: • Knowledge and understanding of criticisms that have been made of Parliament (AO1) • Analysis of how factors that affect Parliaments power & influence (AO2) • Evaluation of the power & influence of Parliament (AO2)
1 (a) Outline the powers of the House of Lords
The main legislative powers of the Lords are defined by the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949. Most importantly, the Lords has the power to delay non-money bills for up to one year with no power to delay money bills. In addition to this, the Lords has outright veto powers over a limited range of legislation, notably over bills to prolong the life of Parliament & over delegated legislation. The Lords also accepts a voluntary constraint, based on convention (the Salisbury-Addison doctrine), not to defeat, and therefore delay, policies contained in the governing party’s manifesto at the previous election. The Lords also has judicial power in serving as the supreme court of appeal in the UK. The Lords can, more widely, exert influence the legislative & other debates it holds and the general scrutiny of government. Take account of the following issues: • Knowledge & understanding of the legislative powers of the Lords. (AO1) • Knowledge & understanding of the judicial powers of the Lords. (AO1)
1(b)  Explain the main differences between parliamentary government & presidential government.
Parliamentary government and presidential government are the two main ways in which liberal democratic
governmental systems are organised. They differ basically in terms of the relationship between the legislature and the executive, which, in turn, affects the distribution of policy-making power and the relationship between government and the people. The main differences between these two governmental systems are as follows:
• The most important distinction is that parliamentary systems of government are based on a fusion of powers between the legislature and the executive, such that government governs in and through the legislature, the two bodies overlapping and inter-locking. In contrast, presidential systems are based on a separation of powers between the legislature and the executive, which is designed to provide the basis for a system of checks and balances between the two branches of government. • In a parliamentary system governments are formed as a result of parliamentary elections, the winning party or parties needing (usually) to have majority control of the legislature. In contrast, in presidential systems, the legislature and the executive are separately elected, and each is invested with a range of independent constitutional powers.
• In a parliamentary system the personnel of government are drawn from the legislature, usually from the leaders of the party or parties that have majority control. In contrast, in presidential systems, there is a strict separation of personnel, meaning, for example, that the president and the cabinet cannot sit in the legislature.  • In a parliamentary system, the executive or government is responsible to the legislature, in the sense that it rests on the legislature’s confidence can be removed if it loses that confidence. This may precipitate a general, or parliamentary, election earlier than the full electoral term. In contrast, in presidential systems, the president and executive are not directly accountable to or removable by the legislature. • In parliamentary systems, the executive can, in most cases, ‘dissolve’ the legislature, which it usually does in the hope of strengthening its control. This is another reason why electoral terms are flexible within a maximum limit. In contrast, in presidential systems, the president cannot ‘dissolve’ the legislature, and in all circumstances electoral terms are fixed. In addition, other differences can be identified, including the following:
• In parliamentary systems, executive authority is usually collective (at least in theory), and based on the principle of collective cabinet government. In contrast, in presidential systems, executive authority is concentrated in the hands of the president, the cabinet and ministers merely being advisors responsible to the president.
• In parliamentary systems, the posts of head of government (usually a PM) and head of state (a constitutional monarch or a non-executive president) are distinct and separate. In contrast, in presidential systems, the president wears ‘two hats’, combining the roles of head of government and head of state.Take account of the following issues:
• Knowledge & understanding of parliamentary government. & of presidential government. (AO1)
1(c) How effective is Parliament in scrutinising the work of the executive?
Parliament scrutinises the work of the executive through forcing the government to explain and defend its actions. The key mechanisms through which the Commons and Lords carry out their scrutiny roles include the following:
• Parliamentary questions require that ministers, including the prime minister on Wednesday, provide oral or written answers to questions raised by MPs or peers.
 • Debates in the Commons and the Lords can call ministers, including the prime minister, to account. Examples of these would include debates on the Queen’s Speech or on motions of no-confidence, debates initiated by opposition parties on so-called Opposition Days, adjournment debates (which provide an opportunity to raise general or constituency issues), and emergency debates (which are rare but may be conceded by the Speaker). • Early day motions do not result in debate but allow MPS to express views on matters of general concern. • Standing and select committees, particularly those in the House of Commons, allow for the scrutiny of ministers and senior civil servants away from the parliamentary floor. Such committees have the power to send for ‘persons, papers and records’. • Letters to ministers provide a mechanism through which MPs can force ministers to address issues raised by their constituents. However, the effectiveness of parliament in holding the executive to account is often severely limited. The key limitations on Parliament in this respect include the following:
• The most significant of these is that the combination of a parliamentary system of government and a majoritarian electoral system ensures that the executive, in most cases, enjoys majority control of the House of Commons. This, in normal circumstances, ensures that governments are rarely defeated in parliamentary debates. This also significantly undermines the effectiveness of select committees, whose composition reflects that of the Commons as a whole. However, governments do not (in modern circumstances) have majority control of the House of Lords, which means that if Parliament is going to defeat government legislation or embarrass the government of the day, it is more likely to happen in the Lords than in the Commons. • Party unity also tends to make parliamentary scrutiny less effectiveness because, in most circumstances, governing party MPs see their primary role and responsibility as supporting the government of the day, rather than scrutinising it. However, in the event majority-party disunity, backbench MPs can be highly effective in checking the power of the executive. • The size of the government’s majority in the Commons is an important factor, in that the larger the majority the government has, the weaker will be both opposition parties and its own backbenchers. This has been particularly evident following landslide victories by both the Thatcher and Blair governments. • The subordinate powers and status of the House of Lords weakens the scrutinising role of Parliament, in that it has restricted legislation powers. However, it may often be more effective than the commons in scrutinising the executive because governments typically do not enjoy executive control. Governments defeats in the Lords are therefore much more common than in the commons. • The scrutinising role of Parliament may now have largely been transformed to the mass media.
In marking this question, take account of the following issues:
• Knowledge and understanding of the key mechanisms through which Parliament scrutinises the work of the executive. (AO1) • Explanation of how these mechanisms are effective in bringing about scrutiny. (AO2)
• Evaluation and analysis of the effectiveness of Parliament’s scrutinising role. (AO2)
2(a) What is a constitution?
A constitution is, broadly, the rules that govern government, and as such constitutions limit the exercise of government power by defining how and by whom it can be exercised. A constitution can thus be seen as a set of rules, written and unwritten, that seek to establish the duties, powers and functions of the various institutions of government. It also regulates the relationship between these institutions, and defines the relationship between the state and the individual. The balance between written (legal) and unwritten (customary or conventional) rules varies from system to system. Constitutions come in various forms, the key classifications being between ‘written’ or codified constitutions and ‘unwritten’ or uncodified constitutions. In marking this question, take account of the following issues:
• Knowledge and understanding of the nature and purpose of a constitution. (AO1) • Knowledge and understanding of how constitutions allocate duties, powers and functions to government institutions. (AO1)
2(b) Distinguish between a codified constitution and an uncodified constitution.
A codified constitution is a constitution in which the key constitutional provisions are collected together within a single legal document, popularly known as a ‘written’ constitution, or ‘the constitution’. The classic example of a codified constitution is the US Constitution written in 1787. Codified constitutions have the following features:
• They are authoritative in the sense that the codified constitution constitutes ‘higher’ law, indeed, the highest law of the land. A codified constitution thus establishes a two-tier legal system, with constitutional law standing above statute law made by the executive. • Codified constitutions are entrenched, in the sense that they are difficult to amend or abolish. The procedures for establishing the constitution and subsequently revising it are more complex and difficult that the procedures for enacting and amending ordinary statute laws. • Codified constitutions are judiciable, in that being a legal document, the judiciary has the ultimate authority to define the interpretation of constitutional rules. The judiciary is thus the final constitutional arbiter. Uncodified constitutions that are not based on a single authoritative document. The classic example of an uncodified constitution is the UK constitution. The major features of an uncodified constitution are as follows:
• Uncodified constitutions draw on a variety of sources. Chief amongst these in the UK are statute law, which is made by Parliament, common law, conventions, various works of authority that clarify & explain the constitution’s ‘unwritten’ elements, & EU laws & treaties. • They are not entrenched, meaning that constitutional laws are no different from statute laws, either in terms of their authority or how they are made. In other words, Parliament can change the constitution by enacting statute law. • They are not judiciable, in that judges cannot challenge Parliament’s ability to make or unmake statute laws, including those that are constitutionally significant. Take into account of the following issues: • Knowledge & understanding of the features of a codified constitution. (AO1) & uncodified constitution. (AO1)
2(c) Should the UK constitution remain uncodified?
The UK’s uncodified constitution has a variety of strengths. These include the following:
• Uncodified constitutions are relatively flexible, and can therefore be responsive and adaptable to changing political and other circumstances. The flexibility of the UK constitution stems primarily from the fact that Parliament can change it through the normal processes of statute law. Thus, since 1997, devolution has been introduced in Scotland and Wales, referendums have been more widely employed, and a Human Rights Act has been enacted.
• Drawing on long-established traditions and conventions, as well as common law, the UK’s uncodified constitution has the benefit that it is rooted in history and has an organic character, unlike ‘artificial’ codified constitutions.
• Being uncodified, the UK constitution locates ultimate constitutional authority in Parliament. The advantage of this is that, as MPs are elected and in view of the dominance of the Commons over the Lords, the constitution is broadly responsive to democratic pressures. • The uncodified constitution protects against the tyranny of the judiciary, a danger embodied in any codified constitutional system. Concerns about judges being the ultimate constitutional arbiters arise from the fact that they are both non-elected and socially unrepresentative of the larger society. Nevertheless, the UK’s uncodified constitution has stimulated deep controversy and widespread criticism. The most significant criticisms made of the UK constitution include the following:
• The main criticism of the UK constitution centre around the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, which vests in Parliament absolute and unlimited power, reflected in the ability to make, amend or repeal any law it wishes, including constitutional laws. This, it is argued, has resulted in ‘elective dictatorship’. Elective dictatorship results from the ability of a government to act in any way it pleases as long it maintains majority control of the
House of Commons. This occurs because the sovereign power vested in Parliament is in practice exercised by the majority party in the Commons, and thus invests almost unrestricted power in the leaders of that party, the prime minister and cabinet. The disadvantages of an elective dictatorship include that it allows governments, between elections, to act in arbitrary ways and to pose threats to individual rights and liberties. Examples of this could include the ability of successive governments to resist pressures for devolution until 1997 and the maintenance of the single-member plurality electoral system for the House of Commons because it benefits the governing parties even though it seriously distorts electoral representation. • The UK constitution has increasingly been criticised because of the inadequate protection it provides individual rights and civil liberties, as has been evident with legal challenge to anti terrorism legislation.
• Until the passage of the Human Rights Act, any such rights were based on little more than the common law assumption that ‘everything is permitted if it is not prohibited’. The Human Rights Act does not give citizens inalienable rights, and therefore does not constitute an entrenched Bill of Rights because its provisions can be set aside by Parliament and in practice by the government of the day. • A further disadvantage of an uncodified constitution is that it is weak in establishing core values and principles upon which the political system is based, and which may give citizens a clearer sense of civic allegiance. A codified constitution may therefore have educational benefits, perhaps especially in an increasingly multicultural society. In marking this question, take account of the following issues:
• Knowledge & understanding of the advantages (AO1) & of the disadvantages of the UK’s uncodified constitution.
(AO1) • Evaluation and analysis of the competing arguments. (AO2)
3(a) Define collective ministerial responsibility.
Collective ministerial responsibility is a long-established constitutional convention. It defines the relationship both between Parliament & the executive & between ministers within the cabinet and government. It implies that government rests collectively on the confidence of Parliament, in practice the Commons. This implies that the government can be removed if it loses that confidence, in practice through an adverse vote on an issue of confidence or a ‘major’ issue. This would, then, precipitate a general election. However, the more common understanding of collective ministerial responsibility is the implication that the cabinet makes decisions collectively, each member (including the prime minister) being equal, and that members of the cabinet and other ministers are therefore obliged to support government policy in Parliament and in public. The convention implies that if ministers are unwilling or unable to support government policy they should resign or face being sacked. The convention thus ensures that ministers ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’. In marking this question, take account of the following issues:
• Knowledge & understanding of the convention’s implications for relationship between government & Parliament. (AO1) • Knowledge & understanding of the implications of the convention for cabinet & government unity. (AO1) • Knowledge and understanding of the circumstances in which ministers may resign or be sacked under the convention. (AO1)
3(b) What are the functions of the cabinet?
The cabinet is a committee of senior ministers, mainly heads of government departments. The main functions of the cabinet include the following:
• The key function of the cabinet is to make formal government decisions; a policy becomes ‘official’ once approved by the cabinet. This reflects the theory that the cabinet is the pinnacle of the UK executive, and is based on the principle of cabinet government, the belief that policy-making responsibility is shared within the cabinet, the prime minister being ‘first’ in name only. However, the cabinet in practice often does little more than give formal approval to decision effectively made elsewhere. • The cabinet plays a crucial role in co-ordinating government policy and activities. As a ‘clearing house’ through which key policy proposals are raised and discussed, the cabinet is a forum that ensures that there is an overview of developments that are taking place in different departments and parts of the executive. This function is also carried out through the work of cabinet committees and via the Cabinet Office.• The cabinet provides a final court of appeal for disagreements between ministers or between departments that cannot be resolved at a lower level. • The cabinet manages parliamentary business in that it considers, on a weekly basis, the schedule of bills passing through the Commons and the Lords, also taking account of the strength of party and parliamentary support for particular government measures. These discussions are facilitated by the presence of the chief whip. • The cabinet can, in certain circumstances, undertake the crisis management of emergencies. The best example of this is through the formation of so-called ‘war cabinets’, allowing the prime minister to make key military decisions in conjunction with key members of the cabinet. In answering this question, take account of the following issues: • Knowledge & understanding of functions of the cabinet. (AO1) • Awareness of a range of cabinet functions. (AO1)
3(c) To what extent do prime ministers dominate the cabinet?
In theory, PM’s don’t dominate the cabinet, as the UK has a system of collective cabinet government in which the PM features merely as ‘first amongst equals’. However, this view has been widely & roundly rejected, with allegations becoming more common that the UK has a system of prime ministerial government or a presidential system of government. PM’s can dominate the cabinet in a variety of ways. These include the following:
• The prime minister has significant powers of patronage. The prime minister appoints, promotes, demotes and sacks all members of the cabinet. This enables the prime minister to choose cabinet members who are either personally loyal or ideologically sympathetic to him/her. Patronage powers also engender in cabinet members subservience to a prime minister who can make or break their political careers. Prime ministers control the workings of the full cabinet in a variety of ways. This includes their ability to determine when, and how frequently, cabinet meetings take place. (Tony Blair has held cabinet meetings only once a week and they last sometimes a little over an hour.) In addition, the prime minister effectively shapes the cabinet’s agenda and chairs cabinet meetings, giving him/her both the ability to structure cabinet debate and to sum up cabinet conclusions.
• The prime minister exercises significant control over the cabinet system. This applies in their ability to set up, staff and appoint the chairs of cabinet committees, whose recommendations are then seldom rejected by the full cabinet. Similarly, prime ministers use the Cabinet Office as, in effect, a tool of prime ministerial government.
• A prime minister’s control of the cabinet stems, in large part, from the prime ministers role as party leader and ‘brand image’ of the party itself. Loyalty to, and support for, the prime minister within the cabinet is therefore linked to the perception that the government is strong and the party is electorally viable. However, prime ministers do not have unchecked power within the cabinet, and they cannot emancipate themselves entirely from the constraints of cabinet government. This can be seen in a variety of ways and in a variety of circumstances. • In their management of the cabinet and in the appointment and sacking of cabinet members, the prime minister has got to take account of a variety of factors. These include that the cabinet needs to be relatively representative of the party in parliament in ideological terms, and that certain senior cabinet members may enjoy such a level of party support and public recognition that they are, effectively, unsackable. • PM’s are only, in practice, as powerful as their cabinets allow them to be. No PM can survive without broad cabinet support, & the sacking of senior ministers can erode the prime minister’s authority within Parliament and his/her public standing. This was aptly demonstrated by Thatcher’s sacking of key cabinet figures from the late 80s onwards, &, most starkly, in the loss of cabinet support that provoked her resignation in 1990.
• A prime minister’s ability to dominate his/her cabinet is also dependant on political
circumstances, and in particular the government’s popularity and chances of being reelected. Crudely, prime ministers are powerful within their cabinets when they are seen as electoral benefits to their party and they become weak or vulnerable once they are seen as electoral liabilities. Take account of the following issues:
• Knowledge and understanding of how prime ministers can influence and control the cabinet. (AO1)
• Knowledge and understanding of limitations on the prime minister in controlling their cabinet. (AO1)
• Evaluation and analysis of the power balance between prime ministers and cabinets. (AO2)
  1. Outline the role of the Prime Minister.
    The key aspects of the modern role of the prime minister include the following.
    • Prime ministers are chief executives, or heads of government. In this role they make governments, in the sense that they appoint all ministers and are responsible for promotions, demotions and sackings.
    • They direct government policy in the sense that prime ministers define the government's overall strategic goals, paying, usually, particularly close attention to economic policy and foreign policy.
    • Prime ministers are also the chair of the cabinet and manage the cabinet system and are responsible for organising government, including setting up, reorganising and abolishing government departments and being responsible for the civil service. • Prime ministers, as leaders of the largest party in the House of Commons, exercise effective control over Parliament. Note that party leadership is not a role unless referring specifically to the government party. • Prime ministers provide national leadership, particularly in times of crisis. • Finally, PM’s have an international role in representing their country abroad, negotiating with foreign states, international organisations & is commander in chief.
(b) How do Prime Ministers control the cabinet?
PM’s have considerable scope for managing and controlling the cabinet. This happens in a number of ways:
• Prime ministers use their powers to appoint and dismiss ministers & reshuffle cabinets as a means to maintain control.
• The doctrine of collective responsibility also adds to PM’s power to control. • PM’s chair cabinet meetings, manage their agendas & discussions, and sum up decisions (votes are rarely held in cabinet). This enables PM’s to structure cabinet debate & to manage the decision-making process.
• PM’s convene cabinet meetings and decide how often they will be called and how often they will last. E.G. cabinet meetings are now usually held once a week, & under Blair they sometimes lasted no longer than 30 minutes. • PM’s may hold private meetings with ministers & make bilateral agreements in order to by-pass and marginalise cabinet. • PM’s decide the number & nature of cabinet committees, sub-committees & ministerial groups. They appoint their members & chairs, the PM usually chairing the important cabinet committees. This enables PM’s to control the proposals & recommendations that cabinet committees make to the full cabinet, effectively pre-determining cabinet outcomes.
(c) To what extent have UK Prime Ministers become more like presidents?
There has been a trend, associated in particular with prime ministers such as Thatcher and Blair, for UK prime ministers to behave more like executive presidents, usually through the rise of personalised leadership. The absence of a codified constitution means prime ministers can interpret their role as they wish. Arguably some recent prime ministers have adopted more presidential role. Evidence for this trend can be seen in a number of ways:
• There has been a growth of 'spatial leadership', through the tendency of prime ministers to distance themselves from their parties and governments, representing themselves as 'outsiders' and developing a personal ideological stance.
• There has been a tendency towards 'populist outreach', in that prime ministers have increasingly tried to speak for the nation over major events, political crises or simply high-profile news stories. • Election campaigns have become increasingly personalised as the mass media has emphasised personality and image in a battle between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. • Because of their prominence in electoral campaigning, modern prime ministers have sometimes claimed a personal mandate, enabling them to act as if they are the ideological conscience of their party or government. • There has been a trend for prime ministers to rely on handpicked special advisors rather than on the cabinet itself. Many have therefore concluded that the cabinet has been downgraded, now functioning as only a 'sounding board' for the prime minister and not as the basis for executive policymaking. • In recent decades foreign policy has become more prominent including the European Union and prime ministers’ involvement has appeared more presidential. However, such trends may mean that UK prime ministers increasingly resemble presidents, not that they have, or can, become presidents. Prime ministers cannot become presidents because the UK system of parliamentary government ensures that they have to act in and through the cabinet system and the parliamentary system. Constitutionally prime ministers are not heads of state, have no separate source of authority and, as heads of government, only govern on the authority of parliament. This implies that the cabinet and the majority party in particular remain powerful (potential) constraints on even 'presidential' prime ministers. Thatcher was effectively deposed by her backbenchers and was told to go by her cabinet. Blair was substantially weakened by growing backbench disloyalty, restiveness within his cabinet and the considerable power that he had allowed Gordon Brown to amass. Such constraints do not apply in presidential systems in which the president is separately elected and has formal control over the executive branch of government. The recent problems encountered by Gordon Brown clearly demonstrate the limitations of prime ministerial authority. Brown is clearly having difficulty in adopting a presidential style.
3. (a) Outline the role of the House of Lords.
The role of the House of Lords is the following:
• Legislative role which includes the formal passage of bills, revision of legislation, initiation and delaying, forcing the Commons and the government to reconsider legislation.
• Deliberative role, considering the great issues of the day. • Judicial role as the highest court of appeal in the UK.
• Scrutiny of the executive. • Representation of various groups and interests in society.
(b) In what ways does the composition of the Commons differ from the Lords?
The Commons consists of MPs. Each MP is elected to represent a parliamentary constituency. MPs are almost always representatives of a party and are subject to a system of party discipline (only two independent MPs were elected in 2005). By contrast, no members of the House of Lords are elected. There are four bases for membership of the Lords:
• Around 600 peers are life peers, who are entitled to sit in the Lords for their lifetime.
• There are 92 remaining ‘hereditary’ peers. • There are 26 ‘Lords Spiritual’. These are the bishops and archbishops of the Church of England. • There are 12 Law Lords, or ‘Lords of Appeal in Ordinary’. These are the most senior judges in the UK and they carry out their work through the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. There are over 100 peers who are crossbenchers and are therefore independent of party allegiance. While one party normally has a majority in the House of Commons, no such majority exists in the House of Lords. The age of members of the Lords is typically higher although the gender and ethnic profiles of the two Houses are broadly similar.
(c) Compare the power and influence of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The House of Commons has, in theory, enormous formal power. The Commons is a sovereign legislature, able to make, unmake and amend any law it wishes, with the House of Lords only being able to delay legislation passed by the Commons. Moreover, only the Commons is able to remove the government of the day, which it does by defeating it on a vote of confidence on a major issue. However, the influence of the house of Commons over legislation and its capacity to constrain the executive is often in practice much more meagre. This is because the Commons is routinely controlled by the executive through the combined influence of the Westminster voting system (which usually gives the government majority control of the Commons) and the party system (which usually enables ministers to control their backbenches). In addition, the formal mechanisms designed to ensure accountability in the Commons – notably Question Time and departmental select committees – are often relatively weak and have limited policy impact. On the other hand, there has been a long-term trend to greater backbench influence in the Commons, brought about by declining levels of party unity as MPs become better educated and more assertive. This, however, has been counterbalanced by a tendency towards landslide majorities, allowing governments more easily to resist backbench and opposition pressures. The formal powers of the house of Lords are, by contrast, unimpressive, the Lords can only delay legislation passed by the Commons for a single year and has no capacity to delay so-called money bills. The Lords cannot remove the government of the day and only has an outright veto over limited matters such as the sacking of senior judges and the delay of parliamentary elections. However, in practical terms, the ords often has greater influence over the government than the Commons. For example, during Blair's first government, 1997-2001, the government was undefeated in the Commons but experienced no fewer than 353 defeats in the Lords, although the vast majority of these were on relatively technical matters. The greater influence of the Lords can be explained in four main ways:
• The party system is much weaker in the Lords than the Commons. Being non-elected, peers cannot be forced to toe a party line. Moreover, there are a considerable number of 'cross benchers', who have no party affiliation. • No party has majority control in the Lords. This has always applied to the Labour Party, but since the removal of the bulk of hereditary peers in 1999, it has also applied to the Conservative Party.
• The removal of hereditary peers has made the house of Lords more assertive and more willing to check the government of the day. This is because peers no longer feel that the chamber is tainted by the predominance of the outdated and irrational hereditary principle. Some peers have even felt that it is the job to compensate for the ineffectiveness of the Commons, especially due to landslide election victories.  • Although the Parliament Acts make the Lords formally subordinate to the Commons, in practice, governments have been reluctant to invoke them for fear that their legislative programme will be damaged by prolonged 'parliamentary ping pong'. Rather than battling with the Lords, the government is often more eager to search for a compromise.
4(a) Sovereignty is the principle of absolute and unlimited power. Sovereignty may take a legal or a political form. Legal sovereignty refers to supreme legal authority: that is, an unchallengeable right to establish any law one wishes. Political sovereignty refers to absolute political power: that is, an unrestricted ability to act however one wishes.
4(b) In the UK, sovereignty is located in Parliament or, technically, the 'Crown in Parliament'. Parliamentary sovereignty is strictly a form of legal sovereignty: it means that Parliament has the ability to make, unmake or remove any law it wishes. This applies because of the absence of a codified constitution, the supremacy of statute law over other forms of law, the absence of rival legislatures and the fact that no parliament can bind its successors. Although legal sovereignty undoubtedly lies with parliament, the location of political sovereignty is less certain:
• Parliament is not, and has never been, politically sovereign. In practical terms, its power is constrained by factors such as public opinion and the electorate, powerful pressure groups and international organisations. At elections the people become effectively sovereign. • The wider use of referendums and the passage of the Human Rights Act has encouraged some to argue that sovereignty has shifted from Parliament to the people, as parliamentary sovereignty has given way to popular sovereignty. Other issues concerning sovereignty include:
• The sovereignty of Parliament may have eroded as a result of EU membership. This has established EU law and treaties as 'higher' than statute law passed by Parliament. However, the capacity of Parliament to pass a law leaving the EU may (technically) preserve Parliament's legal sovereignty. • Some argue that devolution has led to a form of 'quasifederalism' in which the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly have effectively become autonomous legislatures. • Some have argued that sovereignty resides more with the executive than with Parliament, although this does not affect the location of sovereignty, which still resides with the ‘Crown (executive) in Parliament’.
4(c) A codified constitution is a constitution in which key constitutional provisions are collected together within a single legal document, popularly known as a written constitution. The UK constitutional system is, by contrast, uncodified in the sense that it is based on a collection of sources and allows Parliament to be technically sovereign. Arguments in favour of a codified constitution include the following:
• As key constitutional rules are collected together in a single document, they are more clearly defined than in an 'unwritten' constitution. Codification would have the effect of entrenching constitutional rules, requiring a device to ensure there is a consensus for change.  • A codified constitution would cut government down to size. It would therefore be a solution to the problem of 'elective dictatorship', through which the executive is able to act however it wishes through its ability to control a sovereign Parliament. • A codified constitution would be 'policed' by senior judges. As judges are 'above' politics, they would act as neutral and impartial constitutional arbiters, unlike elected politicians at present. • Individual liberty would be more securely protected by a codified constitution because it would define the relationship between the state & the citizens, possibly through a bill of rights. • A codified constitution has educational value, in that it highlights the central values & overall goals of the political system, something that may be particularly pressing in an increasingly multicultural society. However, codified constitutions may have a number of drawbacks:
• Codified constitutions tend to be more rigid than uncodified ones, meaning that they become outdated and fail to respond to an ever-changing political environment.  • Judges are not the best people to police the constitution because they are unelected and socially unrepresentative. The benefit of an uncodified constitution is precisely that it is interpreted and applied be elected politicians. • Codified constitutions are legalistic documents, created by people at one point in time. Uncodified constitutions, on the other hand, have been endorsed by history and have an organic character. • Codified constitutions are inevitably biased because they enforce one set of values or principles in preference to others. They can never be 'above' politics, and may precipitate more conflict than they resolve. • Constitutional reforms since 1997 have effectively dispersed governmental power and created stronger checks and balances within the UK. This, together with the Human Rights Act, means that concerns about excessive government power are now over-stated and that a codified constitution is unnecessary. Effective responses will consider these and other points as part of a balanced and evidence-based argument that leads to a reasoned conclusion.
1. (a) What is parliamentary sovereignty?
Parliament is the ultimate source of political authority, the supreme law making body, laws are legitimate only if promulgated in parliament. Parliament cannot bind its successors, is not bound by predecessors.
(b) In what ways has parliamentary sovereignty been affected by membership of the EU?
In an overall sense parliament has not lost sovereignty because Britain reserves the right to leave the EU. It is also true that many areas of jurisdiction have not been transferred to the EU. These include e.g. taxation, education, health. We can also say that there has been some pooling of sovereignty rather than loss. Thus the UK parliament has some influence over the affairs of other member countries. Nevertheless, in areas of EU jurisdiction, which have been gradually extended since 1973, EU law takes precedence over UK law, so parliamentary sovereignty has been eroded. The courts must enforce EU law if there is a conflict with UK law. It can also be mentioned that parliament has very little time to debate proposed EU legislation & so exercises little control over the government’s negotiations with other members & in the Council of Ministers. Factortame or similar is an example. Reference to QMV and unanimous voting is not essential but will be credited in level 3 answers.
(c) To what extent have both Houses of Parliament become more effective since 1997?
The Commons could be said to remain as ineffective as ever, still dominated by party whips, controlled by patronage & hindered by collective responsibility of government, insufficient time for opposition business, private members’ business etc. It arguably has insufficient time or expertise & select committees lack enforcement ability. On the other hand there are signs of greater activism, especially since 2005, with government having to accept obstruction over detention of terrorist suspects, ID cards, casinos etc. The effectiveness of the Commons varies depending on the size of the government majority. Certainly select committees now appear to be more influential with professional chairmen in place. There has been a more independent culture in the House in recent years with MPs more willing to take independent views. Lords also has become more effective, especially after reform. There has been more effective control and scrutiny, especially in the fields of law and order and human rights. Nevertheless the Lords remains relatively weak & lacking authority with constitutional barriers to its powers. Yet it is certainly more active & more professional than in the past. E.g’s of parliamentary effectiveness in controlling government have been over the holding of terrorist suspects without trial, super-casinos & ID cards. Other examples may be valid. It can also be pointed out that the legitimacy & therefore effectiveness of the Lords has been increased since reform (most hereditary peers removed).
2. (a) Outline two powers of the Prime Minister.
Powers include leadership of the governing party, appointment and dismissal of ministers, commander in chief and head of intelligence services, negotiating foreign treaties, dissolution of parliament, general control over cabinet business, patronage in terms of bishops and peerages (now limited by Appointments Commission).
(b) Explain three limits on the power of the Prime Minister.
The limitations include the following: idea of primus inter pares and so can be overruled by cabinet colleagues (Thatcher was removed by her cabinet). PM must command the support of parliament and will lose power if he/she cannot command parliamentary support (Major). A PM also relies on the support of his/her party and will lose power if party authority is lost (Blair in his last two years). Though the PM has wide prerogative powers, ultimately opposition from parliament could be decisive. Parliamentary sovereignty means he cannot be sure of the passage of key legislation (detention of terrorist suspects). Loss of public support and/or decline in media image can also be described as a limitation as occurred with our last three prime ministers. Credit can be given for reference to limitations to UK government jurisdiction which impacts on prime ministerial power, such as devolution, EU membership & globalisation.
(c) To what extent has cabinet government been replaced by prime ministerial government?
Prime ministerial government implies that it is dominated by the PM & other institutions are weak. The main alternative is the term cabinet government. This term implies that cabinet is the central policy making body, dominates the system through its collective status & that the PM is no more than primus inter pares. Evidence that the system is indeed prime ministerial includes extensive patronage, control over Cabinet meetings & agenda, dominance of the policy making procedure, growth of advice through 10 Downing Street, effectively a PM’s department, concentration on the PM by the media, the dominance of foreign policy and security issues which are not normally subject to cabinet control. On the other hand many argue this is only appearance & the system remains essentially collective, i.e. there is a presidential style, but not so much substance. Some decisions are still made in cabinet (probably ID cards, post office closures) & it is still conceivable that the PM can be overruled. Indeed, Gordon Brown pledged to govern more collectively. However, knowledge of the PM’s domination of policies to alleviate the credit crunch & recessions will be useful. Top answers may not refer to this, though knowledge will be very useful.  Responses which refer to presidentialism are valid if the material refers to prime ministerial domination or to its limitations.
4. (a) Distinguish between a codified and an uncodified constitution.
A codified constitution is one which is written and collected in one single document known as a constitution or basic law. The USA constitution is an example. An uncodified constitution like Britain’s is not collected into a single document. Codified constitutions are effectively entrenched, though not legally in Britain’s case.
(b) Explain three sources of the UK constitution.
The written parts include: statutes passed by parliament which often create important constitutional reforms, e.g. the devolution acts, HRA, Parliament Acts. Treaties with the EU which affect the jurisdiction of parliament & government, e.g. Maastricht. Works of Authority such a Bagehot or Dicey are written explanations of principles which are followed but which are not contained in statute. The royal prerogative can be considered to be a source. The procedures of parliament (Erskine May) can be seen as constitutional. Conventions are unwritten rules which are  considered binding.
  1. Analyse the importance of conventions within the UK constitution
    Conventions are unwritten rules that are considered binding on & by members of the political community. Many concern the royal prerogative & define PM powers. These include the powers of patronage, dissolution, control of military, foreign & security matters. They are vitally important because they are the source of most PM power. Patronage is especially crucial. They are controversial because the powers appear to be arbitrary in nature as well as giving too much (many argue) power to the PM. There are conventions concerning government which are vital. Collective responsibility keeps government united & gives it great strength, though it is criticised for stifling debate within government again increasing PM power. Individual ministerial responsibility is a key element in accountability of government. The Salisbury convention goes a long way to defining and circumscribing the power of the Lords. There are other conventions, mostly of less importance. In general conventions have replaced the need for a codified constitution (along with parliamentary sovereignty) so they are a key element. They are also seen as preferable as they are more flexible than entrenched, codified rules.

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