Presentation on theme: "JN805 British Public Affairs The British Constitution, Political System and Monarchy."— Presentation transcript:
JN805 British Public Affairs The British Constitution, Political System and Monarchy
1. The British Constitution 2. Parliamentary Sovereignty 3. Westminster System 4. Roles of the Monarchy Lecture Outline
1. The British Constitution Constitutions can be written (such as the U.S. and France) or unwritten. The U.K. does not have a written constitution. ‘Unwritten’ (actually uncodified) Constitutions: Advantages: flexible and easier to add or subtract detail Disadvantages: Can create ambiguity over crucial issues relating to freedoms and rights of citizens.
Primary sources of the U.K. constitution: Statute –individual laws, known as ‘Acts of Parliament’; Common Law – judge-made or ‘case’ law; Conventions – customs, traditions and long standing practices; Treatises – history works of legal/and or constitutional authority (such as Bagehot’s The English Constitution (1867)); Treaties. 1. The British Constitution
Statute Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, established rule of law: right to fair trial, all equal before law, etc. Bill of Rights in 1689, following agreement between Parliament and William of Orange (William III and Mary II), established parliamentary sovereignty. Bill of Rights introduced principle of parliamentary privilege. 1. The British Constitution
Parliamentary privilege safeguards media and public in repeating claims. Expenses scandal in 2010 saw some accused MPs claim parliamentary privilege (they were later convicted). expenses/ /MPs-expenses-the-timeline.html expenses/ /MPs-expenses-the-timeline.html 1. The British Constitution
Statutes: 1701 Act of Settlement – deals with monarchical succession (recent changes to male line and non- Catholic rules) ;http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk – Acts of Union – unified England and Scotland as United Kingdom of Great Britain; More recently, for example, Race Relations Acts, Human Rights Act (1998), House of Lords Act (1999). 1. The British Constitution
Common Law ‘Case law’ establishing national framework of common law began by Henry II ( ).
1. The British Constitution Conventions: Important - Cabinet collective and individual ministerial responsibility; Historical ‘quirks’ - Black Rod has Commons door slammed in his face and he raps it three times to gain entry and lead MPs to House of Lords at the annual State Opening of Parliament.
1. The British Constitution Treaties – most recent 2007 Lisbon Treaty. /world/europe/ st m /world/europe/ st m
Draft Cabinet Manual Written by Sir Gus O’Donnell – looks at monarchy, government, parliament and devolved institutions. mselect/cmpolcon/writev/734/cicm08.htm mselect/cmpolcon/writev/734/cicm08.htm 1. The British Constitution
Attempts at Constitutional Reform: Charter 88 – grew out of New Statesman article, called for reforms including abolition of hereditary peers, alternative voting system, etc. charter-88 charter-88 New Labour did introduce devolution (with new voting systems), incorporated European Convention on Human Rights into British law, passed a FOI Act, introduced direct election of London mayor. 1. The British Constitution
“Parliamentary sovereignty effectively denies the principle of the separation of powers” (Leach, Coxall and Robins 2011, p. 178). Twin pillars of the constitution: First pillar: parliamentary sovereignty; Second pillar: rule of law. Second pillar subordinate to first pillar – parliament can pass measures changing laws. 2. Parliamentary Sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty undermined by U.K. membership of the EU, greater use of referendums (referendums require passing of Act of Parliament and result is not binding on parliament but political suicide to reject result), and Devolution. /Theresa-May-pledges-Conservatives-scrap- Human-Rights-Act-win-election.html /Theresa-May-pledges-Conservatives-scrap- Human-Rights-Act-win-election.html 2. Parliamentary Sovereignty
Executive (the government) Legislature (Parliament) Judiciary (the courts ) Idea to spread power throughout the State and not to confer too much power on individuals or small group. Although, monarch is still titular head of all three branches, until 2007 Lord Chancellor (as he/she was then) was member of all three institutions, and before 2009 Supreme Court the Law Lords were members of Legislature and Judiciary, and executive and legislature are fused. 2. Parliamentary Sovereignty
In the UK then, we have more ‘balance of powers’ rather than separation of powers. Legislature balances power of executive: it has the power to dismiss executive officers from office, convention of ministerial responsibility establishes accountability of government to Parliament. 2. Parliamentary Sovereignty
3. Westminster System Parliamentary system, named after the Palace of Westminster (U.K. parliament) and U.K. model, that has been adopted around the world by Commonwealth countries.
Head of State Head of Government (usually PM) Executive group (Cabinet) Independent civil service Parliamentary Opposition Party General elections Elected legislature (usually bicameral) with ability to bring down governments by blocking supply or through no confidence motions Parliamentary privilege Records of meetings 3. Westminster System
4. Roles of the Monarchy U.K. is a constitutional monarchy, meaning the monarchy’s powers are codified and limited. History of monarchical power through struggles with the Church and Parliament.
4. Roles of the Monarchy Henry II - murder of Thomas à Beckett (1170) Henry VIII Act of Supremacy (1534) Execution of Charles I (1649) Act of Settlement
4. Roles of the Monarchy “ … a royal family sweetens politics by the seasonable addition of nice and pretty events. It introduces irrelevant facts into the business of government, but they are facts which speak to ‘men’s bosoms’ and employ their thoughts” (Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution, 1867).
4. Roles of the Monarchy Monarchy seeks to unify nation through ceremony and spectacle. Diamond Jubilee news/article /Diamond-Jubilee A-million-turned-cheer- Queen-Buckingham-Palace- balcony.html news/article /Diamond-Jubilee A-million-turned-cheer- Queen-Buckingham-Palace- balcony.html
4. Roles of the Monarchy Actual prerogative powers: Head of State; Head of Executive, legislature and judiciary; Commander-in-chief of Armed Forces; Supreme governor of Church of England; Head of the Commonwealth.
Roles: opens Parliament (with Queen’s speech); Governs Church of England; Meets PM once a week; Entertains Heads of State; Visits other nations as Head of State; Chairs Privy Council meetings. 4. Roles of the Monarchy
Notional prerogative powers (delegated to government): Dissolving and summoning Parliament; Giving royal assent to Bills of Parliament; Appointing Ministers and other senior public officials; Devising the legislative agenda; Declaring war and peace; Drawing up nominees for peerages, knighthoods and other honours. 4. Roles of the Monarchy
Monarchy now funded (following Sovereign Grant Act 2011) by single annual payment: the sovereign grant. Set at 15% of annual net revenue of Crown Estates – £36.1 mln for 2013/14. Also income from Privy Purse (income from Duchy of Lancaster estate) and personal income. Cash reserves of Queen fall: royal-household-budget/print royal-household-budget/print 4. Roles of the Monarchy
The Monarchy and Taxation: Queen did not pay income tax until Sovereign grant is not taxable but Privy Purse is taxed. Prince Charles taxation affairs: news/2013/jul/15/prince-charles- tax-duchy-cornwall news/2013/jul/15/prince-charles- tax-duchy-cornwall /article /Prince-Charles- paying-lower-rate-tax- servants.html /article /Prince-Charles- paying-lower-rate-tax- servants.html