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Constitutional and administrative law.

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Introduction

LLB (HONS) CONSTITUTIONAL & ADMINISTRATIVE LAW ASSIGNMENT In the UK, the constitution claims to be democratic in that it aims to ensure that the government's authority is derived from the consent of the people. At the very heart of a democracy lies the concept that the electorate is able to see their views represented and their wishes fulfilled by their elected government. As the British constitution evolved, so to did the need to weave genuine democratic ideals into the fabric of our constitution. The integration of these democratic concepts into an evolving constitution has been a gradual process and can be seen as recently as the Reform Act (1867). The changing landscape of British life, namely the period of great industrialisation of the 19th Century, led to an ever-increasing urban population with no political voice. The act sought to redress this by increasing the size of the electorate by 90% and it is certainly fair to say that it was the biggest catalyst for modern day politics and government with the creation of mass-membership political parties hoping to facilitate the needs of a majority. Dicey argued that the will of the electorate is, ultimately, supreme over the government of the day. While this may have been true at the time the observations were made, it is necessary to consider whether the same still applies today and it is the aim of this essay to determine the validity of Dicey's statement. To accurately assess what supremacy, if any, the electorate has one must consider the relationship between the citizen and the constitution. ...read more.

Middle

The legislature consists of the Queen in Parliament and the Queen must always assent to legislation passed by Parliament. Parliament is bicameral, in that it consists of two legislative chambers. Historically, there has been continuous struggle for control of Crown and Parliament; it was the latter which triumphed over the former in the 1688 revolution. Over the following three centuries the continuing growth of democracy within our State led to the House of Commons, as the only elected chamber, acquiring greater significance until, at the beginning of this century, it successfully challenged The House of Lords for constitutional supremacy. There is, however, a distinction from saying that Parliament 'runs the country'. Even in the last century Prime Minister Gladstone made clear that it was not the role of Parliament to govern the country, but to call to account those who do govern the country. Parliament has, at its disposal, numerous methods they can employ to achieve this aim. Parliament (the commons and Lords) perform both a retrospective and prospective role to keep the executive in check. Retrospectively using question time and select committees and prospectively in standing committees and voting on legislation, amongst other things. However, their authority to scrutinise is certainly limited in that the executive is, by convention, limited to the government of the day which makes up the Cabinet. As discussed previously, Ministers are collectively responsible to Parliament for government policy and individually responsible to Parliament for the conduct of themselves and their departments. Parliament can only scrutinise the actions that a Minister is responsible for, even though this area may be very large. ...read more.

Conclusion

This implies that a so-called "elected dictatorship" is emerging. To conclude, it is plainly evident that the executive branch wields an enormous amount of power over Parliament. Given the large majorities that recent governments have enjoyed it is becoming increasingly difficult to challenge the executive as policy can be implemented with little resistance. The citizen has limited remedies available to challenge the government of the day including Judicial Review and Parliamentary Commissioners. Recent events such as those discussed illustrate that many of the constitutional safe guards in existence are merely a fiction and are unable to adequately hold the government to account. Traditional characteristics of our constitution such as the separation of powers and sovereignty of parliament appear to be undermined it today's political climate. The Lord Chancellor, for example, is an anomalous entity as he is the head of the judiciary, part of the legislature, and part of the executive. On a more fundamental basis, however, the electorate can enforce their will by exercising their right to vote. But this can only be achieved by a fair electoral system which is up to task of modern day politics. The current 'first-past-the-post-system' has been criticised for not being truly representative of public opinion and for not being fair to all the candidates. Furthermore, the law governing the conduct of elections, particularly in respect to financial matters, favours national campaigns by large parties rather than local campaigns. Particular issues have witnessed the supremacy of the citizen over the government such as the abolition of Poll Tax, the Repeal of the Dangerous Dogs Act and the recent 'fuel crisis'. Generally, however, the thrust of public policy is determined by party and simply confirmed by the electorate at periodical elections. ...read more.

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