Full Glossary

Glossary (Upto Page 75)

‘Filling in the Gaps’ – A term given for the role of judges in creating Common Law which accounts for the fact that Parliament cannot legislate for every eventuality or circumstance in any given area.

A treatise on the law, privileges, proceedings and usage of Parliament (1844) by Erskine May – A work of authority of the British Constitution written by Erskine May, a former Clerk of the House of Commons which has been updated and republished 24 times. It is often simply referred to ‘Erskine May’.

A v. Home Secretary – A Human Rights case that was heard before the Law Lords in 2004. The case ruled that the indefinite detention of nine terrorism suspects at Belmarsh Prison was unlawful.

Absolute Monarchy – A monarchy that retains absolute power, similar to the powers that European Monarchs possessed before the renaissance. There are few remaining absolute monarchies, but Saudi Arabia a prominent example.

Acts of Union (1707) – The Acts of Union merged the Kingdoms of England and Scotland to form the United Kingdom.

Additional Member System – A voting system that uses a mixture of First Past the Post and the Party List System.

Alternative VoteA proportional voting system in which a majority of support is needed by a candidate to be elected. Voters also vote by preference, rather than simply choosing one candidate. Introduction of this system for voting in General Elections was rejected in a referendum in 2011.

Amendments – An Amendment is change to an individual bill or a Constitution. Amendments are easy to make in the UK constitution because of its flexible nature.

An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution by AV Dicey (1885)A work of authority on the UK Constitution written by constitutional scholar AV Dicey. In it, Dicey codified the Rule of Law and suggested that Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Rule of Law were the ‘twin pillars of the constitution’.

Article 50 – The article of the European Constitution that allows a member state to withdraw from the European Union.

Asymmetrical DevolutionA situation where the powers of devolved areas vary depending on their agreements with the central government.

AV Referendum (2011) – A referendum on whether Britain should adopt the more proportional Alternative Vote system for General Elections. The public chose by 68-32% to stick with First Past the Post.

BackbenchersAn MP that is not a member of the government or official opposition. They are called Backbenchers because they usually sit on the back benches in the House of Commons. 

Barnett Formula – The formula which dictates who how money the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Government’s receive under devolution.

Better TogetherThe campaign group during the Scottish Independence Referendum that advocated Scotland remaining as part of the UK.

BicameralA political system in which there are two chambers of parliament. Britain is a bicameral system.

BillThe term given for a proposed law that has not yet passed through the Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent. When this has happened, it becomes a law, or an Act of Parliament.

Bill of Rights – The part of a codified constitution that defines the rights and freedoms of individuals. A bill of right entrenches citizens’ rights into a Constitution.

Block GrantMoney given from the central government to enable devolved areas to carry out their mandates.

Boundary CommissionThe independent commission that advises on the changes to electoral boundaries in the UK.

Brexit – The nickname given for the British exit from the European Union after the EU Referendum of the 23rd June 2016.

BudgetThe annual statement of expenditure made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

By-ElectionA special election for a UK constituency that is held when an MP has died or resigned.

Carswell ConventionA new convention in the UK constitution whereby an MP who is planning to change parties must resign and force a by-election before doing so. It is named after Douglas Carswell, who left the Conservatives to join UKIP and in doing so resigned, thus instigating a by-election. The decision of new Change UK MPs that defected from other parties not to resign in June 2019, weakened the new convention.

Central Government – The national government of a unitary state. The Central Government of the UK is offered referred to colloquially as ‘Westminster’.

Charter 88 (Unlock Democracy) – A British pressure group that advocated radical reform including a fully codified Constitution. It is now called ‘Unlock Democracy’.

Checks and Balances – A system of government that allows the different branches of government to stop the others from dominating or gaining too much power. The U.S Constitution has a number of checks and balances, whereas these are less clear in Britain which is often said to have an ‘Elective Dictatorship’.

Civil Liberties – The basic rights granted to citizens of a country. In a liberal democracy these rights that are considered undeniable, such as freedom of speech.

Clerk of the House of CommonsA senior position in the House of Commons staff who is responsible for offering constitutional advice to MPs and the Speaker of the House of Commons. The position is currently held by John Benger.

Coalition Agreement – The formal agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that laid out their plans for government during the 2010-2015 Parliament.

Coalition Government – A government made up of two or more parties. Britain had a Coalition Government between 2010 and 2015.

Codified Constitution – A constitution which is mostly written down in one single document. This is the most common type of constitution and exists in 158 countries around the world.

Combined Authority – A term given when local councils are combined to give power to a larger body.

Committee of the Whole HouseWhen the Committee Stage of legislation is carried out by the whole house. This sometimes happens in the House of Commons, but always happens in the House of Lords.

Committee StageThe third stage of the legislative process. The bill goes to a Public Bill committee which scrutinises the bill and adds amendments before sending it back to the House.

Common Law – This law is made by taking into account the previous conclusions of judges. This creates a judicial precedent for judges to use in the future. This is often referred to as judge made law. Importantly, it ‘fills the gaps’ left by Statute Law.

Commonwealth – The organisation made up of the former members of the British Empire. The Queen remains Head of the Commonwealth.

Confidence and Supply AgreementAn agreement whereby a party agrees to support another by promising to vote with it on all votes to do with confidence and with the supply of money. Between 2017 and 2019 the Conservatives had a Confidence and Supply Agreement with the DUP.

Constituency – The electoral areas that the UK is split up into. Constituencies are each represented by one MP. For example, Leo Docherty is the MP for Aldershot.

Constitution – A Constitution is a set of rules and agreements that defines the way in which a state or a society is run.

Constitutional Amendments – A change made to a constitution. In most constitutions, particularly rigid ones, these require a ‘Supermajority’ to pass. The U.S Constitution has only had 27 Amendments since 1787. In Britain, however, because of the flexible constitution amendments can be passed relatively easily.

Constitutional ConventionA special conference held to consider how a constitution might be updated.(N.B It might also refer to elements of the UK Constitution that are expected to take place, but are not codified or specified. They form an important part of UK constitutional practice. For example, it is expected that the Queen invite the leader of a majority party in the House of Commons to become Prime Minister.

Constitutional Law – A law which has a fundamental impact on the way the constitution operates. An example of a Constitutional Law in the UK is the House of Lords Act (1999). It is also called Fundamental Law.

Constitutional Monarchy – A system of government in which a monarch is retained, but their role is largely symbolic with an elected government acting on their behalf. Britain has a constitutional monarchy.

Constitutional Reform Act (2005) – An act passed by the Labour Government that reformed the judicial system of the UK, including reducing the power of the Lord Chancellor and creating a Supreme Court. It also set up a Judicial Appointment Committee.

Constitutional Sovereignty – A political system where a Codified Constitution is where all power flows from. This is the case in the U.S.A.

Conventions – Conventions are elements of the UK Constitution that are expected to take place, but are not codified or specified. They form an important part of UK constitutional practice. For example, it is expected that the Queen invite the leader of a majority party in the House of Commons to become Prime Minister.

Crown-in-ParliamentThe formal term for the role of the monarch within the UK legislature.

Currency UnionWhen two countries share a currency and other economic mechanisms.

Dennison RuleThe convention that dictates how the Speaker of the House of Commons votes if there is a tied vote in the House of Commons. The Speaker will always vote for further debate, but at the final stage, will always vote for the Status Quo. The rule was last invoked after a tied vote in 2019.

Devo Max – A term given for the greater range of powers offered to Scotland during the 2014 Referendum. This includes the power to raise their own taxes.

Devolution – The process whereby power is delegated to lower levels by a central body. However, this process can technically be reversed. Devolution to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London was introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour Government. It has since been extended to more areas in England.

Devolved Assemblies – The Parliament for a region or province, the power from which is devolved from a central government. The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood is an example of a Devolved Assembly.

Direct RuleWhen an area in a country is ruled directly from the central government.

Doctrine of Implied Repeal – A doctrine that dictates that if two pieces of legislation are in conflict, the latter piece of legislation is automatically deemed to repeal the first.

Elective Dictatorship – A term coined by Lord Hailsham to describe how a majority government have near dictatorial powers when they have been elected.

Employment Tribunals – A UK civil court which deals with employment disputes.

English ParliamentThe notion of an English Parliament, similar to the devolved Parliament in Scotland.

English Votes for English LawsThe notion that special constitutional arrangements should be made to ensure that only English MPs can vote on English-Only issues. This was somewhat achieved with the introduction of the Grand Committee to the legislative process but the abandoned in 2021.

Entrenched Constitution – An entrenched constitution is one which is very difficult to change. The US Constitution, which has only been amended 27 times, is an example on an entrenched constitution.

Entrenched Provisions – Parts of a constitution that are deliberately difficult to change. These are normally existent in Codified Constitutions.

Equality Act (2010)An Act of Parliament that put special protections in place for people with protected characteristics categories. These are: Age, Disability, Gender Reassignment, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Pregnancy and Maternity, Race, Religion/belief, Sex.

Equality of legislation – The notion that all laws are equal. This notion if linked to Parliamentary Sovereignty. In an uncodified constitution there is no fundamental law, therefore all laws are equal.

European ConstitutionA proposed amendment to the European Union which did not pass. In its place, the Lisbon Treaty was agreed.

European Convention of Human RightsAn international treaty to protect and enforce fundamental Human Rights in Europe. It was signed in 1950.

European Convention of Human Rights – An international treaty to protect and enforce fundamental Human Rights in Europe. It was signed in 1950. In 1998 it was codified into UK Law in the Human Rights Act.

European Court of Justice (ECJ)The court of the European Union in Luxembourg. It is responsible for overseeing cases whereby Member States have questioned, or have not followed, European Union directives and regulations.

European UnionThe collection of European States that form a collective union in which general political and social standards are accepted, like freedom of movement. It was originally called the European Economic Community, which Britain joined in 1973 but left in 2020.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 – The Act of the British Parliament that allowed the Prime Minister to send Britain’s Article 50 notice to the European that Britain would be leaving the European Union.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act (2018) – The Act that saw Britain repeal the European Communities Act (1973) and saw Britain withdraw from the European Union.

European Union Referendum (2016) – A referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union. The result was that 51.8% of people voted in favour of Brexit.

Evolutionary Constitutions – A constitution that has been built up over time, with new layers being built upon an existing structure. Evolutionary constitutions are normally flexible. Britain has an evolutionary constitution.

Executive Branch – The branch of government that holds responsibility for the running of a country on a day-to-day basis. In Britain, Boris Johnson is head of the Executive Branch.

External RelationsRelations that a state has with other states and international organisations.

FactortameAn important constitutional case heard by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords which confirmed the supremacy of EU Law over UK law.

Federal System – A system of government in which power is divided between a central (federal) government and a number of state or provincial governments. The U.S.A is the most prominent example of a Federal System.

FederalismThe principle of a state where power is split between a central government and different regions.

Filibuster – The process whereby an MP, or a group of MPs, keep talking about a bill in order to stop it going to a vote.

Financial PrivilegeThe right of one house of Parliament to deal with money bills. In Britain, financial privilege belongs to the House of Commons.

First Minister – The leading Minister and Head of the Executive in the devolved regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

First Past the Post – The voting system used in UK General Election. It is also called the simple plurality system. This system meansthat the parliamentary candidate who wins the most votes in a constituency will win the seat.

First Reading – The first stage of the legislative process. Normally this is in the House of Commons. The bill is introduced and a date is set for the second reading. No debate takes place and no vote takes place.

Fiscal Autonomy – This is the ability for an area to be entirely responsible for taxation and spending in their region.

Fixed Term Parliaments Act (2011)This Act of Parliament guaranteed that an election would be held every five years, unless certain circumstances prevented this. This removed the ability of the Prime Minister to choose the timing of the next election.

Flexible Constitution – A Flexible Constitution is one that can be changed easily, normally via a simple law passed in Parliament. The UK has a flexible constitution.

Freedom of Information Act (2000) – A law passed by the government of Tony Blair which allows citizens the right to make reasonable requests of public bodies for information that is of the public interest.

Fusion of Powers – A system where different branches of government can be intermingled. For example, the Prime Minister is Head of the Executive but, as an MP, is also a member of the legislature. This arguably gives them enormous power.

General Election – Elections that take place at least once every five years in which MPs are elected to the House of Commons. Since the Fixed Term Parliament’s Act (2011) election dates are set for certain dates, unless certain other criteria are met.

Glorious RevolutionAn event in British History that saw William III and Mary II invited to become King and Queen of England, with strict conditions placed on them by Parliament.

Good Friday Agreement – The agreement brokered by Tony Blair that ended nearly 30 years of armed conflict in Northern Ireland. It said that Unionists and Nationalists would share political power in Northern Ireland.

Government – The group of people with the authority to govern a country or state. In Britain, the Government is normally formed from the largest party in Parliament.

Government Bills – A bill put forward in Parliament by the Government. Most bills are Government Bills because the Executive dominates Parliament.

Government of Wales Act (1998) – The UK Act of Parliament that allowed for a devolved parliament and government in Wales.

Grand CommitteeA new Committee Stage added to the legislative process in 2015 to discuss issues that were exclusive to England.

Greater London AuthorityThe devolved government of London. It is headed by Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London.

Greater London Authority Act (1999) – The UK Act of Parliament that allowed for a devolved assembly and government in London.

Greater London Authority Act (2007) – An Act of Parliament that extended the powers devolved to London.

Greater London Authority Referendum 1998 – A referendum on greater devolved powers to London in which 72% voted in favour of greater devolution to London, including a directly elected Mayor of London. 

Green PaperThe process whereby the government publishes a proposed idea for a bill and looks for opinions of groups and individuals.

Habeas CorpusA part of the Magna Carta that guaranteed that no person could be arbitrarily arrested. It is still an important legal principle today.

Head of Nation – The name given for the ceremonial and symbolic role performed by the Monarch.

Head of State – The highest-ranking constitutional position in a State. In Britain the Queen is Head of State, although most of her powers are delegated to Members of the Government.

Henry VIII powersThe name given for the controversial powers by which the Government plans to convert EU Law into UK Law.

Hereditary Peers – A member of the House of Lords who is part of the peerage of the United Kingdom and has inherited their title. There are 92 hereditary peers who have remained in the House of Lords since 1999.

Holyrood – The informal name given to the Scottish Parliament, based on where it is based.

Homogenous Population – A population that is broadly similar in ethnic and cultural make-up. Britain has a homogenous population, as opposed to the USA, that has a diverse population.

House of Commons – The Lower Chamber of the UK Parliament. It currently has 650 members who face election at least once every five years.

House of Lords – The Upper Chamber of the UK Parliament. It currently has 800 members. Most are Life Peers who are appointed to the chamber, however, there are also 92 hereditary peers and 26 bishops.

House of Lords Act (1999) – The Act that removed all but 92 of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords. It was part of the range of constitutional reforms bought in by Tony Blair’s government.

Human Rights Act (1998)An Act that codified the European Convention of Human Rights into UK Law. This means that UK courts can adjudicate on Human Rights issue in the UK.

Hung ParliamentA parliament that does not produce a clear majority. The 2010 General Election and 2017 General Election created a Hung Parliament in Britain.

Hung Parliament ConventionA new convention that has been established since 2010 that says that in the event of a Hung Parliament the incumbent Prime Minister stays in post until a viable Government is confirmed.

Hunting Act (2004)A bill that was passed by the House of Commons but blocked by the House of Lords. Tony Blair then triggered the Parliament Act to push this bill through in the next parliamentary session.

Hybrid Bills – A bill that has both a national and local impact. A good example of a Hybrid Bill is the High Speed Rail Bill.

Hybrid ParliamentA Parliament in which some MPs connect remotely. That has existed in part since June 2020 and PMQs has even been conducted by the PM and Leader of the Opposition from home.

IndyRef2 – An informal term for the potential of a second Scottish Independence Referendum.

Judicial Appointments CommissionThe Committee established as part of the Constitutional Reform Act to recommend appointments to the Senior Judiciary. Before this commission, the power was largely in the hands of the Lord Chancellor

Judicial Appointments Commission – The Committee established as part of the Constitutional Reform Act to recommend appointments to the Senior Judiciary. Before this commission, the power was largely in the hands of the Lord Chancellor.

Judicial Branch – The branch of Government responsible for the Courts and Justice System.

Judicial Precedent – A legal principle that follows that once a court makes a decision the standard set should be followed by other judges unless there is a compelling reason to diverge from the previous judgement.

Judicial Review – The process whereby the Judiciary considers whether or not the government has acted beyond the law. The process of Judicial Review has grown in importance in recent years. This is largely due to the effects of the Human Rights Act (1998).

Lascelles PrinciplesA constitutional convention that existed between 1950 and 2011 that states there were certain circumstances in which the monarch could refuse to grant a request from the Prime Minister for a Dissolution of Parliament.

Law Lords – Twelve members of the House of Lords who sat as the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. In this role they were the highest court of the UK. This function was removed following the creation of the UK Supreme Court in 2009.

Law on Any Matter – A key principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty whereby Parliament can legislate on any issue that it wishes.

Legal Sovereignty – The legal concept of where power lies in the political system. In Britain, Parliament is legally sovereign.

Legal Supremacy – The concept of holding the ultimate legal power. In the UK, legal supremacy belongs to Parliament.

Legislation – This means making law. In Britain, Statute Law is the supreme form of legislation.

Legislative Branch – The branch of government that discusses and makes new laws. In the UK it is made up of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Legislative Laboratories – A term given for the idea that Parliaments can learn new ideas for governing from each other. This has become the case in the UK since devolution. For example, a smoking ban was introduced in Scotland before it was introduced in England.

Legislative Supremacy – The legal concept of where power lies in the political system. In Britain, Parliament is legally sovereign.

Life Peerages Act (1958)The Act of Parliament that provided for individuals to be appointed to the House of Lords for the duration of their life. Prior to this, all peerages had been hereditary.

Lisbon TreatyA European Union Treaty signed in 2007 that changed a number of provisions on the European Union. Article 50, that allows for the leaving of the European Union, is part of the Lisbon Treaty.

Local Authorities – A term given for local councils in England.

London AssemblyThe devolved Parliament for Greater London.

Lord ChancellorTraditionally the head of the Judiciary, the office of Lord Chancellor had its power reduced by the Constitutional Reform Act and is now, by convention, held by the Secretary of State for Justice. The current Lord Chancellor is Dominic Raab.

Lords Reform Act (2014)A reform to the House of Lords that included the right of Lords to retire and to allow for Lords to be removed if they are found guilty of a criminal offence.

Magna Carta (1215)This agreement established the principle that the power of the monarch was limited and that citizens had fundamental rights. Three parts of the Magna Carta are still in law today.

ManifestoThe formal list of promises made by a political party in a General Election campaign.

Metro-MayorsMayors of metropolitan (city) areas that have had power devolved to them.

Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European UnionA significant Supreme Court Case that challenged the right of the Government to instigate Article 50 without the explicit approval of Parliament. This case limited the Royal Prerogative powers of the Executive.

MinisterA member of the Government. A Cabinet Minister is the most senior in any given department.

Money Bills – A money bill is any bill that dictates how departmental money is spent. By convention, the House of Lords does not vote against Money Bills.

Motion of No Confidence – A vote in Parliament whereby it is decided if the Prime Minister and Government has the confidence of Parliament. If a vote of no-confidence is lost, the Government must resign or call a new election. The last time a successful Motion of No Confidence was held was in 1979, which James Callaghan’s Government lost by 311-310.

MPs Expenses ScandalA scandal in 2009 in which MPs had been found to be claiming expenses that were either illegally or morally dubious.

New LabourThe Labour movement began by Tony Blair in the mid-1990s which placed an emphasis on modernisation and winning the centre-ground in UK Politics. The first New Labour government started with Tony Blair’s landslide victory at the 1997 General Election.

Northern Ireland Act (1998) – The UK Act of Parliament that allowed for a devolved parliament and government in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland ExecutiveThe Executive branch of the devolved government of Northern Ireland since the Northern Ireland Act (1998). The Northern Ireland Executive is made up from a unique power-sharing agreement that was formulated as part of the Good Friday Agreement (1998).

Northern Irish Executive – The Executive Branch of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland. Under the Good Friday Agreement, power is shared between Republican and Unionist political parties. The Executive is currently led by Sinn Fein and the DUP.

Northern Irish Good Friday Agreement Referendum 1998 – A referendum on whether to accept the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Irish Devolution. 71% voted in favour of the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Irish Devolution.

Oath of Allegiance – The Oath that MPs and Lords must swear at the start of each Parliament. Famously, the Republican former Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, whispered his oath. Sinn Fein do not sit in House of Commons because they refuse to swear an oath to the British Monarch.

Orders-in-Council – This is the formal mechanism through which a decision taken under the Royal Prerogative is turned into law.

Ordinary Presentation – A method whereby a backbench MP introduces a bill without debate. These very rarely turn into Acts of Parliament.

Parliament Act (1911) – The act that limited the ability of the House of Lords to delaying legislation by two years, rather than being able to block legislation completely.

Parliament Act (1949) – The act that reduced the power of the House of Lords to delay legislation to just one year.

Parliamentary Ping-PongThe process whereby a bill goes back and forth between the House of Commons and House of Lords until they can agree on the bill.

Parliamentary PrivilegeA doctrine introduced by the Bill of Rights (1689) that ensures that MPs can speak freely in Parliament and cannot be arrested for carrying out their parliamentary duties.

Parliamentary Sovereignty – A key principle of the UK constitution. In the UK, Parliament is the supreme legal authority. Parliament can create or reverse any law and this cannot be challenged by any other body.

Parliamentary System – A system in which the Executive derives its power from its position in Parliament.

Police and Crime CommissionersElected heads of local police forces. Police and Crime Commissioners were introduced in 2012 by the Coalition Government.

Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000)A law passed that created the Electoral Commission and placed limits of campaign financing in the UK.

Political SovereigntyThe reality of where power lies in the political system

Popular Sovereignty – The idea that power is vested in the people and that those who govern must do it with their will in mind. General Elections are an expression of popular sovereignty.

Posonby RuleA convention of the UK Constitution that dictated that any international treaty must be placed before Parliament at least 21 days before ratification. 

Preamble – The part of a codified constitution that sets out the basic goals and vision of the country.

Presidential System – A system of government in which there is a clear separation of powers. In this system of government the different branches of government are clearly separate from each other. The U.S and Germany are Presidential Systems.

Primary Legislation – This a term given for Statute Law which is the primary and supreme form of legislation in the UK.

Prime Minister – The common title for the Head of the Executive in the UK. Prime Minister was not traditionally a constitutional title, but developed to become so.

Private Bills – A bill that relates only to a very niche issue or region.

Private Members Ballot – A draw held at the start of each parliamentary law which allows up to 30 MPs to potentially introduce a Private Members Bill. Places in this draw are highly sort after as it is seen to be one of the only ways that a Backbench MP can have a bill seriously considered.

Private Members Bills – A type of Parliamentary Bill which is presented by ordinary MPs. These bills are unlikely to pass because the government does not allocate very much parliamentary time to them.

Proportional Voting SystemA voting system in which the number of seats received is proportional to the number of votes a party receives. STV is a proportional voting system.

Proroguing – The mechanism by which a parliamentary session is ended. The Queen prorogues Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister. In 2019 the prorogation of Parliament was reversed by the Supreme Court in Miller vs. Prime Minister.

Public Bill CommitteeCommittees that are set up to look at a particular bill that is being considered in Parliament. They are therefore temporary.

Public Bills – A proposed law that will have a national impact. They are usually introduced by the Government and are therefore also referred to as Government Bills.

Referendum – A general vote by the population on a single issue. The Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014 and the Brexit Referendum of 2016 are examples of this.

Report Stage – The stage of the legislative process in which the bill that returns from Committee is debated and voted on.

Representation of the People Act (1918)A change to the UK Constitution that allowed some women over the age of 30 to vote in General Elections.

Representation of the People Act (1969)A change to the UK Constitution that lowered the voting age to 18.

Republicanism – Republicanism is the belief that a country should not have a Monarch and that the Head of State should be elected. Ex-Labour MP Dennis Skinner is a famous Republican.

Republicans (Irish) – Citizens of Northern Ireland who believe that Northern Ireland should be part of a United Ireland and not part of the United Kingdom.

Reserved Powers – Powers that are kept by the Westminster Government, for example Defence.

Revolutionary Constitution A constitution that has started and defined a new period of a country’s history, often coming after a time of national strife. The US Constitution agreed in 1787 was a revolutionary constitution.

Royal Assent – The final stage of the legislative process in which the Monarch agrees to a law. By convention Royal Assent is now never refused, the last time it was refused was by Queen Anne in 1707.

Royal Prerogative – A number of privileges and powers of the monarch, most of which have now been passed to the Prime Minister and members of the government. For example, the Prime Minister appoints the Cabinet on behalf of the monarch.

Salisbury Convention – The convention by which the House of Lords will not oppose legislation that was part of a government’s election manifesto.

Scotland Act (1998) – The UK Act of Parliament that allowed for a devolved government in Scotland and Parliament in Scotland.

Scotland Act (2016) – An Act of Parliament that extended the devolved powers held by Scotland.

Scottish Devolution Referendum (1979) The first referendum of devolution to Scotland. 51% voted for devolution, however this did not reach a pre-set turnout threshold of 40%.

Scottish Devolution Referendum 1997 – The referendum for devolution in Scotland. 74% voted in favour of devolution.

Scottish GovernmentThe executive branch of the devolved government of Scotland since the Scotland Act (1998). Until 2007 this was known as the ‘Scottish Executive’.

Scottish Government – The Executive Branch of the devolved institutions in Scotland. It is headed by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Scottish Independence Referendum Act (2013)The Act of the Westminster Parliament that authorised the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014.

Second Amendment – The controversial Amendment of the U.S Constitution that still allows all Americans to own a gun.

Second Reading – The second stage of the legislative process. At this stage a Minister outlines the principles of the bill and a debate and vote follows.

Secondary Legislation – A law that can be passed without going through both Houses of Parliament. They are enabled by Primary Legislation. A Statutory Instrument is a type of Secondary Legislation.

Separation of Powers -When the different branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial are clearly defined and do not overlap with each other. The US Constitution allows for a clear separation of powers.

Sewel Convention – The convention that says that the Westminster Government will not legislate on issues that are devolved to the devolved areas. These issues are called ‘Devolved Powers’.

Sewell Convention – The convention that says that the Westminster Government will not legislate on issues that are devolved to the devolved areas. These issues are called ‘Devolved Powers’.

Shared Sovereignty – When power is deliberately split up among different bodies. This is most common in a Federal System.

Simple Majority – A majority that only requires more than half to pass. Parliament requires Simple Majority’s for the passage of laws.

Single Transferable VoteA proportional voting system in which parliamentary strength is proportionate to electoral support, but MPs retain a constituency link.

Snap Election – An election called before it was required. Snap Elections have been harder to call since the passing of the Fixed-Term Parliament Act (2011). However, the June 2017 Snap Election shows that it is still possible.

Sovereignty – The quality of having supreme power or authority. In the UK, Parliament is sovereign.

Speaker of the House of Commons – The figure responsible for overseeing debates and motions in the House of Commons. The speaker retains and impartial position in the House and sits as an independent. The current Speaker of the House of Commons is Jon Bercow.

Standing Order 14 – The standing order of the UK House of Commons that gives precedence to Government business.

State Opening of Parliament – The yearly event whereby the Queen officially opens Parliament for the year. As part of this event she also gives the ‘Queen’s Speech’, this lays out the government’s plans for the coming year.

Statute Law – Laws created via Act of Parliament. They are considered the superior form of law.

Statutory Instrument – Sometimes also called ‘secondary legislation’. These are laws that can be passed by the executive having been pre-authorised by another Statute.

Statutory Instruments – Sometimes also called ‘secondary legislation’. These are laws that can be passed by the executive having been pre-authorised by another Statute.

StormontThe informal name of the Northern Irish Assembly, named after where it is based.

Supermajority – A majority of greater than a half (a simple majority) to enforce a decision. Normally super majorities require two-thirds of a vote.

TellersMPs that count and verify the vote after a division in either chamber.

Ten Minute Rule Bill – A process whereby Backbench MPs are given 10 minutes to introduce a bill for consideration. Chances to do this are limited and very few Ten Minute Rule Bills become law. It is largely seen as a chance to publicise an issue that Backbenchers care about.

The Act of Settlement (1701) – The Act of Settlement placed clear rules on who could take the throne. It barred Roman Catholics, and those married to Roman Catholics, from becoming monarch.

The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot – A work of authority on the UK Constitution written by Victorian scholar Walter Baghehot.

The English QuestionA term given for the conundrum by which England does not have its own parliament and that, because of the West Lothian Question, its laws can be influenced by those that they do not affect.

The European Communities Act (1973) – The Act of Parliament that saw the UK join the European Union (then the European Economic Community). By doing this, the UK accepted the supremacy of European Law.

The House of Lords Act (1999) – The Act that removed all but 92 of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords. It was part of the range of constitutional reforms bought in by Tony Blair’s government.

The Rule of Law – The concept that states there is equality before the law and that no one can be punished without trial. It is a key principle of the UK constitution.

The Scottish Independence Referendum (2014) A referendum for the people of Scotland on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom and become an independent country. The result was 55% in favour of remaining in the United Kingdom.

The TroublesA period of violence between nationalist and republican groups in Northern Ireland.

Twin Pillars of the Constitution – The collective term given by AV Dicey for the importance of Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Rule of Law in upholding the UK constitution.

U.S Bill of Rights – The first Ten Amendments of the U.S Constitution which solidify civil liberties into the U.S Constitution. These were passed in 1791.

U.S Congress – The collective name of the US legislature. Congress is made up of the House of Representatives and the US Senate.

U.S Constitution (1788) – The codified Constitution of the United States that has only been amended 27 times.

U.S Senate – The Upper Chamber of the U.S Congress in which two Senators represent each of America’s fifty states.

UK Supreme CourtThe highest court in the UK. It was set up as part of the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005. It is the highest court in both civil and legal matters.

UK Treasury The Government Department in the UK responsible for taxation and spending.

Uncodified Constitution – A constitution which has a number of different sources and is not written down in a single document (therefore often called an ‘unwritten’ constitution).

Unconstitutional – When something is found not to adhere to the constitution. This cannot happen in the UK as the UK has no codified constitution, but is quite common in the U.S.

Unicameral – A political system in which there is only one chamber of parliament. The devolved assemblies of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London are all unicameral.

Unionists – People who believe that areas should remain part of the United Kingdom.

Unitary Systems – A system of government in which power is held centrally, although it may be devolved by the central body. The UK has traditionally been seen as having a unitary system.

Unwritten Constitution – A term often used instead of ‘codified constitution’. It is a constitution in which not all articles or parts of it are written down in a single place.

Upper ChamberOne of the Chambers of Parliament in a bicameral system. Traditionally, the House of Lords has been seen as the Upper Chamber in the UK Parliament. This does not mean it is the dominant chamber.

Wales Act (2017) – An Act of Parliament that extended the devolved powers held by Wales.

War Powers ActAn often-proposed Act of Parliament that would remove the Prime Minister’s prerogative power to launch military operations and would require the consent of Parliament before military action is commenced.

Welsh Devolution Referendum (1979)The first referendum of devolution to Wales. Only 21% of voters were in favour of devolution.

Welsh Devolution Referendum 1997 – The referendum that saw powers being devolved to Wales. 50.3% of voters voted for devolution.

Welsh Government – The Executive Branch of the devolved institutions in Wales. It is headed by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford Sturgeon.

West Lothian QuestionThe term given for the constitutional problem whereby where Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs can vote on issues that affect England, but English MPs cannot vote on issues that are reserved for the devolved assemblies. It has been suggested that England should have its own Parliament to resolve this problem.

Westminster Government – A colloquial name for the British Government.

Westminster Parliament – The Parliament of the United Kingdom made up of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and The Crown.

White Paper – The process whereby the government sets out the firmer outline of a bill they will introduce to parliament and offer the final chance for views and opinions before turning it into a bill.

Works of AuthorityThese are collections of work that are so influential they are often considered to be sources of the UK constitution. An example is Walther Bagehot’s ‘The English Constitution’.

Written Constitution – A term often used for codified constitutions.

Yes Scotland – The Campaign Group during the Scottish Independence Referendum that advocated for an independent Scotland.