Full Glossary

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.

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’.

Appellate Committee of the House of Lords – The court that functioned within the House of Lords and was the supreme court of the United Kingdom from 1876 to 2009.

Article 50 – The Article of the Lisbon Treaty that allows a country to give
notice that it seeks to withdraw from the European Union.

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.

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.

Bill of Rights (1689) – A significant statute law which codified a number of
rights of Parliament and parliamentarians, including parliamentary privilege.

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

Budget – The annual statement of expenditure made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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

Carswell Convention – A convention that never fully emerged that indicated an MP that crossed the floor should resign and force a by-election.

Carswell Convention – A 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’.

Change UK – A short-lived centrist political that emerged in 2019 but was dissolved following the 2019 General Election.

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 Commons – A 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 agreement signed between the Conservatives and
Liberal Democrats in 2010 to enable a programme for Government.

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.

Committee of the Whole House – When the whole chamber sits in on a Committee Stage of a bill. This always happens in the House of Lords but only very occasionally in the House of Commons.

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.

Commons Liaison Committee – A committee made up of the Chairs of all the other Select Committees. They question the Prime Minister up to three times a year.

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

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 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) – A statute law that removed the judicial functions of the House of Lords.

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.

Convention – A rule that is followed, but is not legally binding. In
Britain’s uncodified constitution conventions are extremely important.

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.

Crossing the Floor – The term for an MP moving from one party in Parliament to another.

Denison Convention – A convention that dictates how the Speaker should cast their vote in the event of a tie. It dictates the Speaker should always vote for further debate or for the status quo.

Denison 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.

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.

Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act (2022) – An Act of Parliament
passed in 2022 which repealed the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act and returned the
power of the calling of general elections to the Prime Minister.

Dissolution of Parliament – The formal term for the end of a Parliament
before a general election when a new Parliament will be formed.

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.

Early Parliamentary General Election Act (2019) – The Act passed by the
Conservative Government in December 2019 that allowed them to circumvent the
Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.

Elective Dictatorship – A term coined by Lord Hailsham to describe the situation in Britain in which when a government is elected they can normally govern without much effective scrutiny.

Emergency Debates – A debate granted at short notice by the Speaker. These are relatively rare.

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

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 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 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 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 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.

Excepted Hereditary Peer – 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.

Excepted Hereditary Peer – One of the 92 hereditary peers who retain the right to it in the chamber of the House of Lords

Exclusive Cognisance – The right of Parliament to regulate its own affairs without interference from an outside body such as the courts.

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 Relations – Relations that a state has with other states and international organisations.

Factortame – An 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.

Filling in the Gaps – A term given for the impact that Common Law has upon Statute Law. Statute cannot cover ever conceivable legal circumstance and therefore Common Low must fill the gaps.

Financial Privilege – The privilege that belongs to the House of Commons that means only they can agree to bills that raise taxes or change spending.

Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (2011) – A now repealed constitutional reform
that set General Elections for a set date in five years, under which an early
election could be held only if two-thirds of MPs voted for it or if a
government lost a vote of no confidence.

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. It was repealed in March 2022.

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.

Fundamental Law – Law which has a special constitutional status, such as constitutional amendemtns. There is no fundamental law in the UK and instead there is legislative equality.

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.

Glorious Revolution – An 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-in-Waiting – The notion that the Official Opposition is ready to
step into government following a General Election. A good opposition will

Habeas Corpus – A 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.

Hereditary Peer – Someone who holds a title within the peerage of Great Britain, Scotland, England or Ireland.

Hereditary Peers – A member of the peerage of Great Britain who inherited their title from their father under primogeniture. The 92 hereditary peers who still sit in the House of Lords are called ‘peers’.

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 (Expulsion and Suspension Act) (2015) – An Act that allowed for the expulsion of peers who have breached the House of Lords Code of Conduct.

House of Lords Act (1999) – A reform bill that saw the removal of the rights of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords in all but 92 cases.

House of Lords Act (1999) – A reform bill that saw the removal of the rights of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords in all but 92 cases.

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.

House of Lords Appointments Commission – An independent commission that appoints crossbench peers to the House of Lords and also vets party nominations for the chamber.

House of Lords Reform Act (2014) – An Act that allowed for members of the House of Lords to resign from the Lords and also allowed for the removal of peers who fail to attend the Lords.

Humble Address – A direct petition by either House of Parliament. Until 2017 this procedure had not been used in a substantive way since 1866 but has been used a number of times since 2017 to force the government to produce documents to Parliament.

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

Hung Parliament Convention – A 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.

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).

Justiciability – The term for whether an issue can be ruled on by the
judiciary.

Lascelles Principles – A 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.

Lascelles Principles – A set of principles that formed the conventions under
which the monarch could refuse a Prime Ministers request to hold an early
general election.

Law Lords – The judges who made up the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.

Law Lords – The judges who made up the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.

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.

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

Life Peer – A member of the House of Lords who holds their title for the remainder of their life. These were made possible under the Life Peerages Act (1958).

Life Peerages Act (1958) – An Act that allowed people to be appointed to the House of Lords for life. This allowed females to sit in the House of Lords for the first time.

Lisbon Treaty – A 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.

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.

Male-Preference Primogeniture – A system of inheritance that sees the eldest male child inherit the titles of their father.

Manifesto – The promises that a Government makes during a General Election
campaign.

Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union – A 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.

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.

Motion of No Confidence – A vote in the House of Commons to establish
whether the Government has the confidence of the House.

No-Deal Brexit – A Brexit that would have seen Britain withdraw from the
European Union without signing a deal with the European Union. Many
commentators believed that such a Brexit would have been disastrous.

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.

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.

Oath of Allegiance – The Oath that MPs must make before joining the House of Commons. One of the reasons that Sinn Fein are abstentionist is because they refuse to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Parliament Act (1911) – A significant statute law that removed the power of
the House of Lords to block a bill and instead only allowed it delay a bill for
two years. It also stipulated that a General Election had to be held every five
years.

Parliament Act (1911) – A significant statute law that removed the power of
the House of Lords to block a bill and instead only allowed it delay a bill for
two years. It also stipulated that a General Election had to be held every five
years.

Parliament Act (1949) – An Act that reduced the delaying powers of the House of Lords to one year.

Parliamentary Privilege – Parliamentary Privilege is an important principle that protects the ability of MPs to carry out their role without fear of legal repercussions.

Parliamentary Sovereignty – A central principle of the UK constitution under
which no body can overrule parliament and parliament can ‘make and unmake any
law’.

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 political system in which the Executive is formed from the legislature. This results in a fusion of powers.

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

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 Rule – A 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.

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.

Prime Minister’s Questions – The Questions session that takes place at 12.00 each Wednesday. The PM is asked 6 questions by the Leader of the Opposition and single questions by other MPs.

Proroguing Parliament – 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 Committee – An ad hoc Committee set up to consider a bill making its way through Parliament. Unlike Select Committees membership is still chosen by party whips.

Question Time – Daily Questions sessions that take place in the House of Commons.

Recall of MPs Act (2015) – An Act passed by the UK House of Commons that allows for an MP to be recalled from Parliament by their constituents in three specific circumstances.

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.

Repeal – The term for when a piece of legislation is removed from the
statute book and is therefore no longer a law.

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.

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.

Royal Prerogative  – Powers that although technically belong to the
monarch in reality belong to members of the Government and most significantly the
Prime Ministers. These powers included the ordering of military action.

Salisbury Convention – A convention in the UK constitution under which the House of Lords do not oppose bills that were clearly part of the Government’s manifesto.

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

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.

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

Select Committee – Committees that were set up in 1979 to scrutinise the work of the Government. They include both Departmental Select Committees and those that look at issues across the government, such as the Public Accounts Committee.

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.

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.

Snap Election – An election called earlier that the date required. This is a
power held by Prime Ministers under the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament
Act (2022).

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

Speaker of the House of Commons – The presiding officer of the House of Commons who is responsible for order, discipline and the smooth functioning of the House of Commons.

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 – A piece of Secondary Legislation. Most statute law is passed through statutory instruments and the House of Lords plays a key role in examining them.

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

Supermajority – A majority that is above a simple majority (50% of any
vote).

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 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.

Third Reading – The final stage of the legislative process within each
individual house. It is the Third Reading that a bill must pass in order to be
passed to the other House or in order to go on to receive Royal Assent.

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 (1787) – 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 Court – The 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.

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.

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.

Urgent Questions – Questions that require an immediate response from a government minister. These questions can only be granted by the Speaker and have grown in significance since John Bercow held that role.

Wakenham Report – A report by a Royal Commission set-up by the Labour Government of 2000. It recommended a range of reforms to the House of Lords, few of which were implemented.

War Powers Act – An 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 Government – The Executive Branch of the devolved institutions in Wales. It is headed by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford.

Westminster Hall – An ancient chamber of the House of Commons an annexe of which is now used to supplement debating space in the House of Commons.

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

Works of Authority  – These 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’.

Wright Reforms – A series of reforms made to the House of Commons in 2009 which included the creation of a Backbench Business Committee and elections to all Select Committee roles.

Written Constitution – A term often used for codified constitutions.

Short Money – Money given to Opposition parties in the House of Commons to enable them to carry out their parliamentary roles.

Cranbourne Money – The equivalent of Short Money in the House of Lords.

Representative Money – The equivalent of Short Money but that which is given to parties that are abstentionist, like Sinn Fein.

Phillips Report – A report into public financing in 2007 that recommended both donations and spending limits. Nothing was done to take the report forward.

UK Supreme Court – Since 2009 the highest court in the UK for both civil and criminal matters. It was created as part of the Constitutional Reform Act (2005).

Individual Rights – Rights that belong to an individual. This might be, for example, freedom of expression.

Collective Rights – Rights that belong to a section of society or to society as a whole. For example, society has a right to be protected from violence within it.

Ahmed vs Treasury – A significant early Supreme Court case involving the freezing of suspected terror supporters assets. The judgement was not welcome by the Government and Parliament quickly legislated to make such actions legal. It is therefore an excellent example of both judicial review and parliamentary sovereignty.

Vote on No Confidence – A vote on whether the PM and Government have the confidence of the House of Commons.

Hirst vs United Kingdom – A ECtHR case in which a British prisoner called John Hirst argued that denying prisoners the vote was a denial of their fundamental human rights. The court partially ruled in favour of Hirst saying that a blanket ban on prisoner voting was an infringement of their rights under the ECHR.

Council of Europe – An organisation founded in 1949 which oversees rights in Europe. Its members sign the ECHR and agree to the adjudication of cases at the ECtHR.

Asymmetrical Devolution – The notion that devolution across the UK is not the same, with different regions having different powers.

English Question – The name for the issue created by a lack of devolution to England that may have to be resolved through the establishment of an English Parliament.

Devolved Matter – A matter devolved for decision-making by a regional assembly.

Reserved Matter – A matter reserved for decision making by the Westminster Parliament.

West Lothian Question – The issue whereby English MPs cannot vote on devolved issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the reverse is not true.

English Votes for English Laws – The changes to the legislative process made by the Conservative Government in 2015 to attempt to deal with the West Lothian Question.

Grand Legislative Committee Stage – The extra Committee stage added onto the legislative process that would be populated by only English or English and Welsh MPs.

Recall – The process of recalling a politician from office.

Committee on Standards – The parliamentary Select Committee that adjudicates on whether MPs have fallen below the standards of conduct expected by the House of Commons.

MPs Expenses Scandal – A political scandal between 2009-2010 that rocked British politics as MPs across all parties were found to be abusing their expense system.

Red Wall – The seats in the North of England that were seen to be certain Labour seats but of which many were won by the Conservatives in 2019. Workington is a good example of a Red Wall seat that fell to the Conservatives.

Cabinet Reshuffle – When a Prime Minister moves people around his cabinet and both removes people and brings in fresh blood to the team.

Cabinet – The body made up of the Heads of Government departments in the UK which makes collective government decisions.

Night of the Long Knives – The most famous Cabinet Reshuffle of all time. This occurred on the 13th July 1962 and saw 13 Ministers removed from the Cabinet.

Petitions Committee – The Committee of the House of Commons that oversees the petitions system and considers petitions for debate in Parliament.

E-Petition – A petition that can be signed and shared easily online.

Change UK – A short-lived political party that advocated a centrist political position an campaigned to hold a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit.

MPs Expenses Scandal – A scandal that emerged in 2009-10 in which most MPs were implicated. MPs were seen by the public to be abusing their right to reasonable expenses and some MPs were even found to be behaving criminally.

Parliamentary Privilege – The right of MPs to speak and act freely without being liable to civil action launched against them.

Legg Inquiry – An inquiry set up to audit MPs expenses and to recommend MPs pay back amount that had been over claimed.

R v Chaytor – A court case revolving three Labour MPs who had claimed expenses fraudulently but tried to escape their conviction by relying on parliamentary privilege. The Supreme ruled that this defence had no legal merit.

Urgent Questions – A question that may be asked of a Government Minister if the Speaker agrees that it is urgent and is required.

Private Notice Question – The equivalent of an Urgent Question in the House of Lords. Whether a Private Notice Question is appropriate

Parliamentary Clerks – The individuals who advise the Speaker on constitutional issues. They are led by the Clerk of the House and sit in front of the Speakers Chair in the House of Commons.

Emergency Debates – A debate that can be granted under Standing Order 21. Whilst the Speaker has to agree to put it to the house, ultimately the House of Commons itself decides whether to hold the emergency debate.

Standing Order 14 – This is the standing order of the House of Commons under which the Government normally control the agenda.

Constitutional Reform Act (2005) – A signfiicant constitutional reform that created the Supreme Court, reformed the role of the Lord Chancellor and created a Judicial Appointments Committee.

UK Supreme Court – The court established by the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 that has increased the seperation of powers in the UK.

Appellate Committee of the House of Lords – The former supreme court of the UK from 1876 to 2009. The judges who sat as part of it were known as the Law Lords.

Law Lords – The name of the judges who sat in the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.

Judicial Review – The process of asking the courts to review a decision taken by the government or a government body.

Ultra Vires – A finding that the government or a government body has acted beyond its power or authority.

Inquiries Act (2005) – The statute law that sets out the rules and procedures relating to public inquiries.

Judge-Led Inquiry – A term used to describe public inquiries that are led by a judge. Most public inquiries are led by judges (or ex-judges) because of the perceived independence that this imposes on them.

Sovereign State – A state which has its own territory and has the authority to govern itself.

United Kingdom – The sovereign state in which we live, made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Nation – A body of people united by shared characteristics such as history, culture, language or territory.

Nation-State – A body of people united by shared characteristics who also live within a sovereign state.

Accountability – The notion that an individual or group is responsible for something. Accountability is important in a democracy and elections allow public figures to be held to account.

Democracy – A system of government in which elections determine the direction of public policy.

Legitimacy – A person or institution’s authority to carry out its stated tasks.

Liberal Democracy (Western Democracy) – A form of democracy that actively protects the rights of citizens.

Pluralism – A state in which a wide range of groups and individuals are actively encouraged to play a role in the political system.

Representation – The notion that certain actors carry out their duties with a certain constituency of people in mind.

Citizen’s Jury – A randomly selected group of individuals bought together by Government to test a particular idea or policy.

Focus Group – A carefully selected group of individuals designed to gauge opinion of political issues. Focus groups are used by think tanks, polling companies and political parties to help formulate policy and understand potential voting behaviour.

Representative Democracy – A type of democracy in which MPs are elected by constituents and represent them in Parliament.

Trustee Model (Burkean Model) – A model of representative democracy whereby an MP votes according to their beliefs or conscience.

Delegate Model – A model of representative democracy whereby an MP votes simply as the mouthpiece of their constituents.

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.

Accountability – When some is able to be held responsible to someone for the decisions they make. Politically, MPs are accountable to their constituents.

Populism – A political strategy of simplifying concept issues to appeal to citizens who feel disenfranchised by mainstream politics and politicians.

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

Alternative Vote – A 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.

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.

Coalition Agreement – The agreement signed between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010 to enable a programme for Government.

Electoral Reform Society – A pressure group that advocates for electoral reform in the UK. The preferred voting system of the Electoral Reform Society is the Single Transferable Vote.

Jenkins Commission – A commission set up by Tony Blair in 1997 to consider alternative voting systems in the UK. It was led by Roy Jenkins, a Labour Party grandee.

Coalition Government – A government made up of two or more parties. They are unusual in Britain but there was a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition between 2010 and 2015.

Safe Seat – A Safe Seat is one that is certain, or almost certain, to go to one party – normally Labour or Conservative.

Cleggmania – A short burst of enthusiasm for Nick Clegg following his performance in the 2010 TV Election Debates.

Political Participation – The involvement of citizens in the political process, this is not just limited to voting.

Trade Unions – Trade Unions are a movement made up of workers and to represent workers interests.

Digital Activism – The use of digital means to push forward a political agenda.

Pressure Group – Pressure Groups are groups that seek to influence Politics without seeking office itself.

Eurosceptic – A term given for someone who was or os sceptical of the benefits of Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Single Market – An economic market that allows both people, goods and capital to move freely. The EU has the biggest single market in the world.

Customs Union – When a group of states have agreed to set the same import duties in order to encourage free trade. The EU has a Customs Union.

European Free Trade Area – A system that allows Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland that allows them to participate in the Single Market without being part of the EU Customs Union.

Hard Border – A border that cannot be crossed without passing controls in place, such as Passport Checks.

Chequers Plan – Theresa May’s plan in July 2018 to try to get over the Brexit Impasse. The plan led to the resignation of Boris Johnson and David Davis.

BRINO – Standing for ‘Brexit in Name Only’, this was a criticism aimed at Theresa May’s Brexit Deals.

Remainer – A term given for someone who campaigned to remain in the European Union.

Brexiteer – A term given for someone who campaigned to leave the European Union.