Monday, 1 September 2014

Arguing About Stare Decisis

(the doctrine of precedent)

Does it provide -
  • Certainty?
  • Efficiency?
  • Flexibility?
Or does it promote
  • Uncertainty?
  • Fixity?
  • Unconstitutionality?
[Slapper and Kelly briefly outline the arguments on  pages 144-153 of their book "The English Legal System - 14th Edition].

Other books develop these - and put other arguments. If you are taking a Law Degree exam (English Legal System - or the Open University's W200 course), it is worth summarising the arguments about the strengths and weaknesses of the doctrine of precedent. Then prepare short arguments - one version arguing for the utility of the doctrine and other arguing that it has more disadvantages than advantages. How would you put across each argument? How would you anticipate objections? Should you face an invitation in an exam to discuss precedent you'll have developed the knowledge and flexibility to answer it. Remember, there is no right answer. An examiner is looking for evidence of critical evaluation; and an ability to present a logical argument.

You should also be able to explain the "mechanics" of the doctrine - can you describe and explain
  • the significance of law reporting?
  • the rules about which courts bind which?
  • when previous decisions are not binding? [and Young v Bristol Aeroplane Co Ltd]
  • 'Ratio decidendi'?
  • 'Obiter dictum'?
  • Overruling?
  • the Practical importance of Precedent?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Standards in the House of Commons

The House of Commons wants your views on the standards system
The Standards Committee is holding an inquiry into the standards system in the House of Commons and is inviting written submissions from the public to inform the inquiry’s findings.
The inquiry is looking at the current system for considering complaints about MPs and ways the system could be improved.
The areas being examined include:
·         self-regulation in the House of Commons by MPs
·         the role of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Standards Committee
·         investigating complaints about MPs
·         penalties for MPs
To help inform submissions to the inquiry, a sub-committee looking at this issue has published an ‘issues and questions’ paper, setting out key questions and providing detailed background information.
The ‘issues and questions’ paper covers:
·         the role of MPs in the context of political parties, Parliament and the electorate
·         the current House of Commons standards system, including:
o   the role of the Standards Committee
o   the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
How to submit evidence
Detailed information on the preferred format for written evidence and where to send it is on the Committee’s webpages here: The Standards Review sub-committee issues call for evidence
If you would like to contribute a written submission to this inquiry, please read the ‘issues and questions’ paper for the key questions being asked by the Standards Committee and for background information on the current system in place. The deadline for submissions is Friday 8 August.
General guidance on submitting evidence to Select Committees is also available online.
More information
·         Standards Committee

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Queen's Speech

For information and analysis of today's speech - where (the poor) Queen has to announce her Government's programme as if it were her own [There must be a ph.d. for someone comparing the language of these speeches during her reign - and how it changes with administrations].

Go to:

BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27693435
Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/queens-speech/10874138/Queens-Speech-Live.html
The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/queens-speech

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Today in Parliament

With a new session about to start, it's worth remembering that there is an excellent report on each day's proceedings provided by the BBC. It is broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 at 11.30 each night when either House has sat. It is repeated during the Today Programme as "Yesterday in Parliament" The website is http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qtqd

If you aren't available to listen live - there is a podcast - available to sign up for at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/tip. Old editions are available there for thirty days - so if you have a few hours to spare, you can catch up before the new session starts tomorrow!

Monday, 2 June 2014

A New Session

This week the Palace of Westminster will see the State Opening of Parliament. This will mark the start of a new session of the 2010 Parliament - and its last. It will run until dissolution prior to the General Election.

There's an informative publication on State opening available here. If you are going to watch it, you'll learn the government's legislative programme for the session. (This has been heavily trailed - and the next few days will see newspapers, TV & radio analysing the announcements). But the best part of the day is watching the ceremonies - many rooted in events from British history. On Tuesday the palace will be searched - but it'll be more than the usual police and their sniffer dogs. The Yeomen of the Guard will ceremonially search the palace - a memory of the search which led to the arrest of Guy Fawkes in 1605. Sadly that may not be televised.

You will see the traditional slamming of the door in Black Rod's face as he approaches the House of Commons. He will have marched down the short passages between the Lords, where the Queen, seated on the throne, sent him to summon the Commons. To make the point that they will not do everything the Monarch demands the Speaker orders the doors closed. After the third knock, he relents. It is a reminder of the Commons' independence (from the Queen - sadly not of the Executive - Her Government.)