This chapter examines the sources of international law. International legal rules are not as easily located as their domestic law counterparts. Whereas at the domestic level, only a relatively small number of bodies are endowed with law-making powers, at the international level, all states have law-making capacity. Moreover, state acts are not the only source of international legal rules. The result is a mosaic of law-making processes, forums, and regimes. The chapter focuses on the two most significant sources of international law: treaties and customary international law. It then turns to the relationship between international law-making and the principle of state sovereignty. Finally, the chapter considers the body of non-binding norms, which increasingly permeates and regulates all facets of international life. This so-called soft law takes many forms; it is often highly influential in its own right and may harden into binding law over time.
David Judge, Cristina Leston-Bandeira, and Louise Thompson
This concluding chapter reflects on the future of parliamentary politics by identifying key puzzles implicit in previous discussions which raise fundamental questions about what Parliament is and why it exists. The goal is to determine the ‘predictable unknowns’ as starting points for exploring the future. Three principal puzzles that need ‘hard thinking’ in order to understand legislatures are considered: representation, collective decision-making, and their role in the political system. The chapter also examines the difficulties in reconciling ideas about popular sovereignty and direct public participation with notions of parliamentary sovereignty and indirect public participation in decision-making; the implications of the legislative task of disentangling UK law from EU law in the wake of Brexit for Parliament's recent strengthened scrutiny capacity; and how Parliament has integrated the core principles of representation, consent, and authorization into the legitimation of state policy-making processes and their outputs.
Parliaments are the cornerstone of representative democracy. This chapter examines the role and performance of national parliaments in European democracies. The chapter begins with a review of how parliaments are designed, including the number of chambers and the power of parliamentary committees. It discusses parliaments’ roles and functions, including law-making, government formation, oversight, and political representation, and assesses whether parliaments reflect the make-up of the citizenry at large. The chapter then discusses the possibility of strong parties and dominant executives within the legislative arena leading to weak parliaments, as well as recent attempts to strengthen the capacity of national parliaments.
Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Louise Thompson
Exploring Parliament offers a fresh perspective on an ancient institution. It provides a real-life insight into the inner workings, impact, and relevance of twenty-first century Parliament. Short academic and practitioner chapters are combined with relevant and practical case studies, to provide an introduction to Parliament's structures, people, and practices. As well as covering the broader structure of UK Parliament, this text explains the role of small parties in law-making, the design and space of Parliament, and offers illuminating case studies on highly topical areas such as the Backbench Business Committee, the Hillsborough Inquiry and recent pieces of legislation such as the Assisted Dying Bill.
This chapter considers executive branch politics in a number of European democracies. It addresses the nature of parliamentary democracy and compares it with other forms of democracy. For example, it looks at separation-of-powers systems using the principal–agent framework of Chapter 2. The chapter examines in detail the link between parties and institutions in order to understand the process of government formation and government collapse. It begins to consider the foundations of the process of law-making which is relevant for the remainder of the book.
Margaret Arnott and Richard Kelly
This chapter discusses the role of smaller parties in the law-making process. General elections in the UK are conducted with an electoral system which militates against the representation of smaller political parties, particularly those having no strong support at the regional level. However, events at Westminster over the last decade have increased the prominence of smaller parties in the operation of parliamentary business. The chapter first considers the role of small parties in the UK Parliament, committees and legislation, as well as their participation in backbench debates before examining how the political and electoral context of Parliament, especially in the twenty-first century, has affected the representation of smaller parties and the ways in which reforms to parliamentary procedure since the 1980s have enhanced the role of the second opposition party. It suggests that Parliament today offers more opportunities for smaller political parties to influence debate and policy, but this remains quite limited.