Channel 4 Learning


Who rules //

Glossary //

Absolute monarchy
There is one leader (the monarch – king, queen, emperor) who gains power through belonging to the royal family. Leaders are born into power not chosen by the people. For example, Nepal.
Act of Parliament
When a bill is passed as a law it is referred to as an Act of Parliament.
AM
A member of the National Assembly for Wales.
Backbenchers
Ordinary MPs with no special roles or responsibilities within the government or their party.
Bill
The final proposal for a new law before it's introduced to Parliament.
Cabinet
A group of MPs with special government responsibilities such as health and education.
Candidate
The person standing for election.
Censored
When information is removed to prevent us from seeing or hearing it.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
The cabinet member responsible for the country's money. In 2005 the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Gordon Brown.
Committee stage
Once a bill is approved it goes on for further work to a group of around 20 MPs.
Constituency
The area that an MP is elected to represent.
Constitutional monarchy
This is a democratically run country with a monarch who has to abide by the rules and laws set by the government. The monarch's role is purely ceremonial. For example, the UK.
Council (the local government)
Responsible for the services and facilities in your local area.
Councillors
Representatives elected by the local people to sit on the council.
Democracy
A system where the people of a country have the right to vote for a party to represent them. Elections take place every few years.
Devolution
The system of transferring power from central government to local government.
Dictatorship
One powerful leader (dictator) who controls the government and makes all the decisions that affect a country. People's individual rights are seen as less important than the dictator's power and the country as a whole. For example, Cuba.
Direct democracy
The same as a democracy but every citizen is involved in every decision made by expressing their opinion and voting. This is not really used. A referendum is the closest thing to this.
Election
The opportunity given to people to vote.
Emergency law
A law that the government makes in order to deal with an emergency and protect the people of the country.
First past the post
The type of voting system where the winner is the one with the most votes.
First reading
The first time a bill is introduced to Parliament.
First Minister
The leader of the Scottish or Welsh government. In 2005 the First Minister for Scotland is Jack McConnell.
General election
A major election to select the government.
Government
A group of people who make important decisions about how a country is run.
Green Paper
The government's first proposal for a new law.
House of Commons
Where MPs meet to discuss and debate important issues.
House of Lords
The place where peers meet to discuss and debate important issues.
Main opposition
The party that came second in the general election.
Manifesto
The plans a party has for the country if it wins the general election.
Mayor
Meets important people who come to visit the local area and represents the area elsewhere.
Media
Sources of information such as radio, TV, newspapers and magazines.
Military dictatorship
This is the same as a dictatorship but the leader ensures that there is absolute control over the country by using military force. For example, North Korea.
Minister
An MP who is the head of a government department such as transport or health. For example, in 2005 Ruth Kelly was the Minister for Education.
Minutes
The notes made at a meeting to show what was discussed and who was present.
MLA
A Member of the Legislative Assembly for Northern Ireland.
Monarch
The leader of a monarchy such as a king, queen or emperor.
MSP
A member of the Scottish Parliament.
Parliament
The House of Lords and the House of Commons, where important decisions about the country are made. MPs sit in the House of Commons. Peers, bishops and lords sit in the House of Lords. This is where laws are made or changed.
Peers
Members of the House of Lords.
Policies
The ideas and proposals that a party has for a country.
Postal vote
You vote by posting your ballot paper. This must be done in advance of the election.
Press Code
Guidelines for the press to ensure that they are acting responsibly and not invading people's privacy.
Press Complaints Commission
Responsible for investigating any complaints about what has been printed in papers or magazines.
Prime minister
The leader of the government.
Private Members' Bill
A bill introduced by an MP instead of the government.
Proportional representation (PR)
A voting system where the percentage of votes is taken into account. A candidate must get at least 50% of the votes to win.
Referendum
An opportunity for people to vote on a specific question put forward by the government.
Representative
A person who speaks for you and gives your views and opinions to others.
Representative democracy
People vote for representatives to speak up for them to the government. It is a much easier system to work than a direct democracy. For example, western European countries and the USA.
Royal assent
The final stage of the law-making process, when the Queen gives approval to a new law.
Second reading
The second time a bill is read in Parliament followed by a full debate and vote.
Spin doctor
Someone who advises parties on how to make bad news sound better and make the media work to their advantage.
Tax
Money paid to the government by the public.
Theocracy
The government claims that its power is given from God. There is one main religion that all the people are expected to follow. Laws are derived from the religious rules. For example, Iran.
Town hall
Where council business is discussed and debated.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A list of all the rights humans should be entitled to drawn up by the United Nations.
VAT (value added tax)
A tax that is added on to the price of goods except food, children's clothes, books and magazines.
Vote by proxy
You allow someone else to go and vote for you. You tell them who you want to vote for and they do it for you.
Voter turnout
The number of people who turn up to vote in an election.
White Paper
A more detailed proposal for a new law.