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Study Notes

Fusion of powers (UK)

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Fusion of powers exists when the executive and legislative branches of government are intermingled. It tends to be a feature of parliamentary democracies and can be contrasted with the stricter separation of powers found in more presidential democracies.

The term fusion of powers is believed to have been first coined by Walter Bagehot, the British Constitutional expert. It exists by design, first arising as a result of how the British political system evolved over centuries, with the power of the monarch being constrained by Parliament. The UK still has a system in which members of the executive are also members of the legislature.

Until 2005, the position of Lord Chancellor was a fusion of all the branches of the UK political system – as the person holding that position was speaker in the House of Lords, a government minister heading the Lord Chancellor’s department and the head of the judiciary. However, the Constitutional reform act of 2005 which created the UK Supreme Court, defused this position, with the Lord Chancellor now being neither the Speaker of the House of Lords (replaced by the Lord Speaker) nor the head of the judiciary (replaced by the Lord Chief Justice).

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