Adjournment is the procedure by which the sitting of a legislature is brought to a close. In the House of Commons each day's sitting ends with a motion 'That this House do now adjourn', when, in a debate lasting half an hour, members can raise any matter of concern; one of the few opportunities for private members to initiate debate. The House may adjourn if Members are disorderly, or if there is not a quorum of members present. During a debate an adjournment motion may be proposed as a means of blocking the passage of a measure. Unless the measure is backed by the government, adjournment normally means that it fails.
The law relating to the control of government power, including the detailed rules which govern the exercise of administrative decision taking. Despite A. V. Dicey's reluctance in his Law of the Constitution ( 1885) to accept the idea of specific and specialized legal rules governing administrative decisions, English law has developed administrative law especially since c. 1960. Lord Diplock in 1982 regarded the development of English administrative law 'as having been the greatest achievement of the English Courts in my judicial lifetime'. Primarily the courts have developed general principles to ensure that all public authorities must act within the powers granted to them by Act of Parliament. Such principles includeextremisms, which might be broken by electoral reform, to which he was a recent convert. Supporters of the adversary politics hypothesis point to the debasement of parliamentary debate and Question Time; opponents variously argue that the adversaries were not adversarial on everything (for instance, in their common opposition to electoral reform) and that adversary politics was a temporary pathology.
affirmative action Policy designed to correct past practices of discrimination against racial minorities, women, the disabled, and other historically disadvantaged groups. The advocates of affirmative action programmes argue that it is not sufficient to pass legislation aimed at eliminating discrimination in education, employment, and other areas of human activity. Such legislation where it was successful could help eliminate discrimination in the long run, but more drastic measures were required if progress, at an acceptable pace, was to occur in the short term.
In the United States in 1970, for instance, more blacks than ever were going into higher education, yet it remained the case that while blacks made up nearly 12 per cent of the population only 2.2 per cent of doctors and 2.8 per cent of medical students were black. Statistics such as these appeared to justify admissions procedures used in the 1970s by the medical school of University of California at Davis. Under these arrangements 16 out of 100 places were reserved for minority students, mainly blacks, Chicanos, and Asian-Americans. Allen Bakke, a white applicant who achieved far better test scores than minority students who were admitted, was denied admission. Bakke challenged the legitimacy of this decision in the courts and eventually the matter was addressed by the United States Supreme Court.
In a confusing judgment the Court said that the use of quotas violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and directed that Bakke should be admitted. At the same time the justices said that it was constitutionally acceptable for race to be taken into account in making admissions decisions -- affirmative action, in other words, was constitutional.
Affirmative action nevertheless continues to be intensely controversial in the United States. Opponents of such policies insist that they undermine one of the most cherished values of American political culture, the commitment to equality of opportunity. Affirmative action is also condemned for standing in the way of meritocracy -- a society where success in life is based on merit rather than birth, class, race, or some other spurious criterion. Critics argue further that affirmative action is ultimately destructive of the goal of eliminating discrimination -- that it creates discrimination itself, a reverse discrimination where white males such as Bakke, for example, are denied opportunities for no other reason than their race and sex. DM
Following a military coup in April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power. The party was riven by sectarian disputes and, in December 1979, the Soviet Union intervened in support of Babrak Karmal who was installed as president. Military conflict ensued between the Afghan army and opposition mujahedeen forces, who were themselves factionalized. The Soviet Union became involved, committing thousands of troops to action. This failed, however, to secure stability for the new communist regime and security beyond the area around the capital, Kabul, was never established.