Effectiveness of parliament - Scrutiny

  • Created by: meliasyd
  • Created on: 11-05-19 10:11

Effectiveness of parliament - Scrutiny


  • Second and Third Readings of bills provide exhaustive review of legislation.
  • Committees provide large opportunities for scrutiny of governmental actions as well as draft bills.
  • Ministerial questions provide an opportunity for flaws to be highlighted and justification of policy to be heard (In some cases, ministers have resigned because of mistakes in office eg. Amber Rudd's resignation in 2018 over her handling of the windrush scandal)
  • Prime Minister's questions on a Wednesday allow MPs to investigate any issues and written questions can develop a line of inquiry.
  • Debates- initiated by the Government/ Opposition/ Committees allow backbenchers to debate issues.
  • Select Committees are highly comprehensive, with a committee matching each government department. The committees are representative of the parties sitting in parliament and therefore allow questioning from a number of political opinions- generally seen as the most effective form of scrutiny
  • The second largest party is designated as the Official Opposition and front bench MPs (shadow cabinet) play a large role in criticising Government policy, it proposes motions and amendments to legislation, receives 'Short money' in order to effectively scrutinise government.


  • Discussion in the commons is controlled by whips- defeats are rare. Almost all amendments come from govt itself. The expertise of MPs is often overruled by government .
  • The party Whips decide who goes on a Public Bill Committee.
  • MPs involved in ministerial questioning cannot follow an oral line of questioning, only making a single statement. Ministers often resign as a result of media pressure as opposed to parliamentary pressure. The resources of ministers are extensive in comparison to MPs (they will always appear superior).
  • Prime minister's questions has only become significant since televising the commons, often more of a 'pantomime politics' with political points and media moments being staged as opposed to legitimate scrutiny.
  • Debates are often on topics dividing parties and therefore become a set piece for party arguments.
  • The quality of investigation often depends on how well briefed MPs are and how skilled they are when it comes to questioning witnesses. The government has to reply to recommendations but does not have to implement them. Select committees also tend to choose immediate problems rather than major future issues (suggesting they are more visual than real scrutiny).
  • There is a general imbalance between parliament and govt due to number of factors; party loyalty is strong, governments with large majorities can rely on MPs to back them. Government does not require parliament's approval under the legal principle of Royal Prerogative. Some areas of legislation so large, parliament does not have time to look at all of them. Imbalance in resources means MPs difficulty in investigation
  • Opposition will only win majority votes during a minority or weak majority government when opinion has turned against the government. The opposition doesn't tend to disrupt government business because it accepts that the government won the previous election.


In conclusion, parliament's role in the scrutiny of government is seemingly effective with the use of Select Committees, questioning and the role of the opposition. However, there are many limitations to the power of scrutiny because of the nature of the UK parliamentary system and the extensive control the government retains over parliament.


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