Exam questions and example answers on Parliament (Unit 2)

Two exam focused questions on Parliament with example answers that can be expanded in an exam.

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`The executive has gained power at the expense of the legislature.'
How and why has this happened?
Under Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher it could be seen that the executive gained power at
the expense of the legislature, notably due to the popularity of the Prime Ministers as
leaders and the popularity of their party. For example, under Tony Blair's peak of popularity
he had unprecedented power which was mirrored by the fact the legislature acted as party
pawns, voting rather on leaders than on their constituents favour undermining a key role of
Parliament ­ representation. Thus they are unable to perform their roles efficiently.
Party's with huge majorities such as Labour during their three terms from 1997-2010, make
it easier to ignore backbenchers as their huge majority allows them to pass any legislation
they like. This shows the gain in power of the executive at the expense of the legislature,
who cannot perform its key role of debate.
Not all of the decisions go through the Commons or Lords, such as the decision to go to War
with Iraq which was decided by the Cabinet and went against the wishes of Parliament. This
shows the rising power of the executive as it has the power to make huge decisions without
the need of the legislature due to the fact the constitution outlines that the Monarch, whos
role has been fulfilled by the PM, has the supreme power to make decisions such as going t o
War. These impact the legislature as they cannot perform a key role ­ scrutiny of the
executive, in cases such as the one noted above.
The House of Lords is supposedly independent yet many peers side with Parties as they are
chosen to sit in the House of Lords by them, this makes it more difficult to disagree with the
Executive as they are biased.
The UK constitution does not constrain the power of the Executive: Allows government to act
quickly and decisively to pass laws whilst uncodified nature of the constitution can blur the
actual powers of a PM: e.g. a fusion of powers has established an 'elective dictatorship' with
government able to pass many laws, such as Blair who only lost one vote in 10 years.
`Reform of the House of Commons has been too limited.'
How far do you agree with this view?
Labour changed Prime Minister Questions time from two weekly quarter-hour sessions to
one weekly half hour session. This could be argued as a successful reform as debate is more
thorough allowing opposition to return to key issues again and again and successfully
achieving their role of scrutinising the executive. However, a criticism could be that it has
been too limited as there are still few checks on the executive with arguably an `elective
dictatorship `remaining. Furthermore, the public has become disenchanted with PMQ's as
they are now seen as a way to insult each other.
Other reforms of the House of Commons have included a change in working hours which
arguably made them more family friendly and allowed them to focus on returning to their
constituency by the weekends (hours on Thursdays were changed). This could be seen as too
limited.
House of Commons has not undertaken a huge overhaul compared to the House of Lords.

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