First 551 words of the document:
To what extent has the formation of a coalition changed the relationship
between Parliament and government? (25) - January 2012
Collective Responsibility and Party Discipline
The convention of collective responsibility has become significantly weakened as there
is a much more diverse and conflicting set of ideologies within government and even
within the Cabinet due to the coming together of two ideologically different parties.
Parliament often exploits and speculates on these differences which makes it harder to
pass controversial legislation. Similarly, the whipping system is much weaker as policies
in each party's manifesto have had to be compromised so it is harder to enforce party
unity. This has led to an an all time post-war high of backbench rebellions, notably with
the Conservatives against the second reading of the House of Lords reform bill and the
freezing of the EU budget.
There are a number of policy areas on which either side of the coalition's position is
unclear due to the need for compromise. This means MPs are less restricted by the
pressure of whips and party unity and are enabled to vote as they wish. This is more
reflective of the idea of Burkean representation where MPs are independent individuals
rather than a party. Furthermore, mechanisms of scrutiny and accountability can be done
more effectively and committees can better contribute to more quality legislation.
House of Lords
Since the formation of the coalition, the House of Lords has become more active in its
scrutiny of legislation and there is a number of bills which have been defeated or at least
heavily amended in the Lords, notably the NHS reforms in 2012 and the Defamation bill
in 2013. This is mostly because the Coalition Agreement has compromised the mandate
that voters of both parties consented for in the 2010 election so there has been a
greater need of an assertive second chamber to ensure legitimacy.
No fundamental changes
The workings and functions of Parliament are still fundamentally the same, for instance,
there has been no changes in the way that select and legislative committees operate.
Also, the coalition government, like many majority governments we have had in the
past, have not lost any of their legislation in the Commons.
Strength of government in Commons
Critics of the coalition suggested at the start of its term that having a coalition would
lead to an ineffective government that struggles to reach decisions and pass legislation,
often referring to examples of unstable coalitions in other countries such as Italy and
Israel. However, the coalition has remained strong just like other majority governments
in passing legislation that is potentially controversial such as the NHS reforms, and in this
way the relationship between government and Parliament has not changed.
In many ways, the relationship between Parliament and government has changed in that
the presence of more differing ideologies means that MPs can act more independently
and scrutiny is enhanced, leading to better quality legislation. However, on a more
fundamental basis, the relationship is just like such of a single party government.