Evaluating Parliament

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HofC Representation


  • Positive: Most MPs are very active in representing the interests of their constituency and of individual constituents. Many MPs also represent the interests of large associations and pressure groups.
  • Negative: The Commons is not socially representative. There are a minority of women and few representatives from ethnic minorities or smaller religions. The members are predominantly middle class and from a background in the professions. Party loyalty also means that they tend to toe the party line rather than always representing the national interest or group interests. The worst aspect is that the party make up of the Commons does not accurately represent support for the parties among the electorate. Large parties tend to be over-represented, while small parties are under-represented. This is the result of the first-past-the-post electoral system.
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HofC Calling Government To Account

  • Positive: Mps regularly question ministers at question time sessions. The Liaison Committee also questions the prime minister twice a year. Ministers are forced, by tradition, to present all policies to the Commons before any other public announcements. The departmental select committees are extremely active and independent. They examine government business closely and are often critical to good effect.
  • Negative: Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQT) has become something of a media slideshow with little relevance to real policy examination. Many MPs are also reluctant to be critical of ministers of their own party for fear of being seen as disloyal.

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HofC Scrutiny

  • Positive: The departmental select committees have proved very effective in scrutinising the policies f government departments and publicising shortcomings or failures.
  • Negative: MPs are given relatively little time to scrutinise proposed legislation so laws are often poorly drafted. Because the legislative committees are whipped into party loyalty, MPs are not independent-minded in their scrutiny function.

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HofC Legislating

  • Positive: it is a key role of the Commons to make legislation legitimate. This effectively means granting consent on behalf of the people. On the whole this operates well and the laws are generally respected because they have been legitimised in Parliament. The Commons does retain the power to block legislation that is against the public interest or represents abuse of power
  • Negative: The procedures of Parliament in respect of passing legislation are ancient and considered to be inefficient and ritualised.

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HofC Deliberation

  •  Positive: From time to time the Commons is seen at its best in debates on the great issues of the day: for example, on the war in Iraq, over how to deal with terrorism and on the funding of higher education.
  • Negative: The Commons is given relatively little time for debate on legislation itself, so crowded is its programme. Furthermore, debates on legislative proposals tend to divide along party lines and so lose their authority.
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HofC Checking Government Power

  • Positive: The Commons retains the power to veto legislation and this represents a discipline upon governments.
  • Negative: Party loyalty and discipline means that many MPs are reluctant to challenge the government. The government very rarely loses a major vote in the Commons.
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HofL Representation

  • Positive: In many ways the Lords is more representative than the Commons. Many sections of society and associations are represented by peers who have a special links with them and specific experience and knowledge
  • Negative: The Lords is unelected and so could be said to represent no one because it is not accountable. It is not socially representative, with a high average age, a shortage of woman and ethnic minority members, and few members from working-class origins.

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HofL Calling Government To Account

  • Positive: Peers are more independent-minded than MPs, so they can be more active in their questioning and criticisms of ministers.
  • Negative: There are no departmental select committees in the Lords, so a valuable means by which government can be called to account is missing.

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HofL Scrutiny

  • Positive: The legislative committees in the Lords can be more effective than their counterparts in the Commons. These committees divide much less along party lines and are more independent. Furthermore, the peers who are members often have special knowledge, expertise and experience in the matters contained in the legislation.
  • Negative: Though the Lords often does propose legislation amendments, it cannot force them through as they may be overturned by the Commons

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HofL Legislating

  • Positive: Laws must be passed through the Lords to legitimate them. People can be confident that legislation has been fully scrutinised.
  • Negative: As an unelected body, the lords cannot provide legitimating to legislation.

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HofL Deliberation

  • Positive: The Lords has two great advantages in deliberating on important issues. First, it has more time to do so than the Commons. Secondly, the Lords contain a vast well of knowledge and experience among its members.
  • Negative: The fact that the Lords has very weak legislating powers means that its debates may be largely symbolic

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HofL Checking Government Power

  • Positive: As the government cannot control members of the Lords, the House does, from time to time, act in a very independent way.
  • Negative: Ultimately the government has several ways of by-passing obstruction by the Lords. The elected government and House of Commons will win out over the unelected Lords.
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