Government & Politics AS Unit 2 Parliament


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  • Created by: James
  • Created on: 05-06-11 11:53

Two Features of Presidential system of government

  • In the USA where a presidential system is in place, there is clear seperation of power. president sits at the apex of the executive, and is unable to initiate legislation. To see his legislative programe enacted the president must rely on members of congress to introduce the bill. 
  • Unlike in parlimentry system, the cheif executive is not accountable to the legislature, he is accountable to the people directly via elections. The president therefore cannot be forced to resign.
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Two features of a parliamentary system of governme

  • Bagehot described the relationship between diffrent branchs of UK goverment as a 'fusion of power' since the executive is drawn from the legislature. All members of government in the uk are either MPs or members of the HofL 
  • Governemnt in the UK must be accountable to parliment. e.g PM questions time. Ministers are also expected to appear in the house on regular bais to announce or defend policies. 
  • Commons can bring down a goverment via a motion of confidence e.g callaghan 1979
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Functions of Parliament

  • Debating Major Issues - people expect issues of major importance to be disscused e.g HofC held debates before the war in Iraq. 
  • Making Law (legislating) - all gov legislation must pass lengthy stages in both HofC and HofLbefore reaching statute book. allows ammendments and discusion to take place.
  • Scrutinising the Executive - Questions ministers , Debates, slect committees, Oppostion days.
  • Sustaining Goverment - Must ensure that goverment can actually govern achived by haveing a majority of seats in HofC
  • Representation - Represent the people, reflect thier views, MPs try to represent thier constituncie. 
  • Financial Scrutiny - scrutiny of public spending, the budget must pass through parliment in order for taxation and spending to contniue. 
  • Redress of Grievances - People can lobby thier MP on a particular issue that concerns them some causes maybe taken up in parliment to try and change the law or using a private members' legislation. 
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Two functions of House of Lords

  • The House of Lords (HofL) can be viewed as a 'Revising Chamber' 
    • Over half the time is devoted to examining in detail legislation sent to it by the commons e.g the lords defeated the commons on numerous occasions over ID cards. 
  • The Lords is also a forum of independent expertise. Lords work in specialist committees their areas of expertise. e.g much respected European select committee, whose report on European enlargement was published throughout the EU.
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Composition of the House of Lords

  • There are currently 829 members of the HofL
  • The Lords is unelected and comprises four main types of peer:
    • 80%+ Life peers, appointed by the PM under royal prerogative. Most of these toe the party line, around a third are crossbenchers
    • 26 Bishops including the Archbishop of Canterbury  
    • 92 hereditary peers since 1999, these peers inherited their title but retain their seat following an intra-lords election. 
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Main ways Parliament carries out scrutinising

  • Question to ministers and PM question time - MPs can request an oral or written response, question time takes Monday to Thursday after prayers where each department answers questions in a rota. PMQs allows the opposition a chance to try and catch the PM out with surprise questions, and have often led to heated debates (often seen as punch and Judy)
  • Departmental select committees - non-partisan bodies can call for persons,papers and records and can be seen to have resulted in more open government and act as a useful deterrent on an over mighty executive. e.g Arms to Africa affair in 1999 by the foreign affairs committee. 
  • Scrutiny through opposition days -  Days on which the subject for debate is chosen by one of the opposition parties (20 days in total) 17 to largest opposition and 3 between the rest. e.g eve of Glasgow east by-election July 2008, Tories caught out labour on issue of fuel duty.
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Distinguishing between powers of HofC and HofL

  • The HofC is viewed as the more dominant chamber in parliament, as the lords have seen their power reduced by statute and custom. 
  • Most visible in legislative terms both can start bills, however mostly done in the commons. Limitations have been introduced to cap the upper chambers ability to block legislation can now only delay for a year after 3 attempts can force it through them e.g labour invoking the parliament act in 2004 to ban fox hunting. No power to originate a money bill or delay any financial legislation for less than 1 month.
  • Salisbury Convention - lords will not seek to defeat a manifesto commitment on a second reading. 
  • Commons also has more extensive scrutiny powers. since most ministers are MPs they are questioned in lower house. In HofC departmental select committees monitor the work of gov no such equivalent in HofL.
  • Commons can bring down gov with a motion of confidence e.g Callaghan 79
  • HofL can prolong the life of parliament beyond the normal five years e.g parliament of 1935 was prolonged till 1945.
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Differences between Parliamentary and Presidential

  • Bagehot saw UK as a fusion of power as the executive is drawn from the legislature. all gov members in uk are either MPs or members of HofL. 
  • In the USA there is a clear separation of power. the president is not a member of the legislature and can appoint to his cabinet from outside congress.
  • Government in UK must be accountable to parliament e.g PMQ no such thing in USA.
  • Ministers expected in house on a regular basis to announce policies to announce and defend policies. Members of USA executive branch tend only to appear when there is a hearing by committees.
  • The commons can bring down the government. The US president is directly accountable to voters.
  • PMs authority depends on them being leader of largest party in the commons determined by elections.
  • US president there is no relation between his incumbency and who is the largest party in either chamber of congress at the moment to branches are controlled by separate parties.
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