Functions of Parliament


Parliament as the legislature

Parliament is also known as the legislature because:

  • Parliament makes, repeals and amends any law it wishes .
  • They have the ultimate power, which is also known as Parliamentary sovereignty (expressed by A V Dicey).
  • This means that no other body has the power to override or challenge Parliament's authority, as Parliament is not restricted by a codified constitution.
  • Although Parliament has delegated law making power to devolved govts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it still has the power to takw this law making power away.
  • However, most of Parliament's time is spend on the govt's legislative programme, where only a small number of bills and private member's bills are successful, dependent on govt support.
  • Party control of the HOC, and an overall majority, means that govt bills are rarely defeated.
    • E.g. Tony Blair's HOL reform.
    • Therefore, it is argued that legislation is passed through Parliament, not by Parliament.
  • As the HOL scrutinise bills and cannot pass them, this chamber is seen as a 'revising chamber.'
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Representation in Parliament

Parliament is the link between the govt and the people (parliamentary democracy):

  • MPs have a relationship with their constituents. However, there is the debate as to how this representation actually happens in practie.
    • MPs may not truly represent the people because some hardly stay in or visit their constituent.
    • They not comply with the traditional (Burkean) view that MPs use their own judgements and acts on behalf of their constituents, as some may influence their own interests or party's interests in the HOC.

However, the effectiveness of parliamentary representation has also been criticised:

  • The HOL is unelected and undemocratic as it does not carry out representative roles.
  • The FPTP system undermines the effectiveness of representation in the HOC.
  • MPs are socially unrepresentative of larger society as most MPs are from rich backgrounds and went to university.
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Scrutiny in Parliament

Parliament's main role is to scrutinise the govt of day:

  • Therefore, Parliament's most important role is to call the govt to accounr, by making them explain their actions and to justify their policies. 
  • Scrutinising the govt also ensures a responsible govt that is answerable and accountable to an elected assembly. 
  • However, the majority of MPs normally belonging to the governing party, means that they must support the govt of the day and not embarrass them or criticise them openly. 
  • Parliament usually scrutinises the govt through PMQs and Question Time. 
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Legitimacy in Parliament

Parliament's final function of Parliament is to promote legitimacy:

  • This happens when the government governs through Parliament, where their actions are seen as to be 'right' mainly because:
    • 1) Parliament 'stands for' the public as it is a representative assembly. Parliament approving law makes it seem that the people approve it. 
    • 2) Parliamentary approval is based on the assumption that there has been debate on the issue and that weaknesses of it have been exposed. 

However, it has been argued that Parliament is not fully legitimate because:

  • The HOL has no democratic legitimacy as this chamber is not elected by the common people. 
  • Respect for Parliament has been undermined. 
    • E.g. 'cash for questions' and the expenses scandals. 
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