Parliament, Gov & Politics

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What is the legislature?

Representative assembly empowered to make laws.

Parliament- from the french word 'parler' (to speak)

Leglislature- from Latin for 'legis' (law) and 'latio' (proposing)

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What are the key functions of Parliament? (1/2)

Law Making-

  • Parliament is the UK leglislature
  • Supreme law-making body
  • Convention that legislation should be fully discussed before it is put to a vote.


  • An elected body, the HOC is expected to reflect public opinion and respond to grievances
  • Minority viewpoints should be allowed a hearing


  • Parliament is regarded as the proper place to debate issues of national concertn, even if they cannot be affected by a change in law. (2002- Parliament recalled to discuss the possibility of war in Iraq)
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What are the key functions of Parliament? (2/2)

Scrutiny of the exectutive (PM & Cabinet) -

  • Under the principle of accountability, ministers are accountable to Parliament for their decisions.
  • Government can be dismissed if they lose the confidence of a majority of MPs.

Recruitment of Ministers-

  • By convention, al ministers must be a member of the Commons or the Lords.
  • In other words, members of the executive must also be part of the legislature (UNLIKE the USA)


  • Elected part of Parliament, from which the executive is largely drawn
  • Support from MPs provides the executive with legitimacy
  • Loss of a vote in HOC may lead to a vote of confidence in the executive.
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House of Lords- History of Reform

  • 1911 Parliament Act : Lords lose power to veto bills or delay bills for more than 2 years

  • 1945 Salsibury Doctrine- ensures government's manifesto commitments are not overturned in the Lords

  • 1958- First life peers created, women peers also arrive.

  • 1998- House of Lords act, first stage of reform, removal of all but 92 hereditary peers
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Work performed by the Lords.

  • The Lords can revise and consider bills from the HOC, they can pass, amend or reject bills. 1949 Parliament Act limits powers of delay to one year, focus is on public bills.

  • Judicial Role- since 2009 it's been performed by the Supreme Court, but previously HOL was the highest court of appeal in the UK.

  • Select Committees, eg scrutinises legislation from Europe via Select Committee on EU.

  • Power of Delay- limited  by the 1949 Parliament Act & Salisbury Convention
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Roles of the HOC.

Legislation-  Passing private member's Bills, (eg 1967- Abortion Act, as well as public bills introduced by the government)

Raising & spending public money- Scrutinised by Departmental Select Committees & Public Accounts Committees (PAC)

Scrutinising- Through committees, questions at Ministerial or PMQs, written Q's and work of the shadow cabiet, holding debates. eg-War in Iraq.

Representation- ensuring grievances of constituents are addressed -eg- petitioning parliament, lobbying

Recruitment- important to toe the party line to be spotted by whips and advanced for ministerial or shadow mineserial roles

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Legislative process-

 Different types of bills- Private Members's Bills

  • Introduced by backbenchers
  • Ballot Bills- 20 names drawn from ballot, introduced on certain Fridays
  • 10 minute rule bils- opportunity to raise profile
  • Bills brought from HOL
  • Limited time for debate
  • Often deal with ethnical issues (EG 1967 Abortion Act & Bill reducing homosexual age of consent to 18 [1994])
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Legislative process

1st Reading- Formal introduction of Bill

2nd Reading- General debate on principles of bill

Committee Stage- Detailed examination in standing committees

Report Stage- Amended bill reported back to Parliament, last opportunity for amendments

3rd Reading- Final opportunity for debate, whole bill is considered

Royal Assent- Last time rejected in 1707

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What are the main roles of an MP?

Serve their constitutents

  • Regular surgeries
  • Promoing constituency interests
  • Attending political meetings & social functions
  • Handle grievances & ensure they're dealt with

Serve the nation

  • Attend the house regularly
  • Take part in debates
  • Serve on select & standing committees
  • Take part in law-making process
  • 1996 survey- 50% of MPs time taken up with parliamentary, opposed to constituency duties

Advanced personal causes

  • Private members bills
  • Act as a spokesperson for particular interests or areas of their expertise
  • Lobbied by private companies
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What are the main roles of an MP?

Conflicts of interest

  • Constituency needs may conflict with national policy
  • Personal interests may conflict with party policy (Iraq War etc)


  • Variety of constituency types- according to size, socio-economic composition, economic activity
  • Location- constituency can be extremely remote, difficulties accessing Westminister
  • Marginals- constiuency which are closely contested by the major parties
  • Funding- criticisms over costs of administration, lack of research facilities 


  • Current govts often enjoys support of less than 1/2 voters
  • Questions over legitimacy
  • Minority views underrepresented
  • 2/3 MP's lack majority support in their constituencies
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Ethnic representation- HOC.

  • 2010 GE- 27 MPs from ethnic background (15 in 2005 GE)
  • 11 Con MPs from ethnic background
  • First 3 muslim female MPs elected (Lab)
  • First black female Cons MP
  • 2001, all 12 MPs in Labour Party

Women representation:

  • 1997- 120 Women MP's (Blair's babes)
  • 2005- 128 Women
  • 2010- 144 Women


  • Child bearing & home-making responsiblilties
  • Electoral system (candidate selection)
  • Nature of Parliamentary life
  • Four C's (Fawett society) - Culture, childcare, cash & confidence.
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Is Parliament the sovereign law-making authority?


  • Ultimate political authority
  • Parliament (HOC&HOL) has unlimited authority and is the supreme-law making body
  • Only Parliament can make and amend laws
  • No other instiution can override its decisions


  • Parliament can't bind successors
  • Executive limits powers of Parliament- eg- government introduces majority of legislation
  • EU membership & rulings eg- Factortame case
  • International organisations - NATO & IMF
  • Devolved assemblies, Wales & Scotland have significant autonomy
  • Medica can shape political agenda or hol parliament to account
  • Electorate can hold Parliament to account at the ballot box
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