A legislature is a type of representative assembly with the power to make and adopt laws, their members consider public issues and pass laws on them.�
Type of Legislature
There are two types of legislature: Unicameral or Bicameral�
Unicameral: <span style="color: #000000;">These consist of one chamber, eg Bulgaria and Sweden�</span>
Bicameral: <span style="color: #000000;">These consist of two chambers, eg the UK and Australia. Bicameral chambers are more common in federal states than unitary ones. Bicameralism now operates in just over 60 countries.�</span>
Advantages: Act as a check upon first chamber/ more effective check on the executive/ broaden the basis of representation/ allow for thorough scrutiny of legislation/ act as a constitutional longstop (delaying the passage of bills and allowing time for debate)
Disadvantages: Can be�unnecessarily�costly/ performs no useful role that couldn't be covered by a streamlined lower house/ slows down the task of government/ sometimes doesn't represent the electorate and only represents conservative views/ institutionalises conflict between the two houses.�
What do legislatures do?
Legislation: Most of the dominant policy making roles now belong to the exceutive, the essence of the role of the legislature is that in most systems, a majority vote of the legislature is required to authorise the passing of any law.�
Representation: Provide a link between constituents and the government. A means of expressing the public opinion and interest to government.�
Oversight of the Executive: Act as a watchdog over the executive- oversee there actions. Hold them accountable through questions and investigations.�
The legislature is also a recruitment pool, they recruit and train the next generation of political leaders.
Role of the HOL
- Consideration and review of Bills from the HOC- has the power to examine legislation and may pass, amend or reject bills. Ministers may accept or reject amendments to gov leg which then elads to negotiations between the two chambers. Revision is the key function of the chamber today (scrutinising public bills)
- Initiation of non-contraversial legislation- about 1/4 of bills begin their life in the upper house. Back bench peers can also introduce Private Peers Bills
- The power of delay- under the Parliament act of 1849, the Lords can delay legislation for a period of time for reflection and reconsideration of it.�
- The holding of general debates- Peers are under less pressure for time than MPs and can conduct useful discussions on matters such as leisure time and the environment. Life peers have specialist areas which can contribute towards discussion.
Changes of the HOL
Life Peerages act 1958: men and women could be created as peers for the duration of their lives. Purpose was to diversify the membership of the chamber by bringing in people from different walks of life.
Parliament Act 1911: Removed the power of permanent veto in the Lords. Lords could no longer indefinitely delay legislation. Any bill which passed through the commons in three successive sessions would become law.�
Parliament Act 1949: Further limited the delaying power of the Lords. any bill that passed in two successive sessions in the commons became law. Delaying power was reduced to 8-9 months through this. Still applies now. �
Labours 1998 change: <span style="color: #000000;">removal of hereditary peers, October 1998. Got rid of all but 92 hereditary peers. The HOL act left the 'judicial and 'spiritual' membership untouched.�</span>
Does the chamber need further reform?
Labour always intended for there to be a second phase of reform. The major problem of�hereditaries�has been removed, but the present membership is still mainly conservative and can still inflict damage on a centre-left government.
The present situation can be seen to be not much better than it previously was. Hereditary peers were no longer acceptable in today's age, but neithe ris appointment- leaves room for nepotism. eg Tony's Cronies. Still not much more legitimate.�
The current HOL should reflect Britian how it is today. Bishops are presnt to represent the Church of England but there is no representation for other religions. Appointments in 2001 showed only 17% to be women and only 3.5% were ethnic minorities. �An elected house would yield an assembly which represents the people- women and ethnic minorities would have a chance of election.�
The chamber provides a valuable opportunity for scrutiny of the government. It works rather well and the removal of hereditary peers and intoroduction of life peers means that everybody has something useful to contribute.
The diverse membership of life peers means that there is usually somebody to offer specialist advice on every subject. There is an expressive array of experience and talent. Many successful industrialists and businessmen become peers, amongst others such as senior retired trade unionists and senior academics.
The chamber has done useful work of revision and shown increasing independence in the last couple of decades. Governments of both parties have been frequently defeated.
Do we need an elected house?
An elected house would be representative of the people'/s wishes and who they want in the house.
Hereditary peers have been removed, but life peers allow for nepotism, partisan leanings and for the PM to pack the house with his supporters.
Most of the other countries with second chambers use direct election for the appointment of its members, if it is good enough for 30 other countries then it should be good enough for us.
Elections are a key element of a democracy, they show legitimacy.
Life peers do not need to be elected for the jobs they perform, they have a primarily revising role.
Some peers may not wish to take part in elected politics, we could lose a lot of expertise.
An elected body could rival the lower house, especially if elected by some form of proportional representation. It could be seen as more representative of the people.
The HOC and it's roles
Main roles of the HOC: legislation, representation, raising and spending of public money, to provide ministers, legitimisation, debate, scrutiny of the executive.
Legislation: Most of the legislative roles are performed by the executive now. Much of the debate in the commons is on legislation, proposed and passed, but the chamber doesn't actually propose the law. Most legislation is shaped by the government (executive) and the house usually doesnt over turn this or significantly change it. The government majority normally sees legislation through and intact.
Two types of bills are seen by the HOC, public bills and private bills. Public bills alter the law of the land and affect the greater community. There are two types of public bill, private members bills-put forward by MPS, and private peers bills- introduced by members of the upper house.
Private bills are promoted by organisations out of the house such as companies or local authorities. They only affect a limited section of society and mainly benefit the organisation putting them forwards.
Private and public bills have different procedures.
How a public bill becomes law
(most private member bills (bills introduced by MPs or peers) don't become law, but they do highlight the issue)
FIRST READING-formal introduction
SECOND READING-general debate on principles of the bill
COMMITTEE STAGE-detailed examination of the bill, debate and the introduction/consideration of amendments. In the commons this takes place in a standing committee of a public bill committee.
REPORT STAGE-the amended bill is reported back to the chamber, this is the last chance for further amendments.
THIRD READING- the third reading, with all amendments is considered for final approval, final opportunity for debate.
When a bill has passed through both chambers, it returns to its original chamber for the other chambers amendments to be considered. If the HOL continues to reject a piece of legislation, parliament can use the parliament act 1949 to get its legislation through parliament.
Bill then receives the Royal Assent which is granted by the monarch.
Raising and spending public money
Parliaments permission is needed to raise and spend money, however this is virtually automatic. The commons play a scrutinising role which is mainly exercised through departmental select committees and the Public accounts committee.
DEPARTMENTAL SELECT COMMITTEES: parliament scrutiny committees which are responsible for examining the expenditure, administration and policy of their departments, for example defence. They comprise of back bench ministers of all parties, the number for each party depending on its strength in the chamber.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE: the committee that examines the accounts, showing how money granted by parliament has been used in programmes involving public expenditure.
Scrutinising, influencing and acting as a watchdog
This is exercised by MPs and the house as a whole.
The commons is entrusted with the role of scrutinising the government and all state employees and holding them accountable (the requirement for representatives to be answerable to their constituents for their behaviour and decisions.
This can be done in PMQ, held for half hour on a Wednesday in which opposition and MPs can question the PM on his decisions, proposals and policies.
In select committees, MPs are selected to question/cross examine ministers/civil servants etc.
Debates can be used to open the floor for MPs to speak and question the government.
Departmental select committees are responsible for examining the expenditure, administration and policy of departments.
Roles of members of parliament.
MPs are elected as representatives of a constituency. They provide a link between the constituents and the government.
Duties of MPs:
No formal job description.
They operate in parliament as a collective body but each represent their own constituency and constituents.
Duty to party and duty to constituents.
The proper role of an mp is subject to much debate.
Burke suggested that MPs should act as a person, listening to debate put forward in the HOC and seeking out information then acting upon it with their judgement, rather than listening purely to consituents views.
Responsibilities of MPs
To their party- it is because of their party label that most MPs are elected. The party is entitled to demand loyalty in return. MPs are expected to 'toe the party line' in votes and debates. For many members of parliament, their party is their predominant loyalty.
To their consituents and consituencies- they hold regular surgeries, promote any constituency interests, attend political meetings and various social meetings and receive any consitutents who visit Westminster. Much of their work today is focused on the welfare of their constituents. Expected to handle grievances and problems and ensure they are dealt with at the appropriate level, could be by writing to the relevant minister or asking a question in the house. MPs have a responsibility to make the voices of their constituents heard in parliament.
The nation- have an obligation to the whole country. They serve in the national legislature. They should inform themselves about the various problems on which they have to vote and take in mind the interest of the nation as well as that of their party and constituents.
Conscience and special interests- they have their own ideas and preferences. They may wish to introduce private members legislation on some area of concern. Cannot be expected to speak or act in defence of something that is wrong.
Conflict caused by areas of MPs responsibility
National interest vs Local interest: such as industry in decline (fishing in the south west) or the closure of a car plant (eg the rover plant at long bridge). The problem needs to be considered at a local level, for example loss of jobs, but also at a national level. It may be that economic reality dictates that particular goods can no longer be economically manufactured locally.
Personal interests and party interests may conflict: some left wing labour MPs may not be able to accept their governments decision for a pursuit of renewal of Britain's trident nuclear deterrent for personal pacifist reasons.
Conflict between person ideology and constituent ideology: MPs who are pro abortion may struggle in a roman catholic constituency.
Front benches and backbenchers
In the house of commons
*seating is arranged in blocks or rows, with each political party grouped together
*the government benches are on the right of the speaker, the opposition ones on the left
*the leading spokespersons (front benchers) for the government (ministers) and opposition (shadow ministers) sit on the benches at the front of their group
Those MPs behind are known as backbenchers
Representative of the nation?
-The HOC is the elected element in parliament and therefore has a key representative role. MPs are there to represent the ordinary people of Britain, they represent the people because they have been chosen by them.
-Different meanings can be drawn from HOC being 'representative of the people'- they have been freely elected by constituents, they represent the interests of voters as they understand them, they are socially representative of those who they represent.
-However the membership of the commons isn't socially representative, it is dominated by white, male, middle class and middle aged men more than any other area of society. It does not mirror or reflect the characteristics of the community as a whole.
-MPs, peers, MEPs and members of devolved bodies tend to be young middle aged (forty plus) to elderly, make and unrepresentative of ethnic and religious minorities.
-legislatures are not a microcosm (mirror image) of the population on whose behalf they act.
-more over, politics is becoming more professionalised and politicians are going straight into the world of national politics without having done an ordinary job of work- 'career politicians', they know little else beyond the world of politics.
Women in the HOC
Some reasons for under representation-
*child bearing and home making responsibilities
*the electoral system- proportional representation encourages the adoption of a gender balanced list, the use of single member constituencies makes their selection less likely
*the nature of parliamentary life- tends to be more masculine and aggressive. Women may not feel comfortable in such a male dominated preserve.
Campaigning organisation Fawcett claims there is an active discrimination against women in politics, and shows another four reasons for the under representation of women
Culture Cash Confidence Childcare
Does it matter that MPs are not socially represent
It is essential the MPs are literate and fluent, characteristics that some citizens don't possess. In this case, it is good the the HOC isn't a direct mirror of the population. It is undesirable that the HOC would be an exact mirror of the population. BUT should there be more women and ethnic minority members?
*dangerous in a democracy if some groups feel under represented. Can lead them to regard the legislature with contempt and cause them to turn to different forms of political action.
*if certain groups are under represented then there is less likely to be debate surrounding issues concerning them, it also may not be as good quality and taken less seriously.
*much talent goes unrecognised because it comes in the form of ethnic minorities and women. The legislature needs the services of the most able people available.
*the main parties claim to dislike discrimination and want to encourage equal opportunities, yet this isn't shown through the legislature and can be seen as hypocritical.
*britain has a representative democracy, we select MPs to broadly reflect the wishes and interests of constituents. For this they don't have to be a mirror image of society. They do not need to belong to a particular group or interest to speak up on their behalf. As long as they possess an ability to empathise with different elements of society, they can put up a case on their behalf.
*women and other ethnic groups are not all homogeneous and do not all posses the same needs and views. They can take contradictory views on things such as abortion. Class, employment, background and age can all be more influential in determining political views than gender or race.
*above all we need competent and caring people to represent us. The personal ability and party allegiance of any candidate should be the most important in determining who gets elected. Election based on gender can be unfair and result in reverse discrimination against those best suited for the job.
Parliamentary sovereignty in theory and in practic
Parliamentary sovereignty is said to be the main principle of the UK constitution.
Recently it can be seen to be challenged. It can be said that parliament has now passed its power to the executive, any government with a large majority can push its legislation through both chambers of parliament.
There are now political constraints on parliaments legal sovereignty, such as:
-membership of the EU
-demands of the international monetary fund
-the activities of pressure groups, the city and other economic bodies
-the powerful media
-the electorate had ultimate political sovereignty and can vote a government out of office
As a signatory on the European convention of human rights and a member of the European union, and British government must modify its laws to take account of European wishes. European law ultimately prevails over British law. An example is the factortame case of 1990, regarding Spanish fishing rights. EU law took precedence over UK law. British courts have the right to review and suspend any British law which may infringes on EC law.
Relationship between parliament and the executive
A parliamentary system is one in which executive governs in and through the legislature. The government is chosen from the majority party or a combination of parties and is responsible to the elected assembly. I'm presidential systems, the executive is separately elected and in theory equal to the legislature. In Britain, the government is chosen from the largest party in the HOC and are dependent on the house for support and accountable to it.
An example of this accountability is that the government is expected to resign if the commons passes a 'vote of no confidence' in their performance. Other examples of this accountability are that they have to answer questions at question time, participate in debates and votes and are subject to scrutiny by departmental select committees. The doctrine of ministerial responsibility ensures that ministers have to answer for their actions both individually and collectively.
It can be said that recently, Britain has moved from an era of balance between the legislature and executive to a period of executive dominance. The executive tends to dominate the legislature because the party and electoral systems tend to produce a strong majority government. Halisham- 'elected dictatorship'
Governmental domination of house of commons
The government dominant the house in many ways
-they shape the agenda of the house after consultation with the opposition over the management of commons business, principally government legislation, private member motions on the adjournment etc.
-they almost always provide the majority of its membership
-they determine the legislative programme of the house- the bulk of legislation now is bought about by government as opposed to by MPs or private members. Most governments wish to pass vast legislation in order to bring about changes in law, taxation institutions and expenditure.
-they shape the outcome as well as timing of legislation, most amendments to bills come from the 'second thoughts' of ministers after listening to pressure groups and MPs on their own side, they rarely succumb to the opposition.
-they almost always win when votes and decisions take place
-they monopolise the time of the house, much of the houses time is spent considering the governments legislation
-they control the flow of information to parliament, ministers have the advantage that they are present when issues are discussed in cabinet or cabinet committees, they have the resources of their Whitehall departments to provide them with information, they control what information is released to MPs and may even release info to the media before parliament
Lord Halisham used the phrase 'executive dictatorship' to show his anxieties about the growth in executive power.
He argued that with a flexible constitution, a majority government in control of a sovereign parliament could push through any legislation at will showing little regard for the democratic process.
The suggestion is that there is an imbalance in the constitution, executive power has grown at the expense of parliamentary power. The only thing said to hold a government in check is its need to retain enough popularity to win the next election.
Halisham expressed alarm at the ability of parties to push through legislation using their strict whipping system dispute the it being against the wishes of MPs and the electorate.
Critics of this highlight that there are practical restraints such as select committees and the possibility of backbench revolt. A persistent group of parliamentary rebels can cause havoc, as shown with the major administration.
The watchdog function, parliamentary control of th
Much of the work done by parliament is scrutiny of the executive. Parliament has a responsibility to expose errors that have been made, examine and debate a parties policies, hold them up to criticism and act as a check upon ministers both individually and collectively.
Scrutiny of legislation now takes place in STANDING COMMITTEES or PUBLIC BILL COMMITTEES. They operate in a less formal and adversarial way than the business conducted in the chamber.
General scrutiny of the executive is carried out by debates, questioning, writing/letters, question time and parliamentary committees.
Opposition can air criticism via the media, and they also have 20 days a year timetabled for debate and criticism of any aspect of government policy which they wish to highlight.
Oral questions are put forward to department ministers on a rota basis. Some are written to gather information, but others are written to raise a party point. Those not answered in the house get a written reply. In addition, some 35 000 written questions are asked per session.
PMQ's operates once a week for half an hour on a Wednesday (as modified by Tony Blair), used to be 15 minutes twice a week. PMQ allows opposition parties to question the PM on his decisions/actions/proposals/policies and allows him to be held to account.
PMQ is popular with the media and is the high point of the political week. It is an entertaining spectacle which generates more drama than conclusions. It can be seen as political theatre.
The use of select committees
Less dramatic and formal than question time, but more thorough and rigorous. Committee scrutiny is the most effective form of scrutiny.
DEPARTMENTAL SELECT COMMITTEES are designed to monitor the administration expenditure and policies of a department. They are made up of back benchers, the number in proportion to the representation of their party in the commons.
The committee of selection appoints members for the life time of a parliament. If they are reflected then they can sit on the committee again which allows them to gain expertise.
Select committees have the power to send for people, papers and records, receive evidence from ministers and civil servants and can use the services of outside experts.
It can be argued that scrutiny from things such as debates which take place on the floor in the commons are more important than committee scrutiny.
For and against select committees
-they work in a less partisan way than happenings in the chamber and try to come to an agreed report on their findings.
-members are often well informed developing a real specialism.
-they have made government more open, evidence is taken in public and ministers being examined in a more thorough way.
-they deter ministers from acting in a way which they wouldn't be able to justify to a select committee.
-they my manage to persuade governments to take a different course.
-in recent years whips have tried to keep the more independent and critical MPs off committees
-committees need more resources, their budget is too small to carry out substantial independent research
-generate much paperwork which is often shelved and forgotten
-They need more powers, ministers attend but can refuse to answer and civil servant often withhold documents for the 'good of the nation'
-they have a majority of government party members as their membership reflects seats in the house
Differneces between public bill/standing committee
-Public bill committees are appointed every session, Select committees are appointed for the duration of parliament.
-Public bill committees are non specialist, bills are allocated to the next committee, where's Select committees sever for a long period of time giving them expertise in their areas.
-Public bill committees are usually larger than select committees, Public bill committees have between 11 and 50 members whereas Select committees have between 11 and 16.
-Public bill committees are concerned with scrutinising a stage in the legislative process, Select committees are responsible for scrutinising the expenditure, administration and policies of certain departments.
-Public bill committees are usually less investigatory than Select Committees. Since 2006 select committees have had the opportunity to hold hearings and collect evidence.
Her Majesty's Royal Opposition
Her Majesty's loyal opposition is the second largest party in the house of commons and a recognised part of the constitution.
The opposition plays an essential role in day to day affairs of parliament, providing a structured and regular challenge to the measures and actions of government, it has three main functions:
(1) to oppose the government. Opposes ministers when they do things differently to the way it reccommends. It needs to provide sustained scrutiny, questioning ministerial proposals and testing them through debate.
(2) supports the government where appropriate, not opposing for the sake of it. This is the concept of responsible, constructive opposition. Careful scrutiny is given, but if ministers do things seen broadly in national interest then opposition will try to be bi partisan and cooperative.
(3) the opposition is also an alternative government. If its criticisms are not well thought out and constructive then it will lack credibility and seem obstructive. It needs to produce a coherent and convincing range of alternative courses for action.
Problems for the opposition
-they don't have the information which the government does. Ministers have civil servant/political advisors to brief them and know the state of accounts. The opposition lack help from officials in the civil service and does not have access to detailed information.
-governments set the political agenda and opposition normally responds to it. Ministers can, and sometimes do, take over the best opposition policies. It is also the government who set the date of an election.
-morale can be low, especially after a landslide defeat and party divisions may set in.
-prospects for reelection can seem dismal, especially when the governments majority is vast. It takes a lot of work and time for the public to forget the mistakes made by the opposition when it was in office.
-if the opposition try too quickly to reverse government policy in order to expose question, it brings about the question of why the opposition couldn't get it right when they were in office.
Do individual MPs make a difference?
Parliamentary time is monopolised by the government. Ordinary back bench MPs can feel powerless and as though their only role is to vote as their party wants them to.
There limited ways in which MPs can make a difference:
-criticise policy during question time, by ballot on the motion for adjournment, and speak in a debate if they can catch the speakers eye (they stand up in their seat during a debate if they wish to speak)
-initiate legislation- they can introduce a Private Members bill by winning a good position in the annual ballot of private members or introducing a bill under the ten minute rule.
-convey their views via appearances and propaganda both inside the house and through the media by appearing at public functions and on national And local radio and tv shows.
There are many limitations on an MPs such as fear of losing the party whip. By being loyal and supportive they can bahave as trainee ministers waiting for their time to come.
Factors influencing the effectiveness of MPs
-possibly the biggest restriction is demands for party loyalty. MPs know that their parties expect them to show support in the voting lobbies as they were elected on a party manifesto. MPs are scared if they don't 'toe the party line' then they will lose the party whip, they will be exiled from the party and stand no chance of promotion.
-poor facilities- lack of office space, computerised equipment, and assistance with handling constituency problems is a large restriction
-immense amount and complexity of government business- MPs struggle to have a wide range of knowledge on every issue or aspect of life which the public expect them to, they find it best to specialise in a specific area so that they can be informed of the whole array of policy areas.
-growing burden of constituency work- constituency work has become a lot more demanding, constituents presume that their MPs will be taking up all of their social and personal problems. Emails, letters and faxes are now increasingly sent to MPs. For MPs, dealing with correspondence can take between 2 and 3 hours a day.
-service on public bill or select committees. This removes MPs from the floor of the house which is the only place where ministers can be truly challenged and governments placed under threat.
MPs, the whips and party loyalty.
There is a strong sense of party discipline in british politics.
WHIPS are officials who manage the supporters of their party in the HOC. They have te responsibility of maintaining party unity and discipline.
WHIPPING SYSTEM is the system used by the party whips to ensure that party discipline is maintained with MPs expected to stay loyal in parliamentary votes.
In the UK, the chief whip in the house of commons is usually assisted by 10 assistant whips, all of whom are MPs. Party discipline is less strong in the lords.
'whipped' votes are votes in which the party whips instruct members on the line they need to adopt, how they should vote. Items are underlined once, twice or three times depending on their importance. For a 'three line whip' members are expected to attend, absence only being approved of if seriously ill, out of the country on parliamentary business or under other exceptional reasons. On occasions, MPs may be allowed to miss votes if they can make a 'pairing' arrangement in which them and one of the other MPs from the opposing party agree not to vote in a particular division. This gives both MPs the option to absent themselves from commons proceedings. This arrangement has to be registered with the whips.
Why is party unity essential for parties?
-Splits can lead to the loss of the governing parties majority.
-governments wish to legislate on programmes on which they have fought the election in order to carry out their mandate. They need to be able to rely on the support of MPs in order to implement their policies.
-divisions are harmful for parties, they provide opportunities for media and opposition to exploit the divisions and differences.
-parties which do face three way division (some members for, some members against, some abstaining) can create confusion and make the public question party policy.
Why do MPs toe the party line?
-for fear of losing the party whip.
-to further their careers.
-however much they doubt their own sides policy, they don't want to endanger the governments survival and see opposition occupy the ministerial sets.
-for young MPs who hope to climb the ministerial ladder, the prospect of promotion keeps them in line. They don't want to lose the priviledges of membership of a political party, such as the right to attend its meetings.
-they know that in the privacy of a back bench meeting, they can argue for a concessions from the minister and (especially if doubts are widely held) most likely get one. The minister may well be flexible to ensure his bill gets through.
Rebellions do occur
In 2003 when the invasion of Iraq was launched by the Labour government, labours own MPs were rebellious. The habit of rebellion became well established under the labour government, there were also rebellions and abstentions over fox hunting and foundation hospitals.
There are also some free votes, primarily on socio moral issues in which MPs can chose to express their individual attitudes rather than toe the party line.
The free vote on fox hunting in 2003 showed 329 labour members rejecting the preferred ministerial option of licensed hunts.
The abolition of hunting was one in which MPs got their own way. It resulted in a total ban which went against the PMs wishes and resulted in him having to use the parliament act of 1949 to enforce the measure.
Significance of an average back bench MP
There has never been an age where MPs knew everything about everything, but today they are in the same position and also held in lower regard than previously. The opportunity for MPs to influence national events is also limited. But MPs can make their mark. They can ask questions, speak in debates, be members of select or standing committees and crusade for good causes. MPs do not have a very high profile but some can be seen on tv and have an impact via broadcasting. A lot depends on the routes MPs chose to take, they can be:
-useful party members- provide advice in specialist areas and appear on the relevant committees. Support the party in the lobbies, loyal.
-good constituency members- such MPs devote time to their constituency work and take up personal cases earning themselves a well deserved reputation for diligence and effectiveness on behalf of those they wish to serve.
-individualists/independent spwithin the system- colourful characters not easily contained within the system. Genuine independent are few, but there are some independents within parties such as conservative richard Shepard is known to be persistent and courageous.
-part timers- still seek to combine their parliamentary activity with an outside occupation.
Reputation of parliament
Many critics have said that there has been a decline in the legislature in Britain, it can be said that there is a loss of parliamentary control. There are different ideas about the role of parliament, they focus primarily on the HOC as the elected chamber:
-critics think the house needs strengthening so it can wield greater influence and effectively hold the government to account.
-others expect a lesser role. They see it as an important debating chamber where grievances are aired and party struggles are conducted. They see it as more of a place to vent arguments than a body to check upon the executive. Reforms to make the house more efficient and use its time more effectively would be welcomed.
Differing views of reform
-ministers want a more efficient system so that they can pass their legislation through quicker.
-MPs may wish to have an improved working environment with more reasonable hours, more convenience.
-other MPs may want to remove updated practices and principles.
-academics and commentators may feel that parliament needs to be strengthened to provide a greater check upon the government.
What has been done to parliament since 1997?
Changes have been made to:
-modify the timetable of the commons- hours were made more family friendly in 2002 with proceedings to start earlier and finish earlier. Revised in 2005 to allow late proceedings on a tuesday.
-provide more office space- the opening of portcullis house next to Westminster.
-PMQ's, one half hour session on a Wednesday rather than two short ones.
-provide for more pre legislative scrutiny of legislation- ensures a bill has already received careful analysis and there has been a check on potential problems.
-allow for debates and occasionally questioning sessions in mpwestminster hall- there has been a specially converted room off the main hall so more opportuniteis can be provided so MPs can have their say.
What more could be done?
-more powerful select committee- at the minute they lack funding and resources. They should have stronger powers to make ministers answer and there should be less influence of the whips inn selection of membership.
-better pay and facilities for MPs- many MPs find they can't get the secratarial and research help that they need. Many think they need far more constituency help.
-full time MPs- there are many part time MPs and critics say that they can't do two jobs well and membership of parliament is a full time job. Argument works both ways.
-less MPs- Michael Howard and Philip norton have called for a cut in numbers to 450. Reduce the current payroll and enable money to be spent on better resourcing MPs.
-more free votes- strong party discipline worries MPs less than critics. MPs like free votes on socio moral topics but accept that if governments are to push through their legislation then a strict whipping system is necessary. They also know that there are other ways of influencing events.