Functions of Parliament.
- Granting formal approval for legislation.
- Calling government to account.
- Scrutinising legislation and proposing ammendments.
- Debating key political issues.
- Represent constituencies/constituents.
- Seek redress of grievances of citizens/groups.
- Vetoing legislation in extreme circumstances when its considered against national interest.
- Removing government from power if it has lost legitimacy (James Callaghan 1989)
- Delaying legislation for up to a year in order to force gov to reconsider it.
- Representing various interests/causes in society.
- Proposing ammendments to legislation in order to improve it and protect minority interests.
What is Parliamentary/Presidential Government?
- No seperation of power between government an Parliament.
- Government draws its authority from Parliament, not directly from the people.
- Government is not seperately elected from Parliament.
- Government is directly accountable to Parliament.
- members of gov must sit in the legislature.
- Excecutive and legislature branches of gov are seperate.
- President is elected seperately from legislatures.
- President doesnt sit in legislature.
- President is accountable to the people, not the legislature.
- There are constitutional rules that establish the limits of the president's powers.
Reasons why government dominates parliament?
- Gov can claim a mandate from the people for its policies when its elected, so parliament lacks legitimate right to ignore mandate and accepts gov's right to govern.
- Governments enjoy a clear majority normaly in the commons, so gov can normally count on the majority for support.
- Party loyalty is strong in the Uk.
- Most MP's seek promotion so are loyal to the PM. As the PM exercises the 'power of patronage' (is responsible for appointing posts), the PM has lots of influence.
- Governments use whips to maintain party loyalty. Rebellious MP's may seek warnings and may suffer as a result of not votig on party lines.
Ways Parliament can control Government?
- Ultimately Parliament is sovereign, it can veto legislation if it believes it is not in the public interest.
- House of Commons can remove a government through a vote of no confidence. (James Callaghan/Thatcher)
- Parliament can ammend legislation to improve it or remove offending clauses.
- Governments cannot override significant parliamentary opposition to a proposal.
- HOL retains independence because there is no majority there and patronage is weaker. It can theerfore defy the will of government.
- Powerful select committees cab be critical of government.
Examples of Parliament Defying Gov:
- James Calaghan removed in 1989.
- 1986 Shops Bill - Thatcher lost a vote on a major piece of legislation to allow more shops to open for trading on sundays.
- 2008 detention of terrorist suspects - Brown tried to extend detention period to 42 days without trial.
Public Accounts Committee
- Chaired by an opposition back-bencher.
- Investigates the financial aspects of gov.
- Influential and critical of gov.
Legislative Committees in HOC
- Consist of 15-40 back-bench MP's.
- Consider ammendments to proposed legislation
- Always have gov majority.
- Rarely pass ammendments against gov wishes.
Legislative Committees of the HOL
- Contains 15+ members
- Often contains peers who are experts in the field being debated.
- Subject to weaker party discipline than the commons.
- Often pass ammendments to improve legislation or protect minorities.
- Ammendments are subject to pwoer in commons so power is weakened.
- Do sometimes force gov to change its mind.
Effectiveness of HOC
:) - Most MP's are very active in representing constituencies and represent large pressure groups. (e.g. Smoking in public ban by ASH)
:( - parliament is not representitive - 147 women, Average age is 50, 27 ethnic minority MP's.
Calling Government to Account:
:) - PM Question Time every Wednesday scrutinises as questions the PM's policies and if they are legitimate.
:( - PM Question time has become more of a media sideshow with less relevance to policy examination. Many MP's fear being critical of own party leader for fear of being disloyal.
:) - Select Committees are effective in scrutinising legislation and publicising shortcomings/failures.
:( - MP's are given little time to scrutinise laws so they are often poorly drafted.
:) - Parliament can can block legislation that is against public interest and by legislation being approved, it makes it legitimate.
:( - Sometimes policy is pushed through despite opposing views (e.g. Ideologically inited.
Effectiveness of HOL?
- Representation - HOL is more representitive as many sections of society are represented. However they are unelected and unaccountable so may represent nobody. Also it is not socially representitive (only 182 women and only %5 are from ethnic minority.)
- Calling government to account - peers are more independent so can be more active in questioning , however there are no departmental select committees.
- Scrutiny - Committees in the HOL divide less along party lines and so are more independent. However the HOL often propose ammendments but it cannot force them through as they can be overturned by the HOC.
- Legislating - Laws must be passed though the lords to have full legitimacy. However as an unelected body, the HOL cannnot provide 100% legitimacy.
- Checking Government Power - as gov cannot control members of the Lords, the house can act in a different way. However the HOC can bypass the HOL so the HOC has more power than the unelected lords.
How Effective are MP's?
- Represent the interests/grievances of constituents.
- Departmental Select Committees made up of back-benchers have a good reputation for calling government to account.
- Mp's can be effective when questioning ministers on the floor of the house.
- Some independent minded Mp's can work effectively on behalf of pressure groups and political campaigners.
- When there is a conflict between party policy and constituency interest, party policy often wins.
- Mp's on legislative committees are ineffective and because gov dominates and whips enforce strict party discipline.
- Whips enforce strict party discipline on all key debates/votes.
- MP's have little in the way of research and resources and administrative back up to help them.
- Little time is reserved in Parliament for Back-benchers' business.
Effectiveness of Peers?
- Peers are more independent of party control so can be more effective as individuals.
- Many experts in areas of policy can help to improve legislation and quality of debate.
- Many campaigning peers do effective work on behalf of pressure groups.
- Peers dont have to fight elections and may hold office for longer periods so they have continuety.
- Paid very little and have a minimum of reserch and administrative back up.
- Powers of the HOL are limited as it is the junior house.
- They are not elected so laxk legitimacy and have less authority.
- They are not professional politicians and so may find it difficult to ccess the political system.
Impact of EU membership on Parliament
- EU law is superior to UK law.
- Uk laws cannot contradict UK laws.
- Some areas of policy have been taken out of Parliaments hands.
- Parliament have limited influence of the EU.
- Parliamentary sovereignty means that they could leave the EU at any time. (Nigel Ferrage and Nick Clegg debates show this.)
Who benefitted most from Coalition?
- Lib Dems wanted fixed term parliament and that happened.
- Tory's wanted to have 585 Mp's, but it was reduced to 600MP's in Parliament in Parliament, but Lib Dems wanted less (500) so Conservatives Benefitted more.
- Lib Dems were for gay Marriage and that happened, but it also benefitted Conservatives as it helped combat their hompohobic reputation.
- University tuition fees - Conservative benefitted.
- Lib Dems have shared power which is their aim, however conservatives only wanted an outright win, so lib Dems benefit. However Clegg is only deputy PM so Conservatives benefitted more.
- Conservatives benefitted moer as there was less comprimise.
- In June 2010 the Backbench business committee was set up with a chair elected by MP's. The committee controls the debates in the main chamber on 27 days per year and may select topics. (On June 14th 2013 there was a general discussion abaout mental health.
- From 2010 onwads the chairs of departmental select committees are elected by back-bench MP's. Takes power away from whips and leaders.
- HOC business comittee to be set up to control business of the house completely. (Implemented on March 4th 2010)
- Consttuency boundaries to be redrawn so they are of equal size to make elections fairer and MP's will have equal responsibilities. (not implemented - Lib Dems opposed this.)
- House size to be reduced by 10%, to save money and streamline the commons. (not happened yet but said to take place in 2015)
Why were reforms proposed?
- To restore respect and stop dissilusionmet from MP's.
- Make HOC more accountable.
- Improve ability of back-benchers & make voting power equal in all constituencies.
Options for HOL reform?
- Complete abolition of second chamber: Held by left wing MP's - no need for second chamber.
- Completely appointed second chamber: - held within Conservative party as it would bring 'worthy' people into politics and it would be a very independent chamber, as its members would not rely on the suppport of political parties.
- Completely elected second chamber: Supported by Lib Dems, Labour and Torys, its argued that it is the most democratic solution and would provide an effective, legitimate check on governments power.
- Partly elected, partly apointed chamber: supported by some Conservative and Labour members. Combination ranges from 50-50 to 80% elected, and 20% appointed.
Advantages/disadvantages for abolition.
- Saves money
- Streamline legislative process.
- Remove obstructions from government
- Force HOC to face up to its responsibilities.
- An important check on gov power would be lost.
- Would deny many worthy individuals of opportuinity to engage in politics.
- Expertise of second chamber would be lost.
Advantages/Disadvantages for all appointed chamber
- Many useful, knowledgeable people can be brought into politics.
- Would be an opportunity to manipulate membership to ensure political balance.
- More independent than elected chamber.
- Too much partonage power into the hands of party leaders.
- Still be seen as undemocratic and lacking legitimacy.
Advantages/disadvantages of fully elected chamber.
- Most democractic
- Members would be fully accountable.
- More authority and so be a more effective check on gov power.
- If elected by proportional representation, it would reflect strengths of the parties more accurately.
- May become too influential and obstruct gov.
- May be unnecessary to have 2 elected chambers.
- The people may be apathetic when faced with 2 elections. (lack enthusiasm)
Advantages/disadvantages of mixed elected/appointe
- Enjoy advantages of both of the main alternatives.
- Would suffer from the same problem as the two main alternatives.