Parliament Revision

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House of Commons

Sovreignty- all powers lies here

Legislative supremacy- has supremacy over legislation being passed/debated

Democratcially elected- 650 MPs

Whips, appointed by each party to:

  • Ensure MPs vote
  • Instruct MPs how to vote
  • Party discipline
  • Persuade them to vote with party line, even issuing threats
  • Expel rebel MPs

Vote of no confidence can remove Government, and Parliament dissolves

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House of Lords

Unelected and subordinate to House of Commons

Can block bills for a year, as per the Parliament Act 1949 (excludes money bills)

Propose ammendments- if rejected by the House of Commons, they can back down or block

But they can still push it through- eg. Hunting Act 2004

Salisbury-Addison Convention- Cannot attack bills that enact manifesto promises

Hereditary peers- House of Lords Act 1999, only 92 left compared to 750- can be elected when Lord dies

Life peers- appointed by PM, who have made a worthy contribution to the country (eg Alan Sugar)

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Functions of Parliament- Legislative


  • Draft proposal act. When it becomes law, it then becomes an act
  • Public bills, promoted by Government Minister on general issues of public policy
  • Green paper= sets out options
  • White paper=firm proposals, explains objectives


  • Pre-legislative scrunity- introduced by Blair to improve Government scrunity
  • Many bills in draft form go to Dept. Select Committee
  • 1st Reading
  • 2nd Reading
  • Committee Stage
  • Report Stage
  • 3rd Reading

After these steps, the bill is then sent to the House of Lords to go though these same steps again. If amended, the Commons can agree, reject or amend further. May go back and forth  in "Parliamentary ping pong".

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Functions of Parliament- Legislative (continued)

Private Members' Bills

Introduced by back bench MPs

Small number become law, eg. Murder Act 1965 (abolished the death penalty)

The effective of these is limted:

  • Due to the dominance of the executive
  • Most bills orignate from Government. Without executive backing, Private Members' Bills rarely succeed
  • Parliamentary timetable controlled by executive
  • Whips mean that Government proposals are rarely defeated
  • Lords can alter but not change key features, and cannot block indefinitely

So Parliament only reacts to Government proposals rather than taking the lead in formulating policies

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Functions of Parliament- Representation

MPs= exclusively reprsentattive of constituents

Hansard Study in 2005 showed that MPs showed spent half their time on constituents

They hold regular surgeries for constituents where they can come and express worries, concerns and defend their interests

Electoral Commission showed that 41% electorate were happy with their local MPs, 12% dissatisfied

Under representation in the Commons:

  • Ethnic diversity- 4% house, 8% population
  • Age- 50 year average in 2010
  • Sexuality- 20 people openly gay
  • Education- 1/3 attended private school. Fewer than 10% of voters do so
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Functions of Parliament- Recruitment of Ministers

109 ministers- ministers must be members of House Commons or Lords


  • Communication are now no longer shown in Parliament. They must excel themselves on TV
  • Experience=MPs in politics before Parliament= 20%, meaning they lack life experience
  • Conformity: reliable MPs= better chance. Not good for those on the backbenches
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Functions of Parliament- Legitimacy

Policies scruntinised and discussed by MPs who represent the people

They hold the executive to account

Represent interests of constituents


  • Lords play an important role, but are unelected so legitimacy is limited because they're undemocratic
  • PM's questions= negative portrayal
  • Damaged by sleaze and scandal. Cash for Questions in the 1990s, MPs expenses 2009 (Steen for a "duck island", tax avoidance, "flipping" of 2nd homes, caused resignations such as Michael Martin)
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Scrunity and Accountabilty of Parliament

Scruntinises actions of executives

Ensured accountablity- ministers must justify actions

Individual Minsiteral Responbility- accountable to Parliament. Misleaders may have to resign

Question Time- Ministers face questions from MPs

Prime Minister's Questions- leader of the opposition, the third largest party and backbenchers, who are selected by the Speaker, ask most questions towards MPs

Ineffective scrunity- more theoretcial

Oppostition- they are meant to: oppose legislation, confront the Governement during PMQs and forces votes on legislation

However- they try to appear as an alternative government in waiting, agreeing with someone legislation

If the Government holds a small majority they be able to force u turns and and inflict debates

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Scrunity and Accountablity of Parliament- Debates


  • 1/2 an hour at the end of each day
  • Ministers make a statement followed by debates
  • often poorly attended
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Scrunity and Accountablity of Parliament- Select C

Select Committees

  • More effective then debates
  • Created in 1979
  • Membership= 11-14 backbenchers who reflect party balance
  • Examples are Defence, Education, Justice, Transport and Health
  • Chairs have a repuation for independence which can cause unease in Government
  • Works on a basis of constructive enagagement, not confrontation, and tries to strike compromises between party lines
  • Members can be experts in their field
  • They decide the issues to examine
  • Can examine restricted documents
  • Wide powers to summon Ministers, officials and  outside experts. Jamie Oliver for the Health Select Committee in 2008 and Dr David Kelly stern questioning over WMDs ate Foreign Affairs Committee in 2003
  • Government does not have to accept recconmendations
  • Lords, small number of committees conduct in depth inquriries on topical issues, such as the EU Committee
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Scrunity and Accountablity of Parliament- Select C

Are they effective at scrutinising?

  • select committees improve and extend Parliament's scruntiny of executive
  • deeepened accountablity
  • Debate on major issues advanced
  • Remit widened


  • Lakc of resources
  • Witnesses can be unhelpful
  • Governemnt can ignore recconmendations

However, in 2010, MPs approved proposals for the chair to be elected, and other members in their party. Limits powers of whips to control membership, improves independence.

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Reform- The Commons

House of Commons reforms under the Coalition:

  • Fixed term Parliament of 5 years- the PM can no longer choose the date of the General Election. Government required to resign if it looses a motion of no confidence, but 55% of MPs must agree to dissolution
  • Wright proposals- chairs of select committees elected by backbenchers
  • Public reading stage for bills-members of the public can comment online
  • Recall of MPs- unsatisfactory MPs can be recalled by constituents and can force a by- election
  • AV referendum (to change the voting system, though this was unsuccessful)
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Reform- The Lords

Should they be elected?


  • More legitimate due it being democratic
  • Better placed to scrutinise and amend bills which will improve the quality of legislation
  • If no party holds the majority it would be able to challenge the Executive
  • If elected by PR, it would be more representative of the country


  • Conflict with Commons
  • Conflict between two elected chambers would mean legislative gridlock
  • An appointed house would retain the expertise and independence of cross bencher peers
  • Shortcomings of party control of found in the House of Commons would be duplicated
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Reform- The Lords (continued)

Reforms for each party

  • Nick Clegg= wants 80% of the house to be democratically elected
  • David Cameron= personally opposes it but supporting to aid the Coalition
  • Ed Milaband=opposing it to spite Clegg

House of Lords Reform Bill 2012

The Bill had its first reading in June 2012, but due to opposition from the Conservatives, formally withdrew the Bill in September 2012. One of its proposals was to not replaced hereditary peers when they die, therefore the House would have been elected or appointed.

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