Unit 2 - Parliament Notes

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Government and Politics Unit 2 - Parliament

Reform of the House of Commons:

New Labour 1997-2010

  • Pre-legislative Scrutiny - The greater scrutiny of draft bills prior to the formal legislative process. For example, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Child Support Act 1991 were both high-profile policy failures. Therefore, Labour felt the need for improvement within the quality of legislation.
  • Carry-over Legislation - Bills that fail to get through the legislative process in one parliamentary session can complete the process in the next, provided that they pass within one calender year. For example, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 and the Energy Bill Act both complete the legislative process in the next parliamentary session.
  • Modernisation Committee - This was set up to consider reforms of the Commons' procedures. Its recommendations included changes to working hours.
  • Liason Committee - Since 2002, the Prime Minister has faced questions from the Liason Committee twice a year. This allows for greater scrutiny than occurs in the most partisan atmosphere of the chamber. This can be argued to be ineffective as it's only making the Prime Minister accountable twice a year. 
  • Westminster Hall Sittings - These sittings deal with non-controversial issues, select committee reports and motions.
  • Hearings on public appointment - Since 2008, select committees have held pre-appointment hearings for over 60 public appoints. For example, the Chair of Ofcom has to have a pre-appointment hearing where they take evidence from the preferred candidate.
  • Impact of Devolution - Westminster no longer makes laws on policies that have been devolved. Therefore, issues on devolved matters cannot longer be addressed to UK ministers at Westminster.

Under Coalition

  • Fixed-term parliaments - General Elections will be held after a fixed five years. Parliament can still be devolved on a motion of no confidence, as happened under Callaghan's government in 1979. An example of this is that Thatcher held a General Election as soon as possible after the Faulklands because she gained more support.
  • Implementation of the Wright Proposals
    • The Backbench Business Committee determines the business of the Commons for one day a week. 
    • Public e-petitions that attract more than 100,000 signatures may be considered for debate in Parliament by the Backbench Business Committee.
    • Chairs to select committees are elected by a secret ballot of MPs and committee members are elected within their party groups rather than nominated by the whips. 

Failed Reforms

  • Alternative Vote - In a referendum in 2011, voters rejected a proposal to replace FPTP with AV for elections in the Commons. Results were a 32.1% yes vote and a 67.9% no vote with a turnout of 42.2%.
  • Reduction in the size of the Commons - Proposed to reduce MPs from 650 to 600 and equalise the size of constituencies. This could have caused gerrymandering.
  • Recall of MPs - A draft bill proposed that MPs found guilty of serious wrong doing by the courts or Parliament could be recalled. For example, MPs arrested in the expenses scandal.
  • West Lothian Question - The McKay Commission 2012 recommended changes to parliamentary procedures…


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