House of Lords and House of Commons

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  • Created on: 27-12-17 15:11
what are some of the functions of the HoC?
holding gov to account, scrutiny of legislation, constituency representation, national debate and representation of interests
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what are some of the functions of the HoL?
national debate, scrutiny and revising of legislation (including secondary legislation) and delaying legislation
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why does the HoL lack democratic legitimacy?
it is neither elected nor accountable
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what are some of the features of the HoC?
has sovereign powers, can veto legislation outright, can dismiss a gov and has final say on legislative ammendments
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what are some of the features of the HoL?
can't obstruct gov manifesto commitments, can propose amendments, can delay legislation and can't regulate financial affairs
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what are the 6 stages of the legislative process?
first reading, second reading, committee stage, report stage, transfer and royal assent
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what are some examples of cabinet members in the UK?
Theresa May (PM), Phillip Hammond (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Sajid Javid (Home Secretary)
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what are some examples of shadow cabinet members in the UK?
Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of Labour party), John McDonnell (Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer) and Diane Abbott (Shadow Home Secretary)
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how many MPs are there in the HoC?
650
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roughly how many constituents does one MP represent?
70,000
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under what system are MPs elected?
first past the post
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what are front bench MPs?
gov ministers or opposition shadow cabinet ministers
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what are back bench MPs?
represent constituencies and aren't part of the cabinet/shadow cabinet
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what are the functions of back bench MPs?
represent their constituents, create legislation, hold executive to account and represent their party
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what type of representation is used in the HoC?
geographical area constituency
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what are some of the ways that MPs represent constituents?
speak about issues in their area, raise local issues in parl, do constituency work, have meetings with constituents and pass on complaints to parl
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what are the 2 reasons that cause MPs to follow the party line?
promotion (power of patronage) and they support the ideology/legislation
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what are the functions of MPs?
control over passing legislation, private member's bills and hold executive to account,
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what is the ultimate power that MPs possess?
a 'vote of no confidence' to remove the PM
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what are some of the ways in which MPs are effective at holding the Executive to account?
effective if gov has small majority (eg Cameron Syria airstrikes) and select coms have no majority so more difficult for the executive
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what are some of the ways in which MPs are not effective at holding the Executive to account?
PMQs aren't effective because of planted questions and point-scoring and time- constraints, gov doesn't have to listen to MPs during debates, difficult if gov has large majority and standing com isn't effective due to inbuilt majority
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what are some of the functions of the whips?
arranging business (eg choosing a speaker for a debate), ensuring MPs attendance at important votes, exercise power of patronage to ensure MPs vote correctly and to ensure discipline (ie MPs vote the way the party wants them to)
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what is an example of someone having the whip with drawn?
Tory MP Marie Morris had whip withdrawn for racist remark, July 2017
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what is a one line whip?
MPs are suggested to vote with the party
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what is a two line whip?
MPs are required to vote with their party
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what is a three line whip?
MPs must vote with the party line or may have the whip withdrawn
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what are some of the reasons why MPs 'toe the line'
threat of having the whip withdrawn, ambitious MPs won't vote against gov and MPs agree with the legislation
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what is an example of positions being withdrawn from rebellious MPs by the whips?
during the John Major gov over the Mastricht Bill 8 Tory MPs had the whip withfrawn for continual rebellion
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what are some of the reasons why backbench MPs rebel?
ideologically opposed to the legislation or voting for their constituents,
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who is an example of an MP who rebelled many times
Tory MP Peter Bone
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what is an example of continued back bench rebellion over a proposed bill
the Labour party rebelled 27 times over Blair's proposed bill of identity cards before it was eventually scrapped
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what is an example of an opposition day vote?
the Universal Credit vote in October 2017 which the Tories lost due to abstaining from the vote
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what are some of the arguments in favour of direct democracy?
involves a lot more people (more democratic), increases participation and increases accountability
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what are some of the arguments against direct democracy?
tends to be majoritarian and doesn't require debate, people don't have to listen to both sides of the argument, can potentially have a vote carried out with less than 50% turnout and this method was used by dictators such as Hitler
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what are some examples of real life direct democracy?
referendums, online petitions and electing mayors (eg Mayor of London)
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how are private member bills chosen?
ballot, presentation and 10 min rule (MP speaks for 10 mins on an issue he/she may want to introduce a private member's bill)
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what are some of the reasons as to why private member's bills are rarely successful
time pressure, executive has majority in HoC therefore gov support, gov will talk about bills to ensure pmbs run out of time and pmb debates often held on Friday which has shorter parl time and less MPs present
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what are some examples of PMBs?
abolition of death penalty in 1965 and the Abortion Act in 1967
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what is question time?
this is when MPs ask gov ministers questions about policy, administration and expenditure of their gov department
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when does question time take place?
takes place Monday to Thursday each week when parl is in session and lasts for 1 hour each day
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for how long and when do PMQs take place?
30 mins on a Wednesday
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how many questions is an MP allowed to ask during question time
2 questions
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what type of questions are they?
the first of which is a written question submitted 2 days in advance to allow ministers to prepare an answer and the second is a verbal supplementary question on any matter
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what is the second question often designed to do?
to catch the minister out or embarrass them
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roughly how many written questions are submitted each year?
35,000
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what are some of the arguments that would support the belief that question time is very effective?
an important mechanism for holding executive to account, good way of publicising issues and bringing them to the attention of ministers and written questions particularly provide genuine and informative answers from ministers
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what are some of the arguments that would support the belief that question time is not very effective?
often descends into a rowdy political point-scoring slagging match, advance notice has to be give of some questions (means it isn't a real test for ministers), planted questions and minsters may give combative or evasive answers to a question
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what percentage of parl time is taken up with debates?
between 30 and 40%
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what is debated in parl?
proposed bills, Queen's Speech (annual speech written by PM), motions of no-confidence in the gov, adjournment debates (30 min debate at the end of every parl day) and emergency debates
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what are some criticisms of debates in parl?
because of gov majority it is rare for them to lose a vote at the ends of the debate, gov bills are usually passed at the end of the debate without making the changes requested by MPs and few MPs are swayed during debates because of the whips
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what are the 3 major UK parties?
Conservative party, Labour party and Liberal Democrat party
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is attendance during debates in HoC usually very high or very low?
very low, as few as 5-6 MPs may be present
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what are some of the strengths of debates?
backbench MPs can initiate debates on substantive motions, help hold executive to account, what gov says is reported in the media (public becomes aware), important opposition weapon and occasionally the gov can make concessions during a debate
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what is an example of the gov making a concession during a debate?
the gov made a concession during the Universal Credit debate dues to a large number of MPs threatening to rebel in 2017
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what is the oppostion?
consists of all parties not in gov (eg at the moment it is Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP etc)
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what is the official oppostion
the second largest party in parl
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what is opposition day?
when the opposition is given special time in parl to challenge the gov (eg on opposition day in October 2017 Labour challenged gov on universal credit)
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how many oppostion days are there every year?
20
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what is the shadow cabinet
a cabinet of the the official opposition who 'shadow' their cabinet their Cabinet equivalents and, where possible, hold them to continual account for their actions
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when is the shadow cabinet granted 'floor time' to question ministers
at Ministerial Question time and also at PMQs
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what is the role of the Oppostion?
to oppose and criticise the gov's policies, by voting against the gov and to scrutinise the gov's policies by asking questions at question time
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what are some of the methods used by the opposition to try and get into power?
highlight concerns, ask questions on issues and grill ministers on policy
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what is the idea of constructive policy?
that the opposition won't mindlessly oppose the gov, it will support the gov if it thinks the gov is correct
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what is an example of constructive oppostion?
the tory opposition supported the war in Iraq in 2003
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what are some of the powers of the Opposition Leader?
appoints shadow cabinet, questions PM every week at question time, is the rival candidate to become PM, develops policies for the party and decides which topic will be debated during Opposition days
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when was the last successful vote of no-confidence?
March 1979
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what are some of the weaknesses of the opposition?
they are always a minority in the HoC, lack info available to the gov, can suffer from low morale (especially after huge electoral defeat) and opposition MPs can feel there is little point turning up only to be massively defeated on every vote
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what are some of the ways in which parl scrutinises the executive?
force gov ministers to justify their policies, debates help question gov, scrutinise gov bills (standing coms do this in great depth) and select coms question ministers, civil servants etc
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what are the 2 types of coms?
public bill coms (also known as standing coms) and select coms
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what is the main difference between public bill and select coms?
public bill coms scrutinise legislation whereas select coms scrutinise gov departments/ public bodies
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what is the role of public bill coms?
assess proposed bills carefully, interview 'stake holders'(people who are affected by the bill) and scrutinise in detail
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who makes up public bill coms?
between 15 and 20 members who are backbenchers
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do public bill coms usually make major changes to the key principles of a bill?
no, it is very unusual however it often makes amendments to the workings of the bill
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what happens when public bill coms finish looking at a bill?
it reports its conclusions and any amendments made to the Commons, where members debate the bill further
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what are some of the ways in which the gov exerts its influence on public bill coms?
whips can influence MPs who are on the public bill coms and can ensure the bill is controlled, cut the procedure short by setting up a guillotine motion and any amendments that are made must be voted on in the report stage
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what are some of the strengths of public bill coms?
gov control can ensure that the bills they want and need are delivered fast and efficiently, opposition members allow scope for debate and can table useful amendments successfully andmore independent inded MPs can exist when gov majority is low
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what are some of the weaknesses of public bill coms?
com members ability to actually chose who they want to interview is limited, not enough time for the task of scrutinising, gov always has a majority and gov rarely wants their bills amended
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what is an example of a controversy caused by public bill coms?
Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May of an "unprecedented attempt to rig parl" by stacking tory MPs in key coms despite having no majority in HoC
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when were departmental select coms set up?
1979
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what are the responsibilities of the select coms?
to examine or shadow the work of gov departments or to look at s specific area ( eg public accounts com)
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what are the roles of the select coms?
have to hold their department publicly accountable for its use of public money, consider whether departmental policy has been well considered and effective and consider matters of public concern within their department
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what is an example of a bill reaching the com stage?
the EU withdrawal bill in 2017
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what is the membership of select coms
reflects the gov majority in the HoC (can be large or small)
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when is com membership decided?
after each general election at the start of a new parl
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what is the recent change to the membership of select coms?
each com is now voted on through secret ballots in party groups which adds a degree of back bench independence
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how long do members on select coms get to serve?
for the full parl term although changes are fairly common
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how is the chair of the com selected?
chairs of coms are now elected by secret ballots of all members and this takes place in the first meeting by the com itself and is a particularly prestigious position
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are select coms partisan or non-partisan
non-partisan (lay aside their party loyalties)
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how do select coms work?
the com chooses a topic to examine and take evidence from witnesses, a report is then produced with recommendations for the gov which it can ignore or take on board
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what are the powers of select coms?
they can order the attendance of witnesses, appoint specialists and meet them when the HoC isn't sitting, witnesses once accepting invitation can't refuse to answer questions and often the gov is compelled to act on their recommendations
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what is an example of a select com?
the Public Accounts Com
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what is the aim of the public accounts com?
making gov departments account for their expenditure ensuring max value for money by examining the ways in which taxes are raised and spent
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what is the current make up of the public accounts cm?
7 Tory, 6 Labour, 1 Lib Dem and 1 SNP
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what is an example of a recent HoC select com inquiry?
quality of apprenticeships and skills, November 2017
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what are the 2 other types of HoC coms?
joint coms and grand coms
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what are joint coms?
coms consisting of MPs and members of the HoL which work in much the same way as select coms
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what are grand coms?
exist to give MPs the opportunity to debate issues affecting their region and function in a similar way to the HoC chamber, any MP representing a constituency is entitled to attend a grand co meeting
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what legislation caused the Lords to ose a significant portion of the power
the Parliament Act 1911
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what power did the Lords lose as a result of the parl act 1911?
lost the legal right to amend money bills, and their power to delay legislation was reduced
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what legislation further reduced the Lord's delaying power to one year?
the Parliament Act 1949
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what was the makeup of the HoL before the 1950s
made up entirely of hereditary peers whose right to sit and vote in the chamber derived purely from a title inherited from within the family
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when were life peers established?
in 1958
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what are life peers?
members of the HoL ho were appointed by the PM of the day, for their life time only
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how many senior bishops from the Church of England are entitled to sit in the HoL?
24
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what are all the other 'secular' peers in the Lords called?
the Lords Temporal
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when was the Lord Chancellor abolished?
2007
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how many cross-benchers are therein the HoL?
200
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what are cross-benchers?
independent peers without any party affiliation, which include Law Lords and Bishops
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who are some people that have criticised hereditary peers in the HoL
PMs Cloyd George and Harold Wilson
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what party do hereditary peers tend to be affiliated with?
Conservative
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when did the Labour gov propose the abolition of all hereditary peers in the HoL
1999
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how many hereditary peers sit in the HoL currently?
92
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what is the 'cash for peerages' scandal?
a police inquiry in 2006-7 which probed into loans made to political parties before the 2005 general election where it emerged some wealthy donors had been nominated for peerages
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what legislation did the 'cash for peerages' violate?
the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act in 1925
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what are the powers of the HoL?
amend and revise legislation, can delay legislation by one year and block any bill entirely seeking to extend the life of parl beyond its 5 year max legal term, introduce PMBs and has the protection of parl privilege
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what is an example of the gov overriding the Lords using the 1949 parl act
the Labour gov overrode the Lords to push through the introduction of closed lists for EU elections and ban on fox hunting
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what is an example of the Lords making significant amendments to a bill?
in 2005 the Lords made some significant gov concessions to the new Terrorism Bill
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are debates in the Hol or HoC usually of a much higher quality
the HoL are of a much higher quality
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when were the Law Lords removed from the HoL?
in 2009 they were removed to a seperate 'supreme court' which amended the major breach of the lib democratic principle of the separation of powers
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what are some of the arguments in favour of the HoL?
job security means they can scrutinise effectively, many peers have much knowledge and expertise in various fields and act as 'Guardians of the UK Constitution',
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what are some of the arguments against the HoL?
wholly unelected legislative chamber, waste of tax payer's money and it is corrupt due to 'cash for peerages'
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what are some of the reasons as to why the HoL delays legislation?
encourage the gov to rethink, threat of delay can force gov to amend legislation, give time for the opposition to take action
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why is it more difficult to control the HoL?
can't be controlled with power of patronage, more independence, don't have to get re-elected, no constituents and no whips
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why is debate in the HoL more effective than the HoC?
Not as partisan, expertise, don't have to get re-elected and less time contraints
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how many Lords are currently sitting in the HoL?
798
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what are some of the methods used to hold the Executive to acount?
scrutiny of legislation, making recommendations for policy changes, publishing reports, seeking outside advice, questioning mistakes of civil servants, conducting investigations and using media to publicise findings
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in the 2010-15 parl, how much was claimed by peers in years they failed to vote once?
£360,000
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what percentage of Tory peers didn't vote once against the gov in 2016?
80%
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what % of the HoL is 70 or older?
54%
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how many peers failed to speak at all in the 2016/17 session?
109
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how many of these 109 peers claimed expenses?
63
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how much total expenses did these 63 peers claim?
over £1 million
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