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The role of the opposition

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  • 1. The Role of the Opposition
  • 2. How does it work
    • The opposition is charged with holding the government to account, even if heavily outnumbered
    • They can make damaging contributions in debates
    • The opposition leader can make public criticisms of the government’s record in PMQT
    • Other members of the shadow cabinet can call the members of the executive to account in a similar way
    • It is argued that having a strong opposition to government is vital
    • Without a strong opposition, the leading party can make serious mistakes
    • A strong opposition can help unite the backbenchers and even prevent rebellions
  • 3. The role of backbench MPs
    • Backbench MPs are members of ALL parties who are not part of the Executive (Ministers)
    • Key responsibilities are:
      • Representing their constituents
      • Serving constituents
      • Voting on legislation
      • Debates
      • Committee work
      • Private members’ bills
      • Executive Scrutiny
  • 4. The Legislative Process:
    • Queen’s speech: once agreed, the government’s programme is announced at the beginning of each parliamentary session
    • First Reading: (no vote)
    • Second Reading: MPs debate principle and vote on it
    • Committee stage: bill is allotted to relevant standing committee (see last lesson) where it is scrutinised but rarely changed much, due to government majority built into committee
    • Reading Stage: if the committee does suggest major changes, the House of Commons as a WHOLE has to approve them
    • Third Reading: Since the bill can no longer be amended, there are rarely changes or amendments at this stage
    • House of Lords: the bill must negotiate a similar course as the previous stages in the Lords. The HOL cannot reject a bill, however they can return the bill to the commons with amendments. The Commons can then choose whether to accept or reject these changes
    • Royal Assent: now a formality; however necessary for a bill to become law