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As parliament


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As parliament

  1. 1. Politics – AS Parliament
  2. 2. What is parliamentary government? • A political system in which the Government governs in, and through, the legislature. • Britain is the oldest parliamentary system in the world, and Westminster has been described as “the mother of all Parliaments”Politics – AS Parliament
  3. 3. Comparison of UK & US System UK US • In a parliamentary government, the • In the United States, the chief executive derives from the executive (the President) is directly legislature elected by the people. The USA is • The executive is formed by the party therefore a Presidential system with the most seats in the House of • The President is not a member of Commons the legislature (called Congress), • Fusion of powers and neither are any of his Cabinet • The PM chooses his cabinet from members the legislature (Lords and • Separation of powers Commons) • Fixed term elections • Parliament can remove the • Also bi-cameral, but equal powers Government on a vote of no between the two chambers confidence • US system can result in legislature- • Date of the election is called by the executive deadlock PM • Bi-cameral, but the Commons predominatesPolitics – AS Parliament
  4. 4. What is Parliament? • A term used to describe the UK’s legislature (or law-making body) • 2 branches; the elected House of Commons, and the unelected House of Lords • 646 MPs are elected to the House of Commons. Each one holds legitimacy, because they have gained consent to legislate from the people (or demos) via an election • There are over 700 peers in the House of LordsPolitics – AS Parliament
  5. 5. Six Main Roles of Parliament • Representation • Lawmaking • Scrutiny • Legitimacy • Recruitment of ministers • DeliberationPolitics – AS Parliament
  6. 6. Legitimacy • Parliament awards legitimacy to the government via the following four steps; • The people elect representatives to the House of Commons, … • … who thus gain legitimacy from the people. • The Government derives from Parliament, thus … • … the UK Government is legitimate • Also bear in mind that Parliament can remove the Government on a vote of no confidence. The last successful motion was called in March 1979 against the Labour government of James CallaghanPolitics – AS Parliament
  7. 7. Scrutiny • One element of a representative democracy is the ability to hold the executive to account. As such, the members of the legislature must be able to scrutinise the actions of the executive • The Modernisation Committee looks at ways to improve accountability and scrutiny, and the Committee on Standards in Public Life considers allegations of sleaze • There are 6 ways in which the legislature scrutinises the executive; – Standing Committees – Select Committees – Ombudsman – Opposition Days – PMQs – House of LordsPolitics – AS Parliament
  8. 8. What is the difference between standing, and select committees? • Standing Committees • Select Committees • Examine every Bill that • Permanent committees passes through Parliament made up of MPs appointed • Every MP will be assigned on the basis of party to a standing committee at strength some stage • More powerful than standing committees • Can ask ministers to attend their meetingsPolitics – AS Parliament
  9. 9. Are Committees effective? • YES • NO • Backbench MPs have the • Limited powers, and few opportunity to scrutinise the resources executive and bills passed • The government often ignores through Parliament the reports published by select • Select Committees can be committees effective (e.g. the government • Some ministers (e.g. Brown) was forced to do something have refused to attend Select about the ‘Gulf War Syndrome’ Committees due to pressure from the • Party whips hold the upper hand Defence SC), and in some cases prestigious (e.g. the • There is always a majority from Public Accounts Committee, and the Government of the day the EC Committee in the Lords) • The more able (and ambitious) MPs tend not to get involved with committee workPolitics – AS Parliament
  10. 10. Representation • MPs are elected to represent the people • As they are not delegates, an MP is expected to follow his / her conscience (the Burkean notion) • However in practise, an MP may also be influenced by party whips, the national interest, self – interest, etc. • Whilst members of the Lords are not elected, they can represent certain interests. In recent years, the Lords has taken a particular interest in defending civil liberties against an increasingly authoritarian governmentPolitics – AS Parliament
  11. 11. Does Parliament scrutinise the executive effectively? • YES • NO • A great deal of Parliamentary • Strong party discipline makes time is spent on scrutiny effective scrutiny very difficult to • Select Committees have been achieve relatively effective in holding • Parliament suffers from limited ministers to account, even in the powers, and few resources House of Lords • Parliamentary sovereignty has • A bad performance by a Minister been transferred to the EU or PM can weaken their power • Referendums undermine • Backbench Labour MPs have Parliamentary sovereignty become more rebellious since • The House of Lords has few 2001 (e.g. over education powers reforms, and the Iraq war) • Since 1997, certain powers have been transferred to the devolved assembliesPolitics – AS Parliament
  12. 12. How representative is Parliament? • In theory, the Commons should represent all the people (i.e. “Government for the people”). However in practise, the Commons and the Lords is dominated by white, male, middle-class members of society • Women, ethnic minorities, the young and the working – class are heavily underrepresented in the UK Parliament. This has always been the case, although the situation in the Commons has improved in recent yearsPolitics – AS Parliament
  13. 13. Some facts on representation • There are 126 women MPs, just under 20% of the House of Commons • 18% of the Lords are women • Some parties do better than others. Just 9% of Tory MPs are women, which has led Cameron to place pressure on local associations to select more women candidates (the A list) • There are 15 ethnic minority MPs, or just over 2%. In contrast, 8% of the population is non-white • The youngest MP is Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire). She was born on the 5/2/1980 • The average age of an MP is 51Politics – AS Parliament
  14. 14. Lawmaking • A great deal of Parliamentary time is spent making laws • Most Bills derive from the Government, but some are instigated by backbench MPs. They are called Private Member Bills • Both the Commons and the Lords are involved in the legislative process • The Commons is the predominant body because it’s members are elected (and therefore hold democratic legitimacy) • The power of the Lords is limited by the; – Salisbury convention (where the Lords will not block a commitment made in the Government’s manifesto) – Power of delay limited to just 1 year – Lords cannot consider a Finance BillPolitics – AS Parliament
  15. 15. Recruitment of ministers • All ministers derive from Parliament • The overwhelming majority are taken from the House of Commons • Only members of the governing party can join the executive • The members of the executive are appointed by the Prime Minister. He / she can also fire them (e.g. Charles Clarke in 2006). These powers are called patronage powersPolitics – AS Parliament
  16. 16. Deliberation • Deliberation is the defining role of Parliament (a word that derives from the French verb ‘parle’ – to speak) • Many people have criticised the way in which Parliament performs this role. For example, the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was made at 2 am, and Parliament spent over 700 hours debating the issue of fox huntingPolitics – AS Parliament
  17. 17. What is the difference between an MP, and a peer? • MPs • Peers • Elected during a General • Unelected. Most peers are Election (or by-election in appointed by the PM, although some cases) there are 92 hereditary peers • The Lords is home to some of • Anyone over the age of 21 the finest legal minds in the can stand as a candidate country • All bar 2 MPs belong to a • 181 peers sit on the cross- political party benches (i.e. they are • MPs have been dismissed independent) as little more than “lobby • The main power of peers is the fodder” due to their weak ability to amend legislation. powers vis-à-vis the party They also spend a great deal of whips time scrutinising the executivePolitics – AS Parliament
  18. 18. What powers are held by the House of Lords? • Legislative powers (albeit limited). In practise, the Lords is more concerned with the revision of bills • Judicial powers – Law Lords are the highest court in the UK (although a case can go to the European Court of Human Rights) • Powers of deliberation • Clearly, the Lords is much weaker than the Commons, although no Government can completely ignore the House of LordsPolitics – AS Parliament
  19. 19. Arguments in FAVOUR of the Lords • Can act as a check on the power of the executive • Peers are more independent of party whips than MPs • The quality of committee work is often high • An opinion poll taken in 2005 revealed that 72% believe the Lords did a ‘fairly good’ or ‘very good’ job • Part of British tradition • Peers hold a wide experience of public life, sometimes more so than their elected counterparts • Final constitutional safeguard against the Government of the day • The Lords can be an effective agent of scrutiny • Last court of appeal in the UK • The traditional conservative with a small c argument against change;Politics – AS Parliament
  20. 20. Arguments AGAINST the Lords • Unelected, unaccountable, and therefore undemocratic • Life peers owe their loyalty to the PM of the day, thus weakening the independence of the Lords • Idea of hereditary peers is out-of-date • The “loans for peerages” scandal of 2006 raised considerable doubts over the integrity of the whole process of appointing members of the Lords • Under-representation of women (around 18% of peers are women) and ethnic minorities • Power of the Lords is weak (e.g. power of delay, Salisbury convention, can’t get involved with Finance Bills, etc.)Politics – AS Parliament
  21. 21. Is the Westminster Parliament effective? YES NO • Parliament does represent the people on a • EU / the Government are more important variety of issues sources of legislation than Parliament • The House of Commons holds democratic • Referendums tend to undermine legitimacy parliamentary sovereignty • Parliament can remove the Government on a • MPs have been described as “lobby fodder” vote of no confidence due to strong party discipline • Laws are passed in a democratic and fair • Ministers often ignore Select Committees manner • The power of the Lords is weak, and its’ • Parliament can often scrutinise the executive members are unelected in an effective manner • PMQs is little more than a “point-scoring • It is a useful recruiting ground for government exercise” ministers • Parliament is weak in comparison to the • Legislation is often improved via amendments “elected dictatorship” made by Parliament • The government has often bypassed • Opinion polls suggest that the public consider Parliament in favour of the media Parliament to be an effective institution • Certain law-making powers have been transferred to the devolved assemblies • Parliament can often appear “out of date” with modern BritainPolitics – AS Parliament