House of Commons and Lords

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Evaluation of the House of Lords and Commons- ocr spec

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House of Commons and Lords

  1. 1. Strengths WeaknessesHas always acted independently-chair is by tradition an MP (MargaretHodge)Cannot enforce it’srecommendations-Full access to details of governmentfinancial arrangementsEXAMPLES(PAC) report into tax avoidance, theinquiry heavily criticised the HMRCover its inability to tackle corporatetax dodgers and the big accountancyfirms that help big businesses pay aslittle tax as legally possible, throughloopholes in the law.Overspending in educationHighly respected by policy makers
  2. 2. HOC DEPARTMENTAL SELECTCOMMITTEESSTRENGTHS Act largely independent of partycontrol – remain neutral Power to call ministers, civilservants and outsiders aswitnesses to their hearings May call for official documents Given time for extensivequestioningWEAKNESSES Relatively little research back up No ability to enforcerecommendations Sometimes under pressure ofparty whips Examples- transport committeerecommends third runway atheathrow but not east london.
  3. 3. Hoc legislative committees(mostly public bill committees)Strengths Have the oppurtunity to examinelegisaltion in detailweaknesses Nearly always divide on partylines and so are not independent Lack expertise and researchback up If they take too muchtime, government can curtailtheir debates Their decisions may beoverturned by the whole house.
  4. 4. Hol public bill committeesStrengths Many members have specialistknowledge, experience Relatively free from party control Can be obstructive and so gainconcessions from the parliamentweaknesses Proposed amendments can beoverturned in the hoc Government can re presentproposed legislation in the nextparliamentary session, in whichcase committees are powerlessto interfereThe Lords has rejected theestablishment of a Commons-style backbench businesscommittee as peers raiseissues of cost andtransparency.
  5. 5. House of commons- relationshipFactors in the governments favour Normal to enjoy a majority of MPs.Governing party usually wins anoverall majority at a generalelection. Patronage- most MPs hope to bepromoted to ministerial office. Thus,they need to demonstrate to the PMthat they are loyal party members The government whips have anumber of methods by which theycan persuade their own party’s MPsto support the gov, even if they havereservations.Factors in the Commons favour Ultimately the commons can voteagainst a governmentproposal, either a whole bill or anamendment to a bill The departmental selectcommittees tend to actindependently of MPs partyallegiances. Reports from these canbe critical and can force changes ingov policy. Government must make itselfaccountable to the house ofcommons.
  6. 6. House of lords- relationshipFactors in the governments favour The lords has more limited powerthan the commons. Under the termsof the parliament act 1949, it cannotinterfere with any measures involvingthe public finances and can only delayproposed legislation for one year (andcannot veto it) Any amendmentsproposed in the Lords must beapproved by the Commons. Thismeans the government can blockmost amendments. The Salisbury convention Government maintains a great deal ofcontrol over the business of the Lordsand so can manipulate timetableFactors in the Lords favour Government does not enjoy amajority in the Lords Most peers are not propoliticians. They can beindependently minded The Lords can not vetoproposals but can delay andobstruct them. This gives thelords some influence overgovernment
  7. 7. Evaluation of the HOCReprentationPOSITIVE- Most MPs are active inrepresenting constituencies +pressure groups + associationsNEGATIVE Not socially representative Party loyalty means they may notrepresent national or groupinterests Does not accurately representsupport for parties among theelectorateCalling gov to accountPOSTITIVE MPs question ministers at question timesessions. Liasion Committee also questions PMtwice a year. Ministers are forced to present all policiesto the commons before making other publicannouncements Select committees are independent. Theyexamine gov and are often very critical.NEGATIVE PMQs have become a media sideshowwith little relevance to real policyexamination MPs are reluctant to be critical as theywould appear disloyal
  8. 8. Evaluation of the HOCcont…ScrutinyPOSITIVE Select committees have proved tobe effective in scrutinizing policiesof gov departments andpublicising shortcomings.NEGATIVE MPs are given little time toscrutinise proposed legislation, solaws are often purely drafted Because legislative committeesare whipped in to party loyalty,MPs are not independent mindedin their scrutiny function.LegislatingPOSTITIVE Commons should make legislationlegitimate, so granting consent onbehalf of people. This operates welland laws are generally respectedbecause they have been legitimised inparliament Commons retains power to blocklegislation which is against the publicinterest or which represents an abuseof powerNEGATIVE The procedures of Parliament inrespect of passing legislation areancient and considered to beinefficient and ritualised.
  9. 9. DeliberationPOSITIVE Commons is seen at its best ongreat issues of the day ie war in iraq2003, terrorism and on funding ofhigher education.NEGATIVE Commons is given little time fordebate, so programme is crowded Debates tend to divide along partylines and so lose their authorityChecking government powerPOSITIVE The commons retains it’s power toveto legislation and this representsa discipline upon govs.NEGATIVE Party loyalty and discipline meansthat many MPs are reluctant tochallenge gov. Gov rarely loses amajor vote.
  10. 10. Evaluation of the HoLRepresentationPOSITIVES Lords more representative thanCommons- many sections ofsociety represented by peers. IeLord PuttnamNEGATIVES Unelected so could be said to berepresentative of no one. Notsocially representativeCalling gov to accountPOSITIVES Peers are more independentminded than MPs and can bemore active in their questioningand criticisms of ministersNEGATIVES No departmental selectcommittees, so a valuablemeans which can call gov toaccount is missing
  11. 11. Cont…scrutinyPOSITIVE The legislative committees in theLords can be more effective thantheir counter parts in theCommons. These Committeesdivide much less along party linesand are more independent The peers often have specialexpertiseNEGATIVE It cannot force legislativeamendments throughLegislationPOSITIVE Laws must go through hol to bepassed. Therefore knowledgethat laws have been scrutinisedNEGATIVE As an unelected body, lords cannot provide legitimization tolegislation
  12. 12. ……..DeliberationPOSITIVES Hol has more time to deliberateon important issues Lords has vast range ofknowledge and expertiseNEGATIVES Lords has weak legislatingpowers- debates may be purelysymbolicChecking gov powerPOSITIVES Can not be controlled by gov soacts in dependent wayNEGATIVES Gov can bypass obstruction ofLords. The elected governmentand HOC will ultimately win overthe unelected Lords.
  13. 13. 2010 reforms –• In June 2010, the BACKBENCH BUSINESS COMMITTEE was set up with a chair elected by MPs.The committee controls the debates in the main chamber on 27 days per year and may select anytopic. Topics in 2010 included war in Afghanistan and the concept of ‘big society.’ Committee alsoschedules 8 days of debate in westminster central hall.• From 2010 onwards, the chairs of departmental select committees are elected by backbench MPs.Takes away power from party whips and leaders2010 proposed reforms –• A house business committee to be set up which will control day to day business of the house.• Constituency boundaries to be redrawn• Constituents to be given power to recall their MPs . A petition would force a by-election• Size of the house to be reduced by 10%. Money saving and will streamline Commons.Other proposals-• Proposed change of electoral system to AV• Calls for select and perhaps legislative committees to examine proposed laws before they are debatedin the house. Save time and improve quality of legislation.• Some have argued for a more streamlined procedure for the passage of legislation, possibly by cuttingout one or two of the three main stages by which a bill is debated.
  14. 14. REFORM OF THE HOLReform Advantages DisadvantagesAbolition • Save money• Streamline legislative process• Remove obstructions to efficientgovernment• Hoc would face up to responsibilities• Important check on gov power wouldbe lost• Deny worthy individuals theopportunity to engage in politics• Expertise of 2nd chamber would belostAll appointed • Many individuals could be brought into politics• Opportunity to manipulatemembership to ensure political andsocial balance• Would result in a more independentbody than elected chamber• Might put too much patronage powerin to the hands of party leadersFully elected • Most democratic• Members fully accountable• House would have more authority andso more effective check on gov power• Proportional representation, reflectstrengths of parties more accurately• House might become too influentionaland so obstruct gov excessively• Unneccessary to have two electedchambers• People might become apathetic if toomany elections.

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