starter activity I must remember to put in my expenses claim for this blue rosette Your local MP is Michael Howard. He is paid a salary of over £60,000 a year and receives additional allowances for office staff, accommodation and travel expenses. Do you think MPs are value for money?
Are MPs value for Aims money? To define the term ‘backbencher’ To identify the different roles of an MP To examine how the responsibilities of MPs have changed in recent years
Your task What is meant by the term ‘backbencher’? Find a good definition and write it down.
Backbenchers MPs who literally sit behind the ‘frontbench’ or leading spokespeople for their party Don’t hold ministerial posts Fulfil all conventional roles of an MPs, e.g represent constituents, can introduce Private Members’ Bills, sit on committees, take part in law-making and debates
Your task What are the key roles of an MP. List 5 from the various sources you have found.
Be loyal to the Party MPs expected to ‘toe the party line’ in debates & votes Attend party committees Promote party policies However, increasing examples of backbench rebellions, e.g. Iraq, tuition fees, anti-terror legislation
Serve the Constituency Regular surgeries Promoting constituency interests Attending political meetings & social functions Receiving constituents who visit Westminster Handle grievances & ensure they are dealt with at appropriate level, e.g. by asking questions in House
Serve the nation Attend house regularly Take part in debates Serve on select & standing committees Take part in law-making process 1996 survey, 50% of MP’s time taken up with parliamentary opposed to constituency duties
Advance personal causes Private Members’ Bills Act as spokespersons for particular interests or areas of their expertise Lobbied by private companies
Conflicts of interest Constituency needs may conflict with national policy, e.g. closure of a local industry Personal interests may conflict with party policy, e.g. foreign policy issues such as Iraq War
Your task There are three ways in which MPs claim to be representative. Study and summarise the three main theories of representation. Trustee Delegate MandateKey featuresLimitations
3 models of representation Trustee model – (originates with C18th politician, Edmund Burke) MPs have a duty to consult with constituents but ultimately must act according to own consciences Delegate model – MPs act as mouthpiece for constituents irregardless of personal opinions Mandate model – MPs elected as party members with duty to fulfil policies in manifesto
Problems with these models Party whips undermine the trustee model because MPs risk losing the whip if they act according to individual conscience Delegate model makes MPs much more accountable, and liable to disappoint some members of constituency MPs following Mandate model often accused of ‘toadyism’ and being out of touch with country
Your task Changing role of MPs. How has the role of MPs has changed in recent years. 5 minute research then brainstorm.
Limitations MPs meet constituents, pressure groups, party officials, members of the media etc. Average constituency covers 150 sq. miles, with 65,000 constituents; many long distances from Westminster Parliamentary sessions last longer, more bills Growth of select committees (involves 25% MPs) Growth of ‘professional’ MPs (A.King)
Reforms under New Labour 1994 Commons Committee on Standards in Public Life 1997, New Labour set up Modernisation Committee 2002, introduced by R.Cook, leader of HoC, for reductions in working hours from 11.30am to 7pm (instead of 2.30pm to 11 pm) PMQs merged into 1 half-hour session on Wednesdays (instead of 15 min. Tues & Thurs) Summer recess remained, but began and ended 2 weeks earlier in order to sit for 2 weeks before conference season Robin Cook
Plenary Are MPs value for money? Write a judgement paragraph giving detailed examples to illustrate your argument.