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Flashcards in Parliament Deck (20):
1

House of commons

COMPOSITION:
-650 MPs- due to be reduced to 600
-MPs elected by single-member parliamentary constituency using FPTP voting system
-MPs are representative of party
-Most MPs are backbenchers (MP that does not hold a ministerial position)

POWERS:
-House of commons has supreme legislative power
-make, unmake, amend any law, lords can only delay those laws
-legal sovereignty of parl excersized by commons
-HOC can remove gov of the day- based on convention of collective ministerial responsibility

2

house of lords

LIFE PEERS- entitled to sit in HOL their lifetime. Appointed under life peerage Act by PM. Dominate HOL (678/792)
HEREDITARY PEERS- Inherited titles- dukes, barons etc. Only 92
LORD SPIRITUAL- Bishops, archbishops of C of E. 26 but proposals to reduce number to 12. appointed by PM on CofE recommends.
POWERS:
-Can delay bills passed by HOC for up to 1 year (not money bills though)
-Salisbury convention- Lords cannot defeat measures outlined in the gov election manifesto
-Lords posses some veto powers- Delays of general election, sacking of senior judges (w/ consent of both Houses of Parl) and introduction of secondary, or delegated legislation
(House of Lords Act 1999)- Removed all but 92 hereditary peers
(2005 constitutional reform act)- removed law lords from HOL and set up supreme court (2005)

3

monarchy

-appointing a government
-opening and dismissing parliament- at request of PM
-queens speech- informs parl of govs legislative programme - written by PM
-Royal assent- queen signs a bill to make it an Act, never refuse
-More of a dignified than effective constitution

4

functions of parliament (legislation)

Legislative- Branch of gov that has the power to make laws or unmake laws
-Parliament makes laws (legislature branch)
-Parliament is supreme legislature in UK (its sovereign)
-Devolved assemblies, local authorities etc can only make laws if parliament lets them
-not restricted by codified constitution
BUT
-Most of parls time spent considering govs legislative programme
-lords play subordinate role in legislative process. essentially a revising chamber- most of its time spent cleaning up bills not adequately scrutinized in the commons.

5

functions of parliament: representation

-Representative function carried out by elected HOC
-relationship between MP and their constituent
HOWEVER
-HOL is unelected- no representative role- undermines the democratic responsiveness of Parliament
-FPTP voting system is not representative of the pop
-MPs and peers are socially unrepresentative of larger society.

6

functions of parliament: scrutiny and oversight

-most important function= call gov to account by scrutinizing and overseeing what gov does
-by doing so parliament ensures responsible gov.
BUT
-majority of MPs in HOC belong to governing party so their primary role is to support gov of the day not criticise it
-question time is weak and ineffective - used to personally embarrass minister than scrutinize
-select comittees are good but:
1)gov has majority on each comittee
2)individual comittee appointments influenced by whips- ensure loyal BBs sit on key comittees
3) select comittees have no executive power to change gov - policy they can only criticise it.

7

functions of parliament: training of ministers

-before becoming frontbenchers, they must 'cut their teeth' on backbenches= they will have understanding of how gov works and of how policy is developed.
BUT
-Ministers recruited from limited pool of talent: mainly the MPs of largest party in HOC
-Dont gain bureacratic or management skills
-Fewer and fewer ministers have experienced careers outside of politics

8

functions of parliament: legitimacy

-Parliament 'stands for the public' being a representative assembly
BUT
-Unelected HOL has no democratic legitimacy
-respect for parliament has been undermined by cash for questions scandal. (MPs being paid for asking parliamentary question)

9

how laws are passed

1)PREPARATORY STAGE- Before bill passed their provisions outlined on a white paper or a green paper.
2)FIRST READING- Bill introduced to Parl
-No debate or vote yet
3)SECOND READING- Full debate that considers the principles of the bill
-First stage bill can be defeated
4)COMMITTEE STAGE- Details of the bill considered line by line by Public Bill committee
-most ammendments made now
5)REPORT STAGE- Committee reports to HOC on any changes
-commons may amend/ reverse changes at this stage
6) THIRD READING- Debate in full chamber of bill in its amended state
-no more amendments to be made
7)THE OTHER STAGE-Before going to monarch for Royal Assent

10

social background of MPs

SOCIAL CLASS
-Predominantly middle class
-manual working class underrepresented
GENDER
-Women underrepresented
-1980s-3%
-2010-21%- due to labours efforts to increase women MPs
ETHNICITY
-ethnic minorities underrepresented
-2010 only 27 black/asian MPs
AGE
-Predominantly middle aged
-70% between 40-59
-average age= 50
EDUCATION
-Over 2/3 graduates
-especially conservative - 2/3 attended private school
SEXUAL ORIENTATION
-11 openly gay MPs- mainly Labour

11

how does parliament call ministers to account

QUESTION TIME
-PMQs
-PM forced to answer Qs on the TV
SELECT COMMITTEES
-Scrutinise government policy
-19 select committees shadow the work of each major government departments
DEBATES AND MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
-Legislative debates
-emergency debates
-adjornment debates allow B.B to initiate debates at the end of parliamentary day
OPPOSITION
-Given privileges at debates, question time and in management of parliamentary business to help carry out its role of opposing
-opposition days
WRITTEN QUESTIONS AND LETTERS
-Ministers must respond to letters received from MPs and peers

12

Parliamentary gov

-Parliamentary system if gov one in which gov governs in and through parliament
-based on the fusion between legislative and executive
FEATURES
-Gov formed as a result of parliamentary elections
-personel of gov are drawn from parl
-gov responsible to parl
-gov can dissolve parl
-asa parliamentary officer, PM is head of gov but not head of state

13

parliamentary gov VS presidential gov

PARLIAMENTARY GOV
-Fusion of powers
-gov formed through parl elections
-overlap if personnel
-gov removeable by legislature
-flexible- term elections (usually)
-cabinet gov
-separate head of state and head of gov

PRESIDENTIAL GOV
-separation of powers
-gov are separately elected
-separation of personnel
-legislature cant remove gov
-fixed term election
-presidentialism
-presidents are both head of gov and head of state

14

factors that affect parliaments relationship to government: party unity and its decline

-Stronger party unity= gov can always rely on its loyal troops in HOL to approve its legislative programme and to maintain power (elective dictatorship)
BUT
-BB revolters on the rise as party discipline has relaxed- disunity by BBs who vote against their party on an unwhipped vote
-examples of disunity- torie gov under john major
why?- mps more critical and openly minded
-Mps carreer politicians so have more time and resources to take political issues more seriously.

15

factors that affect gov: size of majority

-FPTP system over represent large parties
-larger the majority the weaker backbenchers will be.

16

factors that affect parls relationship to gov: advent of coalition

-coalition govs will rejuivinate parl
-single party majority government are able to control commons as long as they maintain party unity
-coaltion gov means that the support of backbench MPs for government policy cant be taken for granted
HOWEVER
-Might weaken parl because in a coalition gov process of negotiation more likely to take place in the executive itself rather than with parl.

17

factors that affect parls relationship w/ gov: impact of the lords

-since HOL reform lords have had greater impact on gov because:
1)NO PARTY MAJORITY IN HOL
-Now balance between Lab and torie Lords about 29%
2)MORE ASSERTIVE LORDS
-Since removal of hereditary peers Lords have more authority
3) LANDSLIDE MAJORITY IN COMMONS
-Need to check gov as landslide majority lead to inaffective gov
4) POLITICS OF PARLIAMENTARY ACT
-Due to fear of Lords sending back a bill governments are often more anxious to steamroller a bill through

18

reforming house of commons (blair and brown)

REFORMS UNDER BLAIR
1)Once a week PMQs-1997
-halved number of times PM stood before the commons
-critics say attempt to reduce PMs exposure to Parl
2) Liason committee scrutiny-2002
-twice yearly appearance of PM before the liasn committee in HOC
-most of chairs in liason committee from majority party though

REFORMS UNDER BROWN
-Gordon Brown gave up some powers held by the PM:
>declare war
>dissolve parliament
>recall parliament
>choose bishops and appoint judges
-strengthen parl- force gov to consult more

19

house of commons reform under cameron and clegg

1) FIXED TERM PARLIAMENT
-Prevent MPs calling elections at times best suited for them
2)REFERENDUM ON AV
-Rejected in 2011
3)RECALL OF MPS
-MPs subject to recall, allowing votes to force a by-election if an MP is forced to have engaged in serious wrong decision
-strengthen representative function of HOC
4) PUBLIC INITIATED BILLS
-Public given opportunity to suggest topics for debate in Parliament through petitions
5)HOUSE BUSINESS COMMITTEE
-Give BB greater management of their affairs

20

for and against elected HOL

FOR:
DEMOCRATIC LEGITIMACY- Appointed members dont have democratic legitimacy
WIDER REPRESENTATION-Two elected chambers=more representation using different electoral systems
BETTER LEGISLATION-Non-elected quality of HOL restricts it to be 'revising chamber'
CHECKING THE COMMONS-Only elected chamber can check another elected chamber
ENDING EXECUTIVE TYRANNY-Executive dominates parliament largely through its majority control of commons

AGAINST:
SPECIALIST KNOWLEDGE-Appointed on basis of experience, expertise and knowledge
GRIDLOCK GOV-Gov paralysis through institutionalised rivalry between the chambers
COMPLEMENTARY CHAMBERS- Advantages of having 2 chambers is that they carry out different roles.
DANGERS OF PARTISANSHIP- Rely on a party to get elected and re-elected
DESCRIPTIVE REPRESENTATION- Appointments take into account social representation