Flashcards in Parliament Deck (142):
What does a bicameral legislature mean?
Give an example.
Divided into 2 chambers
Example: The UK Parliament: House of Commons and the House of Lords.
How many Constituencies are there in the UK?
How many MPS are there.
650 Constituencies in the UK so therefore there are 650 MPS.
Describe the role of the Speaker of the House of Commons.
How are they elected?
-Presides over the House of Commons and ensures that the rules of the house are observed.
- The speaker has the power to discipline disruptive MPS which could lead to their suspension.
- MPS have to wait until the speakers call on them before they can speak. As there are often more MPS hoping to speak than time allows, the Speaker has the difficult job f striking a fair balance between the parties.
- The Speaker determines how long MPs can talk for, and how long questions can focus on a particular topic when MPS question ministers.
- The speaker also decides whether amendments to bills, or options before the House should be debated and voted upon (Also Decide when a debate ends so a vote can be taken)
- The speaker is meant to be completely impartial: When an MP becomes the speaker they must sever all ties to their previous party.
- The speaker does not vote on any motion, except in order to break a tie.
- Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000): Prevents the speaker from standing under a party at general election - they instead appear on the ballot as “ The speaker seeking re-election”
- Loose convention under which the main parties do not run candidates n the speaker‘s constituency.
- The house must elect a speaker at the beginning of a new parliamentary term OR following the death of the previous speaker
- Once elected, a speaker tends to be re-elected until they choose to resign.
To become the speaker:
- Have the support of at least 12 MPS
- At least 3 of these 12 must come from a different political party of their own.
- Elections are conducted under an exhaustive ballot
- MPs vote for their preferred candidate
- If a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they are declared the winner.
- If no candidate wins a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes and any crate with under 5% of the vote is eliminated
- MPs vote again with the shorter list of candidates; This is repeated until one candidate has the majority of the vote.
When was the authoritative procedure on Parliamentary procedure first made definite?
The authoritative procedure on parliamentary procedure was firsts made definite by the book “ A treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings and the Usage of Parliament” (1844) written by Erskine May.
- Continuously updated , 24 edition was published in 2011
Describe the make up of Parliament, following the 2017 general election?
- There was a hung Parliament
- Conservatives: 317 MPs
- Labour: 262 MPs
- SNP: 35 MPs
- Lib Dem: 12 MPs
- Green: 1 MP
The Conservatives negotiated a confidence and supply deal with the DUP, to support their minority government, but they are not in a formal coalition so DUP MPs do not sit on the government benches. ( They are not part of the government so they sit on the opposition benches)
Who are the frontbenchers and backbenchers in the governing party and the opposition parties?
- Frontbenchers: This is where the PM sits on the front benches alongside all other government ministers
- Backbenchers: All other MPS in the governing party who do not hold ministerial positions sit on the back benches.
When you refer to the government, you are only referring to those with ministerial positions.
- Frontbenchers: The Leader of the official opposition (second largest party in parliament) sits at the front with their shadow ministers .
- Backbenchers: These are opposition MPs that do not have a position in the shadow cabinet, or are from other parties.
Describe the official opposition in the Commons.
Give an example.
- Largest opposition party in the Commons.
- The Leader of the Official Opposition selects MPs to join the shadow cabinet
- Each shadow minster is tasked with scrutinising and challenging a particular government minister.
- Example: Shadow Education Minister will focus on the governments eduction department: scrutinising the actions and bills produced by the Secretary of Sate for Education.
What are Whips? Describe their role.
Why are they needed?
The frontbenchers cannot take the support of the back benchers for granted, and so appoint a number of MPS to act as the parties Whips.
- Responsible for enforcing discipline within the party
- Issue weekly instructions (called “The Whip”) to backbench MPs, making it clear how party leaders would like them to vote in upcoming votes.
- On particularly important votes, the parties issue a ‘three line whip’, underlined in the vote three times as a clear indication that MPS are expected to turn up and vote in line with the leadership.
- They also communicate information from the Backbenchers to the party leaders so that they are aware of any concerns etc.
To do their jobs well, Whips can employ both ‘Carrot’ and ‘Stick’, in other words use tempting offers and threats to ensure backbench MPS behave.
- They can persuade the MPS of the government view, or tempt them with the prospect of future promotion (e.g into a ministerial position) in return for loyalty.
- Threaten the MP with the loss of a likely promotion, or even the withdrawal of the whip (expel them from the party)
What is the 1922 Committee?
- A Conservative backbench committee
- Can put considerable pressure on the Frontbenchers
- Meets weekly to discuss forthcoming parliamentary business
- The chair plays an important role in feeding back the committee views to the party leaders.
- Controversially, since 2010 Cons Frontbench MPS have been able to attend meetings, but they cannot vote for the committees officers and leaders.
What is the parliamentary Labour Party?
-Labour does not have any exclusive backbench committee - all Labour MPs are part of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which meets weekly to discuss upcoming business.
- Meetings give party leaders the opportunity to update backbench MPS on current pasta and issues and for backbench MPs to give feedback.
Give example of Independent candidates who have won a seatain the House of Commons?
2001: A doctor named Richard Taylor defeated a sitting Labour miter, after running on a platform of saving a local hospital. He held onto his seat in the 2005 GE but lost in 2010 to the Conservatives.
Slyvia Hermon: Elected for the Ulster Unionist Party in 2001, but resigned from the party in 2010. She was successfully re-elected as an independent candidate in 2010, 2015 and 2017
What as the Make up of the House of Lords historically?
Hereditary Peers: Members of the aristocracy who had inherited their titles and their right to sit in the House of Lords.
What was the House of Lords Act (1999)
- Removed all but 92 hereditary peers in the House of Lords
- This was supposed to be the first stage of the removal of hereditary peers, with the rest being removed at a later stage.
- However, Parliament has found it very difficult to agree on what this next stage of reform should look like so as a result the 92 hereditary peers remain in place .
When a HP dies, a by-election is held (using AV) in which the remaining hereditary peers, vote to select a replacement amongst the eligible candidates.
What are life peers?
- Life Peers Act (1958): Allowed peers to be created who could pet heir right to sit in the H of L for their whole life, but could not pass this right onto the children
- The Power to create peers is a prerogative power belonging to the Queen, but in practice Appointments are made by the prime minister.
- Many of the life peers appointment made by the PM are political appointments, often senior figures within the party who are expected to follow the party line.
- By convention, the PM allows other party leaders to nominate a number of their own party members roughly in proportion to their strength in the commons.
- PM often take the oppurintity to increase their influence in the lords.
- Tony Blair appointed 62 Conservative life peers, but 162 labour peers.
- David Cameron appointed 55 Labour peers but 110 Conservative peers.
What is the House of Lords Appointments Commission?
Give an example.
- Non-partisan, independent body
-Responsible for non-political appointments to the H OF L
- Scrutinises political appointments made by the PM to ensure there are no financial concerns e.g the possibility that peerage was influenced by a a party donation.
In 2016, it was reported that David Camerons nomination of Michael Spencer (the owner of a large financial services business), and former party treasurer, who had donated 4 million to the party had been blocked by the Appointments Commission partially due to his connection to the Labour banking scandal in which banks falsely inflated or deflated their rates.
Who are the Lords Spiritual?
-26 Archbishops and bishops from the Church of England that sit in the H ofL.
- When these members retire as bishops, they lose their membership as it is passed on to he next most senior bishop
- The LS are not affiliated with any party, and are not whipped.
Who are the cross benchers in the House of Lords?
Who are the non-affiliated?
- There are 176 currently in Parliament.
- Many non-political life peers join the cross bench parliamentary group
- They do not take a collective position on issues, and therefore have no need for Whips, but hey do elect a ‘convenor’ to represent and keep members informed of parliamentary business.
- Currently 31
- They do not join the party or the cross benchers
Why does the size of the House of Lords vary?
There is no limit on the number of peerages that can be awarded so the size of the H ofL can vary far more than the commons .
In 1999, before the H OFL Act, there were 1320
After the act, there was 665 members.
As PM tend to appoint large numbers to influence the party balance, the number has risen again, reaching 803 members in August 2017.
The second largest legislature in the world after The Chinese Nationals people’s Congress.
Why was David Cameron criticised about his peerage appointments?
-He created life peers at a faster rate than any other PM, awarding 245 peerages in just 6 years.
- 110 of those being Conservatives.
- Critics argue the current size of the Lords can cause problems as their is insufficient space or resources
What was the House of Lords Reform Act (2014)
Allowed members, for the first time, to retire from the House of Lords.
Any member who does not attend at all in a session is also considered to have retire at the end of the session.
Can be seen as a way of dealing with the increasing size of the H of L
What is the role of the Queen in Parliament?
- Retains a largely ceremonial, but still important role in Parliament.
- Opens Parliament through the state opening and dissolves Parliament before a general election (However, the rules for when Parliament is dissolved is set out in the fixed term parliament Act)
- Announces the governments legislative Plans in the Queens speech (Written by the government)
- All bills passed by Parliament still require Royal Assent before they become law (The last monarch to refuse royal assent was Queen Anne in 1707)
- Invites the leader of the largest party in the commons who is able to command the confidence of the house to come to BP to form government
What is a Bill?
What are the 2 types of bills?
Bill: Proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law
Public Bills: Bills that have a genera effect - make changes that affect the whole population.
Private Bills: Make changes to the law that only apply to specific individuals or organisations e.g The 2016 Transport for London Act gave the organisation responsively from managing London’s transport system new powers to manage their own finances.
Outside groups can request a private bill when they would like to acquire powers that go beyond general law
Any groups effected by a privatise bill can give evidence and petitions
Hybrid Bills: Some bills combine elements of both private and public. They have a general effect, but some provisions single out particular individuals/groups e.g High Speed Rail Bill 2017 - The only hybrid bill to have passed through parliament in 2017
Has changes that effect the general public but also a particular impact on the business involved and the individuals elected by the new construction of this rail line.
What is the process that a bill has to go through?
Consideration of Amendments
The process is the same in both the Commons and the Lords: It must pass through the stages in one house then the same in the other house.
The process is slightly different for private and hybrid bills.
Any bills can start in the Commons and non-money bills can be introduced in the Lords
Because there is limited time to debate so many bills: It makes sense for the government to introduce some bills in the commons and some in the Lords.
What happens before a bill is presented to Parliament?
Consultation process: Where outside groups are invited to contribute as the government decides what to include in the bill
Government might realise a Green Paper:
Consultation document that explains the specific issues the government would like to address, along with various different courses of action to prompt debate and discussion.
Suggests the government is open to influence and has yet settled on a course of action.
If the government is more sure of it’s plans, it might release a White Paper:
- A more focused document that sets out the governments plans for new legislation and invites feedback so that necessary changes can be made before the bill is presented to Parliament.
What happens at all the stages of a bill?
- This stage is mostly a formality
- Title of the bill is read out, and this is followed by an order for it to be printed
- There isn’t a debate on the bill at this stage
- The debate over this merits of the bill begins
- The mister responsible for the bill makes a steamer supporting it - this is followed by comments from the relevant shadow minster.
- MPs then debate the general principles of the Bill, rather than specific clauses, and then vote on whether the Bill should progress.
- The debate at this stage is quite broad, focusing on the general principles of the bill rather than analysing individual clauses
- At the end of the debate, their is a vote to decide if the bill should progress to the next stage. Most government bills do progress at this early stage.
- The last government bill to be defeated at this early stage was the 1986 Sheeps Bill which aimed to relax Sunday trading laws.
- Bill is then sent to a Public Bill Committee (PBC) which will examine the bill in far greater detail, scrutinising line by line.
- PBCs are temporary - named after the bill they are scrutinising, and disbanded when finished. They are formed solely to scrutinise a particular bill after their second reading.
- PBC membership - 16-50 members - composition of a PB is roughly proportional to the rest of the House (generally around 20)
- At least one government minster is selected to be part of a PBC
- PBC’s can receive written evidence, and if need be conduct oral evidence hearings before they begin scrutinising the bill
- Not all bills are scrutinised by PBC
- Bills can be sent to the Committee of the Whole House, which take place on the floor of the chamber allowing any interest MPS to take part, scrutinising the bill in detail and voting on amendments.
-Often used for bills of major constitutional importance, or of great urgency, or for bills that are so uncontroversial they have little opposition.
- E.g in the 2013-2014 session, the Wales Bill, which sought to devolve further powers to Wales, was taken on Committee of the Whole House
- Once a committee has examined the bill, it is reported back to the House of Commons
- MPs can debate the bill in it’s amended form, Possibly amending or repealing changes made by the PBC - MPs can propose new amendments on points that were to raised during the Committee stage.
- When all the Amendments have been debated and voted on, the bill moves on to the third reading.
- MPs debate the overall content of the bill, and decide whether to accept or reject it, in it’s current form.
- No more amendments are proposed at this late stage
- As with the second reading, it is unusual for bills to be drafted at this stage.
The bill then moves onto the other house (e.g if was introduced in the commons, it then moves onto the lords who go through the same process)
How is the bill stage process slightly different in the House of Lords?
- There are no PBC in the Lords - all peers can participate in the commute stage
- Bills are scrutinised by the Committee of the Whole House (meets in the chamber) or by the Grand Committee which is similar but meets any form the floor of the house.
- Peers spend much more time debating bills than MPs
EXAMPLE: 2016-2017 Session:
- MPS spent 235 hours 20 minuets debating government bills on the floor of the House
- This is roughly 22% of the total time available on the floor
- Peers spent over 407 hours debating government bills on the floor of the house
- Roughly 43.6% of the oral time available on the floor
- Speaker of the House can decide which amendments will be debated in the Commons, the Lord Speaker has no such powers, an all amendments can be debated
- Chair of the PBC selects amendments for debate in the commons, the Lords committee stage is open to all peers, and they can debate as many amendments as they like.
- In the commons, 100 MPS can vote to bring a debate to a close with a closure motion - but closure motions cannot be used in the Lords - Peers can’t debate for as long as the House feels appropriate.
What happens if one house makes an amendment to a bill?
The bill has to be spent back to the other house so they can consider these amendments
Both houses have to agree on every word of the bill
If one house disagrees with the Amendments or makes an alternative one, then again it has to be sent back to the other house.
The bill continues to be sent back and forth until the two houses agree on the exact same version of the bill in a process often referred to as ‘ping pong’
Usually the H of L will back down in the face of continued resistance from the commons, as it recognises it’s comparative lack of legitimacy.
Under the Salisbury convention, the Lords are not expected to block any bills featured in the government’S manifesto. However the Parliament Act allows the Lords to delay legislation for one year.
If the two houses reach a stalemate, the Bill will fail in that session, and has to be re-introduced in the next session.
What new stages were added to the legislative process in 2015 for select bills?
Was an attempt to address the West-Lothian Question.
When debating plans to devolve power to Scotland, Wales and NI, Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP for West Lothian, asked whether it would be fair that English MPs can no longer votes on matters that had been devolved to S, W and NI legislatures but S, W, and NI in Parliament can still vote on bills that effect England.
In 2015, MPS approved changes to the House of Commons standing orders (the written rules which govern how Parliament conducts its business) to introduce a new system of..
‘English votes for English Lawss:
The new rule gives English, or English and Welsh MPs, two oppuruntitis veto all, or particular clauses, of bills that only affect England, or England and Wales
The Speaker of the Commons decides if a bill contains clauses that concern Only England or only England and Wales
If this is is the case then a legislative grand committee of English MPS or English and Welsh MPS must approve a ‘consent’ motion before the bill can progress to its third reading
When the commons considers any Lords amendments that not concern Only England or Only England and Wales the bill must secure a double majority meaning it must not only be approved by a majority of the Whole House of Commons but also a majority of English/ English and Welsh MPS (Double Majority)
What are private members bills?
How can they be introduced?
Private members bills: Introduced by backbench MPS and go through the same stages as government bills
- Stand the greatest chance of succeeding
- Beginning of the Parliamentary year, all MPs who wish to introduce a PMB sign a book and enter their names for what is essentially a lottery in which 20 names are selected at random.
- The order in which the 20 names are drawn equates to probity order for timetabling their PMB for debate, with the final name having top priority.
- MPs have to hope their name is drawn but also that they are drawn last to have th bets chance of success.
- Only 13 Fridays in each session are reserved for PMB (the first 7 are usually used for second readings)
- So much time can be spent debating the first bill, there’s no time to get onto other bills
10-Minute Rule Bills:
- MPS enter their name into a weekly ballot, and i successful, are able to make a short speech of no more than 10 minuet outlining their proposed bill after Question time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
- If the House agrees, the Bill will then have it’s first reading
- Very few ten-minute bills receive Royal Assent - many MPS few the process as more of a means to raise awareness of an issue, catching the attention of minsters and backbenchers who are still in the chamber after QT
- Members introduce the title of their bill but they are not allowed to speak about it
- While the bill has been formally introduced to Parliament, it stands little chance of progressing to the next stage unless the government takes an interest in it
What is secondary legislation?
The vast majority of legislation proposed by the government each year is secondary rather than primary.
Primary Legislation (Acts of Parliament) grant minsters/public bodies to make secondary legislation mostly takes the form of statutory instruments
Secondary legislation are laws made by minsters public/bodies granted by an Act of Parliament.
Around 30-50 bills receive royal assent each year
Around 3,500 statutory instruments are made each year.
What are the features of Parliamentary government?
- The UK parliament is the highest source of political authority - meaning that political power may be exercised only if it has been authorised by Parliament
- The government must be drawn from Parliament - either the commons or the lords
No strict separation of powers between the legislature and the executive The powers of the government and those of the legislature are fused
- In reality, this means that the government is able to dominate Parliament because a majority of its members are government supporters and so are likely to back the government
Government must be accountable to Parliament:
- Government, including the PM and other ministers, must regularly appear in Parliament to explain and justify policies and decisions, and must subject themselves to criticism.
- Parliament may remove a government through a vote of no confidence, then a GE will be held to summon a new Parliament.
What is Parliamentary sovereignty?
- UK Parliament is said to be legally sovereign
- Parliament is the source of all political power and therefore the highest source of political authority.
- No individual or body may exercise power unless it has been granted by Parliament
- Parliament does delegate most of it’s power - to minsters, to devolved governments in S, W and NI to local authorities and to the courts of law.
- Parliaments may restore to itself any powers that have been delegated to others
- Parliament may make any laws it wishes and they shall be enforced by the courts and other authorities
- There are no restrictions on what laws Parliament may make. Parliament is said to be ‘omnicompetent’ (literally capable of any act)
- Parliament is not bound by it’s predecessors. Laws passed by Parliaments in the past are not binding on the current parliament. Existing laws may be amended or repealed at will
- Parliament cannot bind it’s successors. This means that the current parliament can’t pass laws that will prevent future parliaments from amending or repealing them.
-Laws cannot be entrenched against future change
- The UK cannot have a fixed, entrenched constitution as long as the current principle of parliamentary sovereignty endures.
What is political sovereignty?
In what way has Parliament lost it sovereignty?
Refers not to strictly legal power but to where political power lies in reality
It is the political location of power rather than its theoretical location
Most political power lies with government
The government of the day usually enjoys a majority in the commons, and can therefore virtually guarantee that it’s proposals will be passed by Parliament.
Sometimes said that the ‘sovereignty of Parliament is in reality the sovereignty of the major party’
It is generally understood that the government has an electoral mandate to carry out its manifesto and commitments and Parliament should not thwart that authority.
We expect Parliament to block government plans only if it seen to be abusing its mandate or operation beyond it.
Political sovereignty returns to the the people at a GE, who are both electing a new parliament and giving a new government a fresh mandate.
Parliament retains enormous reserve powers.
In some circumstances it can block legislation (in modern times the House of Lords does this quite frequently) and in really exceptional circumstances Parliament can dismiss government by passing a vote of no confidence.
This was lasts done in 1979 when James Callaghan’s Labour Government was removed prematurely from office
It can be said that Parliament is legally sovereign but that political sovereignty is less clearly located.
Political sovereignty lies with the people at elections, with the government between elections, but with the proviso that Parliament can ultimately overrule the government.
What are reserve powers?
Powers which exist and are very significant, but are only expected to be used in unusual or extreme circumstances.
Instead they are held ‘in reserve’
The UK Parliament has two key reserve powers:
- To veto legislation proposed by government and to dismiss a government in which it has lost confidence.
The monarch also as reserve powers but is even less likely than Parliament to use them,
Explain how it can be seen that Parliamentary Sovereignty has been eroded.
- A great deal of legislative power moved to the EU after 1973.
- EU is superior to British Law, so if there is any conflict, EU law must prevail.
- Parliament may not pass any law that conflicts with EU law
- However UK commitments to leaving the EU some time after 2018, all this sovereignty will be returned to Westminister
- There remains large ares of policy that have not passed to Brussels, including criminal law, tax law, social security, health and education, but nevertheless there have also been significant shifts of legislative authority - over trade, environment, employment rights and consumer protection, for example.
2. Executive power
- EP has grown considerably in recent decades
- Involves a transfer of political but not legal sovereignty to government
- E.g Gina Miller Supreme Court 2017 helped to clarify this relationship.
- It is increasingly the practice to hod referendums when important constitutional changes are being proposed, such as Devolution, EU membership, the electoral system or the election of City mayors.
- The results of such referendums are not technically binding on Parliament, however it is also the inconceivable that Parliament would ignore the popular will of the people . So in effect , sovereignty in such cases returns to the people.
4. Human Rights
- There is some room for controversy over the status of the HR Acts and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which it establishes in law.
- The ECHR is not legally binding on the UK Parliament, so Parliament retains its sovereignty
- However, it is also clear that Parliament treats the ECHR largely as it were supreme.
- It would only be in extraordinary circumstances that Parliament would asses its sovereignty over the ECHR
- Especially to Scotland
- As with referendums, Parliament can restore to itself all the powers that it has been delegated, but it is difficulty to imagine circumstances in which the powers grated to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh or Northern Ireland assemblies would be removed.
- Sovereignty has been transferred in reality, though not in constitutional law
We could say that Parliamentary sovereignty is now partly a myth.
However, Parliament has reserve powers.
The UK has now decided to leave the EU and so restore all it’s sovereignty
Parliament can thwart the will of the government, devolution could be cancelled (bear in mind that the NI Assembly has been suspended and direct rule from London restored on several occasions)
Parliament could, under exceptional circumstances, decide not to accept the verdict of referendum.
Furthermore, if there comes a time when the government does not enjoy a secure parliamentary majority, it could be that the balance of power - both legal and political - will return to Parliament, much as it did in the middle part of the 19th century.
Explain legitimacy in terms of laws.
Executive power lies in the hands of government minsters, and the monarch is largely ceremonial
But while governments can claim a mandate for their policies, by winning free and fair elections
All laws, taxes and public sending proposed by the government still has to be approved by Parliament
As a representative democracy, we rely on our representatives in Parliament to legitimise the governments policies on our behalf .
We obey laws knowing they havre been scrunched, debated, amended and asserted to be our representatives.
What important role do the House of Commons play in legitimatising government policy?
All money bills must originate in the House of Commons, and cannot be amended or delayed by the House of Lords.
The Parliament Act allows the House of Commons to force through bills without the consent of the House of Lords
What did the Fixed Term-Parliament Act of 2011 say about it when the Commons loses confidence in the government?
States that is the government id defeated on the motion “ That this House has no confidence in HM government”
And no other government wins another confidence motion within 14 calendar days, then Parliament is dissolved and an early General Election is triggered.
Example: In 1979, the Labour Government lost a confidence motion by a single vote, forcing the Prime Minister to call a general election in which the Conservatives won a majority.
Why can it be said that the government NOW might havre difficulty in keeping the confidence of the Commons?
Conservatives were 8 seats short from having a majority in the commons.
They negotiated a confidence and supply deal with the DUP which hwon 10 seats in exchange for an extra 1 billion in funding for NI
The DUP agreed to support the government in key deals in the House of Commons
Conservatives should be able to maintain the confidence of the House provided they also keep the backbench MPS happy.
However given the divisive nature of Brexit (the main focus for the government) it’s far from obvious whether Parliament will approve and legitimise the governments policies.
What are the main functions of Parliament?
What are the royal prerogative powers?
Powers that the Mormon law recognises as belonging to the monarch alone - they are not subject to the approval of Parliament.
E.g negotiating treaties ad declaring war
These powers are now used by the PM and other minsters
It has long been considered inappropriate for a largely ceremonial
monarch to use these powers
However.. some argue that the use of such power should be approved and legitimised by Parliament because Parliament should be the source of the governments power not the monarch.
What legal limits have been placed on the prerogative powers?
Fixed Term Parliament Act (2011): Limited the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament and trigger a GE.
Under the provisions of the Act, parliamentary general elections must be held every five years, beginning in 2015. However, a vote of no confidence in the government, or a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Commons, can still trigger a general election at any time.
Constitutional Reform and Governance Act: Placed limits on the prerogative power to negotiate treaties.
This has given Parliament more influence, and decisions/actions greater legitimacy.
How has the royal prerogative power to declare war been lifted?
It has been limited by non legal conventions. This developed in the response to the argument that Parliament should approve and legitimate important decisions.
2003: Tony Blair asked the Commons to approve decision to go to War in Iraq. Approved 412-149. This gave his decision o go to war greater legitimacy.
2013: Cameron set the precedent set by Blair, recalling Parliament in the summer recess to endorse military intervention in Syria.
After 30 Cons, and 9 Lib Dem’s sided with Labour, the motion was defeated and Cameron abandoned his plan.
Legally Cameron still had the power to proceed with his plans, but he recognise that serious questions would have been raised over the legitimacy of such a decision.
Explain how Legitimacy was seen as very important during the aftermath of the 2016 EU referendum.
The increasing use of referendums has provided a competing source of legitimacy for government policies. After the 2016 Referendum, the Government argued that it could begin the Brexit process using the royal prerogative powers to negotiate treaties
Some minters argued that there was no need to obtain Parliamentary
approval, because voters had already legislated Brexit in the referendum.
But others argued that only an Act of Parliament could empower the Government to trigger Article 50, as Brexit would greatly reshape our constitution laws
Confusingly, the referendum provided a competing source of legitimacy for Brexit - which source was the one that really mattered? Referendum or Parliament?
The UK Supreme Court ruled that the EU referendum was only advisory, and only our sovereign Parliament could authorise the government to take action that would alter our constitution.
Parliament passed the European Union (notification of withdrawal) Act 2017: A one page bill that gave the Government power to trigger Article 50 and begin the withdrawal process.
In the eyes of those who challenged the government, it was only at this point that the brexit negotiations could begin, regardless of the referendum result.
In what way can laws passed by Parliament be seen as legitimate?
We assume that bills and budgets approved by Parliament have been throughly scrunched by MPS and Peers.
If laws didn’t undergo as much scrutiny, their legitimacy would be questioned.
What are the benefits of giving minsters power to make secondary legislation?
Give an example.
It allows for small changes to be made to the law without having to pass a new Act trough parliament which is a lengthy process.
Example: National Minimum Wage Act (1998) Established a minimum wage for the first time granted minsters power to make National Minimum Wage Regulations allowing them to set/adjust the level of minimum wage to keep up with inflation
Secondary legislation is seen as legitimate because Parliament has chosen to delegate this law making power and judges can be asked to check that minsters only ever act within the power granted by Parliament.
Why has secondary legislation been increasingly criticised?
Give an example.
Some critics argue, that in recent years secondary legislation has been used to make far more political changes rather than technical reforms.
Example: In 2015 the Lords voted to delay secondary legislation made by the Chancellor.
Statutory Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates) (Amendment) Regulations 2015: sought to cut the tax credit bill by 4.4 billion, by increasing the rate at which tax credits were withdrawn as an individual wages increased.
It was perfectly within the Chancellors power to make this change.
The Tax Credits Act (2002) gave the Chancellor power to adjust tax credits with statutory instruments
Some raised concerns about finial changes of this scale being made by secondary legislation because it received much less scrutiny than primary legislation.
If a Statutory Instruments has to be approved by Parliament, what is the process?
There are two procedures - neither as rigours as passing primary legislation.
Negative Procedure: SI becomes law on a stated date unless either House passes a motion that the SI be annulled.
SI is only debated if an MP requests a debate and if the government allows time for a debate.
In 2015-16, MPS only debated 3% of the 585 SI that used this procedure.
SI is laid before Parliament & must be approved by both houses before it can come into effect
Debated by a Delegated Legislation Committee, but there is no debate in the chamber before the House votes
In the 2015-16 seession, the average DLC debate on affirmative SIs lasted just 26 minutes.
In the 2015-16 session, MPS spent under 8 hours debating over 7,00 thousands of pages of secondary legislation.
The Commons has come to rely on the Lords to conduct more detailed scrutiny but the Lords only spent just spent under 35 hours.
Neither the negative or affirmative procedures allow MPs to amend secondary legislation and very few SIs are rejected.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee noted in 2016 “Only 17 Statutory Instruments have been rejected by the two Houses over the last 65 years” out of nearly 170,000
What role do the House of Lords play in scrutinising SIs?
Since 2003, the the House of Lords has had a committee dedicated to the scrutiny of SIs...
Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee
Produces regular reports, drawing attention to any SI laid in the previous week that it considers to be “interesting, flawed or inadequately explained by the government”
From 2003 until the end of the 2014-15 session, the committee crtunsied 1,603 SIs
Reports drew attention to 718 of these SIs
However these reports are only advisory.. relatively few that are flagged up will be debated and almost none are blocked by Parliament .
What are Skelton bills and Henry Vll Clauses?
As statutory instruments receive so much less scrutiny than bills, and are so rarely drafted, it has become increasingly tempts for the government to introduce bills that delegate vast powers to make secondary legislation.
Bills that contain few specific details, mostly broad targets and give minsters broad powers to fill in the many gaps with secondary legislation
Henry VII Clauses:
Part of bills that grant minsters the power to amend, or even repeal, existing Acts of Parliament, with secondary legislation.
The name comes from King Henry VII who asked Parliament to give him power to proclaim his own laws without Parliaments approval.
Example: Childcare Act (2016)
The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee warned that the bill contained “virtually nothing substance beyond the vague “mission statement”
The bill Delegated power to...
Create criminal offences
Create financial penalties
Amend and repeal existing legislation
When the Bill passed, much of the law was yet to be written, and when it was written in the form of secondary legislation, how many members would be checking it, in much detail?
What are the three different type of legislatures?
Professor Phillip Norton identified three type of legislature:
1.) Policy-making legislatures: Can not only amend or reject policies proposed by the government, but also formulate their own policies (US congress)
2.) Policy-influencing legislature: Can only amend or reject the government policies - can’t formulate their own (UK Parliament)
3) Legislatures with little or no effect on policy
Simply assent to the proposals put beef them
Backbench MPs can introduce their own bills through Private members bills which suggest Parliament is a policy-making legislature?
What is the argument against this?
The governments control of the timetable in Parliament for debates and a few procedural issues means A few PMBS are successful
However.. In the 1960s, over 170 PMBs were given royal sent and became law whereas between 2010-17 only 46 came law.
Most PMBS that become law today are called hand out bills..
Instead of introducing their own bill, the MPS successful in the ballot instead choose to introduce a bill handed to them by the government, which welcomes more opportunity for the bill to be timetabled for debate.
Why was the 1960s seen as a golden age for Private Members Bills?
Over 170 PMB became law
Many of them very significant ...
Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965
Abortion Act - 1965 - Legalised abortion
However.. these succeeded because they were supported by the government, which controls the timetable in the House of Commons.
Very little time is set aside for debating PMBS so success largely relies on the government who control the timetable granting more time for them to complete the necessary stages.
How are Private members bills defeated?
It is very easy for the government or other MPS to defeat PMBs they don’t like with a filibuster...
Where MPS make lengthily speeches to use up available debate time and prevent a vote
If the debate on a certain private members bill is still on-going when the debate finishes at 2:30pm, then it has to be rescheduled for another date, often far in the future
The only way an MP can overcome a filibuster this can be prevented is by bringing the debate to a...
CLOSURE MOTION: Ends the debate and triggers a vote - must be supported by 100 MPs which can be difficult as MPs like to do constituency work on Fridays so attendance can be poor for the debates .
What happens if a PMB survives filibustering attempts?
Move onto the public bill committee stage
Current rues state that only one public bill Committee can consider PMBS at any one time - meaning that PMBS can pass their 2nd reading and get stuck in a queue
It is up to the government to decide whether to table a motion on establishing a second public bill committee to consider an additional PMB giving the government even more influence over legislation.
In what way can PMBs that fail still have considerable influence?
- MPs introducing 10-Minute Rule bills and Presentation Bills are well aware that they will likely fail - but they still do it to get a issue on the record, gain media attention and place pressure on the government.
-Defeated PMBs can sometimes have a long term impact
- The Conservative government successfully blocked a series of PMBs concerning the rights of disabled people in the 90s e.g Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.
- However, sustained pressured led the government to introduce it’s own bill: Disability Discrimination Act 1995
What happened in 1997 that is evidence that Parliament has greater influence on government bills?
What are the strengths of this?
In 1997 Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House Commons was tasked with investigating ways to improve the legislative process
One of the suggestions was..
PRE-LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY: Today the Government often publishes bills in draft form, so that they can be scrutinised by a select committee, before they are formally introduced.
Draft Bills can be scrutinised by existing select committees, with relevant expertise.
Example: In 2017 the Commons Science and Technology Committee scrutinised the Draft Spaceflight Bill
The Committees final report proposed a number of amendments, many of which were accepted by the government before submitting the bill to Parliament.
New select committee can be specially formed to scrutinise a draft bill.
Example: In 2015, a joint committee of peers and MPS was appointed to examine the controversial Draft Investigatory Power Bill
- Ministers are less committed to a Bills contents at this early stage - they are more open to suggested amendments than they are once the Bill has been formerly introduced.
- Select Committee have a number of advantages over public bill committees, putting them in a better position to actually influence government bills.
The governments use of pre-legislative scrutiny is far from consistent with only 3 draft bills being submitted for pre-legislative scrutiny in 2016-2017 the highest being 11 between 2010 and 2012.
They can be influential however they are only advisory.
Ultimately, the government can choose to dismiss their recommendations.
What are the strengths and weakness of public committees?
- The power to receive written evidence from outside groups, and if need be, conduct oral evidence earnings, before they begin their scrutiny of the bill
- In theory this should make this stage of the legislative process more rigorous and informed
- They are temporary: Members have little time to learn about issues surrounding the bill.
- Members have little incentive to work together and little time to develop expertise
- Members are selected by whips who tend to favour loyalty more so than policy expertise.
- E.g in 2011 The Cons MP Sarah Wollaston, a former doctor, who had been critical of the Governments healthcare policy, was blocked from the Health and Social Care Bill Committee despite her relevant expertise.
- Reports are much more partisan, with votes usually divided along party lines.
- It seems inevitable that PBC will not feature many independent minded MPs, who might have valid criticism of the Bill.
- The committee usually reflect the composition of the House, meaning government with a majority in the Commons will be difficult to defeat in the Committee.
- A study from ULC report that From 2000-10, only 88 non-Government Amendments, were successfully made in PBC, despite opposition MPs proposing 17, 468 amendments (0.5% success rate)
- Of the 7322 governments amendments - almost were successful over the same period.
What are the strengths of Select Committees?
Permanent - Members have the time to develop a good working relationship and policy expertise
- As members are elected they tend to be much more independent
- Often produce unanimous reports.
How does Programme Motion undermine Public Bill Committee?
Give an example.
The 1997 Modernisation Committee said MPS should debate & vote on.. Programme Motions: Voted on after a bills second reading to set deadlines for the remaining stages in the legislative process.
- They hoped that programme motions would give backbench MPS more influence while also giving the government assurance that its bill would complete their reaming stages on time.
In practice, programme motions are rarely debated - government with a majority can usually rely on whipped backbenchers to support the motion.
Some have critical programme motions for imposing tight limits, particularly for the committee stage, that arguably undermine the scrutiny
Some argue that PM have made the house more efficient and some would like them to be used for PMBS so that they can not be so easily filibustered.
Example: The timetabled Proposal for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 which sought to give the PM power to begin withdrawing the UK from the EU.
- The Programme motion required the committee stage, report stage and third reading to be taken in 3 days.
- Some MPS questioned if this was really enough time, given that over 100 pages of amendments d been tabled.
- Former leader of the SNP Alex Salmond argued the motion was railroading debate on the biggest constitutional decisions facing this country for 50 years.
Example: The House of Lords Reform Bill 2012
- The Bill easily passed its second reading (462-124) however 91 CoNS MPS had rebelled and voted against the bill
- There was also widespread opposition the the programme motion
- Labour wanted the remaking sages to go on as long as proved necessary
- The Coalition Government delayed the vote on the programme motion, and sensing that the Bill would take up too much time without one, withdrew the Bill in September
How does the structure of the UK government effect the influence of Parliament on the government bills?
- The fusion of our executive and legislative branches can make it very difficult for the Commons to defeat, or even amend government bills that was introduced by a government with a sizeable majority.
- Ministers can vote in favour of government bills as they are simultaneously members of the executive and legislature.
- Convention of collective responsibility requires all minsters to support the government and resign if they want to rebel
- PM can reward loyalty by directly promoting MPS into the ranks of government.
The Influence of the House of Lord is limited by...
Parliament Act 1911 and 1949 - removing it’s power to veto bills
Conventions: Peers have long respected conventions such as financial privilege and the Salisbury Convention.
- Recognising their lack of legitimacy , peers often back down if the Commons overturns the Lords recommendations to a bill rather than delay a bill for a year.
Is it a problem that the Commons find it difficult to influence government bills?
- A government with a large majority can claim a mandate to deliver its manifesto policies.
- An important function of Parliament is to legitimise government policies not to simply block them.
- No bill is perfect when it is first induced - it is important that MPs/peers have not only the ability, but the willingness, to challenge government to make amendments that would improve the bill
How does the Behaviour of Peers and MPS effect the influence Parliament has on government Bills?
- MPs in recent decades have become far more rebellious.
- E.g. 2010-2015: Most rebellious Parliament on record with Conservative and Lib Dem MPs rebelled in 35% of votes beating the previous record of 28% during the Labour government of 2005-10)
- Coalition made life difficult for government whips - they often had to convince MPS to vote for bills that were not exactly traditional party policy.
- E.g the rebellion of 91 Cons MPs against the House of Lords Reform Bill, which was really favoured by the Lib Dem’s, was the biggest rebellion against a second reading since 1945.
- The behaviour of peers has changes in the last few decades.
- Before the House of Lords Reform in the late 90s, the Cons government led by MT and JM were defeated far less in Lords.
- The reforms gave the Lords greater party balance but also made the peers feel like the House had greater legitimacy - making them more comfortable to challenge government.
- The labour government from 1997-2010 were defeated far more regularly.
- Coalition government did not benefit from the Lib-Dem/Conservative support in the Lords - facing more defeats than the previous Labour government. Furthermore, David Cameron faced even more defeats without the support of the Lib Dem’s after 2015 GE.
- Lords amendments can always be overturned by the Commons , but in practice, they are often not as scrutiny can be much more rigorous in the Lords - as peers have more time, and often, more policy expertise.
- The anticipated reactions of rebellious MPS and assertive peer can be as influential as their eventual votes.
- Ministers concerned that Parliament will block certain parts of a bill they are about to introduce, might choose to remove them rather than risk defeat.
What evidence is there that Parliament is taking greater control over the Brexit process?
In December - MPs approved Amber of amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill hat placed new limits on the Henry VIII powers granted by the Bill.
One of the amendments, proposed with unanimous support by the Commons Procedure, was accepted by the government and passed easily.
However.. another successful amendment proposed by the backbench Cons MP Dominic Grieve, was opposed by the government, and passed only after 11 Conservative MPS rebelled, inflicting the Governments first defeat in the Commons.
The amendment, added new language to the clause authorising ministers to make SI “appropriate for the purposes of implementing the withdrawal agreement”
It prevents the government from making secondary legislation to implement the final Brexit deal until Parliament has passed a separate law approving the final withdrawal agreement .
Some see these amendments as a sign that Parliament is taking greater control over the Brexit process.
But others have argued that they instead highlight the significant obstacles that prevent MPs and peers from having influence.
Since 1950s only 0.01% of....
(Finish the sentence)
Statutory Instruments have been defeated in the Commons.
How can the amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill be used in the exams?
Used as evidence of Parliaments effectiveness, but also as an example of it’s limitations.
Governments first defeat in the Commosns can be seen as a sign that with the Government lacking a majority, and with considerable cross-party opposition to a ‘hard brexit’, Parliament is able, and willing to have the final say on the matter.
The Cons rebels opposition who sided with opposition MPS did so in spite of significant pressure being exerted inside and outside of Parliament.
One rebel MP, An Soubry, who was labelled a “Brexit Mutineer” on the front of the Daily Telegraph, said that the efforts of the Cons Whips had reduced some MPS to tears.
- Even those tactics were not enough to deter a handful of rebels from supporting Grieve’s amendment.
However, some have pointed out that while it’s first defeat was notable, it is worth remembering that despite their reservations, even the most critical Cons Backbench MPS have so far obeyed the Whips, and this rebellion might prove to be a one-off exception.
Others have questioned whether the vote that Parliament is now guaranteed on the final brexit deal is really that meaningful;
If Parliament votes against the final withdrawal agreement, it may only be possible for the Gov to negotiate another if the remaining EU member states unanimously agree to extend negotiations.
It remains legally unclear if the UK can revoke its Article 50 decisions meaning Parliament may be left with the limited chose of either approving the Brexit deal negotiated by the Government
or accepting that the UK will leave the EU with no deal at all.
Good example of the influence that select committees can have in Parliament.
Permanent select committee members have time to develop not only expertise, but good cross-party relationships
The Procedure committees recommendations were unanimously supported by its Conservative, Labour and SNP Members making it more difficult for the Government to ignore .
Critics argue that concerns over Parliaments ability to adequately scrutinise the vast amount of secondary-legislation necessary to implement the final withdrawal agreement have bee far from addressed.
The new ‘sifting committee’ will be able to recommend that any significant SI introduced under the negative procedures be upgraded to the affirmative Procedure.
However, critics argue like the Hanford Society, have long argued that even the affirmative Procedure is “woefully inadequate”
Under the affirmative Procedure, SIs are scrutinised by a temporary DLC, but only for a maximum of 9- minuets, and by MPS who lack relevant expertise. The commons then votes on another day, but without a debate beforehand, undermining it’s value.
Dominic Grieve Introduced an ultimately unsuccessful amending baked by the Hansard Society, which would have Established a much stronger DLC with a range of sub-committees, each focusing on different policy areas. Also including having debates on any concerns raised.
Explain the report conducted by ULC about Public Committees.
Highlighted a significant number of problems with Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons, which the authors argues seriously undermine the scrutiny of legislation.
- Members of PBC are chosen by the Committee of Selection, which the report claims is dominated by party whips , and has it’s membership agreed privately, “between the ‘usual channels’ at the start of each Parliament.
-This means that backbench MPs have no control over the membership of PBC.
-Standing order 86(2) states the Committee of Selection is to have regard for the makeup of the house; meaning the membership must reflect the strength of each party in the House.
- There is no requirement “to respect the balance of opinion in the House on any particular bill)
- The report cites that the Higher Education Bill 2004,which provoked rebellions from 72 Labour MPs (17% of the party) had none of these MPS included on the Higher Education Bill Committee.
- Standing Order 86(2) states that the Committee of Selection is required to consider the “qualifications” of the Members it appoints, However the report argues, that in practice the whips often avoid MPs who have direct experience and a clear interest in Bills being scrutinised.
-E.g Sarah Wollaston (a qualified doctor) from the Health and Social Care Bill Committee after she was excluded because she was not prepared to promise the party Whips that she would support the Bill.
-Argues that the system ends to be reformed, so that the Committee are more permanent allowing the MPS working on them to gain greater expertise and build stronger cross-party relationships.
-The report also concludes that the selection process for members for Public Bill Committees also urgently needs reform, with a more transparent and legitimate process introduced that reduces the power of the party whips, and helps to ensure that more independent and critical voices make it onto the committees, rather than just loyal supporters.
-Different Government departments have very different rates of producing draft legislation. From 2005-201, the Treasury produced on average 10 Bills per session while the other 1- departments only produced 1 Bill.
- Argues there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, and that different models be used for different departments, depending on how much legislation they produce.
Wha evidence is their that the success of Private Members Bills has been in decline?
- According to a factsheet produced by the House of Commons Information Office, there was a steep drop in the number of PMS reaching Royal Assent since 2000.
- 1990-2000: 145 received royal assent
- 2000-10: 48 received royal assent.
- The BBC also reported that in the 2010-13 session of Parliament only 7 PMBS successfully became law.
What factors explain the declining success of Private Members Bills?
- The success of PMBS in the 60s received significant support from the government, who were happy for these controversial issues to be tackled by backbenchers.
- Recent Govs have been less willing to give the same time and support to backbench MPs.
- Instead recent Governments have been less willing to give the same time and support to backbench MPs.
- Governments have been more inclined to keep control of the timetable, dealing with controversial issues by offering a free vote, where MPS are not pressured by party whips on matters of conscience.
A report produced by the Hansard Society in 2011 suggested several other procedural factors that obstruct the success of PMBS.
1) Friday sitting times:
- 13 Fridays each year are allocated for PMBS, which amounts to a minimum of 65 hours in which a large number of Bills aim to be considered
- Friday is usually constituency day; meaning attendance can often be very poor to debates on PMB.
- Poor attendance can be a useful tactic to openness of PMBS.
- Hof C has a quorum of 40 (minimum number of politicians which must be resent for a vote to be considered)
- If a quorum is not reached then the PMB is delayed to the next allocated day for PMBS.
- In the House of Lords the quorum is 30.
2) Lack of timetabling makes filibustering too easy
- Debates for PMBS are not specifically timetabled, meaning that only the first PMB is guaranteed to be debated on one of the 13 allocated Fridays.
- Only as many PMBS as can fit into the day are discussed.
- Therefore, if the government, or a particular MP, does not like a PMB scheduled to be debated later in the day they have an incentive to waste as much time as possible in the first debate so that time runs out.
- When the debate fishes at 2:30pm, only unopposed bills, which are unlikely, are able to progress to the next sage.
- Similarly, if the debate over a certain PMB is still on-going at 2:30pm, then it has to be rescheduled for another date.
- Can only prevent this through a closure motion - which if successful ends the debate and triggers a vote.
- CM require the support of 100 MPs, which is often extremely unlikely to happen on many Fridays.
3) Public Bill Committees
-PMBS that survive filibustering attempts may then are it to the PBC stage.
- Current rules state only one PBC toconsider PMBS may be active at any one time, meaning successful PMBS can be held up in queue, reducing their chance of success.
- It is up to the government to decide whether to table a motion on establishing a second PBC to consider an additional PMB, giving the government considerable power over the success of backbench legislation.
Why are Private Members bills important?
- Provide a vital function in Parliament
- They offer the opportunity for issues to be debated and legislated on which the government may not wish to tackle directly.
- 1960s showed how PMBS were crucial for nitro during contreversial reforms.
- For MPS to perform their function as representatives of their constituencies, it is arguably vital that, in addition to representing the views of their constituencies by supporting or opposing government bills, they are equally able to introduce legislation which their constituents are lobbying for.
- Even though most PMBS have almost no chance of success, they are still a vital means through which representatives can the issues that concern their constituencies into the debate and conversation in Parliament.
- E.g Disability Discrimination Act (1995): A number of PMBS aiming to tackle discrimination against disabled people failed in the years leading up to 1995, the Bills triggered debate ad forced the issue to be addressed by the government through their own Bill.
- Despite no chance of immediate success, some MPS still regard Presentation Bills as a vital function in Parliament, through the sma act of naming a Bill on a given subject, the issue might be brought to the attention of other representatives in Parliament, attracting interest that one day might lead to greater results.
What are the main criticism of the of Private Members Bill?
- They trigger debate and discussion, their chance of success has fallen greatly in recent decades.
- Members of the public, who do not understand the odds stacked against PMBS, may be greatly upset to find that their hard work in supporting a PMB may amount to nothing.
- Satisfying for an MP to read out the title of their bill but greatly disheartening for supporters to read that the Bill did not progress past this first stage.
- For some commentators, the barriers that PMBS face might actually b a necessity.
- Arguable that although they may have ben lobbied for,PMBS lack the mad at that Government Bills gain through appearing in an election manifesto.
- While it is easy to hold s government to account for unpopular Bills in the next election, the accountability for a PMB which passes on a free vote is perhaps less obvious.
- May be instances where the government can actually use the PMB process to pursue its own legislative aims
- There have been cases in which the government offers a Bill to a backbench MP, known as a ‘Hand-Out Bill’, when there is not enough time in the Governments scheduled time to pursue the Bill.
- Due to the support that Hand out Bills receive from government, they stand a greater chance of success.
- Successful PMBs might give the appearance of the backbenchers having an impact on the Parliamentary agenda, they may actually b another instance of the influence of the executive.
Are the difficulties that face PMBS justified?
- The ease that the PMBS can be filibustered is an example of Parliament fulfilling its function of scrutinising proposed legislation.
-Some MPs have argued that while the requirement of 100 MPs in support of a Closure Motion to stop debate and rigger a vote might seem high, if an MP cannot gather the support of 100 MPs then perhaps this is a sign that the legislation is not of a high high enough standard.
However as the Hanford Society has suggested , the difficulty with gathering the support of 100 MPs is made all the greater by the timetabling on a Friday.
- The most significant PMBS throughout history, such as the Abortion Act (1967) or the Autism Act (2009) are examples that backbenchers can both represent the views of their constitutes and wield significant power in Parliament.
However, the difficulties that PMBs face are an equal reminder that hen it comes to introducing legislation, the government retains a significant advantage.
Describe a backbench MPs who instigated important Change.
- A PMB introduced by the Cons MP, Gavin Barwell, tackling mental health discrimination, was given support by the government and prompted a widely praised debate during it’s first reading in the House of Commons.
- The Bill seeks to remove las which discriminate against people with mental health problems e.g people a ban on people suffering mental health problems from serving on juries.
- Mental Health used to be an issue that many found difficult to discuss and those with mental issues have often felt compelled to hide them. For fear of being judged and discriminated against.
-This Bill le to a powerful debate in the House of Commons in which several MPs surprised their peers by revealing that they had suffered from mental health issues in the past.
- Kevan Jones, Labour MP from North Durham, and a former defence Minister talked about how he had suffered with severe depression throughout his life.
- Charles Walker, the Cons MP for Broxburne explained that he has had obsessive compulsive disorder for more than three decades.
- It was the first proper debate on mental health issues in the House of Commons for 4 years
- It is not very often that widespread media coverage and praise is given to an early reading of a private member or the actions of a backbench MP.
- This Bills shows that backbench MPs are still able to achieve a great deal, even without a senior position within their party.
-Shows that backbench MPs can succeed in introducing PMBS which capture the attention of the House and lead to profound and important changes.
- The success of some PMB is a reminder that backbench MPS can often represent their constituents very successfully, putting forward causes that might not always be glamorous enough to have received much attention from the party leadership hen drawing up election manifesto.
- Gavin Barwell explained on his website that during his constituency surgeries he had met numerous constituents for whom mental health discrimination was a large concern also saying he grew up seeing teachers and friends suffering from mental health issues
- The debate is a reminder that the debate was timetabled by the Backbench Business Committee which was set up by the coalition government following an investigation by the Wright Committee on how the House of Commons could be reformed and improved.
- Established to address the difficulty which backbench MPs often had in impacting the timetable in the Commons as it was heavily dominated by the governments agenda.
- Another Examples of how the power of backbench MPs has been considered and improved.
-However, much more time needs to be allocated to be a truly effective force for backbench MPs to represent their constituencies
What is the difference between Substation motions and Neutral Motions?
Substantive motions - One that expresses an opinion
The most serious motion hat can be debated in the commons is one of no confidence in the government.
Neutral Motions - Debates without a decision
E.G “ This house has considered..
What happens during a debate?
- The Speaker of the House calls on MP one at a time to Stan and soak on the issue.
- Anyone wishing to speak will stand and try to ‘catch the Speakers eye’
- The Speaker will usually alternate both sides of the House, to give the government and the opposition a fair chance to contribute.
- The Speaker can impose time limits for how long MPs can speak for; to allow more people to contribute in the limited time available.
- At the end of the debate, the Speaker “puts the question” reminding MPS of the original motion.
- All in favour say Aye , all opposed say No
- If one side is louder than the other- The Speaker decile if the ayes or the no have it
If its close, then it leads to a a proper vote called a DIVISION:
-Bells are rung throughout Parliament, to let all Members know that a division is taking place
- MPs all through one of two corridors that run around the chamber (Called the division lobbies)
- One corridor is for the ‘ayes’ and one for the ‘noes’ - The MPs are counted as they walk through the lobby and the decision is made
- The total is handed to the speaker, who announces the result.
What is Parliamentary privilege?
Longstanding rights and legal immunities enjoyed by Members of Parliament that exist to ensure that they perform their duties effectively, free from outside interference
One of the most important rights is the freedom to speak during parliamentary procedures on any matter - Article 9 of the Bill of Rights (1689)
- No MP or Peer can be sued or prosecuted for anything they say as part of Parliamentary proceedings
- This allows MPs to speak up on behalf of their constituents; and put forward their view, no matter how controversial
However, Parliament does impose some limits and can punish members for abusing privilege.
E.g Both Houses have ‘sub Judicial rules’ which prevent MPs from discussing on going court cases in any motion, debate or questions, as this would unfairly influence the outcome of the case.
Why are Parliamentary debates important?
- They allow members to draw attention to issues and put them on the political agenda
- They allow members to voice their views and give voice to the views of their constituents
- They allow members to reach more informed decisions on a wide range of subjects
- They require minsters to justify their policies , and also the opposition to set out alternatives
How open are MPs to being influenced by debates?
-Many MPS tend to deliver pre-prepared speeches, many leave after having their say, and most will have already decided how to vote before the debate begins.
- Many will just obey the party whips
- Some MPs might be influenced by a debate; on debates which concern moral issues; however the majority are very partisan
How are the debates different in the Lords?
-The Lords is self regulating - Members are collectively responsible for maintaining order
- The Lord Speaker, has no power to call members to order, or decide who speaks next
- A list of speakers is usually arranged beforehand through ‘the usual channels’
- All peers who wish to speak can do so - proceedings are much more like actual debates
- Given the range of experience in the House; peers who decide to attend debates and speak, are likely to have expertise in the subject area and much to contribute.
-Any Member can highlight breaches of the rules and the House can collectively decide what to do about it
What as the House of Commons Syria Debate - 29th August 2013
- That military action in Syria might be necessary
- It would be legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria Chemical Weapons.
The government narrowly lost the vote (Ayes - 272, Noes - 285)
Although the PM had the royal prerogative power to order military action - regardless of the defeat - he accepted the will of the House and plans for intervention were abandoned.
What are Opposition Day Debates?
- In each session, 20 days (11% of total time), are set aside for debates on topics chosen by opposition parties
- The official Opposition is allocated 17 days, and 3 days are allocated to the guest opposition party, which can share them with smaller parties.
-These Debates allow opposition parties to expose problems, and highlight their alternative policies.
How much time is allocated for BackBench Business Committee to debate?
Explain how important they are in terms of debating.
- Allocated 35 days each session (27 in the Chamber, and the rest in Westminster Hall), to schedule debates on issues raised by backbench MPS.
- MPS pitch ideas for debate, and the Committee then chooses between them, factoring in the timeliness of the issues, support from other MPs etc.
The BBC soon allocated time for several very significant substantive motions to be debated - giving MPS the opportunity to debate, and vote, on issues that may not have otherwise received the same attention.
- E.g the third debate scheduled by the BBC was the on going war at the time in Afghanistan. This gave MPS their firsts oppurunity to debate ad vote on the issue.
- E.g in 2011, the BC scheduled a debate on a motion calling for an EU referendum. - The motion failed, but support from the Conservatives MPS put pressure on the PM David Cameron, leading to Referendum in 2016
By the end of 2015, the BBC had scheduled over 300 debates, many of which were triggered by successful e-petitions
- E-petitions - Created in 2011 - The BBC could schedule any petition that collected over 100,000 signatures for a debate
- In 2015, it was decided that Parliament should run the petitions process - a new website was made and responsibility was transferred to a new dedicated Petitions Committee: (more time to questions petitioners, government and other relevant groups and to pressure the government to take action on relevant petitions issues)
What is an adjournment debate?
At the end of each day a backbench MP raises a topic for an adjournment debate.
- Each week, MPS wishing to raise a topic for debate submit their name to the Speaker - a lucky few are selected in a random ballot
- The MP chosen in the ballot is given 15 minutes to speak and then a government minster has 15 minutes to reply
- For the Thursday adjournment debate, the Speaker chooses on of the MPS that ere not selected in the random ballot.
This process allows for around 150 mini debates to be held in the commons each year on a wide range of issues.
The debate is on a neutral motion - the House does not express an opinion,
Since the 1999-00 session additional debates have also been held in......
Westminster Hall: This has allowed for far more issues to debated without taking up more of the limited time available in the Commons chamber
Mon: Debates on the e-petitions - chosen by the Petitions committee
Tue/Wed: Debates allocated by ballot (like for adjournment debates
Thur: Debates either on topics chosen by the bbc, or on select omitted reports chosen by the Liaison committee.
These debates are open to all MPS
Debates are on the neutral motion - Those unhappy about the debate, at register their disapproval but voting against this motion, but it’s only symbolic. However if the vote is heavily challenged - it could lead to a vote in the main chamber.
Attendance can be quite poor - However they allow MPs to raise issues that might otherwise be overlooked, and to receive a response from government ministers
What are early day motions (EDMS)
What is a pro and con?
- Effectively petitions that only MPs can sign
- they are motion that is submitted to the House to be debate “at an early day” that is, an unspecified day, in the (ideally) near future.
- once an Edm has been submitted, other MPs can expresss their support by signing their name to it
- edms attract thousands of signatures each year, and so can be used a way to measure support for an issue in the house
- however, as no time is set aside for these debates, and it is very rare for the government to provide time, they are rarely debated.
E.g in 2015-16 session, thee were 1,47tabled edms, but only 111 in the 1959-60 session. Their use has grown considerably.
Pro: Supports argue that EDMS are useful because they allow Mps to raise an issue without having to win the lotteries used for oral questions, adjournment debates, Westminster hall debates etc.
Con: Critics argue that printing and managing edms costs hundreds of thousands of pounds each year and that many edms are trivial (e.g congratulating a local football teams detract from the more serious ones) - Some MPs even tell their constituents that they refuse to sign them regardless of how strongly they feel about the motion.
What is an emergency Debates?
-If MPs feels that an issue needs to be urgently debated, they an also ask the Speaker to grant an emergency debate
-with the agreement of the Speaker, an mp has 3 minutes to make a speech after question time, if convinced that the issue is urgent, the speaker agrees to sub the the matter to the house.
- a debate then takes place the next day, or the same day if the issue is sufficiently urgent.
- they are quite unusual e.g there were only 17 in the 30 years prior to 2010.
What has arguably given backbench MPS more opportunity to debate and more power to determine the issues debated?
What is the argument against this?
The allocation of time the bbc
The use of Westminster hall
Introduction of e-petitions
The increase in urgent debates.
Standing order 14:
“ Save as provided in this order, government business shall have precedence at every sitting”
- it is up to the government to decide whether or not to grant time to debate things like PMBs, statutory instruments.
Every Thursday, the leader of the House of Commons simply announces what the business will be for the coming fortnight; backbenchers do not get a say
What did the Reform of the House of Commons Committee (the Wright Committee) suggest in 2009
The Wright Committee argued in its 2009 report that the commons should have a house business committee
- front and back bench MPs could negotiate the timetable
- this schedule could then be put to a vote - giving MPs more influence
- argued this is how it works in other legislatures like the Scottish Parliament.
However, this as one of the only commendations not to be acted upon.
What is individual ministerial responsibility?
The convention that minsters are accountable to Parliament for their own, and their departments conduct (including the actions of civil servants and associated agencies and other public bodies)
Under this convention minsters are expected to keep Parliament informed, explain their actions, and in the case of wrongdoing get or serious errors, either take corrective action, or possibly resign.
What is Question Time?
-On Monday to Thursday each week, time is reserve in the commons for question time, here MPs can question minors from a particular government department
-Each department takes their turn, appearing roughly every five weeks,according to a timetable set by the government.
- Mps have to submit their questions at least 3 days in advance of question time
- after the window for taking questions closes, a computer randomly shuffles the submitted questions and the top 25 are printed
- there might not be time for all 25 questions but those that miss out on an oral answer will relieve a rotten answer from the minster instead
- the questions are printed in advance therefore minsters have time to prepare - civil servants are tasked with putting together packs of evidence and arguments for the minster to use.
- Ministers can’t just read out pre-prepared questions cause after MPs ask the question they submitted in advance, they are allowed to as one supplementary question as long as it’s related to the original question.
- the speaker can then also select other MPs to ask further supplementary questions.
- MPs sometimes try to use supplementary questions to catch minsters off guard.
- Oral questions can be very political; they can sometimes be more abut embarrassing or supporting the government than real fact finding.
E.g Michael Tomlinson in February 2017, asked a question about the recent trends in the number of young people in work, which was then followed by him congratulating the government on their work on youn people going to work whilst also congratulation and organisation in his own constituency.
What is a Topical Question?
-Since the 2007-08 session, 25% of time in each QT session has been reserved for topics questions.
- to ask a topical question, MPs put their names into a separate ballot, and if they are lucky, they can ask a question on any relevant issue, allowing them to bring up breaking news and the most current developments
What is Prime Ministers Questions?
- mps are able to question the pm every ednesday from 12-12:30
- questions are randomly selected by a computer shuffle, and the pm must also answer supplementary questions that they do not see in advance.
- the speaker usually allows the leader of the opposition to ask up to six supplementary questions; it’s this exchange between the 2 party leaders that usually receives the most media attention.
What are some criticisms of of PMQs?
What are the counter arguments?
-Critics argue that PMQs is more about partisan point scoring than scrutiny and accountability
- most people only see highlights on the evening news, encouraging a focus on short, witty sound bites.
- Others consider PMQs a unique opportunity for the legislature to directly challenge the executive.
- the former us president George h. W.bush once said “i count my blessings that i don’t have to go into that pit john major stands in, nose to nose with the opposition. “
What is an Urgent Question?
-If the speaker is satisfied that a question is urgent, and cannot wait for the relevant departments next session of qt, then the mp can ask it at the end of that days qt
- minsters sometimes have to get to the house at quite short notice to answer these questions, and have far less time to prepare their response than they usually do.
- the current speaker john bercow granted 159 urgent questions from 2009-14, far more than his predecessor (42)
- arguably helping mps respond to current events and hold government accountable .
How is the oral questioning different in the House of Lords?
- the h of l reserves 30 mins for 4 oral questions each day... but they key difference is that questions are put to the government as a whole, rather than to specific departments.
- questions are taped in advance, and relevant minsters with a seat in the lords are required to attend and answer them
- there is also a ballot to ask a topical question in each days session.
What are written questions?
- Mps unlucky in the ballot for oral questions have the more reliable option of tabling written questions
- wq often prompt more detailed responses from the government - departments can publish more information than can be delivered orally i the chamber.
- 2015-16 - over 37,000 rotten questions tabled
- there are over 200 (on average) written questions tabled per sitting day.
- these questions are responsible for massive of informations about the government being made public; which otherwise might b kept behind close doors.
What are Select committees?
- in 1979, the House of Commons a agreed that, for each government department, there should be a dedicated select committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of that department, as well as any other public bodies associated with that department.
- the make up of the select committees has to reflect the party balance in the commons. A party with a majority in the commons will also have a majority of seats in each committee
- there are currently 19 departmental select committees - with about 11-14 backbench mps.
How are Members of the departmental select committee chosen?
- elections were introduced in 2010, as recommended by the reform of the hose of commons ( the wright committee)
Select Committee: Now elected by the whole House in a secret ballot and paid an additional salary.
Other committee members: Elected by other mps from their party. E.g Labour mps will vote to select Members to fill the committee seats allocated for labour.
- leaving selection to backbenchers rather than whips, has resulted in the selection of much more independent mined MPs and much more assertive committees
- Sarah Wollaston cons mp - a former doctor had previously been critical of the government health policies
- in 2011 she requested to join the health and social care bill given her expertise but she wasn’t selected.
-in 2014 - mps from across the house elected her as the new chair of the health committee.
What are the functions of select committees?
Conducting inquiries: Examining a particular subject and making recommendations
Pre-legislative scrutiny: scrutinise draft government bills and recommend changes
Pre-appointment hearings: scrutinise the governments nominees for key public offices.
The committees conclusion are only advisory.
Example: in 2016, Amanda speilman became the new head of ofsted, even though the education committee said that it was unable to support her appointment.
What resources/ powers are available to select committees?
- they are free to decide the subjects of their inquiries
- they can appoint specialists, often academics, to advise them as they carry out their inquiry
sc also have the power “ to send for persons, papers and records” they spend a lot of time questioning minsters and civil servants but also people from outside of government
- the fear of looking guilty is enough to compel people to attend and answer the sc questions when invited.
- if a commutes request is ignored, it an report it to the house, which can decide whether to find the individual “ in contempt of parliament” (any act, or failure to act, that undermines the work of either house)
- in addition to not attending, this can also include lying, bringing or threatening.
- historically, thos found guilty of contempt could be fined or imprisoned.
- however the last time the commons issued a fine was in 1666, and the power is considered to have lapsed.
- the last time the commons imprisoned a non-member was in 1880; it’s likely that the use of this ancient which is not in statue may raise up an Rights issues if used today.
-ultimately it’s pretty unclear what Parliament can do in these situations.
- in 2016 sports direct owner mike Ashley declined requests before the business, innovation and skills committee to answer questions regarding working practis at one of his company’s warehouses
- however after being g issued with a formal summons, and threatened with contempt, he agreed to questions
Parliament could make sc powers set out in statue (e.g making it an offence to ignore/mislead select committees, but this could create new problems) - it would require the courts to adjudicate on proceeding in Parliament for the first time.
What problems can select committees face?
- can struggle to get the information they want from government
- department can be slo to provide documents
- committees cannot form minsters to attend, and civil servants are accountable to minsters, not Parliament
- it is up to minsters to decide if civil servants should answer questions as their representative - civil servants cannot offer their own personal views on policy
What are Select Committee reports?
-At the end of the inquiry, commits produce a final repor, examining their findings and making a number of recommendations for minsters
- the government has to give a reply within to months - minsters are not obliged to act on the reports recommendations, but they often do
- these reports usually have unanimous support from the committee members; the members of the committee have time to develop good cross-party working relationships and recognise that recommendations endorsed by members of all parties, have much more force.
- MPS who serve on SC for loong periods of time, can develop far greater policy expertise than government minsters who can often be reshuffled into new ministerial positions
UCL: looked at sc recommendations from 1997-2010 and found that 40% of recommendations were accepted. (Some of these were quite minor)
A third of recommendations calling for significant reforms were successful.
What is the Public Accounts Committee and the Liaison Committee?
What is t
- Does not judge the merits of policy - check that government money is being spent effectively, economically and efficiently
- chair is always an opposition mp and all members are elected by the house
- the oldest and still one of the most significant
- Members are the chairs of other select committees
- Questions the PM twice a year, on the governments current policy
- Chooses select committee reports for debate in Westminster hall
What are the Lords Select Committee?
- Do not shadow particular departments - instead they focus on particular policy areas, making the most of the lords expertise.
- there are so main permanent select committes in the House of Lords e.g EU committee, constitution committee.
- Ad Hoc (temporary) committees are also regularly established to examine issues that fall outside these six policy areas (they are disbanded after they’ve reported)
- in 2017: ad hoc select committees were established to look into: artificial intelligence, citizenship and civic engagement and political polling and digital media.
How does FPTP undermine Parliaments function of representation?
It wastes a large number of votes, producing a disproportionate outcome with third parties in particular gaining fewer seats than their vote share might suggest is fair.
Critics argue that this results in a h of c that less representative of the public political views than if a more proportional electoral system was used.
E.g In 2015 the Conservatives won 36.9% of the vote but over 50% of the seats.
The SNP only won 4.7% of the vote but became the 3rd largest party in the Commons.
A drop in third party support in 2013 meant the results were not as disproportionate, with the vote share closely matching the seat share.
Explain the House of Lords Reform Bill 2012
- The attempt by the cons/lib dem government to introduce elections into the House of Lords.
- gradual transition; by 2025: 360 elected members - serving 15 years terms, 90 appointed members, up to 12 bishops. Up to 8 additional ministerial members appointed to serve as ministers of the crown
- withdrawn in sept 2012 after 92 conservative mps rebelled at the 2nd reading, and opposition mps made it clear they would not support the programme motion.
- opposition to the reform argue that previous reforms have already improved the party balance resulting in a more representative house.
- before the lords reform act of 1999 - the majority of hereditary peers were conservative, giving the party a huge advantage in the house.
- after the reform, it greatly changed the party balance.
- today, no party has a majority however third parties are still poorly represented.
- their is a large block of cross bench peers from a wide range of professions; theoretically representing a wide range of view points.
What is a pro of FPTP in terms of Parliaments function of representation?
-It produces a clear- Mp constituency link.
- supporters argue like knowing who they’re mp; who they can turn to and hold accountable.
What is the Delegate Theory of Representation?
- The idea that mps should act as a mouthpiece for their constituents - they should act on the instructions of constitutes , and not be influenced by their own conscience.
- It has never been easier for MPS to act as delegates; constituents can easily find out about key issues being discussed in Parliament, on tv or online.
- they can easily communicate their vies via email or social media.
- not all constituents think alike.
- the views of the vocal minority that contact mps may not be particularly representative of the constituency as a whole.
- tyranny of majority - if all mps acted as the majority of their constituencies wised, what impact would this have on minority groups.
What is the Trustee (Burkean) theory of representation?
-Experienced, educated and informed MPs should consider constituents views, but exercise their own judgment in parliament.
- Mps should vote in the national, rather than local, interest, even if it conflicts its the views of their constituents.
What is the party/mandate model of representation
- as most mps owe their osmotic to their arty, rather than their personal popularity, they should vote in line with their party manifesto/leaders
- there is significant evidence that most voters no little about the candidate thy are voting for and base their decision largely on the party label.
-arguable that it is the party that has the mandate, rather than the individual mp therefore they should vote in line with the party manifesto.
- these competing theories can make decisions very difficult for mps; they can be caught between the demands of the party whips, the views of their constituency and their own on personal opinion.
Explain how the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal Act) 2017 posed a problem for Labour MP in terms of representation?
52 Labour MPs controversially voted against the bill at its third reading
Party/ Mandate Model ;
- this meant defying the party whips
- the labor party issues a three line whip instructing mps to support the bill - however multiple ministers resigned in order to defy the whips and vote against the bill.
- 1/3 of Labour Mps represents a constituency in which a majority voted ‘remain’ in the 2016 Eu referendum - mps had an unusually accurate insight into the views of their constituents.
- Labour MP Clive Lewis said that he could not “ in all good conscience, vote for something i believe will ultimately harm the city i have the honour to represent, love and call home.
-those who voted in favour argued they had to respect th nations decisions.
- some mps said that they felt limited by the results of the Eu referendum - labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted “ the Labour Party accepts and respects the decision of the British people “
What are free votes/conscience votes?
Give an example.
A vote where mps and peers are not put under any pressure by party leaders to vote a certain way - often allowed for votes on difficult ethical/moral issues -where it seems less appropriate for whips to tell the mps how to vote.
Example: in 2015, mps voted 330-118 in opposition to assisted dying bill.
- the bill would have allowed some terminally ill people to end their own lives with medical supervision
- angry pressure groups pointed to polls that suggested that the bill as supported by as much as 82% of the public argued that mps failed their duty to represent the people
- some argued that mps had done well to represent a vulnerable minority that they believed were threatened by the reforms.
How do MPS represent their constituencies?
- Seeking redress of grievances for their constituents: try to set things right when constituents are treated wrong or unfairly.
- Surgeries: most mps hold ‘surgeries’ in their constituency, once a week, where constituents can go to meet them and explain their grievances.
- constituents can also write letters and email their mp
How MPs seek redress of grievances:
- write to the relevant government minister or other relevant public bodies(or perhaps just forward the constituents letter)
- raise awareness with an earl day motion
- table a written question
- ask the bbc to hold a debate in Westminster hall
- enter the ballot for oral questions/adjournment debates.
Research shows that mp spend far more time on constituency work then they did before;
- email and social media has only made it easier for constituents to get in touch
- mps have staff to help them with workload; however it can stil be difficult to deal with the thousands of emails, letters and phone calls.
- a survey of newly elected mps in 2010 found that they spent around 59%of their time on constituency work - some ague this is quite concerning as it makes it difficult for Parliament to perform it’s other functions effectively (e.g debates on PMBs can be poorly attended because mps want to get home on Friday to do constituency work)
Wha is the functional representation that Parliament have?
- Where representatives advocate not for a particular territory , but for particular sections of society - different classes, interests etc (which may or may not induced their constituents
-PGS target mps successful in the ballot for PMBs
- many mps will also respond to requests from outside groups to table amendments, ask minsters questions and raise subjects for debate.
All party groups:
- informal groups, which have no official status within parliament,that bring together members from all different parties to discuss and promote matters of common interest.
- there are over 100 ‘ country groups’ (focus on particular countries
- over 400 ‘subject groups’ (covering a wide range of policy areas)
What is descriptive representation?
Why is it important?
The extent to which representatives share the same balance in gender, ethnicity, occupation, education etc as the electorate.
- it undermines Parliaments legitimacy for so many social groups to look at it’s membership and not see anyone like them casting votes that will have such an impact on their lives.
- having a diverse range of voices in Parliament will lead to more informed and better decision making. E.g debates on women’s health meh be more effective, now that there are actually females mp and peers involved in them.
- the lack of diversity reflects the advantages and disadvantages faced by different groups and shows how more can be done to equalise opportunity.
Example: In recent decades their has been substantial improvement, in how accurately parliament reflects the demographic of the country
- the 2017 Parliament is the mostdiverse in history
- a record of 208 women were elected, mostly labour.
- however, only 25.7% of peers were women in the h of l in the beginning of 2017
- a record number of 52 non-white candidates - against mostly from the Labour Party -shows considerable progress from 1997 when the first black mp was elected.
- black or minority ethnic only make up 8% of the House of Commons compared to 14% of the population - there’s a considerable gap.
- only 6.4% of peers were non-white in 2016.
- the commons is doing better than the house in terms of descriptive representation
-the average age of mps has ben very stable over the last couple of decades
- successful candidates tend to be in the middle-ages
- younger candidates, newer to the party are less likely to be given winnable seats to compete in compared to more experienced candidates.
- most peers are over 60
- there were more peers over the age of 90 than under 40 at the beginning of 2017.
- there are five disabled mps e.g labour mp Marsha de Cordova is registered blind.
- a record 45 mps elected in 2017, openly define themselves as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (lgbt)
- the number of privately educated mps had fluctuated in recent decades but its currently significantly lower than it was in the 80s - however, mps are still 4 times more likely to have attend a private school than the average voter.
- 52% of mps in the 21017 general election had attended a comprehensive school.
- 84% of mps went to university - while it’s desirable for mps to be well educated, some argue that as those who attend university, particularly the best ones, tend to wealthier than the average person, which highlights the lack of diversity (24% went to either oxford or Cambridge - compared with less than 1% of the UK population)
- very few mps come from a background of manual work compared with the 70s.
-many more mps have a background in politics - critics argue their lack of experience in other areas beside politics undermines representation
- a common argument against creating a newly elected House of Lords; it that it would lead to an increase in professional politicians and narrow the range of experience in the house.
- a study done by UCL in 2010 showed that the h of l has a diverse range of experience - however the fields of banking, business, law politics ad academia are particularly well represented
Do ministers have to be legally required to be an mp or peer?
But the Convention is so well stabilised that Parliament has a monopoly on recruitment
If your ambition is to become a gov minister, you have 2 options become an mp or become a peer.
Explain how drawing minsters from Parliament could make them more accountable?
Give an example.
- as minsters are either members of the commons or lords, mps and peers can easily hold them accountable for their actions because minsters are always present in both houses to answer oral questions, hear before select committee and defend government policies in debates.
- by convention, the pm is always an MP - they must maintain the confidence of the House of Commons.
- by convention, senior positions In government r given to elected mps, who have a democratic mandate, and can be held accountable at the next general election and to the elected representatives in the commons.
- frontbench mps can always lose their seat unlike elected peers.
- Ministers drawn from the house of commons still have constituencies to represent and work on the behalf of - this means they are not isolated from public opinion in between elections.
Example : In Theresea Mays 2017 cabinet, their is only one peer, which is the leader of the House of Lords which can obviously not be given to an mp they are not a peer.
PM Gordon Brown also gave two cabinet positions to peers:
- lord anis - transport secretary
- lord mandelson - business secretary
- this proved criticism from mps, beacause by convention, only mps can speak in the commons and only peers can speak in the lords so mps could not ask them oral questions or Challenge them in debates.
What is the argument for the government appointing peeers into ministerial positions?
the government has to appoint some peers because it needs representatives to:
- answer oral questions from peers
- defend government policies in lords debates
- explain and support government bills
Peers ted to be given more junior positions:
- minister of state
- parliamentary under Secretary of State
What argument is their, that Parliament is too limited a talent-pool to have a monopoly on recruitment?
- the uk Prime minster is much more restricted
Example: Theresa May in 2017:
- 650 mps in the House, but only 317 conservatives mps to choose from but not all of these are realistic candidates.
- Som mps might lack experience/skills
- the pm might be unwilling to give too much power to political rivals and rather they remained on the back benches.
- after may became pm in 2016, many frontbench mps like the chancellor George Osbourne found themselves demoted to the backbenchers.
- a number of mps belong to factions, with very different political views and priories to the prime minster; they may be too rebellious to promote or even unwilling to accept collective responsibility for the pm agenda
- the mp usually appoints around 100 mps to join the front benches, their options are quite limited.
Ministers can also be drawn from the h of l but practical limits again apply:
- many peers with relevant skills and expertise are also independent crossbenchers, and not all peers are actively involved in Lords business; attending quite sporadically.
- conventions holds that even the most qualified peers should not normally be given senior positions in government.
The limited talent pool can also cause problems for the leader of the opposing:
- in June 2016, two-thirds of the Labour shah cabinet resigned, and 172 mps supported a motion of no confidence in Jeremy corbyns leadership
- Corbin enjoyed strong support from many party activists, but with only 40 mps having voted to support him in the confidence vote, he had very few options when it came to refilling the frontbenchers.
- some shadow ministerial positions were left unfixed for some time, and some shadow minsters had to take on not just one, but 2 or 3 different roles (some mps have only just been elected in 2015)
- concerns were sonon raised over the impact these vacancies ere aging on scrutiny of the executive.
Are MPs and peers always prompted for the best reasons? -
- mps who perform well in tv interviews and speaks confidently in the chamber might son be marked for promotion.
- but do mps that stand out in the commons necessarily have the skills and experience needed to run a large department
- an mp can be a confident public speaker but still lack real leadership and management experience which is vital when running a large team and ldepartment.
What is GOAT?
What were the pros and cons?
- When Gordon Brown became pm in 2007, he said that he and a “government of all talents”
-he appointed a number of people with no previous political experience to the House of Lords, so that they could join the government.
- these appointees soon became known as GOATS ( Government of all talents)
- they consisted a former diplomat, a surgeon, a former director of the confederation of British industry, a former first sea lord, a banker and businessman.
- he wasn’t the first or the last prime minster to do this but his high profile experiment did draw attention to the issue of recruitment.
- supporters argued that, as the size and complexity of government had grown so much, it was even more important to bring people into government who had developed the right skills and expertise.
- the experiment had highlighted, how well parliament functions as a training ground and talent pool for future misers
- many of the goats did not last long in their roles - some sad that they felt unprepared for the job, being unfamiliar with the many rules and procedures and the parliamentary aspects of the job
-felt uncomfortable answering questions, responding to opposition and attacks in the chamber.
- career politicians may lack experience outside of politics but they gain an excellent understanding of parliamentary procedure, and the political aspects of a minsters job.
Other than skills and experience, what other factors does a PM have to consider when appointing people into ministerial positions?
- take into account a number of political factors.
- e.g should a loyal but inexperienced backbench mp be privatised over an experienced but rebellious one?
- e.g is there a need to keep a portly faction happy by promoting someone ho shares it’s views?
-e.g Theresa as under pressure from both pro and anti brexit factions, to promote mps who had either campaigned in support of the remain camapaingn or the leave campaign in the 2016 Eu referendum.
How can political pressure effect recruitment in the cabinet
- cabinet reshuffles can also be driven more by politcal pressures than a desire to better allocates skills and expertise
- minsters don’t usually get enough Time to get good at their job.
- during new labours 13 years in office, there were:
- 6 defence secretaries
- 6 Home Secretaries
- 8 Business sectarians
- 8 trad and industry secretaries.
- were these misers moved on because they proved incable of doing the job or because political factors made it difficult for the prime mistr to resist a reshuffle.
What impact does Parliament recruitment functions have on scrutiny and representation?
- the size of government has increased + more misters are drawn from the commons = increasingly large ‘payroll vote’: Frontbench MPs bound by collective responsibility.
- the prospect of promotion can mean that career minded backbenchers are not bound by collective responsibility, are equally reluctant to rebel.
What is Collective Ministerial Responsibility?
The convention that all Miers of the government should support, and take rejposnbiltiy for the government policies,even if they do not not privately support them
If minsters want to criticise or vote against the government, they should resign first.
What laws have been passed by Parliament to limit the size of the of the payroll vote?
Misnsterial and other salaries act (1975):
- set the maximumnumber of paid ministerial posts at 109
House of Commons Disqualification Act (1975)
- no more than 95 holders of paid ministerial can sit and vote in the commons at any one time
However, the pm can still as to the payroll vote by giving mps unpaid positions as parliamentary private secretaries:
Unpaid assistants to misters - not officially members of the government but still bound by collective responsibility - especially if they want to use it as a stepping stone into a paid ministerial role.
Size of the payroll vote in 2017:
- 23 Cabinet minsters
- 33 non-cabinet minsters
- 31 junior minsrs
- 20 whips
- 46 unpaid parliamentary private secretaries
- 21% of total mps counted as payroll vote
What functions power does the both houses in Parliament share?
- debate key issues
- introduce, debate, amend, vote on bills
- hold minters accountable
- if requires a vote in both houses to dismiss a senior judge
How is the Commons financial privilege established?
What are the criticisms?
- in both statue and convention
- as earl as 1671, their were resolutions passed by the House of Commons that stated all aids (taxation) given to the king, by the commons, the rate or tax ought not to be altered by the lords
- this meant that all bills of aid and supplies like finance bills (makes tax changes for the year) and consolidated fund bills (authorise public spending) must originate in the commons and are not amended by the House of Lords.
- if the House of Lords makes an amendment that has spending implications and the commons, overturns the amendment citing financial privilege, the lords is expected to respect commons financial privileges and not insist on the amendment.
- in recent years, some peers have argued that this convention has been used to broadly by the commons allowing debate over conteversial bills to be shut son unnecessarily.
Example: In 2012, the lords made a number of amendments to Welfare Reform Bill:
- sought to significantly reform the nation welfare system
-the lords addressed some of the bills most controversial elements
- 7 key amendments softened some of the bills most controversial reforms, such as the new household benefit cap and the so called “bedroom tax”
- however, all 7 amendments were overturned in the commons
- as the amendments reduced the savings the government hoped to achieve with the bill, they were said to engage financial privilege, and a result, the lords accepted defeat , passing different amendments that the commons found acceptable.
How often does the Commons waive it’s financial privilege?
- it often chooses to do this
- between 200 and 2012, financial privilege was waived 610 times
- shows it’s not impossible to influences legislation with financial implications
- most of the amendments on which financial privilege was waived were actually proposed by the government, making it less spurning.
What is a problem with convention?
- Conventions rely upon mutual understanding and sometimes this can break down.
- i 1909, the h of l refused to pass the liberal governments buduget, which included new taxes, to fund new social programmes.
- the lords had not rejected a budget for over 2 centuries and the commons soon argued that th lords were acting unconstitutionally.
- by 1911, the franchise had bee greatly expanded giving the commons greater democratic legitimacy, only made it even more controversial that unelected peers were breaking convention to challenge reforms that enjoyed public support
- the lords argued that the government should prove that its reforms enjoyed popular support by winning another general election.
- an election was held which the liberal party won despite losing seats - the liberal gov proposes their budget and this time, the lords gave in.
- liberal government then proved a bill that would significantly limit the power of the lords - however this too was blocked by the lords
- another GE was held with little change; the king agreed to create hundred of new liberal peers if it was necessary to get the bill passed
- this that was sufficient, and the parliament act (1911) passed, forever changing the role of the lords
Explain the Parliament Act (1911).
- requires all money bills, which deal exclusively with taxation or public spending, to be presented for royal assent one month after being sent to the lords, heather the lords have passed the bill or not
- not all billls that affect ta and spending are money bills, just those that only deal with ta and spending
- the limitation does not appply to bills that also include provision on other subjects.
- since the act, the house of l has ben unable to veto bills
- limited the lords to only delaying non-money bills for up to 2 years
- if the commons passed the bill in 3 separate sessions, and 2 years had lapsed between the first and the last time the bill had passed, it could rev royal assent even without the lords approval.
Explain the Parliament Act (1949)
- concerned that the conservative dominated lords would delay its nationalisation programme, the labour gov introduced a bill that reduced the lords power to delay non-money bills to just a single year
- due to opposition from peers, the bill had to be passed it out the approval of the lords, under the terms of the 19111 Parliament Act
The Parliaments act do not apply to...
why is this significant?
- Bills extending the maximum duration of a Parliament beyond five years (this exclusion was designed to prevent a gov it’s a large majority from keeping it selves in power indefinitely)
- bills originated in the House of Lords
- Delegated/secondary legislation
- when the gov introduce bills in the lords perhaps because the timetable in the commons is already quite packed, it can later find itself under greater pressure to agree to amendments.
Example: Pubic Bodies Bill: Government bill introduced in the lords in 2010
- the strong opposition of peers and pressure groups, coupled with knowledge that the commons could not ultimately override the lords, pressured the gov to accept substantial changes e.g minsters abandoned plans to privatise many state owned forests.
How many times have the Parliament Acts been used?
Why is it, this number?
1911: 3 times e.g the Welsh Church Act (1914)
1919: 4 times
- hunting act (2004)
- sexual offences amendment act (2000)
- war crimes act (1991)
Only 7 bills have been passed without the lords approval.
Why it’s so low:
- peers come from a wide range of professional backgrounds with expertise relevant to a wide rage of policy areas and without constituencies to represent, or rules limiting debate, thy also have time to scrutinise bills in more detail
- as a result, many lords amendments are accepted, because mps respect the fact that the house functions well as a revising chamber.
- the commons largely relies upon the lords committes to scrutinise secondary legislation, which mps have little Time for
- European Parliamentary elections act (1999)
In what way, can the power to delay seem more significant than it might seem?
Give an example:
- minsters are usually in a hurry to get their legislation passed and the prospect of delay can encourage them to consider carefully any concerns raised by peers.
- Bills that fail to complete all of the necessary stages before the end of the session usually have to start all over again at the beginning of the next session
Example: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill - 2011
- provided for a referendum to be held on the use of the AV for GE
- the bill had to pass by be 16th in order for the gov to hold the av referendum in May that year
- the committee stage alone took 14 days in the lords (the longest for years) - opposition peers re accused of filibustering the bill, dragging out proceedings its debate to avoid a vote
- the lords made significant amendments, including a turnout requirement of 40% for the av referendum, but they were overturned in the commons, and the lords accepted defeat
What are the legal and non-legal impact imposed on the House of Lords when it comes to legislation?
- Parliament Act (1911)
- Parliament Act (1949)
- Financial Privilege
- Salisbury Convention
- Secondary legislation
Recognising the issues with their legitimacy, peers limit the use of their legal powers
What is the Salisbury Convention?
How was it Established
The Convention that the House of Lords should not oppose bills that were featured in a government election manifesto.
- in 1945, labour won a landslide victory but only had 16 peers in the House of Lords
- the conservative leader in the House of Lords argued that peers should
Not obstruct labours nationalisation and welfare policies, as voters had given the government a clear mandate
What is the convention on secondary legislation?
- While the Parliament Acts do not effect the Lords power to veto secondary legislation, the house has done so only on rare occasions
- As a result, some argue that there is a convention that the lords should only block secondary legislation in exception circumstances
What are the arguments against conventions?
- There is more party balance in the lords than before and arguably greater legitimacy leading some peers to argue if the Salisbury Convention is still necessary.
- peers have also argued that declining turnout and shrinking government majority, have also undermined the idea that election manifesto have an unquestionable mandate
Example: in 2005, Lib Dem peers opposed the labour government identify card scheme, even though it had featured in the party’s manifesto arguing the governments low vote share undermined it’s mandate.
- some similarly questioned whether the convention applied to the ‘coalition agreement’ negotiated by the cons and Lib Dem’s in 2010
- it is likely that peers would question if the convention applies to the current minority conservative government
Who has the power to dismiss the executive?
- Only MPs can cause the government to resign its a motion of no confidence not peers
- Pre-2011: any government that lost a confidence vote was EP red by convention to resign, or request a dissolution of Parliament, triggering a general election
- The Fixed-Term Parliament Act (2011) states that if the government is deafen on the motion “ that this house has no confidence in the HM government” and no other government wins another confidence motion within 14 calendar days, then Parliament is dissolved an an early General election is held.
Give an example of the Lords challenging convention.
Primary Legislation: Tax Credits Act (2002): Created a new System of tax credits, paid to those on low incomes
- gave the chancellor power to make secondary legislation to adjust the finer details of how people would qualify for these benefits and what they’d receive
- in 2015 chancellor George’s osbounre used this to create a n secondary legislation: Statutory Tax Credits Regulations 2015:
- cut the tax credits bill by 4.4 billion, by increasing the rate at which tax credits were withdrawn as wastes increased
- the House of Commons approved the regulations but peers controversially voted to delay them until specific conditions had been met
The government argued that peers were braking multiple conventions:
Financial Privilege: the new regulations were intended to save billions of pounds but peers argued that financial privilege only applied to primary legislation
Salisbury Convention: the conservative manifesto pledged to cut 12 billion from the welfare budget but peers argued that the party had refused to stay where these cuts would be made
Secondary Legislation: The lords had only ever blocked secondary legislation 5 times in the past but peers had long asserted their right to decide how to vote on secondary legislation.