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Flashcards in Parliamentary Mechanisms for accountability Deck (34)
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What types of parliamentary questions are there?

Oral and written questions.


What are the main features of oral questions?

- Ministers must answer questions relating to their department's business
- PMQ's are the most publicised form of oral question lasting for 30 mins per week
- Question time for other ministers operates on a departmental rota in which ministers well answer questions once every five weeks


What are topical questions?

Topical questions were introduced in 2010 and are used where an MP feels an urgent answer is required from a minister. This is at the speaker's discretion and if granted will take place at the end of question time.


What are the main features of written questions?

- Questions receive a written response
- These Q&A's are recorded in Hansard, which records all answers to questions as well as debates and laws of the land
- highly valued by MPs in scrutinising the government


What limitations are there of written questions?

- There is an advisory cost limit of which there is a 'disproportionate cost threshold' of £850. This means the government department can refuse to answer questions which exceed this threshold
- Many MPs believe answers to questions are evasive


What have the House of Commons Procedure Committee done in regards to written questions?

They have begun to monitor the timeliness of response and consider complaints from MPs as to inadequate answers.


What are general debates?

- these are the traditional business of parliament
- several hours are spent debating laws, local or national
- these are all recorded in Hansard


What are adjournment debates?

- Where parliament debate about a general topic without a formal decision being made
- 30 mins are allocated at the end of the day for these debates
- MPs receive a fairly quicl respone


What are urgent debates and when would they be needed?

- Debates on "specific and important matters that should have urgent consideration"
- Although rarely allowed there is usually 1 per session
- 2016 was an exception as there were two: The UK steel industry in April and the Aleppo and Syria crisis in October
- If granted they usually take place within 24 hours


What does standing order 14 of the HOC state?

that "government business shall take precedence as every sitting"


What are opposition days?

- these are days where the opposition parties choose what is debated
- there are 20 days set aside for this


Are debates and effective form of holding parliament to account?

In theory no;
- Wright believes that regardless of debates MPs will rarely change there mind and vote the same way regardless.
- Norton believes, in regard to opposition days, that they have no real effect on the government


What are the purpose of select committees?

To scrutinise policy decisions


What types of select committees are there?

1) Departmental select committees (every govt. department has their own corresponding select committee)
2) Cross-Cutting committees which look at every government department (Public Accounts Committee)
3) Committees on the conduct of MPs (Committee of standard)
4) Scotland has combined committees


How are select committees composed?

(a) 11-16 MPs sit on a select committee
(b) they are made up of backbench MPs
(c) they are cross party which means no single party has an overall majority in any particular committee


How is a chair of a select committee elected?

Prior to the expenses scandal of 2009, the chair of select committees were determined by the party whip which exerted a partisan influence. However, in 2010 it was changed so that MP's used a secret ballot to vote for the chair.


What are the key functions of select committees?

(a) examine government proposals for green papers
(b) they make further inquiries
(c) examine expenditure plans from departments and agencies


How do select committees work?

They begin by selecting their own subjects of inquiry
They then;
(a) call for written and oral evidence from a wide range of groups and individuals (anyone can respond)
(b) they choose people to give evidence which allows for thorough questioning


Can select committees compel ministers and civil servants to appear before them?

No, however, most do appear to answer questions to save from embarassment.


What do select committees do after their inquiry is complete?

(a) the committee will produce a report and set out its findings along with any reccomendations
(b) in these reports committees will detail all written evidence and a transcript of oral sessions
(c) the recommendations they make will be based on an assessment of the evidence they have heard (authoritative and legitimate)


What do the government do in response to a select committees report?

They must make a response within 60 days and that response must be published.


What are the advantages of select committees?

(a) in depth examination
(b) least partisan parliamentary mechanism
(c) expertise/specialisation
(d) investigate discretion
(e) give a voice to backbenchers
(f) source of information
(g) gives MPs a chance to gain expertise and participate in the workings of the government


Out of the following;

A - Questions (oral and written)
B - Debates
C - Select Committees

which mechanism is the most effective in scrutinising the work of the government?

C - Select Committees


What are inquiries?

A formal investigation into a major problem or disaster chaired by a judge or senior figure?


What type of events would constitute the need for an inquiry?

(a) A public scandal
(b) failings in the public service
(c) political misconduct


What is the main purpose of a public inquiry?

To collect facts on the particular wrongdoing and ensure it does not happen again?


Which piece of legislation regulates rules on access to documents in regard to an inquiry?

Inquiries Act 2005


When may an inquiry be caused?

The 2005 act states an inquiry may come about where there is public concern in particular events, or where particular events may cause public concern


If a minister does not conduct an inquiry can it be challenged?

Yes, both politically and legally.
R(Amin) v Secretary of State for the Home Department 2003;
- Involved a man being murdered by his cellmate in a youth detention centre
- the murderer was known for violent tendencies and racist views
- the home secretary did no carry out an inquiry
- the family of the victim mounted a challenge on the grounds that their rights under Article 2 of the ECHR (which provides the right to life to be protected by law) had been breached
- The House of Lords held that there was an obligation to investigate which rendered the home secretary's refusal unlawful.


What could be seen as a negative aspect of inquiries?

They are slow and time consuming
Sometimes the public are not satisfied by the outcome