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Flashcards in Week 2- Parliament Deck (59)
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What arguments are there in favour of reforming select committees?

-Utilising improved oral and technical measures of giving evidence by extending select committee usage when a bill starts in the House of Lords
-Select committees give a false sense of public involvement in bill drafting because they have no actual input on the legislative process, as well as committees often being made up of participants who don't represent a wide enough range of views with relation to the bill. Ministers often get an easier ride in select committees because they often hand pick public participants.
- Calls for legislative standards committee to improve quality and scrutiny of legislation, especially improving the process of public evidence taking.


What are the arguments in favour of the current select committees?

-2004 introduced evidence taking allowing the public to contribute to the legislative process,
- House of Lords select committee believe the strength of select committees comes from their expertise and non-partisan involvement, especially in the House of Lords where members often have various areas of expertise which they can use to persuade members of the house, even if they play no physical role in the legislative process.
-There is a presumption among those who like select committees in their current form that MPs and Lords give adequate weight to evidence given at the committees, suggesting a legislative standard committee is unnecessary.


What act fixes the date of the election and how long for?

Fixed term parliament act 2011
5 years


What is the benefit of fixing the parliamentary term?

-Fixed term parliaments allow parties to plan for general elections, removing strategic action by the PM who could arbitrarily initiate an election whenever they pleased.
-Transfers power away from the executive to the commons


What exceptions are there to parliament being in a fixed term?

A vote of no confidence will lead to an early general election if no government is founded within 14 days
-Only a simple majority is required in the vote, and if the opposition party call a vote of no confidence, convention says there will be time given to the debate.


Do political parties make MPs more or less representative?

-An MP runs for its constituency under the name of their party. They often get voted in on the basis of their party rather than their own views or policies.
-Nicol argues that overtime MPs have become 'advocates of specific policies' therefore benefits from their parties name and status but not necessarily representing the party.
-However if the governments policies conflicts with an MP of the government, the MP must by convention support the policy, which might come at the cost of not representing their constituency.


What arguments are there for the continuation of first past the post voting?

Proportional representation as the replacement for first past the post is much less likely to result in majority governments and therefore forming more coalitions, which can make decision making and voting less decisive.
-It would also break the link between MP and constituency


What are the arguments against first past the post voting?

-Proportional representation may be viewed as more democratic, because the proportion of votes match up to the number of seats in parliament. This will reduce the amount of tactical voting in constituencies and benefit smaller parties who's have a considerable number of votes but are thinly spread out across constituencies and therefore return no seats.


What does Tomkins think about the way in which MPs vote?

Tomkins believes all MPs vote mindlessly with their parties rather than giving it independent consideration. He thinks that they vote in the direction of their party simply because they are party affiliated and by default must agree with all their ideas/


What does Nicol think about the way in which MPs vote?

-Nicol believes that MPs are more independent and less willing to be told what to do, citing the increase in backbench cross voting between 1970 and 1984.


What did the number of governmental defeats in both houses exceed between 1970 and 1984 and what does it tell us about how MPs vote and act?

-It exceeded 500
-It shows that over the 20th and 21st century the strength of party politics and collective power has been open to more opposition by individuals taking it upon themselves to express their own views or possible their constituencies view/


What is Nicols view with regard to the "common good" and party voting?

-There is no single accepted perception of the common good or any fundamental rights, and parties approach these ideas with different views. They exist on a spectrum and so different parties attribute different meanings and levels of importance to differing rights, based on their own experiences.
-MPs are therefore likely to vote in accordance with their parties, not for the simple fact that they are a member of that party but because there involvement is likely to be justified because they share common views of the 'common good'.


What three things does Waldron and Nicol view as the merits of the legislature?

Its size, diversity and openness about disagreements.


What is the problem with a more neutral parliament?

A more neutral parliament does not ensure democratic deliberation on legislating and therefore may not encompass as wide a range of views as our current party politics system does.
-Party politics are fundamental in allowing a wide range of views to be heard and considered, and a more neutral judicial-like parliament may be no better placed to make decisions on the common good just because of a lack of party affiliation.


What role do government whips play? (HS2 v Secretary of State for transport)

Government whips are responsible for encouraging government ministers to attend important votes to ensure that the government get a majority. This includes detailing the programme to MPs at the next session to encourage their attendance.


What might reduce the effective of government whips?

MPs may be forced to choose between voting along party lines (corresponding with the demand of their whips) and their constituencies opinions on a matter. Due to the convention of collective cabinet responsibility, cabinet members must vote in accordance with their whips, even if they disagree on the matter. Failure to do so may result in political sanction, including loss of office (they become an independent part member).


What does Waldron say with regards to phrases such as 'the people have spoken' and 'the will of the people'?

Such phrases which are normally associated with democratic society must be approached with scepticism, because our electoral system may only consist of individual votes on which a political outcome is given rather than cohesion between different persons' wills.


What does Waldron believe democratic societies should opt towards and go against?

Opt towards a sense of justice for the community ie ordinary people are involved in the running of the country

Go against- 'experts' or a small group of individuals trusted with making decisions on behalf of the electorate; this would suggest that the opinions of ordinary people are subordinate to that of the small group of experts.


How does JS Mill criticise parliament?

MPs may give consideration to the 'working man' but does not go far enough to give consideration to the issue through the perspective of the working man, only what the MP believes the working man might hold to be true or important.


Why might our parliament be effective in comparison to direct democracy (Waldron)

-Direct democracy involving 10s of millions of people is logistical impossible and too informal to be effective.
-Deliberation between all citizens in the hope of reaching an agreement also impossible
-Through the constituency model, discussions and debates on issues by ordinary people can be channelled by their MP into a more formal argument, which feeds into the more organised structure of parliamentary debate. A decision can then be drawn from a vote in which the majority of MPs have voted for.


How does first past the post work?

In each constituency the MP with the most votes will get that constituencies seat in parliament. No matter how many votes the other MPs from different parties get, this bears no impact on the make-up of parliament
-A party may get the most seats in parliament but have proportionally fewer votes than they have seats


What % of seats did labour get in 2005 with what % of the vote?

56% of the seats with only 35% of the vote.


What is a bicameral system?

A bicameral system is one with two chambers of parliament, as opposed to one chamber in a unicameral parliament.


What was Benthams view on bicameralism?

Bentham argues that any features of the second house which were through to be important for serious and responsible legislation should just be incorporated into the first house instead.
-He calls the second chamber redundant as he feels they effectively do the same job over a longer period of time (impeding efficiency)


What are considered the benefits of Bicameralism by people like Waldron?

-The strengths of the House of Lords is distinct from that of the commons and therefore they do not do the same job as the commons
-Two chambers representing people in two different ways, elected in different ways and on different criteria, is surely better than one chamber 'sampling the spirit of the country' through only one plane.
-The two houses take different approached to legislation, with the House of Lords ensuring that the commons is subject to additional scrutiny of their proposed legislation


What are the differences in approaches by each house to legislation?

The House of Commons takes a more generalist approach to legislation, ensuring that the practicalities of the bill if enacted would operate effectively and with purpose.
The Lords takes a more technical approach by scrutinising the bill line by line, focusing more finely on the detail of the contents of the bill


What does JS Mill say about the importance of a bicameral parliament?

“The consideration which tells most … in favour of two Chambers … is the evil effect produced upon the mind of any holder of power, whether an individual or an assembly, by the consciousness of having only themselves to consult"
-What this means is that neither an elected or unelected chamber should have the freedom to proceed as a legislature without conflict or approval from another.
-The increased time for which it takes for bills to be passed is a small price to pay for making sure that no one group in parliament goes unopposed, as this can make them blind to flaws in their goals and reasoning otherwise.


Why is it important that a second chamber is independent of the government?

-So that the second chamber is not merely an extension of people operating under the same mandate of the government
-Their impartiality ensures that external factors of politics do not impede on their ability to carry out genuine legislative debate.


How does the House of Lords hold the executive to account?

-Question time of ministers
-Debating of key issues


What two ways does the procedure of the commons and lords differ with regards to debating legislation?

-A time limit is placed on the work of the commons whereas the Lords have a reasonably unlimited amount of time to scrutinise bills compared to the commons.
-The Lords can also make amendments at third reading of the bill unlike the commons