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How effective is parliament at holding the executive to account?

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How effective is parliament at holding the executive to account? (30 marks) The executive is the government, and currently the Labour government are in power with Gordon Brown as the leader, and they have been in power since 1997. To ensure that the executive does not abuse its power, there are some checks and balances that parliament carry out. They are mostly held to account by standing committees, select committees, question time and debates. The first way in which the executive is held to account is by Prime Ministers Question Time. There is time allocated each day in the House of Commons for backbenchers and oppositions to ask the current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and other minister's oral questions about a huge range of issues. Most questions must be given to the prime minister and ministers before hand to give them an opportunity to prepare their answers, however, a few unprepared questions may be given, this is so the answers can not be prior prepared. ...read more.


An example of a debate is about the London Olympic Bill. The third way in which the executive is held to account is by select committees, which were introduced in 1979. They investigate the work of government departments and decide if they have acted effectively and efficiently. These are groups of 9 - 11 MPs, whom are usually specialised and experienced as they have been in this field for a long time. They question and cross examine ministers, their civil servants and any witnesses. Some examples of select committees are "Culture, Media and Sports", "Home Affairs" and "Defence." It is effective at holding the executive to account because, unlike Question Time, there is no formal procedure and questions may go on for some time. Peter Hennessy called them the: "single most important weapon on increased parliamentary influence of the 20th Century." On the other hand, they are ineffective because they do have some pressure of time, which can not give them a chance to look at all facts and therefore to reach a fair judgement. ...read more.


There are also some variable factors that must be taken into account. One of these is the majority size that the Bill is passed by. An example of this in 2001 where Labour got a 97 majority. The strength of the opposition also has an effect because if the opposition is stronger the government will be scrutinised better, for example in question time, and people will be able to make a better decision about some legislation. Whereas if the opposition is weak, the legislation will be passed more easily. It also depends on who is chairing the select committee. For example, Dunwoody. In conclusion, the effectiveness of parliament is increasing rapidly now because Labour have been in power since 1997 and parliament is more likely to rebel and hold the executive to account better. I think that parliament holds the executive to account partially because they provide useful checks and balances that ensure that the government cannot just win with a simple majority and pass any legislation as this would be undemocratic. However, government can still have some hold over the parliaments decisions, yet not completely. ...read more.

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