How Effective Is Parliament At Controlling And Influencing The Actions Of The Government?

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Ben Jacques

How Effective Is Parliament At Controlling And Influencing The Actions Of The Government?

Parliament is sovereign, however much of this power lies with the government or executive. The rest of Parliament has to check this power and it has many ways of influencing the actions of government to make sure that the power is balanced between them. They do this through a range of different actions and abilities such as votes, private member bills and the backbench business committee, scrutiny within the House of Lords, question time and scrutiny within Committees.

Votes are important in influencing government. If a piece of legislation cannot pass through Parliament then it does not become a law. In the House of Commons MPs can vote against the government even if they are in the same party and that will influence the outcome of the vote. In recent years backbench rebellions have become increasingly common which indicates that Parliament has greater influence however of course the use of the whipping system does still undermine this. A vote of confidence can also be used in Parliament, it is a rather extreme measure and if the government loses they have to call a general election. It can be used to bring down a whole government by the House of Commons for example the removal of Callaghan’s government in 1979. Votes play an important role in scrutinising government however they are undermined by the whipping system.

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Private members bills and the backbench business committee have given Parliament more power over the agenda of votes and legislature. Private members bill have given the House of Commons the ability to influence legislation. These bills have been responsible for important legislation such as the removal of the death penalty and the legalisation of abortion. This system has been criticised however because it is given very little time in the government dominated schedule and a bill is unlikely to pass if the government opposes it. The backbench business committee has allowed issues to be debated outside of a party political ...

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