How effective is Parliament in Calling the Executive to Account?

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How effective is Parliament in Calling the Executive to Account?

It is a debatable issue as to what extent parliament can hold the executive to account. I could be said that the government is effective for many reasons. Parliament ensures the executive is accountable through the work of select committees who are set up to investigate public policy and administration. There are two types of select committees: Non-departmental and departmental. Non-departmental committees are the Public Accounts Committee, which checks that the government are spending money as authorised by the electorate or parliament. This is a very effective type of select committee and had recently investigated Labour MP Tessa Jowell. Departmental committees examine the work of each department within parliament and the actions of the minsters. This constant examination ensures that each department perform in the most beneficial way. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee are particularly efficient. Chairmen of each Select committee also receive a higher salary, this is to protect the independence if the chairman and to prevent bribery. The House of Lords also have their own select committees which operate in the same way, for example there is the Science and Technology committee, chaired by Lord Robert Winston.  However, select committees can also produce a counter argument as to the effectiveness parliament. Whips control the membership of the select committees, therefore whips will not place minsters in the committee who are likely to object or thoroughly scrutinise legislation. Membership is also in proportion to the percentage of seats each party holds in the House of Commons; therefore it could be argued that the committees could be bias if the ruling party has a large majority. The Winterton Rule reduces parliament effectiveness as well. The rule states that no chairperson can be chair of a committee for longer than two terms or 10 years. This is to subvert any independent committees i.e. if the chairman asks too many questions then they are becoming too independent and the executive do not want to be heavily scrutinised. Minsters are not obligated to answer questions posed by the committees and often refuse, for example Keith Vaz. Lack of co-operation by the departments limits parliament’s effectiveness. The Howard principle may also occur, where the minsters refuse to resign after the select committee deem them to be unfit for their role.

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Parliament s also effective in calling the executive to account through the method of  Prime Ministerial Question Time, this allows the Houses of Parliament 30 minutes each week to question the Prime Minister. There is also ministerial question time which is the time when Parliament has the opportunity to question other ministers. Both of these question times ensure that minsters are made accountable for their behaviour and gives them a window to justify their actions.  Nevertheless Question time has limited effectiveness. All the questions are submitted ten days in advance, allowing the Prime Minster of the MP enough time ...

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