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 to prepare an answer rather than answering direct questions on the spot. Question Time has also been criticised for turning into a ‘Punch and Judy’ show between the two leading parties. It has also been criticised for not being long enough to question the government fully on their actions.
Another way that parliament ensure the executive is accountable is that MPs are able to vote against the executive policies. In some circumstances members of the ruling party have rebelled against their party, illustrating their distaste for the executive’s policies. For example: on the second reading of the 90 day detention Bill thirty nine Labour MPs rebelled and legislation could not be moved further. Another example is of the Higher Education Act whereby it only passed by twenty eight voted despite Labour having a significant majority of 60 in the House of Commons. Nevertheless rebelling is rare as MPs could face punishments (such as no promotion) for rebelling.
A vote of no confidence allows parliament to hold the executive tot account. If parliament feels the Prime Minster is not competent to carry out his role then a vote of no confidence can be instrumented. This ma mean the Prime Minister is voted out of their position, thus calling the Prime Minster to account for his or her actions. The last time this occurred was in 1979 when James Callaghan was voted out.
Standing Committees are set up to scrutinise legislation but are often not effective due to the limitations set upon them. One limitation is the application of the guillotine. This is when the leading party can place a time limit on the amount of time available to discuss legislation, therefore less time are spent on amendments. Filibustering is another process to restrict them spent on legislation. This is when the Mp of the leading party talks about one small point of the legislation for a long time, using up all the allocated time for that piece of legislation, which means vital or controversial points may not be discussed, reducing the chance for parliament to make amendments. Standing Committees proposals do not always work if the government object, for example in the 2005 Race and Religious Hatred Bill, the Lords Standing Committee for this legislation wanted to change the wording of glorifying. The amendment was rejected, thus proving the committees are not always effective. Another problem is that the standing committees are not always interested in checking the legislation, for example: the committee for the Education Act 1993 – MPs used the committee time to write their Christmas Card.
The Salisbury convention is a convention that significantly reduces the House of Lords Power to hold the executive to account. It states that the House of Lords is not allowed to oppose any legislation that was written in the ruling parties manifesto, as they already have the authority of the electorate through their mandate to carry out the policies. Therefore the House of Lords have no right to stop the legislation being passed. Another Key piece of Legislation that reduces the Powers of the House of Commons is the 1949 Parliament Act, which prevents the Lords form stopping any legislation, and therefore allows an easy passage of the executive’s legislation through parliament. The Lords can only delay the legislation for up to a year. For example, the House of Lords opposed the fox Hunting Bill, so government used the Parliament Act, and this legislation has now been passed despite the Lords opposition.
The process of swampage also shows that parliament is not effective at holding the government to account. Swampage occurred with the Hose of Lords Act 1999 when the executive swamped the House of Lords with life peers to ensure the Act was passed. The power of swampage is powerful and has been used many times as a threat if the Lords do not conform to the executives’ demands, for example in 1993 John major threatened swampage on the Lords.
In conclusion it can be argued that Parliament is only effective when the government have a weak majority, if the majority is vast then they will have a higher proportion of MPs on each committee and the chance of legislation not be properly scrutinised is high. Since Labour came to power in 1997 they have only had two defeats and event hose defeats have been in the years where their majority is smaller than previous years. All the measure put into place by Parliament to hold the executive to account all have limitations that prevent them from being fully effective.