House of Commons
Most powerful of the two Houses of Parliament.
Made up of 650 MPs, each elected in one of 650 constituencies throughout the UK.
Almost all MPs are elected as members of a political party.
Functions of The House of Commons
Representation: MPs represent constituents and may represent 'interests' such as trade unions, or particular professions, provided these interests are declared. Almost all MPs represent political parties, and usually vote according to the party line (the whipping system).
Government Personnel: Although parliament does not appoint the government, it provides a forum in which budding ministers can demonstrate and hone their political skills, while ...view middle of the document...
Powers in international relations
Power to call a general election
Power to terminate a Parliament or government.
(Adapted from Tony Benn 1981)
Limitations or Constraints on Prime Ministers Powers
Ministerial appointments require some recognition of the need for political balance and administrative competence. There is pressure (from colleagues or the media) to appoint certain people- all Prime Ministers at least listen to advice from senior colleagues before making appointments.
The Prime Ministers ability to control the flow of business is restricted
Apart from drawing up the party manifesto, most Prime Ministers do not initiate policy- they have a small staff and most expertise and detailed information is located in individual departments.
House of Lords
Functions of the House of Lords
Scrutinizing Government actions and ensuring that they are acting the public interest. This takes place through the House of Lords EU Select Committee.
Holding Government accountable. Ministers who are Lords are questioned by other Peers.
Passing and amending legislation proposed by Government - The Salisbury Convention dictates that they do not challenge the mandate of the Government, but recommend amendments to legislation (and do so regularly).
Developing Private Members' Bills, although usually unsuccessful due to the dominance of the Executive over the business of the House.
With less demand on their time and many experts from a number of fields in the Lords they are able to give time to deliberation on the great issues of the day
The legitimation of laws, granting democratic consent to Government bills is less relevant to the house of Lords as it is not elected, but it is still an essential part of the constitutional process.
One of the most familiar actions of the House of Lords is its delaying actions. Since the 1949 Parliament Act is has been impossible for the Lords to defeat Government bills outright, but they can delay them for up to one year. This can force its scrapping if near the election.
The Lords will not reject every piece of Government legislation, but when they do they will not only secure major media coverage of the issue, but also send a message to the government about the force of their objection, all of which refocuses the Government and may force a rethink.
Decision making Arena (War on Iraq – 2 days)
Arbitrating in departmental disputes (spending v treasury)
Dealing with emergencies (ERM, foot and mouth)
Coordination of govt. polices (‘joined up govt.’)
Developing government agenda/parliament business (Queen’s speech)
Leadership for the party in parliament
Standing Committees: Permanent policy areas (economic affairs)
Ad Hoc: temporary to deal with expected problems (HoL reform)
Convention – not legally binding
Most important for cabinet, but is for all government members (John Denham over Iraq)
All members of the government are...