(5) How effective are the functions of
1 Scrutiny & oversight
1.1.1 Parliament does not govern the UK, but it checks
and constrains the government – referred to as
‘calling the government to account’.
1.1.2 Ultimately this creates a ‘responsible government’ and so
Parliament identifies any mistakes the government may make.
1.1.3 The oversight is underpinned by conventions of
individual and collective responsibility (e.g. Ministerial
Code, 1999 & Cabinet Manuel, 2011).
126.96.36.199 Ministerial Code 1999
188.8.131.52 Cabinet Manuel,
1.2.1 Majority of MPs in the Commons belong to the
majority party and so their primary role is to support
the government of the day rather than scrutinise it.
1.2.2 Question time is often weak – oral questions often lead to short responses
which are aimed at embarrassing ministers rather than careful scrutiny of
their policy or actions. Prime Minister’s questions is often a party-political
battle between PM and leader of the opposition.
1.2.3 Select Committees are seen as more effective than Question time – but, the
government has a majority on each committee. Individual committee appointments
are influenced by the whips who ensure that loyal backbenchers sit on key
committees BUT – committee chairs have been elected by the Commons since
184.108.40.206 Select Committees have no executive power – they can criticise
government, but they cannot change government policy
2 Recruitment and
training of ministers
2.1.1 Ministers are recruited from a limited
pool of talent: mainly MPs of the
largest party in the Commons.
2.1.2 Parliamentarians require speech-making skills and
learn how to deliver sound bites, but the not
necessarily acquire the bureaucratic and
management skills to run a government
2.1.3 Fewer ministers have experienced
a career outside of politics.
2.2.1 Parliament acts a major channel of
political recruitment. In the UK, all
ministers MUST be MPs or peers.
2.2.2 Before becoming frontbenchers, they must be backbenchers
so that they experience debating, asking parliamentary
questions and sitting on committees to learn their political trade.
2.2.3 This helps ministers to understand how
government works and how policy is developed.
3.1.1 When governments govern through Parliament, their actions
are seen as ‘rightful’ and to be obeyed. This is for two reasons:
220.127.116.11 the first, Parliament, in a sense, stands for the
‘public’ as a representative assembly and as such,
when a measure is approved, there is the sense
that this has been approved by the people.
18.104.22.168 Secondly, Parliament’s approval leads
one to assume that government’s actions
have been debated and scrutinized and
weaknesses have been exposed.
3.2.1 House of Lords is not elected
and therefore has no
3.2.2 Parliament has been undermined by
scandals ‘cash for honours’ and ‘cash for