This chapter examines the issue of representation in the House of Lords. The existence of the unelected House of Lords has long been the subject of criticism, particularly from the Left. This is because the House of Lords today remains an almost wholly nominated, unelected, parliamentary institution, with most peers formally appointed by the Queen. However, some peers are also appointed by a House of Lords Appointments Commission, primarily those of a non-political nature. Such appointments have sparked accusations that the House of Lords is not representative, which runs counter to Britain's status as a parliamentary democracy. The chapter considers four discrete modes of representation and representativeness vis-à-vis the House of Lords: political representativeness, social representativeness, individual representation, and sectional representation.
Peter Dorey and Matthew Purvis
This chapter examines the role of whips and rebellious Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK Parliament. Whips are MPs or peers who are responsible for managing the Members of their party, and in particular for ensuring that party Members vote in line with their party's policy. The whips are often regarded as bullies and cajolers, whereas MPs are seen as spineless and overly loyal. The chapter first considers the myths and reality about whips before discussing the growing rebelliousness of MPs — that is, they vote against their party line in the division (voting) lobbies. It shows that these rebels have made the role of the whips much harder, citing as an example the case of the Coalition Government of 2010–2015, where the government whips had to try to satisfy the demands of two parties — Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party.
Paul E. J. Thomas and Stacey Frier
This chapter considers the ways in which backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) and peers campaign to change laws and government policies. Policy and legislative campaigning is often conducted by groups of MPs and peers who work together across party lines. Such groupings are commonly supported by external pressure groups, who help to keep the parliamentarians informed on the issue, and who can also provide resources to support campaigning activities. MPs and peers also coordinate their parliamentary activities with lobbying by their pressure group partners. The chapter first examines traditional assumptions about influencing government before turning to actors involved in campaigning to change law and policy. It also describes the formal parliamentary tools as well as informal means employed by backbenchers who campaign for policy or legislative change, along with contemporary developments regarding such activity.
Mark Shephard and Jack Simson Caird
This chapter considers the nature and roles of backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) as well as their impact and influence, placing emphasis on the Backbench Business Committee. The term ‘backbench’ refers to where the MPs or peers sit in the House of Commons — behind those with either ministerial frontbench or shadow ministerial frontbench positions. The definition of a backbencher holds in many other parliamentary systems where the executive is drawn from the legislative branch (for example, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia). However, emphasis on the role of backbenchers might vary depending on the parliamentary system. The chapter discusses the role of backbenchers in the UK Parliament, such as supporting their party; scrutinizing government; representing and furthering the interests of their constituency and constituents; contributing to policy development; and promotion of public understanding.
Marc Geddes and Jessica Mulley
This chapter examines the way the UK Parliament is administered and organized in terms of the support offered by the institution to Members of Parliament (MPs) and peers to fulfil their parliamentary, political, and policy functions. The House of Commons employs roughly 2,500 and the House of Lords around 500 members of staff, in addition to staff in the bicameral Parliamentary Digital Service. These staff provide invaluable and impartial support to Parliament. This chapter considers the political and non-political sources of support provided to MPs and peers in carrying out their role and how the resources available to parliamentarians have increased over the past two decades through a range of parliamentary reforms. It also discusses key issues and debates arising from the support given to MPs and peers, including the issue over whether staff exist to serve the institution of Parliament or to support parliamentarians.
Stephen Bates, Peter Kerr, and Ruxandra Serban
This chapter examines how accountability is carried out in the UK Parliament through various questioning procedures which enable ministers and the government to explain and defend their decisions. Questioning the government provides an important means for Members of Parliament (MPs) and peers to hold the government, the prime minister, ministers, and departments to account. There are two main types of parliamentary questions: oral questions and written questions. Oral questions are both asked and answered on the Floor of the House of Commons or the House of Lords, whereas written questions are ‘often used to obtain detailed information about policies and statistics on the activities of government departments’. The chapter first explains these two types of parliamentary questions before discussing their purposes. It also considers debates over the issue of reforming parliamentary questions, and more specifcally Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).