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8. Parliamentary Scrutiny and Influence on Government Bills  

Meg Russell and Daniel Gover

This chapter examines the political dynamics of legislative scrutiny, with an emphasis on how parliamentary policy influence works. A central function of legislatures is legislating. In the case of the UK Parliament, the treatment of legislation is one of the most time-consuming activities, with both Houses spending the great majority of that time scrutinizing government bills. The chapter first introduces the reader to common assumptions, including the idea that government dominates the process, with Parliament acting as little more than a ‘rubber stamp’, before questioning these various assumptions. It shows that non-government amendments may ‘fail’ but can nonetheless be influential, that government amendments do not necessarily imply government dominance, that the two Chambers often operate in cooperation rather than competition, and that parliamentary influence occurs throughout the policy process. Furthermore, the chapter suggests that the legislative process is less separate from other processes than it might appear.

Chapter

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14. Accountability in Parliament  

Mark Bennister and Phil Larkin

This chapter focuses on the accountability of the government to Parliament. One way to conceptualize the place of the UK Parliament in the accountability process is as part of a ‘chain of delegation’, whereby democratic authority lies in the hands of the citizens. Due to lack of time and expertise to participate actively in the day-to-day process of running the country, however, these citizens delegate much of this responsibility to a subset of their number who become parliamentarians. Parliamentarians in turn delegate much of this role to a further subset of their number who become the government. The chapter first considers accountability in the Westminster model before discussing recent reforms of accountability mechanisms and how they have increased Parliament's capacity to scrutinize government. Examples of the strengthening of the accountability function include stronger select committees, the use of urgent questions, and Liaison Committee sessions with the prime minister.

Chapter

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24. Whips and Rebels  

Mark Stuart

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.

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17. Questioning the Government  

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).

Chapter

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26. MPs Campaigning for their Constituencies  

Oonagh Gay

This chapter examines the mechanisms used by Members of Parliament (MPs) to campaign for their constituencies, and more specifically to influence policy agendas and become national figures. There are clear personal and career factors that make constituency campaigning worthwhile to MPs. In terms of themes adopted for campaigns, unemployment has long been at the heart of constituency projects. The chapter first considers the reasons why MPs undertake constituency projects before discussing the first modern example of how constituency unemployment could be used to win national publicity, the Jarrow Crusade led by the Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson. It then explains how MPs raise constituency issues in the UK Parliament and use their party machinery to lobby ministers. It also explores the ways in which the clash between constituency interests and government policy pose dilemmas for MPs as ministers.

Chapter

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12. Private Members’ Bills  

Robert Hazell and Fergus Reid

This chapter considers the ways in which backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) exploit their right to introduce legislation — known as private members' bills (PMBs). The PMB process has been criticized for allegedly being opaque, misleading, and virtually discredited inside and outside the UK Parliament. Yet, each session, more than 450 backbenchers enter the Commons PMB ballot for a priority slot. The chapter first explains the terms ‘hybrid bill’, ‘private bill’, and ‘public bill’ before discussing the difference between PMBs and government bills. It also examines the importance of time when considering PMBs, the three routes to a PMB in the House of Commons, a typical second reading Friday in the Commons, and the PMB ballot in the House of Lords. Finally, it analyses efforts to reform PMB procedures and why, despite flaws and frustrations, PMBs are seen by many MPs as a useful tool for advancing their agendas and campaigns.

Chapter

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19. Scrutiny by the House of Lords  

Patrick Milner

This chapter examines the scrutiny function of the House of Lords. It first provides an overview of conventions informing the scrutiny role of the House of Lords, including the Salisbury Convention and the financial privilege of the House of Commons which concerns its special right to decide levels of public taxation and public spending. It also considers the position of the House of Lords with respect to secondary legislation before discussing the many different ways in which the House of Lords fulfils its scrutiny function, such as scrutinizing draft primary legislation as part of the legislative process, as well as secondary legislation in committees; conducting in-depth inquiries; investigating matters of public policy in committees; questioning the government through oral and written questions; participating in debates on current issues and the findings of committees; and scrutinizing the government's actions in the Council of the European Union.

Chapter

Cover The Member States of the European Union

13. Europeanization and Member State Institutions  

Hussein Kassim and Vanessa Buth

This chapter examines the impact of Europeanization on member state institutions. Membership in the European Union imposes a variety of constraints and burdens on countries, but it also affords important opportunities and makes available significant resources. Integration initially reinforced the decline of national legislatures, but they have fought back in the last decade. National courts have assumed new functions and become part of a wider Community of law. At the same, the precise effects of the EU have varied cross-nationally as the demands of membership have interacted with differing constitutional arrangements, legal traditions, and political cultures. Moreover, national institutions such as governments, parliaments, and courts have left their mark on the EU and determine to a large extent the capacities of the Union as a system. The chapter considers how EU membership has affected national governments, national parliaments, and national courts.