Is parliament really able to scrutinize the executive
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Is Parliament really able to ‘scrutinize’ the executive?. To identify the different ways in which the executive can be held to account To assess the effectiveness of such scrutiny.  Aims.  Starter activity.

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Is parliament really able to scrutinize the executive l.jpg

Is Parliament really able to ‘scrutinize’ the executive?

To identify the different ways in which the executive can be held to account

To assess the effectiveness of such scrutiny

Aims


Starter activity l.jpg
 Starter activity

With your partner think of as many different reasons why MPs ask ministers questions.

Compare your list with the list on the next slide 


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Why do MPs asks ministers questions?

  • Gain information

  • Press for action or raise a grievance

  • Publicise the aims of a pressure group

  • Raise public profile, esp. with constituents & party members

  • Embarrass or show support for ministers


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 Your task

  • Study Roberts, p.277-8 and construct a spider diagram to record your notes on questions in the House of Commons. Your spider diagram should include the following categories:

  • Question time

  • The Table Office

  • Supplementary questions

  • PMQs

  • Written questions

  • Informal processes


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Question time

  • Question Time held each weekday (except Fridays), lasts approx. 1 hour

  • PMQs every Wednesday (12.00-12.30pm)

  • Rota system used for ministers


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Table Office

  • Table Office (4 clerks under control of Principal Clerk) scrutinize proposed questions

  • Questions requiring oral answers must be given 3 days before Question Time (c.5,000 oral questions p.a.)

  • MP may ask up to 2 oral questions & any number of written questions a day, but only 1 oral question of 1 minister each Question Time


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Table office

  • Must be questions, cannot be ‘statements’

  • Must not encourage interpretations of the law (matter for courts not politicians)

  • Must be appropriate to minister’s departmental responsibility

Why shouldn’t ministers offer interpretations or ‘clarifications’ of the law?


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Supplementary questions

  • MPs asking questions are permitted 1 supplementary question

  • Speaker may allow further supplementaries from other MPs

  • No advance notice for supplementary questions

Former Home Secretary, David Blunkett answering questions during Question Time


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PMQs

  • Every Wednesday, 30 mins.

  • Questions chosen by lottery, ‘the shuffle’

  • MPs can ask ‘open questions’ about ‘engagements for the day’ and then supplementary questions

  • System changed in 1997. Previously PMQs took place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon

  • Leader of Opposition may make up to 4 interventions during PMQ's and the leader of the Lib. Dems asks 2

Tony Blair answering questions at the Despatch Box, during PMQs


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Written questions

  • Ministers must respond to written questions

  • c.50,000 written question p.a.

  • Questions & answers published in Hansard


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Informal processes

  • Written questions to minister

  • Informal processes, e.g. through Backbench Committees, Parl. Parties, 1922 Committee

  • Private Note Questions (PNQs) – urgent questions at short notice, front bench spokesperson in Opposition

  • Apply to Speaker before Noon

  • Question asked at 3.30 in HoC to relevant minister (Average of 4 or 5 a month)

Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr Michael Martin


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 Your task

  • Analyse the membership, functions & possible reforms of parliamentary committees by completing the table your teacher gives you. Use Watts, p.208-9 and your own research.


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A scene from the biannual Liaisons Committee, during which the chair people of all the major parliamentary committees are able to give the PM a grilling for up to 2 ½ hours on the issues of the day.


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 Your task the chair people of all the major parliamentary committees are able to give the PM a grilling for up to 2 ½ hours on the issues of the day.

You are going to hold your own committee meeting. Appoint a PM and a Chairperson. The Chairperson will explain how the task will work.

  • Justice

  • Immigration & asylum

  • Foreign policy

  • The economy

  • Sport

  • The Environment

  • Education and skills

  • Science & technology

  • Health

  • Home affairs


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 Your task the chair people of all the major parliamentary committees are able to give the PM a grilling for up to 2 ½ hours on the issues of the day.

  • List ways the opposition can hold the government to account in green. In red list ways the powers of the Opposition are limited. On balance do you think the Opposition is effective? Write a judgement paragraph using topical evidence to support your ideas.


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Effectiveness of opposition the chair people of all the major parliamentary committees are able to give the PM a grilling for up to 2 ½ hours on the issues of the day.

  • Structured and regular challenge

  • Provides alternative to govt policy 7 legislation

  • Sustained scrutiny & debate

  • Provides bi-partisan support, e.g. when war declared against Iraq

  • Alternative to government – policies need to be coherent & convincing


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Weakness of Opposition the chair people of all the major parliamentary committees are able to give the PM a grilling for up to 2 ½ hours on the issues of the day.

  • Not supported by civil service advisers / resources

  • Govt sets the agenda & Opposition responds

  • PM sets date of GE

  • Polarises policies – tries to set ‘clear water’ between govt & opposition

  • Landslide victories for govt. weaken role of Opposition, e.g. in divisions


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 Plenary the chair people of all the major parliamentary committees are able to give the PM a grilling for up to 2 ½ hours on the issues of the day.

  • How effective are questions in holding the executive to account?

  • How effective are committees in holding the executive to account?

  • Does David Cameron’s opposition provide a credible opposition party?


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 Extension task the chair people of all the major parliamentary committees are able to give the PM a grilling for up to 2 ½ hours on the issues of the day.

  • Visit the BBC News website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7661120.stm

  • Gather information on the leading members of Cameron’s ‘Shadow cabinet’. In particular, think about their particular skills & experience for their posts.


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