There are many ways in which M…

11 November 2018

There are many ways in which MP’s can scrutinise the government, some of these are: voting on issues/legislation, membership of private select committees, and questioning the Prime Minister (PM) and other government ministers. All MP’s are able to vote on a range of issues to either support or oppose the government, they can vote on whether to pass legislation through the series of readings in the Commons.

If the majority of MP’s disagree with the governments course of action they can vote against their legislation causing a defeat for the government. In December 2017 there was a backbench revolt of 11 tory MP’s to defeat the government by backing an amendment to the EU withdrawal bill which would give parliament a ‘meaningful’ vote on the final deal. However, it is rare and challenging to inflict a defeat on the government as it requires a backbench rebellion during majority/coalition governments. This is especially true in cases of a large majority as seen in 2001 where labour had a massive majority with 412 seats. This makes it very difficult for a large majority government to suffer a defeat in the Commons as it would require a massive backbench revolt which is unlikely, during Labours government in 2001-05 there were no government defeats in the Commons. Even if there is a small majority (or minority with backing from DUP in current government) the party whip system ensures that most bills are passed without too much opposition. Bills very important to the governments agenda may be given a ‘three line’ party whip meaning there would be severe consequences to MP’s who do not turn up/vote against the government on this occasion – resulting in MP’s rarely defying this.

There are many ways in which M… Essay Example

Although MP’s have the power to hold the government to account by voting against them, it can be rare as it requires enough support both from within the government and the opposition which is especially difficult to achieve during strong majorities and a strong party whip system. MP’s can be a member of select committees which is an opportunity to scrutinise the government as these committees check and report on various areas including the work of the government and economic affairs. These committees can be effective as they publicly question government work and policy especially since ministers can be forced to give evidence and the findings cannot be ignored as they require a government response. The independence of select committees was strengthened in 2010 as committee chairs are now selected by a secret ballot of all MP’s and it is now backbenchers and not the party whip who select which MP’s represent their party in select committees allowing MP’s to more easily critique the government even if it is their own party. Jeremy Hunt (Health and Social Care Minister) was questioned by the public health committee on the priorities of the government after his expanded title (previously just health minister) during a cabinet reshuffle. Since the number of MP’s on each committee reflects the proportion of MP’s from each party as a whole, it can be argued that committees are not intrusive and critical enough due to party loyalties causing many MP (especially those from the government’s party) not to be completely free to question and investigate. Another restriction of select committees is the government is not required to take on any of the recommendations put forward by the committee, although a response is required no action is needed by the government to take the suggestions further.

This was the case with the Environmental Audit committee which made recommendations for a 25p charge on single use coffee cups and for the government to have a target for all coffee cups to be recycled by 2023, however neither suggestion was adopted by the government. This shows that although public select committees in theory gives MP’s the power to hold the government to account, there are many restrictions to their ability to do so as the make up of the committee reflects that of the Commons, so committees will have most of their members from the governments party restricting the level of scrutiny which would take place. And in the end, once the government has responded to the committee’s findings they are not required to take on their proposals. Another way MP’s can hold the government to account is by questioning the PM and government ministers. Prime Minister Questions (PMQs) takes place every Wednesday for 30 minutes allowing the leader of the Opposition and other MP’s to question the PM on a range of issues (their questions are pre-submitted and seen by the PM prior to PMQs). Ministers question time takes place Monday-Thursday in the chamber with a chosen minister each session to take questions from MP’s. MP’s can also submit written questions to Government Ministers to seek detailed answers – these are usually used when members truly want to be informed of the governments work on a particular issue rather than publicaly question them in an attempt to embarrass them (as is usually attempted in PMQs and Question Time).

Although the questions are submitted beforehand, they are usually general and similar e.g. “to ask the Prime Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the day” allowing MP’s who have the same question to ask a different ‘un-seen’ question in an attempt to catch the PM out. The speaker of the house also has a very influential role as it is very competitive to ask due to the short session and they have the role on who to allow time to ask. This means that MP’s may not get chosen often to speak and the speaker can favour certain members. Ministers can also give poor and vague responses to written questions or not reply at all as seen with Jeremy Hunt who was criticised in 2016 for only replying to 1 of 8 urgent questions asked of him by the house. In theory MP’s are given great power to publicly scrutinise the government by questioning cabinet ministers but whether this actually allows them to hold them to account is less clear as it often turns into an attempt to ‘score political points’.

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