The House of Commons Essay Sample

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The House of Commons has many functions including those of passing effective legislation, representing the views of the people they represent and holding the government to account to ensure that all decisions made are based purely upon the desire to benefit the public and to scrutinise all the actions of the executive.

The House of Commons operates under a Whips system, whereby appointed MPs ensure that all members of a particular party vote in favour of their leaders decisions. This can prevent MPs from operating independently of their party and can impede the scrutiny of government as MPs are likely to vote for their leader regardless of their own objections. The importance of party loyalty within the House of Commons is also likely to reduce the effectiveness of scrutiny as MPs rarely rebel against their party’s wishes; this can prove particularly disastrous when the executive proposes new legislation as, due to the First Past the Post system which rarely produces coalitions, the government is likely to have a majority and so most MPs will vote in favour of the government.

The number of effective bills passed also depends on the governments agenda and not on the will of parliament as it is the executive that draws up the Parliamentary timetable, meaning that most issues discussed will be those which the government and not the Commons wishes to discuss as very little legislation is initiated by backbench MPs not in the government. When legislation suggested by backbenchers, Private Members Bills, are proposed they are largely ineffective without government backing. However, although Parliament might not initiate a large amount of bills, it can persuade and influence the executive through active discussions.

The Commons can scrutinise the executive in a number of ways. Prime Ministers Question Time, occurring for half an hour every wednesday, allows the Opposition to question the actions of the leader of the government, subjecting their policies and proposals to scrutiny and holding the government to account for any faults they may have made. However, this only occurs in a very short space of time and due to the vast media attention this event attracts it can often prove ineffective as it is too short and generalised, with both parties occasionally reduced to insulting the other rather than discussing important points on policy. The government is also held to account through select committees who can request to send for ‘persons, papers and records’ to question and hold government ministers to account. However, attendance is not compulsory and although they are obliged, they are not compelled to answer questions.

Since the House of Commons is elected by the British public, one of its main functions is that of representing the electorate. Collectively, MPs represent the country as a whole, although despite representing a single constituency this does not necessarily mean that MPs will vote according to the desires of their constituents. The link between the constituency and the MP helps to resolve grievances and allow the people to feel that they have a say in the laws that will ultimately affect their lives the most. It is also important that to fairly represent the views of all citizens there be a wide range of political ideologies and interests. The MP elected can choose to vote against the opinions of those who elected them once in the Commons but this is rare and there is generally a good range of parties. However, the majority of MPs within the House of Commons do not represent the vast majority of the public as over four fifths of members come from professional, business backgrounds and the average age of the house stands at 50 as most are white, middle-aged men and so in terms of presenting a ‘microcosm’ of the electorate this is not particularly effective.

In conclusion, Parliament is subordinate in an executive dominated system which means that many of its functions are carried out ineffectively. Legislation is mainly proposed by the government and not the Commons; scrutiny is limited and generally proves ineffective and despite the successful first past the post system in which many voters feel adequately represented by their local MP, the majority do not reflect upon the average of the overall population.

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