“Parliament carries out none of its functions adequately”. Discuss.
With democracy on the incline and other countries catching up to where the UK once lead it can be argued that parliament does not carry out its functions adequately. Many would say there are not enough checks and balances on the government to insure its parliament is run legitimately being argued that a cross on a ballot paper every four years is hardly a true expression of our will. Current circumstances have lead to his enquiry of the people, most significantly the freedom of information act 2000 introduced by Blair’s government allowing transparency and putting the government under some scrutiny resulted in the daily telegraphy uncovering the expense scandal, including the duck house this exploitation of the government sparked an unanimous felling of not only anger but also disappointment bringing the questioning of the effectiveness of parliament. However not all of parliament can be looked upon in negative light, parliament can be seen as efficient and it is unfair to claim that “none” of its functions are adequate because the surely there would be a collapse in parliament and government.
Predominately and most obviously parliaments “main function” is legislation and passing bills, and in all fairness that’s what parliament does, far more bills are efficiently passed through parliament and become law compared to the US who struggle to pass anything with such a variation of opinions. The majority government that Britain almost always has, despite labour government in 1974-79 which was weak and short lived, always been able to provide stability and efficient law-making; a core function of parliament. Counter-arguing this it could be suggested that such a strong majority government who does not have to debate or compromise in laws could eventually result in an elective dictatorship, meaning that we are effectively controlled by the government on a vote that was made for 4/5 years. A current example of other people outside of the direct governing bodies not being able to gain control over parliament is the private members bill of bedroom tax.
Although the taxation proposals has reached the second stage it has taken a long time getting there, but at least it proves that their are other influences in parliament and parliament is being scrutinized in some aspects even if it is only 13 Fridays a year. I personally believe that the bills that are past have been done so to benefit the country and not as a way of a party leaving their mark on government so that when next election time occurs they can claim how they have influenced parliament- a slightly more cynical view. The very fact we consistently pass bills shows strength and progress however more needs to be done to incorporate the public, the referendum in Scotland with a turnout of 84.5% just shows how willing the public are to be involved in politics and legislation suggesting more referendums would destroy doubt in the parliament as accountability is distributed evenly and decentralized.
To be democratic parliament should come under as many forms of scrutiny as possible to insure certain issues don’t go under the radar. Possibly the most forceful form of scrutiny is the opposition, they are have the power, time and money to fully scrutinize and fault the current government in order to secure a place as the next winning party. This kind of faulting can lead to governments being forced to change as issues are brought to the public eye. As we have very recently seen in the autumn statement George Osborne claiming and exenterating how well the government is doing finically was soon brought down o the reality when the shadow chancellor Ed Balls was able to prove how much the government was still in debt by. This kind of scrutiny means that the government cannot disguise anything from the public and there should be a sense of transparency.
However it could be argued that even if an issue is brought to light in parliament there is not a lot the opposing party can do about an issue if the government is a minority they will always be voted out even on things that they so strongly believe in. take the current collation, one of the promises liberal democrats made was to introduced free tuition fees, the divide was made clear when backbench revolts resulted in 21 Lib Dems voting against tuition fees despite whips advising them to join the vote of conservatives meaning they where voting against their won cause. Ultimately it shows how powerless other parties are in minority governments and also in a coalition as a smaller party and surely if they are so powerless how can we know that the majority government is not just taking advantage of their position. I personally believe that coalitions benefit the UK because they allow room for debate and opinion as a pose to a parties single mind view however often to many parties are left too powerless and not able to scrutinize the government efficiently.
Scrutiny of the opposition does not encompass all scrutiny, and it can be said that the more scrutiny there is the better it is, as we know that the government that governs our lives is being run correctly. Select comities are set up by the government to check the government. Each committee are devoted to every aspect of our lives making sure we are content with the current government and how parliament is ran, this is effective as it provides a layer of support and reassurance. Select comities can highlight an issue and bring it to the public attention by enquiring in current situation and encouraging government change, however all they can do is encourage government change, they can’t actually enforce policies. Whips have less power over select comities because select comities do not hold that much power however with technology on the inline select comities have become extremely good at unearthing and bringing to the publics attention faults in the current parliament and also resolutions to these faults.
A most recent example of this would be phone hacking; a select committee put an emphasis on issues within media, particularly news of the world. New of the world listen to the voice mail of missing girl Millie Dowler, the enquire then successfully resulted in the news of the world collapse and shutdown, it was then found out that Andy Carlson, who previously worked in news of the world was David Cameroons press sectary who after the enquiry was let go. Select comities are a very good form of scrutiny because they can find fault in parliament, government and the media however they do not have very little power to act upon findings and cant fully scrutinize the government as they are still under some influence for their party.
Introduced a new law meaning parliament must always be consulted before military action is taken, because this is the result of the peoples word and the government should stay legitimate to avoid elective dictatorship it proves how efficient the current parliament are in tackling current. However it could be argued that prime ministers question time once every week, which has recently been shortened, further is not enough to put legitimacy under enough scrutiny. Not all the government’s actions are properly debated and scrutinized with a majority government it is often the case of the biggest party winning. The unelected house of lords, although of recent times not hereditary peers due to Blair’s house of lords reform act 1998, still are not elected and therefore have no democratic legitimacy.
A lot of respect for parliamentary legitimacy has been lost because of the unearthing of issues such as cash for questions, discovered in 2011 it was found MPs where paid to ask other MPs questions that would reflect well on their party, giving the public a bias view of the world and manipulating our perceptions. This kind of foul play in parliament takes away what legitimacy some parties have. Personally I think that not enough is done to scrutinize parliaments legitimacy, although candidates have been ‘democratically’ voted into power and should hold the trusteeship of the public it can still be argued as to what extent they have the right to this power as in some peoples view first past the post is not a democratic voting system to begin with and therefore the candidate is not legitimate.
To conclude, I think that despite some major drawbacks parliament and its functions are carried out adequately and too say that none are is a major over statement. It is easy to see why someone people might lose faith in parliament, majority parties become too strong to control, desperate to leave their mark without fully discussing current issues. Young politicians going straight into the job with no really concept of life’s hardships, not fully representing what others really wants and need. However having said this parliament passes laws, it does so efficiently meaning that currant issues can be solved whilst they are still current.
This kind of speedy and strong government creates a stable base to build a democracy upon and although many have lost faith given recent scandals like the expenses scandal, the fact that most voters still believe their party will deliver on their manifesto shows hope. Scrutiny is in my opinion of its highest form in select comities as they can pinpoint specific problems and resolve them such as the phone hacking 2012 however I also don’t believe they have enough power to influence the government. Having said this the government is currently stable even in a coalition, which suggest that parliaments functions are at the very least adequate.