Chapter 11 Guidance to answering the end-of-chapter questions

Executive Power and Accountability

1. Why is Parliament given the role of scrutinising the executive?

  • Recall that it is members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords that form the executive.
  • Remember, too, the role that Parliament plays in supporting the government for as long as the government retains its confidence.
  • Are all MPs members of the executive? Consider the fact that constituents might raise issues with their MPs and that these are concerns that may not necessarily be brought to the attention of government ministers.
  • You should also think about the representative nature of Parliament.
  • See p. 330 if you are struggling with these points.

2. To what extent do you believe that it has the powers to undertake this role effectively?

  • Consider all the different mechanisms through which Parliament can hold the government to account. Can you recall what pre-legislative and legislative scrutiny means?
  • How do parliamentary debates enable Parliament to hold the executive to account? Remember to think about the limitations of debates. For example, what role does the executive have in determining when debates take place and what topics will be debated? Review p. 340 if you need to refresh your memory.
  • How do parliamentary questions (oral or written) work and do you think that these provide an effective mechanism of accountability?
  • What do you understand to be the role of select committees?

3. How have recent reforms strengthened and/or weakened its ability to scrutinise the executive? What examples do you have as evidence for your analysis?

  • What do you remember about the Modernisation Committee’s proposals for reform?
  • For example, how did these alter the influence and power of House of Commons’ select committees? Take a look at Oliver’s explanation on p. 343 if you are unsure. How do Tomkins (p. 344) and Oliver disagree?
  • What do you understand to have changed with the introduction of pre-legislative scrutiny of draft Bills?
  • What changes were made to Prime Minister’s Question Time?
  • How did Oliver view the modernising measure taken in the early 2000s? See the extract on p. 337.

4. To what extent do you believe that further reform is necessary? Why and of what type?

  • There is no correct answer to this question. A good starting point is to think about the answers you gave to question 2. In what ways do you think that Parliament’s ability to hold the executive to account could be improved, if at all?
  • You could take further inspiration from the suggestions made by the Reform of the House of Commons Select Committee in its report Rebuilding the House (see the extract on p. 349).
  • Review the chapter summary on p. 354 if you are struggling.
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