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Executive Power

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To what extent does parliament control executive power?

Parliament remains the center of debate for MP's and parties, however it's the executive government that has overhauling power of formulating and executing policies. As head of the executive branch of government the Prime enjoys considerable power. The executive would be commonly known to have considerable power but you could argue that parliament places restraints and controls certain aspects of it.

Parliament can be considered weak in different ways. One of those is the presence of party loyalty in the commons. MP's are elected and will have a strong mandate to support the party's policies. Defying the party leadership would prove too difficult and could be seen as a betrayal of the mandate. In turn, MP's will feel bound to the mandate made, encouraging them not to challenge the executive and support it's decisions. Another party factor is the overall majority the government has in parliament. The first past the post system guarantees this majority . The conservative party in the current House of Commons has 101 more seats than Labour. This demonstrates the vast majority of Conservative MP's from the 2015 general election. More importantly, for parliament to build momentum against the executive it would be difficult as roughly half the chamber are in the Prime Ministers party. In summary, party loyalty and is a beneficial to the executive's hold of power.

However, Parliament does remain effective in different ways and can constrain power of the executive. One of the biggest ways Parliament puts pressure on the executive is via select committees. Select committees work in both houses. They check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs. The results of these inquiries are public and many require a response from the government. Select committees limit executive power because they make the government have to tread lightly knowing that there are 19 departmental select committees which shadow the work of each major government department.

The executive's power can be hard to tackle as Parliament itself has members which can threaten MP's. The whips are a prime example of how MP's are regulated and controlled from acting out of hand. Furthermore, whips have the influence to threaten careers and in extreme can suspend MP's from their party. Even though Whips work for their own party, they still have to discipline the MP's. You could argue that their mar shelling in directly benefits the executive. Another factor weakening parliament is that individual MP's may lack the expertise and political support. This contrasts with the government that is backed by political advisers and the massive civil service. MP's don't posses the same legitimate backing. In summary this is another factor which limits parliament ability to mount a challenge against government.

Another factor to consider is the House of Lords. While it may not be democratically elected like the House of Commons, the second chamber has powers to amend and delay legislation. In fact, there have been many government defeats in the House of Lords over the years. In 2014 the House of Lords inserted a clause establishing an joint committee on whether the Home Secretary should be able to remove an individual's citizenship. The government was beaten by 64 votes in this case. This demonstrates that the House of Lords has the power to amend legislation and gain support from the commons which is supposedly controlled by the government.

Another weakness of Parliament is that it lacks constitutional checks and balances, especially over prerogative powers. The checks and balance system is put in place so each branch of government checks over each other. In theory, this should reasonably limit the power of the executive. However put in to practice parliament is routinely controlled, even dominated by the government of the day. The UK government is characterized more by the concentration of power that its fragmentation. This can be seen as the prime minister tends to dominate the cabinet. The UK government has been described as a overctrenatlized system of government. This would suggest that parliament doesn't really limit the power of the executive significantly enough. After all, parliament can not render the PM from using his prerogative powers of dismissing and appointing ministers and also heading the civil service. The outcome of elections can enable Parliament to have more control over the executive. If there is a small government majority or no majority the effectiveness of Parliament may be increased. The Commons will naturally become more balanced and further debates over legislation will slow down the executive's work. Another point is that ultimately, parliament can dismiss a government. The 2010 coalition government was made when there clear majority. It proved to be less effective and decisive.

From looking at the arguments, Parliament has little control over the executive. The prerogative powers of the Prime Minister, party loyalty in the commons and commitment to the mandate proves too strong a case against Parliament. For Parliament to really influence the executive, it relay on the government having a small majority in House of Commons.…...

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