One of the UK parliament’s main roles is to scrutinise their law making facilities and decisions. This is arguably parliament’s most important function as it holds the government account. The process also allows ministers to be made to explain their decisions and justify their policies. However, this system of scrutiny has come under force from some critics who feel that government majorities in important bodies result in ineffective scrutiny and improper checking of decisions and power. Despite this, check on executive power remains a key function of parliament that is carried out to a satisfactory level to ensure the government’s accountability it the people it governs.
Prime minister’s question time (PMQs) is a key weekly event in the House of Commons as it allows back bench MPs for all parties to question the prime Mister about his policies or to present him with matters that affect their constituencies. This process allows all of parliament to voice their concerns, and those of the people they represent, and this process scrutinizes power and the Prime Mister and other leading figures of the cabinet are made the justify their policies and decisions. An example of when MPs have been held accountable and made to justify their decisions was in 2011. Yvette Cooper told Teresa May that she had ‘questions to answer’ with regard to relaxation of passport checks at the UK border control that may had violated security. May was forced to explain her actions and take responsibility as she publicly demitted that she did authorise the relaxation of these checks. This shows how PMQs holds the government accountable to their actions and is effective at checking power of the minsters. However, PMQs has been criticized for being a charade as it is only used as a way of scoring points for each party. Moreover, many of the questions are given to MPs by the party whips and therefore they are not always checking power instead making the Prime Minister’s position stronger and allowing him to reinforce his position. Often MPs behave in an unruly manner in the House which prevents relevant decision and scrutinising from happening as the importance of the questions is undermined by the ethos of intimidation in the Commons. An example of how the communication and the atmosphere of shouting and intimidation shows the ineffectiveness of the system is from the November 2013 PMQs where Pete Wilson (SNP) spoke to the Prime Mister in such a way that it was unapproachable and impolite, Speaker John Bercow interrupted by comparing his ‘yapping’ to that of an ‘over excited puppy dog’. This show that Question Time could be seen as ineffective as the communication between the MPs as they are unable to make their political points well and therefore do not represent the electorate well.
Parliament’s effectiveness at scrutiny can also be seen in parliamentary debates. These debates act as an opportunity for MPs to voice concerns, agree and vote for certain laws or policies. These act as a good way of scrutinizing government power as, by being made to pass the bill through Commons, the government are receiving Parliament’s consent so they have clearly considered the outcomes. This can, therefore be considered effective scrutiny as well as control government’s power. Parliament has been more effective at scrutinizing through debates and the votes since the collation of 2010. David Cameron wanted the UK to perform military action in Syria in August 2013 but Parliament votes against this in a vote of 285-272 and therefore the UK did not go to war. This highlighted to effective scrutiny of Parliament. On the other hand, it could also be argued that Parliamentary debates are too biased to be considered as effective government scrutiny. The practice of systems such as the whips prevents the MPs from voting for their presence; instead they must follow party guidelines. This prevents scrutiny