What is Western Europe?

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Party Discipline

    • MPs actually told how to vote by their parties on everything
      • party whips
        • one, two, and three line ‘whips’ on the order paper
      • but ‘free votes’ or “early day motions” (EDMS)
      • have more freedom to contribute to legislation in Committee work
      • but, the Commons cannot be seen as a particularly important policy-making body
      • so, what is its role?
  • http://www.stats.bris.ac.uk/%7Eguy/Research/Politics/Welcome.html

Eighth Lecture Overview

  • Institutions of Parliamentary Government
    • The Westminster Model
        • Adversarial Politics
        • MPs Roles

Parliamentary Questions

      • 40,000 on average each year
        • About 3,000 answered
      • 2 types
        • Oral –
          • Drawn randomly from those submitted each morning
          • One hour, Mondays through Thursdays
          • MP submitting question reads it, allowed one supplemental
          • Minister answers both orally
          • Roster of departments established
          • Normally one major one and 3-4 minor ones per day
        • Prime Minister’s Questions normally at noon-12:30 Wednesdays
          • Practice began in 1961 – growth of prime ministerial power
          • Attempt to embarrass the PM in the supplementaries
        • Written
  • http://www.britainusa.com/PMQs/

Select Committees

    • 1979 reforms created 14 committees, by broad subject area
      • now 18 in number
      • Eg, Agriculture, Scottish Affairs, Social Security
      • Science & Technology; Health; Foreign Affairs; etc
      • 3-6 staff members
    • they offer MPs a broader forum for overseeing the executive
      • May debate particular pieces of legislation, but not the bulk of their work
      • can call witnesses/ask for evidence
      • Organize their own inquiries

Select Committees

    • Limited effectiveness
      • understaffed;
      • government control remains;
      • relatively few committee reports (about 5%) get debated in Commons
        • 3 days given over to this on the Commons’ schedule
        • no formal means of ensuring their recommendations considered or acted upon
    • but Members can specialize in subject areas
        • often good for careers after the Commons

Ninth Lecture Outline

  • MP Roles
  • Prime Minister – An Elected Dictator or ‘primus inter pares?’
      • Powers of the Prime Minister
      • Prime Ministerial Styles
      • Limits on Prime Ministerial Power
  • The Cabinet

MPs’ Perceived Roles

  • Donald Searing, Westminster’s World, Harvard University Press, 1994
      • based on interviews with 338
      • backbench MPs, 1972-73
      • not all MPs see themselves as
      • doing the same kinds of things
      • - Four principle self-identified
      • role specializations

MP Role Specializations

    • Constituency Service 25%
    • “Ministerial aspirant” 25%
    • Supporting/Attacking Executive 40%
    • “Good Parliamentarian” 9%
    • SOURCE: Searing, Westminster’s World, Harvard Univ. Press, 1994

What do British voters want from their MP?

  • Survey asking people to pick most impt. MP role:
    • Ombudsman 19%
    • Protect constituency 26%
    • Executive oversight 5%
    • Information 24%
    • Law-making (debates & votes) 11%
    • All roles equally important 10%

Prime Minister: ‘primus inter pares’?

    • Sir Robert Walpole – 1721 – first prime minister
      • Had won confidence of both King & Parliament
    • ‘first among equals’ the traditional depiction
        • PM is still an MP
    • Extensive formal and informal powers
    • some argue that these have increased and the office has been ‘presidentialized’

Prime Ministerial Powers

        • leader of the party
          • large staff of personal advisers at Downing Street
        • selector of cabinet ministers and party leadership positions (about 80-90 parliamentary posts)
          • chairs & ‘takes the sense of’ cabinet meetings
        • provider of patronage
          • peerages; QUANGOS; etc
        • leader in parliament
          • can DISSOLVE parliament
        • International negotiator/European Council
        • highly visible public figure
  • http://www.pm.gov.uk/output/page19.asp
  • PM statement on reshuffle - 18 June 2003

R.H. Crossman - Prime Ministerial Government

  • “The post-war epoch has seen the final transformation of Cabinet Government into Prime Ministerial Government…Even in Bagehot’s time it was probably a misnomer to describe the Premier as chairman and primus inter pares. His right to select his own Cabinet and dismiss them at will; his power to decide the Cabinet’s agenda and announce the decisions reached without taking a vote; his control, through the Chief Whip, over patronage - all this had already before 1867 given him near-Presidential powers. Since then, his powers have been steadily increased, first by the centralisation of the party machine under his personal rule, and secondly by the growth of a centralised bureaucracy, so vast that it could no longer be managed by a Cabinet behaving like the board of directors of an old-fashioned company.” (pp. 51-52)

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