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  • Edexcel: Component 4.2: The relationship between the Executive and Parliament

  • AQA:  Component The structure and role of Parliament: scrutiny of the executive and how effective scrutiny is in practice

Background: what you need to know 

This article looks at how opposition in the House of Lords has played a part in inducing Boris Johnson’s government to change its policy towards water companies that have dumped sewage in rivers. The government has now agreed to an amendment placing a legal duty on the companies to take action against this practice.

However, you should note that the Lords did not bring about this U-turn on its own. Crucially, its criticism of the water companies was in line with public opinion. Ministers were concerned that Conservative MPs, under pressure from the public, might back the Lords when the House of Commons voted on the amendment. In addition, with the COP26 UN climate summit opening in Glasgow the following week, it would have been embarrassing for the government to be engaged in such a dispute at this time.

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

Government in U-turn on dumping sewage in English rivers

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 1

  • ‘The House of Lords has limited power to hold the UK government to account.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement.

    In your answer you should draw on material from across the whole range of your course of study in Politics. [25 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

  • Evaluate the view that the House of Lords is more effective than the House of Commons in holding the UK executive to account.

    In your answer you should draw on relevant knowledge and understanding of the study of Component 1: UK politics and core political ideas.

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks] 

    TIP: A relevant Component 1 topic is 4.1: Case studies of general elections. The 2019 general election gave Boris Johnson a large majority, which has meant that he has often been able to ignore pressure from both Houses of Parliament. However, as this case study shows, given an appropriate combination of circumstances, the government may be obliged to make concessions.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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