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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 

The starting point for this article is the (now abandoned) attempt by Boris Johnson to reform the system of reviewing parliamentary standards. He aroused widespread opposition by trying to get his party to vote to postpone the suspension of Owen Paterson, a Conservative MP who has been accused by the independent standards commissioner of breaking the rules on lobbying.

The article suggests that this is part of a wider pattern whereby the government seeks to evade scrutiny. It refers to the well-known saying of the late Lord Hailsham, that in the UK we have an ‘elective dictatorship’, in which governments with large majorities and effective whipping operations find it remarkably easy to control Parliament. The Paterson case, however, shows that in certain circumstances they may be forced into retreat.

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

Boris Johnson must heed the furore around standards

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

  • Explain and analyse three ways in which the UK Parliament seeks to hold the executive to account. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

  • Evaluate the view that Parliament has become less effective in holding the 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: The Paterson case can be used as an example of how the government may seek to control Parliament in its own party’s interests. In your essay, however, you should consider other aspects of the relationship between Parliament and the executive, such as debates, select committees and Prime Minister’s Questions.

    A relevant Component 1 topic is 4.1: Case studies of general elections. The 2019 general election produced a sizeable majority for the government. This makes it more difficult for Parliament to hold the executive to account.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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