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Discuss The Importance Of Parliamentary Committees

1551 words - 7 pages

There are two main types of parliamentary committees, there are select committees who check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs and there are public bill committees which mainly scrutinise proposed legislation in detail. The latter is unique to the commons, as Bills in the Lords are considered by the house as a whole.
Committees certainly provide an air of legitimacy in the parliamentary system. Unlike debates, in which, as source A states ‘points put forward by (…) backbenchers seem to have little effect’ the same cannot be said for parliamentary committees. In the vast majority of cases heads of most committees are backbenchers, and committees such as the ‘backbench business committee’ are comprised solely of backbenchers. Therefore they have a direct say in the working of the government whether that be through the process of a Bill becoming an Act (public bill committee), or through proposing recommendations to a government regarding a certain issue (select committee). Backbenchers can also in some cases use committees as means of bringing their constituents’ views to the forefront, thus further increasing the legitimacy of committees. The fact that parliamentary committees allow backbenchers a say in government matters not only lends legitimacy within parliament, but also indirectly makes the entire parliamentary system more legitimate, as increasing the influence of back benchers, indirectly increases the influence of constituents through their MP. The legitimacy parliamentary committees lend could be seen as important in maintaining a democratic country.
As public bill committees deal directly with government legislation, it is not surprising that the government will try to prevent any criticism of their Bills. Source A states how ‘committees which deal with legislation (primarily public bill committees, occasionally select committees) are controlled by the whips’. This shows how governments limit the influence of public bill committees through Party Whips and if MPs fail to follow what they say, they will have to face the repercussions. Most MPs follow what the whips say, as the consequences of not doing so can include being suspended from their party. For these reasons, the fact that public bill committees are restricted in what they can and cannot say, downplays the importance of parliamentary committees.
The same however does not apply to committees in the Lords. Unlike MPs, ‘who are controlled by the Whips’, Lords are given more freedom in the sense that party whips cannot really place sanctions upon Lords. This is because Lords do not rely on their party to remain in the House of Lords, because Peers are appointed for life, and can only be removed through an Act of Parliament. Therefore Lords are less likely to censor what they say and do not feel a particularly strong allegiance to their government. On top of this, recommendations given in Lords select committees are valued more...

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