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About this book

This fully revised new edition includes expanded coverage of Parliament's relationship with the courts, devolved assemblies and the European Union. Distinctively, the book goes beyond the usual focus of Parliament-Government relations to encompass policy-makers beyond Whitehall and Parliament's broader relationship with citizens.

Table of Contents

Parliament in Perspective

1. Parliament in Perspective

Abstract
It is common for a country to have a legislature — a body created to approve measures that will form the law of the land. Legislatures exist under a variety of names, of which National Assembly is the most popular (Loewenberg 2011, p. 18). Some use the term Congress, Parliament or Legislative Assembly. Others use terms specific to their language. In the United Kingdom, and in Commonwealth countries influenced by British experience, Parliament is preferred.
Philip Norton

The Development of Parliament

2. The Development of Parliament

Abstract
In legal terms, Parliament is not just the House of Commons and House of Lords: it is the Queen-in-Parliament. The assent of the monarch is necessary for a measure to be recognized by the courts as constituting an Act of Parliament. However, the queen, as sovereign, occupies a position distinct from the two Houses, forming what Bagehot referred to as a ‘dignified’ element of the constitution. Her actions as sovereign are determined almost exclusively by convention (Norton 2010a). As such, her actions are predictable, involving little, if any, real scope for independent, and hence partisan, judgement. The role of the monarch will not form part of our enquiry. That will accord with popular perceptions of what constitutes Parliament: few electors would include the monarch if asked to define the term.
Philip Norton

Parliament and Government

Frontmatter

3. Recruiting Ministers

Abstract
Government ministers are drawn from, and remain in, Parliament. The significance of this well-known fact is often overlooked, but it has fundamental implications for the ways in which government and Parliament function.
Philip Norton

4. The Making of Public Policy

Abstract
The capacity of legislatures to affect the content of public policy is, as we noted in Chapter 1, a central concern of legislative scholars (see Olson and Mezey 1991). From empirical observation, it is clear that the capacity to affect policy varies from one legislature to another.
Philip Norton

5. Legislation

Abstract
The third stage of the policy-making process — that of deliberation and assent — is undertaken, at least for UK legislation, by the Queen-in-Parliament. The two Houses of Parliament are responsible for the deliberation, and the two Houses plus the Crown are responsible for giving assent. The assent of the monarch is governed by convention (see Chapter 2). A bill has to go through several parliamentary stages before it can be submitted to the Queen for formal approval and hence become an Act of Parliament. The essential stages are listed in Table 5.1.
Philip Norton

6. The Administration of Government

Abstract
The policy-making process is not confined to generating, discussing and approving law. Parliament also fulfils the function identified by Packenham (1970) (see Chapter 1) as ‘administrative oversight’. This encompasses scrutinizing decisions taken by government that do not require legislative sanction, as well as the conduct — the actual administration — of departments. Much administration carried out is routine, but ministers have to act within their powers. They may act under the royal prerogative — that is, carrying out powers that still reside in the Crown, but are exercised by ministers in the name of the monarch — or under powers granted by statute. The royal prerogative remains important, since it encompasses powers such as that of declaring war. As we have seen, powers granted by statute usually take the form of delegated legislation.
Philip Norton

Beyond Whitehall

Frontmatter

7. Parliament and the European Union

Abstract
The history of Parliament, as we have seen (see Chapter 2), has been the history of its relationship to the executive, and its capacity to affect public policy has been determined largely by changes in that relationship. It acquired the capacity to determine supply (the raising of money) and legislation; it other words, a coercive capacity. However, political pressures have largely curtailed the use of that capacity. Parliament has had to adapt to these pressures and, as we have seen, has done so through developing its persuasive capacity to affect outcomes.
Philip Norton

8. Parliament and Devolution

Abstract
The end of the twentieth century witnessed a major change in the structure of the governmental framework of the United Kingdom. During the latter half of the twentieth century, pressure had built up in Scotland, and to a lesser extent in Wales, for policy making to be made by bodies closer to the people, rather than being centralized in London (see, e.g., Birch 1977; O’Neill 2004; Jefferson 2011). A scheme of devolution was recommended by a Royal Commission (the Kilbrandon Commission) in 1973. There was an ultimately unsuccessful attempt by the Labour government of 1974–9 to create a Scottish parliament and a somewhat less powerful Welsh assembly. The Labour government returned in 1997, with a large parliamentary majority and a manifesto commitment to implement the policy, was successful in its attempts to achieve devolution. It extended beyond Scotland and Wales to Northern Ireland, which had experience of its own legislature, having had a parliament from 1922 to 1972. Following referendums in Scotland, Wales (Norton 2010d, pp. 275–6) and, in a somewhat different context, Northern Ireland (Norton 2010d, pp. 287–9; Walker 2012, pp. 146–9), powers were devolved from the centre to these three parts of the United Kingdom.
Philip Norton

9. Parliament and the Courts

Abstract
Constitutional change in recent decades has had a further consequence for the constitution: that has been to create a new juridical dimension. The courts, previously subordinate to Parliament — a position confirmed in 1688–9 under the judicially self-imposed doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty — have acquired a new role (Norton 2005).
Philip Norton

Parliament and Citizen

Frontmatter

10. Representing the People

Abstract
The history of Parliament, as we have seen, has largely been shaped by its relationship to the executive. Yet there is another relationship that is important, that of Parliament to the people. Each relationship has had an impact on the other, though the distinction between the two is especially important in the context of Parliament’s longevity. Parliament is the national representative assembly. However, the nature of its relationship to the people, like its relationship to the executive, has changed substantially over time.
Philip Norton

11. The Voice of Constituents

Abstract
Members of Parliament have a dual but not necessarily incompatible existence. They are in most cases elected under a party label. As we saw in Chapter 10, parties fulfil the role of general representation, aggregating the views of large sections of the population. As such, this form of representation transcends individual constituencies. MPs, as party members, are part of a body that links them with like-minded members, and they generally operate as a collective entity. However, each MP is also elected to represent a particular constituency. Members thus fulfil the role of specific representation, defending and pursuing the interests of individuals and groups within their constituencies. (They may, and do, promote the interests of groups unconnected with, or not confined to, their constituencies, and we shall address this in the next chapter.) Our concern in this chapter is the representation of constituents, which is generally an individual rather than a collective exercise, though MPs from constituencies with a shared interest may work together to defend and promote that interest. Over the years, demands made of members by constituents have changed in nature and increased in volume. Members have sought to meet those demands and have done so in various ways.
Philip Norton

12. Speaking for Different Interests

Abstract
Members of Parliament are elected for defined constituencies. As we saw in Chapter 9, constituents expect them to give priority to local concerns and an increasing amount of time is devoted by members to constituency casework. However, members also devote considerable time to listening to, and expressing the demands of, different interests in society. Citizens with shared interests have increasingly come together to form organized bodies — interest groups — to defend or advance their policy preferences (Grant 2000; Coxall 2001; Watts 2007; see also Jordan and Maloney 2007). Some groups may be composed of a member’s constituents: a local charity or the local chamber of commerce, for example. Others may have no direct constituency connection but believe they have a case that will engage the MP’s attention.
Philip Norton

13. Reaching the Public

Abstract
Individual citizens, and a vast array of groups in society, both organized and unorganized, make demands of Members of Parliament. MPs raise the concerns of constituents, groups and different sections of the public in Parliament, and can ensure that the government takes note. The flow of communication in this relationship is essentially from those outside Parliament to those inside; but what about the communication from Parliament to those outside?
Philip Norton

14. The Reform of Parliament

Abstract
Parliament does not exist in a vacuum. It has developed as a highly institutionalized body, but not one that operates wholly detached from other actors within the political system. As a legislature, it has proved to be a multifunctional and functionally adaptable body. It has acquired a range of functions and it has developed or shed functions as it has adapted to the political environment within which it operates.
Philip Norton
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