Parliament's Scrutiny of the Government's Actions

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Can Parliament effectively hold Government to account?

In the UK, holding the government to account is one of Parliament’s main functions. Parliament scrutinises the actions of the government and forces them to justify bills, explain their motives and defend their policies.

There are many effective ways in which Parliament effectively holds the government to account. Select committees check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs. There is a commons select committee for each government department, examining three aspects: spending, policies and administration. Each commons select committee looks into the activities of its department and reports its findings to the commons. The findings are also made public and published on the Parliament website. Many of the findings require a response from the government, and they usually have 60 days to reply. Select committees are effective because the committee’s findings are made public, which would discourage the government from doing something that would be seen as corrupt, or something against human rights. An example of this would be the News International phone hacking scandal, where the Culture, Media and Sport committee discovered that phones were being hacked by journalists. This led to the closure of the News Of The World and the arrests of some News International executives. Standing committees are also effective because they examine proposed bills and report their conclusions and amendments to the commons. This would prevent the commons from passing bills that would be against human rights.

Ministers’ Question Time is the most obvious tool for accountability. Ministers are expected to appear regularly in the House of Commons to answer questions from MPs. This allows the opposition to scrutinise the decisions of ministers and find out what progress is being made in their department. However, Ministers’ Question Time is not always effective, as ministers are...
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