Parliament as a Check on Government

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Scrutinising the executive is one of the imperative duties of the UK Parliament. It ‘seeks to limit and control the exercise of power by making those who hold the power- the executive- directly and constitutionally responsible to the legislature’.[1] Thus, it monitors power balance by implementing adequate checks and balances of the activities undertaken by the executive. Such measures subjecting the government to different, critical types of scrutiny are necessary to form a coherent, effective and stable authority in a democratic society.

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However, this is not always the case since various factors prevent the Parliament from scrutinising the executive effectively. This essay will firstly focus on explaining the role of Parliament in terms of the doctrine of separation of powers and the opportunities it has to hold the government to account. Furthermore, I intend to demonstrate numerous weaknesses of the mechanisms used to control the exercise of power and, finally, suggest possible measures strengthening the process of scrutiny undertaken by the Parliament. In order to explain and fully understand the constitutional role of Parliament, its powers and responsibilities, it is essential to consider the composition of parliamentary system inside which the machine of government operates. In the UK, Commonwealth countries, and many other nations, Parliament is the highest authority[2] whereas the Government, also known as the executive, is the institution in charge of Governing a country. Parliament can be identified as a bi-cameral legislature composed of the lower house, The House of Commons, which holds the decision making autonomy, and the House of Lords, upper chamber of Parliament with a limited legislative power, working inter alia as a check on the powers exercised by the government. In theory, not only does the bi-cameral legislature exist to ensure democratically created policy and legislation but also to safeguard the country from the autocracy or the rise of dictatorships. Separation of powers becomes a fundamental tool for avoiding the emergence of such dangers. Locke stated in his Second Treatise of Civil Government: ‘it may be too great a temptation to human frailty…for the same persons who have the power of making laws, to have also their hands the power to execute them, whereby they may exempt themselves from obedience to the laws they make, and suit the law, both in its making and execution, to their own private advantage’.[3] The idea behind the doctrine of separation of powers seeks to ensure no arbitrary abuse of powers and therefore stresses the importance of the role Parliament plays in scrutinising the executive as well as the need for implementing appropriate checks and balances. Nevertheless, there is no strict separation of powers in UK since the government and Parliament often work together particularly in developing laws. Complete absence of cooperation between the three limbs of the government could result in a constitutional deadlock and therefore,

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