Evaluate the extent to which the balance of power has shifted from the executive to parliament in recent years (30 marks)
This essay will highlight the extent of power in the UK political system in relation to the Executive and Parliament. The balances of power are often given in the form of powers that are exclusively composed to different legislative branches. The ultimate abilities of power exist between the branches of government as well as parliament. In terms of legislative power, it may be argued that the United Kingdom lacks a sustainable constitution due to an Elective Dictatorship whereby an elected UK government can do as they please and make changes without a consensus. Constitutional conventions are not legally binding and therefore may restrict the flexibility of powers amongst the Executive and Parliament. However, the UK constitution is unentrenched and statute law is much easier to enact through parliament via the ordinary legislative process (a parliamentary majority). The balance of powers could be argued to be equal due to this and there being no specific majorities or arrangements that are needed to pass a law.
It could be indicated that there is an extent to which the Executive has dominated parliament in terms of power in recent years due to the relative weakness of legislative committees. Legislative committees make up a significant role of the governmental process and provide an important part in scrutinising the UK political system. However, committees which are subject to partisan whipping show how the balances of power are greatly shifted over to the Executive. Some may see holding the government accountable based on political party lines as undemocratic. In addition, the opposition is in a minority and is highly unlikely to see any of its amendments adapted in the government. Furthermore, the strength of party loyalty contributes to the effectiveness in balances of powers by the Executive. MPs have a natural allegiance to the party they represent and will therefore support it most of the time. In any circumstances, MPs are whipped into supporting government policies as the ultimate price for disloyalty is deselection.
On the other hand, Ministers are unlikely to break a 3-line whip or revolt against parliamentary decisions therefore giving parliament the upper-hand in terms of powers. Legislative committees specifically Select Committees have an admirable record of bipartisanship and forcing government to be accountable. They also have the possibility of amending policies. Moreover, there is no legal obligation for Ministers to consult committees which now play such an important role in the policy making process. It is noted that the government could not function effectively without such a system of committees, although there is no legal requirement for them. Therefore, the balances of power between the Executive and Parliament has markedly shifted towards parliament. In addition, the House of Lords is more diverse...