The legislature plays a fundamental role in the democratic governance of a country. Not only does it engage in the making of laws, parliament serves as a balancing check for both the executive and the judiciary. As the people's representatives in parliament MPs carry the hefty burden of ensuring that they not only put forward their views but also those of the electorate. As such they endeavor to use their intelligence and skills to fulfill their responsibilities. As a control for the government, parliament is capable of mandating the government to resign but under valid circumstances. Parliament is controlled by the people, member parties, courts and other factions. It is evident that the role of the MP is constantly subjugated by others thus restricting their performances. Moreover, these same elements are responsible for the diminishing of parliamentary democracy. It is crucial that their role is reviewed for the prosperity of democracy. This paper will examine particular factors which affect the role of the MP in fostering parliamentary democracy and the effect change can bring about.
An MP is elected by the people but under the umbrella of various parties. Even though they are meant to serve their constituents MPs also play the role of party loyalists. As party loyalists, MPs often consent to party ideals regardless of their individual beliefs and opinions. MPs do this because they foresee particular benefits from their parties and they may feel indebted to party leaders. In addition, MPs may face dire consequences if they fail to support their party. As a result, party discipline continues to subdue the will of individual MPs and demeaning parliamentary democracy. Guay (2002) asserts that there are major benefits which would be gained if party disciplined was to be loosened. This would heighten the credibility of the MP's role making them better representatives of their constituents. Also, it could lead to the emergence of stronger parliamentarians who are ready to support their own ideals and still show commitment to their parties. Most importantly, this change would restore the people's faith in the democracy of their legislative arm. Kilgour et al (2009), illustrates the case of United States Parliament where relaxed party discipline has facilitated effective representation of constituents. Proponents of Party Discipline argue that parties are necessary for the accountability of MPs actions. In essence, they claim that only through strict party regulation of MPs can the electorate operate effectively (Reid, 1993).
MPs also play the role of watchdogs by scrutinizing the executive. In providing parliamentary accountability MPs join select committees which analyze various elements of the executive's functions (Cameron, 2004). They also engage in debates during question time where they are able to detect any anomalies and demand for the accountability of the executive. One such vital debate is that on the budget. The house of commons engages in lengthy discussions and provides input on the government's financial policies (Kilgour, 1997). In fulfilling this responsibility MPs encounter numerous hurdles which prevent their successful performance. One such issue is in regard to time. The executive has for a long time had control of parliament's timetable which has resulted in the strangling of MP's role of scrutiny (Brazier, 2009).
On the other hand, there exists an imbalance in the creation of select committees. Delegation of legislation is vital in the creation of laws but only members from the House of Lords are allowed to form a scrutiny committee. This privilege is not granted to the House of Commons (Delegated Legislation, 2010). As a result, some MPs are segregated from viewing their opinions and contributing to the process of government scrutiny. Ganley (2001) asserts that select committees hold significant power as through individual initiatives they are able to launch inquiries on various government activities. Other factors which affect the MPs capabilities in parliament include the lack of ample time for debates, limitations in deciding topics for debate and the dominance of the frontbench.
In order to promote parliamentary democracy it is vital that various changes are implemented. Select committees need to be evenly distributed amongst both houses in parliament and also given ample powers to effect change in the executive. In doing so, MPs with expertise in various fields can contribute in select committees regardless of what house they inhabit. It is also crucial that MPs are involved in the selection of debate topics so as to allow their contribution and heighten their involvement levels in parliament discussions. Perkins (2009) claims that prolonging the life of parliament will give backbenchers ample time to check the accountability of the executive. Moreover, insisting on the consistence attendance of Mps will increase the numbers of MPs involved in the debating of various acts of parliament.
In concurring with Docherty and Seidle's view of the legislature as the most significant arm of the government (2003), this paper has clearly established the MP's role in promoting parliamentary democracy. Party loyalty has been seen to demean the MP's role of representing their constituents. It is eminent that parties must lessen their leash on MP's in order to allow them to fully represent their constituents. This would also lead to the strengthening of parliament and the rule of democracy. Other factors discussed involve the MP's involvement in scrutinizing the activities of the executive. Select committees should be strengthened and their members chosen equally across both houses. The executive should also relinquish their authority over certain parliamentary procedures which affect the effectiveness of members of parliament. This includes their control over the timetable and topics for debate. From the above discussion it is clear that there is great need to impart reforms in the role of MPs so as to restore effective parliamentary democracy. This can be done by asserting factors of independence in MP's roles. As a result the legislature will emerge powerful and effective.
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