Category Archives: Relations Between Branches

Urgent Questions – What are they and how important are they as a mechanism of parliamentary scrutiny?

John Bercow is a major reason for the growth of Urgent Questions.

Until relatively recently Urgent Questions were a rarely used parliamentary device. However, in recent years, their use has grown dramatically, largely as the Speaker John Bercow was keen to consider ways in which, he could “champion the rights of backbenchers”. This article seeks to explain what Urgent Questions are, when they are granted and how big an impact they have on the ability of parliament to scrutinise the executive.

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Book Review – Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics

This is an interesting little book. Short, with only 112 pages, it really encompasses Sumption’s views on Britain’s democratic system and the role of law within it. Alongside it being a gentle but generally enjoyable read, not a chapter went by where I didn’t think it would make ideal extension reading for a sixth form student.

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PMQs – Is it just parliamentary theatre?

Prime Minister’s Questions is a divisive topic. On the face of it, it shows Parliament at its worst: raised voices, orchestrated heckling and debatable focus on answering the questions posed. However, it is the only time that the Prime Minister can ordinarily be held directly accountable to the elected representatives of the people.

Other major democracies such as the US, France and Germany have no equivalent. There is a constitutional reason why this is. The Head of their executive branch is directly elected. Britain, however, is a parliamentary democracy. The Prime Minister is indirectly elected and only hold their position by retaining the confidence of the House of Commons.

The spectacle of the House of Commons at PMQs is not to everyone’s taste. The two sides of the house jeer and shout with the Speaker having to plead for order on numerous occasions. Polls have consistently suggested that watching PMQs puts people off of politics. So, what is the purpose of PMQs and is it worth the ire that it brings from some quarters?

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