Parliament in relation to the Executive

Parliament in relation to the Executive

Executive and Legislature Interaction

  • The Executive (Government) derives its authority from the Legislature (Parliament). The Prime Minister and majority of government ministers must be members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Executive Supremacy

  • Over time, the balance of power has shifted toward the executive. This dominance of the executive within the legislative process is often referred to as ‘elective dictatorship’, a term coined by Lord Hailsham.

  • The executive typically controls the legislative agenda. The Government has the power to decide when new bills are introduced and influences their content.

  • The Government has a reliable majority in the Commons due to the party system, enabling them to pass legislative proposals and maintain control over the legislative process.

Parliament’s Check on the Executive

  • Despite the dominance of the executive, Parliament retains important powers to scrutinise, question and challenge the Government – a function often fulfilled by Select Committees.

  • The Lords acts as a revising chamber, can propose amendments, and delay legislation (for up to one year) proposed by the Government.

  • The Commons can reject proposed legislation and, in theory, can vote a Government out of power through a vote of no confidence.

  • Both Houses make use of Question Time to hold the executive to account, while mechanisms such as debates, urgent questions and ministerial statements allow MPs to scrutinise the work of the government.

Changing Dynamics

  • Recently, the power dynamics between the executive and legislature have shifted. This could be seen in the passage of Brexit-related legislation, when Parliament seized control of the legislative agenda from the executive.