A Level Politics

Improving your grade

FAQ: what are the functions of Parliament?

Posted by Matt Walker on February 8, 2010

It is all too easy to see Parliament as simply a shouting match, especially when we survey the chamber of the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ).

However, in many ways PMQ is atypical of the work done by Parliament. It is important for you to know the the functions of Parliament (outlined below), and you should use your textbook to supplement your notes, as well as find interesting examples to illustrate these functions.

The main functions of Parliament are:

  1. Scrutiny – the government must be watched and assessed in detail. The better the scrutiny, the better job government will do.
  2. Accountability – once Parliament knows exactly what government is doing, it can hold the latter to account for its actions and decisions.
  3. Representation – we should not forget that Parliament and government are there to do a job for us. Hence Parliament should represent the interests of constituents and different groups of people.
  4. Debate – sometimes important discussions need to occur, such as over terrorism or euthanasia. Parliament should be at the centre of any such national debate.
  5. Dealing with grievances – quite often MPs will question ministers after receiving mail from members of the public regarding how decisions have in some way harmed them.

What factors prevent Parliament’s ability to do these things? How could Parliament’s capacity for carrying out these functions be enhanced?

The BBC have provided some useful videos on this topic:

House of Commons

House of Lords

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