Beyond Committees: Parliamentary Oversight and Coalition Government in Britain
40 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2017
Date Written: June 2016
A legislature's ability to engage in executive oversight is believed to derive largely from its committee system. Strong parliamentary committees, for example, allow parties in multiparty government to keep tabs on each other. This paper suggests the instrument of parliamentary questions as an alternative parliamentary vehicle for coalition parties to monitor their partners. Questions force ministers to reveal information concerning their legislative and extra-legislative activities, providing coalition members unique insights into their partners’ behaviour. To test our argument, we build and analyse a new dataset of parliamentary questions in the British House of Commons covering the 2010-15 coalition. As expected, government MPs ask more questions of ministries held by the other party, and especially target questions to ministries where coalition parties are furthest apart ideologically. Legislatures conventionally considered weak due to the lack of strong committees may nevertheless play an important role in policing the bargain and managing coalition government.
Keywords: Coalitions, Parliamentary Questions, Westminster
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