9.4a Backbenchers Flashcards Preview

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Backbenchers as Representatives

Backbenchers represent UK citizens through impacting on laws and scrutinising the government.

Backbenchers in the House of Commons represent the interests of the citizens in their constituency.


Government scrutiny

Backbenchers scrutinise the government and hold it accountable for its actions.

Backbenchers can question government ministers during Question time and the Prime Minister in Prime Minister’s Questions on their policies and actions to ensure they are held to account.

Backbenchers make up and chair select committees which scrutinise government departments.

Backbench MPs can write questions to ministers about issues which impact their constituents which ministers must reply to.


Government policy and legislation

Backbenchers in the House of Commons represent their constituents' interests and should vote on legislation in a way which meets their constituents’ interests.

House of Lords' backbenchers look to improve legislation.

All backbenchers can speak in Parliamentary debates over legislation.

Backbenchers can participate in voting in favour of or against legislation.

Backbenchers are members of standing committees which review bills in detail.


Parliamentary privilege

Parliamentary privilege enables backbenchers to carry out their roles, particularly representing the electorate’s interests through having free speech.

Parliamentary privilege ensures that MPs and members of the House of Lords can freely debate on any issue without interference.

Parliamentary privilege gives backbenchers legal immunity over what they say in Parliament.

MPs used their parliamentary privilege during the Ryan Giggs affair to name the footballer who had taken out an injunction over an affair.


Party deligates

Backbenchers are expected to support their party in Parliament.

Backbenchers of the party in government are expected to not overly criticise the government and to follow the party line when voting.

Backbenchers of the opposition parties have a role to oppose the government through criticism in ministers questions and voting against government policies.


Significant role: rebellions

Backbenchers often make up the majority of a party in Parliament. The government’s backbenchers are important to pass legislation.

Backbenchers can use their vote to express support or discontent with the Government.

Backbench rebellions can change the direction of government policy.

In 2012, 91 Conservative backbenchers voted against coalition government plans for House of Lords reform.


Significant role: constituency

Backbenchers are important for the voices of their constituencies to be heard - and can spend more time in their constituencies because they are not ministers. -

Rebelling backbenchers often prioritise their constituency.


Significant role: other

Backbenchers can change public policy by introducing Private Members’ Bills.

Backbenchers in committees can hold government ministers to account and research policies.


Not significant role

Party whips have a lot of power over backbenchers, which reduces the likelihood of a backbench rebellion.

If a ‘three-line whip’ is enacted, backbenchers risk being removed from their party and having to sit as an independent in parliament if they vote against the party’s position.

Private members’ bills are rarely successful, especially if the government doesn’t back them.

Select committees are often ignored by the Government.