Compare and contrast the extent to which the PM and president are accountable to their respective legislatures? It is fair to say, that both positions are held accountable to a certain extent by their respective legislatures. For example the PM can be questioned at PM question time, whereas the president can be scrutinized through specialist congressional committees. Many argue, that the UK PM can be held accountable to parliament on many occasions. Firstly PM question time, offers backbench MP's and lords the opportunity to question the PM either on legislation, or on government policy.
Many see this as particularly effective scrutiny as it demands a response from the PM, perhaps prompting to make a promise on an area. However, others argue that there is no real scrutiny of the PM in question times. They say the ritualised format, combined with the difficulty of asking questions, and the media spectacle of partisan point scoring as lacking in any real scrutiny of the PM. Tony Benn, a former leader of the house, stated that PM question time now had more planted questions than "gardeners question time.
" In the US, one way in which the legislature can hold the executive to account, is through congressional committees. Like PM question time, this allows members of the legislature to investigate the president, and legislation. Whilst not usually directly focusing on the president, they do scrutinize the workings of the president's office, as well as looking at different aspects of presidential legislation. Woodrow Wilson, former president, stated, "congress at work, is congress in committees.
" The influence of these committees is great in the scrutiny of the president and of those around him, like PM and ministerial question time. Yet as these committees do not usually focus on the president himself, many argue they do not effectively scrutinize him. For example, when investigating the pre September 11th intelligence, the investigation focused more on defence secretary Rumsvelt, rather than President Bush. One can also draw parallels with the UK system, where almost a system of "individual responsibility" has developed in the cabinet system.
Geof Hoon was quizzed on the body armour scandal for Iraq, and later the blame was apportioned to a top civil servant. Therefore, we can see both systems, to a certain extent are devoid of any real scrutiny of the singular office of PM or president. A further way in which the PM can be held accountable to his respective legislature, is through select and standing committees scrutiny. Standing committees look at the detail of a government bill, and may put foreword amendments. Many MP's see their most important work as MP's is on select committees.
Select committees allow backbenchers to undertake investigational work, and their findings often prompt the government to act on an issue. Often these committees have a considerable degree of expertise, as they are important in providing scrutiny of the PM. For example, Bruce George, has sat on the defence select committee since 1979. Increased media coverage of select committee proceedings, such as at the time of the Hutton enquiry, has brought the spotlight on to the PM making him accountable for his actions. In the US, as stated before, congressional committees play a major in holding the president to account.
One further way a senator or congressman can do this is by voting in his/her respective houses. If they decide to vote against a presidential bill, such as they did in 1995 with Clinton's budget, then they can effectively hold him to account, forcing him/her to make amendments. The unique separation of powers, creating, effectively "separate institutions sharing power" means also that senators must also ratify the president's judicial appointments. The rejection of Robert Bork, by the senate during the Regan administration, shows effectively, the legislature holding the US president to account.
Unlike in the UK, as there is no powerful whips, then there is arguably more of an incentive to hold the executive to account for its actions. In the US, the president who is the nominal head, cannot threaten any member of the legislature with expulsion from the party, ot any oher heavy handed sanction like in the UK. As members of congress, are not worried about upsetting the executive, rather more concerned with the "folks back home. " Thus, many argue they are in a better position to hold the president to count, compared with the UK system.
In both the UK and US, the member's of the legislature can hold the PM/president to account by initiating a piece of legislation. This may have the effect of highlighting inactivity on behalf of the PM or president. For example, a backbench MP in the house of commons, can initiate a private member's bill, perhaps gaining support, and forcing change in a certain area. For example, private member's bills have achieved success in areas which the PM does not want to be directly associated with, for example social reforms such as abortion or homosexual reform.
In the US, legislation from congress can also paly a big part in holding the president to account. For example, when the republicans gained a majority, they set about legislating a "Plan for America" in order to combat the economic downturn during some Clinton years. Whereas members of the US legislature often have considerable success with their legislation, hostile tactics in the commons and lords in the UK, such as filibustering, imposition of the guillotine, combined with the government whip make success with PMB's very hard to achieve.
In conclusion, both the PM and president can be held accruable to their respective legislatures to a certain extent. In my opinion the UK PM is in a stronger position legislatively, as he has the majority support in the commons, the chief legislating body. He exercise complete control over backbench MP's through extensive controls, such as the whip system not available to the president.