By Amber Khlat
London, United Kingdom
There are numerous flaws with Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), and there are fundamental issues within their system of working, such as the probable political point scoring, party promotion and the Prime Minister (PM) avoiding the questions. However, PMQs provide an essential function of a liberal democracy, as they ensure the government is being scrutinized rigorously as well as ensure the continuation of a modernized democracy.
PMQs have often been rendered ludicrous, as the PM very rarely answers the question from the opposition and tends to speak about something entirely different. This provides for an ineffective method for the PM to be held accountable, as continually avoiding leading statements and questions from MPs leads to an unproductive session. This stems from the problem that the PM and his government doesn’t want to be embarrassed in a nationally televised program to the general public. This often elicits a superficial and misleading answer from the PM because of the need to avoid humiliation from the opposition.The PM can avoid straight answers to further justify his party’s actions and responses to situations. This leads to the ineffective scrutiny of the PM and his decisions. However, most PMs dread PMQs, implying that they have the potential to be properly held to account for their actions leaving them to be humiliated as the opposition have properly scrutinized the government. Further, PMQs offer a significant degree of scrutiny, which is essential to maintain parliamentary democracy; this is what allows the U.K. to distinguish itself from other countries around the world. A function of democracies includes holding the government accountable and rigorously scrutinizing their decisions; this includes having PMQs. It is necessary for the PM and other ministers to regularly appear in Parliament to explain and justify policies and decisions.
The greater reliance on select committees, national debates and the liaison committee twice a year would provide for a more legitimate government. Select committee members do not accept weak answers and look to examine closely how the government is acting. Their impact and effectiveness are a key role to holding the PM to account as the chairs of certain committees are becoming influential parliamentarians, so now the government feels like they need to respond to their criticisms and recommendations. This provides a better framework for holding the government accountable, as the committee meetings are more structured and meticulous due to the highly theatrical nature of PMQs. However, PMQs are very accessible and do not require a significant amount of complex political knowledge, as the opposition tends to ask general and convenient questions for the public to comprehend. This contrasts to the select committees, as they tend to be a lot longer than the PMQ 30-minute session. Moreover, the alternatives provided cannot enforce recommendations; however, the opposition in PMQs can exert more pressure on the PM, as they hold more political clout. The publicity of the PMQs is significant, as they provide for a more open and effective democracy as the general public is made aware of the key political state of affairs surrounding them.