In Westminster parliamentary systems, a backbencher is a member of Parliament (MP) or a legislator who holds no governmental office and is not a frontbench spokesman in the Opposition, being instead simply a member of the "rank and file". The term dates from 1855.The term derives from the fact that they sit physically behind the frontbench in the House of Commons. A backbencher may be a new parliamentary member yet to receive high office, a senior figure dropped from government, someone who for whatever reason is not chosen to sit either in the ministry or the opposition Shadow Ministry, or someone who prefers to be a background influence, not in the spotlight. By extension, those who are not reliable supporters of all of their party's goals and policies and have resigned or been forced to resign may be relegated to the back benches. For example, Clive Lewis becoming a backbencher after resigning from Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet over Brexit, or Boris Johnson who became a backbencher again, after resigning as Foreign Secretary in Theresa May's cabinet, also over Brexit.
The Westminster system is a parliamentary system of government developed in the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament. The system is a series of procedures for operating a legislature. It is used, or was once used, in the national and subnational legislatures of most former British Empire colonies upon gaining responsible government, beginning with the first of the Canadian provinces in 1848 and the six Australian colonies between 1855 and 1890. However, some former colonies have since adopted either the presidential system or a hybrid system as their form of government.
A minister is a politician who heads a government department, making and implementing decisions on policies in conjunction with the other ministers. In some jurisdictions the head of government is also a minister and is designated the "prime minister", "premier", "chief minister", "Chancellor" or other title.
In many parliaments and other similar assemblies, seating is typically arranged in banks or rows, with each political party or caucus grouped together. The spokespeople for each group will often sit at the front of their group, and are then known as being on the frontbench and are described as frontbenchers. Those sitting behind them are known as backbenchers. Independent and minority parties sit to the side or on benches between the two sides, and are referred to as crossbenchers.
In most parliamentary systems, backbenchers individually do not have much power to influence government policy. However, they play a role in providing services to their constituents, in relaying the opinions and concerns of their constituents. For example, asking the government for funding for a project in their constituency. Some backbenchers also sit on parliamentary committees, where legislation is considered in more detail than there is time for on the floor of the House and, thereby, provide input into the legislative process.The Wright Committee reforms introduced in the UK provided backbenchers with much more power in committees, giving Parliament greater control of its agenda, increasing backbench membership in committees vastly. In addition, since backbenchers generally form the vast majority of MPs, collectively they can sometimes exercise considerable power especially in cases where the policies of the government are unpopular or when a governing party is internally split. Backbenchers carry a considerable amount of influence when the government majority is small, for example, Theresa May's government from 2017 onwards has been defeated sixteen times in the House of Commons, whereas, David Cameron's majority government was defeated three times in the House of Commons.
A committee is a body of one or more persons that is subordinate to a deliberative assembly. Usually, the assembly sends matters into a committee as a way to explore them more fully than would be possible if the assembly itself were considering them. Committees may have different functions and their type of work differ depending on the type of the organization and its needs.
The Reform of the House of Commons Committee was a Select Committee of the UK Parliament. It was established in 2009 to improve the procedures and relevance of Parliament. It reported on 12 November 2009 and made a number of recommendations, in a document entitled 'Rebuilding the House'.
Theresa Mary May is a British politician serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since 2016. She served as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016. May was first elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Maidenhead in 1997. Ideologically, she identifies herself as a one-nation conservative.
In some legislative assemblies, sitting at the back of the chamber is not necessarily associated with having a minor role. In Switzerland, senior figures sit in the back rows in order to have a better overview and be closer to the doors for discussions outside the plenary. In Germany, the party leaders sit in the front row, but there are no designated places for other senior figures. The term backbenchers („Hinterbänkler“) therefore refers to largely unknown MPs without much influence - regardless of where they sit. Originally, the importance of the front rows for the leaders had also to do with the fact that acoustics were often unsatisfactory before microphones were introduced.
Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western, central, and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva.
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.
The term "backbencher" has also been adopted outside parliamentary systems, such as the United States Congress. While legislative branches in presidential systems do not share the firm front bench/back bench dichotomy of the Westminster system, the term has been used to denote junior legislators, or legislators who are not part of party leadership within a legislative body.When Democrat Tim Ryan of Ohio ran against Nancy Pelosi of California for House Minority Leader in 2016, the Washington Post reported that he "emerged from the backbench — he literally sits on the last bench in the chamber".
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.
A presidential system is a democratic and republican system of government where a head of government leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of state, which is called president.
Timothy John Ryan is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Ohio's 13th congressional district since 2003. The district, numbered as the 17th district from 2003 to 2013, takes in a large swath of northeast Ohio, from Youngstown to Akron. Ryan is a member of the Democratic Party.
The most important backbench role many would argue is that of a constituency representative. Constituents rely heavily on their MPs to represent them in parliament and make sure their concerns are heard and welfare is looked after, whether or not they voted for the MP representing them. Constituents can email their MP's and have meetings with them, raising the issues and concerns they want the government to hear.Without this link many people would find it extremely hard for their voices to be heard fairly by the government. Backbenchers have an important opportunity to raise their constituents concerns directly to the Prime Minister in Prime Ministers Questions. Performing well in this constituency role is vital for backbenchers, as if they aren't prominent names in their party, their performance in their constituency could be a big factor on whether or not they will be re-elected to their seat in the next election.
Prime Minister's Questions is a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom, currently held as a single session every Wednesday at noon when the House of Commons is sitting, during which the Prime Minister spends around half an hour answering questions from Members of Parliament (MPs).
Backbenchers also have an unofficial agenda setting power, with Opposition Day Debates, Private Members Bills, and Prime Minister Questions available to place items on the Parliamentary agenda which are awkward for the government. There is also the Commons Backbench Business Committee which was created in 2010, this has cross party support and debates matters unlikely to be debated in government time, they formally end a decision with a vote. By the end of the 2010 Coalition Government it had undergone 300 debates, ranging from prisoner voting rights to the Hillsborough Disaster.Furthermore, they have influence as discussed above when they are a member of a committee, these committees provide a perfect opportunity for backbenchers to have their voices heard in the legislative process. It usually proves difficult for backbenchers to be involved and have direct input in the legislative process when they are not involved in these activities.
A private members' bill (PMB) in the Parliament of the United Kingdom is a type of public bill that can be introduced by either members of the House of Commons or House of Lords who are not Ministers. Less parliamentary time is given to such bills and as a result only a minority of PMBs actually become law. Such bills can be used however to create publicity for a cause or issue and can affect legislation indirectly. There are three methods by which a private members' bill can be introduced:
The Backbench Business Committee of the British House of Commons was created on 15 June 2010 through the adoption of a new standing order. It was created soon after 2010 general election, but had been proposed during the previous Parliament by the Wright Committee on Reform of the House of Commons in its report of 12 November 2009.
The Hillsborough disaster was a fatal crush of people during an FA Cup semi-final football match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, on 15 April 1989. With 96 fatalities and 766 injuries, it remains the worst disaster in British sporting history. The crush occurred in the two standing-only central pens in the Leppings Lane stand, allocated to Liverpool supporters. Shortly before kick-off, in an attempt to ease overcrowding outside the entrance turnstiles, the police match commander, chief superintendent David Duckenfield, ordered exit gate C to be opened, leading to an influx of even more supporters to the already overcrowded central pens.
There has been much speculation on the influence backbenchers actually hold in Parliament. Many believe backbenchers hold little to no influence, however, there has been much research to suggest they have a significant background influence. For example, Meg Russell analysed UK government bills and found that successful amendments were due to Parliamentary pressure, 60% of these being substantive.Proving the majority of legislation undergoes unofficial parliamentary pressure. Meg Russell also analysed the impact of the Wright Committee Reforms and whether it strengthened backbench power and influence. She found that the Wright Committee led to a significant reduction in governmental and whips hold over the Commons agenda. Finding that backbenchers have more independence and power because of these reforms, and giving them far more opportunity to set agendas and have their voices heard in Parliament. Furthermore, Louise Thompson found that introducing oral evidence into committees scrutinising government bills had a significant impact on backbench influence. Acting as a vehicle for the formulation of significant changes to government Bills, additional opposition scrutiny, and a debating tool. Oral evidence was most identified in undertakings given by ministers to committee members. Whereas, the number of amendments formally accepted by the government at committee stages is low. It found 89% occasions in which oral evidence had a direct impact on bills. This again suggests that backbenchers exert influence in the background of the Westminster legislation process. Therefore, it can be seen that although backbenchers have little official legislation powers in Parliament, they often exert significant background influence on the legislative process.
The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is granted by appointment or else by heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
The House of Commons, officially the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved unicameral legislature of Scotland. Located in the Holyrood area of the capital city, Edinburgh, it is frequently referred to by the metonym Holyrood.
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons currently meets in a temporary Commons chamber in the West Block of the parliament buildings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, while the Centre Block, which houses the traditional Commons chamber, undergoes a ten-year renovation.
The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislature of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the national capital. The body consists of the Canadian monarch, represented by a viceroy, the Governor General; an upper house, the Senate; and a lower house, the House of Commons. Each element has its own officers and organization. By constitutional convention, the House of Commons is dominant, with the Senate and monarch rarely opposing its will. The Senate reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint and the monarch or viceroy provides royal assent to make bills into law.
An act of parliament, also called primary legislation, are statutes passed by a parliament (legislature). Act of the Oireachtas is an equivalent term used in the Republic of Ireland where the legislature is commonly known by its Irish name, Oireachtas. It is also comparable to an Act of Congress in the United States.
A private member's bill in a parliamentary system of government is a bill introduced into a legislature by a legislator who is not acting on behalf of the executive branch. The designation "private member's bill" is used in most Westminster System jurisdictions, in which a "private member" is any member of parliament (MP) who is not a member of the cabinet (executive). Other labels may be used for the concept in other parliamentary systems; for example, the label member's bill is used in the Scottish Parliament and in the Parliament of New Zealand. In presidential systems with a separation of the executive from the legislature, the concept does not arise since the executive cannot initiate legislation, and bills are introduced by individual legislators.
Sir David Anthony Andrew Amess is a British Conservative Party politician. He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1983, first for Basildon, and since 1997 for Southend West. A long-term and vocal Eurosceptic, he supported Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum and has since been a supporter of Leave Means Leave, a pro-Brexit campaign.
Sir Christopher Robert Chope is a British barrister and Conservative politician. He is the Member of Parliament for Christchurch. A Brexit advocate, he has been supportive of Leave Means Leave, a Eurosceptic pressure group.
The Legislative Assembly of Ontario is one of two components of the Legislature of Ontario, the other being the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The Legislative Assembly is the second largest Canadian provincial deliberative assembly by number of members after the National Assembly of Quebec. The Assembly meets at the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's Park in the provincial capital of Toronto.
Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition, or the Official Opposition, in the United Kingdom is led by the Leader of the Opposition. This is usually the political party with the second-largest number of seats in the House of Commons, as the largest party will usually form Her Majesty's Government. Since May 2010, the Official Opposition has been the Labour Party, currently led by Jeremy Corbyn.
The Parliament of Victoria is the bicameral legislature of the Australian state of Victoria. It follows a Westminster-derived parliamentary system and consists of The Queen, represented by the Governor of Victoria; the Legislative Assembly; and the Legislative Council. It has a fused executive drawn from members of both chambers. The Parliament meets at Parliament House in the state capital Melbourne.
The Constitution Unit is an independent and non-partisan research centre based within the Department of Political Science at University College London. It analyses constitutional change and its effects. The Unit was founded in 1995 by Robert Hazell and specialises in the study of parliament and parliamentary reform; elections and referendums; monarchy, church and state; devolution; constitution-making; freedom of information legislation; courts and the legal system; and the relationship between the UK and EU.
In the United Kingdom an Act of Parliament is primary legislation passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As a result of the Glorious Revolution and the assertion of parliamentary sovereignty, any such Act is in theory supreme law that cannot be overturned by any body other than Parliament, although it has been recognised through the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union that Acts or parts of Acts which conflict with EU law can be disapplied.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that provides for repealing the European Communities Act 1972, and for Parliamentary approval of the withdrawal agreement being negotiated between HM Government and the European Union.
The European Union Act 2017 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to empower the Prime Minister to give to the Council of the European Union the formal notice – required by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union – for starting negotiations for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.
The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019, sometimes referred to as the "Cooper–Letwin Bill", is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that makes provisions for extensions to the period defined under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union related to the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union. It was introduced to the House of Commons by Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin on 3 April 2019, in an unusual process where the Government of the United Kingdom did not have control over Commons business that day.
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