Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Parliaments In The Twenty-first Century

Parliaments In The Twenty-first Century
 K. Shiuka
Definition of Parliament (Oxford dictionary);  The legislative body of a country or state: having the power to make laws. (or) - A body of persons given the responsibility and power to make laws for a country or state. For example the lawmaking body - the U.S. Congress.

Parliaments are the institutional heartbeat of democratic governments, (because) democratic government in political units of any size requires a parliament where citizens may be represented and where public policies may be debated and determined.

Representative assemblies are well known to Europeans as parliaments and best known for to Americans as legislatures. Legislature existed for centuries and they span across the world. Most countries have one - single legislature, federal states have several legislatures.
Almost 150 countries plus the EU have one. Their performance has increased in central and Eastern Europe after the Collapse of the Soviet Union.
The constitution - establishes the place of the legislature in the country's political structure.
The constitution of a country will stimulate the relationship between the different parts of the political system at both the horizontal level (a presidential or parliamentary system) and the vertical level (a unitary or federal system).
It will determine the form of the legislature (Unicameral or bicameral) as well.


*  Definition of Bicameralism according to the free dictionary  - Composed of or based on two legislative chambers or branches: A bicameral legislature is one in which the legislators are divided into two separate assemblies, chambers or houses.

*  Definition of Unicameralism  according to the free dictionary definition   -  a representative form of government with a single legislative chamber/house.

Most of the world's parliament are unicameral, consisting of a single legislative chamber.  For example; China has a very large unicameral assembly ' the national People's Congress.
             
About third of the world's national parliaments are bicameral.  As we know Bicameralism is an institutional design for a two house representative assembly.
E.g The U.S Congress; the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The German parliament;  The German Parliament;  Bundestag and Bundesrat.
The UK Parliament; The House of Commons and The House of Lords, etc.
The national parliament of the Russian federation is constitutionally bicameral, consisting of The Duma and The Council of the Federation.  (However that is just of a democratic façade, because the president is above the parliament and the rule of law in Russia. K. S).
Most of the western European countries have bicameral parliaments including France, Germany,  Italy, Spain.

Some East European countries are bicameral as well such as Poland, Romania, and The Czech republic.
 (Italian and Romanian senates enjoy the same legislative powers as their lower houses.)
In Western Pacific region two house parliaments are prominent in Australia, Japan, Malaysia etc.
In Asia main examples of bicameralism are Pakistani, India,  Thailand.
In the Middle East Jordan, and in small African countries such as Congo, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Namibia etc.
( Photo; The Queen reads her speech in the House of Lords. ))
Modern parliaments date their origins to medieval times, when bicameral institutions first emerged. The development of European parliaments that included 'second chambers' or 'upper houses' indicated the survival of aristocracy. However they in one way or another, been transformed into effective and modern parliamentary institutions, for example the U.S Senate and the British House of Lords.



The Role of Parliaments 

A parliamentary form of government is the norm in western Europe.
Parliaments are the represents of the people.
 Legislatures most important roles; its legislative roles, its law-making functions, the election of its members, its internal organizational life,  and its place in the society and political system.
Also;
*  Policy making – Makes or rejects, or proposes laws (legislation)
* Policy influencing – as above but unable to substitute.
* Little or no policy effect – unable to amend, reject or substitute.
* Parliaments examining, checking, and challenging the work of the government (scrutiny).
* Debate the important issues of the day (debating)
*  Makes or rejects, or proposes laws (legislation)
* Check and approve Government spending (budget/taxes)
* Relations with other institutions and intergovernmental parliaments.


Types of legislature

1). Policy making legislatures, (Strong - Active legislature).
- These are legislatures that not only can modify or reject measures brought forward by the executive but also can formulate and substitute policy of their own ( E.g the U.S Congress)

2). Policy influencing legislators, (Modest - Reactive legislature).
- these are legislatures that can modify and sometimes reject measures brought forward by the executive but lack the capacity to formulate and substitute policy of their own ( E.g the UK's Parliament)

3). legislatures with little or no policy effect, (Little or none - Minimal legislatures).
- These are legislatures that can neither modify nor reject measures brought forward by the executive. Nor formulate and substitute policy of their own. (E.g East European communist countries, eg. East Germany)

In polities where the legislature enjoys support at both mass and elite level is an active legislature e.g the U.S Congress' the prime example of an active legislature.
There are strong reactive legislatures such as the Sweden legislature and the British Parliament as well.
The Scandinavian Parliaments and the Dutch parliament can be located in the reactive category of legislatures.

There are strong reactive legislatures such as the Sweden legislature.
There are middle - ranking reactive legislatures such as the Germany legislature.
and there are weak reactive legislatures such as those of Ireland and France.

Reactive legislatures - They respond to what government brings forward, and the government will usually get what it wants, but their capacity to affect government measures is somewhat greater than other categories.


The Senates / The Second chambers/ Houses

 The functions of a second chamber as a liberal check and as a representative of the states in federations
 Mode of selection to second chamber:
- direct election, indirect election, appointment. ( eg the House of Lords, and the German Bundesrat,  The U.S Senate, they are the second chambers in Bicameral legislatures.)

* Some have have large membership,( UK -  1200) and some have small ones (US Senate 100).

* Some are elected bodies, some appointed.

* Some have a territorial representation base, others do not.

* Some exist in federal systems of government some exist in unitary ones. ( Eg UK is unitary, Germany is a federal, but both have a bicameral system two chamber parliaments).

* Some enjoy co - equal powers with the lower house,  while the majority are constitutionally and self - consciously subordinated to it because they do not enjoy the same democratic legitimacy that comes with direct, popular election.

Generally the Second chambers/ Senates/ Upper houses are influential and important parliamentary bodies, They have real influence when their anticipated reaction is taken into account in the writing of a bill, when they amend or improve the text of government proposals, eg in Canada, Britain, France, Poland etc
however Senates in parliamentary democracies are forever under the microscope of parliamentary reform, especially in cases where members acquire their position through right of birth or governmental appointment and retain it for life.  e.g the Canadian senate or the British House of Lords.

The democratic reality of altering governments thus dooms senates to a life of uncertainty, and their general lack of democratic legitimacy leaves them in a weak position to defend themselves against political opponents demanding their reform. However the U.S Senate stands as unusually immune from most such demands because of its exalted constitutional status in a system of separated powers.
 (Thomas Jefferson was on a diplomatic mission for the United States in France, met George Washington for breakfast upon his return from Paris. He asked Washington why the American founding fathers had created a second house of congress, the Senate? Thereupon Washington asked ' why did you pour your coffee into your saucer'? Jefferson replied, " To cool it". "Even so" Washington responded, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it'.)



Legislative lobbying In Parliaments 
(Pressure groups/Interest groups)  

Interests groups influence on Parliaments; they gain influence by offering members of Parliaments valuable resource - information.
All lobbying begins with access. Access is absolutely critical to any successful lobbying campaign. Yet, what is remarkable is the extent to which so little known about the relationship between parliaments and pressure groups in Western Europe. This maybe because such activity is hidden, non - existent, or deemed to be of no importance, but its in order to understand fully the workings of a parliamentarian system.
 There is a relationship between the parliament and the organised interests - different types of pressure groups, including insider and outsider groups.
In some political systems, insider groups maybe is the norm, in others may not.
The more extensive and active the groups, the greater the potential to develop contact with the legislature.

Interest groups and organisations attempt to influence legislative decisions through a wide range of activities;
* gathering information about legislators, communicating directly with legislators, (and their personal staffs, or committee staff), voting intentions and legislative agenda.
* Cultivation and maintaining good working relationships with legislators.
* engaging in public relations and advertising campaigns.
* organizing and mobilizing constituents at the grass roots.
* making campaign contributions.
* researching policy issues. Lobbyists learn about what legislators are thinking and planning on doing. Because that access is critically important to them, especially information of legislative process. Lobbyists must keep track of legislators positions.  Their knowledge about what legislators are planning or thinking can be used to shape policy.



The U.S Congress

 The U.S. Congress is a bicameral legislature: made up of two house House of Representatives and Senate.
Article 1 of the constitution is devoted to Congress The legislation Branch; All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of The United States, which shall consist of a Senate and house of representatives.
The founder fathers of America supported powerful upper house for preventing majority tyranny.


In 1787 when the founders of the USA invited in Philadelphia to forge a new constitution for the United States almost all of them favoured a bicameral national legislature. Only New Jersey Plan proposed a unicameral Congress, but delegates readily agreed that unicameralism was one of the defects of the Articles of confederation, which they were bound and determined to replace with a new basic law.   Finally delegates agreed on a congress in which the Lower house would be popularly elected (limited white male suffrage) and an upper house - senate would be based of equality of state representation, - two senators per state to be chosen by the state legislatures.
The U.S Senate opened its session to the public in 1794.
The Senate's growing prestige resulted from its role in the great national debates preceding the Civil War. The senate provided the forum to debate and sometimes to patch together compromises of the major and divisive issues of slavery and free soil.

The House of Representatives and the Senate are designed to “check” and correct the mistakes of the other – each other.
 (Evidences). Lord Bryce  argued that ' The chief advantage of dividing of legislature into two branches is that the one may check the haste and correct the mistakes of the other'. (Check and balance).
The power distribution; The importance of bicameralism and the second chamber to prevent the corruption or usurpation of power, by the other body, by the executive, or by special interests.
 In the Framers' view, bicameralism would provide a safeguard against 'schemes of usurpation and perfidy', by 'requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies'.

A well constructed second chamber would in addition provide experience, stability and a guard against single assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden or violent passions. (Hamilton, 1961)
The British House of Lords and The U.S Senate are centuries old and operate within a long - established structure of democratic government.
The House of Representatives - 435 Legislators ( 2 year term).
In 1913 the 17th amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress and ratified by the States. The change provided popular election of senators.
The Senate 100 members -  Senators, two from each State, for Six year term.
* The Vice President of The United States is president of the Senate as well but with no vote.
*  The House of Representatives have the sole Power of Impeachment.

* The Vice President of The United States is president of the Senate as well but with no vote.

* All bills are originated in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.

Every bill which have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, will presented to the President of the United States.
(a Presidential Veto Messages.)
(The U.S Congress; Bill 1. Introduced, 2. Passed Senate, 3. Passed House. 4. To President. 5. Became Law)

 The Power of Congress

* The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare to the United States.
* To make rules for the government.
* Raise and collect taxes
* To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever.
* To declare war. to rise and support armies.
* To regulate commerce to the foreign nations and among the several states.* To coin money, regulate the value thereof and of foreign coin.
* To promote science and useful arts. (etc)

The laws That Changed America
 The Civil Rights Act 1964. Then President Lyndon Johnson signed into law one of the most important pieces of legislation ever signed in the United States History. 
( Photo where the President of America Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among the guests behind Johnson you can see Martin Luther King, Jr. the the Civil Rights movements leader who was inspired like Gandhi by UK's Magna Carta ) 




Women elected to The U.S  Congress 

In the House of Representatives, women hold just 84 (19.3%) of the 435 seats. 


The Single chamber legislature (Unicameral)

* State government should be a business institution,
* The governor - its a president
* The legislatures the border director
* people the stakeholders .

The Nebraska' unicameral legislature  is the supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska, in the region of the United States. )

China's Parliament -  the national People's Congress

China has a very large unicameral assembly ' the national People's Congress - China's parliament. The China's Congress is made up of nearly 3,000 delegates elected by China's provinces. 
 In theory, the congress has the power to change the constitution and make laws. But it is not, and is not meant to be, an independent body in the Western sense of a parliament.  
The Chinese Communist Party has ruled the country since 1949, tolerating no opposition and demanding loyalty from media, and often dealing brutally with dissent.
Politburo members have never faced competitive election, making it to the top thanks to their patrons and survival instincts in a political culture where saying the wrong thing can lead to a life under house-arrest, or worse. The country's most senior decision-making body is the standing committee of the politburo, heading a pyramid of power which tops every village and workplace. 
The politburo controls three other important bodies  such as the Military Affairs Commission, which controls the armed forces; the National People's Congress, or parliament; and the State Council, the government's administrative arm. 

Government's all bills are 100% passed in the NPC.
(Women) Shen Yueyue, president of the All-China Women's Federation is vice chair of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.
(Only that's good news from china ;) 



Brief History of The British Parliament

The modern British Parliament is one of the oldest  continuous democracy and continuous representative assemblies in the world.
In 1215  King John agreed to Magna Carta which stated the right of the barons to consult with and advise the king in his Great Council. 

In 13 century , Knights and burgesses were invited in order to give assent to the king's decision to rise extra taxes. 
At various times during the century, the Knights and burgesses sat separately from the churchmen and barons, so there developed two houses; The House of commons and The House of Lords.

The Commons become more significant political actor especially during the Tudor reigns of the 16 century and a powerful opponent of the Stuart monarchs who asserted the divine rights of kings to rule in the seventeenth. Clashes occurred between parliament and Charles 1 - leading to the beheading of the king by and short lived period republican government under Oliver Cromwell. - and later between parliament and James 2, in 1688 allowed leading parliamentarians to offer the throne to James daughter and son in law (Mary and William) on parliament's terms, and supremacy of parliament was established. 

The Glorious Revolution has established parliament's supremacy over the King. After the revolution king could not legislate or suspend laws without the assent of parliament.  The revolution of 1688  also confirmed the form of government as that of "parliamentary government', means government through parliament , not government by parliament.  
The rise of the democratic principle in the 19 century established the supremacy of the elected House of Commons over the unelected the House of Lords. 
 The subordinate position of the House of Lords was confirmed by statute in the   Parliament Act 1911. The Parliament Act 1911 is constitutionally important and partly governs the relationship between the House of Commons and the House of Lords which make up the Houses of Parliament. This Act must be construed as one with the Parliament Act 1949.

( Photo; The passage of the Parliament Act 1911. Votes in both Houses of Parliament are conducted in the form of divisions.)

The parliament act of 1911 effected a fundamental constitutional change in Great Britain, removing the power of the House of Lords to veto legislation passed by the House of Commons and replacing this with merely the power to delay. 

The House of Commons evolved as an elected assembly. In contrast the UK's parliament's Second chamber the House of Lords emerged as a hereditary body whose members, until the enactment of the Life Peerages Act in 1958 permitted non-hereditary membership, were entitled to sit in the house by right of their birth into the nobility. 

The Commons remained and remains the dominant chamber in a parliamentary dominated by party, with the initiative for measures of public policy resting with the cabinet and with a party majority in the house ensuring the passage of the measures.

The size of the House of Commons has varied over time; ranging in the 20 century from a hight of 707 seats (1918 - 22) to a low of 625 ( 1922 - 45). 
The number of seats in the 2005 parliament was 645. That increased over 650 in the 2010 parliament, and nowadays remains so.

Today the maximum life of a parliament is 5 years, however between  1715 - 1911 it was 7 years.  
Members - MPs are returned for single - member constituencies. These have been norm since the Reform Act of 1885. 

The method of election employed 'First past the post' system, with the candidate receiving the largest number of votes being declared the winner. Each constituency comprises a defined geographical area, and the MP is returned to represent all citizens living within that area, including those who do not vote to him or her. 



The House of Lords
The Parliament Act 1911 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is constitutionally important and partly governs the relationship between the House of Commons and the House of Lords which make up the Houses of Parliament. This Act must be regard as one with the Parliament Act 1949. 

The parliament act of 1911 effected a fundamental constitutional change in Great Britain, removing the power of the House of Lords to veto legislation passed by the House of Commons and replacing this with merely the power to delay. 

The second major change of 20 century was the introduction of life peers in 1958. After the house became more representative, at least of the professional classes.  A larger number of practising politicians found their way into the upper house, mostly those who were approaching retirement. and, for first time, women were admitted. 
( - In the 1970s and 1980s Labour Party had the idea of abolishing the Lords ( - Since 1979 labour supported first the removal of the second house all together.)

Between the House of Lords of today and its predecessor body of 600 years ago there is unbroken institutional continuity, but along with this continuity there has also been great change. The House of Lords has become more meritocratic and rather less aristocratic. In 1992 conservative party described the House of Lords as the "other opposition'. 


The Membership of the House of Lords

The House of lords has a very large membership around 1, 200 individuals having the right to a seat, and over 800 attenders. 
 Peers are people of very distinctive achievement. Some owe their seats to the accident of birth, some are appointed by Prime Minister. Most are wealthy, some are "virtually penniless:"
 Taken as a whole, the hereditary peers do bring to parliament a range of experience.  About one - third of all life peers have been members of the House of Commons, these include former cabinet ministers.   ( W. Hague was one of them, in 2015) 
Those who do not owe their seats to the accident of birth may be divided in to four categories. 
First are the 26 senior bishops of the Church of England. They are the only group who do not remain in the house for life - time. 
Sometimes bishops are governments most determined opponents in the Lords, especially where they discern moral issues underlying legislative proposals, as for example on the 1996 asylum and Immigration Control Bill. 

A further feature of house membership is the relatively small number of women. Until 1958 the House was an entirely male preserve, but in that year women were made eligible for life peerages.

The Work of the House of Lords 

The House of Lords has both legislative and a deliberative role. 
All legislation must pass through the lords.
The Lords also have the right to ask questions to the government and to initiate debates.



Legislative work

The legislative process in the British parliamentary system is dominated by the government. Members who are not part of the government - backbench members have opportunities to introduce bills, but in the commons such opportunities are very limited. 
(‘Legislate as- you - go “mentality; each year 98% governments bills are passed, 2 % (private or public bills).  
Members of party vote loyally for that party usually because they are elected and party banner. Also they are in agreement with its aims. In some cases there may be penalties formal or otherwise for falling to support that party. It’s rare for members to act outside the context of party, especially when voting on government measures plenary session.  
In the House of Commons debate is bound to exercise of power in parliament, ultimately a minister who appears to lose the confidence of his own party in this way will have to resign, and a motion of no confidence can bring a government down. Such sanctions are not available in the House of Lords, there debate is not about the exercise of power, it is more about to exercise of influence. 


 Committees 
The capacity of parliaments to influence governments; Modern Parliaments are institutionally adaptable. Also, institutionalisation increases the capacity to constrain governments. Institutionalisation has been a feature of parliaments, old and new. Legislatures that are specialised have the power to affect policy. The more institutionalised of the parliaments have somewhat greater capacity to constrain governments than less institutionalised parliaments. At the heart of institutionalisation is specialisation through committees; For example legislative committees in both the Italian and German have power to initiate or consolidate bills and power to determine their own agenda. * Perhaps most persuasive evidence for that impact of specialisation is to be found in the British House of Commons. Prior to 1979 the Commons was largely a chamber oriented institution. Since 1979 have seen the development of specialised investigative committees - Select Committees. Select Committees have some degree of autonomy and exercise powers both of evidence taking and agenda setting as well. 
British experience is valuable, they have two types of committees; Standing Committees and select Committees. 




Future of the House of Lords
* The house of lords is a profoundly unusual institution. The Lords can make no claim to being democratic. Also, major parties enjoys pretty dominant position within the Lords.

The House of Lords remains an enduring monument to both the conservatism and the pragmatism of the United Kingdom. 
P.s Support for unicameralism or an elected House of Lords has never been too strong in Britain....


The UK's regional parliaments;
*  The National Assembly for Wales is a devolved assembly with power to make legislation in Wales. 
* The Northern Ireland Assembly is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has power to legislate, and to appoint the Northern Ireland Executive. (Belfast).
* The Scottish Parliament is the unicameral legislature of Scotland. Located in Edinburgh.



 How a bill becomes a law - Legislative process                         (Bills v Laws)
Bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law, presented for debate before Parliament. A Bill becomes an Act if it is approved by a majority in the House of Commons and House of Lords, and formally agreed to by the reigning monarch (known as Royal Assent).   
* A Bill can start in the Commons or the Lords and must be approved in the same form by both Houses before becoming an Act (law).
An Act of Parliament is a law, enforced in all areas of the UK where it is applicable...
This 3 tables shows the passage of a Bill through Parliament and provides information about the law making process (each stage). 


 As you see It’s a long, busy and confusing process, as Otto Von Bismarck said ' Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. The less that people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they will sleep at night. “




The House of Commons generally are male, middle class and white.
In 1945 over 83 % of Conservative MPs had been educated at public schools, 27% at Eton.  Almost 65% were educated at Oxford or Cambridge (Universities).
In the 2005 general election, new conservative intake was less elitist with fewer than half from private schools, and fewer with the elitist pedigree. of 'public school or Oxbridge'.
On the labour side; in the 1945 over one - third of labor MPs (34%) had been to University. in 1997 the figure increased over 67% and in 2005 64%, most of them were graduates of universities other than Oxford or Cambridge.



Women Elected To UK parliament

In 1818 British philosopher Jeremy Bentham advocates female suffrage in his book 'A Plan for Parliamentary Reform' , 100 years after in 1918 the Representation of the People Act of 1918 was passed and about 8.4 million women gained the Vote.  The House of Commons allowed women to stand as parliamentary candidates from 1918. First  MP woman was Countess Markievicz,  who did not take her seat.  Nancy  Astor (1879-1964) was the first woman conservative MP (very significant, indeed k.S) who took a seat in Parliament, In 1919. She held the seat until she retired in June 1945.
Between 1918 -  1974 , the total number of women elected to the house was only 112.   In the 1983 general election 23 women were elected to the House. I n 1992 it was 60, (Over 10%).
The Labour Party in 1993 adopted a policy of all - women short lists in a number of constituencies in order to boost the number of female Labour MPs. In 1997 record number of female Labour MPs were elected; no less than 101.
Labour party replaced all - women short lists with 50 - 50 short lists - half of the candidate’s female, and the other half male. But this failed to push up the number of women candidates. In 2005 general election 128 women were elected to parliament. 17 as conservative MPs, 98 Labour MPs, 10 Liberal democrat MPs, and 3 from other smaller parties.
From 2015 there are 191 women MPs among the 650 members of the House Of Commons. So, UK Parliament remains disproportionately male.  (very positive map, you can see the dynamic , progress, development of true democracy).



 Women in The House of Lords  - There are 199 female Peers in the House of Lords today. (out of 1200 peers)  However, women were not permitted to sit in the House of Lords until 1958.
Women were excluded from the House of Lords before 1958 because the only people who were permitted to sit in the House were hereditary Peers.
The Life Peerages Act 1958 allowed women and men to be created Peers for life.




 The Minorities Elected To UK Parliament 
The political representation of racial minorities troubles in almost every country. The number of non - white MPs remains very small. The first non - white MP was elected in 1892 Dadabhai Naoroji, an Indian was elected as Liberal MP for Finsbury central. in 1987 4 non - white MPs were elected. In 2001 figure reached 12, in 2005 , the number increased 15.  
The new House of Commons' more diverse from 2015 than ever before. Record numbers of minority-ethnic MPs in the Commons has increased since the General Election 2015. Non-white MPs make up more than 6% of the new parliament, up from 4.2% in 2010 – a 56%  increase, today 42 minority-ethnic MPs sat in the Commons. 
(Table; The Black and minority ethnic map 2005 - 2010, shows us that ;  Of the 649 MPs this Parliament, 26 are black and minority ethnic.)




European Parliament - 28 member States;  
EP - Seats - 751 MEPs

Since The first direct elections of 1979 the European Parliament has provided a democratic link to decision making at the European level. However most of the legislative power still rests with the EU Council and the EU Commission whose members are only indirectly elected or appointed. ( Not relevant, need reform!)
Membership of the European Union also imposes limitations on the national parliaments of the Member States. The treaties accord national parliaments no role in the European legislative process. In two EU treaties; The Maastricht Treaty on the European Union 1993 and a protocol to the treaty of Amsterdam 1997 contain no explicit reference about the national parliaments at all. 
European Parliament 's Leader of largest political group - Manfred Weber, EPP Since 4 June 2014


Conclusion 

The existence of an elected legislature is fundamental to a democratic polity, because as we know governments derive their legitimacy from parliamentary elections, and parliament make rules for the government. And for modern democracies the rule of law is valuable, because as British philosopher John Locke said ' where there is no law, there is no freedom.' Parliaments are making law, that's makes them important, relevant and vital bodies. Parliaments are the represents of the people, they provide the means by which the measures and actions of government are debated and scrutinised on behalf of citizens, and through which the concerns of citizens as individuals or organised in groups may be voiced.
Parliaments generally have the power to say 'no' to government (if they want it K.S). This derives from their very existence as legislatures.  

Generally legislatures act as a means of communication between the people and the government. They especially the lower chambers/houses are composed of elected representatives have the authority to hold the government accountable to the people.
In the established democracies the upper houses exist for a reason, and bicameralism is very important for the theory and practice of democratic government. 
Also, Senates are important parliamentary bodies, because the distribution of power is very important for the established democracies.  They in one way or another, been transformed into effective and modern parliamentary institutions, for example the U.S Senate and the British House of Lords.  Also as you see some Senates enjoy co - equal powers with the lower house, because they do enjoy the same democratic legitimacy that comes with direct, popular election (U.S) And others bring their experiences in Parliaments (U.K).  
 The second chambers are important for modern legislative politics and outcomes, even in parliamentary democracies where they are endowed with few constitutional powers. In member states of the European Union, at least, their role of legislative process is even likely to grow as domestic parliaments have to deal with more and more legislative initiatives emanating from Brussels and Strasburg. 
“A well-constructed second chamber would in addition provide experience, stability and a guard against single assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden or violent passions.”
 The relationship between the modern parliaments and Interest groups is very important, as well because interests groups are the indirect represents of the people, and a wide range of different groups.  
A legislator (Parliamentarian) is electorally accountable to a constituency, this accountability maybe imperfect but such accountability is central to notions of democratic control of leaders by citizens as well, that's some degree of policy control.  Representation considered as political control - the ability of citizens to elect (desirable) or remove (undesirable) officials, by means of popular, direct elections. The argument goes, citizens select officials and this selection process will lead the representation of citizen’s interests in policy making.  Therefore legislatures are still highly relevant in 21 century.


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