PM & Cabinet Past Paper Questions

June 2009: Prime Ministerial Power

Study the following passage and answer the questions that follow.

For centuries Prime Ministers have exercised authority in the name of the monarchy without the people or their elected representatives being consulted. So now I propose that in key areas important to our national life, the Prime Minister and executive should surrender or limit their powers. The exclusive exercise of these powers by the Government should have no place in a modern democracy.

These include:

the power of the executive to declare war – Blair over Kosovo (1998), Eden over Suez (1956) and Thatcher over the Falklands (1982). Even in circumstances where parliament has been consulted, such as Iraq in 2003, the legal authority for the exercise of war powers resides with the Prime Minister.

the power to request the dissolution of Parliament – the timing of a dissolution is particularly important. A PM will seek to chose a date most likely to yield electoral victory (Thatcher in 83 & 87, Blair in 2001 and 2005).

the power over recall of Parliament  – Blair over the Omagh Bombing  – 1998 – and 9/11. Cameron over the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2013 and Chemical Weapons attacks in Syria, also 2013.

the power of the executive to ratify international treaties Brown over Lisbon 2007

the power to make key public appointments without effective scrutiny – for example appointments to the security services

the power to restrict parliamentary oversight of the intelligence services – for example by redacting documents on grounds of national security or controlling the circumstances under which witnesses give evidence before the Intelligence and Security Committee (established 1994)

the power to choose bishops – & of course the power to appoint peers

the power to appoint judges – in conjunction with the JAC (The Judicial Appointments Commission)

I now propose to surrender or limit these powers to make for a more open twenty-first century British democracy.

Adapted from Gordon Brown, speech in Parliament, July 3rd 2007.

a) With reference to the source, outline the reasons Gordon Brown gave for proposing that prime ministerial powers be surrendered or limited. (5 Marks)

b) With reference to the source, and your own knowledge, explain the ways in which Prime Ministers are able to control Parliament. (10 Marks)

c) To what extent has prime ministerial power grown in recent years? (25 Marks)

June 2010: The Prime Minister and the Cabinet

Study the following two passages and answer the questions that follow.

Source 1: A Cabinet Meeting

The Prime Minister’s Spokesman began by giving a brief summary of Cabinet of the previous day to the assembled press. Cabinet had met for an hour and 40 minutes that morning. There had been the usual update from Geoff Hoon (Leader of the House of Commons) on parliamentary business, there had been a brief discussion on the Draft Legislative Programme being published tomorrow and there was an update from the Foreign Secretary on the situation in Burma. Most of the Cabinet was spent discussing the economy in a discussion led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, where he emphasised the global nature of the economic situation we were facing at the moment – not only the global credit crunch, but also rising oil and food prices.

Source: Prime Minister’s Office press briefing, 14 May 2008

Source 2 Gordon Brown’s First Cabinet

Gordon Brown unveiled an almost completely new Cabinet today as he attempted to make good on his pledge for a ‘politics of change’ after the Blair years, including Britain’s first ever female Home Secretary and its youngest Foreign Secretary for 30 years. As part of a huge overhaul, the Prime Minister appointed Jacqui Smith, formerly the Chief Whip, as Home Secretary, and David Miliband as Foreign Secretary. As head of the Home Office, Ms Smith will be in charge of the battle against terrorism, national security and policing. Standing outside the Foreign Office, Mr Miliband – who was himself widely tipped as Mr Brown’s rival for the Labour leadership, before ruling himself out – said: ‘I’m tremendously honoured’.

Source: adapted from ‘Brown shuffles the pack for new Cabinet’ in Times Online, 28 June 2007

a) With reference to Source 1, describe two types of issues discussed by the Cabinet. (5 marks)

b) With reference to Source 2, and your own knowledge, what factors does the Prime Minister take into account when appointing cabinet ministers? (10 Marks)

c) To what extent is the Cabinet an important body? (25 Marks)

January 2011 Prime Ministerial Power:

Study the following passage and answer the questions that follow.

It is often asserted that ‘the British prime minister is as powerful as he or she wants to be’. Margaret Thatcher wanted to be dominant and ensured this by removing her political opponents in the cabinet and replacing them with people she could rely on. Tony Blair similarly strengthened his position by including his closest allies in the cabinet. Prime ministers who want to be dominant will take their prerogative powers and stretch them to the limits. This can also be seen in the area of foreign affairs. Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown spent much time attempting to take a leading role in world affairs, including conducting wars and negotiating international treaties.

This picture may nevertheless be misleading. There are powerful forces which can be ranged against them. The prime minister’s cabinet colleagues can turn against him or her, as occurred with Thatcher in 1990. In the case of Blair, his position was undermined by growing criticism within the party, particularly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The media, too, can become hostile. Brown received unfavourable press coverage and he was presented as a weak and indecisive leader. A prime minister’s strength also depends on many factors beyond his or her direct control. These include the size of the parliamentary majority and the course of world events.

a) With reference to the source, describe two limitations on prime ministerial power. (5 Marks)

b) With reference to the source, and your own knowledge, explain the prime minister’s prerogative powers. (10 Marks)

c) To what extent can the Prime Minister control the Cabinet? (25 Marks)

June 2012: Prime Minster & Cabinet

Study the following passage and answer the questions that follow Extracts from the Coalition Agreement for Stability and Reform, May 2010 

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 3.48.59 PM.png 

a) With reference to the source outline how coalition government has affected appointments to the cabinet. (5 Marks)

b) With reference to the source and your own knowledge explain why collective responsibility is an important aspect of UK government (10 Marks)

c) How important is the cabinet? (25 Marks)

January 2013 – Prime Ministerial Power

Study the following passage and answer the questions that follow.

The decision to introduce fixed-term Parliaments was one of the key features of the coalition agreement between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties in 2010. The policy was, in due course, enacted through the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, 2011. The introduction of fixed-term Parliaments had long been advocated by the Liberal Democrats. It is often claimed that the reform will reduce prime ministerial power, because it means that prime ministers are no longer able to use their prerogative power to dissolve Parliament and call a general election when events turn in their favour. But a fixed five-year Parliament also means that they can plan ahead to complete their programme by a known date in the future.

The issue of fixed-term Parliaments is part of a long-running debate about how powerful UK prime ministers are. In addition to chairing cabinet meetings and controlling the cabinet system, prime ministers have attracted increasing media focus and become the ‘brand image’ of their party at election time. Some commentators have gone as far as to claim that UK prime ministers have, effectively, become ‘presidents’. Concern about the growing powers of the prime minister has led, amongst other things, to calls for a fully codified written constitution, which would outline the role and responsibilities of the prime minister and government. This would establish clear guidelines for the exercise of prime ministerial powers, rather than allowing the prime minister to determine his or her own role as he or she sees fit.

Source: Edexcel, 12 October 2011.

(a) With reference to the source, describe how the introduction of fixed-term Parliaments affects prime ministerial power. (5 Marks)

(b) With reference to the source and your own knowledge, explain three reforms, other than fixed-term Parliaments, which could limit the powers of the prime minister. (10 Marks)

(c) To what extent have UK prime ministers become more ‘presidential’? (25 Marks)

Essays on Prime Ministerial Power

January 2010: To what extent does the prime minister dominate the political system in the UK? (40 marks)

June 2011: Is the UK Prime Minister now effectively a president? (40 Marks)

January 2012: Are UK prime ministers as powerful as is sometimes claimed? (40 Marks)

June 2013: Has the experience of coalition government strengthened or weakened prime ministerial power? (40 Marks)

June 2014

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 3.50.52 PM.png

June 2015 To what extent modern Prime Ministers presidents in all but name? (40 Marks)

June 2016

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