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Duties of Whips

4.9The efficient and smooth running of the parliamentary machine depends largely upon the Whips. By far the most important duties devolve upon the Government Chief Whip. The Chief Whip is responsible for mapping out the time of the session; for applying in detail the Government's programme of business; for estimating the time likely to be required for each item; and for arranging the business of the individual sitting. In drawing up the programme, the Chief Whip is limited to some extent by the standing orders, which allot a certain number of days to the Opposition and to the Backbench Business Committee; and by statute law or standing orders, which require, or may require, certain business to be completed by specified dates; as well as by certain conventions which oblige them to consult the Whips of opposition parties and even to put down items of their selection (see para 18.11 ). In carrying out these duties, the Chief Whip is directly responsible to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. It is also their duty to advise the Government on parliamentary business and procedure and to liaise closely with Ministers in regard to parliamentary business that affects their departments. The Chief Whip and the Chief Whip of the largest opposition party constitute the ‘usual channels’, through which consultations are held with other parties and Members about business arrangements and other matters of concern to the House.

Certain duties are common to Whips of all parties: to keep their Members supplied with information about the business of the House; to secure the attendance of Members; to arrange, when possible, for those of their Members who cannot attend divisions to ‘pair’ with others on the opposite side of the House so that their votes might not be lost; to suggest Members to serve on general and certain select committees; and to act as intermediaries between the leaders and the parliamentary membership of their parties in order to keep each informed of the views of the other.