Government and Accountability

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  • Created by: Launston
  • Created on: 11-05-14 15:18
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  • Government and Accountability
    • Monarch
      • Constitutional Monarchy - can only act as advised by ministers - ceremonial and constitutional duties such as appointing the PM, fixing election dates, head of armed forces, state visits
      • Historical Development
        • Civil war between royalists and parliamentarians - P's won and there was a commonwealth under Cromwell
          • Glorious Revolution - James II's son in law and daughter became joint monarchs - unlawful but saw the start of the constitutional monarchy
            • Act of Settlement - further restrictions on royal power - could not remove judges from office unless both houses agreed
      • Monarch and Ministers
        • Monarch acts only on the advice of ministers - receives government papers
          • Rights to be informed, consulted, to advice, to encourage and to warn
            • When the Monarch carries out an executive function, she acts formally, to confer legal authority on a decision which has already been taken
        • Selecting the Prime Minister
          • In event of hung Parliament, it is disputed over how much power the Monarch should have
            • Queen does  not need to accept advice - ideally placed to moderate
              • Should be resolved by politicians - refute allegations that a non elected head of state had imposed a solution - enhance Queen's impartiality and enhance democracy
                • When a Prime Minister resigns for personal reasons (Thatcher), the Queen allows the party to choose a new leader and the same should happen in an election
      • The concept of the Crown
        • Monarch and Executive - formal location of authority in constitution
          • Impossible to confine to the Queen as crowns powers exercised by ministers
            • Symbolizes system in which those who exercise power do so because they have constitutional authority
      • Privy Council
        • Confer validity on documents and decisions that have already been agreed upon, approve amendments to bylaws and rules
          • Way of giving information to the Queen
    • Ministers
      • Ministerial Office
        • Senior Ministers are Secretaries of State
          • Team of other politicians to provide leadership to department
      • Role
        • Within Gov: set policy priorities, negotiate on behalf of department, ensure those running the department are able to do so
          • Accountable to the legislature through questions, debates and committees
            • Meet stakeholders to ensure policy reflects reality, attend public functions
      • Requirement to be in Parliament
        • Parliamentary Government - convention that ministers must be in parliament
          • Allows ministers to be held to account
            • Original Act of Settlement excluded this but was amended
      • Cap on number
        • Capped at 95 to restrict government control
      • Government influence over Commons
        • Government must ensure that members support its policies - three line whip
          • Party discipline is not enforced in the select committees - better scrutiny
            • Some argue that party whips should be banned and MPs vote in the public interest
              • However, party system is indispensable foundation of democracy
                • Status Quo strikes balance between backbench influence and ability of government to govern
                • Different conceptions of 'public good' despend on ideological considerations - party important for electoral choice
                • Anti-party would mean ordinary people are just onlookers
      • Prime Minister
        • Main legal capacity from prerogative powers
          • Creature of convention - only referred to in 75 Acts
    • The Civil Service
      • Contributes to the proper discharge of the functions of Government
        • 435,000 serve in the Home Civil Service and 16,000 in Diplomatic Service
        • Servants of the Crown - supports gov in developing and implementing policies and delivering public service
          • Accountable to Ministers
            • Ministers must uphold the impartiality of the civil service and give fair consideration and weight to informed and impartial advice from them
      • Features
        • Nonpartisanship - check on government
        • Meritocracy - admission by ability
        • Ministerial Responsibility - held responsible for things which aren't their fault
        • Secrecy
        • Unity - defined by membership not department - generalist
    • Appointees to public office
      • Independent so Ministers cannot dictate
        • Based on merit and scrutinised
          • Increase minorities in office
            • Pre-appointment hearings to increase scrutiny
    • Accountability
      • Meaning - explanatory and can impose sanctions
      • Individual Ministerial Responsibility
        • Ministers responsible for all that happens in their department
          • Duty to account for actions, give accurate information, open as possible and require same of civil servants
            • Difficult to know what happens in departments but ministers should try
            • Ministerial Code
              • There have been calls for the code to be published formally
                • But the government said only the prime minister can determine the terms of the code
                  • Resignations due to criticism of ministerial conduct - Lord Carrington, Leon Brittan, Beverley Hughes
      • Accountability of civil servants
        • Accountable to ministers but can appear before select committees
          • The Osmotherly Rules
            • On behalf of ministers and under directions - ministers decide who represents them
              • No disciplinary action can be taken against civil servants
                • Evidence should be confined to questions of fact and explanation relating to policies
            • Ministerial accountability - distinction between culpable acts
              • Fundamental duty to account to parliament
                • Executive is liable to be held to account - respond to concerns and criticisms
              • Civil service accountability to ministers
                • Accounting to Parliament
                  • Responsibility for one's own decisions can only work if it is clear who took which decision
                    • Direct accountability may create a division of loyalties for civil servants
                      • But does not necessarily undermine ministerial responsibility and may increase accountability
      • Collective Responsibility
        • Ministers must be shown to support government policy or resignation (Robin Cook, Geoffrey Howe)
          • Some public policy matters will allow for a free vote
        • Departures
          • PM may suspend due to intractable internal disagreements
        • Government must retain confidence of commons
      • Mechanics of Accountability
        • Select Committees
          • Advisory and inquisitorial - findings are not binding
            • More rigorous and sustained than despatch box
              • 40% recommendations used
        • Parliamentary Questions
          • Must seek information or press for action, factual basis, relevant to minister, not seek opinion, not refer to court case,
            • First hour of business on weekday for ministers and 30 mins at noon on wednesday for pm
            • Problems
              • Delays in answers, incomplete or irrelevant, cost of researching not disproportionate
        • Debates

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