The Scrutiny of the Executive by the House of Commons
w 1. Introduction (a) Traditionalist (b) Reformers w 2. Methods of Scrutiny (a) Traditional Methods (b) Select Committees Pre-1979 w 3. The St. John-Stevas Reforms (a) Genesis of the Reforms (b) The Reformed System (c) Criticisms of Traditionalists (d) Other Criticisms w 4. Conclusions
1. Introduction: The Grand Inquest of the Nation w To what extent should the House exercise control over the executive?
(a) Traditionalists w M.P.s as Generalists w Romantics w Pragmatists
(b) Reformers w M.Ps as Specialists w Influenced by academics w Influenced by other legislatures
2. Methods of Scrutiny w A Hotchpotch of Activities
(a) Traditional Methods w Parliamentary Questions w Debates w Standing Committees
(b) Select Committees Pre-1979 w Pre- 1945 w 1945-1979
(i) Pre-1945 w Public Accounts Committee (est. 1861) w Estimates (Expenditure) Committee (est.1912) w Select Committee on Statutory Instruments (est. 1944)
(ii) 1945-1979 w Select Committee on the Nationalised Industries (est. 1955) w Crossman Reforms, 1966
Problem with the Crossman System w System not comprehensive w Committees not permanent w Vulnerable to governmental hostility
3. St. John-Stevas Reforms (a) Genesis w Select Committee on Procedure (1976) w Select Committee Report (1978) w St. John-Stevas Reforms, 1979
(b) The Reformed System w Committees cover all the principle government departments w Membership is small (mostly 11) w Chairmen from different parties w Cannot command the presence of ministers w Reports are not debated
Oral evidence Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday 15 July 2003 Members present: Donald Anderson, in the Chair (Labour) Mr David Chidgey (Liberal Democrat) Mr Fabian Hamilton (Labour) Andrew Mackinlay (Labour) Mr John Maples (Conservative) Mr Bill Olner (Labour) Richard Ottaway (Conservative) Mr Greg Pope (Labour) Sir John Stanley (Conservative) Ms Gisela Stuart (Labour) Absent Eric Illsley (Lab).
Q167 Andrew Mackinlay: I reckon you are chaff; you have been thrown up to divert our probing. Have you ever felt like a fall-guy? You have been set up, have you not? Witness: DR DAVID KELLY, Special Adviser to the Director, Counter-proliferation and arms control, Ministry of Defence, examined.
(c) Criticisms of Traditionalists w Tendencies towards consensus weaken the parliamentary divide w Concentration on detail obscures discussion of the general line of policy w Tendency for committees to become secretive w Tendency for M.P.s only to speak on their specialism
(d) Other Criticisms w Fallacy to confuse the United Kingdom with the United States w Fallacy to regard members as objective scrutineers w Committees subject to interference by the Whips.
4. Conclusion w Traditionalists emphasise the accountability of government to the electorate w Reformers believe accountability also includes scrutiny of a governments competence in pursuing its declared objectives