What makes for Good Government?
Robin Cook, when Leader of the House of Commons, succinctly described the purpose of parliamentary scrutiny functions: ‘Good scrutiny makes for good government’. We wholeheartedly agree with this view, and to this end the Parliament & Government programme recently submitted evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee's inquiry into Good Government.
Our evidence paper looks at our proposals in two specific areas, parliamentary scrutiny of government finance and government legislation, drawing from our recent publications The Fiscal Maze and Law in the Making. It also looks at recent developments in the area of parliamentary scrutiny of the executive as a whole. Its conclusions argue that:
- The Government could allow for better financial scrutiny by Parliament by reconsidering the timing of the Budget and Pre-Budget reports. The dates for such important statements should be set well in advance or perhaps even be fixed.
- A greater willingness by the government to open up the Comprehensive Spending Review process to scrutiny and input by Parliament is needed, and there should also be greater follow-up of the NAO/PAC reports to ensure government money is being spent effectively.
- Consultations on legislation should be more structured, and should be focused much more clearly on choices and priorities, taking respondents through competing arguments and the consequences of choices. The often unrealistic approach that all options are open – even when it is obvious that the government has a clear direction in mind – should be avoided.
- In making the case for primary legislation, the issues that should be considered include whether existing legislation needs to be consolidated or repealed and whether it already provides the necessary powers.
The aim of these proposals is to promote a culture of explanation, openness and information and to ensure that government seeks and responds to parliamentary input and oversight.
Click here to download the evidence paper.
Photo by Chris O, from Wikipedia, used under GNU license.