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Administrative review and oversight: the experience of Westminster

Shephard, Mark (2004) Administrative review and oversight: the experience of Westminster. In: Legislatures and Oversight. Series on contemporary issues in parliamentary development . World Bank Institute Publications, pp. 40-46.

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Abstract

Parliament has been left behind by far-reaching changes to the constitution, government and society in the past two decades. Despite recent innovations, particularly in the handling of legislation, the central question of Westminster's scrutiny of the executive has not been addressed. (Report of the Hansard Society Commission on Parliamentary Scrutiny, 2001: x) Prior to the Labour Party's election victory in 1997, Labour's manifesto promised an 'effective House of Commons' to be realised in large part through the creation of a special Select Committee with remit to review procedures in light of the 'need for modernisation'. Shortly after victory, Labour established a 'Modernisation Committee' chaired by the Leader of the Commons and with a remit to review four key areas: the legislative process; ministerial accountability; working practices (such as sitting hours); and the style and forms of proceedings. Between 1997 and 2003 the Committee published 19 reports starting with a report on the legislative process. However, to date, most of the reports have focused on the modernisation of working practices and the style and form of proceedings. Reports that deal with improving the effectiveness of ministerial accountability have been notably lacking. Consequently, the view of the Hansard Society that 'parliamentary reform has been one of improving the efficiency of Parliament, but not its effectiveness' appears just as valid three years on.