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Parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of the British ‘war on terror’ : from accretion of executive power and evasion of scrutiny to embarrassment and concessions

Shephard, M.P. (2009) Parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of the British ‘war on terror’ : from accretion of executive power and evasion of scrutiny to embarrassment and concessions. Journal of Legislative Studies, 15 (2-3). pp. 191-218. ISSN 1357-2334

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Abstract

The UK has experienced strong executive commitment to the 'war on terror' from the outset. Even though the rhetoric towards the 'war on terror' may have changed under the Brown administration, attempts to extend the powers of the state in the security domain have persisted, for example, by the proposed introduction of ID cards and extensions of detention without charge. Despite rebellions, the executive invariably benefits from majority control in the House of Commons, control over business, time, information, and a sometimes compliant Conservative opposition. However, there have been both procedural concessions (for example, committee scrutiny of the PM, and rights to debate and vote on war) and policy concessions (sunset clauses, and reduced days' detention without charge). While the House of Lords has arguably been more successful in gaining policy concessions, analysis over time reveals that concessions are temporary and if the executive wants its way it will use its advantages to try again.