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Responsible Government And Political Responsibility Notes

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A more recent version of these Responsible Government And Political Responsibility notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.

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Con & Ad: Responsible Government - Political Responsibility

- Introduction:
[H Barnett]: principles of constitutionalism. legal limits to exercise of power: accountable to law for ultra vires acts. respect for individual + individual's rights. avoid abuse of power: sufficiently dispersed. government + legislature accountable to electorate.
[J Alder]: accountability of govt: 'necessary and basic characteristic of any democracy'.

Background: Structure of Executive Central Executive: Prime Minister + Cabinet

- Prime Minister: political head of government - resp. for overall organisation of Executive. appointed by Queen: by convention, leader of majority party in Commons. if no majority: incumbent PM has first call on forming govt. (e.g. 1974: Heath resigned after talks to form coalition with Liberals failed, 2010: Brown "caretaker" PM while negotiations ongoing - much more public negotiations.). powers: few strictly legal, but many customary/prerogative. ministerial appointments + dismissals: exercised by Queen on PM's advice. control of Cabinet: size + composition, subject + composition of committees, chooses when meets + agenda ? PM takes leading role deciding govt. priorities. limits to power: collective ministerial responsibility: PM + Cabinet + govt. share responsibility to Commons for conduct of national affairs ? ' no confidence vote': must resign (e.g. May 1979: Callaghan Labour govt. forced to resign).

- Cabinet: est. by convention: no specific powers in legislation. Cabinet Office Draft Cabinet Manual: recent attempt to set out conventions. composition: at PM's discretion, but always inc. Chancellor of Exchequer, Lord Chancellor + secretaries of state - but: financial limits - max. no. of first-tier salaries can be paid. powers + duties of ministers:

1. granted by Parliament: (1) powers/duties for exercising continuing functions (esp. financial liabilities for >1yr); (2) emergency powers. many granted to 'the Secretary of State': in practice, PM allocates (each usually incorporated as 'corporation sole': separate legal personality).

2. common law: Ram doctrine - may exercise any power of the Crown, subject to statute + funding; powers of individual: e.g. contracts, conveyancing, extra-statutory payments.

3. prerogative executive powers: exercised on Sovereign's behalf by ministers, e.g. foreign affairs, Armed Forces control, mercy. constrained: no new prerogatives + statute: overrules prerogatives. court scrutiny: judicial review - 3 grounds for challenge of exercise of ministerial power:

1. no power to act in such a way (inc. on human rights grounds).

2. unreasonableness.

3. procedurally unfair. exercise of ministerial power: accountable to Parliament for decisions. Carltona principle: junior ministers + civil servants in dept. may exercise power of minister in charge ? CoA: constitutionally, treated as decisions of the minister. Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, pt. 2: minister can authorise any person to exercise some ministerial functions (only those that could be exercised by civil servant in dept.) ministerial conduct: Ministerial Code - no longer gov. just by convention. 'Nolan Principles' - 7 Principles of Public Life: self lessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership. restricted for 2 years after office: Advisory Committee on Business Appointments: decisions on appointments/employment; cannot lobby. collective responsibility: all ministers bound by collective decisions of Cabinet (unless specif ically waived) ? decision of Cabinet or committee binding on all members of govt. contentious issues require Cabinet committee consideration: e.g. matters affecting >1 dept., or likely to attract public criticism.

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