This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Law Notes Administrative Law Notes

Institutions And Accountability Notes

Updated Institutions And Accountability Notes

Administrative Law Notes

Administrative Law

Approximately 1167 pages

Administrative Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the major LLB aspects and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Canada, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London). These notes were formed directly from a reading of the cases and main texts and are vigorous, concise and very well written. Everything is conveniently split up by topic as you can see by th...

The following is a more accessible plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Administrative Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:


Barber introduction

This tutorial examines the location and control of power within government. Besides judicial review and appeals to the courts, there are a variety of mechanisms of control, both political and administrative. In constitutional theory, Ministerial accountability in Parliament takes centre stage, but it has become increasingly necessary to establish other means to restrain power and resolve conflicts between the individual and the State. An important adjunct to Parliament is the Parliamentary Commissioner or ombudsman. Outside of Parliament, there are hierarchical appeals within the administrative body which made a decision. Tribunals, inquiries and ombudsmen have been established to complement or substitute for the courts as mechanisms for independent or semi‑independent review of administrative decisions. In addition, the government in recent years has set up radically different mechanisms of accountability. The most important of these has been the use of real or simulated markets, through the increasing use of contracted out functions and "internal markets" in the civil service (in the form of "Next Steps" agencies) and in the Health Service. Recent years have also seen the establishment of citizen's charters.

This tutorial focuses on these alternatives to the courts, partly in their own right and partly in order to enable us to assess critically the role of the courts in later tutorials.




  • The definition of government has always been quite problematic, but these problems have been exacerbated by changes in the pattern of administration, for example: creation of executive agencies, contracting-out, privatisation, and the private financing of public projects make definition of ‘government’ ever more uncertain

  • Foundations of executive power: the expansion of the franchise and increase in areas in which government accepted responsibility were intimately connected —i.e. the government had to ‘promise’ more in order to collect votes. This, in turn, increased executive power in relation to the legislature, since government had to be able to deliver on the broadened range of promises that had led to its election. This led to: (i) centralisation of legislation initiative in the hands of the government; (ii) a tighter party system.

  • Role of the legislature: we can see the role of the legislature in two different ways: (i) as a body that should primarily be a critic of the government, scrutinising their manoeuvres; (ii) as a key legislator. Craig notes that the two views are not antithetical, but that they judge parliament from two different angles.

  • Commons and scrutiny: Parliamentary control over the content of legislation is limited because the executive will control the House of Commons (HoC) through their majority. The value of parliament, therefore, must lie elsewhere —i.e. in scrutiny. The most important instrument in terms of scrutiny are select committees.

  • Select committees: since reform in 1979 (which extended the number of select committees along departmental lines) select committees have become more effective, but, Craig notes, their effectiveness has been limited in several key ways:

    • Inadequate resources

    • Limited role in affecting the governments framing of legislation: limited because they could look at issues which were likely to be legislated on in the future, but could not review legislation as it was in the process of being framed by the government.

    • Limited opportunity to review the findings of SCs on the floor of the House: between 1979 and 1988 only 25 per cent of the reports were debated.

    • Limited scrutiny of financial matters.

  • Reform of SCs: Due to these limitations, it was more accurate to say that the SCs were impartial generators of advice and information, rather than a tool that enabled parliament to reassert control over the executive. In 2002 the Select Committee on Modernization and the Select Committee on Liaison recommended that: (i) nomination of members for departmental SCs be independent and entrusted to a Committee of Nomination; (ii) SCs should be accorded more resources; (ii) there should be a list of core tasks to be undertaken by SCs (i.e. to make them more uniformly effective).

  • Recent developments in SCs: A number of these reform initiatives have been taken forward, in particular the elaboration of a list of core tasks to be undertaken by SCs. “Select committees are coming of age, and scrutiny of expenditure has become more effective. This has been facilitated by the systemization of SC’s tasks, which may well expand toencompass post-legislative scrutiny.” There is still room for improvement, however, and the SC on Liaison was, for example, critical of the government’s failure to publish Bills in draft so that they could be considered by the relevant select committee (only 3 such Bills out of a total of 58 were published in the 2005-6 session.

  • Conclusion: It might be argued that, in the absence of a major catalyst prompting realignment of power between executive and legislature, any change is bound to be marginal. Electoral reform that breaks the dominance of the two major parties might be such a catalyst, but it’s unlikely that this will be introduced by one of the two major parties, especially after the referendum rejecting AV. Nevertheless, the fact that backbench MPs have, relatively speaking, been more willing recently to voice disapproval of government measures, and vote against them, is a positive development.


The need for and role of ombudsmen

  • Ombudsmen were introduced in a particular context: As Bradley puts it, in the 1960s “administrative law was failing to give the individual effective protection” —illustrated by, for example, the Critchel Down affair. Sir Cecil Clothier also notes that Parliament’s shortcomings were part of the impetus —Parliament was focused on ‘massive and...

Buy the full version of these notes or essay plans and more in our Administrative Law Notes.

More Administrative Law Samples