Ministers and Parliament: Accountability in Theory and Practice

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In constitutional theory the convention of individual ministerial responsibility ensures the accountability of ministers to Parliament. In practice it is frequently used by government to limit rather than facilitate accountability. In this book Diana Woodhouse examines the divergence between theory and practice. She analyses the situations in which ministers resign, the effectivness of resignation as a means of accountability, and the abdication by ministers of responsibility. She also examines the powers and limitations of Select Committees, the effect of the new Next Steps Agencies on individual ministerial responsibility, and draws comparisons with mechanisms of accountability adopted by other countries operating under the Westminster system of government. The inclusion of detailed case studies of the resignations, actual and threatened, of Lord Carrington, Leon Brittan, Edwina Currie, David Mellor, James Prior, and Kenneth Baker make this book especially pertinent to our understanding of the current political scene and to recent institutional changes within Parliament and government. By highlighting the present deficiencies and possible future failing in public accountability Dr Woodhouse's study provides an essential complement to recent debates about constitutional reform.