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Chapter 13

Chapter 13 - The Legislature and the Bureaucracy.docx

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Political Science
POLS 2250
Nanita Mohan

Chapter 13: The Legislature and the Bureaucracy Ministerial Responsibility and Political Neutrality - Collective Responsibility: Prescribes that the prime minister and the cabinet must resign or ask the governor general for dissolution of Parliament if the HOC passes a vote of non-confidence in the government  Prescribes that a minister must support government decisions in public, or at least suppress any public criticism of them  If ministers find a particular decision unacceptable but stifle objections or submit resignation - Individual ministerial responsibility: Minister is responsible for everything done in the department  Minister is accountable to Parliament for all the administrative errors of his/her departmental subordinates; therefore they must resign in the event of a serious error by subordinates  Minister is answerable to Parliament in that he/she must explain and defend the actions of his/her department before Parliament - Political neutrality and anonymity: Help in shaping relations between the legislature and the public service; 2 propositions:  All activities of public servants are carried out “in the name of the minister” and that appointed officials are for all intents and purposes invisible in the public sphere  Public servants neither promote nor defend the policies and decisions of government The Resignation of Ministers - If a serious error is committed by the government the minister is supposed to resign but it’s not almost universally accepted that it’s unreasonable to hold ministers responsible, in the form of resignation for the administrative failings of their subordinates - Ministers are however responsible for promptly taking the necessary remedial steps and for providing assurances to Parliament that appropriate corrective action has been taken to prevent reoccurrence  Involves an internal investigation of the matter and make changes to minimize the error from reoccurring  May also involve disciplinary action against one or more appointed officials - When there is a violation of personal conduct by a minister that embarrasses the government or a failed policy initiative intimately connected to minister may result in resignation - Parliament itself has no authority to unseat the minister; only the head of government has that power  But, if the minister under attack is an unpopular member of the cabinet, and if the electorate is unusually enraged or if the government is a minority – then the PM may attempt to seek resignation of ministers  Over the past 10 years, there have only been a few due to behaviour allegations The Answerability of Ministers - Ministers do explain and defend their department’s policies and administration before Parliament, especially during the Question Period  Ministers almost always responds to questions in their sphere of reasonability, although they can be obliged neither to answer nor to give reasons for refusing to answer – but may suffer adverse political consequences for declining - Speaker of the House of Commons has observed that he is not in the position to compel an answer; it is the public opinion that does  A minister who refuses to answer/give reasons why, receives severe criticism from the media and Opposition - The willingness of ministers to answer questions in the legislature does not ensure that their responses are informative, plausible or even comprehensive  More experienced ministers tend to be good at dodging and avoiding hits from the Opposition inquiries and allegations Political Neutrality - Entails an attempt to ensure that public servants remain both anonymous and nonpartisan or neutral in their actions - In recent decades, more ministers are refusing to take responsibility for certain actions and therefore place the blame on public servants or departmental bureaucracy as a whole - Institutional changes:  Public servants now routinely appear before legislative committees to provide factual answers to queries of elected representatives – ensuring that they refrain from defending or justifying the actions of the ministers during these appearances  Access to information legislation allows any interested party an opportunity to gain access to new documents that may reveal the role of administrative officials  Now a number of officers and agents of Parliament whose task is to help elected representatives examine the actions of public servants  Media is more persuasive and aggressive in their efforts to talk about government activities especially due to more consultations with interest groups and the public - Decline of anonymity of public servants may have serious implications for the doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility Legislative Control and Influence - The convention of individual ministerial responsibility constitutes the major means by which elected representatives in the legislative branch hold appointed officials accountable - When administrative error occurs, the minister in theory accepts responsibility and promises to take the necessary remedial actions Agents of Parliament - A second way of ensuring responsibility in government involves agents or o
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