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.
`Woodhouse is to be congratulated in producing a carefully researched and well documented book which will serve as a valuable source of reference on government ministers' responsibilities to Parliament.'
Times Higher Education Supplement
'The charting of the how, why and wherefore of each resignation is fascinating.'
Sheila Gunn, New Century
`An outstanding quality of Diana Woodhouse's work is that, while never glossing over the political factor underlying the resignations, she is careful to emphasise consistently the principle of Ministers' accountability to Parliament and the nation. It is truly a definitive work ... a work of authority and reference.'
`Diana Woodhouse has produced a very thorough and fluently argued book ... The book makes a potentially tedious subject very accessible, and makes the reader look forward to further productions from this author.'
Government and Opposition
'Diana Woodhouse makes a careful analysis of the current state of the convention of ministerial responsibility, rightly described as a fundamental principle of the constitution.'
Donald Shell, Parliamentary Affairs
`an ideal blend of constitutional theory and practice'
West European Politics
`...a most welcome volume...'
`Diana Woodhouse's book is a gem. It is beautifully written, with all the best qualities of scholarly craftsmanship, but it covers a broad field of contemporary British history with many details that will be familiar to most readers. Moreover, it contains valuable judgements and recommendations so that it significantly adds to our knowledge of an important aspect of the British constitution ... This book makes a valuable contribution to the literature on
the British constitution by considering one of its essential features through recent practical experience.'
I: The Convention of Individual Ministerial Responsibility
1: The Accountability of Ministers to Parliament
2: The Content of the Convention
II: Resignations and Non-resignations: The Operation of Individual Ministerial Responsibility in the 1980s and 1990s
3: The Requirement for Resignation
4: Resignations for Personal Fault: Political Errors
5: Resignations for Personal Fault: Private Indiscretion
6: Resignations for Departmental Fault
7: Cases of Non-resignation: Political Circumstances and Constitutional Obligations
8: Cases of Non-resignation: An Evasion of Ministerial Responsibility?
9: Conclusion: The Coincidence of Constitutional and Political Requirements
III: Changes Affecting the Operation of Individual Ministerial Responsibility
10: The Reform of the Select Committee System: An Attempt to Redress the Balance
11: Next Steps Agencies: Management Reform in the Civil Service
12: Next Steps Agencies: The Problems of Accountability
13: Comparative Perspectives on Accountability and Constitutional Reform