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Chapter

Cover Public Law

9. Accountability  

This chapter turns to one of the central features of a good constitution, namely that it provides opportunities for those who exercise public power to be ‘held to account’ or ‘accountable’ for their decisions and conduct. In relation to ministers, this includes the convention of individual ministerial responsibility (ministers are answerable to Parliament) and the convention of collective responsibility (ministers cannot publicly disagree with government policy). Parliament has developed a variety of practical mechanisms for holding ministers to account, including: debates in the chamber; select committees inquiries; and parliamentary questions posed to ministers.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] AC 997, House of Lords  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] AC 997, House of Lords. This case is concerned with the scope and limits of ministerial discretion, and how, in the case of statutory powers, the courts determine this with reference to the intentions of Parliament and the objectives of the Act in question. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Essential Cases: Public Law

Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] AC 997, House of Lords  

Essential Cases: Public Law provides a bridge between course textbooks and key case judgments. This case document summarizes the facts and decision in Padfield v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [1968] AC 997, House of Lords. This case is concerned with the scope and limits of ministerial discretion, and how, in the case of statutory powers, the courts determine this with reference to the intentions of Parliament and the objectives of the Act in question. The document also includes supporting commentary and questions from author Thomas Webb.

Chapter

Cover Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, and Human Rights

9. Constitutional Conventions  

This chapter assesses the nature and purpose of constitutional conventions. The discussions cover the concepts of collective and individual ministerial responsibility; the relationship between the Monarch and her Ministers; the relationship between convention, statute, and the common law; the ‘Ponsonby rule’ and the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. It is argued that the concentration of effective political power is often very intense, even within a political party; small groups of senior Ministers or even the Prime Minister alone may occasionally be, to all intents and purposes, ‘elected dictators’.

Chapter

Cover Public Law Directions

12. The executive  

This chapter discusses the executive, the administrative branch of government which creates and executes policy, and implements laws. It specifically focuses on the organisation of central government in the UK. Central government in the UK carries out day-to-day administration in relation to England and the whole of the UK on non-devolved matters. Its functions include the conduct of foreign affairs, defence, national security, and oversight of the Civil Service and government agencies. Central government essentially consists of the government and Civil Service but modern government is extensive, multi-layered, and complex. The chapter then studies the sources of ministerial power. Ministers’ legal authority to act can derive from statute, common law, or royal prerogative. The royal prerogative is a source of power which is ‘only available for a case not covered by statute’.