Thursday, May 28, 2009

Should We Seperate The Executive From Parliament?

I have been thinking a lot in recent weeks about how I would reform Parliament and Government if I were in a position to do so. I have lots and lots of ideas; too many I find for me to coherently set them out in a reasoned and sensible way. My brain now seems fit to burst, and it is clear that I will never get the time to write up a super post about all the ills of Government and how potentially to fix it.

So I thought I would set out some arguments for feedback, not necessarily because I am advocating all of them , but because they are worth debating and thinking about.

So, #1 point I have been thinking about is whether or not it would be a positive step to a more representative democracy to separate the executive from Parliament.

In my thoughts, the executive would still be accountable to Parliament, on the whole, but would instead operate independently and would not sit and participate within Parliament. We would all vote on an executive leader, but as they will not be a Minister, so would not hold the title of Prime Minister. Let’s, for now use the term Chairperson, although I do not like that title. The Executive functions and responsibilities would move from the current office of Prime Minister, to the new Executive leader, and the Legislative responsibilities and functions would transfer to the Majority leader in the House of Commons.

The elected Chairperson and Deputy would appoint a cabinet. Their purpose and function would be to execute the departments of government and exercise the law as set out by Parliament. As the Chairperson would be elected and not the head of the majority party, they would need to be elected by a vote of the entire UK (or what is left of the UK post devolution). I would argue that any candidates for such a role would have to be stronger than some people who have become Prime Minister in the last 100 years.

It would also require, I think an elected upper house in Parliament, but I want to write a separate piece on that… If possible, could you envision that as part of the changes bringing the executive out of Parliament.

Positives:

# The Chairperson of the day has an entire country from which to select suitable candidates from for cabinet positions, not just those who have a current seat in Parliament.

# Cabinet appointments would need to be scrutinised by Parliament and confirmed by act of law.

# The current situation see’s a large number of Ministers of various levels voting in Parliament, there is very rarely any dissent or opposition voiced to Government motions. By removing the executive, many more people’s MP’s would be [more] free to debate on a wider range of issues.

# The Chairperson and Deputy would be subject to a ballot of the entire UK, rather than being the leader of the party with the highest number of seats. This is giving people votes on the executive function. We would never again have a situation whereby the PM has not been elected directly.

# The Executive could potentially represent a party in contrast to the majority seated in Parliament.

# By separating the Executive leader from the Legislature, we have a more effective separation of powers that limit the power of one individual. As such, the effects of a megalomaniacal or ineffectual leader are reduced.

# The removal of the Government from the legislature would remove, at present 32 Cabinet members. As such, there are 32 constituencies on the UK where the current MP will not dissent or argue against the Government Position.

# The Executives primary function would be the execution and enforcement of law. Thus, potentially a reduction laws, or clarification of laws would be sought from Executive consultation.

# I would suggest that the Executive would require a VETO before laws are signed by their branch (before moving on to the Queen) – such a VETO, like in the American model could then be challenged by an over-riding vote, where an increased majority in both Houses of Parliament would be required.

# The VETO could protect people from laws being passed that favour the Legislative Branch.

#Equally, the override vote would require an increased majority of both houses of the legislature, as such should safely ensure that any issue that is popular can still be passed.

# As a possible idea, instead of the Queen reading a Government prepared speech at the state opening of Parliament, perhaps the new Executive and possible even the majority leader could deliver a speech to the Queen on the Legislature agenda for the following year.

# We will have a Supreme Court from October this year already, so potentially the Judicial Branch is near enough established.

Negatives:

# The Prime Minister is currently accountable to Parliament both at law but through weekly scrutiny at PMQ’s. Despite an executive being elected, it could become more remote between elections.

# A separate Executive could circumvent current protections guaranteed by Parliament – Executive Fiat could lead to poor and unaccountable governance.

# If we make such a radical change now, could a precedent of radical change be made which may in the future allow for changes to be more regularly being made which in turn could lead to less democratic controls? This would be a danger in the absence of a codified Constitution...

# ...Do we really want to go down the route where we may need a Written Constitution?

# The Executive could eventually be held up as a challenge to the Crown rather than a defender of it.

# At present somewhere in the region of 75-85% of laws are passed over from the EU. Perhaps that is the problem and a massive repatriation of powers to the existing structures would provide the restoration of democratic accountability so many of us crave.

Like I said at the beginning I am not advocating anything more than the extension of some debate, and in the scheme of how such radical changes would be wide reaching, I am undecided.

Obvious flattery aside, I have a pretty intelligent readership, so feel free to run with your thoughts and feedback in the comments. There is much not considered in this short post, and much that can be added.

3 comments:

Tarquin said...

It's an interesting idea - it's basically the same as the American system, which is pretty flawed itself

On the one hand, having a separate executive provides an extra check on power - but what happens when you have, as the yanks have right now, three houses controlled by one party? We would need to implement a mid-term system that meant we could alter that situation in timely fashion

Also, what exactly should an executive do? I dislike the system of constantly handing power to one side or the other and putting just one elected individual in such a position doesn't seem like a good idea to me - I've always regarded executives as figureheads, such as the German president, and even the POTUS has limited powers compared to our PM - but I still wouldn't like the idea of one man having a veto, even if the parliament can force it through, as we saw with George Bush, bills that affect minority groups or interests and barely pass the house can be vetoed based on one person's personal beliefs - in short I like our executive being a ceremonial, powerless figurehead

That said, the point about removing ministers from Parliament is a good one - them being voting MPs is not good, but then we also have to address the wider issue of whipping anyway

On the one hand they would be better if they were appointed, or like a senior civil servant - but then again the point of ministers is to be an accountable head of a department, I know that appointing anybody has worked fine in America for years but whether it's a fair system is open to debate

But I would like to see the lower house become a debating chamber once again, take out the ministers (maybe take them from the other house) and ban whips - it's an ideal I know, but you have to have something to aim for

The upper house obviously needs reforming - the hereditary peers and the bishops can go immediately in my opinion, it sickens me that we still let people in via birthright - but I'm not all for electing it, in reality the Lords is an excellent debating chamber where former parliamentarians can speak freely, there's a lot of bumph in there too tho, and I think we should bring in average people, but elections would just reduce the politics to the party tripe we have in the commons already

Sorry, I haven't been too clear - it's a big issue and needs a lot more thinking on it, no system is perfect, I'm not huge on the separate executive idea, but I think there are core aims we should have:

-beef up the commons as a legislative
-reform the electoral process to both link the MP to constituents and represent all the voters
-Clear out the lords and utilise it more

All Seeing Eye said...

Daniel, having just moderated QT as DV's sidekick after a busy day I've just read your post and wept though the pure hell of where for me to start with plus and minus comments. I'm going to lie awake now for hours musing on your thoughts. Already I'm nodding at a few and a couple of others I'm looking at the screen thinking "Eh? What?".

Some have got me twitching about beliefs I haven't questioned for a while so for that you get a generous doff of the fedora.

May I offer a suggestion? A running set of shorter postings allowing fisking may be better. There are some very interesting debating points in there...trouble is that I'm going to say on my blog that there is only one site must bandy them about to avoid confusion and loss of opinion and that obviously needs to be your site.

I don't think you'll get too many takers though because they'll all be like me and will re-write their dissertions - in longhand - on your comments - which nobody will read.

Humbly suggesting only...split the ideas up into subsections on different posts otherwise some brilliant banter may be lost in the confusion of everyone talking on 25 subjects at the same time.

Or simplify the questions and make them a 10 question meme and 5 to be tagged to your victims. Might snowball and make it miles!

Dunno, just TheEye in post QT winding down mode. Ignore if am talking rubbish.

Daniel1979 said...

Hi ASE,

I really do take your point about splitting things out - and actually that is what I did from some other points I would like to get to in [hopefully] the next week.

I want to talk about, seperate to this proposal, the notion of an elected second chamber - I have an idea that having read Tarquins comments, he might like, and hopefully others.

So, sorry it was so long, but it is a smaller piece of a larger puzzle that has been swimming around the noggin for a while now.

Also - good night on QT and on B-BBC tonight, I don't think I will ever be able to watch QT again without a live blog accompanyment.