March 11, 2007

Confirmation Hearings

Michael Meacher proposed on Labour Home that British cabinet ministers should have to face select committees in the House of Commons for confirmation hearings just like Americans have to face Congressional Hearings in the United States. Its an interesting idea and definitely deserves some consideration- not a matter on which I wish to make a decision myself right now.

What is true is that it would alter completely the character of a cabinet minister in the UK. Detailed hearings like in the US would demand that ministers had detailed knowledge of what they were to become ministers of before they entered the government. The United States recruits men and women like Condoleeza Rice who have trained for years in a particular field- instead of as we do recruiting skilled amateurs who rely on civil service professionals to elucidate the detail. Confirmation hearings would begin a very different relationship between the politician and that he was minister of.

It might also change the role of Parliament- independence becoming more and more prized over the kind of dependance that makes scrutiny dangerous to one's future career. Parliament could become a route to committee chairships, as well as cabinet office.

Its an interesting suggestion from Meacher and definitely one worth considering, even if he fails to attain the Labour leadership- I am as yet not convinced either way- this would bring a great change in the qualities we expect from ministers and Parliament.


CityUnslicker said...

a great idea that no Prime Minister would ever agree to!

Vino S said...

This doctrine implies a greater separation between the legislative and executive powers than we have at the moment.

Because we choose ministers from the ranks of MPs, by definition we are going for generalists. US cabinet positions, in contrast, tend to be outsiders - who are not from Congress [and, if they were, they would have to stand down from their congressional seat because of the separation of powers].

Gracchi said...

CUS yes I agree it is a great idea- though it would completely change the nature of government because as Vino points out it would mean non-MPs got into the cabinet.

Vino yes I agree with you completely- there is a precedent in wartime- I'm thinking of General Smuts in the World War. And Churchill in the fifties attempted to get non-party people in though through the Lords mainly to be overlords. But yes it would probably be too much of an innovation.

Vino S said...

Yes, I think it would be an innovation that I think would not be desirable. I like the idea of the fusion of executive and legislative power. It stops gridlock and enables an elected government, with a democratic mandate and a clear manifesto, to go ahead and implement the policies that it agrees on.

I do not think that separating the personnel who propose legislation/implement it (ministers) from those who make the laws (MPs) is that good an idea. Maybe I just say this, though, because i am used to the British system. Those from the US might think differently.

edmund said...

i don't see how it could work in our system-mps will almost certainly just vote on partisan lines, having said that it might be a good idea to have hearings that would give it some coverage and some coverage to the governn personallel and

You'd have to give them 2 or 3 months grace though so they could hold office on the pm's say so though. Otherwise who would fill them?

Don't forget though you have regular questions to ministers in the UK- a much higher level of scrutiny than in the US.