The Ministerial Code Analysis

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The ministerial code is not completely effective in practice at securing the proper accountability of ministers to parliament. Whilst there are resignations when departmental matters go wrong these are too infrequent in number to represent true accountability from this provision, and too often Ministers are able to shift blame onto individual civil servants rather than assume true managerial ministerial responsibility themselves. In comparison provisions 1.1 and 1.2f do seem to be more effective as the majority of resignations are for conflict of interest or financial/sexual misconduct. Arguably however these resignations are a result of intense media pressure on the minister to do so, rather than because the ministerial code is effective at…show more content…
This is evident in the example of the multiple prison break outs under the supervision of Michael Howard, the Home Security in 1995. Here, the Director General of the Prison Service Derek Lewis was sacked by Howard as Howard stated accountability and responsibility lay with him as he was in charge of the day to day operations. Howard therefore despite managing the department was only accountable in the sense that he had to explain to parliament what happened, and even then he ‘failed to lay a full report of what happened before Parliament’ There was no consequences for the incident occurring under his management despite the fact that arguably he could have been negligent in his management role to know more about the operational failings within his department . The important question that this then raises is whether ministers should be held to account for mistakes they didn’t personally make but happened under their management or for things that they didn’t know but ought to have known. In this prison case ‘the home secretary became responsible for virtually nothing, the cause was tied to the responsibilities of the Director General’ rather than the responsibilities of the Home Secretary. Whilst Derek Lewis undoubtedly made mistakes,…show more content…
As a result of the departments failure to work efficiently ‘many farmers didn’t receive their payments and suffered significant financial losses’ . RFA were held fully accountable for these mistakes and their chief executive was dismissed. DEFRA and the minister in contrast were not held at all accountable despite the fact that it was DEFRA’s responsibility to ensure all farmers were paid. This evidences that once again ministers were able to evade accountability despite that fact that they were managerially responsible for the failure. Ministers are frequently able to do this by using one scapegoat rather than accepting responsibility between all those who had been involved with the mistake, in this case both DEFRA and RFA. As the select committee stated ‘a culture where ministers and senior officials can preside over failure of this magnitude and not be held personally accountable creates a serious risk of further failures in public service…we recommend new guidance to make clear to ministers what they should do to take responsibility in the event of serious departmental failure’ , in other words provision 1.2b has not done enough to ensure
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