Time for a better separation of powers in the UK?

There’s a depressing piece at Conservative Home by Tim Montgomery summarising results of a YouGov survey about the British population’s thoughts about their politicians and political system. One of the interesting findings is this:

38% agree that Britain would be governed better if our politicians got out of the way, and instead our ministers were non-political experts who knew how to run large organisations – only 43% disagree

Read this together with this:

38% think their local MP is doing a good job, only 5% a bad job

Here then is surely a case for greater separation of powers?

Essentially the skills of governing and representing are different, and this has been long acknowledged in most European political systems, where ministers and state secretaries need not be members of parliament while they are in government. This most extreme case of this is Mario Monti’s government of technocrats in Italy at the moment. Still of course contingent on a majority in Parliament (where the parties still play their games), the government has strong popularity ratings (as The Economist reports). More of my thinking about how this could work in the UK can be found in a 2008 blog post here. Someone like Andrew Lansley might be good at representing the people of South Cambridgeshire but in government trying to sort out the NHS bill… hmmm.

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4 comments

  1.   

    ” in most European political systems, where ministers and state secretaries need not be members of parliament while they are in government” – I assume you’re shooting from the hip again. Leaving aside the question whether European countries are worth comparing against if one wants to *improve* British constitutional arrangements, how many of these places really allow ministers not to be members of Parliament?

    France, Russia, the Netherlands, and I’m sure there are others. Which ones? Is there an actual dataset you can point me at?

  2.   

    There’s at least Sweden and Denmark too, and Germany partially. In Belgium ministers have to resign their parliamentary seats. But one definitive list, no, I am not aware of one.

  3.   

    Puffles (*points*) to http://adragonsbestfriend.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/are-our-senior-politicians-fit-for-purpose/ which teases out issues between doing the job of an MP (scrutiny of executive & representing a constituency) and doing the job of a minister – the latter requiring significantly different skills sets from the former. Lords Adonis and Mandelson were regarded as two of the most able ministers during the dying days of Brown’s administration. Should there be complete separation of executive from legislature? (Thinking problem of payroll votes). Some interesting comments from the Public Administration Select Committee at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-administration-select-committee/news/ministers-report/

    On political representation, Anne Begg’s comments at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120112/debtext/120112-0004.htm#12011294001706 make for interesting reading. The start of the debate can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120112/debtext/120112-0003.htm#12011294000003

  4.   

    Ah, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” no more?

    NB France has a long record of appointing outsiders as Ministers.