Oversight of the Executive

The kind of rational decision-making that lies behind a conscious decision to vote for one person rather than another is very different both from the visceral self-interest which drives much of our activity and from the dictates of conscience and convention which regularly constrain us. Unfortunately, because the Executive and the Legislature are so entangled in our existing constitution, the electorate is forced to elevate one set of impulses over the others and the functions of both branches of government have become irredeemably compromised.

In my view, a properly constituted society would allow us to vote ideologically for the representatives who speak for us, and pragmatically for the representatives who act for us. That would mean establishing a clear separation between the House of Commons and the Executive.

Some of the proposals I've made in other sections would make that relatively easy. In the Parliament section – https://constitutionuk.com/post/83980 – I proposed integrating local government into the legislature by giving local authorities the power to appoint (and remove) members of the House of Lords (which would perhaps be renamed). If that reform were implemented, the Upper House would probably, in time, take on primary oversight of the Executive, including the appointment of Ministers.

I say that, because I believe the public are more concerned with administrative competence in their representatives at local government level than in their representatives in the Commons. I suspect that's the case even under the existing system, where local government's powers are highly circumscribed; I'm sure it would be even more the case in a system where local government is much more powerful.

The extent to which that priority carries through to the Upper House will probably depend on what other reforms are implemented. I regard a powerful recall mechanism – such as I've advocated in the Elections section, https://constitutionuk.com/post/83974 – to be an essential feature of a mature democracy. If a reform of that kind were implemented, I'd expect local councils to be more concerned with their Upper House appointees' understanding of the practicalities of government than with ideological purity.

In that scenario, membership of the House of Commons would no longer be a path to government office, so its members would hopefully find it easier to legislate in accordance with their conscience and the electorate would hopefully find it easier to vote according to their sense of right and wrong, rather than according to their self-interest.

I would expect, therefore, that the legislative roles of the two Houses would change somewhat: the Commons would dominate in establishing the broad framework of law but the Upper House would dominate in defining the details of how that framework would be manifested.

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