The question I will try to address here is a simple one: what level and type of parliamentary scrutiny maximises the effectiveness of government?
A very powerful parliament, which exercised powers of life and death over weak governments (on the model for example of the French Fourth Republic) would be a recipe for paralysis, particularly ill-suited to a time when strong executive leadership is needed to tackle our fiscal crisis.
A supine parliament which failed to hold the executive properly in check would leave the way free to abuse and corruption, the experience of numerous countries all over the world.
Both lead to poor quality government. In theory, the executive requires the assent of Parliament to govern. But it is embedded within parliament and, in practice, it can dominate it. Party loyalty or occasionally, as now, coalition loyalty, provides the bedrock of support for it.
Intra-party discourse on the government’s side is the primary restraint on unfettered government action – a neglected subject, often out of the public gaze, which here I will do nothing to redress. Nor will I address the role that a second chamber, reformed and bolstered by democratic legitimacy, could start to play.
And I will also sidestep the issue of whether electoral reform for the Commons could help provide a better balance between the executive and the legislature; on that I'm a deep sceptic.
Andrew Tyrie MP
Government by Explanation is the second in our new InsideOut series which gives people with an interesting perspective on government effectiveness an opportunity to share their personal views. The views expressed are those of the author.