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The civil servant as legislator: law making in British administration

By Edward C. Page

Abstract

How are government policy commitments converted into legislation and what happens in the conversion? The role of civil servants in preparing legislation is far more important than is generally assumed. By looking at the work of four recent bill teams in Britain – teams of civil servants given the task of developing Acts of Parliament – their crucial roles in initiating policies, placing them on the political agenda (even helping secure their place in a party manifesto), developing them, making sure they pass through parliament and enacting them once they have reached the statute books are assessed. The article explores the composition and working methods of bill teams. These teams work with considerable autonomy in developing legislation, but it cannot be assumed that they operate outside ministerial control. Teams see themselves as reflecting the priorities of the government in general and their ministers in particular. Yet ministers typically know relatively little about the law they are bringing in until they receive the submissions and briefings from their officials. Perhaps the biggest danger for democracy is not a civil service putting forward proposals which a minister feels forced to accept, but rather that ministers do not notice or fully appreciate what is being proposed in their name despite having the political authority to change it and a civil service which bends over backwards to consult and accommodate them

Topics: JN101 Great Britain
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Year: 2003
DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.0033-3298.2003.00366.x
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:15571
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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