British Government: A Reader in Policy-making by Simon James

By Simon James

This reader provides over seventy case reports of coverage making in Whitehall and Westminster, combining newspaper assurance, legitimate records, educational research and the reminiscences of contributors. Simon James demonstrates a number of the ways that coverage originates, how it is formed inside Whitehall, the several modes of parliamentary keep watch over, and the issues of implementation and coverage evaluate. He illustrates civil servants' half in constructing coverage, ministers' relatives with their departments and their colleagues, and the position of the major minister and cupboard. Case stories aid to envision cupboard committees, the impact of strain teams and choose committees in addition to the implications of autonomous inquiries, the influence of the eu group and the restraining strength of parliament and the courts. The case stories diversity from nationwide controversies resembling the pits closure predicament and the "Satanic Verses" affair, via to the hidden facet of coverage making together with offers struck with strain teams in Whitehall convention and wrangling in Brussels over the tax on whisky. Designed as a textbook for A-level scholars and undergraduates, "Policy Making within the British govt" presents a wide variety of resource fabric and research that would be of worth to scholars of British politics, coverage making and political associations.

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And how can a Prime Minister provide broad direction, if embroiled in detail? …I found him firm and decisive, and he never involved himself in minutiae. While I was not in agreement with the philosophy of the Callaghan Government, I appreciate its very real management qualities. Having worked closely with both Labour and Conservative Governments, I found that we had a more workable relationship with the former. Not because they were easier to persuade—indeed they were at least as tough about providing funds—but rather because we knew where we stood with them.

That is a very important role. I think many commentators who bemoan what they see as the decline of the Cabinet as a decision-taker fail to appreciate its significance as the cement which binds the Government together. But the Cabinet is large—with 22 members—and is a bit unwieldy for discussing detailed matters. So most policies are settled through more specialised committees, perhaps with a brief report to Cabinet to keep other colleagues abreast of decisions if that is thought appropriate. There are some topics, of course, where all Ministers are involved and there is no option but to take them in full Cabinet.

Lawson was furiously hostile to the community charge: his paper circulated to the Committee (extensively quoted in his memoirs) attacked the poll tax as ‘completely unworkable and politically catastrophic’, but his opposition broke on the Prime Minister’s determination that the system must change, and his position was in any case weakened because what was under discussion was the tax-raising power of local government, not of the Exchequer. Indeed, if a Chancellor were to be overruled by colleagues on a major point of Exchequer taxation he would either be compelled to resign or be so weakened as to become a lame duck.

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