The Constitution Unit


Effective Scrutiny

September 2002 - September 2004

Principal Investigators: Mark Sandford and Lucinda Maer

About the Project

The Constitution Unit carried out a two-year programme of research into effective scrutiny at all levels of government in the UK. The research began in September 2002 following the securing of funding from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

The level of interest in scrutiny, by parliamentary, assembly, and council committees, has grown exponentially since 1997. The task of scrutiny has been allocated to elected representatives in every new government body created by the Labour Government. There was, however, no systematic attempt by the Government to clarify what scrutiny was, how it should be carried out, or what results it should produce.

There is a considerable literature on Parliamentary committees, dealing mainly with their influence on legislation; and, since the introduction of scrutiny committees in local government by the 2000 Local Government Act, a number of explanatory guides have been produced for local authorities. However, the devolved institutions, the Greater London Authority and the Regional Chambers, and Parliamentary committees (when dealing with policy issues) have escaped much attention. Moreover, there has been no attempt to relate the scrutiny processes in the different levels of government to one another: to examine whether aims, processes, and lessons of scrutiny processes can be transferred between different levels of government.

The project focused on committee scrutiny. The work of auditors, links with freedom of information and issues around judicial accountability were not studied.