Building webs of scrutiny
in Dramas at Westminster
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This chapter ties together how contrasting interpretations of scrutiny affect accountability relationships. The core argument of this chapter is that scrutiny is dependent on fragile, although also sometimes very dense and effective, webs of accountability in the House of Commons. The argument develops in three steps. First, it looks at individual relationships between MPs to show that informal practices and networks that are fundamental to making scrutiny happen. It then applies these insights in the second section, where the chapter turns to the development of norms and values of committees. This is critical to establish goodwill on committees as well as – and perhaps most importantly – the construction of consensus in reports. Almost all policy impact on government by committees depends on these reports, and a lot of this influence is derived from their unanimity. The final section looks at the implications of all this to understanding accountability in the House of Commons, arguing that it is ‘webs of scrutiny’ that matter most in conducting scrutiny, rather than the institutional powers that committees have (or, more accurately, do not have).

Dramas at Westminster

Select committees and the quest for accountability


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