22 March 2013
Canterbury Christ Church University's Senior Lecturer in Politics, Dr Mark Bennister, has given evidence to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee Inquiry on the role and power of the British Prime Minister.
Dr Bennister was invited to provide a comparative view of Prime Ministerial power, with particular consideration of the Australian Prime Minister’s role and powers.
Dr Bennister told the committee: “There are 3 key things to bear in mind when looking at comparative prime ministerial power. Firstly, politics: we need to look beyond the institutional mechanisms. Secondly, personal: the officeholder matters as much as the office itself. Thirdly, Parliament: Prime Ministers need to be made more accountable and responsible to Parliament.”
Dr Bennister went on to tell the Committee that codifying the role and powers of the Prime Minister would be “problematic”. He also cautioned against directly electing the Prime Minister, saying: “I think that an important thing to consider is legitimising the Prime Minister through the consent of the Parliament.”
When asked about the current Coalition Government Dr Bennister said: “David Cameron may appear to be more constrained in government by having to work with and through coalition partners, yet he retains the flexibility to control the agenda and he may not be any more constrained than if he had a powerful intra-party rival in Cabinet. Indeed it is his own party that is giving him headaches.”
There have been a number of significant developments in the context of the role and powers of the Prime Minister since the launch of the Committee’s inquiry in January 2011, including the passing of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in September 2011, the publication of the Cabinet Manual in October 2011, and the agreement between the UK Government and the Scottish Government for a referendum on independence for Scotland, which was published in October 2012.
The Committee will continue to take evidence before publishing a final report.
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.
With nearly 20,000 students, across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.
*2010/11 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey