Constitutional and Political Background
THIS book is mainly concerned with judicial control of governmental action and in particular with judicial review. The aim of this final part is to give some idea of the environment in which judicial control is exercised. This chapter considers some theoretical issues relevant to the functions of judicial control, while the next chapter discusses the impact of judicial control on the conduct of government business.
Administrative law is concerned to a considerable extent with the relationships between different branches of government. In the first place, it is concerned with the position of administrative authorities vis-a-vis Parliament, because a great many of the functions of administrative authorities are conferred and defined by statute; and because Parliament exercises some control over the exercise of governmental functions. At the same time, the fact that actions of government can be challenged in the courts makes the question of the proper relationship between the legislative and the administrative branches of government on the one hand, and the judicial branch on the other, central to administrative law. There are several so-called 'constitutional doctrines' which have a bearing on these relationships, and it is worthwhile spending some time considering these. They are: the supremacy (or sovereignty) of Parliament; ministerial responsibility; the separation of powers; and the rule of law. All of these doctrines are to a greater or lesser extent concerned with a central issue in constitutional theory, namely that of responsibility or accountability: how can those who wield governmental power best be made accountable for the way in which they exercise it? Accountability is a form of control. The courts are concerned mainly with control by the use of law, whereas Parliament is concerned with control by means of the exercise of political power. It is with the interaction between legal and political control that this section mainly deals.