Government by Committee: An Essay on the British Constitution

By K. C. Wheare | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
Postscript

1

IT would be foolhardy to attempt to generalize at large about government by committee in Britain on the basis of the limited and superficial survey undertaken in the previous chapters. But it is permissible surely to offer a few observations by way of postscript, if not of conclusions. And first of all a word about the role upon committees of some of our seven characters. So far as actual membership of committees is concerned, it seems proper to say that the place for the expert is upon committees to advise; the place for the interested party is upon committees to negotiate; the place for the party man and for the layman is upon committees to legislate, to administer, and to scrutinize and control. The inadequacy of these generalizations becomes apparent as soon as they are offered. There is a place for laymen upon committees to advise, and for experts -- independent experts that is -- upon committees to negotiate. The difficulty of being precise is made even more apparent when we consider committees to inquire, and discover that laymen, experts, party men, and interested parties might all properly find a place upon them. But while it is undeniable that no one character can rightfully be said to have an exclusive monopoly of one type of committee, it is clear also that in some cases a particular character ought as a rule to find a place upon a committee. The expert on the committee to advise, the interested party on the committee to negotiate, and the party man and the layman on the committees to legislate, administer, and scrutinize are fairly clear cases of this kind.

What about the official? His position is more difficult to describe. So far as the official of central or local government is concerned, his place is usually conceived of as around or behind or beside a committee rather than upon it. There are exceptions, but usually they tend to prove the rule. Government officials are

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