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University 18 Yrs + | The Core Executive

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How Does The Core Executive Fit into the UK Political System?

The political system can be divided into two parts:-

The State

The institutions of government of many different types.  In a normal situation only the State has the capacity to enforce actions through its control of force.

Civil society

This which consists of firms, voluntary organisations, political parties, interest groups, social movements, families, voters and so on. In general, a healthy democratic society has a large range of civil society organisations which can act as a balance to the power of the state. Some separation of civil society institutions from the state is desirable – the Italian system has suffered from clientelism with political parties and interest groups controlling parts of the state for their own benefit and the undue influence of corporate interests on the state had also been an issue in many countries.

Aspects of the state that link to the core executive

Political Scientists have talked about a CORE EXECUTIVE of people and institutions revolving around the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers and acting as the nerve centre of the State, though how far it can control everything is a matter of debate, but the State consists of many other things all of which link to the Core Executive:-

Parliament has control over legislation and is meant to scrutinise the output of the Core Executive and other parts of government. It is connected to the Core Executive by the party system and particularly by the Government Whips who ensure that the Government’s majority in Parliament operates effectively. It is one of the key conventions of our unwritten Constitution that there is Ministerial Accountability to Parliament so that ministers are members of Parliament and answer for what they and their departments have done.

The major Government Departments such as the Treasury and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Each has political control through a Cabinet Minister and administrative control through a Permanent Secretary drawn from the civil service.

There are a large number of other governmental bodies, which are the responsibility of government departments, although they are intended to have more independence.

They are often called Quangos, but this is not an official term and it better to classify them in the following way:-

Executive Agencies

The Conservative Government in the 1980s looked to separate some of the more routine functions, as opposed to policy-making functions, carried out by Government Departments. Agencies were created, within the overall ambit of the Department, administered by a Chief Executive, often from a business rather than a civil service background, with the idea that they would operate more efficiently and cheaply. The Prisons Service and the Rural Payments Agency, that sorts out subsidies to farmers are examples.

Non Departmental Executive Bodies

These run specialised areas such as English Nature, which deals with nature conservation, or the Electoral Commission which decides election procedures. They may also need to be independent from political control as with the Crown Prosecution Service or the Boundary Commission for England which redraws constituency boundaries.

Non Departmental Advisory Bodies

These give specialist advice in defined areas, for example, the Building Regulations Advisory Committee or the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards.

Regulatory Bodies

Some of these are independent inspectors of government services such as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons or the Chief Inspector of Schools, who runs the Ofsted inspection system.

The privatisation of nationalised industries has led to the creation of a number regulatory bodies which are meant to ensure that the industries operate competitively and without adverse effects on the consumer, such as the Office of the Rail Regulator and OFWAT for the water industry. Governments generally come into office promising to abolish large numbers of bodies and, to a considerable degree, the Coalition Government did, but there are still about 600 of them.