Parliament ‘must adapt’ to PM’s power

By staff

Parliament is struggling to cope with the consequences of No 10’s growing power, a group of peers has claimed.

The Lords’ constitution committee is calling for the ways parliament scrutinises the government to be shaken up to reflect this shift.

It does not criticise former prime minister Tony Blair for intensifying Downing Street’s influence across Whitehall, saying that the need for stronger coordination is a reflection of “the modern age”.

But it does say the shifting role of the Cabinet Office – which seeks to ensure No 10’s bidding is followed up across government departments – needs to be monitored more closely.

“The evidence we received clearly suggested that power within the Cabinet has become more centralised with the prime minister,” the committee’s chairman Lord Goodland said.

“The role of the Cabinet Office has increasingly involved ensuring that the PM’s priorities are delivered across government.

“In the light of this, it is important that parliamentary and other scrutiny adapt to reflect this. It is crucial that structures of accountability mirror structures of power as they are in reality rather than in theory.”

The committee recommends clarifying the responsibilities of the Cabinet Office minister – and giving the post the prestige it deserves.

This comes despite its scathing description of the department as a “dustbin” for policy units “for which no other home can be found”.

Current Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell disagreed, preferring to call it an “incubator”.