Ministerial Responsibility and the Theory of the British State
Britain lacks both a ‘written constitution’ and a codified system of public law, two features which are usually held to be essential for any coherent conception of ‘the state’ (Dyson, 1980, ch. 7). Despite this alleged handicap, the British do have a conception of the state. They invented one through the dominant concept of ministerial responsibility, which shaped the whole way in which government expanded between the 1870s and the 1920s. Long-lived attitudes towards the ‘ministerial’ state and ministerial responsibility which developed at this time continue to determine the arguments of those who defend the constitutional status quo in the 1990s, and of those calling for radical reforms in the system of government.
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