© 1999

Quangos, Accountability and Reform

The Politics of Quasi-Government

  • Matthew V. Flinders
  • Martin J. Smith

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. History, Perspectives and Debate

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Matthew V. Flinders
      Pages 3-16
    3. Matthew V. Flinders, and Hugh McConnel
      Pages 17-25
    4. Matthew V. Flinders
      Pages 26-39
    5. Gerry Stoker
      Pages 40-53
  3. An International Perspective

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 55-55
    2. Jürgen Fiedler
      Pages 57-71
    3. Frans L. Leeuw, Sandra van Theil
      Pages 72-83
    4. Enid Wistrich
      Pages 84-92
  4. The Insider’s View

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 109-109
    2. Brian Landers
      Pages 120-131
    3. Andrew Purssell
      Pages 132-143
    4. Peter Baldwin
      Pages 152-161
    5. Tony Wright
      Pages 191-198

About this book


Quangos are now a permanent layer of governance in Britain. This collection challenges the stale debate which portrays quangos as inherently undemocratic. Whilst accepting that problems exist this book accepts that quangos are here to stay. Through a collection of chapters by practitioners, politicians and academics it recognises both the pitfalls and potential offered by these bodies. The book therefore illuminates a new perspective on the debate which for the first time highlights the democratic possibilities of quangos. The book advances and clarifies this complex debate by examining the British reform debate in an international context, and blends theoretical analysis with illuminating case studies from Quango Chief Executives and concrete proposals for reform.


democracy executive governance Government

Editors and affiliations

  • Matthew V. Flinders
    • 1
  • Martin J. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Political Economy Research CentreUniversity of SheffieldUK

About the editors

SIR PETER BALDWIN KCB Chairman of the Charities Aid Foundation ALAN BOOKER Formerly Deputy Director General of Water Services (OFWAT) DR JURGEN FIEDLER Sub-Director in the German Federal Ministry of Finance in Bonn ALISTAIR GRAHAM Chief Executive at the Leeds TEC DR CARSTEN GREVE Assistant Professor in Public Administration at the University of Copenhagen BRIAN LANDERS Formerly Finance Director of the Prison Service 1993-96; Chief Executive of Waterstones PROF. FRANS L. LEEUW Professor and Director of the Department of Humanities, Netherlands Open University ANTHONY MAYER Chief Executive of the Housing Corporation HUGH MCCONNEL Formerly PERC Quango Project Officer ANDREW PEET Councillor for Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council ANDREW PURSSELL Currently employed as Environmental Policy Officer PROF. GERRY STOKER Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde SANDRA VAN THIEL Research Fellow at the Inter-University Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology (ICS) DR ENID WISTRICH Research Co-ordinator in the School of History and Politics at Middlesex University DR TONY WRIGHT Member of Parliament for Cannock Chase, author of Citizens and Subjects and Socialisms

Bibliographic information

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'The debate about quangos in Britain is curiously unreal, focusing as it has mostly on how many there are and how much 'sleaze' can be detected among quangocrats. The press are now sniffing around for political patronage and irregularities in quangoland under the new Labour government. This collection of essays marshalled by Matthew Flinders and Martin Smith, provides an invaluable counter-balance to the quango-hunting approach that has dominated the debate since the mid-1970s. They begin by acknowledging the value and virtues of quangos and the complexity of the issues which surround them. They have collected a remarkably broad and sane group of quango executives and academics to share their experience and broaden our grasp of those issues, and the section on international experience of quangos and their governance is a useful reminder that quangos exist in all liberal democracies, even if not with such an exotic and odd names as here. Odd, too, are Britain's informal, almost careless, processes for establishing quangos, making them accountable, appointing members and securing a proper working balance between hands-on control and arm's-length relations, and between public and private. If Labour wants to get the balance right, then the various ministers who are now dealing separately with their own collections of quangos would do well to sit round a table together and read this book, and especially perhaps Labour MP Tony Wright's proposals on patronage. But everyone should read the blistering account of life at the Prison Department under the heel of the Home Office by Brian Landers, the former finance director. Here in microcosm is a vivid portrait of significant failings in Whitehall and Westminster and a crisp set of ideas for reform.' - Stuart Weir, Director, The Democratic Audit, Human Rights Centre, University of Essex