This chapter examines the politics and organisation of quasi-government in Britain. The scope of government activity in society has increased considerably since 1945 and a great variety of bodies have been established to administer the expanded public sector. Such bodies, notably quangos and the nationalised industries, have been viewed with hostility by the political Right. There have been many practical reasons for nationalising specific industries or establishing certain quangos, but such measures have provoked ideologically-based opposition. Mrs Thatcher’s Government has attempted to reduce the number of quangos in existence and to reduce the scope of the nationalised industries through pursuing a policy of privatisation. But will such policies bring the advantages that the Prime Minister and her colleagues envisage? We will examine the cases for and against nationalisation and privatisation. Others have criticised the world of quasi-government or ‘government at arm’s length’, because there is too little accountability and public control. The chapter concludes with an examination of the measures which some have suggested will improve the powers of Parliamentary scrutiny over the nationalised industries, and will clarify the position of Ministers regarding the control of their commercial activities.
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