In this section we reflect on the different ways in which Parliament ‘scrutinises’ the work of Government and the State. Scrutiny, and the associated concept of accountability, have become more and more prominent in the work of Parliament in the last half-century. It might, superficially, be thought that the increased emphasis on ‘scrutiny’ is a consequence of the diminished significance of other roles, reflecting a decline in the power and prestige of Parliament. That may be an over-simplification but it does give us a clue to the meaning of ‘scrutiny’ in the Parliamentary context because it draws on what scrutiny is not. It is not to control, but to review; not to countermand, but to comment; not to command to do, but to invite to reflect. It is logically dependent upon action taken, policy announced or intended – even the apparent exception of pre-legislative scrutiny is the scrutiny of a document (the draft bill) produced by the government.
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