As Prime Minister Scott Morrison embarks on a wholesale overhaul of government departments, a UK report warns that going fast doesn’t always win the race when it come to reshaping the machinery of government.
Tim Durrant, associate director at the Institute for Government (IfG) and co-author of Creating and Dismantling Government Departments, says the UK can appear quite nimble. Its Prime Minister can create departments essentially in a day.
“All they have to do is have a piece of secondary legislation, a ‘transfer of functions’ order, to say ‘this is now the secretary for state of whatever’s job’,” he tells Government News.
This can happen months after a restructure and, as a ‘negative resolutions procedure’, passes automatically unless a parliamentarian objects.
“So there’s little opportunity for parliamentarians to get involved,” says Durrant. “And even if they do, they can’t sort of force the government to think again the way they can in Canada.”
In Canada, if the House of Commons objects to departmental changes, restructures can be unwound even if they are half-completed.
A cautionary tale
The trouble is, notes Durrant, that restructuring departments is a big job. Time must be taken to bed changes in, fund them and organise them . . .