Question Time or Show Time? Analysing the Value of Question Time as a Parliamentary Accountability Mechanism
50 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2018 Last revised: 15 May 2018
Date Written: April 2, 2018
This paper analyses the value of question time in New Zealand as a parliamentary accountability mechanism. It uses Professor Mark Bovens’ definition of accountability as a social relation to develop a bespoke, criteria-based evaluative framework for assessing question time’s performance. Six aspects of question time are evaluated: supplementary questions, patsy questions, the rule governing the adequacy of replies, the power to transfer responsibility for questions, ministerial responsibility, and media reporting practices. Each of these aspects is found to hinder the House of Representative’s ability to hold Ministers to account in question time. Several recommendations for reform are proposed for each aspect. Unless Members of Parliament and Ministers are willing to implement meaningful change, question time will have little value as a parliamentary accountability mechanism, and the principle of responsible government will be diminished.
Keywords: Question time, accountability, Parliament, House of Representatives, ministerial responsibility.
JEL Classification: K00
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