Responsible Government

Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability, the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Governments (the equivalent of the executive branch) in Westminster democracies are responsible to parliament rather than to the monarch, or, in a colonial context, to the imperial government. If the parliament is bicameral, then the government is responsible first to the parliament's lower house, which is more numerous, directly elected and thus more representative than the upper house.

Responsible government of parliamentary accountability manifests itself in several ways. Ministers account to Parliament for their decisions and for the performance of their departments. This requirement to make announcements and to answer questions in Parliament means that ministers have to have the privileges of the “floor” which are only granted to those who are members of either house of Parliament. Secondly, and most importantly, although ministers are officially appointed by the sovereign authority of the head of state and can theoretically be dismissed at the pleasure of the sovereign, they concurrently retain their office subject to their holding the confidence of the lower house of Parliament. And should they lose it (as individuals or as a Government in power); when the lower house has passed a motion of no confidence in the government, the government must immediately resign or submit itself to the electorate in a new general election.

Lastly, the Sovereign is in turn required to effectuate his sovereignty only through these responsible ministers. He must never attempt to set up a “shadow” government of executives or advisors to him; and attempt to use them as instruments of government, or to rely upon their, “unofficial” advice. He is bound to take no decision or action, which is put into effect under the color of his sovereignty, without that action being as a result of the counsel and advisement of his responsible ministers. His ministers are required to counsel him (i.e., explain to him and be sure he understands any issue that he will be called upon to decide); and, to form and have recommendations for him (i.e., their advice or advisement) to choose from; which are the ministers’ formal, reasoned, recommendations as to what course of action should be taken.

Read more about Responsible Government:  Canada, Australia, Cape Colony, Former British Colonies With Responsible Government

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