Croatian International Relations Review

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David Greenwood

There is only one safeguard against the distortion of democratic ideals that any too ¬dominant executive can produce and the perversion of those ideals which invariably results from the dominance of a charismatic individual or the monopoly of a dogmatic ideology. This is a strong representative assembly to which the Head of Government and ministers are answerable for all that they do. Moreover, the administration must be answerable not only in formal or institutional terms (meaning the legislature must have clear powers under the constitution) but also in practical terms (meaning elected representatives must exercise those powers with due diligence). This brings the argument to the fundamental obligation of a Head of Government and ministers, which is acknowledgement that parliamentarians have the right to know everything there is to know about an administration's business. In practice the communication of information, or its release on a restricted basis, is normally regulated on the basis of the need to know. This may be routinely denied in several areas: for example, in respect of information about imminent changes in taxation or intended purchases of real estate; or on matters currently under negotiation with another government or international institution; or, in the defence domain, in relation to data about the precise capability of specific weapons or the exact size of weapons stocks. There have to be some 'state secrets'. Outside these areas, however, freedom of information ought to be the rule.