It could be argued that the courts provide the only open and universal means by which the individual can challenge government action. Ministerial responsibility to Parliament is of little use to the citizen directly, in that it can be called upon only by MPs, who are unlikely to be independent and cannot force ministers to disclose information. The Committee on Standards in Public Life plays a valuable monitoring role but has no enforcement powers and cannot consider individual complaints. The various ‘ombudsmen’ who investigate citizens’ complaints against government are free to complainants and have powers of investigation into facts. However, their jurisdiction is limited to maladministration and many public bodies are excluded, they have no enforcement powers and they do not hold public hearings (Section 20.2). The courts have the advantage of sitting in public and have comprehensive power to require the disclosure of information.
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