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Failure foreseeable and foreseen: an analysis of the limitations and failings of the British policy-making process; with reference to the 1991 Child Support Act

Cotter, Leanne-Marie 2015. Failure foreseeable and foreseen: an analysis of the limitations and failings of the British policy-making process; with reference to the 1991 Child Support Act. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

The 1991 Child Support Act is seen as one of the most controversial and notorious policy failures in Britain, being described as ‘the most incompetent and inhuman agency ever set up by a British government’ (Ingrams, 1997). Its first year in operation was marked by administrative chaos, error, and failure. This thesis will demonstrate that this failure was ‘foreseeable’ and ‘foreseen’. This thesis is both an examination of the British policy-making process, and the 1991 Child Support Act. Analysis focuses primarily on policy formation, assessing the reasons behind why policy-makers pursued certain actions, and ultimately how a foreseeable and foreseen policy failure was able to gain cross-party support. It examines the role of power, imbalance of resources, and inter-Departmental and inter- Ministerial battles. Parliamentary processes, together with a detailed assessment of Parliamentary discussions, are also addressed. The existence of dual origins, and the role of ‘policy transfer’, or as this thesis argues, ‘incoherent dual-policy transfer’ are examined. The thesis re-introduces the stages approach as an appropriate framework for examining policy-making in general, and analysing policy failure in particular. It draws on evidence gained through interviews, official documents, unpublished consultation responses, Parliamentary debates, and materials from pressure groups and think-tanks, as well as academic literature. Examination of the policy formation process shows that the Child Support Act had two separate paths of origin. These conflicting origins led to ‘incoherent dual-policy transfer’, whereby the policy pursued by Newton and Mackay was undermined by Thatcher and the Treasury. It also demonstrates that the Bill’s flaws were magnified by ineffective legislative process. It ends by illustrating the roots behind the 1991 Child Support Act’s failure, and the ultimate failings of the British policy-making process. The larger implications for these findings is the presentation of the idea of ‘perfect legislation’, which shows us what leads to, and thus provides a criteria for avoiding, policy failure.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Subjects: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2017 09:48
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/77034

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