Parliaments of the World, Philip Laundy (Inter-parliamentary Union:
Philip Laundy, Clerk Assistant of
the Canadian House of Commons, has written many books and articles about
parliamentary government based on the British model in general and about the
Canadian system in particular.
His latest work, published in English
and French was commissioned by the Inter-Parliamentary Union to mark the
The challenge was to present
succinctly, and yet in some detail, the whole range of parliamentary systems that
exist in the world today--and there are estimated to be one hundred and
forty-five of them. To extract the essential elements from the mountain of
material dealing (unevenly) with parliamentary systems called for an analytical
and methodical mind.
Mr. Laundy opted for a comparative
approach, assembling and juxtaposing information about different countries
under chapter headings covering parliamentary structures and activities for
most of the countries of the world. For example, there are sections of the
varying types of parliaments and electoral systems and on relations between
parliaments and the executive. One chapter is devoted to the role and duties of
the Speaker. Another deals with parliamentary business proper including both,
the legislative and control functions. Other chapters discuss committees,
immunity, staff and services, and public relations. Appended is a summary in
table form listing by country the name of its parliament, the number of seats
and the length of a legislative term. For the occasional user, a table of
contents makes it possible to find information easily. However neither edition
contains a bibliography and the footnote references that appear in English are
not found in the French edition.
The end result? An essentially
descriptive work, constructed without any a priori theoretical or
ideological framework apart from a view of parliamentary government as an
important mechanism in a society's evolution. This approach enables the author
to avoid any value judgements about the extent to which the democratic values
on which parliamentary government is based are reflected in the actual exercise
of the popular will through parliamentary institutions in a given country.
All parliaments mentioned in Mr
Laundy's book thus appear to be equally valid, be they republics, monarchies,
people's democracies or one-party states. At a time when the mainstream
literature about parliamentary institutions is increasingly critical, even in
the so-called democracies, Mr. Laundy seems the eternal optimist. But this
aside, his book is a gold mine of information. In just a few pages he succeeds
in summing up complex mechanisms and institutions and in ably distinguishing
certain countries and groups of countries from others. In this respect there
can be no doubt that Mr. Laundy's book will become an essential reference work
for every observer, student, teacher or reformer of parliamentary government.
Let us hope that the author will be given the support required for regular
updates, because institutions can on occasion evolve very rapidly, as recent
events in Eastern Europe, have made abundantly clear.
Serge Pelletier, Committee Clerk, The Senate