The Constitution Unit




Parliament lies in the heart of British politics. Yet calls for parliamentary reform – of both the House of Commons and House of Lords – have been frequent, and both chambers have often been accused of weakness. The Unit's research has investigated possible reforms to both chambers, as well as the effects of reforms that have previously taken place. In addition, much of our recent work has focused on parliament's impact on policy.

The Constitution Unit’s research in this area is led by Professor Meg Russell



House of Lords

House of Lords

Ongoing research on the strength, legitimacy, influence and membership of the House of Lords, including a record of all defeats in the Lords from 2005 to present. View the House of Lords Project Page or view our records of all government defeats in the House of Lords.

House of Commons

The Impact of the British Parliament on Legislation

A major research project on the legislative process which considers the impact of parliament on legislation before and after coalition government.


Financial Privilege

Research into the House of Commons' use of financial privilege against amendments passed to legislation in the Lords.

Legislative Committees at Westminster: The case for reform

Meg Russell and Phil Larkin's comparative project on the role and operation of Legislative Committees.

The Impact House of Commons Select Committees

A collaboration between Constitution Unit and Select Committee staff which combines interviews with data collection and analysis of the impact of committee inquiries and recommendations. Our final report, released in 2011, concluded that Select Committees influence government by, among other things, 'generating fear'. Launch details and download

Recent Reports

Archive of earlier work on Parliament

A list of all our parliament research projects is here

Parliament Blog

Judges and select committees: A developing accountability culture

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The specific scenario in which select committees seek evidence from a judge who has chaired an inquiry generates a lot of heat and light. But Patrick O’Brien indicates that the research he conducted with Robert Hazell shows the practice of judges giving evidence to parliamentary committees has been widely accepted as a positive and productive […]

Parliament and legislation: Perhaps Westminster is more powerful than you think?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Government defeats on the floor of the Commons, as seen last week, remain exceptionally rare, perpetuating assumptions that parliament is relatively weak. However, through analysis of 4361 amendments to 12 government bills, and over 120 interviews, Daniel Gover and Meg Russell find empirical evidence that parliament has significantly greater influence on government policy than is […]

Gerrymandering for democracy: An impossible goal?

Friday, 04 September 2015

In a recent report by Mathew Lawrence and Sarah Birch the Institute for Public Policy Research has made several proposals for improving the quality of British democracy. One of them involves politicising the traditionally fiercely independent and neutral Boundary Commissions, by requiring them to gerrymander constituency boundaries to produce fewer safe and more marginal seats. […]