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

The policy power of the Westminster parliament: The empirical evidence

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The UK parliament continues to be dismissed as powerless in many academic and popular accounts. Drawing on a large body of quantitative and qualitative research conducted over more than 15 years, a recent article by Meg Russell and Philip Cowley argued that the Westminster parliament is in fact an institution with significant policy influence. Meg […]

Parliamentary reform and The Constitution Unit

Thursday, 05 November 2015

In the last of our series of posts adapted from presentations at the Unit’s 20th anniversary conference Tony Wright reflects on 20 years of parliamentary change and reform. He argues that parliament has become a good deal better over the past two decades, and points to Unit research as making a major contribution to bringing this […]

The Lords, politics and finance

Thursday, 29 October 2015

In the aftermath of Monday’s Lords defeats on tax credit cuts there has been much talk of a ‘constitutional crisis’. In this post Meg Russell argues that whilst Monday’s vote was certainly unusual, the most significant change is the wider political context: that it is a Conservative government on the receiving end of repeated defeats in the Lords. Much like […]