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The Policy Impact of Parliament

October 2008 -

House of Commons

This programme initially formed one strand of Meg Russell's 3-year Economic and Social Research Council Fellowship RES-063-27-0163.

It is often assumed that the British parliament has little impact on policy, and instead that the executive is dominant. But parliamentary impact can be subtle and difficult to assess. For example, government may amend legislation in order to avoid confrontation with its own backbenchers in the Commons, or with opposition and Crossbench forces in the Lords. Both peers and Labour MPs have become more assertive in recent years in challenging the executive, but little research has been done to evaluate the impact of their interventions, particularly when policy changes by consensus (e.g. through government amendments) rather than through confrontation (e.g. through rebellions and government defeats). Similar problems arise when trying to assess the impact of non-legislative scrutiny committees (such as the select committees in the House of Commons). It is widely appreciated that these committees are important, but few attempts have been made to evaluate their actual impact on policy.

The Nuffield Foundation has funded two separate research projects which will build into this broader workstream on the policy impact of parliament. These are:

The programme also connects with Meg Russell's work on the policy impact of the House of Lords, and her collaboration with Phil Larkin on Legislative Committees at Westminster.

One publication listed below was written before the Fellowship began. This work is also connected to another project on the Fellowship, focusing on The Changing Role of the House of Lords Post-1999, which has produced numerous papers.


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The new opposition: How will SNP MPs influence Westminster politics?

Mon, 01 Jun 2015 10:59:53 +0000

Louise Thompson argues that the constitutional challenges we will see over the next 5 years will be a product of the changed composition of Parliament. Here, she specifically considers how SNP are likely to try and amend proposed constitutional reforms announced in the Queen’s Speech last week. We are only a couple of weeks in to the 2015 […]

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What the Queen said – and what she didn’t say

Thu, 28 May 2015 12:35:34 +0000

Following yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, Robert Hazell considers the constitutional issues that featured, as well as those which were notable in their absence. There were few surprises in the Queen’s Speech announcing the new government’s legislative programme. Like his admired predecessor Tony Blair, David Cameron knows that the public have little interest in constitutional issues, so […]

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Routes to EVEL: The challenges facing Chris Grayling in introducing English votes on English laws

Tue, 26 May 2015 10:15:42 +0000

With the Queen’s Speech due tomorrow, we continue our series of blogs about devolution and its consequences, drawing on the Unit’s latest report Devolution and the Future of the Union. Here Robert Hazell analyses the commitment to English votes on English laws, looking first at its history, and then at its prospects. Cynics might assume […]

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Meg Russell's new book, The Contemporary House of Lords:
Lords book cover - png file

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Page last modified on 08 aug 14 11:26

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