The Constitution Unit


The Policy Impact of Parliament

House of Commons


This programme initially formed one strand of Meg Russell's 3-year Economic and Social Research CouncilFellowship 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.