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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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Lords appointments urgently need reforming: but how?

Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:00:37 +0000

The appointment of new peers last week has pushed the size of the Lords to its greatest since it was last reformed in 1999. Meg Russell highlights the issues behind having such a large and ‘unruly’ Upper House and argues the situation has now reached crisis point. Reform to both allow existing peers to depart […]

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The Lords Leader and Cabinet controversies

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 11:30:11 +0000

The Prime Minister has angered peers by appointing Baroness Stowell as Leader of the House of Lords without appointing her to the Cabinet. In a scathing debate last Monday David Cameron was criticised for diminishing the status of the Lords Leader, and thus the chamber itself. Meg Russell and Robert Hazell highlight that the row, and […]

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Defining the office of Prime Minister

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:00:36 +0000

The British Prime Minister has extensive and growing powers, yet the role is ill-defined in UK constitutional documents. Graham Allen argues in favour of clarifying the role of the Prime Minister. He also suggests it should become a directly elected office, to ensure that it is properly answerable to the UK public. It is symptomatic of the British […]

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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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