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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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Can David Cameron call a second election? How does that fit with the Fixed Term Parliaments Act?

Fri, 22 May 2015 10:00:34 +0000

Robert Hazell outlines how the Fixed Term Parliaments Act restricts the new government from calling a second election. He writes that if Cameron wanted to take a gamble to boost his slender majority, he would have to work within the confines of the Act given the likely complexities of any attempt to repeal it. Now […]

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Cameron’s parliamentary challenge #2: Managing the Lords

Mon, 11 May 2015 08:25:54 +0000

As the fallout from the general election is dissected, some commentators have noted the challenges facing Cameron’s new government in managing the House of Commons with such small majority. But Meg Russell warns that his challenges in managing the House of Lords could be even greater. The country is now adjusting to a Conservative majority government […]

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The new government’s constitutional reform agenda – and its challenges

Sat, 09 May 2015 08:30:34 +0000

Following the surprise election of a Conservative government with a small majority, Meg Russell and Robert Hazell offer an overview of the constitutional reforms which are likely to be prioritised and the associated difficulties that may arise. Now that the election result is clear, it’s possible to start thinking through the likely constitutional reforms on […]

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

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