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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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Concerns about the Steel/Byles Lords reform bill: a summary

Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:01:07 +0000

David Steel’s Lords reform bill (previously sponsored in the Commons by Dan Byles) had its second reading in the chamber on Friday. Last night the Constitution Unit and Constitution Society jointly hosted a meeting in the Lords to discuss concerns about the bill. Its main provisions – allowing peers to retire, and for the expulsion of serious criminals - have […]

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Does Commons “financial privilege” on Lords amendments need reform?

Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:18:22 +0000

During its initial passage through the House of Lords in 2011-12, the government suffered seven defeats on amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill. The defeats concerned highly contentious policies, including changes to housing support (the “bedroom tax”), the introduction of a benefit cap, disability benefits, and the reform of the child maintenance system. When the […]

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The Byles/Steel bill – unless amended – holds grave dangers for the Lords

Wed, 05 Mar 2014 18:06:28 +0000

On Friday 28 February Dan Byles’ Private Member’s Bill on Lords reform completed its Commons passage. It is now in the Lords, and will be sponsored by David Steel. The bill, which allows retirement from the Lords and expulsion of non-attendees and serious criminals, has been presented as a small, uncontroversial “housekeeping” measure. But as […]

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

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The Constitution Unit

Page last modified on 15 aug 13 11:17

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