Legislation at Westminster: Parliamentary Actors and Influence in the Making of British Law
Although the British Westminster parliament is one of the most visible in the world it is often considered relatively weak in the policy process. This applies in particular to parliament’s core role of making legislation. Yet there has been little recent study of the Westminster legislative process. This book, written by Constitution Unit Director Meg Russell and former Constitution Unit researcher Daniel Gover, is the largest study of its kind in over 40 years, following publication in 1974 of J.A.G. Griffith’s Parliamentary Influence on Government Bills.
Russell and Gover’s Legislation at Westminster is the principal output of a major Constitution Unit project funded by the Nuffield Foundation, which explored parliament’s influence in the legislative process through close study of 12 government bills passing through both chambers. Based on study of the over 4000 amendments proposed to the bills, and more than 100 interviews with key protagonists, the book explores the dynamics of the legislative process and the various sets of parliamentary actors that contribute. It offers an overview of the legislative process, and of parliament’s influence within that process, as well as a set of chapters focusing on the specific contributions of different actors: the government, opposition, government backbenchers, non-party parliamentarians, select committees, pressure groups, and groups of parliamentarians working together on a cross-party basis.
The book draws important conclusions about the dynamics of how legislation is agreed at Westminster, the contribution of both chambers of parliament to British policy-making, and more generically the way in which legislatures work in parliamentary systems. Full of real-world examples and lively quotations from protagonists, as well as robust quantitative analysis of the fate of amendments, the book will be of interest to both academic audiences with an interest in British politics, the British parliament or comparative legislative studies, and audiences outside academia who simply want to understand how legislation is made, how parliament really works, or how they themselves can influence the process.
What others say about the book:
"A very important book. It needs to be read by all who think that parliament doesn't work & the law should fill the gap." Sir Stephen Laws, Former First Parliamentary Counsel
"Lots of people have views about how Westminster works – or doesn’t. But few bother to put in the necessary work to research the place properly. Two outstanding exceptions to that rule are Meg Russell and Daniel Gover. This book is a model example of how to study parliament." Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics, Queen Mary University of London
"Russell and Gover provide a nuanced and comprehensive examination of the influence of Westminster on policy-making in the UK, challenging the common interpretation of the UK parliament as ‘rubber stamp’ or ‘talking shop’. Though focused on the UK case, Legislation at Westminster provides useful insights into the myriad tools that parliaments can deploy in their efforts to shape legislation, making it a valuable resource for all interested in legislatures, executive-legislative relations and the policy process more generally." Amie Kreppel, Jean Monnet Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Florida
"If you want to know the true story of how parliament legislates, read this book carefully. If you think you already know, then read it even more carefully – as this is about real bills and the politics behind and within each of them, and it may well contain things that surprise you. If instead you’re interested in politics but not in legislation at Westminster, then you’re missing something: there is more going on than meets the eye!" David Natzler, Clerk of the House of Commons
“I would like to congratulate Meg and Daniel. I think the book is admirable, I think it’s elegant and important, and as a former historian by trade, I am amazed at the long, careful, fastidious attention to detail that Meg and Daniel engaged in. It made my head spin, so well done to you.” Baroness (Patricia) Hollis of Heigham, Labour member of the House of Lords