The Constitution Unit



Theresa May

In one sense, all the Constitution Unit’s work involves government, and the Constitution Unit has worked closely with governments of all persuasions in planning and implementing their constitutional reform programmes.  It has also worked closely with opposition parties.  Because of Robert Hazell’s own background in the civil service, the Unit has particularly close connections with Whitehall; and amongst our honorary staff are senior civil servants who work with the Unit in their retirement.

Two of our recent projects were led by retired senior civil servants. Peter Waller is lead a study of Pre-Appointment Scrutiny Hearings, revisiting earlier work in 2009 which looked at the first 20 such hearings. Alan Cogbill is leading a new study of Non-Executive Directors on Whitehall boards, which will start by compiling a database of all the NEDs and their backgrounds. Previous projects include our 2009 study of hung Parliaments which recommended the need for a Cabinet Manual in the UK.  We then studied the workings of the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2011; and that led to a study of Special Advisers in 2012-13.  Full details of all our projects on the inner workings of government are listed below.


Pre-appointment Scrutiny Hearings 

Many senior public appointments have been subject to scrutiny by parliamentary select committees since 2007.  This project examines the impact of these processes, updating earlier Constitution Unit research published in 2010 and 2011.

Non-Executive Directors in Whitehall

This project analyses the contribution of non-executive directors to Whitehall departmental boards.

Special Advisers

This project asks: who are special advisers; how are they appointed; what do they do; and how can their role and effectiveness be improved? It is very difficult to talk about the role of special advisers in government and the impact they have without having an evidence base from which to work. We aim to remedy this through the construction of a database and semi-structured interviews with special advisers, their ministers and civil servants.

Government Lawyers

The Unit begun a short project examining the role of government lawyers: what do they do, and what is the nature of their influence in Whitehall?

Coalition Government in the UK

In a 12-month research project we studied coalition governance in the UK. Examining how the new coalition government works is vital, as the UK appears to be moving toward a multiparty system, making hung parliaments more likely in the future.

Ministers from outside parliament

The project looks at a number of different questions about the arguments for and against having ministers from outside Parliament, their accountability, and the lessons to be learnt from overseas.

Minority and Multi-Party Government

The project's findings shows how minority government can work effectively in the interests of good government and a stronger Parliament. It draws on lessons from New Zealand and Canada - and from the SNP minority government in Scotland.

Coalition Governments: Lessons from Overseas

The Unit undertook a major review of the way that coalition governments are formed and operate in various countries overseas.

Recent Publications

Forming a Govt