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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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The Lords’ declining reputation: The evidence

Wed, 02 Sep 2015 11:00:43 +0000

This week the House of Lords has been in the news for all the wrong reasons – with widespread criticism of David Cameron’s latest round of appointments, which have seen the already oversized chamber grow further still. Such negative stories have become common since Cameron became Prime Minister. Meg Russell reports on updated research about […]

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Is David Cameron actually seeking to destroy the Lords?

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:00:58 +0000

Yesterday’s new peerage appointments attracted almost universal criticism for further adding to the inexorable growth in size of the House of Lords under David Cameron. But could the gradual erosion of the Lords’ reputation actually benefit the government by weakening parliament? Might it even be a deliberate plan? And – given that the Prime Minister […]

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The Constitutional Standards of the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee: A valuable tool for enhancing scrutiny

Tue, 25 Aug 2015 11:00:47 +0000

To mark the launch of the second edition of The Constitutional Standards of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, Jack Simson Caird considers the role that a set of constitutional standards could play in the current government. Drawing on the example of English votes for English laws, he argues that such a code would increase […]

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