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Chapter

This chapter discusses the administrative organization and governance of the UK Parliament — that is, the way in which the two Houses of Parliament are directed, managed, and led. More specifically, it deals with the administration or governance of services to Members of Parliament (MPs), and how that is organized. The discussion begins with an overview of the peculiar nature of Parliament as a public institution, highlighting five features which make governance and reform of governance difficult. The chapter then considers the basic structure of governance in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords, taking into account the statutory House of Commons Commission and the non-statutory House of Lords Commission, before describing contemporary developments in both Houses. It also looks at two future developments that may affect parliamentary governance and administration: the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster, and the issue of shared parliamentary services.

Chapter

This chapter considers the impact of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 on the UK Parliament. Since 2005, FOI 2000 has helped make both the House of Commons and the House of Lords more open and accountable. The most high-profile effect of the law came in 2009, when it played a part in exposing the abuse of the expense allowance system. Despite the scandal, it is not clear whether FOI has transformed the culture of the two Houses. Nevertheless, the law has indirectly sparked a series of other reforms, so that FOI now sits alongside a whole range of instruments intended to make Parliament more open and accessible. The chapter first provides an overview of what FOIs consist of, their application to legislatures and Westminster specifically, before analysing the extent of the impact of FOI 2000 on the UK Parliament.

Chapter

Paul Evans, Louise Thompson, and Cristina Leston-Bandeira

This text examines changes and continuities in the UK Parliament, the institution's contemporary work in its wide range of roles, its relevance in the twenty-first century, and the challenges it is facing today. It describes both the formal and informal work of Parliament and its members, focusing on common notions about the institution's relationship with the executive as a one-sided affair. The goal is to offer a rounded view of the work of Parliament as a multilayered and complex actor and its place in the wider political context as well as to highlight the importance of its historical development to its work today. The text looks at various aspects of Parliament, from governance to the legislative cycle, and even its design and space. This introduction discusses the ever changing relationship between the monarch, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords.

Chapter

Marc Geddes and Jessica Mulley

This chapter examines the way the UK Parliament is administered and organized in terms of the support offered by the institution to Members of Parliament (MPs) and peers to fulfil their parliamentary, political, and policy functions. The House of Commons employs roughly 2,500 and the House of Lords around 500 members of staff, in addition to staff in the bicameral Parliamentary Digital Service. These staff provide invaluable and impartial support to Parliament. This chapter considers the political and non-political sources of support provided to MPs and peers in carrying out their role and how the resources available to parliamentarians have increased over the past two decades through a range of parliamentary reforms. It also discusses key issues and debates arising from the support given to MPs and peers, including the issue over whether staff exist to serve the institution of Parliament or to support parliamentarians.

Chapter

Alexandra Kelso

This chapter examines the role of select committees in the UK Parliament, and more specifically how they enable lawmakers in the House of Commons to pool their scrutiny efforts by working together as a formally constituted team. Select committees are cross-party, with membership restricted to backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) and reflecting the party balance in the House. These committees determine their own work agendas and decide for themselves which topics to investigate. Committee work is structured around running focused inquiries into specific issues, ranging from antisemitism to foster care. The chapter first considers the effectiveness of select committees before discussing some major developments that the departmental select committee system has undergone over the last four decades with regard to elected committee chairs and membership, committee activity, addressing highly controversial topics, and developing policy expertise.

Chapter

Mark Shephard and Jack Simson Caird

This chapter considers the nature and roles of backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) as well as their impact and influence, placing emphasis on the Backbench Business Committee. The term ‘backbench’ refers to where the MPs or peers sit in the House of Commons — behind those with either ministerial frontbench or shadow ministerial frontbench positions. The definition of a backbencher holds in many other parliamentary systems where the executive is drawn from the legislative branch (for example, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia). However, emphasis on the role of backbenchers might vary depending on the parliamentary system. The chapter discusses the role of backbenchers in the UK Parliament, such as supporting their party; scrutinizing government; representing and furthering the interests of their constituency and constituents; contributing to policy development; and promotion of public understanding.

Chapter

Thomas Caygill and Anne-Marie Griffiths

This chapter examines how the UK Parliament has used the e-petitions system to address some of the common criticisms about the relationship between the institution of government and the public. In May 2014, the House of Commons agreed to establish a ‘collaborative’ e-petitions system which would enable the public to petition the House of Commons and to call for action from the government. A Petitions Committee was created on 20 July 2015, and the new e-petitions site was launched the following day. The chapter first provides an overview of the changing nature of participation with Parliament, especially voting in elections, before discussing contemporary developments in petitioning Parliament. In particular, it considers public (paper) petitions and compares it to the e-petitions system. It also analyses the impact of e-petitions on Parliament and public participation and concludes with an assessment of challenges facing the e-petitions system.

Chapter

Robert Hazell and Fergus Reid

This chapter considers the ways in which backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) exploit their right to introduce legislation — known as private members' bills (PMBs). The PMB process has been criticized for allegedly being opaque, misleading, and virtually discredited inside and outside the UK Parliament. Yet, each session, more than 450 backbenchers enter the Commons PMB ballot for a priority slot. The chapter first explains the terms ‘hybrid bill’, ‘private bill’, and ‘public bill’ before discussing the difference between PMBs and government bills. It also examines the importance of time when considering PMBs, the three routes to a PMB in the House of Commons, a typical second reading Friday in the Commons, and the PMB ballot in the House of Lords. Finally, it analyses efforts to reform PMB procedures and why, despite flaws and frustrations, PMBs are seen by many MPs as a useful tool for advancing their agendas and campaigns.

Chapter

Rosie Campbell, Sarah Childs, and Elizabeth Hunt

This chapter examines the progress of women's participation and representation in the House of Commons. It first considers women's descriptive representation in the House of Commons over the last century, with emphasis on the differences in the proportion of women Members of Parliament (MPs) elected by the main political parties. It explains improvements in the numbers of women MPs in the last decade or so, together with the party asymmetry, by reference to the supply and demand model of political recruitment. It then reviews arguments for women's equal participation in politics, taking into account how women's descriptive representation intersects with symbolic and substantive representation. It also discusses resistance to the claim that women's representation matters and concludes with an analysis of the masculinized nature of the political institution that women MPs inhabit, along with the recommendations made in the 2016 The Good Parliament report.