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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

This chapter looks specifically at the UK Parliament as this is the central institution of the UK political system. It describes the people in Parliament, its internal makeup, and the way in which it is changing. The chapter examines the roles of members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. It considers the four basic functions of Parliament: providing a basis of government, holding government to account, producing legislation, and interacting with the wider public. The chapter describes three practical examples to help illustrate some of its themes. These are the following: the 2010–15 coalition government’s attempts to reform the House of Lords; the 2009 Wright Committee proposals for parliamentary reform and their implementation; and the practice of pre-appointed hearings conducted by parliamentary committees.

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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

This chapter evaluates the institution of the UK Parliament, where parliamentarians have a chance to debate issues of the day and to make laws. It reviews classic arguments about the power of Parliament in relation to the executive, before looking at the role of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The account is still influenced by the Westminster system of government, whereby the executive in the form of the government is sustained in power by having a majority in the House of Commons. The chapter then considers what Members of Parliament (MPs) and other representatives do in office, and how their behaviour links to other features of the political process, such as public opinion and constituency interests. It also compares other legislatures, such as the Scottish Parliament, with the UK Parliament.

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

1. The Starting Point  

Understanding the Political System

This chapter discusses what makes British politics distinctive and recognizable: its parliamentary democracy, uncodified constitution, and pattern of party government. It begins by outlining some recent events that have made British or UK politics so fascinating and controversial. The chapter then describes the political system, particularly the institutional rules that affect what happens and govern how politics takes place. Parliament, composed of the House of Commons, House of Lords, and the Crown, is the supreme legal authority in the UK. The chapter also provides a summary of the British constitution. It places the UK in a comparative context, to be studied alongside other nation states. Finally, the chapter sets out the information and concepts that help in understanding the nature of and limits to British democracy.

Chapter

Peter Dorey and Matthew Purvis

This chapter examines the issue of representation in the House of Lords. The existence of the unelected House of Lords has long been the subject of criticism, particularly from the Left. This is because the House of Lords today remains an almost wholly nominated, unelected, parliamentary institution, with most peers formally appointed by the Queen. However, some peers are also appointed by a House of Lords Appointments Commission, primarily those of a non-political nature. Such appointments have sparked accusations that the House of Lords is not representative, which runs counter to Britain's status as a parliamentary democracy. The chapter considers four discrete modes of representation and representativeness vis-à-vis the House of Lords: political representativeness, social representativeness, individual representation, and sectional representation.

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

This chapter examines the scrutiny function of the House of Lords. It first provides an overview of conventions informing the scrutiny role of the House of Lords, including the Salisbury Convention and the financial privilege of the House of Commons which concerns its special right to decide levels of public taxation and public spending. It also considers the position of the House of Lords with respect to secondary legislation before discussing the many different ways in which the House of Lords fulfils its scrutiny function, such as scrutinizing draft primary legislation as part of the legislative process, as well as secondary legislation in committees; conducting in-depth inquiries; investigating matters of public policy in committees; questioning the government through oral and written questions; participating in debates on current issues and the findings of committees; and scrutinizing the government's actions in the Council of the European Union.