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Chapter

Cover UK Politics

4. Parliament  

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.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

14. Accountability in Parliament  

Mark Bennister and Phil Larkin

This chapter focuses on the accountability of the government to Parliament. One way to conceptualize the place of the UK Parliament in the accountability process is as part of a ‘chain of delegation’, whereby democratic authority lies in the hands of the citizens. Due to lack of time and expertise to participate actively in the day-to-day process of running the country, however, these citizens delegate much of this responsibility to a subset of their number who become parliamentarians. Parliamentarians in turn delegate much of this role to a further subset of their number who become the government. The chapter first considers accountability in the Westminster model before discussing recent reforms of accountability mechanisms and how they have increased Parliament's capacity to scrutinize government. Examples of the strengthening of the accountability function include stronger select committees, the use of urgent questions, and Liaison Committee sessions with the prime minister.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

16. Select Committees  

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

Cover Exploring Parliament

28. Parliament and Modernization  

Mark Goodwin and Martyn Atkins

This chapter examines the path to modernization taken in the UK Parliament since 1997. Parliament has found it difficult to keep pace with changes in the wider society. As the key representative institution in the country, Parliament continues to hold on to many elements of the pre-democratic era. The chapter first considers the meaning of modernization before discussing the reforms sought by the Modernisation Committee, many of which concerned ownership and control of parliamentary time. It then analyzes the efforts of the Modernisation Committee to increase the effectiveness of parliamentary scrutiny and to address the representative function of Parliament. It also looks at the creation of the Wright Committee that replaced the Modernisation Committee, along with Parliament's technological modernization and modernization of the institution's working practices.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

9. Committee Scrutiny of Legislation  

Louise Thompson and Tony McNulty

This chapter deals with committee scrutiny of legislation, focusing on common perceptions of the committee stage and its role in bringing about changes to government legislation. In the UK Parliament, legislation which follows the normal passage of a bill will at some point have a committee stage, where Members of Parliament (MPs) or peers can review the text of the bill in detail. It is common for bills to receive their committee stage in public bill committees. The chapter first considers how the committee stage is planned before discussing the legislative, procedural, and political contexts in which bill committees work. It then examines traditional assumptions about committee scrutiny of bills, along with contemporary developments in parliamentary scrutiny of legislation. In particular, it looks at the benefits of evidence-taking, ministerial behaviour in committees, the impact of committees in the latter stages of the legislative process, and the wider function of the committee stage.

Chapter

Cover Politics in the European Union

14. The European Council and the Council of the European Union (EU)  

This chapter focuses on two European Union (EU) institutions that are principally composed of government representatives: the European Council and the Council of the EU. By virtue of their composition of government representatives (government heads, ministers, and civil servants), both the European Council and the Council of the EU remain part of a hierarchy of EU institutions. The chapter first provides an overview of definitions and distinctions, before discussing the intergovernmentalism of the European Council and how the Council of the European Union helped increase the supranationalism of the EU. It also considers the role of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and various preparatory committees.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

15. Evidence from Outside  

Andrew Defty and Hannah White

This chapter considers the UK Parliament's use of external evidence in the scrutiny of policy and legislation. Throughout the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century, Members of Parliament (MPs) drew on their professional experience outside of Parliament to provide informed scrutiny of government policy and legislation. Since the latter part of the twentieth century, however, there has been a significant increase in opportunities for Parliament to draw on external evidence. Today, external evidence occupies a central place in Parliament's scrutiny and legislative functions. The chapter first examines how select committees scrutinize policy and administration, making a distinction between written evidence and oral evidence, before discussing the impact of evidence-taking on the legislative process for draft bills that are subject to scrutiny by public bill committees. It also describes formal mechanisms by which evidence and expertise are drawn into Parliament.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

16. The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions:  

consultative institutions in a multichannel democracy

Gabriele Abels

This chapter investigates the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR), two bodies established in 1957 and 1992, respectively. Both Committees are consultative; their rationale is to provide expertise to EU legislators and to represent functional respectively territorial interests. These organs share a number of similarities with regard to their legal basis and policymaking influence. Both have pursued diverse activities beyond their official mandates in a quest to find their own identities and exercise voice in the EU system. This chapter analyses these committees with regard to their development, membership, and activities, illustrating how both embraced timely topics and seek to involve themselves in the larger debate on the future of Europe. Thereby, they contribute to the EU’s development as a complex, multilevel, and multichannel democracy.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

14. The Committee of Permanent Representatives:  

integrating interests and the logics of action

Jeffrey Lewis

The Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) originated as a diplomatic forum to meet regularly and prepare meetings of the Council of Ministers. It quickly and quietly evolved into a locus of continuous negotiation and de facto decision-making, gaining a reputation as ‘the place to do the deal’. This reputation is based on insulation from domestic audiences and an unrivalled ability to make deals stick across a range of issue areas and policy subjects. Most importantly, Coreper spotlights the process of integrating interests in a collective decision-making system with its own organizational culture, norms, and style of discourse. In actual operation, the Committee has much to offer institutional theorizing, as multiple ‘logics’ of action are discernible and often complexly entwined.

Chapter

Cover Comparative European Politics

9. Parliaments  

Shane Martin

Parliaments are the cornerstone of representative democracy. This chapter examines the role and performance of national parliaments in European democracies. The chapter begins with a review of how parliaments are designed, including the number of chambers and the power of parliamentary committees. It discusses parliaments’ roles and functions, including law-making, government formation, oversight, and political representation, and assesses whether parliaments reflect the make-up of the citizenry at large. The chapter then discusses the possibility of strong parties and dominant executives within the legislative arena leading to weak parliaments, as well as recent attempts to strengthen the capacity of national parliaments.

Book

Cover Exploring Parliament

Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Louise Thompson

Exploring Parliament offers a fresh perspective on an ancient institution. It provides a real-life insight into the inner workings, impact, and relevance of twenty-first century Parliament. Short academic and practitioner chapters are combined with relevant and practical case studies, to provide an introduction to Parliament's structures, people, and practices. As well as covering the broader structure of UK Parliament, this text explains the role of small parties in law-making, the design and space of Parliament, and offers illuminating case studies on highly topical areas such as the Backbench Business Committee, the Hillsborough Inquiry and recent pieces of legislation such as the Assisted Dying Bill.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

18. The Role of a Backbench MP  

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

Cover Exploring Parliament

30. Parliament and Petitions  

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

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

15. European parties:  

a powerful caucus in the European Parliament and beyond

Tapio Raunio

The party system of the European Parliament (EP) has been dominated by the two main European party families: centre-right conservatives and Christian democrats, on the one hand, and centre-left social democrats on the other, which controlled the majority of the seats until the 2019 elections. In the early 1950s, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to form party-political groups, instead of national blocs, to counterbalance the dominance of national interests in the Council. Over the decades, the shape of the EP party system has become more stable, and traditional levels of group cohesion and coalition formation have not really been affected by the rise of populism and the increasing politicization of European integration. National parties remain influential within party groups, not least through their control of candidate selection. Outside of the Parliament, Europarties—parties operating at the European level—influence both the broader development of integration and the choice of the Commission president.

Chapter

Cover European Union Politics

10. The European Commission  

Morten Egeberg

This chapter provides a general introduction to the European Commission, the main executive body of the European Union (EU). It argues that it is more productive to compare the Commission to national executives or to a government than to a secretariat of a traditional international organization. It begins with a summary of the Commission’s functions within the EU’s policy process. It then considers the question of Commission influence and autonomy, before moving on to look at the structure, demography, and decision behaviour within the organization—that is, at the role of the President of the Commission and the Commissioners, at the Commissioners’ personal staffs, and at the Commission administration. It then examines the committees and administrative networks that link the Commission to national administrations and interest groups, and the recent growth of EU agencies. The chapter concludes by emphasizing that the Commission is much more of a European(ized) and supranational institution than it was at its inception.

Chapter

Cover Exploring Parliament

13. Small Parties and Law-making  

Margaret Arnott and Richard Kelly

This chapter discusses the role of smaller parties in the law-making process. General elections in the UK are conducted with an electoral system which militates against the representation of smaller political parties, particularly those having no strong support at the regional level. However, events at Westminster over the last decade have increased the prominence of smaller parties in the operation of parliamentary business. The chapter first considers the role of small parties in the UK Parliament, committees and legislation, as well as their participation in backbench debates before examining how the political and electoral context of Parliament, especially in the twenty-first century, has affected the representation of smaller parties and the ways in which reforms to parliamentary procedure since the 1980s have enhanced the role of the second opposition party. It suggests that Parliament today offers more opportunities for smaller political parties to influence debate and policy, but this remains quite limited.

Chapter

Cover Origins and Evolution of the European Union

10. From the Single Market to the Single Currency  

Dorothee Heisenberg

This chapter examines how France's dissatisfaction with de facto German dominance of the European Monetary System (EMS) set the European Community (EC) on the road to the economic and monetary union (EMU) in the late 1980s. It first considers the conduct and outcome of the Maastricht negotiations on EMU before discussing the rocky road to the launch of the single currency in 1999 and the experience of EMU since then. In particular, it analyses the difficulty of enforcing the Stability and Growth Pact for fiscal discipline among participating member states. It also looks at the Delors Committee and the role of Bundesbank president Karl-Otto Pöhl. Finally, the chapter explores attempts to coordinate fiscal policy management as well as the onset and impact of the eurozone crisis.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights

Human Rights and the Environment  

Sumudu Atapattu

This chapter considers the link between human rights and environmental protection. It covers the emergence of environmental rights and its correlation to the human rights framework as it provided relief to victims of environmental degradation and gave a voice to marginalized communities despite its limitations. The chapter provides an outline of the evolution of environmental rights starting from the enactment of the Stockholm Declaration on Human Environment. It then explores the recent development in environmental rights, such as the framework principles on human rights and the environment, Global Pact for the Environment and Environmental Rights Initiative. The UN Human Rights Committee handled the case of Teitiota v. New Zealand which revolved around climate refugees.

Chapter

Cover US Foreign Policy

19. Religion  

Lee Marsden

This chapter examines the influence of religion on US foreign policy. It first considers how religion affected American policy during the Cold War, from the time of Harry S. Truman to George H. W. Bush, before discussing the bilateral relationship between Israel and the United States. It then looks at the rise of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a US-based interest group, and how its work has been complemented by conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists who ascribe to Christian Zionism. It also explores the ways in which religion has intersected with the global war on terror and US foreign policy, how the US resorted to faith-based diplomacy, the issue of religious freedom, and George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Africa. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the Office of Religion and Global Affairs (ORGA), created by Barack Obama.