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8. Parliamentary Scrutiny and Influence on Government Bills  

Meg Russell and Daniel Gover

This chapter examines the political dynamics of legislative scrutiny, with an emphasis on how parliamentary policy influence works. A central function of legislatures is legislating. In the case of the UK Parliament, the treatment of legislation is one of the most time-consuming activities, with both Houses spending the great majority of that time scrutinizing government bills. The chapter first introduces the reader to common assumptions, including the idea that government dominates the process, with Parliament acting as little more than a ‘rubber stamp’, before questioning these various assumptions. It shows that non-government amendments may ‘fail’ but can nonetheless be influential, that government amendments do not necessarily imply government dominance, that the two Chambers often operate in cooperation rather than competition, and that parliamentary influence occurs throughout the policy process. Furthermore, the chapter suggests that the legislative process is less separate from other processes than it might appear.

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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.

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10. EU Legislation  

Ed Beale, Libby Kurien, and Eve Samson

This chapter examines the ways in which the UK Parliament formally constrains the government and engages with European Union (EU) institutions. The House of Lords and the House of Commons both have processes to ensure that legislation proposed at the EU level has been properly reviewed before it takes effect in UK law. The ‘scrutiny reserve’, which stipulates that ministers should not agree to proposals under scrutiny, is used to elicit information about the government's negotiating position. Parliament also has a role in examining EU legislation and providing direct access to European institutions. The chapter first provides an overview of the EU legislative process, focusing on three principal EU institutions: member states, the European Parliament (EP), and the European Commission. It also considers the formal role of national parliaments in the EU legislative process, the UK Parliament's scrutiny of the EU legislation and its effectiveness, and parliamentary scrutiny after Brexit.

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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.

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19. Scrutiny by the House of Lords  

Patrick Milner

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.