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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.


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.


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.


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.