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.
Ed Beale, Libby Kurien, and Eve Samson
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.
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.
This chapter focuses upon the European Parliament (EP), an institution that has seen its power dramatically increase in recent times. The EP has been transformed from being a relatively powerless institution into one that is able to have a genuine say in the legislative process and hold the European Union’s executive bodies (the Commission and Council, introduced in Chapters 9 and 10) to account in a range of policy areas. However, increases in the Parliament’s formal powers have not been matched by an increase in popular legitimacy: turnout in European elections is falling. Thus, while the EP’s legislative power is comparable to that enjoyed by many national parliaments, it has struggled to connect with the wider European public. The chapter explores these issues in detail. In the first section, the EP’s evolution from talking shop to co-legislator is reviewed; its powers and influence are explained in the next section; the EP’s internal structure and organization are then discussed with a focus upon the role and behaviour of the political groups, and finally, the European Parliament’s representative function as the EU’s only directly elected institution is discussed.
William Abel, Elizabeth Kahn, Tom Parr, and Andrew Walton
This chapter assesses when, if ever, a state should restrict hate speech. Political disputes about this topic are part of broader disagreements about the limits of freedom of expression. The chapter makes a case for restricting hate speech when, and on the grounds that, it incites or makes more likely harm to particular members of society. It considers whether some familiar justifications for freedom of expression provide a persuasive case against this view, exploring arguments that appeal to autonomy, individual interests in expression, and the dangers of granting the state regulatory power. None of these justifications supports the protection of hate speech. The chapter then sketches the kinds of hate speech legislation that these arguments justify.
This chapter is concerned with the international politics of refugees and forced migration. It shows how they are produced and managed in the context of contemporary globalization. Forced migration, the chapter defines, is the compulsory mobility of people due to existing and potential threats, mostly in the Global South and East. The chapter explains that these threats are related to a variety of international issues, and highlights the fact that there is debate concerning the underlying causes, including on-going colonial legacies and existing power relations. In order to discuss forced migration, with an emphasis on the international politics of refugee legislation and law, the chapter locates the subject within the field of international relations (IR). It goes on to provide an overview of the conceptual debate, presenting a critical discussion of new ways of characterizing forced migration, along with their analytical and policy implications. It then considers how policy-makers classify various types of forced migration. Finally, it describes the institutions informing the international regime that governs refugees, their specific definitions of the term, and subsidiary categories.
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.
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.
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.
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.