Legislators, Representatives and Experts: influencing parliamentary reform
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Lincoln
Unit of AssessmentPolitics and International Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science
Summary of the impact
Through engagement with government, parliamentary committees, individual
parliamentarians, and the media, this research has generated impact which
is both significant and far reaching. It has influenced substantive reform
in parliamentary oversight of the intelligence and security agencies and
contributed to proposals for House of Lords reform. It has also informed
debates about various aspects of parliamentary reform by challenging
prevailing assumptions, including through engagement with the media and by
influencing the work of other groups with an interest in parliamentary
reform, such as the Electoral Reform Society and the Equality and Human
Recent years have seen renewed debate about the role of Parliament, and
parliamentary reform. The research that underpins this case study has
sought to broaden understanding and influence debate in relation to the
legislative, scrutiny and representative roles of Parliament in a number
of policy areas. Modernisation, social policies and welfare reform were
key elements of the Labour governments' reform programme from 1997, and of
the Coalition government elected in 2010. Research on Parliament and the
intelligence services anticipated and coincided with proposals by the
Coalition Government for significant reform of parliamentary scrutiny of
the intelligence services.
The case study draws upon a number of related pieces of research focusing
on the common themes of legislative scrutiny and the representative role
Parliament and Welfare Policy (2004-2007) — research examined
the role of parliament in relation to a key area of public policy.
Focusing in particular on MPs' attitudes towards welfare, and their
perception of their role and influence on policy, it drew upon
interviews with 10% of MPs and a small number of Peers;
The House of Lords and Welfare Policy (2008-2009) — a grant
from the Nuffield Foundation allowed Bochel and Defty to expand their
research by focusing on the attitudes to and scrutiny of social policy
in the House of Lords. This involved interviews with 10% of members of
the House of Lords. This research also explored a number of issues
related to the role of the House of Lords, particularly in the context
of proposals for reform;
Parliamentary scrutiny of the Intelligence and Security Services
(2009-2012) — this project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, built upon
earlier research by Defty. Through detailed analysis of parliamentary
business, coupled with interviews with a large sample of
parliamentarians, the research provided a new and groundbreaking
assessment of the extent to which Parliament is effective in
scrutinising intelligence and security issues, and its capacity to
provide effective oversight of the intelligence and security agencies.
- The research on Parliament and welfare policy found, for example, some
evidence to support claims for the emergence of a new cross-party
consensus on welfare, particularly in the House of Commons.
- The research on the House of Lords challenged existing arguments about
the perceived expertise of the Second Chamber, and provided new evidence
of the various ways in which `representation' is understood within and
in relation to the House of Lords. It also identified significantly less
consensus than in the House of Commons, which may have significant
implications for the passage of social policy legislation.
- While existing research on Parliament and the intelligence services
had focused almost exclusively on the work of the Intelligence and
Security Committee, this project considered other actual and potential
forms of parliamentary scrutiny of intelligence, including parliamentary
questions, debates and select committees. This significantly expanded
upon existing knowledge. It suggested that in addition to the form and
powers of legislative oversight committees, alternative variables in
determining the effectiveness of legislative oversight may be the extent
to which legislatures are interested in the work of intelligence and
security agencies, and the extent of parliamentary knowledge and
understanding of intelligence.
The research was carried out by Professor Hugh Bochel (PI) and Dr Andrew
Defty (CI). For the parliament and intelligence project a research
associate, Dr Andrew Dunn, was appointed in November 2009. Dunn left the
University in August 2010 (he returned as a lecturer in Social Policy in
April 2013 and is submitted under UOA22) and was replaced by Jane
Kirkpatrick. Defty was promoted from Research Fellow to Senior Lecturer in
2010, and to Reader in 2013.
References to the research
Nuffield Foundation, Small Grants Scheme (SGS/34825), £7,402, The House
of Lords and Welfare Policy, awarded: June 2007, completed: June 2008.
Leverhulme Trust, Research Project Grant £96,879, Parliamentary Scrutiny
of the Intelligence and Security Services, awarded: 2009 completed: 2012.
Bochel, H. and Defty, A. (2007) Welfare Policy Under New Labour:
Views from Inside Westminster, Bristol: The Policy Press.
Defty, A. (2008) `Educating Parliamentarians about Intelligence: The Role
of the British Intelligence and Security Committee', Parliamentary
Affairs, 61, 4: 621-641.
Bochel, H. and Defty, A. (2010) `A Question of Expertise: The House of
Lords and Welfare Policy', Parliamentary Affairs, 63, 1: 66-84
Bochel, H. and Defty, A. (2012) `"A More Representative Chamber":
Representation and the House of Lords', Journal of Legislative
Studies, 18, 1: 82-97.
Details of the impact
This research has generated significant and wide reaching impact.
Dissemination of research outputs and engagement with the media has informed
the debate by challenging existing views in a number of key areas of
reform. It has also had a significant direct influence on the reform
process through contributions to government consultations and select
committee inquiries, and the dissemination of findings to policymakers. It
has also had a wider reach by influencing others with an interest
in reform, who have used it in various ways to support their own proposals
and submissions to the reform process.
The House of Lords: expertise and reform
Informing the debate — research on expertise in the
House of Lords has had a particular impact. The article, `A question of
expertise', was featured in a package on Radio 4's The Westminster
Hour in 2010, which included an interview with one of the authors
(1). It has also been referenced in a number of House of Lords library
notes, including on House of Lords reform, regional representation in
the House of Lords, and the House of Lords Appointments Commission (2).
Influencing the reform process — the researchers
submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords
Reform Bill in 2011. Several aspects of this evidence were referred to
in the Committee's report, in particular on the patchy nature of
expertise in the House, the fairness of places reserved for particular
religious groups, and concerns about the efficacy of the Government's
proposals for by-elections to the second chamber (3). The research also
informed a submission in 2011 by the researchers to the House of Lords
Constitution Committee's inquiry into the process of constitutional
reform, which was also referenced in the Committee's report (4).
Wider reach — the research has influenced other groups
interested in House of Lords reform, featuring, for example, in the
Electoral Reform Society's evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft
House of Lords Reform Bill, to support the Society's call for a
deepening of expertise within the second chamber, and in the Campaign
for Science and Engineering's policy report on House of Lords Reform
and Expertise (5).
Parliament and the intelligence and security services
Informing the debate — the research has been carried out
at a time when there has been considerable debate over the scrutiny of
intelligence, and has fed into this debate at a number of levels. It has
twice been discussed on BBC Radio 4's The Westminster Hour (in
2009 and 2011) in relation to proposed reform of the Intelligence and
Security Committee (ISC), including a debate between Defty and a former
Chair of the ISC (6). It has been cited in a number of House of Commons
briefing papers on the ISC (7).
Influencing the reform process — evidence submitted by
the researchers to the government's consultation on the Security and
Justice Green paper (2011) had a direct influence on subsequent
proposals for reform. The submission was cited several times in the
government's response, and several of the recommendations and elements
of the subsequent Bill reflected those from the submission. The research
provided evidence, including data from interviews with over 100
parliamentarians, that highlighted considerable support for reform of
the ISC, including its reconstitution as a committee of parliament, a
position which was subsequently adopted in the Justice and Security
Bill. The Government's response also highlighted the submission's
recommendation that `the ISC could and should do more to engage with
Parliament in order to enhance wider knowledge and understanding of the
Agencies and the nature and limitations of intelligence', and, following
reform, the ISC has moved towards holding some evidence sessions in
public (8). This research also contributed to submissions by Bochel,
Defty, Kirkpatrick and others to the House of Lords Constitution
Committee's 2011 inquiry into the process of constitutional reform, and
on the restrictions on the interception of MPs' communications to the
Government's consultation on Parliamentary Privilege in 2012.
- the interviews conducted for this research themselves also provided
significant engagement with key individuals — senior officials,
Ministers and other parliamentarians — who were directly involved in the
formulation of proposals for reform of the Intelligence and Security
Committee. A summary of findings was also sent to all participants and
other interested parties in 2012. Correspondence shows, for example,
that the briefing paper was read by the Secretary of State for Justice
and the Minister for Justice, while the Clerk of the Joint Committee on
the National Security Strategy circulated it to Committee members. The
research also prompted at least one MP to table a number of
parliamentary questions regarding the interception of MPs'
Wider reach — as with the research on the House of
Lords, this research also impacted on other organisations interested in
reform. The researchers' earlier work on reform of the ISC featured in
the Equality and Human Rights Commission's submission to the Justice and
Security Consultation, and was cited in Democratic Audit's 2012 audit of
democracy in the UK, which highlighted the research's emphasis on the
role of select committees as providing an alternative means of scrutiny
beyond the ISC (10).
Sources to corroborate the impact
- BBC Radio 4, The Westminster Hour, 12 September 2010,
- House of Lords Library Notes, Possible Implications of House of
Lords Reform, 25 June 2010,
Regional Representation in the House of Lords, 6 March 2012, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/LLN-2012-007;
House of Lords Appointments Commission, 9 May 2012, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/LLN-2012-016.
- Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill, Report,
2010-2012, Draft House of Lords Reform Bill, 23 April 2012,
- House of Lords, Select Committee on the Constitution, 15th
Report, 2010-2012, The Process of Constitutional Change, 18 July
- Campaign for Science and Engineering, Policy Report, House of
Lords Reform and Expertise, June 2012, http://sciencecampaign.org.uk/?p=10018.
- BBC Radio 4, The Westminster Hour, 1 February 2009,
BBC Radio 4, The Westminster Hour, 21 August 2011,
- House of Commons Library, Standard Notes: The Intelligence and
Security Committee, 21 April 2009 http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN02178.pdf;
The Intelligence and Security Committee: A Select Bibliography,
18 October 2011, http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06126.pdf.
Justice and Security Consultation, Government Response, 29 May
- Letter from Lord McNally, Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, 16
February 2012; Letter from Karl McCartney, MP, 7 March 2012; Hansard
Parliamentary debates — Commons 14 November 2011, col.501W, 15 Nov 2011
- Green Paper on Justice and Security — response of the Equality and
Human Rights Commission, http://consultation.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/justiceandsecurity/wp-content/uploads/2012/58_Equality%20and%20Human%20Rights%20Commission.pdf;
Wilks-Heeg, S., Blick, A., and Crone, S. (2012) How Democratic is
the UK? The 2012 Audit, Liverpool: Democratic Audit.