Shaping Devolution in Wales
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science
Law and Legal Studies: Law
Summary of the impact
The impact pertains to material changes instituted in UK devolution,
principally in Wales, but increasingly beyond. The impacts on public
policy, law and services are:
- Improved governance, operational and service provision within
- The reconfiguration of the legislative framework for devolution; and
- Improved political capacity in Wales to support devolution, including
in, but not restricted to, the main political institutions, practices
This impact occurred in the period from 2008-2013 and flowed from
research led by Professor Laura McAllister which had identified:
- The unsustainability of the `first' and `second' devolution settlement
for Wales; and
- The capacity required to discharge the principal duties of a
The underpinning research is translational in nature, using research
findings to identify solutions for real-world problems, and straddles two
- The unsustainability of the Government of Wales Acts of 1998 and 2006.
McAllister's research challenged the clarity, coherence and workability
of the first and second `models' of devolution that they framed, as well
as their impact on the operation of the National Assembly for Wales.
- The necessary capacity (defined as the political resources - human,
system, legislative, financial, fiscal) to discharge the principal
duties of a democratic parliament.
The research was undertaken after the advent of devolution in 1999 and up
to 2013 by McAllister (Professor, 1998-present), with Liverpool University
colleagues Stirbu, PhD 2005-9, and Cole, Lecturer 2007-present.
1999-2004: Innovative, exploratory research was conducted between 1998
(first Act) and 2004 (Richard Commission Report), around what McAllister
was the first to hypothesise as a flawed devolution model. This identified
the core system problems - legislative, administrative and political - and
generated subsequent projects around potential 'solutions'. This work drew
on traditional academic research and on McAllister's active engagement
with devolution practitioners, most notably as a member of the Richard
Commission on the Powers and Electoral Arrangements for the National
Assembly for Wales. Key research findings were: the unsustainability of
the first `settlement'; that executive devolution was unlikely to survive;
and that the Assembly was not `fit for purpose' due to systemic capacity
2005-2007: The early research described above, together with the Richard
Commission Report which McAllister co-authored, critiqued the devolution
model and articulated the intellectual case for change that then
influenced the White Paper, `Better
Governance for Wales', 2005, and which precipitated the second
Government of Wales Act, 2006. Whilst this Act addressed some of the flaws
in the first `settlement' (many of which had been identified and analysed
in Section 3.1-3), it left other areas untouched. Significantly, Part IV
of the Act included a trigger mechanism for future changes, subject to a
popular referendum. Subsequent research by McAllister (and McAllister and
Stirbu) on continuing flaws in the legislative process stimulated further
investigation of the second research theme - capacity constraints. The key
findings were that even with more expansive legislative competence, there
remained capacity issues that threatened organisational capability, good
governance and public confidence.
2008-2013: The political decision to enact Part IV of the Act in 2010 and
to trigger a referendum (held in March 2011) referenced system pressure
and constraints, and the intelligibility and workability of the
`settlement', as key rationales. This stimulated a third stage of research
by McAllister around political capacity. As the Assembly adjusted its own
operation to a fluid constitutional remodelling process, with a trajectory
for further legislative power, this brought significant pressures for the
management of parliamentary and political business by practitioners
(specifically, the CEO/Clerk, Presiding Officer, Deputy Presiding Officer,
Business Minister, Assembly Commission, Welsh Government officials).
McAllister's research developed and was crafted around administrative and
political capacity challenges, as well as exploring some potential
operational and legislative solutions. This included the function and
focus of committees, the management of parliamentary business, and support
for politicians, including remuneration, induction, training and staffing.
Some of this research was undertaken during a 14-month secondment to the
Assembly Commission, a secondment designed specifically to develop new
thinking around capacity.
References to the research
1994-2004: (initial exposure of constitutional flaws and critique of
first devolution settlement):
1. McAllister, L., (1999), `The Road to Cardiff Bay: The Process of
Establishing the National Assembly for Wales', in Parliamentary
Affairs, vol. 52, no. 4, pp. 634-648. (ABS rank 2*, impact factor
2005-2008: (development of critique to include capacity challenges from
legislative change and the second legislative `settlement').
2. McAllister, L. and Stirbu, D., (2007), `Improving the Scrutiny
Capacity of the Committee System at the National Assembly for Wales:
Lessons from elsewhere', Policy and Politics, Vol. 35, No.2, pp.
289-309. (ABS rank 3*, impact factor .697)
3. McAllister, L. and Stirbu, D., (2008), `Influence, impact and legacy:
assessing the Richard Commission's contribution to Wales's evolving
constitution', Representation, Vol. 44, No. 3, pp. 209-224.
2009-2013: (capacity and ongoing weaknesses in the third `settlement').
4. McAllister, L. and Kay, A., (2010), 'Core tensions in Wales's new
politics: pluralist trends in a majoritarian system', Public Money and
Management, Vol. 30, issue 2, pp. 103-108. (ABS rank 2*, impact
5. McAllister, L. and Cole, M., (2013), `The 2011 Welsh General Election:
an analysis of the latest staging post in the maturing of Welsh politics,
Parliamentary Affairs, (doi: 10.1093/pa/gss036). (ABS rank 2*,
impact factor .814)
6. McAllister, L and Cole, M., (2013), `Committee Scrutiny in the UK: an
Empirical and Theoretical Evaluation with Relevance for Scrutiny Debates
at Local Level', Local Government Studies (ABS rank 3*, impact
Details of the impact
Professor McAllister's research has generated significant and
wide-ranging impacts on the development of devolution in Wales since its
advent in 1999. However, the impact detailed here occurred between 2008
and 2013. The primary beneficiaries are politicians (Assembly Members,
party leaders and CEOs of the four main political parties); practitioners
and professional services staff in the Assembly and in wider civil society
(specifically, the Assembly Commission, the Presiding Officer, the Chief
Executive Officer/Clerk, chair of Business Committee, Remuneration Panel
chair, Chief Operating Officer, Director of Assembly Business, chairs of
the scrutiny committees); political correspondents in the broadcast media
and press; and other academics.
Improved governance, operational and service provision within
Following McAllister's identification of flaws in the initial devolution
settlement, she was invited to undertake a 14-month secondment to the
Assembly Commission in 2008-9. At the instigation of the Presiding
Officer, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas and the CEO/Clerk, McAllister conducted a
comprehensive review of the operation of the Assembly Committees with a
brief, set by the Assembly Commission and its Business Committee, to
ensure that the overall political capacity of the Assembly was best
utilised. McAllister's research also led to her appointment as expert
advisor to the Independent Review of Politicians' Pay and Support for the
National Assembly for Wales,
2008-9 and input to the All
Wales Convention Report
whose recommendations referenced issues
from McAllister's research around constitutional workability and capacity
constraints. The findings from McAllister's research were used to guide
changes in parliamentary and political business practices to improve
- An induction and professional development programme for Assembly
Members was introduced;
- The Assembly Commission's budget for induction, training and personal
development of Members and their staff was substantially increased;
- Changes were made to the operation of Assembly Business in plenary and
Committees, including timings, frequency of meetings, agendas, terms of
reference and membership; and
- Changes were made to the system of remuneration, pensions and expenses
for Assembly Members.
For example, Getting it Right for Wales (2009), the report of the
Independent Review Panel (above), reflects the research and advice based
on it given by McAllister to the Panel, particularly on Assembly Members'
training, development and support services (Chapters 3, 4 and 9,
especially). Many of the key recommendations of the Panel, for example,
improved investment in induction, training and development of elected
members, appropriate staffing configurations and consistent and equitable
remuneration have subsequently been implemented.
This work has also had impact in other jurisdictions elsewhere in the UK
and beyond: McAllister's research was used, for example, by the UK
Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in its review of MPs'
expenses, 2009-2010, and as context for Parliamentary reviews elsewhere
(e.g. the Northern Ireland Independent Financial Review Panel appointed in
The reconfiguration of the legislative framework for devolution
Within each stage of legislative change from the first, to the second and
third devolution `settlements' - and from White Paper to Bill to Act to
referendum - there is clear evidence that McAllister's original research,
critiquing the sustainability of the first settlement and identifying
capacity challenges, has played a significant role in shaping the
subsequent constitutional developments.
Alongside Lord Richard, McAllister was co-author of the Richard
Commission Report 2004, described by the Deputy Presiding Officer as "the
most authoritative, constitutional report ever commissioned by a
government in the UK." It is widely acknowledged as the benchmark critique
of the first settlement and McAllister's work is especially evident in
Chapters 2,4,5,9 and 12. Some of its recommendations stimulated the
Government of Wales Act 2006; others remain unimplemented but continue to
frame the thinking of political practitioners.
McAllister's evidence to the Scrutiny Committee on the White Paper
`Better Governance for Wales', which drew on her early research to propose
a series of changes to the first Government of Wales Act 1998, was quoted
extensively by MPs and Peers as the subsequent Bill (leading to the 2006
Act) made its parliamentary passage.
Capacity reviews, especially of candidate selection procedures in the
political parties in Wales
McAllister's research on capacity issues has also had an impact on
political parties in Wales: three of the four main parties invited
McAllister to lead advisory sessions on i) capacity management; and ii)
election candidate selection, especially on methods and approaches to
assist capacity through promoting a diverse slate (in terms of gender, age
and ethnic origin). Two parties have since reviewed their recruitment
procedures on the basis of the seminars led by McAllister and one
continues to liaise with McAllister with regard to producing a wider
diversity strategy linked to acknowledged inelastic capacity constraints.
McAllister's impact and influence has been recognised through further
appointments. She has been called as an expert witness on the further
devolution of powers to the National Assembly by the Commission
on Devolution in Wales, established by the UK Government in 2011.
She has also produced further follow-on practical `think-pieces' for the
Assembly Business Committee, delivered specialised Continuing Professional
Development/Knowledge Exchange sessions to the Assembly, and has been
awarded £1.5K as part of the Institute of Welsh Affairs' UK's Changing
Union project to develop further her work on political capacity.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Corroborating statement from Director of Assembly Business, National
Assembly for Wales, confirms that work by McAllister has led to material
changes in the functioning of devolution, specifically impacting upon
the internal architecture of the Assembly through changes to committee
systems and members' support. It also indicates the impact of
McAllister's work with the Independent Review Panel as well as the
significance of its original challenge to the sustainability and
capacity of the devolution settlement.
- Corroborating statement from Chair of Richard Commission and former
Leader of the House of Lords corroborates that McAllister's work with
his Commission on Devolution constructed the original critique of the
flawed first settlement. It also evidences impact by way of shifts in
political support for a new Government of Wales Act between 2004-6.
Alongside Lord Richard, McAllister was co-author of the Richard
Commission Report. Impact from McAllister's work is especially evident
in chapters 2, 4, 5, 9, 12.
- Corroborating statement from former House of Commons Clerk and Clerk
to the National Assembly for Wales, and Chair of the UK Government
Commission on Devolution in Wales provides details of impact from
McAllister's research across all time phases. It corroborates claims of
influencing political thinking which, in turn, stimulated constitutional
and legislative change. It also documents specific impact around
managing constraints in political capacity and evidences how this impact
is being transferred elsewhere in the UK.
- Corroborating statement from Presiding Officer of National Assembly
for Wales indicates impact on changes to training, induction and support
services to members, drawing upon McAllister's research on capacity.
- Former clerk to the Houses of Parliament, Fellow of Magdalen College,
Oxford, can be contacted to confirm the impact of research conducted by
McAllister to various commissions on devolution and committees on
members' support and its impact on new approaches to establishing
parliamentary and constitutional good practice.
evidence to the Scrutiny Committee on the White Paper, `Better
Governance for Wales' proposed a series of changes to the first
Government of Wales Act 1998, based on her research outputs in Section
3. This was extensively quoted by MPs and Peers as the Bill proceeded
through its readings in both the Commons and Lords.
- McAllister has given many national
and international keynote addresses as part of the impact of her
work detailed here. These were not simply dissemination vehicles, rather
the nature of them (for example, to the Independent Remuneration Board,
the Study of Parliament Group and the E-MPA network) entailed discussion
with practitioners as to the enactment of the research findings and how
impact might best be maximized.
- Official reports and publications that evidence impact.
Richard Commission Report on the powers and electoral
arrangements for the National Assembly for Wales (2004) (see source 2,
ii. Independent Review Panel (2009) Getting
it Right for Wales: An Independent Review of the current
arrangements for the financial support of Assembly Members. Cardiff,
National Assembly for Wales.