The best of Democratic Audit’s 2015 coverage of Parliament and Parliamentary reform

2015 has been an eventful year as far as Parliament is concerned. Despite developments concerning the election, Committees, the House of Lords, party funding, and lobbying, the fundamentals of the system remain the same. Here, Democratic Audit provide the best of our coverage of parliament, parliamentary reform, and related issues. 

sean.cuill, CC BY 2.0The UK electoral system now decisively favours the Conservatives

The previous Coalition government attempted to redraw the boundaries of the UK’s Parliamentary constituencies in order to remove a perceived bias against them, and towards the Labour Party. Though contentious, it was reckoned that the system made it harder to win a majority for the Conservatives than it did for Labour. Tim Smith argues that Labour’s loss of Scotland, amongst other factors, has changed this dynamic, meaning that the resurrected boundary reforms – if passed – will simply build upon an already existing Tory advantage.

1949174980_e7faf1004c_zThe abolition of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee is a loss to Parliament and British democracy

The incoming majority Conservative Government have made one of their first decisions the abolition of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, currently Chaired by the Labour MP Graham Allen. Andrew Blick, who worked closely with the committee argues that the decision is a poor one, and that its work – both high profile and more mundane – will be greatly missed. 

Credit: JH Images.co.uk, CC BY NC SA 2.0Is a British Senate any closer now? Or will the House of Lords still go on and on?

After the election, a new and reformed upper House could be one of the most important components for re-binding together a fully federal UK. Richard Reid and Patrick Dunleavy read the runes on a century-old area of constitutional controversy, which just might get resolved soon.

For sale? (Credit: Grant MacDonald, CC BY NC 2.0)The relationship between political donations and peerages shows the need for party finance and House of Lords reform

Allegations that membership of the House of Lords and large political donations go hand-in-hand stretch back hundreds of years, with Tony Blair at one point questioned by police on the issue. Here Andrew Mell illustrates a direct statistical link, and argues that it shows the need for reform of both the House of Lords and our party funding system.

Credit: National Assembly for Wales, CC BY 2.0Implementing the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission: Where to now?

Last week saw a Westminster Hall debate to discuss the report of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. Andy Williamson argues that while concrete steps are being taken to implement some of the recommendations, greater drive will be needed to create a coherent long-term programme for the digital modernisation of Parliament.

Credit: Jesus de Blas, CC BY NC 2.0If Parliament is to be truly effective, committees must become more powerful and independent

The House of Commons has long come under criticism for its fiery, partisan nature, but not many people realise that this point-scoring approach is not limited to the House of Commons chamber, and actually characterises much of its committee work, even when legislative scrutiny is involved. Camilla Hagelund and Jonathan Goddard present research from a new report which shows that select committees should be empowered to carry out bill scrutiny, and that their independence should be increased to improve their effectiveness, and bring about more consensual law-making. 

4902199888_4621d5e271_zThe House of Commons is the most vulnerable to lobbying of any of the UK’s legislatures

How concerned should we be about lobbying? Very, according to the campaign organisation Transparency International in this blog by their director Robert Barrington. Their new report argues that lobbying is a serious problem, that it cannot be tackled in isolation from other related issues, that the system is beset by loopholes, and that the House of Commons is most vulnerable of all of the UK’s assemblies and parliaments to lobbying. 

William Hague's choice between good and EVEL (Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY 2.0)English Votes for English Laws is the start of a longer process that will change how we think about the territories of the UK 

The announcement by William Hague of a range of options for English Votes for English Laws should be seen as the start of a wider process, says Charlie Jeffery. That process is likely to include, at least, a clearer separation of England and Wales as jurisdictions and reform of how Westminster and Whitehall – not to mention the electorate – think about the territories of the UK.

Note: this post represents the views of the authors and not those of Democratic Audit UK or the LSE. Please read our comments policy before posting. Cover image credit: Jesus de Blas, CC BY NC 2.0

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