Events

Parliamentary Scrutiny, Evidence and the Rule of Law: Lessons from the pandemic and beyond

19 Jan 2022
Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House (UK Houses of Parliament). © UK Parliament

What information and evidence does Parliament need to enable it to oversee government law-making? Is Parliament currently provided with sufficient information and, if not, how can this be improved?

On 19 January 2022, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and the Hansard Society co-hosted this webinar on ‘Parliamentary Scrutiny, Evidence and the Rule of Law’, which explored the role of evidence, impact assessments, explanatory memorandums and other related material in facilitating parliamentary scrutiny of government law-making by delegated legislation. The event followed the publication of a Bingham Centre Report analysing the first 18 months of coronavirus legislation from a Rule of Law perspective, and forms part of the Hansard Society’s Delegated Legislation Review, which is developing proposals to reform the processes by which delegated legislation is made and scrutinised.

  • Justin Madders MP, Shadow Minister for Employment Rights, previously Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care

  • Selvin Brown, Director (Net Zero Buildings), BEIS and Policy Profession Board Member

  • Stephen Gibson, Chair of the Regulatory Policy Committee

  • Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, member of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

  • Professor Jeff King, UCL Laws (Chair)

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated weaknesses in the processes used to enact legislation. Laws have often been made at breakneck speed, resulting in a reduction in the quality and quantity of impact assessments and other documents explaining and justifying government policy positions. This is problematic from the perspective of both the Rule of Law and effective Parliamentary scrutiny. The Rule of Law requires the law-making powers of the government to be prescribed and controlled by Parliament, but Parliament cannot properly scrutinise the policies and rationale underpinning proposed legislation without timely and digestible information justifying the proposed legal changes.

The need for good quality supporting documentation is paramount where the government introduces new laws via delegated legislation; a form of government law-making where Parliament’s scrutiny role is already limited. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a general trend towards the increased use of delegated legislation to enact significant policy changes. However, there are long-standing criticisms of the procedure by which delegated legislation is made and approved. This includes frequent criticism by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee of the quality of Explanatory Memorandums, which are meant to provide a free-standing explanation of what each piece of delegated legislation does and why it is being introduced.

News / Parliament Matters – Commons chaos: Can the Speaker survive a monumental misjudgement? (Episode 21)

There were chaotic scenes in the House of Commons this week - as bad as anything seen during the Brexit convulsions – as the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle made a hash of handling the SNPs Opposition Day debate on a ceasefire in Gaza. Furious MPs signed a motion expressing no confidence in the Chair. But why and how did the Speaker end up in this position and can he survive?

22 Feb 2024
Read more

News / Parliament Matters – Urgent Questions: We answer your questions about how Parliament works (Episode 20)

This week we have a special ‘Urgent Questions’ episode to answer your questions about how Parliament works. Topics include e-petitions, Prime Ministers' Questions, the powers of the Speaker, whipping, office support provided to Sinn Fein MPs, access to the Palace of Westminster, hospitality venues in Parliament, and the value of Written Questions.

15 Feb 2024
Read more

Blog / How should Parliament scrutinise new treaties?

Today, for the first time in its history, the House of Lords will discuss a motion that the Government should not ratify a treaty until the protections it provides have been fully implemented: the UK-Rwanda Agreement on an Asylum Partnership. How Parliament deals with treaties has long been the subject of debate. A new report on Parliament's role in scrutinising international agreements offers some practical proposals for reform.

22 Jan 2024
Read more

Blog / Why are MPs speaking more often but for less time? Five possible reasons

How often do MPs speak in the House of Commons and for how long? New data shows that MPs are speaking more frequently, but for less time. We identify five possible reasons that may explain this recent trend and discuss the effect this could be having on the quality of debate.

16 Jan 2024
Read more

Submissions / Commons scrutiny of Secretaries of State in the House of Lords: Evidence to the House of Commons Procedure Committee

Following the appointment of the Rt Hon Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton to the role of Foreign Secretary on 13 November 2023, we submitted evidence to the Procedure Committee inquiry into the options for MPs to effectively scrutinise Secretaries of State in the House of Lords and the work of their departments.

18 Dec 2023
Read more