Mark and Ruth look at the growing fashion for re-writing Bills mid-air as they pass through Parliament, adding on all sorts of policy bells and whistles at the last minute.
Sir David Butler was Chairman of the Hansard Society between 1994 and 2001. To mark his long association with the Society, we have brought together a collection of some of his work for us, including some of his articles for our journal, Parliamentary Affairs.
To the wider public Sir David Butler was best known as the inventor of the 'Swingometer' and the resident expert on the BBC's election night programmes. He was just 20 years old when in 1945 he translated that year's constituency General Election results into percentages. In doing so he founded psephology (or election science), explained a party's gains and losses in terms of 'swing', and changed forever the way we would analyse and understand election results. But his interest in politics went much wider than elections: he was passionate about the role and work of politicians and Parliament. This, combined with his commitment to communicating in accessible terms for a mass audience, drew him to support the Hansard Society.
In 1998 Sir David wrote The Case for An Electoral Commission, promoting the merits of an independent body to oversee the administration of elections.
This 'King-Hall Paper' (one of an occasional series of briefings named in honour of our founder Sir Stephen King-Hall) was critical in persuading the Committee on Standards in Public Life to support the proposal which was subsequently enacted by the Labour Government in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The Electoral Commission began operations the following year.
As Chair of the Society, Sir David was the driving force behind the setting-up of our Commission on Parliamentary Scrutiny, chaired by Lord Newton.
The Commission's recommendations were published in 2001, providing a roadmap for parliamentary reform that was taken up by the new Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook. The Commission greatly influenced the development of Parliament as a more committee-based institution with a greater scrutiny role played by Select Committees.
In 2004, as a fundraiser to mark the Society's 60th anniversary, we hosted a fascinating discussion between Sir David and his lifelong friend Tony Benn MP.
David and Tony first met at Oxford University, where they were tutorial partners. Although they were not political allies, they maintained their friendship through the decades and their conversation was full of wonderful political anecdotes and insight spanning both UK and US politics.
In 2008 the Society published No Overall Control: The Impact of a 'Hung Parliament' on British Politics, amid increasing speculation that the next UK General Election might produce a result in which no single party held a majority of seats.
This edited collection of essays explored what the consequences would be for Parliament, the political parties and MPs. Sir David contributed a chapter on the history of hung parliaments, setting out when they had occurred in the past and the factors that might lead them to occur in the future.
To mark Sir David's contribution to Parliamentary Affairs, the quarterly journal of the Hansard Society, we have curated a special collection of some of his articles that will be freely available to download for a limited time.
A comment on Professor Rasumussen's Article (on 'The disutility of the swing concept in British psephology') David Butler (May 1964)
The strength of the Liberals under different electoral systems David Butler, Arthur Stevens and Donald Stokes (September 1968)
Delegated legislation is the most common form of legislation in the United Kingdom. It is the legislation of everyday life, impacting millions of citizens daily. But the terminology and procedures that surround it are complex and often confusing. This explainer unpacks delegated legislation - the terminology and Parliament's role in scrutinising it - to reveal more about how delegated legislation really works.
What a week! Suella Braverman's sacking from Government was immediately eclipsed by the appointment of former Prime Minister David Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary. Mark and Ruth explore the many questions this raises, not least for scrutiny of foreign affairs by MPs.
The Prime Minister’s decision to cancel the next stage of HS2 has given rise to criticism that once again the Government has ridden roughshod over Parliament. Just over 1,300 hours of legislative time have been spent on four HS2-related Bills over nine Sessions in the last decade. Why has it taken so long and what now happens to that legislation?
When parliamentarians reassemble at Westminster on 7 November for the start of the new Session, all eyes will be on the legislative programme to be announced in the King’s Speech. Speculation about the likely date of the next general election is rife at Westminster, but until the date is settled there are a lot of parliamentary issues still to be tackled. We’ve picked out a few things to look out for on the political horizon.