This data project enhances the provision of information and analysis about the scrutiny of primary and secondary legislation by the Westminster Parliament. It draws on our unique Statutory Instrument Tracker as well as Parliament’s own legislative data.
Why we are doing it
This project, based on new legislative data collected since the start of the 2015-16 parliamentary session, seeks to plug the statistical hole in our understanding of both the primary and secondary legislative processes.
It builds on our earlier work in this area, most notably Making Better Law, which analyses the political, procedural and cultural factors that together help determine the quality of the UK statute book, and The Devil is in the Detail: Parliament and Delegated Legislation, which laid bare the complexity, weaknesses, and contradictions in the scrutiny of delegated legislation in the first comprehensive study of this process in decades.
Successive governments over the last decade have resisted the case for significant reform of the legislative process, particularly in relation to delegated legislation. By augmenting our qualitative case studies with quantitative analysis of the process and procedures we hope to drive a new evidence-based debate about how government produces and Parliament scrutinises legislation. Over time, as the data reveals trends or changes, the research will bring problems or new developments in the process into sharper focus, and shed new light on the adequacy and effectiveness of the legislative scrutiny process.
What we are doing
Since the beginning of the 2015-16 parliamentary session we have produced a subscription-based Statutory Instrument Tracker, responding to a need identified in our research for improved knowledge and access to the delegated legislation process by people outside Parliament. This monitoring provides the Society with a rich seam of data touching upon key aspects of the process – such as the number of Henry VIII powers, the use of parliamentary time, and breaches of procedural rules – that is not currently available elsewhere.
In addition to our own data, we have sought to add value to existing data provided in the House of Commons Sessional Returns, the House of Lords Sessional Statistics and the reports of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. These provide statistical evidence but rarely set it in context, provide comparison with other sessions, or analyse it in the context of the procedural and political arguments being made about the legislative process.
The first Westminster Lens report focuses on the delegated legislation process. We will be updating and publishing the statistics after the end of each parliamentary session, and over time we will expand the research also to cover key areas of the primary legislative process.
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In the run-up to the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March 2019 we will be tracking the progress made by government and Parliament in preparing the statute book for exit day. Our analysis draws on parliamentary data and our own Statutory Instrument Tracker which we built several years ago to support our research on delegated legislation.
Attention is focused on the ‘meaningful vote’ on the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, but the Agreement will also be subject to a parliamentary ratification consent procedure, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, notable mainly for not involving a vote.
In November 2018 the House of Lords Liaison Committee published our evidence to its review of investigative and scrutiny committees. We made wide-ranging recommendations aimed at improving legislative scrutiny, facilitating more effective horizon-scanning and addressing post-Brexit scrutiny challenges.
Following the controversy surrounding the breaking of the Philip Green court injunction, has the time come for new restrictions on the use of parliamentary privilege, as previously suggested by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament? Former Clerk of the Parliaments Sir David Beamish outlines the legal and procedural issues that inform the debate.
In our evidence on procedural arrangements for the ‘meaningful vote’ on the prospective UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, we argue that the possibly unique nature and extraordinary political circumstances of the vote justify an extraordinary and imaginative remedy.