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Influencing Parliamentary Reform

Research carried out by leading political commentators from the University of Lincoln is central to ongoing government policy change on significant areas of parliamentary reform, expertise and scrutiny.

The debate on parliamentary change was reignited by the previous Labour and current Coalition governments. A number of studies by Professor Hugh Bochel and Dr Andrew Defty, of the University of Lincoln’s School of Social and Political Sciences, have not only informed the national discussion over the last decade, but also formed key evidence for government consultations and influential select committee inquiries.

Since 2004, Professor Bochel and Dr Defty have undertaken wide-ranging investigations into the roles and attitudes of the country’s legislators. With different strands of research examining parliament and welfare policy, and parliamentary scrutiny of the intelligence and security services, they are now recognised as leading authorities on constitutional reform, including the role of parliamentarians in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The investigations by Professor Bochel and Dr Defty go straight to the heart of the current political landscape. For both strands of research, they have conducted interviews with large samples of MPs and peers, looking not only at the substantive topics, but also at their attitudes towards their own roles and influence.

By examining the role of parliament in the formulation and scrutiny of welfare policy, the research team found significant evidence to support claims for a new consensus on welfare, particularly in the House of Commons. They exposed a simultaneous lack of consensus within the House of Lords and revealed its implications for the future passage of policy legislation.

Their revelatory conclusions challenged existing arguments about the Second Chamber and provided groundbreaking new evidence to question the perceived expertise in the Upper House. This has raised questions around notions of representation in the House of Lords and the efficacy of some proposals for reform of the House.

"All of these projects involved significant engagement with parliament itself. They were based largely or in part on interviews with large samples of MPs and Members of the House of Lords."

Professor Bochel and Dr Defty submitted evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill and to the House of Lords Constitution Committee’s inquiry into the process of constitutional reform. The team’s findings were incorporated within both reports and were employed by the Electoral Reform Society to support its call for deepening expertise within the Second Chamber.

At a time when the scrutiny of intelligence is the subject of considerable debate and when previous research has focused almost exclusively on the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the team explored new ground when they set to work investigating other forms of parliamentary oversight. Their research into the alternative methods of scrutiny – from parliamentary questions and debates to the work of select committees and even all party groups – underpinned their submission of evidence to the government’s consultation on the Security and Justice Green Paper. They also provided input to the government’s consultation on parliamentary privilege.

Professor Bochel and Dr Defty’s pioneering research has been featured across three separate episodes of BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, widening understanding of the legislative, scrutinising and representative role of UK parliament amongst the public, academics and political representatives.