Parliament and the political process

A new normal for Northern Ireland?

, 4 February 2016

Huge progress has been made, but visiting Belfast and the grand old buildings of Stormont Estate, as I did last week, one is struck by the unique combination of “normal” politics and issues distinct to Northern Ireland’s troubled past that continues to shape how government works. Having again teetered on the edge of collapse...

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The BIS Committee on the Government’s Productivity Plan: strengths and limitations

, 2 February 2016

The BIS Committee set out to investigate whether the Government’s Productivity Plan, which spans 15 different policy areas − from transport, energy, and planning to science, finance, and infrastructure − addresses the main causes of low productivity in the UK, and whether it is likely to achieve its desired results. The Committee’s report contains...

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UK scrutiny of the European Union – in five charts

, 14 January 2016

The main focus of most national parliaments – including the UK’s – is not on influencing the EU, but on holding their national government to account for its interactions with it. David Cameron would now like to give national parliaments the power to work together to raise a ‘red card’ vetoing EU legislative proposals...

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Collective cabinet responsibility and the EU referendum

, 13 January 2016

Having announced that ministers will be allowed to campaign against the government position on the EU, the Prime Minister this week set out guidelines for setting aside the tradition of collective responsibility. Collective cabinet responsibility is about maintaining cohesion, presenting a collective position to Parliament and, in theory, collective decision-making. There are two aspects:...

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2016: high stakes for the Government and the UK

, 2 January 2016

It is almost impossible to talk about any subject – the implementation of the public spending review, decisions on big infrastructure projects such as expansion of London’s airport capacity, the review of human rights legislation and the future of the union itself – without taking account of the promised referendum on the UK’s membership...

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The Spending Review: what really happened

, 29 December 2015

1. On the big picture, the Chancellor pulled back from the scale of cuts outlined in the July budget The headlines immediately following the speech announced the end of austerity. This is not all that surprising, given the immediate press reaction is heavily dependent on the Treasury’s presentation, and the Chancellor was unrelentingly upbeat...

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Minding their PQs: written parliamentary questions under the Coalition Government

, 8 December 2015

Parliament holds government to account by asking questions: in select committee rooms, in the House of Commons, or in writing. Written parliamentary questions (PQs) help MPs to understand what departments are doing, and force the minister (and the staff of the department) to defend their decisions. Members of the public can now view questions...

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Commons vote on Syria: four questions answered

, 1 December 2015

Can the Government go ahead with military action in Syria without parliamentary approval? Technically, yes. As we have clarified previously, “The power to commit troops in armed conflict is one of the remaining Royal Prerogatives – that is powers that are derived from the Crown rather than conferred on them by Parliament.” This means that the...

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Barnett and beyond: time for a new system for funding devolution?

, 1 December 2015

While departmental budgets across Whitehall are the product of negotiations with the Treasury the devolved governments, in theory at least, have their budgets calculated automatically by reference to changes in English spending via the Barnett Formula. A little-read annex to the Spending Review called the Statement of Funding Policy (SFP) provides the detail. This...

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Short money: cutting the cost of politics?

, 27 November 2015

Short money is made available to all opposition parties that have secured either two seats or one seat and more than 150,000 votes at the previous General Election. Last Wednesday, the Chancellor proposed to reduce this opposition funding by 19 per cent, and then freeze it for the rest of the Parliament. It is...

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