Methodology

Throughout this report, and unless otherwise stated, data covers the calendar year since the State Opening of Parliament on 21 June 2017. While Parliament sat for a handful of days before State Opening, in order to swear in new Members and elect the Speaker, we do not include these days in our analysis.

Chapter 1: Cost

Data in this chapter covers the 2017/18 financial year, and only includes resource, or day-to-day, spending.

In Figure 1.1, data given is for the expenditure of each organisation net of any income it received. Figures 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 all use gross expenditure, not net of any income received.

In comparing the total cost of Parliament to the size of the administration budgets of central government departments, we have included the costs of MPs’ and peers’ allowances and expenses as costs vital to the day-to-day operation of Parliament.

In Figure 1.3, we have drawn on the categories of expenditure used in the House of Commons Annual Report and Accounts; Members’ Annual Report; and IPSA Annual Report and Accounts, and developed our own categories of expenditure. According to our categories:

  • House Staff costs include staff costs, and other staff costs, contained in the Commons Annual Report.

  • Goods and services include accommodation services, security, information services, computer maintenance, finance and specialist services, catering and other supplies, communications, travel and subsistence, broadcasting, and office supplies, contained in the Commons Annual Report.

  • Non-cash items include depreciation, amortisation, impairment, provisions, auditors’ remuneration and expenses, profit gain/loss on the disposal of property, plant and equipment, and net gain/loss on the revaluation of property, plant and equipment, contained in the Commons Annual Report.

  • Member services include Members’ costs, and the exchequer contribution for Members’ pensions. These are contained in the Members’ Annual Report.

  • MPs’ and MPs’ staff pay and expenses include MP and MP staff pay costs, and staff expenses, as well as other costs, from the Members’ Annual Report.

  • Grants include expenditure on grants contained in the Commons Annual Report and Members’ Annual Report.

  • Rental includes buildings rental and other rental, from the Commons Annual Report.

  • ‘Other’ includes interest on the finance lease, and the service charge element of the finance lease, from the Commons Annual Report.

In Figure 1.4, we have drawn on the categories of expenditure in the House of Lords’ Annual Report, and developed our own categories, according to which:

  • Peers’ allowances and expenses cover Members’ allowances and expenses.

  • Goods and services include security, IT and telecommunications costs, printing and publications, broadcasting, outreach and visitor services, catering and retail costs (excluding direct staff costs) and other expenditure.

  • Estates and works cover estates and works expenditure.

  • Non-cash items include amortisation, impairment, auditors’ remuneration, net gain/ loss on the disposal of property, plant and equipment, net gain/loss on the revaluation of property, plant and equipment, finance lease asset depreciation, and other non-cash items.

  • ‘Other’ includes rentals under operating leases, financial assistance for Opposition parties, interest on the finance lease and rentals under operating lease.

  • House staff costs cover staff costs as detailed in the Lords Annual Report.

  • Grants cover grants as detailed in the Lords Annual Report.

 

Chapter 2: Time

Data on sitting days, and time sat, only covers the period 21 June 2017 to 21 June 2018 inclusive, unless otherwise stated.

Scheduled sitting time for the Commons Chamber has been calculated based on scheduled sitting times for each day, multiplied by the number of days of that type during the period covered. This factors in the Tuesdays and Wednesdays after recess, where the House sits as though it is a Monday. It also assumes a scheduled time of 11.30am–10.30pm for the day of the Queen’s Speech. Scheduled time for Westminster Hall was calculated based on scheduled sittings each day, multiplied by the number of those days.

Time in the Lords Chamber, or in Grand Committee, is not scheduled in the same way, so all figures for these are actual.

Figure 2.3 assumes an average of 15 minutes per division, in each House.

Figure 2.4 divides the actual time the Commons chamber sat for by the main types of parliamentary business, based on certain assumptions:

  • One hour of oral questions per sitting day, Monday to Thursday.

  • Urgent questions for one hour, multiplied by the number of urgent questions during the period.

  • One hour per ministerial statement, multiplied by the number of ministerial statements during the period (excluding business statements).

  • 6.5 hours per Opposition Day, multiplied by the number of allocated and unallocated Opposition Days over the period.

  • Half an hour per adjournment debate, each sitting day (including sitting Fridays).

  • A maximum of three hours per emergency debate, multiplied by the number of emergency debates in the time period.

  • Backbench legislative time for five hours each sitting Friday during the period.

  • Rough timings for the Backbench Business Committee debates held in the Chamber over the period, according to Hansard. This includes time for estimates debates and select committee statements allocated by the Committee.

 

Chapter 3: Primary legislation

Unless otherwise stated, data in this chapter is taken from Parliament’s website and refers to one calendar year from State Opening 2017 (June 21 2017–June 21 2018). However, Figure 3.4 covers the period from the election until summer recess on 24 July 2018.

This chapter focuses on government public bills, rather than private or hybrid bills.

We classify routine legislation as that which governments have to pass each session, such as Finance Bills. Brexit legislation is based on the Government’s indication of the bills it believes are necessary for Brexit. And non-routine bills cover bills which the Government has chosen to introduce, and which do not relate to Brexit.

The amount of time bills spent in the Commons and the Lords was calculated using timings recorded by Hansard. Any timings that were missing from Hansard were obtained using Parliamentlive.tv.

All work and data analysis contained in Box 3.1 was undertaken by Ruth Dixon and Matthew Williams of the University of Oxford.

 

Chapter 4: Secondary legislation

Most data in this chapter relates to Secondary Instruments, but in some places other forms of secondary legislation are mentioned.

Data on the volume of secondary legislation laid in Parliament during the period, the responsible departments, and the procedures it was subject to was provided by the House of Commons.

In Figure 4.2, we classify government departments according to the standard Institute for Government classification. ‘Other’ includes the Privy Council Office; Local Government Boundary Commission; House of Commons; and General Synod of the Church of England.

In Figure 4.3, the number of ‘prayers’ debated includes two prayers debated in Opposition, rather than Government, time.

 

Chapter 5: Select committees

Unless otherwise stated, data in this chapter is taken from committee webpages and refers to one calendar year from State Opening 2017 (21 June 2017–21 June 2018).

The average expenses incurred per financial year by a Commons committee was calculated by averaging total expenses for all committees included in the 2016/17 Sessional Return. This figure includes all visits, Special Advisers fees and expenses, work commissioned, specialist publications, interpretation, witnesses’ expenses, entertainment and seminars.

Figure 5.1 draws on our own classification of Commons and Lords committees. The Lords’ ‘Investigative’ and ‘ad hoc’ categories were selected by closest analogy to the Commons’ departmental and cross-cutting committees.

We estimate that 500 MPs are eligible to sit on select committees. We arrived at this figure by excluding government ministers and members of the Opposition frontbench (including whips), the Speaker and Deputy Speakers, and MPs from Sinn Féin, who do not take their seats.

Data for Figure 5.4 was provided by the Liaison Committee (for 2017/19). 2016/17 data was taken from committee webpages.

In Figure 5.5, we define Brexit-related inquiries as any inquiry that would not have occurred if Britain had not voted to leave the EU. This definition excludes routine ‘work of the department’ inquiries, as well as any inquiries relating to EU issues that may now be couched in the context of Brexit, but which would have been conducted anyway had Britain not been leaving the EU.

Figure 5.6 calculates the number of oral witnesses, and written evidence, per committee report. It does not include one-off evidence sessions, or any inquiries not resulting in a published report.

The unique nature of the Public Accounts Committee, and the quantity of work it does, means that we have chosen to exclude it from our analysis of committees’ volume of work, and government response times. It is therefore not included in Figures 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, and 5.7.

In Figure 5.7, government response time is calculated on the basis of 60 calendar days, unless otherwise stated. Committees that have not published reports requiring a government response have not been included.

 

Chapter 6: Backbench activity

This chapter, unless otherwise stated, largely focuses on the House of Commons.

For Figure 6.1, data on written questions is drawn from the database on Parliament’s website, and includes both answered and unanswered questions. Data on oral questions is taken from data.parliament.uk. Both sets of data exclude withdrawn questions. The ‘other’ category in Figure 6.1 includes the Church Commissioners, the House of Commons Commission, Public Accounts Commission, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission.

Data on Early Day Motions is taken from the database on Parliament’s website.

In Figure 6.5 and the text beneath, data was provided by the Commons Petitions Committee.