Thank you to everyone that attended and participated in our first one-day conference (we hope the first of many!). It was a fantastic event with a range of academic panels, a practitioner roundtable, a poster exhibition, and our annual lecture from the Clerk of the House of Commons, David Natzler. You can see a full summary by following the Twitter hashtag: #ParlConf. We also have a summary of the paper and poster abstracts available here.
Our first session began with an academic panel on “Parliaments in Comparative Perspective”. Emma Crewe kicked things off and spoke about the parliamentary effectiveness in Bangladesh and Ethiopia.
This was followed by a presentation from Mark Egan, Greffier of the States Assembly of the States of Jersey. He gave us a number of insights into smaller legislatures and an overview of the States Assembly. This was a fascinating talk about the idiosyncrasies of a smaller community.
The final presentation was from Greg Power on how parliamentary effectiveness can be measured. Power noted that measuring effectiveness in developing or newer legislatures is still very basic. They are often process-driven, have conflicting objectives and do not measure long-term impact.
After our academic panel, we had a practitioner roundtable that included two parliamentarians (Lord Beith and Chris Bryant MP), as well as Dr Ruth Fox from the Hansard Society and Dr Hannah White from the Institute for Government.
The roundtable focused on the post-referendum environment in which Parliament is placed. The panellists highlighted a huge range of challenges, including treaty negotiations, the appropriate role for Parliament in triggering Article 50, the likely effectiveness of the Brexit Select Committee, how to navigate the repeal of European legislation (and how this can be effectively scrutinised), and much more.
Our co-convener summed it all up quite well in a tweet:
Our action-packed morning was followed by a lovely lunch provided by the Institute for Government, where we also had a chance to look at posters at display, before returning for our afternoon panel on “Westminster and Beyond”.
First we had Meg Russell and Dan Gover’s paper on the faces of parliamentary power. Russell summarised six possibilities but noted that their ideas are very much a work in progress. This was followed by Mark Bennister, Alix Kelso and Phil Larkin’s paper on the Liaison Committee’s style and content of questioning the prime minister and what this tells us about Parliament. Finally, we had an interesting talk from Jessie Blackbourn, comparing sunset clauses in Australia and the UK. The discussion that followed revolved around different ways to conceptualise power and the value of trying to understand Parliament in those terms.
After tea and coffee, it was time for the presentation of our essay competition awards. It was great that our runner-up, Matthew Robinson, was able to join us; and while the winner wasn’t able to attend, Meg Russell was able to collect the award on his behalf.
Finally, it was time for our annual lecture with David Natzler.
Many thanks to our co-sponsors, the University of Birmingham, and the organisers of the conference, especially Stephen Bates who took a strong lead in making this event happen. Many thanks to the Institute for Government for hosting us.