Parliamentary Select Committees: Are elected chairs the key to their success?

Parliamentary Select Committees: Are elected chairs the key to their success?

By Mark Goodwin, Stephen Bates and Steve McKay

In the past two months, two of Britain’s richest men have been forced by Parliament to admit to, and apologise for, serious failings in their business practices that could end up costing them millions in compensation. Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley admitted to the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee that, despite being Britain’s 22nd richest person with an estimated fortune of £3.5bn, he had not been paying staff in the company’s main warehouse the minimum wage. A few weeks later, the same committee witnessed what many saw as a bizarre performance from another British billionaire, Sir Philip Green, as his failings in the sale of British Home Stores were exposed in between complaints about excessive staring from the committee members. These are just the latest in a string of high profile inquiries by parliamentary select committees over the past six years that have also seen Rupert Murdoch attacked with a custard pie, Michael Gove alleging a ‘Trot conspiracy’ in English schools and a vice president of Google being informed that “you do evil”.

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Parliamentary sovereignty and the Human Rights Act 1998

Parliamentary sovereignty and the Human Rights Act 1998

By Matthew Burton

In a recent post on this blog, Chris Kirkland highlights the problematic nature of the concept of sovereignty in relation to the Brexit debate and the forthcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. On the one hand, Brexit campaigners argue that the UK has already lost its sovereignty to the European Union. A legally precise argument in this vein would point to the EU doctrines of supremacy and direct effect, which allow nationals of Member States of the EU to enforce EU law within the courts of the Member States, and requires EU law to take priority whenever it conflicts with a principle of domestic law. On the other hand, as the referendum demonstrates, the Westminster Parliament is free to legislate to withdraw from the EU whenever it wishes, and from a legal perspective at least, could do so without the need for any kind of referendum or national vote.

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The Scotland Act 2016: New challenges for parliamentary scrutiny

The Scotland Act 2016: New challenges for parliamentary scrutiny

By Stephen Herbert

The process of parliamentary scrutiny of the recommendations of the Smith Commission and the subsequent Scotland Bill has provided insights into the challenges that implementing the now Scotland Act 2016 present. The Scotland Act 2016 provides for the devolution of a range of new competencies to Holyrood. However, the passage of the Act is significant not only for the powers it confers upon the Scottish Parliament and Government but also the shift in the structure of Scottish devolution that will be a consequence of the Act’s provisions. The 2016 Act will result in a shift from a system of largely separate and clearly demarcated boundaries in terms of the distribution of powers between Holyrood and Westminster to an increasingly shared distribution of powers in a range of policy areas, notably with regard to taxation and social security powers. This will result in a greater degree of inter-governmental working than has been the case to date and will also present challenges to legislatures in examining these relationships. The issues raised, in this regard, by this shift in the structure of devolution are considered here.

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