At a time of significant structural change, the UK’s constitutional and political arrangements face unprecedented challenges. There are strong arguments to be made for increasing the level of scrutiny of constitutional reform by accountable bodies, particularly through the vehicle of the Parliamentary Select Committee. Yet, the number of Committees tasked with examining constitutional matters has decreased; in particular, the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee was not re-appointed following the 2015 General Election. Drawing on a detailed case study of the work of this unique committee, Dr Eloise Ellis examines the implications of its dissolution for the parliamentary scrutiny of constitutional reform more broadly.
In September the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee published their report into Pre-Appointment Scrutiny Hearings. Robert Hazell gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry on the subject; here he discusses the report’s conclusions, and describes the events that led to its being undertaken, including two Constitution Unit studies that evaluated the effectiveness of such scrutiny.
There has been plenty of procedural drama and political intrigue in the UK Parliament in the last fortnight. Mark Bennister, who is an academic fellow in the House of Commons, discusses why these events pose a challenge to how Westminster is perceived by the public.
Devolved government in Northern Ireland collapsed in early 2017 and remains suspended, with no resolution in sight. Clare Rice, Queen’s University Belfast, discusses the impact of this institutional hiatus on the Public Accounts Committee in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the scrutiny of public spending.