Analysing Reform: The House of Commons, 2001–5

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Abstract

This article examines the nature and implications of reforms to the House of Commons that were implemented during the 2001–5 Parliament under the guise of ‘modernisation’. It describes the reforms that were implemented during this period in order to enhance the House of Commons' scrutiny capacity over the executive and attempts to assess the degree to which these reforms represent a shift in the balance of power. In order to ground the analysis and provide a clear conceptualisation of power the article adopts a resource-dependency framework that identifies and traces the transfer and deployment of key resources in order to prevent or facilitate change. The article concludes that the common distinction between ‘modernising parliament’ and ‘parliamentary reform’ needs refining and offers an ‘incremental-bounded reform’ model which provides a framework for not only gauging and understanding the process of reform but also explaining the nature of restraints. This model suggests that scrutiny reforms implemented during 2001–5 should not be dismissed, particularly in the context of the parliamentary decline thesis. A number of significant ‘cracks and wedges’ have been achieved and these may expand over time through a gradual process of extension, accretion and spillover.

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