The Governance of Parliament

This project investigated how much autonomy the Commons has over its own affairs – in particular its agenda, its committee system, and its procedures. In light of concern about government dominance of Parliament, the researchers drew ideas from the legislatures of Scotland, Germany, New Zealand and Australia to set out a programme of reform that would strengthen the control exercised by backbench MPs and committees.

The researchers, led by Dr Meg Russell, published a report in October 2007 entitled The House Rules? International lessons for enhancing the autonomy of the House of Commons. One of the recommendations made was to establish a Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons. This recommendation was implemented by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in July 2009. The committee was chaired by Tony Wright MP and Dr Meg Russell was appointed as its Specialist Adviser.

In November 2009 the committee published its report. Its proposals are largely in line with those recommended in The House Rules?, including elections for select committee chairs and members, new petitioning arrangements, and immediate establishment of a Backbench Business Committee to schedule a new category of ‘backbench business’. The recommendations were welcomed by the three main parties.

In June 2010, MPs voted to create an elected Backbench Business Committee with responsibility for scheduling debates in the chamber for one day per week. The vote followed circulation of a briefing paper written by Dr Russell to all MPs in the new Parliament explaining the need for change.

Project details



Dr Meg Russell, Constitution Unit, University College London

Grant amount and duration


November 2004 - October 2007


June 2010 - July 2010

Project website


Project summary on the UCL website

The Wright Reforms - website established by a coalition of groups outside Parliament to encourage support for the Wright Committee recommendations. 



Backbench Business Committee briefing paper, May 2010

Download briefing paper (PDF)

The House Rules? International lessons for enhancing the autonomy of the House of Commons, Meg Russell and Akash Paun, Constitution Unit, October 2007

Download report (PDF/6,855KB)