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The Governance of Parliament 2010

Researchers: Professor Meg Russell

Project overview

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.


  • Professor Meg Russell
    University College London

  • Director, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.