Research, Impact and the UK Parliament – Event Report

Katie Drax, Honorary Research Assistant at the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG)

Science can inform how society is run so research can have implications for public and private policy. But how? How can research feed into policy-making, i.e. evidence-based policy? For those who don’t have a clue about parliamentary actions or how they relate to academics’ work the “Research, Impact and the UK Parliament” event series is a good way to get to grips with Parliament and research.

Starting at 10 a.m. we pinned name badges to our shirts and busied ourselves by riffling through the Houses of Parliament tote bags placed on our seats. Thankfully the event did not require much prior knowledge since it was assumed the majority of attendees were ignorant about the workings of Parliament and so the first presentation was a 30 minute crash course on the subject. Continue reading

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Miller: Why the Government should argue that Article 50 is reversible

Dr Phil Syrpis, Reader in Law, University of Bristol

Professor Phil Syrpis, Professor of EU Law, University of Bristol

Last week’s judgement in the High Court is a ringing endorsement of the sovereignty of Parliament. It asserts that ‘Parliament can, by enactment of primary legislation, change the law of the land in any way it chooses’ (at [20]).

It explains why the ‘subordination of the Crown (i.e. executive government) to law is the foundation of the rule of law in the United Kingdom’ (at [26]), including references to the bedrock of the UK’s Constitution, the Glorious Revolution, the Bill of Rights, and constitutional jurist AV Dicey’s An Introduction to the Law of the Constitution.

The Crown has broad powers on the international plane, for example to make and unmake treaties, but as a matter of English law, these powers reach their limits where domestic law rights are affected. EU law, by virtue of the European Communities Act 1972 (described again as a constitutional statute), does indeed have direct effect in domestic law. As a result of the fact that the decision to withdraw from the European Union would have a direct bearing on various

The Royal Courts of Justice in London, home of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Credit- Anthony M. from Rome, Italy - Flickr

The Royal Courts of Justice in London, home of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. Credit- Anthony M. from Rome, Italy – Flickr

categories of rights outlined in the judgement (at [57]-[61]), the Crown cannot, without the approval of Parliament, give notice under Article 50.  Continue reading

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‘Raining Women’ & Feminising Politics

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol

At home: In Westminster, Theresa May – the UK’s second woman Prime Minister – and in Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon – Scotland’s first woman First Minister – opposed by the Tories’ Ruth Davidson, and Labour’s Kezia Dugdale.

Abroad: Angela Merkel, of course, and maybe soon President, Hilary Clinton.

The media seemingly don’t quite know what to do with ‘all’ these women in politics. Gender and politics scholars are finding themselves in great demand. There are, predictably, numerous articles in the newspapers about what the women are wearing, and how they do their hair.

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Life in the House of Commons Library

Madeline Burke, PhD Student, Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials

Madeline Burke, PhD Student, Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, University of Bristol

As a PhD student I rarely get exposed to aspects of academic life such has grant writing, policy and management.  So when the opportunity came up to apply for a 3 month internship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), I jumped at the chance.

POST, as it is known, is based at the heart of Westminster. It serves both Houses of Parliament in providing impartial advice to parliamentarians on science and technology policy issues; often in the form of briefing papers called POSTnotes. POST was formed by a group of MPs and Peers concerned at the lack of scientific evidence available to influence Parliamentary policy and in 2001 both Houses decided that POST should be established as a permanent bicameral institution.

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British politics is failing the Brexit test

Dr Hugh Pemberton Reader in Contemporary British History, University of Bristol, Department of History

Dr Hugh Pemberton
Reader in Contemporary British History, University of Bristol, Department of History

What have we learned in the days since Britain voted to leave the EU by a margin of 3.8 percentage points?

The UK has jettisoned its foreign policy of 55 years, the political class is paralysed, and the country is in dangerous economic waters. This is a political failure on a scale unprecedented in modern British history which calls into question fundamental features of our political system.

First, it is clear nobody has the slightest idea how Brexit (either ‘hard’ or ‘soft’) is to be accomplished. Those campaigning for a Leave vote had no plan for how it might be achieved in a way that would not impose lasting damage on the country by crimping exports to countries that represent 45% of our overseas trade. Astonishingly, no serious contingency planning had been done within Whitehall, which consequently, is having radically to reorientate itself and try to find people with the necessary skills.

Second, many of the dire predictions of ‘project truth’ were right. The pound is at a low not seen for 31 years – not a bad thing for exporters but a significant loss for international investors in our economy, and in our government’s debt, that may ultimately have consequences for their confidence in us. There are serious concerns that the widespread economic uncertainty is leading a downturn in business investment, not least in the all-important service and construction sectors, and to large scale cancellation of investment, creating the conditions for recession. Many large firms (e.g. HSBC) are already implementing plans to redeploy parts of their business and workforce to the Continent. As the Bank of England has warned, Brexit is ‘crystallising’ very serious economic risks as well as posing a major foreign policy challenge.

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Nine ways research gets into Parliament

In October 2015 I wrote a post about how research gets into Parliament. Six months on, in April this year, I had a Twitter conversation with Matthew Purvis, head of research services in the House of Lords Library. Matthew told me that there are a couple of other ways that research gets into Parliament, which I didn’t know about when I wrote my original post.  So below is an update. Updates are in italics in the text, but here’s a summary of what’s new:

Research also gets into Parliament:

  • in Lords Briefing Packs (no. 6)
  • through Lords Library responses to Peers’ questions (no. 8)
  • through the House of Lords Library Current Affairs Digest (no. 9)

Nine ways research gets into Parliament (pdf here).

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Essential Guide: Eight ways research gets into Parliament

This article was originally posted by Sarah Foxen on the author’s personal blog.

Discussions about research and policy have a tendency to be more reflective about policy-making in general, rather than focusing on the more practical aspects of how research filters through a variety of networks and into policy discussions. Sarah Foxen looks at eight specific ways research currently gets into Parliament and provides some helpful links on where to start to get more involved.

I recently attended an RCUK-funded training day on research and policy. Part-way through one of the breakout sessions, it became apparent that my peers were sharing my frustrations with the training. We had expected to gain practical insight into how research feeds into policy, but instead the training had a rather more reflective focus, with the majority of speakers using their lectern time to perpetuate or challenge discourses surrounding academic impact.

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What does it take to get women at the top? Sex Balancing Party Leaderships

Meryl Kenny is Lecturer in Politics (Gender) at the University of Edinburgh

Meryl Kenny, Lecturer in Politics, University of Edinburgh

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender, University of Bristol

The new Labour leader, deputy leader, and both candidates standing for Mayor in London and Bristol: all male. And this from a party whose parliamentary benches are more than 43 percent female and, in Bristol, where all its MPs are women. The newspapers and social media, not unexpectedly, were quick to question the party’s commitment to gender equality. Whatever you think of revaluing the education and health brief (and there’s a lot to be said for it), the absence of not one woman from the traditional top offices of state invited criticism. Some of this was no doubt right-wing commentators finding yet another reason to be critical of Labour’s new leader.

But the feminist criticism was more substantive: a longstanding worry that leftist politics often has too little room for gender equality in policy and personnel terms. Against such criticism, the counter argument: given the number of women candidates standing, party members had ample opportunity to vote for a woman. In short, Corbyn was the preferred candidate, his sex notwithstanding.

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Time for a new kind of politics?

Tessa Coombes - Social Policy PhD student

Tessa Coombes – Social Policy PhD student

At last, the long drawn out Labour leadership election has come to its conclusion and we now know that Jeremy Corbyn has indeed been elected as leader of the Labour Party. After what has been a challenging process, involving intrigue, sub plots and horror stories, we will now see what this new kind of politics is all about. The mandate for change is clear with the scale of the victory born out of a truly democratic process embracing the notion of a real alternative to the status quo.

But what does this mean in practice when you have a leader who will undoubtedly have to fight many internal battles to gain support for his own policies?

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What do Bristol women want from the 2015 General Election?

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender

Sarah Childs, Professor of Politics and Gender,  School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

On a cold and wet November evening some 40 women gathered to discuss the forthcoming UK general election. The panel of speakers – hosted by the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS)’ Gender Research Centre as part of the 2014 ESRC ‘Thinking Futures’ festival of social science, undertook a gendered reading of the forthcoming election. 

Gender and voting behaviour
The sociologist Paula Surridge offered new analysis of the British Panel study (BES) data, a panel study of the British population with around 30,000 respondents to each wave. She found:

  • a gender gap in identification of the ‘most important political issue’, with
  • women more concerned about immigration than men, and
  • men more concerned about the economy.

Perhaps surprisingly for the audience, education and health – often cited as issues women are more concerned about – did not feature highly when the question looked at the single most important issue.

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