Purpose and Prospects

  • Philip Giddings


There is no doubt that Parliament has changed substantially since the SPG was founded in 1964. Its composition, cultures and procedures are now very different from the portrait sketched by Michael Ryle in the opening chapter of this book. Nevertheless, much remains the same. The ambitions of reformers have not been fully realised, even if many of their particular proposals have been adopted. Anxiety about Parliament’s relative powerlessness – that it has been increasingly marginalised by Government and ignored by the media – remains. Some of these anxieties reflect a failure, as some see it, to understand that Parliament is not about power, but influence. Thus Michael Ryle argues that Parliament’s role lies not in taking and implementing decisions (that is the task of Her Majesty’s Government) but in providing the public forum for debate between Government and people about how Government carries out its task.1 It is in that critical forum, through dialogue and debate, that Parliament is able to exercise influence. But even from that perspective critical questions arise: how effective is Parliament’s influence? is Government’s response to criticism and dialogue adequate – and what can be done if it isn’t? The critics’ anxiety is that a government with a cohesive and disciplined majority has no incentive to respond positively – and that is why more progress has not been made to ‘reform’ Parliament. That view illustrates the central problem for debate when considering the future of Parliament: the role of party and party managers.


Electoral System Liberal Democracy Judicial Review Party Loyalty Government Administrator 
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  1. 4.
    Treasury Solicitor, The Judge over Your Shoulder: A Guide to Judicial Review for UK Government Administrators. March 2000, p. 1. Over half the applications were immigration cases. Only 22.4% – still a substantial number – of the applications resulted in full hearings. The first edition of the guide was published in 1987.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Public Law Project, The Impact of the Human Rights Act on judicial review: an empirical Research Study. June 2003.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See, for example, Philip Norton, The Commons in Perspective, Martin Robertson, 1981, pp. 225–235.Google Scholar

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© Philip Giddings 2005

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  • Philip Giddings

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