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LSE academic gives evidence to Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and Co-Director of Democratic Audit at LSE, has given evidence to Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.

The committee’s report, ‘Revisiting Rebuilding the House: the impact of the Wright reforms’, is published today (Thursday 18 July). It aims to evaluate the impact of the Wright Report of 2009 and gathers together the written and oral evidence given to the Committee, including that of Professor Dunleavy.

The Wright Report of 2009 produced 50 recommendations and conclusions on three main subjects: the control of the Parliamentary agenda, Select Committees and public initiation of proceedings. The report gathers together the written and oral evidence given on the effectiveness of Parliament in implementing these reforms. It concludes that there have been clear advances in the effectiveness of Commons select committees, though some issues remain that must be addressed if momentum for reform is to be maintained.

The report states:

“There is also clear evidence that these more self-confident select committees have increased their media impact in recent years, and especially since the changes implemented as a result of Wright. Professor Patrick Dunleavy, Co-Director of
Democratic Audit, revealed the results of research into press coverage. He told us that there had been ‘a substantial growth in the overall [press] mentions of Commons committees across the five years. Setting 2008 levels at 100, then total mentions and one average indicator (the mean) both increased to 330 by 2012, while a further average (the median) grew to 274.’ The research suggested that ‘much of the total increase in mentions has taken place in four exceptionally prominent committees’: Culture, Media and Sport, Home Affairs, Public Accounts and Treasury. However the trend was broadbased, with press coverage of a further seven committees increasing significantly.”

It goes on to record:

“According to Professor Dunleavy, some select committees were taking on ‘very
major investigative tasks that in the past might have been wholly contracted out by the Executive to a judge or inquiry or whatever’. He observed that Parliament had been prominent since the Wright Committee reforms ‘in areas like pressgate, the media scandal in the conduct of the banks and the way in which the taxpayer ended up with a huge liability, and in home affairs after the London riots’. We heard evidence that the series of investigations by the Public Accounts Committee into tax avoidance by major corporations and by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee into the behaviour of the media showed a determination to persist with areas of inquiry, if necessary over many months.”

Professor Dunleavy also warned that the House needed to “make itself more sharply aware of the increasing importance of electronic communication in reaching out to the public. He criticised the Parliament website as ‘dreadfully set up and run. It is very hard indeed for me, and I have a PhD in political science, to find the right Committee hearing.’ 

Patrick Dunleavy and Dominic Muir examine how the reforms pushed through in 2009-10 by Tony Wright have already made a dramatic difference in the new Democratic Audit blog 

Read the full written evidence submitted by Professor Dunleavy here 

18 July 2013