Matching majorities: examining proposals for English Votes for English Laws

Future bills (including finance bills) and secondary legislation introduced to the Commons and certified as being English only will require a double majority before being passed into law, according to plans announced by Leader of the House Chris Grayling this morning. A new system will produce two results: one for all MPs, another just for English MPs.

What impact will these proposals have on the passage of legislation? To what proportion of legislation will they apply – and how many divisions may conclude differently as a result? This blog uses the House of Commons Library’s divisions database (2001 – present) to address these questions using historic data.

Continue reading

120 Second Places: A springboard for UKIP in 2020?

Just under a year ago I published a blog taking a retrospective look at the 2014 European Parliament and local elections to consider what UKIP’s 2014 successes might mean for the Party’s General Election chances. That blog and another since highlighted the fact that while UKIP’s recent history has been characterised by relatively successful European elections followed by poor general election performances, signs were pointing to a slightly different outcome this time. Indeed, most political commentators were unsurprised by the 10-point boost to UKIP’s vote share relative to 2010, and perhaps as testament to the curiosities of a FPTP system, equally unsurprised by the lack of seats this translated to.

Despite winning only a single seat in May, UKIP hailed the General Election as a step in the right direction, citing it as evidence that their “2020 strategy” – building a platform of support to challenge in the next General Election – is on track. Besides the almost 3.9 million votes cast for UKIP, one of the main justifications for this optimism was the number of seats in which the UKIP candidate came second. While in 2010 the party registered zero second place finishes, in 2015 they achieved 120 – almost twice the number managed by the Liberal Democrats and two-thirds that of the Conservatives. But does this really point towards more seats in 2020? A closer look at this subset of seats and the way in which those second place finishes were secured could help answer this question.

Continue reading

Large energy generation projects in Wales – who will be deciding on them in future?

This article is by Graham Winter, National Assembly for Wales Research Service, with contributions from Louise Smith, House of Commons Library. It first appeared on In Brief.

An increasingly complex picture is emerging about who will be taking decisions on large energy projects in future, with the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 about to appear on the statute books and announcements in the Queen’s Speech about further energy devolution, alongside proposed changes in the rules for onshore windfarms.  This blog post explores some of these complexities and highlights some of the issues that still need to be sorted out.

Continue reading

Do sanctions work?

Sanctions don’t work?

It is difficult to be sure why a country has changed its policy. Most academics used to conclude, however, that there was precious little evidence for international sanctions changing anything. In 1985, an author argued that there were few subjects where international relations analysts agreed as much as on the proposition ‘sanctions do not work’.

Continue reading

New powers for local government: early observations on the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill

The 2015 Government has moved quickly on the devolution of power to local authority areas, introducing the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill into the House of Lords on 29 May 2015. The Chancellor, George Osborne, has made clear that this Bill forms part of the Government’s stated intention to create a ‘Northern powerhouse’, rebalancing the economy of the UK. What does the Bill tell us about the direction of the Government’s policy in this area?

Continue reading

How much did the polls vary from the General Election result?

In the run up to polling day last Thursday, a large number of opinion polls were carried out, all aiming to estimate the public’s voting intention. The exact wording of the questions posed by polling companies varied, as did their approaches to weighting the responses, but in essence they all attempted to estimate the share of the vote each major party in Great Britain would receive at the General Election.

The results of these polls were broadly consistent throughout the campaign. But they were so different from the actual result for the two largest parties that the British Polling Council has launched an independent enquiry into the causes of the error.

So how different were the polls from the actual result? The chart below shows seven-point moving averages of the share of the vote for each party as estimated in opinion polls carried out by several major polling companies during the campaign period (from 30th March 2015), with the result of the 2015 General Election marked at the end of each series with a party-coloured X.

Chart showing a moving average of the share of the vote for each major party as estimated by opinion polls during the 2015 General Election campaign

Continue reading

Regulating the web, the Open Internet and Net Neutrality

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, earlier this year warned that net neutrality—“a key element of the openness that underpins the Web and the broader Internet”—is under threat. And while internet activists cheered the announcement in February this year that the US telecommunications regulator had approved a plan to govern the internet like a public utility—thereby enshrining net neutrality into US law—this is currently being subjected to legal challenge.

Here in the UK, all the major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are signed up to the Open Internet Code—a voluntary code of practice designed to support the open internet—with EE, Virgin Media and Vodafone the latest ISPs to sign up in January 2015. So what is net neutrality, why does it matter and is regulation needed?

Continue reading

How experienced is the new House of Commons?

How much experience of Parliamentary service does the newly elected House of Commons have? The answer is that it depends on how you measure it. The following chart shows the mean and the median number of years served in the Commons by MPs elected at each general election since 1983.

Chart showing the mean and median years service by MPs elected at each general election

The mean is what people typically think of when they talk about averages — it’s the total number of years that MPs in each group have worked in the Commons divided by the number of MPs in the group; while the median is the value which divides the group in half — in each group of MPs, half have fewer years of Parliamentary service than the median and half have more.

As the chart shows, the typical number of years service among MPs elected at each general election differs depending on whether you measure it using the mean or the median. What’s more, the trends differ between the two measures.

Using the mean, the MPs elected in 1997 were the least experienced of any Parliament since 1983. But using the median, the group of MPs elected in 2001 were the least experienced.

So which is the more appropriate measure? Arguably, you need to consider both measures, because the difference between the two reflects the shape of the distribution of experience among the MPs in each group.

Continue reading