Research briefings

This page provides access to research briefings produced by the House of Commons Library, the House of Lords Library and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). You can filter the research briefings by date, type, or one of 350 topics. Pick your options from the dropdown menus.

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    • Commons Briefing papers: Papers providing in-depth and impartial analysis on every major piece of primary legislation and on other topics of public and parliamentary concern. Regular statistics papers are also published.
    • Lords Library Notes: Authored publications by the research section of the House of Lords Library that provide analysis of Bills, subjects for debate in the House and other issues of interest to Members.
    • POSTbriefs: Responsive policy briefings from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology based on mini-literature reviews and peer review, typically commissioned by select committees and library research services.
    • POSTnotes: Proactive four-page policy briefings from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology based on reviews of the research literature, interviews with stakeholders and peer review, commissioned by the POST Board.
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    Topics: Research material can be filtered by subject using the topic terms. The topics are arranged in a taxonomy (a hierarchical classification) and can be further filtered using sub-topics.

Displaying 1-20 out of 56

A British Bill of Rights?
Published Friday, January 22, 2016 | Commons Briefing papers CBP-7193
The Conservative Party went into the 2015 General Election with a manifesto commitment to “scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights.” This note provides a brief introduction to the Human Rights Act 1998; the European Convention on Human Rights and the work of the European Court of Human Rights.
Conventions on the relationship between the House of Commons and House of Lords
Published Thursday, January 7, 2016 | Commons Briefing papers SN05996
This House of Commons Library briefing paper sets out the conventions on the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament and their origins. On 17 December 2015 Lord Strathclyde published his review of secondary legislation and the primacy of the House of Commons. This briefing paper sets out the background to the review and Lord Strathclyde's recommendations.
EU Treaty change: the parliamentary process of bills
Published Monday, June 15, 2015 | Commons Briefing papers SN03341
How does Parliament deal with EU Treaty amendments? Is primary legislation needed to implement them? This briefing looks at the parliamentary process of bills linked to the ratification of EU Treaty amendments and compares the amount of time spent on the major EU Treaties since the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973.
Parliamentary approval for military action
Published Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | Commons Briefing papers CBP-7166
The deployment of the Armed Forces is currently a prerogative power. Parliament has no legally established role and the Government is under no legal obligation with respect to its conduct. In 2011 the Government acknowledged that a convention had emerged whereby the House of Commons would have the opportunity to debate the deployment of military forces, prior to doing so, except in the event of an emergency. The defeat of the Government in a vote on military action in Syria in August 2013 was widely viewed as an assertion of Parliamentary sovereignty on such matters. Yet many have argued that the convention lacks clarity and remains open to interpretation and exploitation. In 2011 the Government committed to legislate on this issue but by the end of the 2010-2015 Parliament no proposals were forthcoming. Going forward proponents of a formalised role for Parliament have suggested adopting a parliamentary resolution as either an interim step or as a viable alternative to legislation. Establishing either is fraught with difficulties and arguably, therefore, makes the continuation and strengthening of the current convention more likely in the immediate future.
What happens after an indecisive election result?
Published Monday, May 11, 2015 | Commons Briefing papers CBP-7163
This note considers the conventions on forming a government in a scenario where no one party wins the majority of seats at a general election. It also covers the restrictions on government activity during the period between a general election and the formation of a new Government.
Role of the Lord Chancellor
Published Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Commons Briefing papers SN02105
History and development of the office of Lord Chancellor. This note summarises the history and development of the office of Lord Chancellor and also examines the changes that were made to the role following the enactment of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.
The Osmotherly Rules
Published Tuesday, March 24, 2015 | Commons Briefing papers SN02671
The Osmotherly Rules (the Rules) give guidance on the role of civil servants and other Government officials appearing before select committees. The purpose of the Rules is to assist staff in Government departments dealing with requests for information from select committees, including: the provision of evidence, handling select committee reports and drafting responses to such reports.
Citizens’ Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions
Published Thursday, March 19, 2015 | Commons Briefing papers SN07143
A constitutional convention has been defined as “a representative body, brought together to draft a new constitution or to design or approve changes to an old one”.

Topic: Constitution

Japan: Abe's constitutional and security agenda
Published Monday, March 2, 2015 | Commons Briefing papers SN07115
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (the LDP) won a decisive victory in snap elections held in December 2014. One of the reasons for holding early elections was Abe’s desire to amend Japan’s ‘peace Constitution’ so that in future it expressly permits the country’s armed forces to come to the aid of allies under attack. This is known in Japan as the right of ‘collective self-defence’. In mid- 2014 the Japanese Cabinet approved interpreting the Constitution in this way. Abe is now seeking to give this new interpretation legal and constitutional underpinning. Important as it is, amending Article 9 of the Constitution is just one part of Abe’s plans on the defence and security front. Japan is now looking to enhance its defence capabilities so that it can play a greater role in promoting international “peace, stability and prosperity”. It will also increase its ability to respond effectively to any attack on the Senkaku Islands (as Japan calls them) in the East China Sea.
Recall of MPs Bill 2014-15
Published Thursday, October 9, 2014 | Commons Briefing papers RP14-53
The Recall of MPs Bill 2014-15 was introduced on 11 September 2014, and is scheduled to be debated on second reading on 14 October. There was a commitment to legislate to introduce a power of recall in the Coalition Agreement, and a draft bill was scrutinised by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in 2012.
The Law Officers
Published Friday, August 1, 2014 | Commons Briefing papers SN04485
Information about the role of the Law Officers in England and Wales (the Attorney General and Solicitor General).
Scotland: Referendum and independence. A select bibliography.
Published Thursday, July 3, 2014 | Commons Briefing papers SN06698
A selection of resources on the referendum taking place on 18 September 2014 and the potential impact of independence. Standard Note as at 31 July 2013.
Nepal’s endless peace process, 2006-12
Published Friday, October 11, 2013 | Commons Briefing papers SN04229
This note gives an account of Nepal’s peace process from the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in November 2006 to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, its mandate unfulfilled, in May 2012. The note will not be updated.
State and ceremonial funerals
Published Wednesday, July 31, 2013 | Commons Briefing papers SN06600
This Note explains the arrangements for state and ceremonial funerals, including examples from the past. It shows the distinction between the two types of funeral, looks at what is known about the process to decide whether a state funeral will be held for a commoner, and provides some information on costs.

Topics: Constitution, Crown

Referendum on independence for Scotland
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | Commons Briefing papers SN06478
The UK and Scottish Governments reached agreement in October 2012 on the legislation needed to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. This Note discusses the agreement, and the draft “Section 30 Order” by which the UK Parliament will give the Scottish Parliament the power to hold the vote. It also covers the question of the franchise and some reaction to the agreement.
The Turks and Caicos Islands
Published Monday, December 31, 2012 | Commons Briefing papers SN05038
This note briefly reviews the crisis of political and economic governance which has affected the Turks and Caicos Islands since 2008. A period of direct rule came to an end when fresh elections were held in November 2012. Only time will tell whether the Turks and Caicos Islands are now set on a new course – and, if so, what that course is.
Constitutional change: timeline from 1911: House of Commons Background Paper
Published Friday, December 21, 2012 | Commons Briefing papers SN06256
This note contains a short and highly selective chronology of constitutional change over the past century. Prominent themes include parliamentary reform, devolution and changes to the franchise.

Topic: Constitution

Succession to the Crown Bill 2012-13
Published Wednesday, December 19, 2012 | Commons Briefing papers RP12-81
The Succession to the Crown Bill would make changes so that gender would no longer play a part in determining the order of succession to the Crown, and so that a person marrying a Roman Catholic would no longer be barred from becoming or remaining monarch. It would also remove a requirement for descendants of George II to seek permission from the monarch to marry, replacing it with a requirement for the first six people in the line of succession to seek consent if they wish to remain in line to the throne. This Paper discusses the existing rules, the changes proposed by the Bill, and the process among the 16 states of which the Queen is Head of State to make the changes together.

Topics: Constitution, Crown

Timetabling of constitutional bills since 1997
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | Commons Briefing papers SN06371
This note provides some information on the amount of time the House has spent considering constitutional bills on the floor of the House of Commons during committee stage. The Note covers the period since 1997, when the programming of bills was first introduced.
The Separation of Powers
Published Tuesday, August 16, 2011 | Commons Briefing papers SN06053
This Standard Note considers the extent to which 1) the executive and legislature; 2) the executive and judiciary; and 3) the judiciary and legislature now overlap and interact.

Displaying 1-20 out of 56

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