The public and Parliament: more engaged, less satisfied – Hansard Society audit

One of the most positive findings for Parliament is that a clear majority believes that it is essential “to our democracy” (73% – equaling 2016’s record score).

However, people do not think that parliament is doing a good job for them. Fewer than a third of people were satisfied with the way that parliament works, and not many more think parliament is doing a good job of representing their interests (38%).

Knowledge of parliament fell in the latest study; 45% claimed to know a great deal or a fair amount about parliament, down from 52% last year. This is similar to the level of knowledge about politics in general (49%) and the European Union (43%).

Increasing engagement with parliament
There were positive indicators around engagement with Parliament: overall just over half the public say they have engaged with Parliament in some way in the last year – a ten point increase from 2015. Also:

  • The proportion of the public who report watching or listening to a parliamentary debate or committee meeting (online, on TV or on radio) has increased from 31% to 39%
  • The number saying they have signed an e-petition is up from 15% to 22%
  • 12% contacted an MP or Peer with their views.

Some if this could be down to the seismic political events of the past year – public interest in Brexit and high-profile e-petitions on topics like Donald Trump’s proposed state visit will have increased people’s appetite to engage.

Arguably the most positive indicator in the study is the score on certainty to vote. 59% of respondents said that they would be certain to vote in an immediate general election. This is the highest recorded score in the 14 years of the Audit (joint with 2016). We won’t have to wait long to see if this is borne out.

Engagement by age
The overall message of this year’s report could be “increasingly engaged, but not satisfied”. However, looking at the data for younger people, the picture is bleaker. Variables on engagement, knowledge and effectiveness all show lower scores for younger age groups.

Other data used within chapter 2 of our briefing on political engagement shows a similar pattern – in December 2015, 67% of 20-24 year olds were registered to vote, compared with 93% of 55-64 year olds. IPSOS-Mori estimate that turnout of 18-24 year olds was 43% at the 2015 General Election, compared with 77% for 55-64 year olds.

The test
Arguably, the key indicator for engagement with politics and parliament is turnout at a general election. In 2015, turnout across the UK was 66%, slightly up on 2010, but still well below levels seen in the 20th Century.

The Audit provides some grounds for optimism; a record percentage were certain to vote. But again, this score varies significantly by age, from around two in five for 18-24 year olds, to four in five for over 65s. There are also large variations by social grade (ABs are most certain to vote), by qualification level and by income.

There will be many groups working to encourage participation in June’s general election; the challenge for them is not just whether they can increase overall turnout, but also whether they can increase participation among the young and other less politically engaged groups. If we accept that politics and Parliament are more effective when they represent the views of all constituents, Parliament too has a job to do encouraging everyone to register to vote. It is likely that if you are reading a Commons Library blog post you’re probably already going to vote in June, but perhaps someone you know isn’t. The deadline to register is 22nd May – please motivate someone you know to register and use their vote.

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  • Founded in 1944, the Hansard Society is a non-partisan research and education charity working in the UK and around the world to promote democracy and strengthen parliaments.
  • The information in this year’s Audit of Political Engagement is based on a Political Engagement Poll undertaken by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Hansard Society. The findings are based on a total of 1,771 face-to-face interviews with adults aged 18+ conducted between 2 December 2016 and 15 January 2017, which have then been weighted to the national population profile of Great Britain. This is the 14th year of the Audit, which began in 2004.
  • During the general election campaign, the Commons Library will not be publishing new briefings; Parliament’s Participation team will be encouraging people to register, to cast their vote on the 8 June and to continue to engage with Parliament following the election.

Picture credit: The British Parliament and Big Ben by MauriceCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

 

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Wash-up: What Happens to Bills before Parliament is Dissolved

This House of Lords Library briefing provides information about what happens to public bills before the dissolution of Parliament in the period known as ‘wash-up’.

Public bills cannot be carried over from one parliament to the next in the same way that they can be carried over from one session to the next within the lifetime of a parliament. The period of the last few days of a parliament, during which unfinished business must be agreed by both Houses or lost at dissolution, is known as ‘wash-up’. During this period, because there is not enough time to complete parliamentary consideration in the usual way, the Government is reliant on the cooperation of the Opposition to secure its legislation. The Government and the Opposition reach agreements on the bills—or parts of bills—that should be hurried through their remaining parliamentary stages to reach the statute book before dissolution. Sometimes the Government is willing to drop certain bills, or certain provisions, to secure the passage of others. Sometimes parliamentary time is also provided during the wash-up for private member’s bills.

Following the House of Commons’ vote on 19 April 2017 by 522 votes to 13 in favour of the Prime Minister’s motion that there should be an early general election, Parliament is now in a wash-up period. Parliament must be dissolved 25 days before the proposed date of the general election, meaning that for the election to take place on 8 June 2017, Parliament will be dissolved at one minute past midnight on 3 May 2017. All outstanding public bills must be dealt with before then (or before prorogation if that takes place earlier than dissolution) or they will fall at dissolution.

This Lords Library briefing provides background information on what happened during the wash-up periods before the 1987, 1992, 1997, 2005, 2010 and 2015 elections. (A more detailed analysis of the 1987–2010 period, prior to the passage of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011, is available in the joint House of Lords and House of Commons Library note on Wash-up 2010

It also gives details of bills to be dealt with in the 2017 wash-up, including:

  • Government bills that are still before Parliament, the stage they had reached as at 21 April 2017, and the latest schedule for completing their remaining parliamentary stages.
  • Private member’s bills which have completed their passage through the House in which they were first introduced and are currently before the other House; and
  • Bills which have completed their passage through both Houses and are currently awaiting royal assent.

source

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection

This sounds like a very interesting collection. It didn’t seem to contain much in the way of OP materials but the UKOfficialPapers blog has clarified that for me:

 

UKOfficialPapers

Hi there, They do have many treaties as part of the collection ‘The “custody of [all] original treaties with Foreign Powers” was one of the prime responsibilities of the Foreign Office Library for much of its history. Amongst numerous treaties in the collection is an annotated bound volume of peace treaties between Great Britain and Foreign Powers (1814–41). Its manuscript index, carefully compiled by the Librarian Lewis Hertslet, lists each treaty in chronological order and also notes any “Specific British Engagements”. Volumes of press cuttings relate to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the Treaty of Versailles and the foundation of the League of Nations. Further volumes in the collection contain versions of the Treaty of Versailles in various languages.’ http://www.kcl.ac.uk/library/archivespec/special-collections/Individualcollections/fco.aspx

The collection will also include parliamentary papers. Hope that helps, Hannah

OfficialPapersUK

The Foreign Office was created in 1782 and merged to become the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1968. The historical library collection of the FCO was transferred to  Kings College London in 2007 on permanent loan. The collection comprises of over 80,000 items to include photographs and manuscripts. For the historian this is an excellent primary resource. As the FCO was the department responsible for the conduct of relations with nearly all foreign states they are a window to Britain’s colonial past covering subjects such as slavery and the abolition of, railways, expeditions, diplomatic relations and war.

The majority of the collection is housed in the Foyle Special Collections Library. Anyone can view the collections though if you are not a member of Kings College a prior appointment is advisable. The collection is not lending but copies can be supplied and readers are allowed to use their own…

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UK EU Referendum – info

The UK government is now committed to a referendum on EU membership. Last month Patrick Overy (University of Exeter European Documentation Centre (EDC) Librarian) produced a selection of links and resources on the subject:

Patrick Overy (EDC Librarian) and Subject Librarian (Business)
Forum Library, University of Exeter

Results from UK Government Consultation on Scottish Independence

In January this year the UK Government published a consultation document to gather public opinion on the proposal by the Scottish National Party (SNP) to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. The consultation was open until Friday 9th March and gathered views from all members of the UK public.

On the 4th of April the UK Government published a command paper (Cm. 8326) summarising the 2,857 responses to the consultation. This document is available on-line from the Scotland Office by clicking the following link:-

Scotland’s Constitutional Future: Responses to the Consultation

Some notable results from the UK Government consultation are as follows:-

  • 75% of respondents agreed with the position of the UK Government that there should be a single question on Scotland’s constitutional status
  • 70% of respondents agreed with the UK Government that the referendum should take place sooner rather than later
  • 44% of respondents were in favour of the Scottish Government proposal that 16-17 year-olds be allowed to vote in the referendum, with 47% against

The ongoing Scottish Government consultation on the question of Scottish independence will run until Friday 11th May and can found at the following link:-

Your Scotland, Your Referendum