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Parliamentary Affairs Current Issue

Published: Fri, 06 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 06 Oct 2017 09:55:12 GMT


Governance Without Democracy? Analysing the Role of Parliaments in European Economic Governance after the Crisis—Conclusions


‘The EU’s not democratic’ was an oft-repeated phrase during the UK’s 2016 referendum on whether to remain in the European Union (EU) or leave it. The instant rebuttal from pro-Europeans was: ‘The EU is democratic. There are elections to the European Parliament.’ While the riposte was technically accurate, it left many things unsaid. Since 1979, the EU has had the formal trappings of democracy—periodic free and fair elections to an elected parliamentary body—yet there have long been concerns that the EU is too far removed from its citizens. These concerns were paradoxically highlighted by the European Parliament itself when it was considering the UK’s departure from the Union (EP, 2017, recital P and para. 32). Over the last quarter century there have been repeated claims of a democratic deficit in the EU and each time the response has been to empower the European Parliament, a choice reflecting a belief that what is missing from the EU is parliamentary accountability. The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 was hailed as a ‘treaty of parliaments’, intended to overcome some of the criticisms of the EU by (re-)empowering national parliaments in conjunction with the European Parliament (Rozenberg and Hefftler, 2015, p.15). Such ambitions were rapidly overtaken by the need to tackle the financial and Eurozone crises, which led to the numerous formal EU, Eurozone and adhoc arrangements which once again ensured that executives, whether at national or European level, were the beneficiaries at the expense of (national) parliaments (see e.g. House of Lords, 2016 and EP, 2017).

Legal Implications of Economic Governance for National Parliaments


This article explores how the post-crisis EU economic and fiscal governance framework has marginalised national parliaments and compromised legislative autonomy, especially in the delivery of social welfare policy. This article argues that one potential consequence of this new regulatory and political landscape is that it creates scope for new form of democratic deficit to arise from the absence of effective accountability of EU economic and fiscal governance as well as undermining the Treaty principle of solidarity between Member States.

A Separate Parliament for the Eurozone? Differentiated Representation, Brexit, and the Quandary of Exclusion


This article undertakes a critical analysis of the idea of a separate parliamentary chamber for the Eurozone. Beyond the difficulty of determining the composition and powers of such a chamber, it is argued that any attempt to establish a system of differentiated parliamentary representation would encounter the quandary of exclusion: it is difficult to justify excluding non-Eurozone states altogether, but equally difficult to decide which non-Eurozone states to include. This problem is illustrated with a survey of the great variation among non-Eurozone Member States in their adherence to the institutional elements of the EU’s post-crisis economic governance regime, and with an account of the debates over participation in the one new EU parliamentary body in this field, the Interparliamentary Conference on Stability, Economic Coordination and Governance. Finally, there are reflections about the likely impact of Brexit on this problem.

How can Parliaments Contribute to the Legitimacy of the European Semester?


This article develops a standard for evaluating how parliaments can contribute to the legitimacy of the European semester. It then uses that standard to identify where national parliaments may be able to oversee the semester through their relationships to their own governments and where that solution may, conversely, be insufficient. The article uses that analysis to raise four questions. Firstly, what powers over the semester should be exericed by some parliament somewhere? Secondly, how should any parliamentary participation in the semester be distributed across European, national and even sub-national parliaments? Thirdly, how far should parliaments co-operate in their responses to the semester? Fourthly, how uniform across parliaments should participation in the semester be?

Effectiveness of the European Semester: Explaining Domestic Consent and Contestation


Which factors explain domestic consent or contestation of European Union (EU) policy guidance issued within the framework of the European Semester (ES)? To address this question, this article analyses national parliamentary party positions on EU policy guidance in two cycles of the ES (2014 and 2015) in Austria, France, Germany and Ireland. Whereas parliamentary parties in Austria and Ireland expressed their consent to EU policy guidance, parliamentary parties in Germany and France were polarised. The empirical analysis presented in this article establishes that strong formal powers in budgetary matters are a prerequisite for parties to contest EU policy guidance. However, parliamentary party positions depend most on whether the content of EU policy guidance reflects a party’s economic interests.

Do UK MPs engage more with Select Committees since the Wright Reforms? An Interrupted Time Series Analysis, 1979–2016


The 2010 Wright Reforms are the most significant changes to the Select Committee system in the UK House of Commons since their inauguration in their modern form in 1979. We use interrupted time series techniques (ARIMA) to test the impact of the Wright Report on the level of parliamentarians’ engagement with those Select Committees covered by the Wright Reforms using proxy measures of membership attendance and turnover rates. We find little or no evidence that the Wright Report had an impact on these outcomes. In light of these findings, we argue that some of the claims made regarding the successes of Select Committees and the Wright Reforms are overblown or, at least, premature and inadequately supported by evidence, and that further reforms may be needed if the aims of the Wright Committee are to be realised more fully.

With Happiness and Glory, from your MP: The Use of e-Newsletters in the UK Parliaments


This article extends the empirical evidence for the use of e-newsletters in parliamentary communication in between elections. It assesses the effect of electoral incentives and parliamentary institutions on members (MPs11) from all four legislatures in the UK. I find that electoral incentives to cultivate a personal vote increase the e-newsletter usage by MPs. However, being an MP in subnational parliaments or smaller parties decreases it. These findings throw a fresh light on why only some parliamentarians are happy to adopt new and seemingly resource-efficient ways to reach out to voters.

Constituency Pressures on Committee Selection: Evidence from the Northern Ireland Assembly and Dáil Éireann


Most previous research examining selection to committees assumes constituency pressures—leading representatives to seek committee assignments dealing with their constituents’ particularistic interests that improve their re-election prospects—are incompatible with disciplined parties, which may prevent such personal vote-seeking behaviour in order to preserve the party’s brand. In contrast, we argue parties will support committee assignments promoting members’ re-election chances because parties benefit from their members’ re-election. Analysing two legislatures with highly disciplined parties and electoral systems encouraging personal vote-seeking—the Northern Ireland Assembly and Dáil Éireann—our analysis suggests constituency pressures increase the chances of selection to committees enhancing members’ re-election prospects.