• In Focus

    Science and Technology Committee report: ‘‘Science and technology superpower’: More than a slogan?’

    In 2022, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee conducted an inquiry into the government’s stated ambition to make the UK a “science and technology superpower” by 2030. This briefing provides a summary of the committee’s findings and the government’s response, ahead of a debate in the House of Lords on 7 June 2023.

  • In Focus

    Parliamentary democracy in the UK

    A range of groups have expressed concern in recent years about the overall strength of the UK’s democracy or about particular elements of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Concerns range from observations that the relationship between Parliament and the executive has become increasingly unbalanced, to views on changes to certain rights, freedoms and norms seen as essential features in a democratic society.

  • In Focus

    Liaison Committee: Citizenship and civic engagement

    During the 2017–19 session, the House of Lords appointed a committee to examine citizenship and civic engagement in the UK. In 2022, the House of Lords Liaison Committee held a follow-up to this inquiry, considering issues including citizenship education in schools, the ‘life in the UK’ test, and whether the government’s policies in this area are coordinated effectively. The House of Lords is scheduled to debate its report on 17 April 2023.

  • Research Briefing

    Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Organ and Tissue Donation) Bill: HL Bill 105 of 2022–23

    The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Organ and Tissue Donation) Bill would extend the deadline for forming a Northern Ireland executive to 18 January 2024. It would also allow the secretary of state to set an Assembly election date earlier than this if no executive had been formed. It would also allow regulations to be made about the rule for organ donation in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning Assembly.

  • In Focus

    Implementing the Dunlop review into the UK’s union capability

    The Dunlop review examined whether UK government structures were set up to “realise fully all the benefits of being a United Kingdom”. Its report, published in March 2021, made recommendations on reforms the UK government should make to the machinery of government and the civil service to strengthen the working of the union. This article looks at how its recommendations have been taken forward.

  • In Focus

    Central bank digital currencies: Lords Economic Affairs Committee report

    The Bank of England is considering whether to introduce a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in the UK. Unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, CBDCs are digital forms of money issued and backed by a central bank. The House of Lords is due to debate a 2022 report by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee which concluded that it had “yet to hear a convincing case” for why the UK needs a CBDC.

  • In Focus

    Building a stronger union: House of Lords Constitution Committee

    In January 2022, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report calling for the UK government to set out a “clearer vision” for the future of the UK’s union. Although it welcomed the government’s commitment to the union, it argued that a more modern style of governance was needed, and that it was “imperative” that all executives and legislatures worked “constructively and in partnership”. The government has welcomed the report and said it would consider several of its recommendations.

  • In Focus

    Oak National Academy: Impact on the publishing and educational technology sectors

    The government created the Oak National Academy during the Covid-19 pandemic to support remote learning. It has since been converted into an arms-length body that is focused on supporting teachers. Concerns have been raised that the creation of a body that provides free resources for teachers could negatively affect commercial suppliers. However, the government had argued that this impact would be lower than predicted by the market.

  • In Focus

    Delegated powers and the impact on parliamentary scrutiny: Debate on two committee reports

    The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (DPRRC) and the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) published reports in November 2021 criticising the government’s use of delegated powers. The committees are concerned about the amount delegated powers are used and how they are being used, and say it is negatively impacting parliamentary scrutiny. The government has defended its use of delegated powers but has accepted some of the committees’ recommendations to improve the system.

  • In Focus

    Revision of the Cabinet Manual: House of Lords Constitution Committee report

    The Cabinet Manual was first published in 2011. It was described as “a guide to laws, conventions and rules on the operation of government”. The House of Lords Constitution Committee ran an inquiry on the manual in 2021. Its recommendations included that a draft update be produced as soon as possible. Responding, the government agreed to produce a new draft by the end of the current parliament.

  • In Focus

    ‘Fit for the future? Rethinking the public services workforce’: Public Services Committee report

    In July 2022, the House of Lords Public Services Committee published a report on the future of the public services workforce. It argued that public sector staffing was “facing a crisis” due to a “vicious circle” of increasing demand, staff shortages, low morale and recruitment issues. The committee observed that these problems were not unsolvable, but said current efforts were at “far too small a scale”. It made recommendations which it argued, if implemented, would make a “substantial difference” and “secure a more sustainable public services workforce for the future”.

  • In Focus

    Future funding of the BBC: Lords committee report

    The BBC is principally funded through a licence fee paid by UK households; the amount is set by the government in a periodic ‘licence fee settlement’. In January 2022, the government announced a licence fee settlement that would apply from April 2022 until March 2028. It also stated that it was considering how the BBC should be funded after this period. In July 2022, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee published a report examining the future of BBC funding.

  • In Focus

    Review of the London Fire Brigade: Findings and reaction

    In November 2022, an independent cultural review of the London Fire Brigade raised several concerns about the service. This included the finding that it was “institutionally misogynist and racist”. Responding, London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe apologised for the harm caused and set out several measures aimed at addressing the core problems. This article gives an overview of the findings and sets out the reaction to the review from various groups and individuals.

  • In Focus

    Reform of the railways: Recent developments

    In 2021, the government announced plans to reform the railways in Great Britain, with many of the proposed changes set out in the ‘Williams-Shapps plan for rail’. In the 2022 Queen’s Speech, the government said that it would legislate for them. However, in October 2022 the government announced that it would delay this primary legislation until the next parliamentary session due to a lack of time but said that non-legislative reforms would go ahead.