• In Focus

    UK biosecurity: Infectious disease threats

    This briefing considers the impact of factors such as globalisation and climate change on the prevalence of various infectious diseases in the UK affecting humans, animals and plants. The briefing also summarises the government’s ‘Biological security strategy’ (June 2023), which provides the overarching framework for mitigating biological risks among other area-focused strategies. The government has also said that import controls are an important element of the UK’s biosecurity regime.

  • In Focus

    Intergovernmental relations within the UK

    Intergovernmental relations (IGR) within the UK refers to engagement between the UK government and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In 2022, following a review, a new three-tier IGR structure was introduced. However, its full implementation has been impacted by the absence of a Northern Ireland executive since February 2022. The Scottish and Welsh governments have welcomed improvements brought about by the new structure but have also criticised the UK government’s attitude towards engagement with the devolved administrations at times.

  • In Focus

    Peerages created following prime ministerial resignations

    UK prime ministers may draw up a resignation honours list on their departure from office, in which they may request that the reigning monarch grant honours to any number of people. Such honours may include peerages, knighthoods and damehoods, or other awards. However, not all have chosen to draw up such a list. This briefing lists those prime ministers who have requested that peerages be conferred on their departure from office.

  • In Focus

    Lords spiritual in the House of Lords explained

    The House of Lords contains 26 Church of England archbishops and bishops known as the ‘lords spiritual’. Their automatic right to sit and vote in the House has been established by ancient usage and by statute. Criticism of the lords spiritual’s automatic representation in the House has led to calls for their removal. This briefing considers their role and participation in the House, as well as recent calls for reform.

  • In Focus

    Adding new vaccinations to the NHS national immunisation programme

    The NHS national immunisation programme in England offers vaccinations against a range of illnesses. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends additions to the programme. The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee has noted that the pace of adopting new vaccines can be affected by several factors, including product availability. The government’s new vaccination strategy seeks to address some of these concerns, as well as focusing on increasing vaccine uptake.

  • In Focus

    Quality of religious education in schools in England

    Religious education (RE) is a compulsory subject in English schools. However, Ofsted has said the subject is often an afterthought and that in many primary and secondary schools RE is of poor quality and is not fit for purpose. Organisations from the sector, such as the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education, have called for a national strategy for religious education.

  • In Focus

    UK contribution to international development: Mitigating the impact of climate change on developing nations

    The UK government spent £12.79bn in official development assistance in 2022. A portion of this support was focused on mitigating the impact of climate change on developing countries, including through measures outlined in the government’s international development white paper and through contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s green climate fund. However, some stakeholders have called on the government to provide further support, particularly in relation to its spending commitments.

  • In Focus

    Parliamentary democracy and standards in public life in 2023

    This briefing provides an overview of the current standing of UK parliamentary democracy and standards in public life ahead of a Lords debate in January 2024, complementing two previous Library briefings on these subjects. It summarises research by the Constitution Unit which reported public concern about the functioning of democracy. It then covers recent reports and statements, including from the Committee on Standards in Public Life and its previous chair, Lord Evans of Weardale.

  • In Focus

    Customs and traditions of the House of Lords: Self-regulation

    The origins of the House of Lords are traceable through the developments of the parliamentary system in England, with the term itself first used during the reign of Henry VIII. Although the House’s purpose, powers and composition have changed considerably over time, a constant has been the importance placed by the Lords on its customs and traditions. Many of these customs and traditions are unwritten and exist due to historical precedent, while some are written articles. However, all are important to the daily functioning of the House, and many have developed into their current form through a long process of ritual and tradition.

  • In Focus

    Maternal mortality rates in the Black community

    Black women were at a greater risk of maternal mortality in the UK during 2018–20 when compared to White women, according to recent findings. The underlying causes of this disparity remain a complex picture. This briefing looks at the latest research findings, as well as a recent parliamentary report on Black maternal health and the government’s response.

  • In Focus

    Elgin Marbles: UK government assessment of loaning the sculptures to Greece

    The ownership of the Elgin Marbles (also known as the Parthenon sculptures) is the subject of dispute between the Greek government and the British Museum. This briefing provides background to this dispute, including the position of the UK government, and on the possibility of loaning the sculptures to Greece. It has been written in advance of a Lords debate on 14 December 2023.

  • In Focus

    The UK economy in the 1950s

    This briefing is the first of a series on the post-war history of the UK economy. The series will go decade-by-decade from the 1950s onwards, providing an overview of the key macroeconomic developments of each decade. This first briefing looks at the 1950s. The economy expanded significantly over the course of this decade, fluctuating between periods of high and low growth, generating broad-based real-terms income growth across the country.

  • In Focus

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Promoting the declaration’s principles 75 years on

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 75 years ago, on 10 December 1948. The declaration set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. As such it became a foundational instrument of the modern international human rights system. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on member states to “rejuvenate” the declaration.