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04 May 2022

Academic makes case for 'urgent' House of Commons reform

Big improvements in parliament’s capacity can be made by small reforms in the House of Commons, a new book argues.

The book launch is taking place on 26 May. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

In parliament, it is House of Commons reform that is urgent. The House of Lords does its job, it’s the Commons that needs improvement.

In How Democracies Work, Professor Stein Ringen sets out the simple reforms that could transform the way Parliament functions and improve the way Britain is governed.

Professor Ringen, Visiting Professor of Political Economy at King’s, said: “Some 12 years ago, in the ‘Wright reforms’, the power to constitute select committees was vested in parliament itself and those committees were empowered to scrutinise government policies for how well they are working.

“MPs have grasped that authority with relish and now undertake excellent oversight. This is evidence that it works to let parliament decide its own business and that our MPs are perfectly up to doing outstanding work when given proper work to do.

“It is now time for a similar reform in the process of legislation.”

Professor Ringen, who is also Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Oxford, argues that it would take two simple redesigns of procedure to bring about change. Listen to Professor Ringen make his case at the launch of the book, at King’s College London, on May 26, at 17.00.


Find out more about the launch here:

About the author

Stein Ringen is a British-Norwegian political scientist of states, governance, and democracy. He has published scholarly books and other works on topics ranging from the Scandinavian welfare state via constitutional matters in Britain and the US to dictatorship in China, and on inequality, poverty, income distribution, social and public policy, and comparative government. He is Visiting Professor of Political Economy at King’s College London, Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Oxford, and Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College, and has been an associate of Nuffield and St Antony’s Colleges in Oxford. He has held visiting professorships and fellowships in Paris, Berlin, Prague, Jerusalem, London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and at Harvard University. He has held various research and government posts in Norway, including as Assistant Director General in the Ministry of Justice and Head of Research in the Ministry of Public Administration. He has been a consultant to the United Nations, and a news and feature reporter with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

How Democracies Work: Power, Statecraft and Freedom in Modern Societies is published by Chicago University Press.

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