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A question of expertise: the House of Lords and welfare policy

By Hugh Bochel and Andrew Defty


The expertise of its members is often cited as one of the distinctive features of the House of Lords. In particular it is frequently argued that because of its composition, and in particular the existence of the Crossbench Peers, debates in the Lords are more informed than in the Commons. Peers, it has been claimed, bring professional experience and expertise to the scrutiny of legislation, and have the time to maintain their expertise, in contrast to the Commons, where MPs, because of the demands of re-election and constituency business, are sometimes seen as being required to know a little about a wide range of subjects. Moreover, the presumed expertise of the Upper House has also been central to debates about the reform of the House of Lords, with assertions that any further reform should retain the Lords’ ability to provide distinctive and informed scrutiny.\ud \ud Drawing on a series of interviews with a large sample of MPs and Peers this article seeks to examine what is meant by parliamentary expertise by focusing on one particular policy area – welfare. It seeks to explore the nature of parliamentary expertise on welfare in both Houses, and suggests that in the field of welfare the Upper House may, in fact, be less expert than the House of Commons

Topics: L230 UK Government/Parliamentary Studies, L410 UK Social Policy
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1093/pa
OAI identifier:

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