Historical institutionalism and parliament
in Parliamentary reform at Westminster
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To understand why parliamentary reform does or does not take place requires a prior understanding of the context in which it does or does not occur. The characteristics of the institution of parliament are a product of its historical development, and that development has fostered the emergence of particular norms and values that continue to shape its functioning and capabilities. Crucially, parliament cannot be understood in isolation from government and, consequently, parliamentary reform cannot be understood separately from its likely impact on government. Parliamentary reform can most usefully be analysed with reference to the norms and values that structure the institutional context in which parliament exists. It is necessary, therefore, to explore those norms and values, and the specific ways that they regulate and restrict parliamentary capabilities. This chapter discusses institutional theory and historical institutionalism with respect to parliamentary reform in Britain, along with ministerial responsibility, parliamentary sovereignty, strong party government, the power of the executive at Westminster, role of parliament and individual MPs within the political system, and approaches to parliamentary reform.

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