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Legislation at WestminsterParliamentary Actors and Influence in the Making of British Law$
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Meg Russell and Daniel Gover

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198753827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198753827.001.0001

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The Role of Government Backbenchers

The Role of Government Backbenchers

(p.118) 5 The Role of Government Backbenchers
Legislation at Westminster

Meg Russell

Daniel Gover

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores how government backbench parliamentarians in both chambers at Westminster influence the content of government legislation and the dynamics of politics. Government backbenchers are often thought to be Westminster’s most influential policy actors, operating through the ‘intraparty mode’. As summarized here, governments have recently become less able to rely on their votes, thanks to declining party cohesion. Yet governments are rarely defeated as a result of rebellious votes. This chapter analyses government backbenchers’ amendments proposed to the 12 case study bills—some of which served purposes other than immediate policy change—and their role as ‘pivotal voters’ in resolving legislative disputes with other (particularly opposition) actors. It also emphasizes their influence on legislation before it is introduced, and the importance of ‘anticipated reactions’. For example, ministers introduced the Corporate Manslaughter Bill only reluctantly, following backbench pressure. Backbenchers hence have subtle, and often hidden, influence in the legislative process.

Keywords:   government backbenchers, intraparty mode, policy influence, agenda-setting, pivotal voters, Identity Cards Bill, Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill, Employment Bill

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