How Parliament Works  book cover
8th Edition

How Parliament Works

ISBN 9780815369646
Published November 21, 2018 by Routledge
458 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Parliament is constantly in the news and televised daily, but much of its work remains a mystery to outsiders and is sometimes perplexing even to its own members. Written by expert insiders, How Parliament Works is a straightforward and readable analysis of one of the country’s most complex – and often misunderstood – institutions. Covering every aspect of the work, membership and structures of both Houses, this key text provides a unique insight into the work and daily life of Parliament. It explains not only what happens but why and analyses the institution’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as opportunities for Parliament to be more effective.

The eighth edition has been substantially revised to take account of recent changes in both Houses, and to cover all the key issues affecting Parliament and politics, such as:

  • Parliament, Brexit and Europe – the impact of the referendum vote on Parliament to date, Parliament’s role in implementing Brexit and its role thereafter;
  • Questions about how much Parliament is a genuinely representative body of the population at large in its diversity;
  • The latest developments in the legislative process, party discipline and rebellion;
  • The ‘English votes for English laws’ procedures;
  • The effects of a minority government;
  • Changes to the Budget cycle;
  • Updates on the arrangements for the internal management of both Houses, reflecting governance reviews, with all statistics and examples fully updated throughout.

How Parliament Works is essential reading for anyone who has anything to do with the Westminster Parliament: journalists, civil servants, lawyers, lobbyists, business and trade associations, diplomats, overseas parliaments and international bodies – and indeed members of both Houses. How Parliament Works is also an invaluable companion to the study of politics at AS, A2 and university level, and provides a wealth of source material for teachers.

Table of Contents

1. Parliament: Its Home and Origins

2. Who is in Parliament?

3. Running Parliament

4. Influences on Parliament

5. The Parliamentary Day and the Organisation of Business

6. Making the Law

7. Parliament and the Taxpayer

8. Debates

9. Calling to Account: Questions

10. Calling to Account: Select Committees

11. Parliament and Europe

12. The Future of Parliament

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Nicolas Besly became a clerk in the House of Lords in 2002. He has worked in the Committee Office, Public Bill Office, Table Office and Journal Office. He became the first private secretary to a Lord Speaker and edited The Table, a journal on Commonwealth parliaments. He is currently a Clerk of Select Committees, overseeing five permanent Lords committees.

Tom Goldsmith became a clerk in the House of Commons in 1996. He has worked in the Public Bill Office, the Table Office and the Overseas Office. He headed the Governance Office and has served as Secretary to the House of Commons Commission. He has worked for a number of select committees and is currently the Clerk of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Robert Rogers (now Lord Lisvane) and Rhodri Walters retired from the service of the House of Commons and the House of Lords respectively, in 2014. Their careers covered every aspect of the work of both Houses and between them they amassed more than 80 years' experience of Parliament.


"Parliamentary processes are complex, which is why How Parliament Works is so useful – it gives an authoritative and up-to-date insider’s account. I recommend it to anyone who wants to know how both Houses really operate."

Betty Boothroyd (Baroness Boothroyd), Speaker of the House of Commons 1992–2000

"How Parliament Works ought to be essential reading for anyone interested in their democracy. It explains the system clearly, without condescension and in a way that is illuminating, even for those of us who think that we know it already."

Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset

"At a time when Parliament is being stress-tested by Brexit, a refreshed edition of How Parliament Works is both timely and reassuring explaining, as it does, clearly and in detail how the nation’s number one shock-absorber actually works."

Peter Hennessy (Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield), author, broadcaster and Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London

"Whether you’re a Prime Minister or a President, a commentator or an academic or simply someone who wants to know how this country works you will want to know How Parliament Works. Now more than ever. This book will tell you."

Nick Robinson, former BBC Political Editor