Dr Mark Bennister, Senior Lecturer in Politics, has recently won Nuffield Foundation Trust funding for a one year research project examining ‘Prime Ministerial Accountability to Parliament’. The project, which will begin in June 2015, is in collaboration with Dr Alix Kelso (University of Southampton) and Dr Phil Larkin (University of Canberra), and will examine the evidence sessions held by the House of Commons Liaison Committee with the Prime Minister, in order to analyse the scrutiny and accountability potential of these sessions. While Prime Minister’s Question Time gets a lot of media attention – and a lot of criticism – few are aware of these more low-profile accountability occasions through which the Prime Minister is asked very detailed questions about the government’s policies and decisions. The research will seek to illuminate this little understood area of parliamentary work.
The team will work closely with the parliamentary clerks and MPs involved with these evidence sessions, in order analyse their accountability contribution, and to provide recommendations for how this form of scrutiny might be improved. The project also involves national and international comparative work, to find similar examples of prime ministerial accountability in other political systems and to learn from them.
This is an exciting piece of research, which is positioned to make significant contributions to our understanding of both the limits and the possibilities of democratic accountability mechanisms. The team will be led by Dr Bennister as Principal Investigator and will be supported by the Nuffield Trust Open Door funding scheme which funds projects that scrutinise the constitution and legislative process in order to identify opportunities for reform see http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/government-and-constitution