In 1994, I organized a Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians, designed to draw together academics and members of parliaments so that research findings likely to be of practical interest to parliamentarians could be presented and discussed. It was co-sponsored by the Research Committee of Legislative Specialists (RCLS) of the International Political Science Association (I was co-chair of the RCLS), the University of Hull Centre for Legislative Studies (of which I was, and am, Director), and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Held at WZB (the Berlin Science Centre), it proved very successful and I agreed to organize a second one two years later. I did so at Wroxton College in Oxfordshire – housed in a magnificent Jacobean mansion (pictured) – and have continued to do so ever since. Each has been co-sponsored by the Centre for Legislative Studies and the IPU. The support of the IPU has been invaluable, as it ensures that all parliaments are informed of the event.
The 14th Workshop was held at Wroxton College at the weekend (27-28 July 2019), drawing academics and practitioners (pictured on the steps of the College) from a total of 27 countries spanning all continents. The countries represented included Afghanistan, Australia, Argentina, Cambodia, China, Finland, Greece, Guyana, Israel, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, and Sri Lanka. A total of 27 papers was delivered, spanning a range of topics, including benchmarks for democratic legislatures, post-legislative scrutiny, and the capacity of parliaments to contribute to achieving sustainable development goals. The final session is usually a plenary session, and on this occasion it was chaired by Meg Munn, former UK minister for women and Foreign Office junior minister, and devoted to discussing the IPU reports on Sexism, harassment and violence against women parliamentarians, and Sexism, harrassment and violence against women in parliaments in Europe.
In opening the Workshop, I made the point that the reason for gathering was that parliaments matter. They are necessary to give approval to measures of public policy that are to be binding. They are thus institutionally powerful bodies. They do, though, differ – I referred to my typology of policy-making legislatures, policy-influencing legislatures, and legislatures with little or no policy effect. We can learn from one another. In closing the Workshop, I emphasized that the papers demonstrated not only the importance of legislatures, but also the significance of parliamentarians. What came across was the fact that sponsor and aid bodies do not always realise the value of parliaments and members of parliament in facilitating development.
The event proved highly rewarding, with consistently high quality papers and excellent engagement between scholars and parliamentarians, not only during panel sessions, but also in the intervals between. The venue lends itself to such informal dialogue. The programme and the papers delivered at the Workshop are available on the Workshop website http://www.wroxtonworkshop.org
The 15th Workshop will be held at Wroxton in July 2021. Further details will be posted on the Workshop website.