Approaches to Understanding the Quality of Legislation

Séminaire avec Dr. Ruth Dixon, jeudi 23 mars 2017 18h00 - 20h00
  • LIEPP Sciences PoLIEPP Sciences Po

Approaches to Understanding the Quality of Legislation

L'axe "Evaluation de la démocratie" du LIEPP et le médialab, ont le plaisir de vous convier au séminaire avec Dr. Ruth Dixon

Jeudi 23 mars 2017, 18h00 - 20h00

Salle du médialab, 13 rue de l'Université, 75007 

Entrée gratuite dans la limite des places disponibles

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Résumé (en anglais) 

The legislation of a country underpins its efforts to support the rule of law. The body of legislation should therefore be fit for this purpose, conforming as far as possible to theoretical principles of ‘good’ legislation. But there have been few empirical studies of objective qualities of legislation. In this presentation I explore some ways of addressing this question and describe a novel approach. 

One approach is to look at the language of legislation (e.g. Williams, 2016) and another is to look at the extent to which the legislation itself gives rise to litigation, for instance via judicial review. A third approach is to focus on the parliamentary process itself. In our study of the changing face of UK government (Hood and Dixon, 2015), Christopher Hood and I assembled qualitative and quantitative evidence of how the process of legislation changed over the past thirty to forty years in the UK, and assessed whether those changes tended to support the production of ‘good legislation.’ 

One aspect of that study was to measure how often laws are amended as they pass through the parliamentary process. We reasoned that if legislation is presented to Parliament in an incomplete or unsatisfactory state, a large number of late-stage amendments will be needed to ‘repair’ the legislation, to the detriment of fully informed scrutiny by legislators. For that study, we were only able to count by hand the amendments to a limited number of laws. In extending that study I developed, with Jonathan Jones, a semi-automated method for quantifying legislative amendments (outlined in Dixon, 2016). In this presentation I will describe the development of that methodology and our preliminary results.

Biographie (en anglais)

Dr Ruth Dixon is a researcher at the Blavatnik School of Government and an associate member of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford. Her early career was in the life sciences. From 1992 to 2001 she was a senior scientist and University Research Lecturer at the MRC Biochemical and Clinical Magnetic Resonance Unit, University of Oxford. After a career break, Ruth worked from 2006 to 2013 at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, funded by the ESRC and the Leverhulme Trust. Ruth studies aspects of British public administration, and her recent book with Christopher Hood, A Government that Worked Better and Cost Less? Evaluating Three Decades of Reform and Change in UK Central Government, (Oxford University Press, 2015), won the 2015 Louis Brownlow Book Award from the American National Academy of Public Administration, and the 2016 W.J.M. MacKenzie Book Prize from the Political Studies Association.