Parliamentary decision making is a growth area in the study of the British House of Commons. This is a facet of the behaviour of Members of Parliament (MPs) that tended to be ignored as long as the Commons was seen as a legislature that, cravenly subject to party discipline, simply rubber-stamped policy decisions made by the party leadership. By the 1960s, cohesive party voting had reached the point where ‘it was so close to 100 per cent that there was no longer any point in measuring it’. But more recently, this image of the Commons and its members has worn at the edges. While party loyalty remains very much the norm, MPs have shown themselves more willing than in the past to assert themselves against their party's leadership in order to exercise greater policy influence. One prominent example is the select committee system set up in 1979 to improve parliamentary scrutiny of the executive. Another is the higher incidence of
backbench rebellion and dissent in the division lobbies after the mid-1960s.
Samuel H. Beer, Modern British Politics (London: Faber, 1965), p. 350.
Gavin Drewry, ed., The New Select Committees, rev. edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); Michael Jogerst, Reform in the House of Commons (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1993).
Philip Norton, Dissension in the House of Commons 1945–74 (London: Macmillan, 1975); Philip Norton, Dissension in the House of Commons 1974–79 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980); Anthony Mughan, ‘Midterm Popularity and Governing Party Dissension in the British House of Commons, 1959–1979’, Legislative Studies Quarterly, 15 (1990), 341–56; and Charles Pattie, Edward Fieldhouse and R. J. Johnston, ‘The Price of Conscience: The Electoral Correlates and Consequences of Free Votes and Rebellion in the British House of Commons, 1987–92’, British Journal of Political Science, 24 (1994), 359–80.