Adversary Parliament and Consensus Legislation

  • Richard Rose


Laws are a unique resource of government. Whereas many institutions in society are able to raise money, hire personnel and organize on a large scale, only government has the power to enact laws determining what people can do. The party governing Britain does not determine every statute on the books. The laws of the land are an accretion of legislation passed by generations of government, and the great bulk of existing legislation is the subject of consensus between the parties. In the five-year life of a Parliament, however, the governing party can enact several hundred laws that will remain on the statute books long after it leaves office because of electoral defeat. It is the record of legislation that can make an enduring difference to society, whether passed by a Consensus or Adversary process.


Consensus Model Labour Government Adversary Model Opposition Party Governing Party 
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  1. 1.
    On the complexity of relations between these interest groups and government, see, e.g., Gerald A. Dorfman, Government versus Trade Unionism in British Politics since 1968 (London: Macmillan, 1979); andGoogle Scholar
  2. Wyn Grant and David Marsh, The Confederation of British Industry (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1977).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    For a discussion of the free votes analyzed here, see Peter G. Richards, Parliament and Conscience (London: Allen & Unwin, 1970);Google Scholar
  4. the figures are conveniently given in Richard Rose, The Problem of Party Government (London: Macmillan, 1974), table 11.3.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See Robert D. Putnam, The Beliefs of Politicians (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973). figure 4.2.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Norman Wilding and Philip Laundy, An Encyclopedia of Parliament (London: Cassel & Co., 1961 ed.), p. 378.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    See Ivor Burton and Gavin Drewry, “Public Legislation: A Survey of the Session 1968/69”, Parliamentary Affairs 23, no. 2 (1970): 161 f.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Philip Norton, Conservative Dissidents (London: Temple Smith, 1978), and Dissension in the House of Commons 1974–79 (London: Oxford University Press, forthcoming), provide detailed case studies complementing his comprehensive mapping, reported in Dissension in the House of Commons (London: Macmillan, 1975).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    House of Commons Debates vol. 854, col. 951 (9 April 1973).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    House of Commons Debates vol. 911, col. 1237 (18 May 1976).Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Calculated from data in Parliamentary Affairs articles by Ivor Burton and Gavin Drewry, “Public Legislation 1969–70” (vol. 23, no. 4, 1970); 1970–71 (vol. 25, no. 2, 1972); 1974 (vol. 29, no. 2, 1976); 1974–75 (vol. 30, no. 2, 1977).Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Ivor Burton and Gavin Drewry, “Public Legislation in 1973/74 and a Parliament in Retrospect”, Parliamentary Affairs 28, no. 2 (1975): 141.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Rose 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Rose
    • 1
  1. 1.HelensburghUK

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