Substantive Religious Representation in the UK Parliament: Examining Parliamentary Questions for Written Answers, 1997–2012
The substantive representation of minority groups in national legislatures is a topic of significant normative, theoretical and empirical importance. Addressing this question, this article focuses on what drives Members of the UK House of Commons to raise issues on concern for Jewish and Muslim minority groups in relatively low-cost parliamentary activity, i.e. Parliamentary Questions for written answers (WPQs). Drawing on the suggested positive relationship between descriptive and substantive minority representation (e.g. Hansard (2009), Speaker's Conference (on Parliamentary Representation): Final Report , London, The Stationery Office Limited), it uses content and statistical analysis to examine if having a Jewish or Muslim background impacts on the frequency and the probability of MPs’ engagement with minority issues, and how this effect compares to that from institutional predictors, namely the party parliamentary status and the minority presence in a constituency. The findings demonstrate that a religious minority background has a limited impact on MPs’ engagement with minority issues in WPQs, being inferior to that of institutional predictors. Being in Opposition, in particular, has a consistent, positive influence on the content of WPQs, whereby Opposition MPs table more WPQs on the issues of minority concern than Members from the party of Government.
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