16th August 2017
Dilnot comments on meeting health and social care needs
Nuffield Warden Andrew Dilnot has published a comment piece on a recent study of dependency states in the elderly, in which he calls for greater attention and action to address projected increases in demands for social care.
While increased life expectancy could be considered a triumph of medical advances, improved incomes and public health information, it also brings social care challenges that Britain urgently needs to prepare for, Dilnot argues.
The study, published in the Lancet on 15 August 201, aimed to estimate years lived in different dependency states at age 65 years in 1991 and 2011, and create new projections of future demand for care.
The researchers projected that if rates of dependency remain constant, there will be an additional 190,000 older people with medium dependency, and 163,000 with high dependency by 2025 compared with 2015. That translates to a predicted need of over 71,000 extra care home places by 2025.
Dilnot welcomed the study, saying that, "Failing to address coherently change on the scale that we face in many countries worldwide would be a tragedy."
He undertook both live and recorded interviews with the BBC, ITV, and Sky News to explain the implications an ageing population for health and social care, as well as government strategies and spending priorities.
Read Dilnot's article here:
And the original academic publication here:
27th July 2017
Flexible men result in successful women
Women whose partners take advantage of flexible working hours see a significant increase in their own earnings.
Research conducted by Nuffield Research Fellow Dr Laura Langner (based in the Department of Sociology) finds that once men started working flexible hours, their wives’ hourly wages increased significantly, particularly if they were mothers (14.2% after four years). The husband’s own hourly wages also increased by 7.4% over the following four years.
Langner investigated changes in couples’ hourly wages once one partner enters work-hour flexibility, and authored the paper published in the journal Work, Employment and Society, in July 2017.
She said: ‘The results suggest that men may use flexible working hours as an alternative to part-time work to support their wives’ careers. The couple is in a win-win situation – both partners’ hourly wages increase when the man enters the flexible arrangement. It also tells us that employers can play an important role in supporting not just their employee’s but also the whole family’s work-family compatibility.’
The study analysed west German couples entering flexible work between 2003-2011 using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). A flexible working hours contract is defined as one in which the employee is able to determine when they work during the day and week.
However, this win-win situation only seems to apply to couples in which the male partner starts working flexible hours. If women start working flexible hours, they only benefit if they work at least 30 hours. They do not benefit at all if they are mothers and even lose out if they combine work hour flexibility with working part-time. Similarly, the positive effect for their non-flexible male partners is less pronounced.
The male partners were also more likely to be working flexible hours – despite living in a fairly conservative environment. At the time of the study, west Germany had little childcare provision (in 2006 only 7% of under-three-year olds were in childcare according to Destatis). The German population held fairly conservative attitudes towards female employment (in the 2004/5 European Social Survey 51% agreed that ‘a pre-school child suffers if the mother is working’).
12th July 2017
Brexit negotiations and public opinion – CSI’s Brexit survey launched
Fieldwork has commenced on a new project led by the Centre for Social Investigation that intends to monitor changes in public attitudes relating to Brexit over the course of negotiations.
The project on ‘Red lines and compromises’ began with a short pilot study among a panel of 100 people surveyed from across England, which included a knowledge quiz. Preliminary results suggest that the pilot respondents are fairly savvy on some items, with most knowing that Angela Merkel is not the president of the EU and that Russia is not an EU member state. When it came to questions with more complexity, however, answers proved more difficult. For example, 63% of respondents believe that two thirds of the migrants who moved to the UK last year came from within the EU, when in fact, EU net migration accounts for about half of the immigrants who come to the UK.
The study aims to engage 5000 respondents in each survey round it undertakes over the next 18 months. In addition to the knowledge quiz, questions have also been designed to find out where the public might be willing to compromise on key Brexit issues, and what their ‘red lines’ are. The survey will ask questions to explore attitudes on key issues that are expected to be central during the negotiations, such as: Sovereignty and law making; The Irish border; Immigration; The rights of UK nationals living in the EU; Exports to the EU; Scientific collaboration; and Budget contributions. The study aims to show, for example, how much of a priority people place on the ability to make laws independently of the EU; how much they think is reasonable to spend on ‘the divorce bill’; and whether people are getting more concerned as negotiations reveal details about how rights of British expats in the EU may change.
Given the democratic nature of the referendum and government’s clear intention to keep faith with the electorate, public opinion is likely to be a crucial constraint throughout the Brexit negotiations. However, voter preferences across different issues are going to be challenging to translate into outcomes. This research project aims to provide timely evidence to policy-makers throughout the period of the Brexit negotiations on citizens’ preferences, aspirations and expectations for key aspects of the negotiations. In addition, survey results will contribute to establishing a more in-depth understanding of the dynamics and drivers of these attitudes. What is the role of identity in opinion formation and change, for example, and how will opinion be influenced by political and economic events over the next 18 months? Over the course of the project, the Centre for Social Investigation will run regular workshops for policy makers, including representatives from the Government Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU).
Researchers will go back to the panel of respondents, with some new questions, some the same, every three months until they have gathered six rounds of data. The first findings are expected to be published in a short report in September. As the project progresses, regular announcements will be made on the Nuffield College website and Facebook page, the CSI website, and Twitter.
The project, ‘Red lines and compromises’, is funded by the ESRC, and led by Professor Anthony Heath, Dr Lindsay Richards and Dr Noah Carl.
3rd July 2017
Professor Desmond King’s ‘Fed Power’ is the subject of major review symposium
The American Political Science Association (APSA) is to make Fed Power: How Finance Wins by Lawrence Jacobs and Nuffield’s Desmond King the subject of a major review symposium in its journal, Perspectives on Politics.
The book, which critically examines the agency and role of the Federal Reserve, is described as “an important step forward for the social sciences” by the four leading academics – Jacqui True (Monash University, Australia), Elisabeth Prügl (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva), Leo Panitch (York University, Canada) and Fred L. Block (University of California, Davis) – who contributed to the review symposium.
For more information on Fed Power, see the DPIR’s short summary of the book.
23rd June 2016
Queen’s Birthday Honours for Nuffield Fellows
A Nuffield College Senior Research Fellow and two Visiting Fellows were among those recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List this year.
Nuffield’s Professor Jonathan Gershuny, Professor of Economic Sociology, was appointed CBE for services to the social sciences and sociology. His research, which focuses on how people spend their time, aims to provide new answers to pressing questions about the evolution of the balance between work and leisure and between paid and unpaid work, the implications of such changes for health and wellbeing, and how they vary by country, age, gender and possession of material resources.
Professor Gershuny is among several Oxford academics who received new honours from the Queen. You can read about them on the Oxford University website.
Also recognised were Nuffield Visiting Fellows Tom Scholar and Chris Wormald, who are Permanent Secretaries for HM Treasury and the Department of Health respectively. Scholar and Wormald received knighthoods in recognition of their public service, both in their current and past roles.
Notes on Scholar’s honour cited his contribution to dealing with the global financial crisis of 2008-9 and roles as executive director of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Wormald’s tribute referred to his leadership of the civil service’s professionalisation agenda, and achievements at the Department for Education – where he was also permanent secretary – as well as in the Cabinet Office and Department for Communities and Local Government.
22nd June 2017
Best book award goes to Nuffield Fellow, Ezequiel González Ocantos
We are pleased to announce that Ezequiel González Ocantos, a Professorial Fellow at Nuffield, has been awarded the 2017 C. Herman Pritchett Award for Best Book in Law and Courts by the American Political Science Association (APSA) for his book Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America.
University Distinguished Professor Charles R. Epp of the University of Kansas described the book as "a fascinating analysis of how Latin American judges came to hold dictatorial torturers and murderers accountable after years of shielding them from justice. The driving force behind this profound conversion, Ezequiel González Ocantos demonstrates in this carefully designed and richly researched account, was the persistent, strategic effort of human-rights NGO's to teach judges new ways of thinking and ruling. This transformative, path-breaking book will be a must-read for scholars and human-rights organizers alike."
To find out more about Ezequiel’s book, follow the link below:
21st June 2017
Accounting for economic growth amidst high refugee immigration
In 2015, Sweden accepted the largest number of refugees in relation to its population size (10m): 163,000 asylum seekers. In 2016, contrary to widely touted predictions, the total Swedish economy grew four times more than the other Nordic countries.
What kind of explanation accounts for this surprise outcome? How has Sweden managed to combine an unusually high growth rate with an unprecedented influx of refugees, of which the majority have not yet found work, and thus do not pay taxes, but need to be provided for out of public funds?
Bo Rothstein, Nuffield Professorial Fellow and Blavatnik Professor of Government, shares his hypothesis in an opinion piece written for Social Europe.
His view is that typical “accountant type” economic thinking does not take into account the extensive investments that the Swedish public sector (mostly cities and municipalities) have had to put into public services because of this large-scale immigration. This investment in human capital – new schools, expansion of public health care, housing programmes, etc. – acts as an engine for economic growth. Rothstein acknowledges that this theory is not uniquely his own. It was also John Maynard Keynes’s recipe for how to deal with economic downturns.
14th June 2017
General election turns spotlight on voting behaviour and predictions research
Nuffield’s role in advancing research and methodology in the field of psephology – the study and scientific analysis of elections – was recently made evident in the run-up to and wake of the 8th June general election.
The BBC produced a short explanatory video on the history of the “Swingometer” which made its first national appearance on British television in 1959. The Swingometer is a tool developed from the research of Sir David Butler (Nuffield Emeritus Fellow), which shows how movements of votes from one party to another can be used to predict the final outcomes of the election. Before David Butler, nobody had attempted to analyse elections in terms of percentages, and from there to spot trends that would help predict election outcomes before the final count.
Sir David Butler is often recognised for helping to establish the science of psephology, and many other Nuffield alumni and fellows continue his legacy. The College is one of three members of a consortium who manage the British Election Study (BES), which is one of the longest running election studies world-wide and the longest running social science survey in the UK. It has made a major contribution to the understanding of political attitudes and behaviour over nearly sixty years, since its first study conducted by David Butler and Donald Stokes in 1964.
A number of Nuffield fellows and alumni have also made significant contributions to the development of a new design of exit poll, which has led to much greater accuracy in election result predictions. The team includes: former Nuffield fellows David Firth, Jouni Kuha and Stephen Fisher; Clive Payne and Neil Shephard, both Emeritus Fellows of Nuffield College; and John Curtice, a Nuffield College alumnus.
In his blog, David Firth explains the significance of early accurate election predictions.
“…most of the pre-election voting intention polls had predicted a substantial Conservative majority…But the exit poll prediction made it pretty clear that the Conservatives would either not achieve a majority (for which 326 seats would be needed), or at best would be returned with a very small majority such as the one they held before the election. Media commentary turned quickly to how a government might be formed in the seemingly likely event of a hung Parliament, and what the future might be for Mrs May. The financial markets moved quite substantially, too, in the moments after 10pm.” https://statgeek.net/2017/06/11/exit-poll-for-june-2017-election-uk/
Understanding voting behaviour is a complex and fast-changing area of academic enquiry. Current models don’t account well for assessing the influence of new populist movements. Polls financed by businesses or specialist interest groups can undermine efforts to give fair and balanced predictions of election outcomes. Coalitions and progressive alliances are changing the game from measuring voter swing between a two-party choice and evaluating an array of personal and policy preferences. For the past fifty years, Nuffield College researchers have helped to develop and drive the science of psephology, improve the accuracy of polls and interpret changes in public opinion. There are definitely interesting times ahead for academics working in this field of research.
A selection of recent press coverage featuring election-related research, analysis and opinion from Nuffield fellows and alumni includes:
BBC News – Sir David Butler appears on BBC News to discuss election night results in 2015
19th/20th June 2017
Political Remittances and Political Transnationalism:Narratives, Political Practices & the Role of the State
Félix Krawatzek and Lea Müller-Funk convene a workshop on 'Political Remittances and Political Transnationalism: Narratives, Political Practices and the Role of the State' to be held at Nuffield College on 19 and 20 June. This workshop gathers an interdisciplinary group of researchers undertaking innovative research on migrants’ political remittances and political transnationalism. The question of how political ideas and practices circulate between migrants and their home country has clearly gained in relevance with the current increase in worldwide migration and requires historically sound investigations. The workshop continues discussions initiated during “Political, Social, and Economic Migrant Remittances: Content, Social Networks, and Impacts” held at Nuffield College (Oxford) in September 2016.
Political remittances and political transnationalism have increasingly been addressed across social sciences and the humanities. Research has covered a wide array of topics, such as migrants’ transnational political practices to understand the development of the home country, the interlinkages of political remittances and conflict resolution vs conflict exacerbation, the connection between political transnationalism, immigrant integration and identity constructions, and the role of diaspora engagement policies on political transnationalism. These phenomena have been studied using methods such as interviews, ethnography, text and corpus analysis, surveys, network analysis or policy analysis.
However, important questions remain open: What factors can be identified from historical and cross-country comparisons to improve understandings of political transnationalism? What can different disciplines learn from each other in studying political narratives and practices circulating among migrants? What influence do states have on political transnationalism? What theoretical concepts have been developed to study these phenomena across disciplines? What type of sources and methodologies are appropriate to study the flow of political remittances?
Please be advised that this event is open to members of the University only and that registration is required for this event. To register, please email email@example.com
19th May 2017
The problem of funding long term social care
The Warden of Nuffield has been in high demand by the British press for his comments in response to the Conservative party’s answer to the social care funding problem, which was released in its party manifesto on 18th May.
Sir Andrew Dilnot was chair of the commission charged with reviewing the funding system for care and support back in 2010-2011. Among the commission’s recommendations was a general cap of £35,000 on the amount an individual would have to pay for their own care costs during their lifetime. The recommendations were welcomed by the Coalition government at the time, with the proposed cap due to be implemented in April 2017.
However, those plans were put on hold late last year, and the Conservative party’s new election manifesto proposes instead a floor on an individual’s savings and assets, including their homes, of £100,000, above which they must pay.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Dilnot argued that such an approach fails to “tackle the biggest problem of all in social care, which is that at the moment people are faced with a position of no control”. He explained that it is a classic example of market failure where the private sector cannot operate with the levels of individual risk involved in unpredictable long-term care costs. It is exactly the kind of situation where the state can step in to pool a population’s risk and provide assurance of cost caps.
Dilnot expressed his concern that the current government’s proposals mean, “People will be left helpless, knowing that what will happen is that if they are unlucky enough to suffer the need for care costs they will be entirely on their own until they are down to the last £100,000 of all of their wealth including their house.”
He has appeared on Channel 4, the BBC, Sky News and other radio and television outlets to talk about the challenges and possible solutions to funding long term social care.
On 22nd May, four days after the publication of the Conservative party manifesto, the Prime Minister announced that they would propose an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs. The announcement has been called a dramatic “U-Turn” on their original statements about social care, although the actual level at which the cost cap would be set has not been confirmed. Writing in The Guardian, David Brindle said that Andrew Dilnot, “deserves much credit for having exposed the consequences of dropping the cap.” (23 May 2017)
See below for selected references to the press coverage of Dilnot’s response to the government’s social care plans:
Tory social care plans will leave people helpless, says former adviser – The Guardian
Tory social care plans 'fail to tackle' fears – BBC News
Jeremy Hunt Admits Tory Manifesto Dropped ‘Unfair’ 2015 Pledge On Social Care – Huffington Post
Tory manifesto: Conservatives proposing 'Frankenstein’s monster of a plan' for social care, pensioners warn –Independent Conservative manifesto: Theresa May's social care plans 'would leave elderly helpless' –Evening Standard
8 May 2017
First step for fresh approach to macroeconomic policy
The first event for a new research centre to be established at Nuffield College will be held on 18 May. The full-day workshop brings world-renowned experts to a round table discussion on challenges for international economics.
Participants include Kenneth Rogoff, Sanjaya Lall Visiting Professor at Oxford, and Hélène Rey, Lord Bagri Professor of Economics at London Business School.
The new research centre, to be called the Nuffield Centre for Applied Macro Policy (NuCamp), has been established to create a space in which academics and policymakers can freely and openly discuss current trends, insights and policies that influence how economies function. Through its convening power and activities focussed on holding conferences, workshops and visitor programmes, NuCamp will foster the development of fresh analytical and empirical approaches that promise to create better links and improved knowledge exchange between the academic and policy worlds of macroeconomic problems. NuCamp's first director is Martin Ellison, Professor of Economics and Nuffield Professorial Fellow. Further details about NuCamp will be provided when the centre officially launches later this year.
3 May 2017
Professor Ezequiel González Ocantos wins 2017 Donna Lee Van Cott Best Book Award
The committee reported that:
We believe this book stands out for several reasons. The question that guides the book is both theoretically novel and substantively relevant. Ezequiel develops a theory of change in the prevailing legal culture from one in which positivism and formalism determine the Court’s rulings to one in which the values of international human rights take preeminence. Substantively, the book’s topic is of the utmost importance. Conservative ideologies are quite common in the region and the protection of human rights is a subject that requires further investigation and explanation. Why do some countries respect their citizens’ human rights more so than others? What are the causal factors that explain the change in the way justice is conceived in a given country? These questions have real importance for real people in Latin America.
Ezequiel’s book is also impressive because of its commitment to offer convincing and abundant empirical evidences. Methodologically, the book is very solid. Researchers and students alike will surely benefit from the way in which the in-depth case studies of Argentina, Peru and Mexico are presented. The Argentine and Peruvian cases are positive ones—cases in which the change in judicial culture took place— and the Mexican case is negative—no change—. The richness of the data and the rigor of the analysis is extremely valuable.
Professor Gonzalez Ocantos is Associate Professor in the Qualitative Study of Comparative Political Institutions in the Oxford Department of Politics and International Relations and a Nuffield Professorial Fellow.
26 April 2017
"Britain's aid target breeds waste. We can do more with less by promoting trade"
Abhishek Parajuli, a Nuffield student in Politics, has published an article on foreign aid in The Telegraph.
Earlier, Abhi gave a TED talk on how foreign aid hurts development.
A Dutch NGO decided to give some Indian villages cows to help them. A year later, they came back to find that the villagers had taken their girl children out of school to look after the cows. With the best of intentions, the NGO had deprived a generation of girls of an education. Exploring shocking cases of waste and poor planning, Abhi shows how foreign aid is counter productive because we are wired to only care about services we pay for. The solution he argues is not to cut aid but to spend even more in a way that works with human nature rather than against it. The way to sustainable development is to spark an accountability revolution in the developing world by engineering entitlement in its citizens. Watch to learn how we can do this.
19 April 2017
Professor Cécile Laborde writes on whether separating religion and state is essential for liberal democracy
Cécile Laborde (DPhil FBA), Professor of Political Theory and Nuffield Professorial Fellow, has written a blog for the London School of Economics entitled "Is the liberal state secular? How much state-religion separation is necessary to secure liberal-democratic ideals".
She writes, "Just as secularized majorities can impose their own conception of the boundary between state and religion, so can religious majorities, provided they honour the other three liberal principles of accessible justification, civic inclusiveness and individual liberty."
18 April 2017
Professor Desmond King elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Desmond King (DLitt FBA MRIA FRHistS), Andrew W. Mellon Professor of American Government in the Oxford Department of Politics and International Relations and Nuffield Professorial Fellow, has been elected as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in the Political Science and International Relations Section.
5 April 2017
Nuffield CESS appoints Sonja Vogt
The Centre of Experimental Social Sciences (CESS) at Nuffield College, Oxford, is delighted to announce that Sonja Vogt
has accepted the position of Senior Research Officer. Sonja will join CESS from the University of Zurich, where she is a Senior Research Associate in the Economics Department. Her research focuses on how social and institutional settings influence human behaviour, and she has conducted laboratory and field experiments across four continents. She has been published in Evolution and Human Behavior, Social Psychological Quarterly, Science, and Nature, amongst other journals, and has presented talks to the United Nations and in international conferences around the world. Prior to her position at Zurich University, she was a Teaching Fellow at the University of Bern in Switzerland and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where she received her Ph.D. in Sociology. We look forward to welcoming her to the CESS Nuffield team this summer.
20 March 2017
'The effectiveness and efficiency of police funding in Great Britain’
On 20 March 2017, Lord Dholakia will host a launch event organised by the Police Foundation
in the House of Lords for the final report from a project on resource allocation processes in policing in Great Britain, carried out by Iain McLean, Anika Ludwig, and Mike Norton in Nuffield's Gwilym Gibbon Unit for Public Policy
20 February 2017
In Memoriam: Simon Porter (1950-2017)
After completing his DPhil in Engineering, Simon Porter decided on an administrative career, becoming Bursar of St Cross. He moved to Nuffield as its first full-time Bursar in August 1988. Previously the Bursar on a part-time basis was the late A.H. (Chelly) Halsey. David Cox, who one month after Simon started at Nuffield, came from Imperial College, London to be Warden, writes:
“Simon was an outstanding academic administrator. He combined well-judged speed and decisiveness with careful discussion as the situation merited. He was supportive to any with personal problems, notably but by no means only students and non-academic staff. I believe that after a while he was widely regarded as one of the two most able and effective College Bursars in Oxford. The very occasional crisis in the College concerning an individual student was handled with subtlety, effectiveness and speed. A private man, I hope Simon realized how deeply and widely he was appreciated.”
Simon Porter was a fine cricketer, of essentially professional standard. After leaving Nuffield in 1996, he made a large contribution to the organization of cricket both in Oxfordshire and nationally.
An obituary appeared in the Oxford Mail on 16th February and is available online.
Making Sense of Corruption: A new book by Nuffield College Fellow Bo Rothstein and co-author Aiysha Varraich (University of Gothenburg)
Corruption is a serious threat to prosperity, democracy and human well-being, with mounting empirical evidence highlighting its detrimental effects on society. Yet defining this threat has resulted in profound disagreement, producing a multidimensional concept. Tackling this important and provocative topic, the authors provide an accessible and systematic analysis of how our understanding of corruption has evolved. They identify gaps in the research and make connections between related concepts such as clientelism, patronage, patrimonialism, particularism and state capture. A fundamental issue discussed is how the opposite of corruption should be defined. By arguing for the possibility of a universal understanding of corruption, and specifically what corruption is not, an innovative solution to this problem is presented. This book provides an accessible overview of corruption, allowing scholars and students alike to see the far reaching place it has within academic research.
Making Sense of Corruption is published by Cambridge University Press in February.
A book launch will take place on Wednesday, 8 March, 2017 - 17:30 at the Blavatnik School of Government
The talk is free and open to all and will be followed by a reception.
The Voices of the Displaced in Ukraine and Russia – New article by Gwendolyn Sasse in Carnegie Europe
To read Gwen’s latest contribution to Carnegie Europe's Strategic Europe blog, please follow the link:
The article focuses on fresh pol data gathered by the author from the displaced in the Ukraine and Russia.
25 January 2017
Per Klick durchs KZ? Félix Krawatzek and Rieke Trimçev in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
20 January 2017
Robert Erikson awarded the Swenson Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities
Robert Erikson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Stockholm and Nuffield Honorary Fellow, has been awarded the Swenson Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities
for ‘raising Swedish social science to the highest international level’ through his research on social mobility. He will be presented with the prize by King Karl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in the Riddarhuset on 20 March 2017.
Professor Sir Anthony B. Atkinson, 1944-2017
Nuffield College is deeply saddened to report the death of Sir Tony Atkinson, who passed away peacefully in the Churchill Hospital in Oxford on 1 January 2017.
Tony Atkinson was Warden of Nuffield College between 1994 and 2005, and subsequently an Honorary Fellow. He pioneered the study of the economics of inequality: his most recent book Inequality: What Can Be Done was published by Harvard University Press in March 2015, and in February 2016 he was awarded the Dan David Prize for his work to find solutions to poverty. As Chair of the World Bank's Commission on Global Poverty, he recently completed a report on monitoring global poverty which was launched in Oxford in November 2016.
A Memorial Service will be organised later in the year. Further information will be provided here in due course.
An essay by Andrea Brandolini published on 27 February 2017 on VOX EU describes Professor Atkinson's contributions to the analysis and measurement of inequality.
9 December 2016
The Nuffield tradition of social mobility research, from the 1972 study through to current projects directed by Bess Bukodi, figures prominently in the Presidential Address to the Royal Historical Society given by Professor Peter Mandler.
Professor Mandler's address on "Educating the Nation: III Social Mobility" is available online here.
David Cox is the first ever recipient of the International Prize in Statistics
Sir David Cox, former President of the Royal Statistics Society and Honorary Fellow at Nuffield College is the first recipient of the International Prize in Statistics.
Like the acclaimed Fields Medal, Abel Prize, Turing Award and Nobel Prizes, the International Prize in Statistics is considered the highest honour in its field. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee comprised of world-renowned academicians and researchers and the award, worth $75k, will be officially presented at the World Statistics Congress.
This inaugural prize recognises Sir David’s seminal 1972 paper in which he developed the proportional hazards model that today bears his name. The Cox Model has been applied in many fields of science and engineering, from disease risk assessment and treatment evaluation to product liability, school dropout, re-incarceration and AIDS surveillance systems.
His mark on research is so great that his 1972 paper is one of the three most cited papers in statistics and is ranked 16th in Nature’s list of the top 100 most cited papers of all time for all fields. We are proud that the paper was presented at an RSS Ordinary Meeting and published in our Series B Journal.
To find out more about the prize and Sir David’s remarkable achievements, please follow the link below:
Nuffield College in the University of Oxford Announces Collaboration with FLAME University, India
To find out more, please click here
to access the press realease.
Workshop on age-period-cohort models at Nuffield, 5 October 2016
For more details, please follow the link below:
Upcoming workshop at Nuffield College, 23-24 September 2016:
'Political, Social, and Economic Migrant Remittances: Content, Social Networks, and Impacts'
Conveners: Prof Gwendolyn Sasse, Dr Sarah Garding and Dr Félix Krawatzek
To see the full programme, please click here.
The special issue of East European Politics on 'International Linkages and the Dynamics of Conflict', edited by Gwendolyn Sasse, is now free to access on-line until the end of September
The recently published special issue of East European Politics on 'International Linkages and the Dynamics of Conflict' (Vol. 32, No. 2, 2016), edited by Gwendolyn Sasse, is now free to access on-line until the end of September. The special issue focuses on the unresolved conflicts in the post-Soviet space. It reframes the discussion conceptually by analysing the conflicts through the prism of international linkages and offers up-to-date empirical data.
To access the issue, please follow the link:
Associate Member Prof. Jim Gallagher writes in the Scottish Daily Record about the constitutional implications of Brexit for Scotland and the UK
To read the article, please follow the link below:
New article by Iain McLean: ‘Scotland, Ireland, and Brexit: what history tells us’
To read the piece, please follow the link below:
To read other articles in the series, follow the link to the 'EU referendum: Analysis' page on the Oxford University website:
‘Brexit: Sturgeon and May must balance party and country’ – an article by Jim Gallagher published today by Financial Times
To read the full article, follow the link below:
New research by the Centre for Social Investigation sheds light on foodbank use
The Centre for Social Investigation (along with West Cheshire foodbank and the University of Chester), has undertaken research on foodbank use in West Cheshire, to identify the characteristics of people seeking emergency food, their reason for referral and how long their income crisis was expected to last.
To read the article, please follow the link below:
Melinda Mills and Felix Tropf comment in PNAS on the implications of recent genetic results for educational attainment
To read the full article, please follow the link below:
Britain's European vote: The outcome and implications of the UK referendum on EU membership - a seminar organised jointly by Europe House, the College and the Nuffield Alumni Society, on BBC Parliament
A seminar exploring the outcome and consequences of Britain’s vote in the EU referendum, organised by Nuffield College in association with the UK Information Office of the European Parliament, was held on 30th June at Europe House in London.
The discussion was chaired by Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist, and brought together a panel of leading academic experts and commentators who shared their analysis of the outcome of the June 2016 referendum on British membership of the European Union as well as the implications of the vote for the future of UK and European politics.
The room at Europe House was full with over 100 Alumni and current members of the College
For more information on the original seminar programme and for more details on the speakers, please click here.
If you were unable to attend, follow the link below to watch the seminar on BBC iPlayer:
Professor Iain McLean to be keynote speaker at book launch about the Aberfan disaster
On 13 July, Iain McLean will be a keynote speaker at the launch of Aberfan - A Story of Survival, Love and Community in One of Britain's Worst Disasters by Gaynor Madgwick, which is being published in the 50th anniversary year of the disaster. Iwan England, the filmmaker who has a commission for the BBC1 and S4C 50th anniversary programmes, spent all day filming Professor McLean in the Chester Room on June 10th. Read more here.
Gwendolyn Sasse contributes to Carnegie Europe's question of the week: ‘Will the UK Referendum Irreparably Damage Europe?’
‘The biggest damage has been done to British politics and society, and whatever the result of the June 23 referendum on the UK’s EU membership, it is unclear whether and how this damage can be repaired. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s victory in the 2015 general election was premised on holding this referendum. His subsequent U-turn that saw him advocate for Britain to remain inside the EU, accompanied by a split of the government into a Leave and a Remain faction, could only have one effect: the erosion of public trust in the government and in politics in general.
Moreover, the Brexit campaign, hinged on the fear of uncontrolled immigration, has shifted the parameters of the debate on immigration. Xenophobia and racism have become acceptable in public and political discourse far beyond the traditional core of Euroskeptics. They even claimed the life of the pro-EU member of parliament Jo Cox on June 16.
Without the UK referendum, the EU would not look particularly strong at the moment either. But a Brexit vote—and perhaps already the precedent of such a referendum—is likely to inspire other member states to pursue similar paths. This would chip away at the EU’s internal and external legitimacy and strengthen populism in and across member states.’
To read the full article, please follow the link:
Duncan Gallie elected to Fellowship at the Paris Institute for Advanced Studies
Duncan Gallie has been elected from September 2016 to a five month Fellowship at the Paris Institute for Advanced Studies. It is located on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris, in the historic Hôtel de Lauzun, which has some of the most beautiful original 17th Century interior decoration in France. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B4tel_de_Lauzun)
Centre for Social Investigation report on children’s social mobility
The Centre for Social Investigation has undertaken research on the childhood origins of social mobility on behalf of the government’s Social Mobility Commission. The research findings were featured on the BBC’s six o’clock news on 9th June and have been reported on the BBC website as well as by The Times, The Telegraph, and Financial Times newspapers.
To read the article, please click here.
Nuffield College at the end of the rainbow
An amazing photograph of Nuffield was sent to the College.
The image was aptly entitled by the photographer ‘Nuffield College at the end of the rainbow’
Copyright Trevor Boswell
Professorial Fellow Ray Fitzpatrick launches in-depth guide to evaluating healthcare system innovations
With support from the Medical Research Council, NIHR, Health Foundation and Universities UK, Ray Fitzpatrick and Rosalind Raine (UCL) have launched a major volume of research methods to improve health and social care systems. The MRC has issued this press release to explain the initiative and provide a link to the on-line volume:
'The Crimean Tatars and the Politics of Eurovision' - latest Carnegie Europe piece by Nuffield College Professorial Fellow, Gwen Sasse
To read the article, please follow the link below:
‘Data-based distributions of unknown parameters?’ – A seminar by David Cox filmed for a recent Conference at Rutgers University, New Jersey and a new paper in the European Journal of Epidemiology
Copyright University of Oxford
The very theoretical end of statistics deals with the assessment of uncertainty. How reliable are the conclusions from data showing appreciable haphazard variation? The issue has a long history essentially involving interplay between two notions of probability, one representing unexplained variability in empirical phenomena and the other representing uncertainty in knowledge. David Cox’s video, prepared for a recent Conference at Rutgers University, is partly about the general issues involved and partly about more specific and detailed issues.
To watch the full video of the seminar please click on the video entitled 'Data-based distributions of unknown parameters?' on the left-hand side or follow the link:
In contrast with this relatively abstract discussion, his recent paper ‘The design of empirical studies: towards a unified view’ in the European Journal of Epidemiology on Principles of Study Design contains no formulae or even numbers. It is based on lectures given at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and at Erasmus MC, Rotterdam.
To read this new paper please click here.
Full house at this term’s Nuffield Art Talk
We were pleased to see so many at Julian Munby's illustrated talk on the archaeology and history of the College site and the surrounding area.
We are extremely grateful Oxford Archaeology, Oxford Preservation Trust and to the Chairman of Nuffield’s Art Committee, Richard Mayou, for making this exciting event possible.
Congratulations to Nuffield Fellow Sir Tony Atkinson on Richard A. Lester Award from Princeton University!
Honorary Fellow, Sir Tony Atkinson has been awarded the Richard A. Lester Award for his book Inequality: What Can Be Done?
To find out more about the award, follow the link below:
Geoff Evans awarded ESRC grant to conduct panel survey study of EU Referendum
Geoff Evans has been awarded a grant from the ESRC to conduct a panel survey study of the EU Referendum. The project commenced on May 1st. Professor Anand Menon from King’s College, London is also involved and Jon Mellon is the named post-doctoral Research Fellow.
Nuffield’s first North American Alumni Reunion is a roaring success!
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
We could not be happier to have seen so many US Alumni at our first North American Alumni Reunion. The stunning location at the Library of Congress made for an unforgettable evening, and we are incredibly grateful to Ruth and Phil Suttle (MPhil Economics, 1981) for hosting an equally memorable brunch at their house in Potomac. Reconnecting with such a large group of Nuffield Alumni, having interesting conversations and learning more about their life after College was fantastic, and hopefully just the beginning of a longstanding tradition of North American reunions!
Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education
On Friday 6 May at 5pm in St Antony’s College, Steffen Hertog (LSE) will be speaking about his book co-authored with Nuffield Official Fellow Diego Gambetta, Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education (Princeton University Press 2016; http://www.engineersofjihad.com/)
‘Mapping the Languages of European Memory Workshop’, Nuffield College, Friday 22 - Monday 25 April 2016
What can languages of ‘European Memory’ tell us about Europe’s borders, how these changed over time and whether they are fluid or rigid? If ‘European Memory’ is heterogeneous, how do its semantics vary geographically and how does this language influence and shape European history itself?
Paul Klee, Polyphonie (1932)
The goal of this four-day workshop is to finalise a Special Issue on the entangled memories of Europe, as well as to inaugurate the new John Fell Fund project, Mapping the Languages of European Memory.
The Special Issue is comprised of several case studies, which cover different regions of Europe and link current in-vocations of ‘European Memory’ to long-term historical patterns of interpretation. The articles integrate new aspects drawn from the comparative research design and are explicitly oriented towards the intersections between the case studies. The close dialogue between the articles permits a fresh exploration of the various objectifications of ‘European Memory’.
The new John Fell Fund project, Mapping the Languages of European Memory, will systematically analyse the languages which have sustained the Europeanisation of national memory discourses over the last decade across six countries: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK. This will be done through qualitative content analysis as well as quantitative corpus analysis.
In order to gain a deeper insight into the current importance of text in the social sciences, the differences between and subtleties of qualitative and quantitative analysis, please follow the link to the series of podcasts by Félix Krawatzek and Andy Eggers, hosted by the DPIR:
Friends of the Ashmolean Museum visit Nuffield College Chapel
The Friends of the Ashmolean Museum visit Nuffield for a tour of the Chapel and a talk about the Chapel and College history by Emeritus Fellow, Lucy Carpenter and Librarian, Elizabeth Martin.
The Chapel tour was followed by a self-guided walk around the SCR and SCR staircase. In addition, the guests enjoyed the opportunity to explore the artworks in the JCR as well as the portraits of the College Wardens displayed in the JCR corridor.
‘Your art collection is stunning and it was a surprise to everyone […]’
The visit culminated in a sumptuous afternoon tea served in the SCR.
This tour was oversubscribed for the second time and we look forward to welcoming the Friends at Nuffield again soon!
14 April 2016
Capital and the Common Good: How Innovative Finance is Tackling the World's Most Urgent Problems book preview at Nuffield
Professor in the Social Enterprise Programme at Columbia Business School and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Programme on Profits and Purpose at the New America Foundation, Georgia Levenson Keohane, holds a preview event for her new book, Capital and the Common Good: How Innovative Finance is Tackling the World's Most Urgent Problems, at Nuffield College.
‘For the first time, Keohane explores how innovative finance is addressing the world’s most intractable challenges. From climate change and public health to disaster response and relief, financial inclusion, and community and economic development in the United States, innovative finance can harness new sources of capital and improve the efficiency of existing resources.’ (Columbia University Press)
Georgia explains why she chose to hold the preview at Nuffield:
‘[…] I cannot think of a better place than Nuffield College at Oxford, one of the premier global centers for social science research and exploration for a 'soft launch' [of the book]’
To read more about Georgia, follow the link below:
'Constitution Making in Ukraine: Refocusing the Debate'
Gwen Sasse (Professorial Fellow)
Gwen's Carnegie article on constitutional reform in Ukraine was published yesterday. Through Carnegie Europe it will go out to thousands of policy-makers and NGOs in Brussels, Europe and D.C. today.
To read the article in full, please click here:
07 April 2016
Our very own Politics Senior Research Fellow, Iain McLean, conducted the visiting choir at Lincoln Cathedral for two entire services last weekend!
14 March 2016
Dr Félix Krawatzek awarded John Fell Fund grant
Congratulations to Félix Krawatzek, who has been awarded a John Fell Fund grant for a project entitled 'Mapping the Languages of European Memory'.
To read more Félix's project please click here:
02 March 2016
'To Be or Not to Be? Ukraine's Minsk Process'
Gwen Sasse (Professorial Fellow)
Nuffield College research unit advises Scottish Parliament
Jim Gallagher and Iain McLean, of the Gwilym Gibbon Unit for Public Policy, Nuffield College, were one of the five groups of academics invited, at very short notice, to advise the Scottish Parliament on whether it should give legislative consent to the UK Parliament’s Scotland Bill. After a three-month deadlock, the Scottish and UK governments have agreed a formula for the future funding of the Scottish Parliament after tax powers are transferred to it. Jim and Iain’s memo welcomes the agreement, but sets out the data that will need to be collected, and certified to the National Statistics standard, to inform the five-year review of the formula that the two governments have agreed.
This is a major step in the transfer of fiscal responsibility to the Scottish Parliament.
25 February 2016
Nuffield Fellows honoured by the Royal Statistical Society
Sir Tony Atkinson (Honorary Fellow and former Warden, 1994-2005) and John Goldthorpe (Emeritus Fellow and former Official Fellow, 1969–2002) have been awarded Honorary Fellowships of the Royal Statistical Society in the Society’s 2016 honours.
The Society also awarded its Guy Medal in Silver to Nancy Reid for the paper 'Parameter Orthogonality and Approximate Conditional Inference' which was written jointly with Sir David Cox (Nuffield Honorary Fellow and former Warden, 1988-1994).
Read more here: https://www.statslife.org.uk/news/2688-rss-announces-honours-for-2016
'Social class mobility in modern Britain: Changing structure, constant process', Dr John Goldthorpe FBA
Tuesday 15 March 2016, 6-7.15pm, followed by a reception
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH
Chaired by: Professor Sir John Hills Kt, FBA, London School of Economics
Contrary to what is widely supposed in political and media circles, social class mobility in modern Britain is not in decline. A new pattern of mobility is however, emerging. Younger generations face less favourable mobility chances than did their parents or grandparents. This is essentially the result of class structural change. The underlying mobility regime remains remarkably constant. The key to increasing social mobility is often taken to lie in education. But the historical record indicates that the effect of educational expansion and reform on mobility processes and outcomes has in fact been very limited.
About the speaker:
John Goldthorpe FBA is an Emeritus Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, having been an Official Fellow 1969-2002. He was previously a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He is a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
FREE. Registration not required.
Seats allocated on a first come, first served basis
If you have any questions about this event please call the Events Team on 020 7969 5200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Devolution expert Jim Gallagher asks: Do SNP even want a deal with the Treasury? John Swinney's tactics suggests not
Jim Gallagher (Associate Member) reckons that if the SNP get their demands, the Tories will find it a hard sell to their MP's and would go against Smith Commission principles.
19 February 2016Writing home: how German immigrants found their place in the US, G. Sasse (Professorial Fellow) and F. Krawatzek (Postdoctoral Fellow)
This piece which is related to Gwen's project on migration was published by The Conversation yesterday (18.02).
To read the full article please click the link below:
Former Warden and Nuffield Alumnus on German TV
A documentary aired on German televison, “Wie solidarisch ist Deutschland?”, featured not one but two Nuffield members: Sir Tony Atkinson (former Warden of Nuffield College, 1994 – 2005) and Professor Colin Crouch (DPhil Sociology, 1970). Sir Tony and Professor Crouch were interviewed on the themes of solidarity and inequality in Germany; they appear at 30:00 and 32:52.
You can view the documentary on the ARD website here
Tony Atkinson, Honorary Fellow and former Warden (1994-2005) wins the 2016 Dan David Prize for Combatting Poverty, and the PROSE Award 2016
The international Dan David Prize, headquartered at Tel Aviv University, annually awards three prizes for outstanding achievements in the three time dimensions – Past, Present and Future. The Dan David Prize is named after international businessman and philanthropist the late Dan David. The prestigious Prize stands at the forefront of the world’s topmost academic prizes.
Tony Atkinson has won the 2016 Dan David Prize for the Present Time Dimension in the field of Combatting Poverty, together with Professor Francois Bourguignon of the Paris School of Economics and Professor James J. Heckman of the University of Chicago.
Professor Atkinson has also won the 'Economics' PROSE Award for his book 'Inequality: What Can Be Done?'. The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in 54 categories.
10 February 2016
Iain McLean’s paper republished in “greatest hits” issue of leading US journal
To celebrate its half-centenary, PS: Political Science and Politics has published a virtual issue, reprinting classic papers from past issues. PS is the review and pedagogy journal of the American Political Science Association. The issue is entitled Navigating the Profession: Sage advice from the pages of PS, and it is available via Cambridge Journals Online.
One of the selected papers is ‘Political Science Journals in Comparative Perspective: Evaluating Scholarly Journals in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom’ by James C. Garand, Micheal W. Giles, André Blais, and Iain McLean. It was originally published in 2009. It remains highly topical in the light of current discussions about how to reshape REF and its equivalents elsewhere.
08 February 2016
Olchfa to Oxbridge: The Swansea students who bucked the trend
Low academic attainment and low aspiration were issues raised in a 2014 report on why so few Welsh youngsters were applying to Oxford and Cambridge universities.
But in the late 1970s, one Swansea comprehensive school alone got about 45 pupils into Oxbridge over three years - many of them going on to reach the top of their chosen professions.
BBC Wales producer Gareth Jones asked two of his contemporaries at Olchfa - Russell T Davies and Sir Andrew Dilnot - how the school achieved such success.
Please see the full article here:
08 February 2016
Oxpens in £200m development deal for Oxford city centre
The city council and Nuffield College have signed an agreement to form a joint venture company to build on at least 16.7 acres (6.8 ha) of land in Oxpens.
Please see the full article here:
Today's House of Lords debate - discusses the case of Aberfan
Please see the link below regarding today's Lords debate, where by the case of Aberfan was mentioned by Stewart Wood (former fellow of Magdalen and Visiting Fellow of Nuffield) and by Michael Wills in his closing speech.
This is the first of an increasing number of discussions of Aberfan we expect to see in 2016, as the 50th anniversary of the disaster approaches in October.
Iain McLean and his former research officer Martin Johnes (now at Swansea University) briefed Lord Wood extensively before his speech.
27 January 2016
Nuffield College on Google Maps Street View
Google announced today that Nuffield College has been included in their recent update.
You can also enjoy Google Views Gallery of UK Universities here:
26 January 2016
Gwilym Gibbon Centre tries to break deadlock between Scotland and Westminster
The Scottish and UK governments are deadlocked over the formula for reducing Scotland’s block grant once it takes on substantial tax powers under the current Scotland Bill. The Gwilym Gibbon Centre held a small specialist conference in December attended by public servants from London, Cardiff and Edinburgh and experts on funding formulae. Two publications have resulted. Jim Gallagher explains the ‘algebra’ of the constitutional settlement. Iain McLean explains why fiscal plans must be fair to the English as well as the Scots, telling the story of the ‘Geordie revolt’ of 1977 in which he played a part.
Iain’s paper is here: http://ggcpp.nuff.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Ian-WP-The-No-Men-of-England.pdf
The Times (online):
Death of Professor Elizabeth Waters
We are sad to announce the passing in September 2015 of a Nuffield Alumna, Professor Elizabeth Waters (DPhil Sociology, 1998), who died at age 48 after a five-year battle with breast cancer. Elizabeth was an inspiring academic in the field of child health and evidence-based public health and the Director of the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program at The University of Melbourne right up until her death. A well-known and loved member of the Nuffield community, she will be deeply missed.
An obituary, written by her husband Paul Joyce, is available to read here.
16 December 2015
19th Guardian Lecture – Spying in the 21st Century: Snowden, Putin, and Murder in Britain (MacAskill/Harding)
Ewen MacAskill (Defence and Security Correspondent for the Guardian) and Luke Harding (Senior international correspondent for the Guardian News & Media) were Guardian Research Fellows in Nuffield College during 2014/15.
On Friday 3 December 2015, the two Guardian Fellows delivered the 19th Guardian Lecture on "Spying in the 21st Century: Snowden, Putin, and Murder in Britain".
The lecture was recorded and a video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/gPcDljO0V48
11 November 2015
Nuffield student team wins second University challenge match
Huge congratulations again to the Nuffield student team who appeared on University Challenge for the second time on 9 November 2015, competing against Warwick University. Spencer Smith, Alexander Sayer Gard-Murray, Mathias Ormestad Frendem (captain) and Daniel Kaliski gave a very good performance and went on to win 160-120 against Warwick. Ormestad Frendem was the best buzzer of the night, with six starters to his name.
Nuffield is now the only College left to represent Oxford University on the show together with St John’s (who still have to compete in the second round).
You can watch a Youtube video of the match here.
10 November 2015
50th Anniversary of Aberfan Disaster, October 2016
Iain McLean’s research on the Aberfan disaster of 1966
(http://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/politics/aberfan/home.htm) is returning to prominence as the 50th anniversary of the disaster approaches. Iain is a consultant on a TV programme being made for BBC Wales to mark the occasion. In a speech marking his election as a fellow of the British Academy in 2008, Iain described his work on Aberfan as the most important research he has done so far. It has led to governments returning money to the Aberfan Disaster Fund that was improperly taken from it in the 1960s.
23 October 2015
Gwendolyn Sasse interview ahead of Ukraine's local elections
Ahead of the elections in Ukraine on Sunday, Gwendolyn Sasse (Professorial Fellow) gives a long interview on German public radio (ARD-SWR) yesterday morning about the situation in Ukraine.
Her latest Carnegie Europe blog more specifically on the elections has also gone live.
Please find the links to both below:
Please find a new piece on the Ukraninan local elections which has gone live today through Carnegie Europe.
Further updates from Gwen Sasse below:
5th October 2015
Nuffield student team wins University challenge match
Nuffield College students appeared on University Challenge for the first time on 5 October 2015, winning the match against Queen Mary University, London. The members were: Spencer Smith, from Holland, Michigan, studying Economics; Alexander Sayer Gard-Murray, from Los Angeles, studying Politics; Captain: Mathias Ormestad Frendem, from Oslo, studying International Relations; and Daniel Kaliski, from Cape Town, studying Economics.
They all performed very well; with Alexander Gard-Murray as the best buzzer of the night, they went on to win 165-130 against Queen Mary, qualifying for the next round. A huge well done to the Nuffield team, and good luck for the next match!
The episode is available to watch on Youtube here.
19th September 2015
Sir Andrew Dilnot is awarded an honorary degree from the Open University
We are delighted to announce that the Warden of Nuffield College, Sir Andrew Dilnot, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv) from the Open University, in recognition of his “academic and scholarly distinction”. For more information, please visit this page.
7th September 2015
The Gwilym Gibbon Policy Unit sees double
In the week 7-11 September, two members of the Gwilym Gibbon Policy Unit are appearing before parliamentary committees on the current Scotland Bill. Jim Gallagher is giving evidence to the House of Lords and Iain McLean is giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament.
Our reports were covered in The Times (Scottish edition) and the Glasgow Herald.
15 July 2015
The Problem of EVEL: English Votes and the British Constitution – a working paper from the Gwilym Gibbon Centre for Public Policy
Professor Jim Gallagher has written the fourth working paper for the Gwilym Gibbon Centre for Public Policy, entitled “The Problem of EVEL: English Votes and the British Constitution”.
Why should Scottish MPs vote on English issues, when the same matters are devolved to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh? This is the famous “West Lothian question”. After an election in which the possibility that SNP MPs might hold the balance of power in Westminster was a major campaign theme of the Conservative party, it remains at the forefront of UK politics. The government have now produced proposals for “English votes for English laws”. This paper reviews them, from the perspective of an author sympathetic to the idea, and suggests significant rethinking of some aspects is needed.
This question needs to be kept in perspective. England usually gets the government that it votes for, and Scottish MPs only make a difference if England is split down the middle. There are in fact remarkably few occasions in which Scottish MPs make a difference on English matters. The government propose new House of Commons Standing Orders, and a new Committee to give English MPs a vote on English issues. This is the right approach. The government's plans, however, are for a system that gives English MPs substantial veto powers, under a so-called “dual majority”. The attraction of this principle is that it stops change being forced though against an English majority, but does not allow that majority to control the government. But the government’s plans have no opt out for exceptional circumstances. Like the convention which restricts Westminster legislating on devolved matters, these rules should apply “normally”.
Ministers propose to extend the idea of English votes into secondary legislation. This has not been properly thought through. Much secondary legislation is really part of the executive responsibility of ministers, and unlike Acts of Parliament some of it needs to be made every year. The example the government give, of the distribution of local council finance, is apt. If no Order is made, councils get no money. This would allow an English majority to hold an executive to ransom, exercising the powers of government but not taking its responsibilities. It would not be not a dual majority system in practice.
Similar issues arise in relation to taxation. All the detailed work which has been being done on English votes, such as the McKay Commission, relates to ordinary law making, not tax. But the government propose to extend the consent regime to English taxes, such as the rates of income tax. This may seem obvious, but creates substantial problems. Income tax has to be renewed every year. So once again an English majority would be able to hold a government to ransom–income tax is a quarter of total revenue. A government which cannot decide on a quarter of its budget is in no position to govern either England or the UK. And because there is no separate English budget, there is no mechanism for English tax decisions to be reflected spending that affects England only. This is not because of the Barnett formula, but because there is no separately identified English-only spending budget.
English votes is a real issue, even though its importance may have been exaggerated by the recent election campaign. It should be seen not through party political but constitutional spectacles. It would be a mistake for the Conservative party to assume that this could only constrain a future Labour government, and wrong in principle for any government to write the rules of this game on the assumption that they could only ever play one role in it. Devolution has changed the British constitution, but Westminster has sailed on as if nothing has happened. So something does need to be done, and some form of English votes is the right answer.
Engand does have to be recognised in the territorial constitution of the United Kingdom, but its position as the dominant partner in the union requires a quite different approach to that for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The UK will never be a fully formal federal state. Westminster will remain England's Parliament, and the UK government will remain England's government. The trick in designing an English votes procedure is not to undermine that, and not to make the government of England, or the United Kingdom, impossible in some, infrequent, circumstances. The government's present proposals do not take that trick: they carry the risk that in these circumstances, England might have no effective government at all. As with constitutional changes generally, it would be better if development of English votes proceed by consensus, for which there does seem to be political scope in a number of possible formats. Such a constitutional change should be made in a way that it can be expected that the procedures do not change if there is a change of government.
Professor Desmond King is granted leave to supplicate for the Degree of Doctor of Letters
The Board of the Social Sciences Division has granted leave to Professor Desmond King to supplicate for the Degree of Doctor of Letters. Published works were submitted, a list of which can be obtained from the Research Degrees Team at the Examination Schools.