Robert Blackburn QC, PhD, LLD, is a leading authority on British and comparative constitutional law. He has been Professor of Constitutional Law at King's College London since 1997, and was appointed honorary Queen's Counsel in 2016. He is a graduate of London School of Economics and Leeds University, and holds degrees in the disciplines of Law, Political Science, and History. He is a solicitor and before entering academic life practised with a City law firm in the areas of property, medical and public law. He regularly acts as an adviser to government or professional bodies in the UK and abroad, most recently as Special Counsel to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in 2010-15, and consultant on Crown affairs for the Cabinet Office and Treasury Solicitor in 2014-15. He served as UK National Correspondent to the Council of Europe Directorate of Human Rights between 1983-2008. He has published fifteen books on political and constitutional affairs, among them The Electoral System in Britain, Parliament: Functions, Practice and Procedure, Fundamental Rights in Europe, King and Country, and Constitutional Reform. He has written three titles for Halsbury's Laws of England, the definitive multi-volume work of reference for legal practitioners, on Constitutional and Administrative Law, Parliament, and Crown and Crown Proceedings. He is a member and former Secretary of the Study of Parliament Group, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
Professor Robert Blackburn provides an analysis of the species of rules and procedures that regulates and facilitates the internal workings of the Westminster Parliament. The article focuses especially on the House of Commons, being the democratic component of Parliament on whose continuing confidence the life of the government depends, with the House of Lords today being an essentially revising assembly and the monarchy performing a purely ceremonial role. It considers the legal nature and political importance of Westminster parliamentary procedures, and the constitutional fundamentals that have served to shape them. Parliament, and the House of Commons in particular, hardly ever acts as a cohesive entity in itself, and is best understood as a clearing house of political pressures and competing interests. For this reason the analysis proceeds from the perspective of the three political players at Westminster - the government, the opposition, and backbenchers. It discusses the most politically potent procedures available to each of these three groups for the performance of their constitutional functions, and evaluates how each manipulates and uses the procedures of Parliament to their own political advantage, and to what effect. The extent to which recent procedural changes have strengthened the overall performance of Parliament is considered, and an assessment given of current problems and challenges facing Westminster that are likely to drive future further reform.