Truly Engaging Citizens with the Parliamentary Process? An Evaluation of the Public Reading Stage in the House of Commons

This project examined in detail the UK Parliament’s attempt to involve the public directly in the legislative process.

Citizens were invited by Parliament in 2013 to submit their comments on a bill about children and families. Over 1000 comments were submitted by members of the public.

This study interviewed some of those citizens who participated, parliamentary staff and MPs, as well as analysing the contents of the comments and the extent to which this had an impact on the bill.

We found that although citizens submitted many and valuable comments to the bill, that this was often dominated by large organisations. We also found that the value of this public engagement initiative hadn’t been harnessed to enhance the actual bill.

The study showed the importance of giving feedback to the public as well as of integrating public engagement with formal parliamentary business.


The findings of this study have informed evidence that Professor Leston-Bandeira has given to Parliament, such as to the House of Lords’ inquiry into the legislative process and its more recent inquiry into digital engagement. Together with Professor Leston-Bandeira’s other research in public engagement, this study also informed the evidence she gave to the House of Commons Liaison Committee’s inquiry into the effectiveness and influence of select committees, which cites her submission extensively. This study was also shortlisted by the British Academy for its 2019 summer showcase, where Professor Leston-Bandeira had an exhibit about the study’s findings.

Publications and outputs

Leston-Bandeira, C. and Thompson, L. ‘Integrating the view of the public into the formal legislative process: public reading stage in the UK House of Commons’, The Journal of Legislative Studies, vol. 23, 4, 2017, pp.508-528,

Report aimed at practitioners – Letting the Public in on the Act:

Blog posts: