Shaun Bevan
Secondary Government Attention: UK Bureaucracy and Its European Focus

Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois, April 11th to April 14th, 2013

Government depends on a functional bureaucracy, but how does the attention of the bureaucracy itself function? While bureaucrats ideally just do their jobs, focusing on the programs laid out by elected officials, the reality is that bureaucrats in most democracies have a great deal of autonomy. The United Kingdom (UK) is notable for the fact that the majority of legislation occurs as secondary, delegated legislation called statutory instruments (SIs) that are written by bureaucrats themselves. This paper makes use of a new dataset of all UK SIs from 1987 to 2008 covering their issue content and relation to EEC/EU Directives to develop a better understanding of bureaucratic attention in the UK. It finds that bureaucratic attention has shifted in reaction to the election of New Labour in 1997 and that the implementation of EEC/EU directives is a relatively small part of SI activity. However, the majority of SIs at least cite the EU suggesting that the influence of the EU on UK legislation is simultaneously weaker and stronger than commonly thought. This paper represents the first output from a developing project on the content and, in time, the responsiveness of national level bureaucracies in EU member states over time.