One of the best sources of information about Parliament is the Parliament website (www.parliament.uk). This now has a mass of useful information and is invaluable not only for learning about the institution but also about subjects debated or investigated by either House or their committees. Just browsing through the official report (Hansard) for each House, you can learn a lot about a range of subjects, not least in answers to written questions. However, for the subject specialist, there is little to beat the reports published by select committees in the two Houses.
The Lords has select committees on Communications, the Constitution, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform, Economic Affairs, the European Union, Intergovernmental Organisations, Merits of Statutory Instruments, and Science and Technology. The EU Committee works through seven sub-committees, each covering particular sectors of public policy. As each sub-committee has about 10-12 members, this means that most weeks there are more than seventy members of the House engaged in EU scrutiny.
The committees, as with committees in the Commons, are productive and fairly prolific bodies, publishing a range of well researched and authoritative reports. The EU Committee, for example, has just published a massive report on The Treaty of Lisbon: an impact assessment. The report itself is 300 pages in length. The volume of evidence is an equally large document. The Constitution Committee will shortly be publishing a report on the implications of the Lisbon Treaty for the British Constitution.
The bad news is that copies of committee reports are generally expensive. The EU Committee report, for example, is £24.50 (and the evidence volume £34). The good news is that all committee reports are available on the Internet via the Parliament website. If you log on to the Parliament website and click on ‘committees’, you can then browse through committees in the two Houses and see the range of reports they have issued. You can then access a report in pdf or HTML format.
If you are interested in a particular sector of policy (be it, for example, criminal justice, pollution, defence, animal welfare, war in Iraq, or medical ethics) there is likely to be a substantial body of material on the website of interest to you. It is well worth a browse.