Abstract In this article, I analyse committee assignments in the Dutch Tweede Kamer across multiple legislative periods (1994–2012). This legislature is important to consider in the ongoing debate about committee assignments given that its electoral system minimises constituency-related assignment factors. The theoretical framework comprises the congressional theories of legislative organisation but highlights the involvement of parliamentary party groups in the assignment process. The hypotheses are tested using a multiple-membership multilevel model with additional evidence from 28 interviews with legislators. The results indicate that legislators’ educational and occupational backgrounds are important factors in the assignment process but show that partisan influences matter as well. 1. Introduction Beyond the immediately visible plenum, parliaments are highly complex institutions. One of the main institutions to prepare decision within legislatures are parliamentary party groups (PPGs). These groups comprise all ‘elected either under the same party label or under the label of different parties that do not compete against each other in elections, and who do not explicitly create a group for technical reasons only’ (Heidar and Koole, 2000, p. 249). PPGs are heavily involved in running the legislature by setting the agenda, building majority coalitions, examining and processing legislation. Because of the scale of parliaments and the complexity of parliamentary decision-making, most PPGs delegate the task to develop policy proposals to specific policy experts (see Saalfeld and Strøm, 2014). The primary institution in which these policy experts fulfil this role within the parliament is by speaking on behalf of the PPG in plenary debates and also during the preparation of decisions, which occurs primarily in parliamentary committees. This presents us with an interesting puzzle. Although this delegation to policy experts is necessary, it also risks that individual legislators pursue their own interests at expense of the PPG. Parliamentary committees are privileged institutions. They subdivide policy areas and, at least in principle, offer committee members the possibility to work on issues within their jurisdiction before other legislators of the PPG can eventually vote on it. Assigning the ‘wrong’ legislator to a committee can be costly and risky of producing outcomes with detrimental effects for the PPG. It is therefore important to understand the assignment process of legislators to committees. As recently as two decades ago, research on committee assignments was largely confined to the US Congress and US state legislatures (Adler and Lapinski, 1997; Kanthak, 2009; Hamm et al., 2011). However, more recently this issue attracted a growing number of scholars who first focused on the European Parliament (e.g. Bowler and Farrell, 1995; Whitaker, 2005; McElroy, 2006; Yordanova, 2009, 2011), but later also analysed national legislatures (e.g. Hansen, 2010, 2011; Fujimura, 2012; Raymond and Holt, 2014). One of the commons themes in these studies is that district demands (a cornerstone of the so-called ‘distributive theory of legislative organisation’) appear to account for some of the assignments (see Stratmann and Baur, 2002; Hansen, 2011; Mickler, 2013, 2018b; Gschwend and Zittel, 2016) However, legislators of some legislatures do not possess a clear electoral connection with individual districts. Legislators in the Israeli Knesset, the Slovakian Národná rada or the Dutch Tweede Kamer are elected in single nationwide districts. This means that constituency demands are (electorally speaking) eliminated as drives to be assigned to committees. Given their special nature, studying these cases provides an important piece in the puzzle to further enhance our understanding of committee allocations in non-congressional legislatures (see e.g. Martin, 2014). In this study, I will turn the Dutch Tweede Kamer as a representative case of this type of legislature. The main research question is: ‘What criteria explain committee assignments in the Tweede Kamer?’ The next section provides a short overview over the committee system of the Tweede Kamer. Afterwards, the theoretical framework is introduced by summarising the congressional theories of legislative organisation that is the distributive (see Shepsle, 1978), informational (see Krehbiel, 1992) and partisan theory (see Cox and McCubbins, 1993). After contrasting these theories with regard to their central assumptions about the purpose of legislative organisation, I integrate their core arguments in one framework which explicitly highlights the role of PPGs in the assignment process but uses the main organisational implications to distinguish several strategies that PPGs can pursue. To test the hypotheses, the article uses a mixed-methods design which combines a multiple-membership multilevel model to analyse all assignments to committees in the legislative periods between 1994 and 2012 with the data collected from 28 interviews with Dutch legislators. The evidence presented in the article indicates that a legislator’s educational and occupational backgrounds are important factors in the assignment process but that partisan influences also matter. Additionally, the PPG leadership has the right to remove legislators from committees. Surprisingly, Dutch PPGs are reluctant to allow legislators to join committees which correspond to their side functions. This evidence indicates that the rationales of the congressional theories have merit for studying cases such as the Tweede Kamer but that the role of PPGs must be acknowledged. 2. The establishment of committees in the Tweede Kamer The Dutch Tweede Kamer relies on several types of committees. First, each ministerial portfolio is mirrored by a permanent committee (vaste commissies). Permanent committees are also established for European Affairs (Europese Zaken) and Kingdom Affairs (Koninkrijksrelaties) (Article 16 Rules of Procedure of the Tweede Kamer). Additionally, general committees (algemene commissies) are established for issues which ‘relate to virtually all Ministries’ (Article 17 Rules of Procedure of the Tweede Kamer). In practice, they shadow the portfolio of a non-departmental minister. The Rules of Procedure also allow for the establishment of theme committees (themacommissies) which offer a forum for the exchange of ideas and plans with the government in societal relevant issues and for temporary (tijdelijke) committees with limited duration. Committees in the Tweede Kamer are considered strong. Almost 40 per cent of the bills in this legislature leave the committee stage amended or changed by the initiator (Visscher, 1994). However, working procedures of Dutch committees are somewhat peculiar: during the committee stage, the committees themselves are not allowed to rewrite a bill or include amendments. With regard to legislation introduced by the government, the most common procedure is as following: after a draft bill is referred to a committee, legislators in committees provide their views on the bill in form of a written report to which the government responds in written form as well (Bovend’Eert and Kummeling, 2010, p. 225). At the end of these exchanges, a final report is drafted which concludes that the bill is sufficiently prepared for consideration in the plenary session. Only at this stage an oral debate takes place in which motions and amendments can be tabled. There are, of course, also oral debates in committees but these do not concern a specific piece of legislation but are usually based on letters from the government concerning plans for future policies or are limited to very specific instances (for more information on specific rules, see Bovend’Eert and Kummeling, 2010, p. 225). Table 1 lists the established specialised committees at the beginning of the 2012 legislative period. Table 1 Specialised committees established at the beginning of the 2012 Tweede Kamer Standing committee Shadowed federal ministry/ministries MPs Defence Defence 26/26 Economic affairs Economic affairs 26/26 Education, culture and science Education, culture and science 26/26 European affairs – 26/26 Finance Finance 26/26 Foreign affairs Foreign affairs 26/26 Health, welfare and sport Health, welfare and sport 26/26 Infrastructure and the environment Infrastructure and the environment 26/26 Interior Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Kingdom relations Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Public expenditure – 26/26 Security and justice Security and justice 26/26 Social affairs and employment Social affairs and employment 26/26 Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation – 26/23 Housing and Central Government Sector – 26/22 Standing committee Shadowed federal ministry/ministries MPs Defence Defence 26/26 Economic affairs Economic affairs 26/26 Education, culture and science Education, culture and science 26/26 European affairs – 26/26 Finance Finance 26/26 Foreign affairs Foreign affairs 26/26 Health, welfare and sport Health, welfare and sport 26/26 Infrastructure and the environment Infrastructure and the environment 26/26 Interior Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Kingdom relations Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Public expenditure – 26/26 Security and justice Security and justice 26/26 Social affairs and employment Social affairs and employment 26/26 Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation – 26/23 Housing and Central Government Sector – 26/22 Source: Own depiction. The column MPs lists the number of full members and the number of substitute members. Table 1 Specialised committees established at the beginning of the 2012 Tweede Kamer Standing committee Shadowed federal ministry/ministries MPs Defence Defence 26/26 Economic affairs Economic affairs 26/26 Education, culture and science Education, culture and science 26/26 European affairs – 26/26 Finance Finance 26/26 Foreign affairs Foreign affairs 26/26 Health, welfare and sport Health, welfare and sport 26/26 Infrastructure and the environment Infrastructure and the environment 26/26 Interior Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Kingdom relations Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Public expenditure – 26/26 Security and justice Security and justice 26/26 Social affairs and employment Social affairs and employment 26/26 Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation – 26/23 Housing and Central Government Sector – 26/22 Standing committee Shadowed federal ministry/ministries MPs Defence Defence 26/26 Economic affairs Economic affairs 26/26 Education, culture and science Education, culture and science 26/26 European affairs – 26/26 Finance Finance 26/26 Foreign affairs Foreign affairs 26/26 Health, welfare and sport Health, welfare and sport 26/26 Infrastructure and the environment Infrastructure and the environment 26/26 Interior Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Kingdom relations Interior and Kingdom relations 26/26 Public expenditure – 26/26 Security and justice Security and justice 26/26 Social affairs and employment Social affairs and employment 26/26 Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation – 26/23 Housing and Central Government Sector – 26/22 Source: Own depiction. The column MPs lists the number of full members and the number of substitute members. In general, committees reflect the composition of the plenum proportionally, meaning that the majority situation in the plenum is reflected in the committee. However, small PPGs are usually granted a minimum representation even if their size would not qualify for a ‘full’ seat on a committee. Such concessions usually occur when government coalitions have a relatively large majority. In these cases, government PPGs agree to grant extra seats to smaller PPGs. 3. Theories to analyse committee assignments: a congressional bias The distributive theory of legislative organisation (Shepsle, 1978; Weingast and Marshall, 1988) views legislatures as decentralised institutions. Given that legislators need to take decisions under majority rule, these decisions are highly unstable and susceptible to being overturned. The primary reason for committees is to facilitate ‘gains from trade’: by dividing policy areas via committees and allowing legislators who have a ‘stake’ in the committee’s jurisdiction to join them. This, it is argued, solves the majority-rule instability within legislatures. The theory suggests that legislators’ actions are primarily dominated by geographical concerns. Given that legislators ‘self-select’ to committees that are relevant for their electoral interest, this leaves the composition of committees to be unrepresentative of the parent body by clustering ‘high’-demanders in committees (e.g. legislators from rural districts and the committee dealing with agriculture). The informational theory (Krehbiel, 1990) makes different assumptions about the motivations of legislators. This theory departs from the uncertainty that legislators face about the consequences of policies. The informational theory argues that committee assignments are established to minimise distributional losses and to allow for legislators to specialise and to obtain superior information about the outcomes of bills, thereby minimising unintended effects. Rather than clustering ‘high’-demanders, the theory predicts that committees will be filled with a representative mix of legislators without an advantageous position vis á vis the legislature. Both of these theories view PPGs in the legislature as weak and non-constraining. The partisan theory (Cox and McCubbins, 1993) contradicts these perspectives and ascribes an important role to the majority PPG to prevent electoral and procedural inefficiencies. Committees become part of the reward system of the PPG leadership which is assumed to watch the assignment carefully and decide whether the outcome is contradictory to their seat-maximising strategy. Loyalty to the PPG leadership is a substantive determinant of committee assignment (for a more detailed overview of theories, see Introduction Paper of this special issue by Martin and Mickler, 2018). 4. A new framework: PPGs as main actors Although the study of committees in legislatures outside the USA has gained momentum in the last decades, legislatures outside the USA lack their ‘own’ theoretical framework comparable to the US theories. In order to deduce testable hypotheses about the assignment mechanisms within PPGs we can ‘borrow’ the main organisational implications of the congressional theories. However, this requires a redefinition of the role of PPGs in the internal organisation of parliament (see for similar arguments, Fernandes (2016) and Hansen (2016)). PPGs are gatekeepers within the Dutch Tweede Kamer and their involvement in the internal organisation is undisputed. In this sense, the partisan theory by Cox and McCubbins (1993) is ‘correct’ in its premise: legislators will not be able to self-select to committees solely based on their preferences with no ‘committee government’. However, this does not make the further organisational implications of the partisan theory (which focuses heavily on legislators’ loyalty towards the leadership) correct by default. When premising the supremacy of PPGs over committees, distributive and informational theories offer feasible strategies for PPGs, that is, to cater to the external interests of PPG members to increase the re-election chances (distributive rationale) or assigning policy specialists to committees to deal with the legislative workload (informational rationale). 4.1 Hypotheses The distributive theory argues that outlying preferences, most notably the electoral districts, drive committee assignments. A comparable electoral connection is, however, not present in the Dutch electoral system. In order to test outlying demands, a widely used proposed alternative is the use of ties to interest groups as drives to be assigned to a committee (see Yordanova, 2009). Although these external interests are not involved in the election of a legislator, legislators who serve interests outside parliaments are still considered ‘high-demanders’ who seek particular assignments driven by these external connections. Hypothesis 1: Members are more likely to serve on committees that correspond to their connections to interest groups. The informational theory predicts that committees are composed of legislators who can specialise at low cost due to advantages in knowledge related to a policy area. A legislator’s prior occupation and education are valuable assets which PPGs are expected to make use of. Hypothesis 2: Committees consist disproportionally of those members who can specialise at low cost due to their advantages in policy-related knowledge. The partisan theory highlights the proactive role of the PPG leadership to ‘structure’ the composition of committees. It is hypothesised that especially in those committees which are important for the electoral success of a party, and withhold other from serving on them, PPGs prefer experienced legislators. Having legislators with a lot of parliamentary experience minimises the risk unintended consequences. Hypothesis 3:The more parliamentary experience members have, the more likely they are to be assigned to committees whose jurisdiction concerns an important issue-domain of the party. An additional hypothesis tests the influence of individual legislators’ loyalty to the PPG for being assigned to an important committee. If the structuring hand is visible, then legislators with more moderate policy positions are expected to be disproportionally assigned to committees whose jurisdiction concerns an important issue-domain of the PPG. Conversely, those with more extreme policy positions (relative to the PPG median) will be kept from joining important committees. Hypothesis 4: When a committee’s jurisdiction concerns an important issue-domain of the parliamentary party group, legislators in committees will be more moderate with regard to their policy positions. 5. Research method The analysis uses a mixed-methods approach. After analysing committee assignments by means of a statistical analysis, the initial results are cross-checked with evidence from semi-structured interviews I conducted with legislators in April to May 2015. A total of 12 legislators were interviewed from the Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA), 11 from the Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD), 2 from the Socialistische Partij (SP), 2 from the Christen-Democratisch Appèl and 1 from the Partij Voor de Vrijheid (PVV). I was unable to schedule interviews with several smaller PPGs (D66, GroenLinks, ChristenUnie, SGP and Partij voor de Dieren). In most cases, the high workload of legislators of these smaller PPGs made the participation not feasible. The insight with regard to the assignment procedure of opposition PPGs, therefore, rests solely on the evidence provided by legislators of the PVV, CDA and SP. 5.1 Operationalisation of variables The dependent variable measures assignments and transfers to specialised committees (devoted to specific policy areas). The analysis comprises the legislative periods starting from 1994 until the 2012 legislative period. Data on committee membership were obtained through a content analysis of committee minutes of general consultations (verslag van algemeen overleg) using all minutes starting from 1 January 1995 (data are not available before this date). These minutes contain a list of the committee members at the time of the meeting. At the end of each legislative period, the committee membership lists were used to establish a ‘committee life cycle’ of all legislators (assignments made at the beginning as well as mid-term changes). For the 2012 legislative period, the first assignments at the beginning of the legislative period are included but not the transfers. To operationalise advantages in knowledge concerning a committees’ subject matter, information on the educational and occupational background were obtained by coding legislators’ biographies (biographies were obtained from the online archive of the Parliamentary Documentation Center (2015) at Leiden University). The data were coded according to the ISCO-08 coding scheme which provided a framework to fit educations and occupations. The codes were then assigned to ‘fitting’ committees. The guiding principle was whether a legislator is assumed to have a relative advantage compared to a legislator who did not have the prior education, respectively the prior occupation (0 = not present, 1 = present for a committee). As an example, Secondary Education Teachers (2330) were coded as having relevant knowledge for the Education Committee, Legal Professionals (ISCO-08 code: 2610) for the Legal Affairs committee, etc. Some codes were assigned to multiple committees: a background as Financial Professional (2410), for example, was seen as providing legislators with advantages in knowledge for committees dealing with Finance, the Budget and the Economy. Data on connections to external groups (used as a proxy to measure whether a legislator is a ‘high-demanders’) were obtained by coding responsibilities in enterprises and organisations which Dutch legislators are obliged to publish. The lists of side functions (nevenfuncties) since 1997 were obtained by the office of the clerks (Griffie). All official functions were coded (voorzitter/lid raad van bestuur, advisory council, etc.). For parliamentary experience, the number of legislative periods of legislators was used (information based on the biographic archive of the Dutch Parliamentary Documentation Center, 2015). The additional partisan hypothesis tests a connection between legislators’ policy position and the chances to be assigned to important committees. To infer individual legislators’ policy positions, this study relies on the content analysis of parliamentary speeches and questions of legislators using the Wordscores approach (Laver et al., 2003). The basic idea is that legislators who have more moderate policy positions will use word patterns in their speeches and questions that are similar to the PPG mean whereas legislators with more extreme policy positions will use word patterns that differ from the PPG mean. I explicitly refer to these as policy positions and not discuss the obtained results in terms of ideological positions. This phrasing is more appropriate of how Wordscores estimates can actually be interpreted. There are a number of drawbacks with this type of analysis. First, Wordscores treats text as a ‘bag of words’ and makes no assumptions about synta0078. Additionally, it should be clear that political parties delegate power to legislators to speak in the parliament which implies that there will be a bias in the obtained results. However, it is assumed that speeches still allow for subtle deviances. For the analysis a text corpus was built up which comprises all speeches and questions that legislators gave in the analysed legislative periods during plenary sessions (see Table 2). The plenary minutes of the Tweede Kamer (starting from January 1995 onwards) were obtained from the publications of the parliament listed in www.officielebekendmakingen.nl. Wordscores requires the assignment of scores to the ‘reference’ documents. These serve as ‘anchor points’ for the estimation of the other legislators. The reference texts contain all speeches of legislators of a PPG (including ministers for government PPGs). Table 2 Number of analysed plenary documents, speeches and personal statements Legislative period Plenary sessions No analysed speeches and questions 1995–1998 291 140,620 1998–2002 301 157,121 2002–2003 97 25,979 2003–2006 387 153,738 2006–2010 378 155,742 2010–2012) 232 86,432 2012–March 2015 281 151,020 Legislative period Plenary sessions No analysed speeches and questions 1995–1998 291 140,620 1998–2002 301 157,121 2002–2003 97 25,979 2003–2006 387 153,738 2006–2010 378 155,742 2010–2012) 232 86,432 2012–March 2015 281 151,020 Source: Own data set. The data set also includes speeches which were placed on record. The last analysed plenary session was the session at the end of March 2015. Table 2 Number of analysed plenary documents, speeches and personal statements Legislative period Plenary sessions No analysed speeches and questions 1995–1998 291 140,620 1998–2002 301 157,121 2002–2003 97 25,979 2003–2006 387 153,738 2006–2010 378 155,742 2010–2012) 232 86,432 2012–March 2015 281 151,020 Legislative period Plenary sessions No analysed speeches and questions 1995–1998 291 140,620 1998–2002 301 157,121 2002–2003 97 25,979 2003–2006 387 153,738 2006–2010 378 155,742 2010–2012) 232 86,432 2012–March 2015 281 151,020 Source: Own data set. The data set also includes speeches which were placed on record. The last analysed plenary session was the session at the end of March 2015. The reference texts were scored using the party position scores of the Manifesto Research Group/Comparative Manifestos Project (Volkens et al., 2014). The final score for each legislator is the difference between a legislator’s calculated score to his or her PPG’s mean, thus providing a measurement of (dis)similarity that can be used as a proxy to identify more extreme and more moderate legislators. The word frequency matrix needed for the analysis was set up using the tm package in R (Feinerer and Hornik, 2015). The computation of scores was done using the Austin package (Lowe, 2015). This strategy implies that legislators are estimated against documents that contain their own speeches, which risks to introduce a bias. Although the aim of the estimation (measuring the relative distance of each individual legislator to his or her PPG colleagues) makes it important to include all speeches one might object to this. To make sure that no noticeable bias is introduced, I repeated the analysis for the 1994 and the 1998 legislative period with a second Wordscores estimation that uses PPG leader speeches as reference texts. There were no differences in the obtained results. Additionally, another analysis was conducted with the Druckman and Warwick (2005) scores that measure the importance of ministerial portfolios as proxies for the importance of committees. Again, the results with regard to the partisan variables did not change noticeably. The choice to rely on Wordscores rather than the measure by Druckman and Warwick relates to the fact that some committee are not scored at all in the Druckman and Warwick database (e.g. European Union) and, furthermore, that the use of Druckman and Warwick's scores would imply that the importance of committees is shared across parties. To measure the relative importance of committees for a PPG, committees were ranked in terms of issue saliency. This resonates most strongly with the partisan theory. Given that it is most important to understand whether difference assignment patterns exist in committees that are of central importance compared to others, this study categorises committees into those of high-importance committees (HICs) and low-importance committees. The ranking is based on the interviews. Most are shared across all parties (committee dealing with the budget, financial issues and the economy) but slight differences occur with regard to highly salient issues. A list of all committees can be found in Supplementary Material S1. Committee experience was added as a control variable. Legislators were seen as having committee experience in case of membership to the same committee in the immediate prior legislative period (0 = not present, 1 = present for this committee). In case committees were merged, legislators of both committees are treated as having committee experience for the new committee. When committees were split up, those legislators who served on this committee are coded to have committee experience for both of the new committees. 6. Interpreting the models: assignments to committees in the Tweede Kamer The data are analysed with a multiple membership multilevel model. These models are an extension to the standard multilevel framework and allow for lower level units (in this case legislators) belonging to more than one higher level unit (committees) (Browne et al., 2001). The application of such models is best suited for the data characteristics (some legislators are assigned to multiple committees, committees differ with regard to their importance to PPGs). The mixed membership multilevel models were estimated in R using the lme4 package (Bates et al., 2015a,b). For each legislative period, four models were estimated: full members without (Model 1) and including committee experience (Model 2), as well as substitute members without (Model 3) and including committee experience (Model 4). Descriptive statistics are included in Supplementary Material S2. Figure 1 depicts the coefficients and confidence intervals of the models for full (left column) and substitute (right column) members (upper row = excluding committee experience; lower row = including committee experience). Separate lines are used to distinguish the respective effects for each legislative period. The detailed model summaries are shown in Supplementary Materials S3 and S4. The Tweede Kamer frequently has small PPGs (‘small’ here refers to PPGs whose number of legislators is smaller than the number of specialised committees). To test for a possible bias a separate model was estimated including only large PPGs (see Supplementary Material S5 for detailed output). It is expected that the effect is stronger when only larger PPGs are included. Small PPGs do not have similar possibilities to choose among their legislators but have to ‘work with’ what they have. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Coefficients and confidence intervals of multiple-membership multilevel model of committee assignments in the Tweede Kamer 1994, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2012 legislative period. ▪ Square = p < 0.1; ● filled circle = p < 0.05; ▲ triangle = p < 0.01. A non-filled box indicates p > 0.1. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Coefficients and confidence intervals of multiple-membership multilevel model of committee assignments in the Tweede Kamer 1994, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2012 legislative period. ▪ Square = p < 0.1; ● filled circle = p < 0.05; ▲ triangle = p < 0.01. A non-filled box indicates p > 0.1. In all legislative periods, the effect of the variable measuring committee experience is highly significant. Given that the coefficients themselves are hard to interpret, predicted probabilities were calculated. These are more straightforward to interpret in terms of how much it actually ‘matters’ and increases a legislator’s chance to be assigned to a committee. The discussion in text is limited to calculations for the 2010 legislative period but other legislative periods indicate very similar effect sizes. In the legislative period of 2010–2012, the predicted probability of being re-assigned to a committee as full member is 48.1 per cent for legislators who served on the same committee in the prior legislative period as full members. This value is reduced to 7.9 for substitute members. This suggests that legislators are likely to continue on the same committee but that more changes occur with regard to substitute memberships in the Tweede Kamer. The interviews underline the finding that legislators who served on a committee as full members are likely to continue on the same committee. Legislators argued that it is difficult to push someone out of a committee who has served on it and would like to continue (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150423A and 150520D). However, the main reason to be able to stay on a committee depends on whether somebody did a ‘good’ job. If this was the case, then it is possible to continue (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150430A; also 150423A and 150520D). The adherence to such a procedure certainly makes sense. The very specific and technical content of the policy-making process takes time to get used to, with legislators estimating an orientation period ranging between about one year (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150429A) and an entire legislative period in a new subject area (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150422E) to completely familiarise oneself. The model summaries for the Dutch parliament also show a highly significant effect of prior education and occupation with regard to full members across all analysed legislative periods (see Figure 1). There is no significant effect when analysing the assignment patterns of substitute members (plaatsvervangers), except for some legislative periods. Based on this advantages in knowledge do not structurally account for substitute member assignments. In terms of predicted probability for the 2010 legislative period, the effect of matching prior education is 11 per cent in Model 1 (7.5 per cent in Model 2) compared to a predicted probability of prior occupation of 6.5 per cent in Model 1 (3.8 per cent in Model 2). Although seemingly small, they must be seen in the context of a very complex assignment process. Interestingly, when looking at the effect sizes, it appears that when it comes to committees, ‘immediate’ work experience is less important than prior education for committee assignments of PPGs in the Tweede Kamer. Respondents from all PPGs confirmed this connection. In certain areas, it is almost seen as a necessity (mostly with regard to legal affairs, finance, tax issues and to a certain extent health) although legislators were able to name exceptions. It appears that these considerations also already drive the composition of the candidate list. Next to regional variation, among those people ‘who are elected [my PPG] needed a jurist and an economist’ (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150430B). Similarly, a legislator from a small Dutch PPG argued that ‘blocks’ are created to have a certain variety of expertise, also in case numbers are not favourable after the election (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150521D). This is strong evidence that PPGs are interested to ‘tap the talents’ of their members, which supports the informational rationale. The reason for the quite strong drop in effects between substitute and full assignments and the apparently higher discontinuity rate of Dutch legislators when it comes to substitute membership were addressed in the interviews. It became apparent that the explanation lies in a particularity of the Dutch system. First, portfolios are distributed to legislators who are then allocated to the corresponding committee. These legislators are also present at most meetings of the committee. However, the numbers of legislators who occupy portfolios that fit to a committee and the number of seats on a committee usually do not match (with the number of spokespersons being smaller than the actual number of seats the PPG has on the committee). Due to numerical necessity (e.g. VVD and PvdA have seven, respectively six seats on each committee) the other seats are filled with legislators whose portfolios have some rudimentary overlap but may not necessarily be close to the committee’s jurisdiction. Taking the PvdA as an example, the health portfolio is split into relatively small ‘chunks’ with one legislator being responsible for long-term care including handicapped people and the elderly, another for hospitals, a third for general practitioners and a fourth for medical-ethical questions (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150423D). Other portfolios are shared between only two legislators. The remaining seats on the committees are ‘filled’ with legislators who are formally members of a committee but do not serve on them in a similar way as the spokespersons. The main purpose of those legislators is to be present at the procedural meetings (procedurevergadering), which schedule a committee’s agenda for the upcoming weeks, to secure a majority for the government. This means that the analysed group of committee members is ‘contaminated’ which explains the low explanatory power of the models regarding substitute members. However, this would also imply that, to a certain extent, the model analysing full members ‘underestimates’ the effect for this group given that some legislators are members of committees as full members who are assigned to ‘fill the numbers’. It can, therefore, be expected that an analysis which only covers the holders of portfolios would show even stronger effects. Looking at the models analysing full membership to committees across all PPGs (Figure 1) external interests has a significant effect when excluding committee experience (Model 1). Contrary to the full membership models, the models with regard to substitute members again indicate no significant effect of the variables (see discussion above with regard to substitute members). Much more interesting are, however, the results of the analyses excluding small PPGs (see Supplementary Material S5). Being of some explanatory power in the legislative period after the election in 1994 the significant effect vanishes after the 2002 election. Afterwards there is no significant effect of external interests on committee membership. It is striking that this change occurs in this particular legislative period given that in 1997 the rules regulating the side functions of members of parliament were toughened. This occurred in the aftermath of VVD-party leader Bolkestein having sent several letters as member of the supervisory board (commissaris) of a pharmaceutical company to the Minister of Health. This could be a coincidence, but the timing of this change is remarkable. The evidence from the interview with legislators of VVD and the PvdA disclosed that the side functions of legislators (nevenfuncties) are indeed a big concern in the assignment process (e.g. Interview Tweede Kamer 150521A; 150527B; 150521A). This informal rule is also a two-way street. Legislators with a particular portfolio are cautious to accept an external position which would present a conflict of interest. If this is the case the PPG leadership needs to be consulted and can make the call. Legislators are then faced with a choice: At some point I was asked to sit on the executive board of [a foundation in the area of my portfolio]. I have consulted the PPG leadership (Dutch: fractiebestuur) and they told me I that I should not do it or otherwise I would have had to hand in my portfolio. And then I said I do not want to do that and said ’no’ to the foundation. (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150519A) How far these considerations go was hinted at by one respondent who mentioned that the situation of a legislator’s spouse is also considered so that ‘[one] cannot be accused, so to speak, of conflictual interests.’ (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150520E, also 150415A). Dutch legislators hinted at the ‘blurriness’ of the rule in some policy areas (e.g. labour and health) in which the background is not as problematic. In this sense even legislators indicated a ‘double standard’ (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150506A). This fits nicely with the results of the statistical analysis which did not indicate that the variable measuring outside connections structurally accounts for assignments to corresponding committees. Interestingly, legislators frequently saw the problem of an assignment of the legislator less in terms of undesired policy output but rather in terms of a negative perception of the media and the voters and to protect the legislator and the PPG (see quote above from Interview Tweede Kamer, 150520E). Unfortunately, I was unable to determine during the interviews what is different about the legislators’ perceptions of the Dutch media or the Dutch voter in order to explain why Dutch PPGs appear to be more vigilant. Based on the statistical analysis, there is little evidence that partisan influences occur with regard to committees of high and low importance. With only two exceptions in the 1998 legislative period, none of the partisan variables pass common significance levels. Interviewed legislators backed this general impression from the statistical analysis, but several legislators hinted at the existence of a hierarchical principle (e.g. Interview Tweede Kamer, 150527A, 150423A, 150430B). One interviewed legislator argued that it would be logical that ‘someone who has been in the Chamber for ten years and has much experience would rather get a central portfolio than someone who is 28 years with little life experience’ (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150423A). However, legislators generally argued that a seniority principle is not applicable anymore because the Dutch parliament has developed into one with a relatively high turnover (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150422B), with many legislators leaving the chamber after three legislative periods. The system can, therefore, best be described as self-selection with restrictions. The interviews also aimed to check for country-specific influences and patterns beyond the theoretical framework. First, similar to other legislatures, respondents pointed towards a ‘tradition’ (Interview Tweede Kamer, 140208B) that former ministers would not join the corresponding committee after their term is over. A more general gate-keeping principle for central portfolios in the Tweede Kamer is the position on the candidate list for Dutch legislators. This was a frequently mentioned issue during the interviews (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150423, 150430B). It was argued that those who are relatively high on the list would more often get bigger dossiers than legislators who are new or lower on the list (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150430B). This is an important addition given that these considerations are clearly partisan and indicate that, even though considerations such as policy disagreement and legislative experience were hardly influential PPGs always remain the major gatekeepers and control assignments. Even though constituency characteristics were argued to be absent in the Tweede Kamer, it should be noted that some legislators suggested that their local connection influences their work in parliament. One legislator noted that in his province (Brabant) ‘it is expected from me to put the most important topics from that region on the political agenda. And I take that extremely serious. My colleagues from Groningen and Friesland and Limburg do the same thing’. (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150423A). For this legislator, the local level was not reflected in the portfolio, but another respondent mentioned that the portfolio was directly influenced by such considerations. As an example, I am from Friesland. That is a province in which I can develop the best profile with nature, agriculture, water and tourism. This is why I was spokesperson for recreation. … These things do not ‘hit’ in Amsterdam. So they often look at where somebody can develop the best profile. And this has, among other things, to do with where you live. (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150430A). However, even in this case the legislator did not stick to these topics but at some point shifted to topics which are not closely connected to the local level any more (Interview Tweede Kamer, 150430A). The effect of local considerations can therefore best be described as being applicable to a small group of legislators, especially those from the provinces outside of the ‘Randstad’ (a conurbation of four big cities—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht.), without forming a general pattern. 7. Conclusion PPGs are central institutions within legislatures, promoting decisional efficiency in the chamber and allowing legislators to influence policy. We know that many PPGs, within a process of division of labour, delegate the task to develop policy proposals to specific policy experts. Although this form of political delegation is necessary, it also risks that the individual legislators pursue their own interests at expense of the PPG. This is of particular interest in parliamentary committees which come in to action in a crucial stage of parliamentary decision-making. To understand what criteria play a role in the assignment process to committees in a legislature in which (to the largest extent) constituency demands as important drives to be assigned to a committee are eliminated, this article focused on the Dutch Tweede Kamer. This study relied on the congressional framework of distributional, informational and partisan theories of legislative organisation to disentangle several broad organisational rationales. Certain adaptations were made to account for the different institutional setting. Most prominently, the role of PPGs as central gatekeepers in the process was acknowledged. It is clear that PPGs control the assignment process. The analysis focused on what factors PPGs apply in the assignment process. Even though, following this logic, the ‘most obvious’ choice to be able to capture the processes in the Dutch Tweede Kamer would be the partisan theory, as it already places PPGs as central actors to explain why legislatures are organised in the way they are, the analysis did not show that those legislators with deviant party positions are more likely to be assigned to an important committee or that these committees are structurally filled with more experienced legislators. However, based on the interview evidence, the list position of a legislator is an important factor on being assigned to an important committee, which arguably is a very party political variable. However, generally speaking, the analysis did not indicate a ‘tight’ grip of the PPG leadership but rather highlighted other factors that account for the assignment. This study mainly converges with the evidence presented in earlier studies of committee assignments in non-congressional legislatures (e.g. Hansen, 2010, 2011; Mickler, 2017, 2018b). Once a legislator has been a member of a committee, (s)he has a relatively strong claim to stay on the same committee. However, the PPG leadership is able to intervene when somebody did not do a ‘good’ job in the prior legislative period. Advantages in knowledge greatly increase the likelihood to be assigned to a corresponding committee. Processes in the Tweede Kamer indicate, however, a clear non-applicability of the prediction that external interests drive the assignment. Strong norms exist to not be assigned to committees in which one might have an outlying interest. Such country-specific patterns need to be included when giving a complete account of the assignment process. Interestingly, most of the highlighted variables tie in nicely with existing studies which analyse individual behaviour of Dutch legislator’s with regard to other parliamentary activities (see e.g. Louwerse and Otjes, 2016). Although the statistical model contains committee assignments of all PPGs, one word of caution should be voiced with respect to the interview data concerning the ‘smaller’ opposition parties: Even though the selection of opposition parties contains parties from the left as well as the right of the ideological spectrum, one needs to be cautious with generalising the interview evidence for the PVV, CDA and SP to the other opposition parties from which no legislators were interviewed. We know that the organisation of the PVV is very hierarchical (Vossen, 2016) and also the SP is a traditionally viewed as a party with a more hierarchical party structure. The results presented here is part of a larger endeavour to understand committee assignments outside of the heavily studied US Congress. Given that initial results are now present for a variety of cases, future studies need to build up on this research by analysing the room for manoeuvre of individual committee members once they are assigned. The study of decision-making and conflict resolution in committees has attracted comparatively little scholarly attention and the relationship between committee members and the PPG is hitherto not widely studied (but see Mickler (2018a) for a study on the German Bundestag and the Tweede Kamer). After knowing who goes where, the next logical step is to analyse what mechanisms exist within PPGs to monitor the behaviour of committee members after they have been assigned. Supplementary material Supplementary data for this article are available at Parliamentary Affairs online. Conflict of Interest The author declares no conflict of interest. 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Parliamentary Affairs – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 19, 2018
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