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Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Research Department: Conservative Parliamentary Backbench Committees


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The papers of various Conservative Parliamentary Backbench Committees, including minutes, correspondence and notes.


  • 1943-1990


26 shelfmarks

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General access conditions apply to this material.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, Conservative Party Archive [followed by shelfmark, e.g. CRD/P/1/1].
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Collection ID (for staff)



Committees of the Parliamentary Party, c.1943-1988

Biographical / Historical

The Conservative Research Department (CRD) was established in November 1929 and rapidly assumed a position of considerable importance in the Party's policy-making process. It advises Party leaders on the formulation of policy, undertakes detailed, long-term research on a wide range of issues, services Party committees from the Leader's Consultative Committee (Shadow Cabinet) downwards, provides authoritative briefs to MPs in preparation for Parliamentary debates, plays a major role in the writing of Party publications and the vetting of Party publicity, and analyses public opinion trends in order to advise the leadership on electoral strategy. Although its importance fluctuates according to the particular concerns of the Party Leader, it has always been, and remains, one of the central departments in Party organisation.

Since 1979 the CRD has been contained, organisationally and physically, within the Conservative Central Office. Before that, however, it was a separate body, housed separately and, for much of its life, organisationally independent also, with its own chairman and director. For this reason its papers have been catalogued separately from those of Central Office.

One of the functions of Desk Officers in the CRD, was to attend meetings of committees of the parliamentary party and take the minutes. As a result, the minutes of a number of parliamentary committees survive between 1946 and 1990 amongst the records of the Research Department, but survival is patchy and for no committee is a complete series of minutes held.

Of those committees of the parliamentary party for which minutes are held, most series stop by 1990 if not much earlier. Exactly why this happened is not clear, as information is not readily available, but at some point the practice of CRD staff attending meetings of parliamentary committees ceased. If the committees continued to exist, and minutes continued to be taken, then they were not routinely transferred to the Conservative Party Archive and do not appear to have survived elsewhere. As late as 1987 though, the practice of CRD Desk Officer’s attending, and circulating detailed minutes of these meetings, had been positively encouraged, as evidenced by a memorandum sent to all Desk Officers by the then Director of CRD Robin Harris, dated 26th November 1987 [Source: CRD 404/6: Home Affairs Committee minutes, 1984-1990]. For a full list of all the Conservative parliamentary committees in existence following the June 1987 general election, along with Government departments which they reflected, their Labour counterparts, chairmen, vice-chairmen and secretaries, see MPs’ Chart (pp. 166-174) by Andrew Roth (Parliamentary Profile Service, 1987).

In more recent decades committees of the parliamentary party appear to have been formed whilst the Party was in Government only, and reflected the various departmental responsibilities of Government – responsible Ministers or guest speakers being invited to address meetings of interested MPs on matters of Government policy. With some exceptions (notably, the Foreign Affairs Committee, amongst others, for which minutes survive for 1946-1974 and 1979-1989) there is consequently a break in the minutes of parliamentary committees after 1964, which often do not resume until 1979. However, once returned to Opposition these committees tended to be wound up, so that there are no minutes of committees of the parliamentary party held in the Conservative Party Archive during the period of Opposition, 1997-2010.

As of 2011, the creation of Conservative parliamentary committees along previous lines has not yet taken shape. It is possible that the rise in importance of Parliamentary Select Committees may mean that the practice of appointing these committees has ceased permanently.

Custodial History

The Conservative Party Archive (CPA) was established as a source for academic study at the Bodleian Library in 1978 by an agreement made between the University of Oxford and the Conservative Party, and brought together surviving historic papers of the Party previously held in various locations including Newcastle University Library and the former Conservative Central Office in Smith Square, London. Since 1996, ownership and financial responsibility for the CPA has been vested in the Conservative Party Archive Trust. The CPA preserves the records of all three areas of Party organisation: parliamentary, voluntary and professional. It is recognised by the Conservative Party as the official repository for its historic records and those of affiliated organisations, and receives new material on a regular basis.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Conservative Party

Related Materials

For other records relating to the Conservative Research Department, see the following series:
  1. CRD 1: Papers c.1929-1940
  2. CRD 2: Papers 1925-1969
  3. CRD 3: Papers 1948-1979
  4. CRD 4: Papers 1974-1987
  5. CRD/D: Directors' Papers 1946-1988
  6. CRD/L: Desk Officers'/Subject Specialists' Letter Books c.1930s-1987
  7. CRD/B: Briefs 1964-1987
Conservative Party Archive: Conservative Research Department: Conservative Parliamentary Backbench Committees
Original finding aid prepared by Jeremy McIlwaine in 2011. Revised and expanded by Annaliese Griffiss in 2019.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom