‘Constitutional Standards, Constitutional Change and EVEL’: A blog by Dr. Jack Simson Caird

Today the Constitution Unit UCL, with the support of the Constitution Society, is publishing the second edition of ‘The Constitutional Standards of the House of Lords Constitution Committee’. The report, by Robert Hazell, Dawn Oliver and myself, contains a code of 140 constitutional standards, covering five areas: the rule of law, delegated powers, the separation of powers, individual rights and parliamentary procedure. The second edition extracts and codifies standards from all 168 reports of the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee published from its inception in 2001 to the end of the 2010-2015 Parliament.

When the first edition of the code was published in January 2014, I made the basic case for the use of a code of constitutional standards within Parliament. In this post, I focus on the role that a code of constitutional standards could play in the specific circumstances facing Parliament today: that of the first parliamentary session of a newly elected government intent on making major constitutional changes. In particular, I will examine the introduction of English votes for English laws (EVEL) as an example of constitutional change, and explore how the use of this code in both Houses of Parliament and in government could enhance the scrutiny of those proposed changes to parliamentary procedure.

A defining feature of the UK’s constitution is that a government fresh from the polls can use its majority in the House of Commons to implement major constitutional change in their first parliamentary session. If the policy was in the manifesto of the winning party then the Salisbury Convention means that it will not be blocked in the second chamber. And the change will be able to ‘bed down’ during the whole of the Parliament. In one sense this is a strength of the UK constitution. A weakness of this arrangement is that it can result in changes being made to the constitution without the detailed analysis and scrutiny within Parliament that they deserve. This is where a code of parliamentary constitutional standards, such as the one included in this report, could make a difference. Read more ›

27th August 2015

New paper by Vernon Bogdanor: The Crisis of the Constitution

The Constitutions Society’s paper, ‘The Crisis of the Constitution: The General Election and the Future of the United Kingdom’ by Vernon Bogdanor, is available online.

Who governs Britain? That is the question being put to the voters on 7th May. But there are other questions lurking in the background, constitutional questions, that are the subject of this pamphlet. The first of them is – how is Britain to be governed in an era of party fragmentation in which the electoral system either fails to yield a single-party majority government; or, if it does yield such a government, it is likely to be a government enjoying little over one-third of the popular vote?

The second and even more fundamental question is – will there remain a Britain to be governed, or will the election give a further push to those forces in Scotland calling for separation? But these are not the only constitutional questions that Britain will face. There are in addition a European Question, a Human Rights Question and an English Question. The constitution, which many politicians hoped might have been disposed of after the Scottish referendum, has returned to the political agenda with a vengeance. Vernon Bogdanor discusses both the problems and possible solutions. Read more ›

12th February 2015

‘Entrenchment and the United Kingdom constitution’ – new discussion paper

In recent times developments in the UK system have suggested a more widespread attraction to the idea that some constitutional rules should have a protected position, and should not be as easy to alter as more regular laws and arrangements. Current constitutional turmoil may make entrenchment of this kind a necessity, though to do so would entail a challenge to more traditional constitutional traditions.

In ‘Entrenchment and the United Kingdom constitution’, Andrew Blick considers the different options available for any effort to entrench constitutional principles and provisions.

Download this paper here. 

16th December 2014

‘How not to change the constitution’: Opinion paper by Nat le Roux

A paper by the co-founder and former Director of The Constitution Society, Nat le Roux, is published online today. It discusses the handling of the Scottish referendum, its aftermath, and the implications for the way in which constitutional reform takes place in the UK.

The paper expresses the personal views of the author.

Download a copy here. 

24th September 2014

Two distinguished recruits for The Constitution Society Advisory Board

The Constitution Society is pleased to announce the addition of Sir Malcolm Jack and Sir Thomas Legg to The Constitution
Society advisory board. 

Sir Malcolm Jack (top picture) was Clerk of the House of Commons from 2006-2011 and is the co-author of our latest report, on Parliamentary privilege. Sir Malcolm is the editor of the current, twenty-fourth, edition of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice as well as writing and lecturing on constitutional and historical subjects.

 

Sir Thomas Legg (bottom picture) was Permanent Secretary of the Lord Chancellor’s Department and Clerk of the Crown in Chancery. Sir Thomas has led three inquiries, most famously into the MPs’ expenses scandal. As well as The Constitution Society, Sir Thomas plays an active role in the Better Government Initiative

Both Sir Malcolm Jack and Sir Thomas Legg bring an excellent range of skills and experience to our organisation. The Constitution Society looks forward to working with them to further our call for an informed debate on constitutional issues.

9th August 2012

A summary of this term’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

As the House of Lords Reform Bill is abandoned and Nick Clegg withdraws the Liberal Democrats’ support for boundary change, two major constitutional reforms are halted by disagreement within the coalition. The argument over political funding continues, as Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone are criticized for using a legal loophole to conceal the identities of donors who funded their mayoral election campaigns. In news on Scottish independence, David Cameron is said to be ready to give the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum but urges the need for a single question. A recent Democratic Audit report voices serious concerns over ‘the increasingly unstable nature of the UK constitution’, and suggests we cannot move past the current crossroads without reaching agreement on a set of democratic values.

Read more ›

6th June 2012

A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

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25th April 2012

A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

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16th April 2012

A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

 

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19th March 2012

A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

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