Sir John Elvidge APPG Meeting On Scottish Referendum

The latest meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the British Constitution was honoured to have as its main speaker, Sir John Elvidge, former Permanent Secretary to the Scottish government 2003 – 2010.

Sir John opened the discussion of the issues surrounding the upcoming independence vote by: firstly laying out what he believed were three misjudgments about the nature of constitutional change relating to it, secondly stating what he believed were the two most interesting judgments the UK government has made in its wrangling with the independence movement, and finally outlining the most difficult decision the Scottish government has to consider and get right in this process. Following his introduction, the distinguished guest fielded questions from a room full of parliamentarians and interested observers on the nature of the upcoming referendum, its most important developments so far, and where it might go in the future. 

 Topics discussed included:

  • The calculated risks taken by both governments in framing how the referendum will take place.
  • The extent to which voters’ decisions will be driven by emotional and idealistic notions tied to culture or hard-headed economic reasoning.
  • How the SNP plans to deal with fiscal issues of social security spending and its investment in renewable energy.
  • How important the UK’s continuing EU membership is to Scottish voters.

  And perhaps most intriguingly…

  • The continuing future of ‘DevoMax’ as an alternative option to a Yes/No decision.
  • What a close-margin outcome to the vote could mean for the future of Scotland, independent or not.
  • The possible future of the Orkney, Shetland, and Western Isles if the rest of the country decides to vote Yes.

The full audio recording of this meeting can be found here to listen to or download along with a host of other APPG podcasts.

Read more ›

13th August 2013

APPG Constitutional Developments Under the Coalition – Podcast

The Constitution Society provides organisational and secretarial support for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the British Constitution, chaired by Lord Norton of Louth. The Group works to broaden legislators’ knowledge base and improve the quality of debate on proposals for constitutional change and the way in which they are introduced.

We are excited to announce that the APPG meetings will now be available to listen to as podcasts. The most recent meeting of the APPG on the Constitution was on on the subject of Constitutional Developments Under the Coalition. 

 The speakers, in order of appearance, were: 

  • Professor Robert Hazell, Director, The Constitution Unit 
  • Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, Senior Consultant on Constitutional Affairs, Policy Exchange

You can listen to the podcast on our website here. If you would like to download the podcast simply right click the link above and select ‘save as’.

23rd January 2013

Tags: , , ,

The Coalition’s mid-term constitutional plans

It’s been a furiously busy two years of constitutional news: from the AV referendum and failed Lords reform to elected Police Commissioners and fixed-term parliaments. But now with the Coalition reaching mid-point in this parliament what constitutional issues will be raised in the run-up to 2015?

The downgrading of Chloe Smith’s role from that of her predecessor’s indicates that the Coalition will be placing less priority on parliamentary and constitutional reform, but there still remain huge constitutional matters that will be addressed before the end of this parliament.

Read more ›

11th January 2013

Tags: , , , , ,

How not to ‘do’ constitutional reform – by James Hallwood

The latest Coaltion fall-out over Lord’s reform has highlighted the way in which constitutional issues can easily turn into a game of political football. Booted between the Coalition partners, a decision of crucial importance on how we run our democracy has descended into short-term politicking.

A turnaround from a principled stand in favour of boundary changes to opposition marks a new low in how constitutional issues are addressed. The debate on whether AV or Lord’s reform was the price of reducing the size of the Commons misses the point entirely – constitutional changes require scrutiny and well-thought out legislation, not horse-trading and tit-for-tat.

While there are principled reasons for and against specific changes on either side of constitutional debates it is frankly depressing how these have often been quieter than discussion of partisan advantage. From arguments within Labour as to whether AV would benefit them or not to the quid pro quo agreement in the Coalition that AV would benefit the Liberal Democrats and boundary changes would benefit the Tories. 

Read more ›

ARCHIVE: The Cabinet Manual; controversy over codification

[First Published on Tuesday 21st December 2010]

The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.

Published last week by the head of the civil service, the Draft Cabinet Manual  is the UK’s first comprehensive guide to the functioning of the Executive; “a guide to the whole business of government seen from the perspective of the executive branch”.

Drawing together various existing pieces of guidance for ministerial behaviour, the Manual has been heralded by many as the first step towards a written constitution.  Others criticise the document as a power grab by its civil servant drafters.  The Constitution Society put these issues to the experts.

Read more ›

ARCHIVE: Chief Civil Servant advises Brown to stay put in event of hung parliament

[First Published on Thursday 4th March 2010]

The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.

The head of the Civil Service is warning Gordon Brown not to leave Number 10 if it is unclear who has won the upcoming election. Sir Gus O’Donnell told MPs that it is “the Prime Minister’s duty not to resign” until a successor can be found. 

The comments, made during an investigation into what will happen if the next election results in a hung parliament, are an attempt to reassure jittery markets that having no clear winner wouldn’t obstruct government. 

Read more ›

ARCHIVE: Cabinet Manual launched

[First Published on Monday 24th October 2011]

The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.

Today the government published the Cabinet Manual, heralding it as ‘the ultimate user’s guide to government’. An innovation in government originally pioneered by New Zealand, it brings together a broad range of sources – including the relevant parts of the ministerial code, internal Government procedures, common law and key legislation – and aims to give a descriptive account of the procedural arrangements of the executive.

The intention to create a UK Cabinet Manual was declared by Gordon Brown in February of 2010. Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell soon after published a draft chapter entitled ‘elections and government formation’, which was utilised in the wake of the 2010 general election. In December 2010, after the Coalition entered office, a Draft Cabinet Manual was published.  Today, following a period of consultation which concluded on the 8th of March of this year, the finished document has arrived.

ARCHIVE: The Constitution Society’s Evidence to the Lords Constitution Committee

[First Published on Wednesday 18th May 2011]

The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.

The Constitution Society’s evidence to the House of Lords’ inquiry into Constitutional Reform was published on the 13th of May 2011. The Society used agreed principles of Good Government to assess the quality of the legislative process behind the recently enacted Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act (which led to May 5th’s referendum).

Asked by the Lords Constitution Committee whether constitutional laws should be considered to have a special character such that constitutional law-making is given special treatment, The Constitution Society suggested that a preliminary step should be to ensure compliance with basic standards of good government.

The Society took as its yardstick for due process the recommendations put forward in the Better Government Initiative’s report Good Government, published in January 2010 and welcomed at the time by both David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Read more ›

ARCHIVE: Elizabeth Truss MP Calls for More Freedom for Councils

[First Published on Friday 13th May 2011]

The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.

Elizabeth Truss, Member of Parliament for South West Norfolk has called for councils to be“more free to take their own decisions”, warning that an excessive concern for equality between local government bodies disempowers British communities

Read more ›

14th January 2001

Tags: , , ,

ARCHIVE: Uncertain implications of the Cabinet Manual

[First Published on Tuesday 25th January 2011]

The following post was first published on ConSoc’s previous site. It is recorded here as a window onto issues as they were at the time. For more up to date news on the Constitution and Constitutional reform, make sure to follow the ConSoc blog.

The Cabinet Manual proved to be a fertile topic for debate at this month’s meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Constitution. 

Lord Norton chaired a fascinating discussion on the Manual’s drafting, content and legal implications with contributions from Professor Margaret Wilson, former speaker of the New Zealand Parliament, Professor Robert Hazell, director of the Constitution Unit at UCL and Professor Richard Gordon QC, an eminent voice in constitutional law.

Read more ›