New Paper on the Human Rights Act

Repeal of the Human Rights Act, its replacement with a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, and withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights are core parts of the constitutional programme of the newly-elected Conservative government. For this reason, the recently-published Constitution Society and UK Constitutional Law Association paper, “‘Common Sense’ or Confusion? The Human Rights Act and the Conservative Party” by Stephen Dimelow and Alison L Young, available online, is of particular salience.

The enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998 was undoubtedly a significant moment in the United Kingdom’s legal and political history. But while many view it as a positive development, many others view it much more negatively, regularly voicing the need for far reaching reforms. Of the main Westminster parties, unhappiness with it has long been most prominent in the ranks of the Conservative Party. The publication of a policy document in October 2014 entitled ‘Protecting Human Rights in the UK: The Conservatives’ Proposals for Changing Britain’s Human Rights Laws’, was an important step towards understanding both what the Conservative Party believes is wrong with the current regime and how it plans to resolve these perceived problems. This paper scrutinises the Conservative Party’s proposals in an attempt to determine the Conservative Government’s likely success in both achieving the proposed reforms and addressing the perceived problems. 

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28th April 2015

‘The Reality of the British Constitution’ paper by David R. Howarth and Shona Wilson Stark

A paper by David R. Howarth (University of Cambridge) and Shona Wilson Stark (Christ’s College, Cambridge) is available online. It breaks new ground in its assessment of the British constitution.

Using interviews with senior UK officials about their views of the rules of recognition, change and adjudication, it concludes that there may be in effect three different constitutions operational in this country.

An abstract follows. The full paper is available on the SSRN website here.

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15th August 2014

Judicial Review Launch – watch the video online

The launch of The Constitution Society’s latest paper, Judicial Review and the Rule of Law: Who is in Control? at the British Academy is now available to watch online. 

Our Research Director and author of the report, Amy Street, was joined by Bill Cash MP, Sir Konrad Schiemann and Richard Gordon QC as they discussed the important topic of judicial review and the relationship between the concepts of the Rule of Law and Parliamentary Supremacy. The event was chaired by Nat le Roux, Director of The Constitution Society.

The panel discussion can be viewed here.

3rd January 2014

Judicial Review paper online

The Constitution Society’s latest paper, Judicial Review and the Rule of Law: Who is in control? is now available online.

Judicial review faces an uncertain future. The government’s proposed reforms in this area – not least, restricting who may bring a claim – are attracting controversy.

This report takes a step back from the heat of that debate to illuminate the broader picture from a constitutional perspective. What are the constitutional implications of attempts by the executive to limit the ability of individuals or organisations to challenge its decisions – and the power of the courts to rule on the lawfulness of its actions?

What is the impact on the rule of law and the relationship between institutions of state? What are the potential consequences of altering the constitutional balance between our judges and Parliament? And why is this issue so important to the government, to Parliament and to lawyers? 

9th December 2013

Judicial Review: a new report from The Constitution Society

The Constitution Society is pleased to announce the launch of a paper on the important topic of judicial review. Authored by Amy Street, previously a co-author of Select Committees and Coercive Powers – Clarity or Confusion? our new pamphlet will be a timely intervention in an area of increasing political salience.

To mark the launch of the paper a panel discussion is being held at the British Academy on 19th November from 6pm. Amy Street will be joined by Richard Gordon QC, Sir Konrad Schiemann and Graham Allen MP (Chair of the Political and Constitutional Committee).

Hard copies of the pamphlet will be available on the evening and a PDF will be on this website following the launch.

If you wish to attend the event please email our events team via 


7th November 2013

Judges, Politicians and the Contested Constitution

By Aidan O'Neill QC

Judges, Politicians and the Contested Constitution

Conrad Russell once observed that the essential problem of the relationship between Scotland and England “could be defined by saying that England could brook no equal, and Scotland no superior.” Read more ›

Fresh battle looms between European human rights court and UK

Prosecutors could be forced to stop using evidence from victims and witnesses who do not attend court in another human rights battle between Britain and Europe. The case is the first significant clash between European judges and the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, over who should dictate domestic law.

Read it at The Telegraph ›

14th December 2011

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ARCHIVE: On whether or not to repeal; a briefing on the debate surrounding the Human Rights Act and a UK Bill of Rights

[First Published on Tuesday 4th 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.

This week, as senior politicians from both sides of the coalition express differences of opinion regarding the future of the 1998 Human Rights Act and the prospect of a new UK Bill of Rights, we present some of the best recent writing on the issue as well as some useful background information.

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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.

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ARCHIVE: Experts join calls for joined-up thinking in the scramble for constitutional reform

[First Published on Saturday 24th July 2001]

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.

Thursday 10th July saw yet another call for some joined up thinking and a holistic approach to issues relating to the British constitution. “Towards a codified constitution”, a paper published by JUSTICE and written by a group of constitutional experts led by Stephen Hockman QC and Vernon Bogdanor, contends that since 1997 we have been through a period of profound constitutional change without it being wholly clear what the British constitution actually is. During that period we have, in a piecemeal and unplanned way, been codifying the constitution. (Gus O’Donnell’s Cabinet Manual is a case in point.)

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