‘Distinguishing Constitutional Legislation’ paper

The Constitution Society’s latest paper ‘Distinguishing Constitutional Legislation: a modest proposal’ by Andrew Blick, Nat le Roux and David Howarth is now available online.

In most democratic states, the mechanisms for constitutional change are clearly separated from mechanisms for enacting ‘ordinary’ legislation. They are also designed to make any significant alteration in existing constitutional arrangements a relatively difficult undertaking. In Britain, however, there is no legislative process for constitutional change other than ordinary legislation, nor is there any clear or generally agreed distinction between constitutional and other laws.

The potential shortcomings of this approach have become increasingly evident in the period since 1997, which has been marked by frequent, sometimes hectic, constitutional change. Constitutional modification is now an established part of every government’s legislative programme. If elected governments too often seem to amend these rules in a self-interested way then trust in the legitimacy of the political system may be progressively undermined.

This paper considers the options and proposes a mechanism whereby Parliament could identify and impose the special procedures it deems appropriate for legislation of first-class constitutional importance. It concludes that if Parliament wants to, it has the power to bring about a better approach in this area.

19th August 2014

Report launched with the Constitution Unit on constitutional standards

The Constitution Society is delighted to announce the launch of a new report with the Constitution Unit entitled The Constitutional Standards of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution.

Authored by leading experts, Jack Simson Caird, Robert Hazell and Dawn Oliver, the report looks at the complex issues that surround the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution, codifying the the standards it used between 2001 and the end of the parliamentary session 2012-2013. 

The report has been welcomed by The Constitution Society as a welcome contribution to the discussion on the way our democracy works. It will no doubt be read with interest by policymakers and all of those with a keen interest in the functions of parliament and the select committee system.

The report can be downloaded here.  

11th February 2014

Better Government Initiative Launches New Paper

The Constitution Society is pleased to note that the Better Government Initiative has launched a new paper on the important topic of Civil Service reform. The BGI is supported by The Constitution Society and is made up of high ranking former civil servants who are dedicated to promoting better governance of the United Kingdom. 

Civil Service Reform: Hidden Dangers? was written by the BGI’s Phillip Ward and explores issues surrounding developments in the British Civil Service, making the case for cross-party agreement on any future changes and acting as a reminder that the Civil Service belongs to no single government.

The report can be downloaded here.

12th September 2013

Constitutional legislation is ‘qualitatively different from other types of legislation’ – PCRC reports

The Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee (PCRC) has published its report  on legislative standards [1]after an eighteen month inquiry. 

Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

The Constitution Society welcomes the report as an important contribution to the campaign for a general improvement in the quality of legislation. [2] We especially endorse the fourth of the report’s five key recommendations:  that a test for identifying constitutional legislation should be agreed between Parliament and the Government.

In evidence to the Committee in 2012, the Society argued that constitutional legislation should be distinguished from ordinary legislation for three reasons[3]:

-        Constitutional legislation is the architecture of the state. The elements of the constitution are unavoidably interconnected, so an alteration in one part of the building can have unforeseen consequences in other parts.

-        Most major constitutional legislation has an effective presumption of irreversibility.

-        A practice has arisen under the current government of employing ‘manner and form’ restrictions where a piece of legislation passed by an ordinary majority imposes restrictions on future Parliaments regarding how that legislation is to be implemented or repealed.

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Our Director, Nat le Roux, gives evidence to PCRC

Following The Constitution Society’s submission of written evidence (which can be found here) to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s inquiry into ‘Ensuring standards in the quality of legislation’; Nat le Roux, Director of The Constitution Society, was invited to give oral evidence on the 21st of June. He appeared alongside Lord Butler and Sir Nicholas Monck who served as representatives of the Better Government Initiative.

Below is a video of Nat attending the oral evidence session before the Committee.

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The Constitution Society submits evidence on the quality of legislation

The Constitution Society is happy to announce that our evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on the
subject of ‘Ensuring Standards in the Quality of Legislation’ has been submitted. 

The evidence highlights the large amounts of low quality legislation and calls for the introduction of new Parliamentary processes to mitigate against political pressures to pass ill-thought out laws. The Constitution Society welcomes the idea of a ‘Legislative Standards Committee’  to review draft legislation and check:

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