New Blog Post by The Constitution Society: The Queen’s Speech: An Unsatisfactory Reply?

Shortly after the opening of the debate on the Queen’s Speech on 18 May, rumours began to circulate about a controversial amendment to the traditional, formulaic Motion for an Address of thanks that was going to be tabled.  That in itself is unexceptional: the Official Opposition and other parties always table and, if possible, to press for a vote on amendments to express regret that the Government’s programme, as set out in the Gracious Speech, does not include measures which they would like to highlight as the distinctive features of their alternative political programme.  What made the rumours of an amendment to the 2016 Address interesting to the Lobby was the likelihood that it would attract support from Members on the Government side who were at odds with the Government’s policy on continued membership of the European Union. (It should be recalled that on 15 May 2013 a rebel Conservative backbench amendment to the Address, regretting the absence of a Bill to hold a referendum on membership of the EU, was defeated by 277 votes to 130, with the official opposition largely abstaining on what was seen as an internal coalition battle.) Read more ›

11th August 2016

Queen’s Speech – the constitutional highlights

This year’s Queen’s Speech is the second under the Coalition and the 57th of Her Majesty’s reign, the full text of which can be found here. While the emphasis of the government programme appears to be to ‘reduce the deficit and restore economic
stability’ this is a speech that outlines some potentially monumental constitutional changes. 


The speech notes that the  ‘…government will continue to work with the 15 other Commonwealth realms to take forward reform of the rules governing succession to the crown’. Building upon the Perth agreement between Commonwealth Realms in 2011, the speech alludes to the plans to end male preference primogeniture, allow those who marry Roman Catholics to remain in the line of succession and reduce the need to ask permission of monarch for a marriage to only the six closest in line to the throne. 

While relatively uncontroversial, such moves will require the amending of several key constitutional laws such as the 1689 Bill of Rights and the 1701 Act of Succession. 

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Plans to change the Rules of Succession must achieve consensus in a complicated Commonwealth

The current rules of succession stipulate that a female heir should always be passed over in favor of a male sibling, even if they are younger than her.  Furthermore, three hundred and twenty three years after the Glorious Revolution, professing Roman Catholic faith still disqualifies an heir apparent from ascending to the throne.  This month the government has set out plans to scrap these anachronistic criteria for the selection of British heads of state.  However, as the king or queen of the UK is also the head of state of the 15 other commonwealth countries, David Cameron must achieve extremely broad consensus before change can proceed. Bob Morris of UCL’s Constitution Unit talks to the Huffington Post about why getting these nations to agree to amend their constitutional arrangements might be difficult, complicated and slow.

Read it at the Huffington Post ›

12th October 2011

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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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ARCHIVE: Crisis, What Crisis?

[First Published on Tuesday 13th April 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.

At a debate of the Society of Cogers on 19th April 2010, Nat le Roux, Chairman of the Trustees of the Constitution Society, argued that our problem may not lie with our constitution itself, but rather with the conduct of our politicians.  He suggested that the single biggest problem of contemporary democracy – is that all politicians are terrified of losing power, because the lesson of the last 30 years is that once you’ve lost power you don’t get it back for a generation.  

The full text of his speech appears here:

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