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: Debate triggered on the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU

[First Published on Friday 21st 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.

With Parliament preparing to follow the call of a public petition to debate the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU, questions about the appropriate role of direct popular influence on the political process have returned to the spotlight.

In the context of a rising sense of public disillusionment with politics following the expenses scandal, the Coalition promised last year to implement a “fundamental shift of power from Westminster to the people”. A number of policies which the government argue follow up on that promise have since been introduced. The Localism Bill (currently being debated in the House of Lords) includes provisions for elected mayors, local referendums and neighborhood planning.  The European Union Act commits the government to holding a referendum before any further transfer of power to the EU and the referendum on the Alternative Vote allowed the public to decide the future of the electoral system.

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ARCHIVE: Baroness Royall on House of Lords Reform: The government’s draft bill ducks the crucial constitutional questions

[First Published on Tuesday 9th August 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 FOLLOWING IS TAKEN FROM THE CONSTITUTION SOCIETY PAMPHLET, THE END OF THE PEER SHOW?, AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD HERE, FREE OF CHARGE.

Nick Clegg’s proposed reforms to the House of Lords do not represent a new movement; there have been proposals and incremental reforms of the Lords for the past 100 years. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon argues that the current bill is ill-considered, and that it, through the introduction of elections, will significantly undermine the primacy of the House of Commons.

Reform

Reform of the House of Lords is 100 years old this year. At this moment, the coalition government is bringing forward its proposals to transform the current House – in effect abolishing it, according to critics of the plan – by finally making the election of its members the basis for the bulk of its composition.  An elected House of Lords has been the dream of many on the left for the past century – though some on the left, let alone the other parts of the political spectrum, believe this is an unthinking dream which will in fact debilitate future Labour governments.  The arguments are familiar.  Will the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition end them, by securing a change which has evaded constitutional reformers since 1911?

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ARCHIVE: Professor John Baker on House of Lords Reform: Appointment or election?

[First Published on Tuesday 9th August 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 FOLLOWING IS TAKEN FROM THE CONSTITUTION SOCIETY PAMPHLET, THE END OF THE PEER SHOW?, AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD HERE, FREE OF CHARGE. 

The future of the House of Lords is the most important constitutional question of the present age, because if it is resolved badly there may be little left of a British constitution at all.  A constitution, whether written or unwritten, serves three fundamental purposes:

  • It defines the way in which power is to be lawfully exercised by the Government of the day.
  • It imposes limits on that power, so as to prevent absolutism and preserve basic values.  
  • And it provides some means of holding governments to account for the exercise of their power.  

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ARCHIVE: Mark Harper – the Government’s view on House of Lords Reform

[First Published on Friday 22nd July 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 following is taken from the Constitution Society pamphlet, The End of the Peer Show?, available to download here, free of charge. 

The Government believes that people have a right to choose their representatives. That is the most basic feature of a modern democracy.

The House of Lords is well known for its wisdom and expertise.  However, it is undermined by the fact it lacks democratic authority as it is not directly elected by the British people. 

The Government published proposals on House of Lords reform on 17 May 2011, as a draft Bill and accompanying White Paper.  Consistent with the Government’s Programme for Government, the proposals provide for a wholly or a mainly elected second chamber, with elections using a system of proportional representation. The House of Lords would maintain its current role. It would continue to be a revising chamber, scrutinising legislation and holding the Government to account. 

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ARCHIVE: Robin Archer: House of Lords reformers should look to the example of Australia

[First Published on Monday 6th June 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.

Dr Robin Archer of the LSE has explained the lessons the UK might learn from examining the history of the Australian Senate. The insights he offered, in an interview with The Constitution Society, are of particular interest in light of the government’s new proposals on reform of the House of Lords.

The Coalition Government introduced a Draft Bill this May proposing that the House of Lords move from being entirely appointed to 80% elected, using the Single Transferable Vote (a form of Proportional Representation) to recruit peers from large multi-member constituencies.

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14th January 2001

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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.

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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

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14th January 2001

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ARCHIVE: Alan Renwick rebuffs exaggerated claims

[First Published on Tuesday 26th April 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.

Speaking to The Constitution Society, Dr Alan Renwick, described the Alternative Vote and First Past the Post as “two variants of the same electoral system” and highlighted the complexity of the underlying notion that the UK is in need of electoral reform.

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13th January 2001

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ARCHIVE: Chris Nicholson – AV would give voters more choice

[First Published on Monday 18th April 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.

First Past the Post “isn’t delivering clear representation of people in the country”, argues Chris Nicholson, Chief Executive of Centre Forum, the liberal think tank. “We need reform to give voters more choice”.

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