ARCHIVE: AV or not AV? Resources to help you decide

[First Published on Wednesday 6th 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.

THE DATE:

Thursday 5 May 2011.

WHO CAN VOTE:

You can vote if you;
(1) are over 18 over on 5 May 2011
(2) are registered to vote and
(3) are either a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Irish Republic resident in the UK.

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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. 

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Continued controversy over EU Bill

  • Against a backdrop of Lords working through the night, The European Union Bill was afforded a fifth day of debate in the Commons yesterday, though calls to remove the normal House time limits were rejected.

The five days of amendment debate in the Lower House (almost twice that awarded to the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill) is indicative of the controversy surrounding the government Bill, with criticism waged from both eurosceptics and europhiles on both sides of the House.

Hear what the expert thinks: Vernon Bogdanor

Eurosceptic Tory MPs have argued that the programme does not go far enough and that the Government should have allowed the House to continue debate beyond the usual 10pm cut-off, removing the potential for filibustering.

Tory MP Peter Bone criticised Government handling of amendments, which prevented debate of his own proposal to hold a referendum on UK membership of the EU.

Bernard Jenkin, Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, was also dismissive of the extra day, commenting that “this is not what was envisaged when we discussed the strengthening of Parliament in the previous parliament.”

The criticsm continues the Bill’s turbulent path since its introduction in November, with the Europe Minister David Lidington recently forced to redraft the Bill’s explanatory notes amidst criticisms of poor legistlative drafting.

 

The Bill At A Glance

 

Government intention

The European Union Bill reflects two promises made by the Conservatives in their 2010 manifesto:

  • To require a referendum before any further transfer of power to the EU
  • To introduce national sovereignty legislation “to make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country”

 

What the Bill does

  • Requires a referendum to take place before any ‘significant’ transfer of power to the EU.
  • Requires a referendum before the use of any existing ratchet clause to transfer competences or areas of power from the UK to the EU.
  • States that EU law has effect in the law of the UK only through an act of parliament. This rejects the notion that EU law has legal precedence in the UK in its own right.

 

What the Bill doesn’t do

  • Repatriate any powers from the EU back to the UK.
  • Affect the primacy of EU law.
  • Require a referendum in the case of accession treaties or any ‘insignificant’ change to EU powers.
  • Prevent a future government repealing the referendum lock.

 

Comment

Professor Vernon Bogdanor argues that the EU Bill is both:

Contradictory: it involves a sovereign Parliament calling for a binding referendum (“like asking if an omnipotent God can bind herself”)

and

Redundant: it sees an executive legislate for a referendum-lock when it already has the power to veto any applicable decision.

ARCHIVE: EU debate leads to significant rebellion

[First Published on Tuesday 25th 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.

A backbench motion debate on Britain’s relationship with the European Union has led to a significant rebellion of government MPs.

The motion, introduced by David Nuttall MP, moved:

‘…to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should:

  1. remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;
  2. leave the European Union; or
  3. re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.’

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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