Audio of Lord Steel and Dr Meg Russell discussion on Lords Reform

The Constitution Society was pleased to work with our friends at the Constitution Unit to deliver a high profile discussion on the latest attempts at Lords Reform. Chaired by Dr Ruth Fox from the Hansard Society with Lord Steel and, constitutional expert, Dr Meg Russell, the event was attended by numerous members of the House of Lords and other key stakeholders.

To promote a free and frank discussion questions and comments were raised under the Chatham House Rule, but we are able to provide an audio recording of both Dr Russell’s and Lord Steel’s interventions. 

The issue of whether the current bill constitutes a threat to the current model of Commons and Lords relations was addressed by both speakers. The potential for Peers to ‘retire’ from the Lords and stand for election to the Commons was raised by Dr Russell and her article outlining her concerns can be read here.

The recording of the meeting is available to listen to here.

7th April 2014

Lords Reform: the Steel Bill and beyond

Lord Steel’s bill allowing retirements and expulsion from the House of Lords has its second reading in the Lords on 28 March. While the core content of the bill has been widely welcomed, some concerns have been raised about a potential “loophole” which could allow the Lords to become a launchpad for future MPs.

The Constitution Society is delighted to be hosting a closed event in Parliament with the Constitution Unit to look at the implications of the Steel Bill on the House of Lords and the wider British constitution.

Chaired by Ruth Fox from the Hansard Society, Meg Russell and Lord Steel will talk about the latest attempt to reform the Lords.

This piece by Meg Russell sets out her concerns, explaining the risk of a “loophole”.

The discussion will be held in a closed meeting but shall be written up for the website later this week.

31st March 2014

Where the Party Finance Debate Stands and Prospects for Reform

The Constitution Society is pleased to announce the following event from our friends at the McDougall Trust.

Speaker:  Professor Justin Fisher, Brunel University London

Chair:  Michael Steed, McDougall Trust

Venue: Conference Room, City Temple Conference Centre, Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2DE (link to map below)

About the topic: An opportunity to hear where the long-running debate stands on party finance and prospects for reform.

About the speaker: Justin Fisher is Professor of Political Science in the Politics and History department at Brunel University London.

Trust contact point: the Trust’s Administrator, Paul Wilder (telephone: 020 7620 1080 or e-mail: or post: 6 Chancel Street, London SE1 0UX). Reminders will be sent confirming event details. Do check the website for details of future workshops.

21st March 2014

Nat Le Roux gives evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee

Director of The Constitution Society Nat le Roux, gives evidence to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on the role and powers of the judiciary in the UK and elsewhere, with particular respect to the UK constitution and powers of judicial review.

The video of this can be viewed here.

Additionally please download our paper on Judicial Review and watch an expert panel debate the subject at the paper’s launch here.

10th March 2014

Constitutional Responsibilities of the Civil Service

A personal view by Sir Christopher Foster of the Better Government Initiative, this latest paper outlines how pressures to reduce civil service impartiality could ultimately call into question our lack of legally enforceable constitutional constraints on ministerial action.

Can a convention based constitution hold up in the face of civil service changes?

Download the paper here.

26th February 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

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

Risk Management Government Lawyers and the Provision of Legal Advice within Whitehall

The Constitution Society, in partnership with the Constitution Unit, is pleased to announce the launch of our new pamphlet Risk Management: Government Lawyers and the Provision of Legal Advice within Whitehall.

Written by Dr Ben Yong the report looks into the important role that legal advice plays in the British political system. To see an interview with Dr Yong to mark the launch of the report, click here.

Government lawyers are a powerful and influential group within Whitehall, and as such they deserve greater understanding. Law and legality are now ever-present considerations in the policy and decision making process. Government cannot escape from the reach of the law – if it ever could. The result is that lawyers have become more integrated into the policy and decision making process in Whitehall because of the increasing penetration of law into government. But because law is inescapable, and its effect uncertain, lawyers talk of legal risk rather than legality and illegality. Government lawyers see themselves not as ‘guardians’ but as managers of legal risk.

This short study examines the work of government lawyers in Whitehall, looking at the changes over the past thirty years in the way that legal advice has been provided. It examines the role of lawyers in the policy and decision making process, the hierarchy of legal advice and the professional norms that government lawyers adhere to. Finally, there is a case study of the role of government lawyers in the decision to use military force against Iraq in 2002–2003. 

26th November 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