Nick Clegg claims PM’s backing for bill to create elected Lords

Nick Clegg will signal that Lords reform will be the key parliamentary battleground of next year by promising the next Queen’s speech will include plans for an elected upper house that will be forced past peers if necessary.

In a speech on Monday to the Demos thinktank, the deputy prime minister will make the changes central to what he says is a drive to create an open society free of vested interests.

Read it at The Guardian ›

The endgame for the Scotland bill

The Scotland bill, framed to implement the Coalition’s Programme for Government commitment to implement the recommendations of the Calman Commission, had its second reading in the House of Lords in October.  It has also been reconsidered by the Scottish Parliament during the autumn, following a first consideration in late 2010 and early 2011.  The Lords Committee stage has been put on hold pending its reconsideration at Holyrood. Following May’s election, the new Parliament has a very different composition to the old one.  Despite the conditional approval given to the bill by the old Parliament before the election and the wider demands of the SNP majority, the UK Government has declined to change the bill.

Read it at The Constitution Unit Blog ›

19th December 2011

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Fresh battle looms between European human rights court and UK

Prosecutors could be forced to stop using evidence from victims and witnesses who do not attend court in another human rights battle between Britain and Europe. The case is the first significant clash between European judges and the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, over who should dictate domestic law.

Read it at The Telegraph ›

14th December 2011

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Public to decide whether to ‘recall MPs’ by petition

Public to decide whether to ‘recall MPs’ by petition

MPs guilty of serious wrongdoing could be forced to stand down and face a by-election if enough constituents want them “recalled” under new proposals.

Under government plans, 10% of an MP’s constituents would have to sign a petition for a by-election to happen.

Read it at BBC News ›

14th December 2011

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Independence boost for Alex Salmond as new poll shows rise in support

Independence boost for Alex Salmond as new poll shows rise in support

Support for independence has increased but still falls short of a majority, according to a poll today. The Ipsos MORI survey suggests 38% of people would vote to take Scotland out of the UK, up three points from a poll in August. Voters appear to want an early say in the future of the constitution, rather than stick to First Minister Alex Salmond’s preferred timetable.

The SNP leader has said the referendum is likely to take place towards the end of this five-year parliamentary session, meaning it could be held in or after 2014. But 33% of people in the survey want it held as soon as possible, while a further 31% want it within the next two years.

Read it at the Daily Record ›

21st November 2011

A summary of this week’s constitutional affairs: bringing together debates and questions in Parliament, Select Committee activity and online comment.

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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: On whether or not to repeal; a briefing on the debate surrounding the Human Rights Act and a UK Bill of Rights

[First Published on Tuesday 4th 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.

This week, as senior politicians from both sides of the coalition express differences of opinion regarding the future of the 1998 Human Rights Act and the prospect of a new UK Bill of Rights, we present some of the best recent writing on the issue as well as some useful background information.

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ARCHIVE: Fixed-term Parliaments Bill gains Royal Assent

[First Published on Monday 19th September 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 Fixed-term Parliaments Bill  has received Royal Assent 14 months after its introduction in the Commons last July.

Criticised by some commentators as an act of political bargaining between the coalition parties, the Bill has been a controversial part of the Coalition’s constitutional agenda ever since its inclusion in last year’s Coalition Agreement.  

The legislation dictates that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015, removing the Prime Minister’s power to choose a date of his own choice.  According to the Bill, general elections will thereafter take place every five years.

Like the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act faced its greatest opposition in the House of Lords. A “sunset clause”, making it necessary for every new government to agree to its term being fixed at five years, was introduced by Lord Butler of Brockwell and approved twice by the Upper House in the face of opposition from the Commons.

The amendment was finally defeated in favour of a government concession to commit the Prime Minister to carry out a review of the provisions of the Act after the completion of the second fixed term in June 2020.

The arguments for and against fixed term parliaments can be found in more detail in the ConSoc briefing paper here.  

ARCHIVE: The Boundary Commission for England publishes its proposals for revised constituency boundaries to be contested in 2015

[First Published on Tuesday 13th September 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 Boundary Commission for England has published its proposals for the size and shape of the 502 English constituencies to be contested at the next parliamentary election in 2015. The results of the boundary review reflect both a reduction in the number of MPs (the size of the House of Commons will be cut by 50) and a new emphasis on equalising the size of parliamentary constituencies to make sure that people’s votes carry equal weight at Westminster. Both of these changes were agreed by Parliament in February’s Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.

In the past, the number of constituents was only one of a number of equally important factors that were taken into consideration when drawing constituency boundaries.  It was thought equally important to avoid crossing county boundaries, splitting wards or undermining established communities.  The result of taking account of these other factors which was generally a greater variation in the size of constituencies.

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