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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ARCHIVE: Lords committee publishes report on constitutional reform process

[First Published on Thursday 21st 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.

After a six-month inquiry, the Lords Constitution Select Committee has published a report on the process of constitutional change.

The Committee argues that the current situation in the UK, where there is no agreed mechanism for constitutional change and governments are able to “pick and choose” which processes apply to various proposals for constitutional reform, is unacceptable.

Their recommendation is that there should be a “clear and consistent process” applied to all cases of “significant constitutional change”.

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The End of the Peer show? Responses to the draft bill on Lords reform

[First Published on Tuesday 19th 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.

The end of the peer show? is a collection of responses to the Coalition Government’s reform proposals for the House of Lords, published in May 2011.

When The Constitution Society commissioned these essays we asked our contributors to focus on the specific proposals in the draft bill rather than on the broad narrative of incomplete reform which has been ongoing for a hundred years since the passage of the 1911 Parliament Act.

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ARCHIVE: Government Reform Proposals for the House of Lords

[First Published on Thursday 2nd 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.

On May 17th the government introduced its Draft Bill for House of Lords Reform in the Commons and the Lords.

The Draft Bill proposes a move to an 80% elected upper house, with the remaining members appointed by recommendation of the Prime Minister.  The new House of Lords would be made up of 300 members, with the 240 elected members sitting for 15-year terms. Membership will not be renewable, which is intended to safeguard the independence of the elected members.

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ARCHIVE: Government hits referendum target

[First Published on Thursday 17th February 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 binding referendum will be held on May 5th to decide whether to change the voting system to the Alternative Vote.

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill received royal assent last night, in time for the programmed referendum date.

While the Lords voted twice to require a minimum 40% turnout in order for the referendum result to be binding, the amendment was overturned by a Commons majority of 68.

Also removed from the final Bill was Lord Pannick’s amendment increasing the amount by which constituencies will be permitted to vary from the national quota.

The most significant government concessions are the special consideration given to the Isle of Wight and the provision for public hearings on boundary review proposals, both of which made it onto the statute book.

The asymmetrical nature of the Bill means that the provisions relating to the reduction in the number of MPs and the redrawing of constituency boundaries will take effect in 2015 regardless of the result of the referendum on AV.  A ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, however, will only lead to a change in the voting system once boundary changes have been implemented.

ARCHIVE: Scaling the Heights of Lords’ Reform

[First Published on Wednesday 5th January 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.

If you had risen to your feet in Parliament 100 years ago and asked the Prime Minister whether his planned reform of the House of Lords would be completed before you could make a telephone call from the top of Mount Everest, Mr Asquith would have doubted your sanity and dismissed your question as facetious.

And yet, as we await the promised Lords Reform Bill to turn decades of modernising dreams into a 21st-century reality, almost all the parameters of that long-desired reform are still undecided: the only casualty so far has been the majority of hereditary peers, whose right to sit in judgement over the elected Commons derived from an ancient forebear’s sometimes questionable service to the monarch of the day.

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ARCHIVE: The Cabinet Manual; controversy over codification

[First Published on Tuesday 21st December 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.

Published last week by the head of the civil service, the Draft Cabinet Manual  is the UK’s first comprehensive guide to the functioning of the Executive; “a guide to the whole business of government seen from the perspective of the executive branch”.

Drawing together various existing pieces of guidance for ministerial behaviour, the Manual has been heralded by many as the first step towards a written constitution.  Others criticise the document as a power grab by its civil servant drafters.  The Constitution Society put these issues to the experts.

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ARCHIVE: Could Harriett have the Answer to the West Lothian Question?

[First Published on Monday 25th October 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.

Harriett Baldwin, Conservative MP for West Worcestershire, spoke to ConSoc about her private members’ Bill, scheduled to have its second reading in February 2011, which will seek to find a solution to the issue commonly known as the ‘West Lothian Question’.

“The West Lothian Question” was a term coined in the 1970s when Tam Dalyell, MP for West Lothian drew attention to thefact that MPs in Scotland, N Ireland and Wales were entitled to vote on issues that impacted solely on England,whilst English MPs could be effectively disenfranchised from voting on similar matters if they formed part of the devolved settlements.

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