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Conservative Agenda for Constitutional Reform Prof Robert Hazell The Constitution Unit, UCL 17 February 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Conservative Agenda for Constitutional Reform Prof Robert Hazell The Constitution Unit, UCL 17 February 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Conservative Agenda for Constitutional Reform Prof Robert Hazell The Constitution Unit, UCL 17 February 2010

2 Big agenda for constitutional reform Reduce size of Parliament Introduce British bill of rights Legislate to require referendums for future EU Treaties Reaffirm supremacy of Parliament in a Sovereignty Bill English votes on English laws Elected mayors in 12 large cities

3 Chapters in the Report Conservative Philosophy Ministers and the Executive Devolution and Decentralisation Strengthening Parliament Europe: Treaties and Sovereignty Elections, Referendums and Political Parties

4 Chapters in the Report (2) Human Rights The Judges Freedom of information and Privacy Constitutional Watchdogs The Monarchy Direct Democracy Making it Happen: Legislative Programme

5 Conservative Philosophy Decentralisation, and redistribution of power back to the people Distrust of big government and bureaucracy Stronger accountability to Parliament Greater transparency, making politics more accessible, and giving power to the powerless

6 Ministers and the Executive Limit the number of Ministers and Special Advisers Strengthen Ministerial Code, more decisions made by Cabinet as whole Protect independence of Civil Service Fixed term contracts for senior civil servants Stronger Whitehall boards, non-execs can recommend removal of Perm Sec

7 Devolution One or three territorial Secretaries of State SNP referendum on independence Welsh referendum on primary legislative powers Replacing Barnett formula, and fiscal autonomy for Scotland More formal intergovernmental relations English votes on English laws

8 Decentralisation in England Abolish regional assemblies, remove powers over planning from Regional Development Agencies Referendum on elected mayors in 12 large cities Power to veto council tax rises Power to instigate referendums on local issues Directly elected police commissioners

9 Strengthening Parliament Reduce House of Commons by 10% Strengthen Select Committees, reduce government control of parliamentary timetable Petitions to enable public to put things on parliamentary agenda (100k/1m signatures) On line Public reading stage of bills, free votes for all MPs at committee stage

10 Reduce Commons by 10 per cent Remove 65 MPs at next election Speed up parliamentary boundary reviews, abolish local inquiries, ?abolish consultation Electoral quota: devolution discount for Scotland, Wales and NI (loses 40 MPs) Or lose 53 seats out of 65 in England Parity vs speed. Greater parity will not help much in reducing bias against Conservatives

11 Timetable for reducing size of Commons 2010 May Cabinet Committee starts July White Paper. November bill introduced 2011 July Bill passed. November Boundary Commissions start reviews 2012 July end of consultation period 2012 December Report of Boundary reviews laid before Parliament, with 585 new constituencies

12 Reform of House of Lords Oct 2009 Lab 213, Con 192, LD 71, XB 183 May 2010 Lab 240, Con 210, LD 80? Strathclyde wants 40 new peers: 10 pa? Will Cons support Const Reform and Gov Bill provisions for discipline; retirement; and non- renewal of hereditary peers? Elected second chamber: 240 elected members, by FPTP, one third at each general election; plus 60 appointed members, for 12-15 year terms

13 Europe: Treaties and Sovereignty Legislate to require referendum for future EU Treaties Would a future government be bound by this? Would the courts enforce it? Are all future treaties subject to referendum? What if the vote is No? Sovereignty Bill to reassert supremacy of UK Parliament: to what legal effect?

14 British Bill of Rights British bill of rights is also Labour and Lib Dem policy, and supported by JCHR ECHR plus or minus? Give courts more detailed guidance on where to strike balance between competing rights No social or economic rights Wide public consultation, including devolved governments: could they veto?

15 The Judges Need to curb growing power of the judges Curb excessive enforcement of EU law and ECHR by the courts Judges will not like being told how to interpret EU law or ECHR Nor will they like cuts to budget of court service, Legal Aid, or to their pensions

16 Freedom of information and privacy Publish every item of government spending over £25k Create new right to datasets: Reduce 30 year rule to 20 years Tighter exemption for Cabinet papers Strengthen the Information Commissioner Scrap the ID card scheme and ContactPoint database

17 Constitutional Watchdogs Civil Service Commissioners put in statute Abolish Standards Board for England Reduce functions of Electoral Commission Information Commissioner to be appointed by (?and funded by) Parliament Advisory Committee on Business Appointments to give rulings, not advice, with two year moratorium Office for Budgetary Responsibility

18 The Monarchy Diamond Jubilee in 2012 Possible Regency Accession of Charles III Review of Civil List in 2010 Ending religious tests and primogeniture? Requires consent of 15 other countries where Queen is head of state

19 Direct Democracy Referendums on future EU Treaties Petitions to require Parliament to debate issues Referendums on elected Mayors Referendums to veto council tax rises Power to instigate referendums on local issues Elected police commissioners

20 Legislative Programme Bill to reduce size of House of Commons EU Treaties (Referendums) Bill Sovereignty Bill British Bill of Rights Local Government (Direct Democracy) Bill Constitutional Watchdogs Bill?

21 Some Issues for first 30 Days Reduce number of Ministers and SpAds One or three territorial Secretaries of State Approve new Ministerial Code and Cabinet Manual. Lay before Parliament? Decide Cabinet Committees and chairs Decide policy on reducing Commons by 10% Welsh referendum on primary powers More non execs for Whitehall boards

22 Who leads on What Cabinet Office Minister on civil service Leader of House on parliamentary reform Justice Secretary on British bill of rights Devolution strategy? Lords reform? Referendum on EU Treaties? Sovereignty Bill? English votes on English laws?

23 Agenda if Conservatives need Liberal Democrat support Electoral reform Lords reform Fixed term Parliaments Party funding, inc additional support for Lib Dems in this Parliament

24 Prof Robert Hazell The Constitution Unit School of Public Policy, UCL

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