Experts join calls for joined-up thinking in the scramble for constitutional reform

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[First Published on Saturday 24th July 2010]

This archive item is a window onto issues as they appeared at the time. It contains facts and opinions which may have been superseded by subsequent events.

Thursday 10th July saw yet another call for some joined up thinking and a holistic approach to issues relating to the British constitution. “Towards a codified constitution”, a paper published by JUSTICE and written by a group of constitutional experts led by Stephen Hockman QC and Vernon Bogdanor, contends that since 1997 we have been through a period of profound constitutional change without it being wholly clear what the British constitution actually is. During that period we have, in a piecemeal and unplanned way, been codifying the constitution. (Gus O’Donnell’s Cabinet Manual is a case in point.)

Hockman and Bogdanor are not making a case for a codified constitution. The purpose of the paper is to analyse the main problems and key questions which need to be answered if it were decided to enact a written constitution. For example how would the constitution gain legitimacy – should it define the powers and duties of institutions, should it include a Bill of Rights?

The paper poses serious questions for consideration and by analogy demonstrates that any changes to the British constitution require an informed debate and a proper consideration of all interrelated issues. Changes should not be introduced for reasons of political expediency given the long term effects of such reforms. It is a concern that is increasingly being voiced and which politicians should heed.

The paper can be viewed in full here.

This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.