The Constitution in Review 2

Authors:

Second Report from the United Kingdom Constitution Monitoring Group

The second report from the UK Constitution Monitoring Group (UKCMG) covers the six-month period from 1 July to 31 December 2021. It analyses legislation, decisions and events during the period against a set of 20 principles the group has identified as central to the proper operation of the UK constitution. The report assesses developments across a series of constitutional categories, drawing attention to any areas of concern.

In the report, the group raises serious concerns about the growing power of the UK executive. They warn that the existing checks and balances on ministerial power are proving insufficient, and that the government is intent on reducing them further still.

In particular, the UKCMG highlights vulnerabilities in the system of executive standards that have been exposed in recent months, and calls for the largely self-regulatory system to be strengthened.

Wider concerns about the government’s constitutional reform programme are also noted. The report examines the raft of bills the government is seeking to pass dealing with matters such as the regulation of elections, restrictions on the right to protest, and the treatment of refugees. The group concludes that ‘between them they would enhance the discretion of the UK executive in troublesome ways’.

The report draws attention to the danger of the UK violating its treaty commitments (for instance in Northern Ireland), to the undermining of the status of the devolved institutions from the UK level, and the problematic approach of the UK government towards the rule of law and human rights.

The report’s editor, Andrew Blick, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London and Senior Adviser to The Constitution Society, said:

‘While the workings of the UK constitution have been at the centre of political debate in recent months, the focus has been on the actions and integrity of certain individuals, and in particular the Prime Minister. But however these particular controversies play out, there are deeper, and in many ways more concerning, issues at stake. They involve the increasingly unrestrained power of the UK executive and its desire to free itself from the already flawed oversight mechanisms to which it is subject. These matters are interconnected and require a concerted response.’

The UKCMG is a non-partisan, independent group formed in 2020. Its overviews of constitutional developments in the UK are published every six months. A list of the group’s members can be found here, and a statement of the principles that form the basis of its work can be found 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.