A new Magna Carta? - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents


An illustrative blueprint (third of three)

A document of basic law by which the United Kingdom is governed, including the relationship between the state and its citizens, an amendment procedure, and elements of reform.



The distinctive elements of this illustrative Written Constitution - being a document of basic law by which the United Kingdom is governed, including the relationship between the state and its citizens, an amendment procedure, and elements of reform - include, among others, the following.

Written form

The Constitution is codified into a single written document, serving as the source of authority and fundamental law in the state.

The existing political structure maintained

The Monarchy, Prime Minister and Cabinet, principles of ministerial responsibility, bicameral Parliament, devolution settlements, and structure of local government are established in the Constitution.

Conventions clarified

Conventions and customs on major constitutional issues, such as the appointment of a Prime Minister, consent of Parliament on decisions to go to war, and powers of the Head of State over law-making, are replaced by written procedures.

Process of constitutional change

Future amendments to the constitution may be made by Parliament under special majority procedures in each House of Parliament.

Continuous existence of Parliament

Parliament is established as a permanent body, superseding procedures for its summoning and dissolution.

The timing of general elections

There is a five-yearly cycle for parliamentary elections, with a more flexible procedure for the House of Commons to call an early election when the situation requires it.

A democratic Parliament

The First Past the Post system is retained for the House of Commons, and a smaller Second Chamber with enhanced functions is to be elected by proportional representation, with transitional arrangements for existing peers to remain as members for life or until retirement.

A United Kingdom Bill of Rights

A code of principles on the rights and freedoms of citizens in the United Kingdom replaces the Human Rights Act.

A broader devolution settlement

The existing devolution settlement in the Scotland Act, Government of Wales Act and Northern Ireland Act is unchanged, but operates within constitutional framework giving greater uniformity across the Union.


A greater autonomy for elected local authorities is provided for, and a new statutory code on central-local government relations, while maintaining the Local Government Acts to provide the operational details of local government.

International and European affairs

Draft treaties concluded by the Government require the scrutiny and approval of both Houses of Parliament within three months in order to become binding in international law. Treaty obligations, including those arising from membership of the European Union, require an Act of Parliament to take direct effect in domestic law.

The public services

A concept of the public service across all tiers of government is introduced, operating under a Code of Conduct and the supervision of a Public Services Commission.

Law officers

The Director of Public Prosecutions continues, and new office of Director of Civil Proceedings is established with responsibilities in public interest, human rights and European law issues. The person occupying the office of Attorney General may no longer be a member of Parliament.

The constitutional role of the judiciary

The Supreme Court may review Acts of Parliament for conformity with the Constitution and, where found to be in violation, make a declaration of unconstitutionality that does not invalidate the statutory provision in question.

Constitutional watchdogs

A number of new or revised commissions are established to promote the accountability of public agencies, conduct inquiries, and/or keep existing arrangements under review, including a Commission for Democracy.

It should be repeated that this blueprint does not advocate any particular reforms by their inclusion in this illustrative Constitution; it simply give examples of how such changes might be incorporated in a document of this nature. The fundamental question remains the desirability or otherwise of codifying the constitution of the United Kingdom.


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© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 10 July 2014