Consultation on A new Magna Carta? - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Consulting on A new Magna Carta?

1.  In the year in which the 800th anniversary of agreement to Magna Carta is commemorated, as well as the 750th anniversary of the establishment of a representative Parliament in England, it is right that citizens should not only reflect on our democratic legacy but also consider the future of our constitutional arrangements. The consultation has been an exciting and productive process with very high levels of engagement for a Select Committee report. This is not only a new benchmark for the way Parliament can involve the public, but is an important precedent should the UK ever choose to adopt a written constitution. The aspiration that such a choice could with new technology involve several million founding fathers and mothers is eminently realisable. We are very grateful to all those who have taken the time to respond to our proposals. (Paragraph 27)

Themes from consultation responses

2.  Taken together, the potential for substantial constitutional reform in the new Parliament is significant. It is vital that the process of any such change is properly assessed in advance and the implications of constitutional change are assessed in the round. Drafting a codified constitution which sets out clearly and coherently the settlement envisaged as a result of constitutional change would be a sensible approach to any major constitutional reform. (Paragraph 44)

3.  We consider that the public is entitled to know the processes by which it is governed and the fundamental rules on which the constitution is based. Broader knowledge of the UK's existing constitutional arrangements will lead to more informed debate on constitutional issues. A simpler, more accessible constitutional text will contribute greatly to more informed public debate, and we set out below our contribution to this ongoing debate. (Paragraph 58)

Further work

4.  We welcome all initiatives which promote open public debate, and encourage public engagement with, our constitutional future. (Paragraph 59)

5.  We have invited Professor Robert Blackburn to assess the detailed proposals for revision made in the consultation responses and to revise and update the blueprints as necessary in the event that a future body charged with preparing a codified constitution calls for an authoritative text which accurately describes existing arrangements. (Paragraph 61)

6.  This Committee was established to consider political and constitutional reform for the lifetime of the present Parliament. The establishment, or re-establishment, of a committee with an express remit to examine such issues in the 2015 Parliament will depend on the will of the House which is to be elected on 7 May. Should the programme for government of the administration formed after 7 May include any elements of constitutional reform, we strongly recommend that a select committee be established to examine the Government's proposals and to keep the progress of any political and constitutional reform under regular review, to continue the work this Committee has undertaken in the present Parliament. In the absence of such a committee, we recommend that our work on political and constitutional reform, and the continuing debate on the UK's constitution, be taken up by the select committee with a remit to examine the work of the Government department with responsibility for constitutional policy. (Paragraph 62)

7.  The "pocket constitution" which we have published is intended as a summary of the present constitutional position. It also includes a number of alternative options to the present arrangements, many of which arise from the responses to the consultation exercise, for discussion and debate during the General Election campaign, throughout the Magna Carta anniversary year and beyond. None of the above purports to represent the settled view of all the members of the Select Committee: instead we intend this document to promote further debate on our constitutional arrangements and options for reform. In publishing it in a brief and accessible format we hope to engender the broadest possible discussion of constitutional issues. To that end, we will establish a further web survey to seek the views of members of the public on the status quo and on the alternatives we have sketched out. We recommend that the successor committee of the House with a remit to consider constitutional issues in the 2015 Parliament should collate and evaluate the responses and maintain an ongoing consultation with the public on our constitutional future. (Paragraph 64)

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Prepared 9 March 2015