Documents to download

On 13 December 2018, the House of Lords is scheduled to debate a motion moved by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Labour) on the “current constitutional challenges within the United Kingdom and the case for the establishment of a UK-wide constitutional convention to address issues of democratic accountability and devolution, particularly in England”.

There have been significant changes within the UK’s uncodified constitution over the past twenty years. These have included: devolution settlements, the passage of the Human Rights Act 1998; reforms to the House of Lords; the establishment of the Supreme Court; the introduction of fixed-term parliaments; and new ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (EVEL) procedures in the House of Commons. Of these changes, the devolution settlements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have perhaps had the highest profile.

However, there is general agreement that constitutional changes, including the devolution of powers within the UK, have been enacted on a ‘piecemeal’ basis, rather than as part of a comprehensive or fully coherent plan of constitutional reform. In addition, while devolution has been extended to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, England has continued to be largely administered by the UK Government at Westminster. The implications of this asymmetry have been the subject of ongoing debate, and increasingly so in terms of the so-called ‘English Question’.

Calls for a convention to consider constitutional issues in the round were made following the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 and have continued since the UK-wide referendum to leave the European Union in 2016. Consideration has also been given to the future of intergovernmental relations within the UK in this context. At the 2017 general election, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats called for such an exercise to take place. However, a constitutional convention could take a number of forms and academic commentators have written about the issues that should be considered to ensure such an endeavour would be effective. This briefing summarises the findings and recommendations of relevant reports that have looked at these issues, before summarising examples of parliamentary committee reports that have examined some prominent constitutional questions. It concludes with a selection of recommended reading on different constitutional challenges, and constitutional conventions, for further information on this complex subject.

Documents to download

Related posts

  • Windsor Framework (Democratic Scrutiny) Regulations 2023 and the Stormont brake

    On 29 March 2023, the House of Lords is due to debate regulations that would implement the Stormont brake in domestic law. These regulations were approved by the House of Commons on 22 March 2023. The Stormont brake is a key part of the Windsor Framework agreed between the UK and the EU. This briefing explains the background to the brake and how it would work, and includes reaction from political parties.

    Windsor Framework (Democratic Scrutiny) Regulations 2023 and the Stormont brake
  • Current Affairs Digest: Constitution (March 2023)

    In December 2022, the Labour Party published the final report of the Commission on the UK’s Future, also known as the Brown Commission, chaired by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The report proposed several constitutional changes, including the replacement of the House of Lords with an elected second chamber called the Assembly of the Nations and Regions. This article considers the proposals for the second chamber and sets out reaction to them from both inside and outside Westminster.

    Current Affairs Digest: Constitution (March 2023)
  • The Barnett formula: How it operates and proposals for change

    The Barnett formula calculates the yearly change to the block grant; this is the largest of the grants provided to the devolved administrations by the UK government. The formula aims to give each nation the same pounds-per-person change in funding each year. However, criticisms about equity have been made regarding how the formula is calculated. Calls for reform have mainly focused on proposals to introduce a universal needs-based factor to the formula.

    The Barnett formula: How it operates and proposals for change