Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission

The Government has proposed setting up a constitution, democracy and rights commission to consider broad aspects of the UK’s constitution. This would look at issues including the relationship between the government, parliament, and the courts; the functioning of the royal prerogative; the role of the House of Lords; and access to justice.

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The Conservative Party’s manifesto for the December 2019 general election included a commitment to set up a constitution, democracy, and rights commission. The manifesto argued that following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU it would be necessary to look at the “broader aspects” of the UK’s constitution. It said a Conservative Government would set up a constitution, democracy, and rights commission to examine the following issues:

  • the relationship between the government, parliament, and the courts;
  • the functioning of the royal prerogative;
  • the role of the House of Lords; and
  • access to justice for ordinary people. 

Other areas would include examining judicial review and amending the Human Rights Act 1998 to balance the rights of individuals, national security, and effective government.

There are currently limited details available on the remit, form, and composition of the commission. The Government has said that it wants to ensure a range of expertise is represented on the commission and that it takes evidence from third parties and civic society to inform any recommendations.

Several commentators and academics have welcomed the general principle of reviewing the UK’s constitutional arrangements. However, some have expressed concern about the context of the commission, particularly coming after the Supreme Court found against the Government on constitutional issues.

This Lords Library Briefing sets out what is presently known about the commission; an overview of the areas it is proposed to cover; political responses to it; and recent commentary from academics and organisations concerned with government and the constitution.

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