Skip to site navigation

Press release: Constitutional Changes to feature strongly in Queen’s Speech

8 May 2012

Three constitutional items will almost certainly feature strongly in the coming session of Parliament: Lords reform, Scottish independence and changing the rules of succession. Lords reform is the biggest, and threatens to overwhelm the rest of the legislative programme, and cause big tensions between the coalition partners.

The Black Rod

The Black Rod

Lords reform faces massive opposition in both Houses’ said the Constitution Unit’s deputy director Meg Russell.

The bill may fail: ‘We know the reform proposals are opposed by the Lords itself, but there is so much resistance among Conservative MPs in particular that the bill may fail to get through the House of Commons’, Meg Russell added.

It risks completely dominating the parliamentary session, she suggested. ‘Committee stage of the bill must be taken on the floor of the Commons and could take six weeks or more. Lords reform risks being for Cameron what the Maastricht bill was for John Major: this took 23 days on the floor of the House in committee alone, and saw numerous painful rebellions. At the bill’s Second Reading the rebels will seek to defeat the programme motion on its timetabling. If they succeed, the government will lose control over timing completely – but even if they fail, the bill may still be lost’.

There are numerous issues over which the plans may fall apart: ‘Simply to win the programme motion the government may need to concede a referendum on reform, which Nick Clegg doesn’t want. But defeats in the Commons are also likely on the powers of the Lords, the proportion of elected members, the electoral system, the proposed 15 year non-renewable terms, and the presence of the Bishops. Once MPs get hold of it, the bill may suffer a death of a thousand cuts’, Dr Russell concluded.

Scottish independence will also loom very large. The UK and Scottish governments will start negotiating in the summer and autumn about how to legislate for the independence referendum. The UK government wants there to be a single question, just on independence; while Alex Salmond will hold out for a second question, on Devolution Max. If they cannot agree the UK government may withdraw its offer to legislate for the referendum at Westminster, throwing up the risk that any referendum authorised by the Scottish Parliament is open to legal challenge.

Changing the rules of succession to the throne is much less contentious. To give a lead to the other countries where the Queen is head of state, the UK will want to legislate soon to remove the rule of male primogeniture, that sons come before daughters, and to remove one element of the discrimination against Catholics, that any heir to the throne who marries a Catholic is removed from the line of succession. (Catholics themselves and anyone else not in communion with the Church of England will remain barred from succeeding.)

Notes for Editors

  • For interviews, please contact the Unit’s Press Officer Brian Walker on 07802 176347 (williambrianwalker@gmail.com) or the Unit’s Administrator on 0207 679 4977 (v.spence@ucl.ac.uk).
  • The Constitution Unit is an independent and non-partisan research centre based in the Department of Political Science at University College London http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/

Join the Debate

Blog

News

Graham Gee: The Lord Chief Justice and Section 5 of the Constitutional Reform Act

Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:06:17 +0000

This is posted on behalf of Graham Gee and originally appeared on the UK Constitutional Law Association Blog. The Constitutional Reform Act redrew relationships between the senior judiciary and Parliament in a number of ways. Amongst the most significant was removing the right of the LCJ to speak in the Lords. Earlier this month, the […]

Read more...

Jenny Watson’s lecture on the modernisation of the electoral administration system

Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:15:57 +0000

In the latest Constitution Unit seminar, Jenny Watson, the Chair of the Electoral Commission, provided the audience with a very eloquent account of the challenges and opportunities presented by the imminent and future work towards electoral modernisation. Drawing upon the effective steps that have already been taken by the Labour administration and most recently the […]

Read more...

Concerns about the Steel/Byles Lords reform bill: a summary

Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:01:07 +0000

David Steel’s Lords reform bill (previously sponsored in the Commons by Dan Byles) had its second reading in the chamber on Friday. Last night the Constitution Unit and Constitution Society jointly hosted a meeting in the Lords to discuss concerns about the bill. Its main provisions – allowing peers to retire, and for the expulsion of serious criminals - have […]

Read more...
Mailing List

Connect with us

RSSFlickr

Footer menu