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Latest news, updates and announcements from The Constitution Unit

Press release: Constitution Unit analysis of the English Question

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On the Constitution Unit Blog Robert Hazell has published a four page analysis of all the different answers to the English Question.  As the political parties and others cross swords about the rival merits of an English Parliament or English votes on English laws, or city regions vs regional government vs local government, the Constitution Unit offers this as an expert and dispassionate contribution to the debate.  It is based upon a three year research project with ten contributors which resulted in a book titled The English Question.

Unit in the News - Scottish Referendum

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In the run up to the Scottish Referendum and after the No vote, Robert Hazell and members of the Unit have been cited in the following articles on a number of issues surrounding the vote.

VIDEO: Special Advisers: Who they are, what they do and why they matter 

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Viewers of The Thick of It will know of special advisers as spin doctors and political careerists. Several well-known ministers have been special advisers, among them David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Jack Straw and Vince Cable.

PRESS RELEASE: Special Advisers: Who they are, what they do and why they matter by Ben Yong and Robert Hazell  

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Professor Robert Hazell on BBC2's 'Scotland Votes: What's at Stake for the UK' on 12 Aug 2014

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R Hazell - Scotland Votes: What's at stake for the  UK - 12 Aug 14

Professor Robert Hazell explains the impact Scottish independence could have on the 2015 General Election and the next Government on BBC2's Scotland Votes: What's at Stake for the UK? Andrew Neil explores what an independent Scotland would mean for Wales, England and Northern Ireland and the changes that may lie ahead whether the vote is yes or no.

Pre-order a copy of the new book 'Special Advisers: Who they are, what they do and why they matter' by Robert Hazell and Ben Yong

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Dr Meg Russell on BBC Westminster hour discussing the unsustainable House of Lords appointments

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Dr Meg Russell was on the BBC Westminster Hour programme on Sunday 27 July  discussing unsustainable House of Lords appointments and the need for regulation. Dr Russell explains the most urgent Lords reform is the need to regulate unsustainable level of PM's appointments. Listen to the show on BBC website.

Autumn Internship applications are open

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Interns
Deadline: 20 August 2014

An internship at the Constitution Unit is an ideal way for recent graduates to gain experience of work in a think tank which is also an academic research centre, and to do research which is linked to policy. Past interns have included students in their holidays, postgraduates thinking about continuing their studies to Masters or PhD level, and civil and public servants who work for us part-time or on secondment.

Video: Leanne Wood AM - What of Wales? Putting Wales at the heart of the Constitutional debate in Britain.

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All eyes are on Scotland in the lead up to its independence referendum but Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood makes the case for Wales to emerge from the periphery and emerge as an active participant in the debate for a new British partnership. Examining the implications for Wales and Britain of the Silk Report into further devolution and the Scots referendum, Ms Wood will argue the case for the process of devolution to give way to a new process of self-government; a powers reserved in reverse model that would see decision-making shared on the basis of the sovereignty of the people rather than of Westminster.

Press release: Special Advisers need better support and supervision, says new study from Constitution Unit

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The weekend resignation of Fiona Cunningham, Theresa May’s trusted Special Adviser, provides yet another reminder of how important Special Advisers are in Whitehall; but also of the inadequate arrangements for their support and supervision.  The need for better support is one of the main conclusions of a recent study by the Constitution Unit, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

Press release: UKIP has no entitlement to peers: but row demonstrates how Lords appointments badly need reform

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Today's news reports (eg. here and here) include a claim by UKIP for more seats in the House of Lords. Figures were quoted from a Constitution Unit report to support the claim that UKIP is entitled to 23 new peers. It is important to note that our report did not endorse such appointments, and in fact emphasised that such a change was undesirable.

Joe Twyman's Seminar on Europe, the European Elections and the Rise of Ukip

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Joe Twyman, Head of Political and Social Research at Britain’s leading pollsters YouGov discussed Europe, the European Elections and the Rise of Ukip, what the data is showing and what it all might mean for both the European Elections in 2014 and also the General Election in 2015. Please find below the slides from the event. The video will be online as soon as possible.

Video: Jenny Watson - Reforming Electoral Administration, Preparing for the 2015 Election

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Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, spoke about the upcoming challenges facing our electoral system, focussing in particular on the forthcoming implementation of Individual Electoral Registration and the future for electoral modernisation.

Press Release: Constitution Unit report calls for new rules on Commons financial privilege

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At an event last night in parliament, the Constitution Unit launched a research report calling for the relationship between the Commons and the Lords on financial matters to be revised. The research was sparked by controversies over the coalition's Welfare Reform Bill, when defeats inflicted by the Lords (on controversial matters such as the benefits cap and so-called "bedroom tax") were rejected using Commons "financial privilege". Among negative comments at that time, former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby suggested that use of financial privilege had been “completely contrary to the conventions of the constitution”.

Press Release: Constitution Unit expert warns of Lords reform dangers

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The Constitution Unit's Deputy Director, Dr Meg Russell, known as one of the leading academic experts on the House of Lords, has warned of "grave dangers" to the Lords from a Private Member's Bill on reform which stands a chance of shortly becoming law. In a strongly worded intervention she has urged peers to amend the bill, if it is not to bring about "a very major change that would alter the Lords fundamentally, and in very undesirable ways". 

Press Release: Welsh Devolution: Silk Report Part 2 Welcomed as “Clear Consensus Which Catches Up With Reality”

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The latest Silk proposals are an attempt to make sure that the division of powers between Welsh and UK institution catches up with reality. They represent a clear consensus across the Welsh political parties about what should happen next.

Video: Zaid Al-Ali - Constitutional Reform in the Age of Arab Revolutions: Overcoming the Legacy of Totalitarianism

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The dictators who ruled over the Arab region for decades constructed complex systems of repression but also inculcated specific cultural values in the general population. Local populations were encouraged to adopt various opinions about their character and their society, all of which were ultimately designed to encourage them to willingly surrender their rights and system of government in favor of a single individual who would remain unaccountable for his actions. Although many of the dictators have now been consigned to history, the decades of propaganda that they orchestrated have had a marked impact on society, to the extent that even debates surrounding constitutional reform have been impacted. Each of the countries that has embarked on a reform process since 2011 has had to deal with this legacy, some successfully, others less so. This presentation will explore how the legacy of totalitarianism impacts constitutional reform in each of the countries that has been engaging in constitutional reform since 2011.

Press Release: The SNP response on keeping the pound

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Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister will be in London today to give a lecture on 'Scotland's Future: the case for an independent Scotland' before  students and guests of UCL’s School of Public Policy.

Meg Russell's new book on the House of Lords has been shortlisted for Practical Politics Book of the Year

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Meg Russell's book 'The Contemporary House of Lords: Westminster Bicameralism Revived' has been shortlisted in the Practical Politics Book of the Year category at the Political Book Awards 2014.

Video: James Melton - Exploring Constitute: A New Tool for Searching National Constitutions

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Approximately 5 constitutions are replaced and 30 are amended each year. This year has already witnessed new constitutions in Fiji and Zimbabwe and constitutional amendments in Brazil, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Mexico, Switzerland and Tonga. Despite the high frequency of constitutional change, constitutional drafters often lack systematic information on the contents of other countries’ constitutions that could help them decide what topics should be addressed in their constitution and how to address those topics. Constitute addresses this problem by putting searchable copies of the world’s constitutions online. However, Constitute is more than just a repository of constitutional texts. The project draws on data collected by the Comparative Constitutions Project over the last 8 years to assign topic tags to provisions within constitutions. This allows powerful, topic-based searches of those texts. There are more than 300 topics for users to choose from on the site, and for those interested in regional or temporal trends in constitution-making, the search results can be filtered by country and year.

Video: Bernard Jenkin- Accountability and Leadership in 21st Century Whitehall

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Bernard has been an MP since 1992. He was elected Chairman of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee in 2010, the parliamentary committee responsible for scrutinising "good government" across Whitehall, as well as the work of the Cabinet Office, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Charities Commission. He is also Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security, and a member of the Executive of the 1922 Committee of Backbench Conservative MPs.

Patrick O'Brien gave evidence at the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.

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Patrick O'brien gave evidence at the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. The Committee was holding their fifth evidence session inquiring into the role of the judiciary if there were a codified constitution.

Launch of a New Report: The Constitutional Standards of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution

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constitutional standards

The Constitution Unit of University College London is today publishing a report which sets out a code of constitutional standards based on the reports of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution. Since 2001 the Committee has made many recommendations in its reports, and the goal of this report was to codify these recommendations in order to make the Committee’s analysis of the constitution more accessible.

Video: Lord Judge - Constitutional Change: Unfinished Business

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Lord Judge delivered a lecture on the topic of 'Constitutional Change: Unfinished Business'.

This is the closing lecture for the AHRC project on The Politics of Judicial Independence in Britain's Changing Constitution. As Lord Chief Justice until the end of September this year, Lord Judge presided over the judiciary during a “constitutional revolution” (his own term) and a period of budgetary austerity.

Press Release: Former Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge Declares that the UK Supreme Court is Not Obliged to Follow the Rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg

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The former Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge has called for a change in the Human Rights Act to make it clear that British courts are not obliged to follow the rulings of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.  

Robert Hazell gave evidence at the PCRC Select Committee on the role of the judiciary if there were a codified constitution

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Robert Hazell gave evidence at the PCRC Select Committee at the second evidence session inquiring into the role of the judiciary if there were a codified constitution. The Committee questioned academics and a member of the House of Lords on the main constitutional issues surrounding the inquiry

Launch of a New Pamphlet: Risk Management Government Lawyers and the Provision of Legal Advice within Whitehall

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The Constitution Society, in partnership with the Constitution Unit, launched the new pamphlet Risk Management: Government Lawyers and the Provision of Legal Advice within Whitehall 

Robert Hazell in the press on the unveiling of the SNP White Paper

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Professor Robert Hazell has been in the press following his press release on the unveiling of the SNP White Paper.

Press Release: Uncertainties in SNP White Paper strengthen argument for second referendum

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Commenting on the launch of the Scottish government’s independence White Paper, the director of UCL’s Constitution Unit Professor Robert Hazell made two points.

VIDEOS: The House of Lords: Westminster Bicameralism Revived - Dr Meg Russell & Mark D'Arcy (Respondent)

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The House of Lords has frequently reached the news in recent years, but almost always in the context of its possible reform, rather than the existing chamber's role in the policy process. Meg Russell's new book, published in July, seeks to redress the gap in understanding, based on detailed research about the chamber's evolving membership, party groups, committees and treatment of legislation. The book argues that the years since 1999 (when Tony Blair's government removed most hereditary peers) have seen a 'revival' of bicameralism in the UK, with the Lords playing an increasingly active and influential role. Even before the arrival of coalition in 2010, the Lords had given the third party significant negotiating power, making British parliamentary politics far more plural than was suggested by the old 'Westminster model'. Since the arrival of the coalition, the independent 'Crossbenchers' have taken on a pivotal, but little-known, position. These changes have obvious consequences for how we are governed, and have also changed the tone of debates about Lords reform.

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The English Question comprises two broad questions, with half a dozen different answers

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 13:00:49 +0000

The Constitution Unit conducted a three-year research project into the English Question, with a team of ten people led by Robert Hazell. This blog post summarises their main findings and conclusions. For a more concise introduction to the English Question and the points discussed here, see Robert Hazell’s “Bluffer’s guide“. For their book, see Robert […]

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The English Question: A Bluffer’s Guide

Thu, 25 Sep 2014 09:00:39 +0000

Robert Hazell offers a quick introduction to all the different answers to the English Question. A more detailed explanation of the reasoning behind the answers can be viewed here.   Devolution to Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland throws up related questions about the government of England. These fall into two broad kinds: giving England […]

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UK constitutional reform: No means Yes?

Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:00:16 +0000

Although a Yes vote would have meant a very obvious change to the existing constitutional structure of the UK, the consequences of the No vote will still be complex and profound. The outcome has already put contentious issues such as the West Lothian question back on the agenda, writes Meg Russell. This article originally appeared in the Observer. […]

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