Constitutional reform?

The UK has a written constitution. It is recorded in a range of documents including various Acts of Parliament, the Standing Orders of Parliament and the law. It is more flexible than countries that have a single written constitutional document that usually is difficult to amend or change. The supremacy of Parliament is such that sometimes a simple alteration of the Standing Orders of the Commons can effect changes that would otherwise take a long time.

The Parliament which dissolves at midnight has discovered imperfections in our current constitution, and has flexed it in ways that many think unreasonable. The next Parliament, assuming it has a majority government, would be wise to look at how the constitution could be improved in the light of the tribulations of the outgoing one.

The first recommendation I have is the repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. This has given us 3 elections in four years when there is meant to be a five year gap, but it has also held a minority government hostage and got in the way of allowing a PM defeated in the Commons taking his case to the country. The previous system gave scope for the government to call for an early election if need arose. If a PM tried to do this for party advantage with no other good reason there was always the danger of a public backlash against a needless election.

The second is to legislate to place some limits on the capacity of the Supreme Court to intervene in Parliamentary matters. The advice a PM gives to the Queen, and the decision to prorogue should be matters for Parliament, not for the law courts. It makes little sense for Parliament as the ultimate embodiment of the people’s sovereignty to need to ask the courts permission over when it sits or how it transacts its business. That was the view of the English senior judges when the case came before them.

The third is to clarify in Standing Orders that major legislation requires a Money resolution and Queens consent where government prerogative is involved ( as with international negotiations and Treaties). Government needs to ensure legislation fits with its budget and foreign policy. Opposition is there to oppose and amend, not to run an alternative government.

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89 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I agree with the above, but what are they going to do about the now very political Supreme Court. Stuffed as it is with group think lawyer/remainders? The trouble with lawyers is they always want more laws, more powers and more money rather like politicians.

    We see how the absurd employment laws and resultant litigation is now even killing office romance as well as productivity. What proportion of people meet their partner at work or university? Surely it must be about 25% judging from my extended family. What damage lawyers and the litigation culture does – yet another tax on the productive.

    Will they now rule that Jo Swinson must be allowed into the TV debate between Boris and Steptoe?

  2. agricola
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Yes to all three. These weaknesses, for want of a better description, have exposed us to the malicious intent of a handful of MPs determined to imposing themselves on a government already weakened and made disfunctional by May’s ill advised general election in 2017. She presumably went to the polls to strengthen her position to railroad through her toxic WA1. I can only assume that Boris has done the same to facilitate WA2 and is declining help from Nigel in the knowledge that WA2 would not be feasible. You, Nigel, and I know, along with many others that the only clean way out of the EU is on WTO rules with a proposed FTA and mutually agreed stability under Art 24 of GATT, while confining the necessary elements of separation to a treaty under the Vienna Convention. I fear that the parochial, party comes first approach to the current GE will put Parliament right back where it was when the GE was called. More chaos from intransigence.

    • agricola
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      How early do I have to wake up to get moderated.

      • Everhopeful
        Posted November 5, 2019 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        5am …on the dot.

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    I see the government (Hammond I assume) has gone to the US to find an “economist” who actually thinks a high minimum wage is a good idea. Why? There are plenty of deluded UK economists around.

    The minimum wage law is a law the prohibits people (whose work is worth less than the minimum) from working legally, or even learning to work. This even if they want to (perhaps because they enjoy the job, meet people, and it is close to home or they are learning something). It is always idiotic. The higher this wage is the more idiotic and economically damaging it is. Superficially politically popular but very damaging indeed.

    • Ed M
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      I think the argument of Minimum Wage is a lot more complicated than you make it out to be – with both pros and cons (and need to look at both carefully and the come to a conclusion – and on-going as the economy changes / evolves).

      That’s just from an economy POV. And then there’s the argument about how the Minimum Wage reduces (or not) the pressures of the Welfare State on government.

      I don’t know what the answer is. But I’d like to see a lot more care and thought go into this than your type of approach that is way to black-and-white.

  4. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    There is a need for reform from the bottom up.

    First, the input of central offices into candidate selection for PPCs seems wrong. Why not an independent competition, with members voting, preferably for folk who have life experience, so qualify by having made both a financial and life commitment to the country in either business, public service or academia, and preferably at least two of these?
    Second, right of recall for MPs caught in any conflict or wrong doing, to be triggered by a fraction petitioning in the constituency.
    Third, compulsory election of leaders by the party membership. No more “coronations” like May’s, where having barely passed the first test above, an MP slips through the net to be a hopeless leader.
    Fourth, an element of proportionality in the voting system, to give incomers a beacon of hope of changing a stagnant system.
    Fifth, tightening of id requirements to vote.

    This is just a start – there must be many more.

  5. Shirley
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    How about some protection for democracy and the electorate?

    Why do we have to be stuck with MP’s who lie in order to get elected? Deselection is not enough. They still retain their seats until the next GE. Why does Parliament protect dishonourable and fraudulent MP’s?

    The local constituencies should be the ones choosing candidates and not have pro-EU candidates chosen and imposed by the PTB. That’s why Parliament is so out of kilter with the electorate. Our ‘choices’ have been manipulated since 1973 and the ‘choices’ we were given have been pro-EU or pro-EU (with very few exceptions) … until UKIP came along.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I guess they want the ones who go along with the agenda?
      They don’t want politicians like Nigel Farage who might rock the boat.

  6. Here and Now
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Your misunderstanding of what the judges decided in the prorogation case is total. The whole point of that case is that the government was proroguing Parliament so as to shut down Parliament’s voice. Unless the courts intervene to protect Parliament, as they did, the government would be able to shut down Parliament at will.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      You misunderstand. The Judge in this case acted POLITICALLY.

      Labour’s Supreme Court is not a judicial body. It is a political power base for pro-Labour and pro-EU judicial activist

    • eeyore
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      Political prorogation was a legal part of the government toolkit for nearly 700 years. Parliament has its remedies, including refusal of supply, and they have been found adequate hitherto.

      In that context Sir John’s second paragraph is a small masterpiece of irony, worthy of Gibbon himself.

    • Mark B
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Whilst I accept that government should not be allowed to shut down parliament, it was Her Majesty’s power based on advice given to her. And how long is too long ? This was never defined. A day ? Two days ? A week ? Remember, there was also party conferences going on and, upon returning, many MP’s never bothered to show up. Plus, the last parliament was the longest running parliament since the English Civil War, it has had ample time to debate matters, matters (BREXIT) that still have not been resolved / implemented.

    • villaking
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      I totally agree with you. What Sir John is saying is that the Supreme Court should not intervene if the executive chooses to shut down parliament for a prolonged length of time in order to force through an outcome Sir John wants but the majority of parliament does not. The logical extension of Sir John’s true position is that the executive could shut down parliament for a year if it so chooses. Like you, I can not see how Sir John has framed his suggestion to make it appear that he supports parliamentary democracy when clearly it is the opposite wit regard to all matters Brexit.

      Reply Silly arguments. No elected PM would survive an attempt to shut Parliament down in the way you suggest.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Yes, the Government blunderingly admitted as much when they said after the case that the ruling was all about brexit, whereas before the case they said that the prorogation was nothing to do with it.

      The two claims are utterly incompatible.

      But John’s claim that the UK has a written constitution is shaky. It has rules which serve in the same way as constitutional ones do in countries with them, but that is not quite the same.

      There are no special requirements for the changing of many of those rules, such as super majorities, the calling of conventions, and so on.

      The whole point of a constitution is that it is NOT easy to change, and that citizens can be reasonably sure of their rights under whatever administration.

      We absolutely do not have that in the UK.

    • Digger
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Excuse me, but we listened and watched the Court case. It was conducted not so well.

      • Fred H
        Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        Digger – -If you mean it was a farce – say so!

    • Anonymous
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Though I feel a lot less sympathetic about that since Parliament has spent three years and a half years in obstruction.

      Can’t stand the sight of the place. If we’re staying in the EU then abolish it.

    • acorn
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Exactly so. There is near zero understanding by the muppetry of the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision and why it came to it. Hence the SC gets a lot of ignorant slagging on social media sites.

      To quote Hansard. “The Supreme Court’s judgement that the government’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful was due in part to concern that the legislature’s ability to scrutinise Statutory Instruments would be compromised. But as ‘exit day’ nears and with a new, shorter prorogation planned, the inadequacies of the parliamentary scrutiny process for SIs become ever starker.
      https://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/blog/scrutiny-of-statutory-instruments-in-the-spotlight-following-supreme-court

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Here and Now. What a joke. It’s the leave vote that has been ignored and trashed by parliament and the courts with the help of the Speaker. All this nonsense over the last 3 years should never have taken place. Instead, what Cameron promised should have been implemented and we should have left and negotiated later. It’s obvious the EU are desperate for us to stay or else we wouldn’t have been given extension after extension. It suits them.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      It still isn’t the Judges role, if a Government abuses its power, then it is up to the electorate to sack them and install another who has a mandate to change the law to stop the abuse. It’s not for the Judiciary to nominate themselves as our constitutional overseers, for just like everybody else they are politically biased, as it has been noticeable which political causes they entertain and which they don’t.

    • sm
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Did you complain loudly when John Major prorogued Parliament for 2 weeks to avoid discussion about the expenses scandal?

  7. Sea Warrior
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Good points but may I suggest that the Queen needs some more powers. An obvious one might be for her to be a able to break a Parliamentary log-jam by calling a general election. Also, she, on the advice of the Privy Council, should be able to make a determination on what requires Queen’s Consent rather having the likes of Bercow making the call for her. Looking to the future, flexibility is key. So I would ask you, Sir John, to do what you can to place exit clauses in the treaty that will effect the Future Partnership with the EU. I don’t want to find out that we have been locked, forever, into whatever Johnson and the EU think is right next year. We should be able to give three months notice to exit any provision that isn’t working for us.

    • Fred H
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      You forget the Queen will not be with us forever. Good luck with the next in line!

  8. Julie Williams
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    The relationship between an MP and their electorate also requires clarification to knock the “Burke” argument on it’s head: politics has changed enormously since his day.
    MPs that cross the House should automatically trigger a by-election and MPs that are found guilty of a criminal offense should cease to be an MP, not turn up “tagged”!
    I’d like to disqualify anyone who uses “Twitter” from being an MP but might suggest that parties scrutinise it better before adopting their candidates

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      “Mp’s that cross the House should automatically trigger a by- election…..”

      This is an absolute must !

    • formula57
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      @Julie Williams – were MPs that cross the floor of the ‘Commons required to face a by-election, since most eschew that option now, could we not expect such a measure to see MPs stay put who might otherwise leave? What would be the advantage of that? They would, presumably, defy party discipline and of course risk losing the party whip or even membership but if either were sufficient under revised rules to trigger a by-election then surely it would be putting a dangerous power in the hands of party managers?

    • oldtimer
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      Your ideas on disqualifying tagged MPs from voting and requiring MPs to seek re-election when crossing the floor to another party are good.

      • gregory martin
        Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Maybe best that MPs who cross the floor are debarred from voting in the lobbies until they have received a new mandate from their electorate, seeing that their original election was on a ballot paper where their party allegiance was equal in attracting their support. The ‘tag’ should prevent them even entering the Parliamentary Estate.

  9. Richard1
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    All good points I suggest they go into the Conservative manifesto.

    The other big one is reform of the house of Lords which has become a bloated quango. 300-500 members should sit for a limited term perhaps. Maybe something for Boris’s second term.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      The main problem with the Lords is the dire quality and types of people who are elevated to it. Mainly, it seems, they are lefty remainers and career politicians with degrees in something like Law, Politics or PPE who have usually fallen for the green crap religion with a few similarly bonkers C of E Bishops for good measure. Perhaps about 50 of them at best are sensible and have an understanding or real science and economics.

    • oldtimer
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      I agree with your ideas about the HoL.

    • agricola
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      So many???, a Senate of 100 os more than enough. Unelected but selected for 5-10 years service based on achievement in life. Political affiliation should be irrelevant.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted November 5, 2019 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        100 people selected at random (but then having to pass a numeracy and IQ test) serving for say 10 years each would be a far better system and far cheaper too.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Having different voices and experiences is a useful resource of the Lords, but it doesn’t seem right to have a second chamber of placement who have no mandate. I wondered if it was reasonable to strip them of their vote, being able to participate in debates is a pretty valuable concession, and establish what I would call a County Lord, where each county elects a Lord (with some adjustment for population) there are 48 counties in England, Scotland has 33 so some changes would be needed there, 13 in Wales and 6 in NI.

      • Fred H
        Posted November 7, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Iain…..No! I’d abandon the lot and in place take applications for 100 members to be of 50/50 gender. Age 50/50 split above/below 55 – -from various walks of life:- Law, Education, Technology, Industry, Small/Medium Business entrepreneurs, Authors, Ethnicity, Economics and Sport. Tenure to be max 5 years, fresh applications to replace any resigned every 3 years and 5 years (of course).

  10. Lifelogic
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Please can the UK get out of the idiotic Paris climate accord (directly after the election) as the US is very sensibly finally doing? Cheap reliable energy please. Does Boris just do greencrap for elections, or has he really fallen for these mad unscientific exaggerations and the mad, absurdly subsidised renewable religion?

    A great shame Boris did not read Physics or Engineering at Cambridge rather than Classics at Oxford – then he might better understand this gigantic damaging fraud and con trick against tax and bill payers. A great shame too that he seems to think his WA treaty is a real Brexit, it is not even close. He needs to move and do a deal with Farage if he wants a decent majority.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      As I understand it…the orders come straight from the UN.
      All this about “ giving in” to Extinction Rebellion is rubbish.
      As usual govt’s hands tied…helpless shrug of shoulders.

    • Ed M
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      @lifelogic,

      ‘Please can the UK get out of the idiotic Paris climate accord … A great shame Boris did not read Physics or Engineering at Cambridge rather than Classics at Oxford’

      – Looks like Cambridge University Research is saying the exact opposite to you (that we will even end up POORER):

      ‘Climate change to shrink economies of rich, poor, hot and cold countries alike unless Paris Agreement holds’ – By Cambridge University Research

    • Ed M
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

      @Lifelogic,

      ‘Cambridge University exploring radical ways to tackle climate change’ – Cambridge News

      ‘The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope, kicks off a global day of action with a discussion on the University’s efforts to tackle climate change’ – Cambridge University

    • Ed M
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      @Lifelogic,

      For me the main reason for pursing green tech is the $$$$$ that can be made – LOTS!

      Whilst there is something EXCITING about trying to create the technology of the future that will both control global warming whilst also ensure high prosperity for lots of people for the future. HAVING CAKE AND EAT IT! (But that takes IMAGINATION, HARD WORK AND GUTS!).

      And this is true capitalism at its best, instead of being stuck with old-fashioned, crumbling systems in which everyone loses in the long-term – both environmentalists and people in business.

      • Ed M
        Posted November 6, 2019 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        @Lifelogic,

        ‘Whilst there is something EXCITING about trying to create the technology of the future’

        – Also, have you ever been involved in CREATING something in technology / high tech / digital? It’s HUGELY exciting. And then there is the branding of your product, what you’re going to call it, how you’re going to brand / market it. Consumer research. Business plans.

        It’s like a GAME – the adult’s version of Monopoly or Risk – better, of Chess! You also get the similar kick that an artist might get creating a painting. It’s similar to the sense of adventure that an explorer achieves exploring the world. It’s also about challenging oneself – seeing oneself thrive when one is tested most.

        You totally fail to see why entrepreneurs want to create things – and to create solutions. Sure, people work because they have to and because they want to make money. Of course. But there is far, far more to why people set up and create high tech brands – the sort of brands that can both resolve the global climate crisis one day, I hope, as well as make lots of money out of in the process, as well as bring people a lot of personal work satisfaction in the process.

        You totally ignore all this. Where is your spirit of enterprise? Instead you just seem wedded to old, jaded ideas that will eventually just relegated to the dust bin one day anyway by both environmentalist AND business demand.

        • hefner
          Posted November 7, 2019 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

          Thanks a lot for that. Brilliantly said.

  11. Mark B
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    . . . place some limits on the capacity of the Supreme Court to intervene in Parliamentary matters.

    No, abolish it ! Return to having proper judges, not political appointees.

    We also need to look at the powers of the Speaker and, where necessary, have powers of impeachment and removal when the Speaker clearly does not act in accordance with their position.

    Force MP’s who change parties to stand for re-election.

    Prohibit MP’s / the Legislature from taking over government business. This should have been the job of the Speaker but, as we have seen, this area needs to be strengthened.

    Disallow all non-English political parties from voting on English only matters. This has been promised before and we are still waiting.

  12. Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I agree re fixed term and certainly the unelected Lords needs reform but even they would have been ineffective if you had not lost your majority. Me thinks you protest too much.

    You talk about Parliament being supreme but there has to be a check if that is abused which quite apparently is what happened.

  13. Old Albion
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Perhaps when we have a new Parliament and the Brexit chaos is finally resolved. You and others can revive the issue of Democracy for England.
    As we’ve seen lately, England is still being pushed around by the loud though un-representative voice of the SNP. Who not only have a voice in the HoC. but also have their own Gov. in Scotland. Yes two voices, yet England still doesn’t even have one.
    I hope you will support N.Sturgeon when she calls for a new independence referendum.

    • gregory martin
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      Should not Fridays be used for ‘England only’ matters, when otherwise the House often does not sit. This would allow more time for the ‘devolved ‘ members to get a weekend at home, and create better use of the existing asset to give England its ‘assembly’ without more investment.

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      Give the Scottish independence vote to the English. That would give them independence very quickly.

  14. Kevin
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I disagree that Parliament is the ultimate embodiment of the people’s sovereignty. Democratic votes are the expression of the popular will – not MPs’ votes. Yes, MPs may legislate to place limits on a British court, but a more pressing constitutional matter is that the people voted to completely exclude the ECJ. Three and a half years later, however, the very Government that promised to deliver on that vote is apparently intent, by means of Boris’ Deal, on committing us to the long term jurisdiction of that court.

  15. Newmania
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    That would be travelling in precisely the wrong direction. We need less of a dictatorship appointed by a minority and more of a democracy. That means including an element of proportionality into the system. The haphazard ugly and malformed checks we do have are no substitute for a properly empowered second chamber elected (let us say) 50% by PR and 50%appointed
    We can no longer put up with the mediocrities and time servers who have failed and betrayed the country for a narrow political advantage that only exists in the idiotic ancient system onto which modern democracy was inexpertly grafted.
    It is as if we were trying to do modern astronomy with the Ptolemaic assumptions.
    Reform reform reform , cut out the old failed rotten and useless give us all our say.

  16. Andy
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I want to see several constitutional changes.
    1) Half the number of MPs
    2) Elect the Lords on a party list PR basis, using the % of vote each party secures in the Commons election. With an additional 100 appointed Lords to retain expertise
    3) Age limit of 70 for MPs, 75 for Lords
    4) Two term (10 year) limit for MPs, Five term (25 year) limit for Lords
    5) Confirmation hearings for ministers
    6) All MPs and Lords required to publish full tax returns and list all assets
    7) Any wrong-doing by MPs leads to a compulsory lifetime ban from all public office

    • MB
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Amazingly, I find myself agreeing with Andy.

      Such a surprise, that I must go and lie down.

    • Fred H
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      Andy ….MPs working and earning pensions up to 70? – similar for the Lords? I thought you were against the older people taking jobs from the young?

    • steve
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      Not bad, not bad at all !

  17. Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Sir John – Bingo on all three!

  18. BJC
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Excellent points, Sir John. Additionally, I think the “new” Remain Parliament should resist any major amendments to the constitution until proceedings have settled down with the new Speaker, although it is, perhaps, worth looking at the absolute powers of this role. An excellent choice, by the way, and hopefully we will now enjoy public displays of mutual respect instead of utter contempt.

    I’m delighted to see today that it’s Mr Johnson’s intention to assist smaller firms reach their full potential. As his treaty appears to be designed to assuage the concerns of larger businesses, I sincerely hope these ambitions can’t be stymied by the umbilical cord that keeps us attached to the sclerotic EU. Clearly, Mr Johnson’s bluff and bluster is no substitute for possessing an in-depth understanding of the detail contained in his legally binding treaty.

  19. George Brooks
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    You are absolutely right Sir John we need to get rid of the Fixed Term Parliament Act asap which is no more than a 5 year meal ticket for a lot of MPs with little or no commercial or administrative experience treating politics as an occupation.

    Further more Julie Williams is right that if a member crosses the House it triggers a by-election immediately. They need to test their change of view or opinion with those who put them into parliament. Most of those who have done so recently would be visiting their local job centre

  20. cynic
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I would suggest that the speaker is only in office for a maximum of five years and cannot stand again for the position.

    • Fred H
      Posted November 7, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      cynic – – -and have an annual Vote of Confidence. At least 2 Deputies should share a day of proceedings every week.

  21. acorn
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Speaker Bercow didn’t break any rules because the HoC doesn’t actually have any “rules” as the word is commonly understood. It has “Erskine May” which is not an operating manual or a bible, it just records how Parliament works mostly as conventions.

    Parliament is not a rules-based organisation; “… it operates according to practice and precedent and its rules, whether expressed in standing orders or resolutions or even occasionally statute, are glosses on or amendments to that practice.” (Mark Hutton Clerk of the Journals HoC) Which is exactly why the Supreme Court should intervene when the HoC goes banzai kamikaze, as it has in the last three years.

    BTW. Erskine May is now online at https://erskinemay.parliament.uk/

    Reply The House has Standing Orders!

  22. Gareth Warren
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    All points I agree with.

    I would add there should be limits on powers of MPs, any MP who changes party should require a byelection. This still gives the trust to the MP and people but adds a component of trust to the parties.

    Parties that then break their manifesto pledges have difficulty holding onto honest MPs, dishonest MPs have to explain their actions to the electorate.

    I must admit I do not understand the Benn act – did it compell government to send the EU money? I thought that was only the governments choice.

    • steve
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      Gareth

      “I must admit I do not understand the Benn act”

      Oh that’s simple….to cripple the country’s position and thereby serve the interests of foreign powers. Treason, for want of a better description.

  23. Ian@Barkham
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Good morning Sir John

    I agree with everything in your wish list. I would add the number of MP’s needs dramatically reducing. The vast numbers make the process cumbersome. As a consequence Parliament also finishes up trying to take on the processes that can be handled more effectively and efficiently at a local level. MP’s forget that situations, circumstances and management is as different by region if not town and county.

    The balance in representation needs to be addressed. While I understand the history and original reasoning, Scotland has more MP’s than the larger by population county of Yorkshire. Scotland also has it own separate Parliament. That surely cant be classed as equitable in democratic terms. When does Yorkshire get its own Parliament?

    We need to say goodbye to the House of Lords, in particular those political appointees. Yes we need an Upper House but it is now time to elect it.

    The Supreme Court like everything else that is part of the process has to be accountable. The recent rulings while they may have had a minor validity were made as Political, not legal pronouncements. They were in themselves contradictory.

    All Promises made to the electorate to get elected, if not kept or subsequently for valid reasons get changed, should be deferred back to the electorate for reaffirmation. It is this along with a multitude of minor impediments that has brought all MP’s and the HoC into disrepute.

    The overriding priority is to restore the proper meaning of Democracy to the People of the UK and to restore the integrity and purpose of MP’s and Parliament. Outside of the Westminster bubble these people don’t realize the damage they have done to the trust and governability of the UK

  24. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    None of this would have happened if Theresa May had not called an unnecessary general election, allegedly on the advice of the President of the EU Commission, and then thrown away her majority which while small would probably have been sufficient.

    Especially if she had taken care to keep the support of the DUP MPs, which is where Boris Johnson has fallen down leading to another unnecessary election. If only the 10 DUP MPs had voted against Oliver Letwin’s wrecking amendment, but that was not to be:

    http://bit.ly/2MZo4TC

    “The Democratic Unionist party has been supportive throughout the process of delivering on the result of the referendum of the British people, and we have defied and opposed the procedural chicanery and political machinations that have gone on in this place to try to undermine that result. The irony is that today, which should be a day of rejoicing for us because the Prime Minister has come back with a deal, we find that Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland alone, will be left within the clutches of the European Union, by being a de facto member of a customs union and tied to European regulations.”

  25. dixie
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I would add that any MP who seeks to change party allegiance must resign and a by-election held. There should also be a meaningful pecunary penalty for such a change. At the least they should stand the costs of the by-election out of their own funds.

    As a dispicable oik I would also like to see some meaningful constraint on a party promising one thing in an election and doing something radically different once elected. If MPs cannot be trusted to be honourable then there must be immediate remedies for the electorate.

  26. Iain Moore
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I would go along with that , but you missed one where Bercow has arbitrarily changed the rules of the house , dismissing precedent moment , while searching back into history to dig up one from 400 years ago the next. To stop such scams being used to facilitate some legislation by an activist Speaker you need to be able to call a timeout on it, force such changes to be considered by a Parliamentary committee, as time is usually critical in such instances, to stall it will be to kill it off, so to have a lengthy consultation will be an important element to it.

  27. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Backlash against a needless election?

    I am perfectly happy to be asked to vote. I like the Swiss system where the people get to make more decisions directly.

    The idea of a general election once every 5 years under a system rigged so you can only get either a Tory or Labour government is very depressing.

    We need Citizens Assemblies to make the big decisions – with governments relegated to implementing them.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Citizen’s Assemblies = Agenda 21/30
      Exactly what the globalists want.
      Used to “steer” the population into the “ right” decisions.
      Used when “democracy has stopped working”…hmmmm!!!

  28. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Surely we ought to be grown up enough now to be able to remove the role of the monarchy in our constitution? And the Church of England too.

    • Amanda
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      This last Parliament has demonstrated just how ‘childish’ many MPs are in behaviour and thought. Thus, the opposite argument can be made, that the Monarchy should be strengthened as one of the ‘grown-ups – as has been pointed out in an above post.

      As for the Church of England, may I suggest you read Tom Holland’s excellent new book ‘Dominion’ on how our ‘way of thinking about the world’ is rooted in revolutionary Christian thinking. Even Dawkins. To undermine Christian thinking in our law making is not ‘grown up’ but rather shows a perilous lack of knowledge and consideration (rather like the idea of the Fixed Term Parliament Act !!).

      • Mitchel
        Posted November 5, 2019 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        I’m afraid when you look at Princes William and Harry with their modish obsessions,it’s clear the monarchy has gone the way of all our other institutions.

    • Sea Warrior
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I like the idea that my Queen is able to fire the top politician. It’s only a shame that she doesn’t do it more often. May should have been sacked immediately she requested that March Brexit extension.

    • Fred H
      Posted November 7, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Amen to that.

  29. Mike Wilson
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I’d also like to see complete government transparency. I’d like cameras in cabinet meetings. Meetings of all meetings involving politicians made public. Why you have all decided you have to do things in secret baffles me. It is the root of half of our problems.

  30. George Brooks
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    You are absolutely right Sir John, the Fixed Term Parliament Act should be repealed ‘a s a p’ as it is no more than a five year meal ticket for those who have little or no commercial or administrative experience and enter politics as an occupation

    Julie Williams is also right in stating that if and when an MP crosses the floor of the House it should trigger a by-election immediately.

    If one disagrees with the management in the commercial world you have two options. Fall in line or hand in your notice and if you don’t, management will do it for you.

  31. George Brooks
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    When I went on to your blog to see if my comment had been accepted it was not there. So I retyped it but after posting the first comment appeared. Only one is needed

    • Everhopeful
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Exactly the same has happened to me!
      Probably my comment was just deleted?
      Not wanted.

  32. forthurst
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    JR has missed the obvious elephant in the room as to why we have endured three and a half years of chaos in parliament post the Referendum, namely that every party in the HoC except the DUP is explicitly or implicitly Remain when a substantial majority of the people and their constituencies voted to leave the EU. What is the reason for that? The First-Past-the-Post electoral system means that the electorate are inhibited from voting for new ideas and new parties because the unfair winner takes all consequence obliges most people to either avoid a ‘wasted’ vote or not vote at all.

    Only by replacing the FPTP system with a modern fair voting system as they have done in New Zealand can it be ensured that parliament has the right to claim legitimacy to legislate on our behalf. We have three tired old parties which cannot be dislodged who ran out of ideas decades ago but desperately scrabble to entice the electorate at every election by offering us baubles to vote for them.

    • Mitchel
      Posted November 5, 2019 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      An entrenched oligarchy in other words-as pointed out by Lenin around 100 years ago and by Rousseau(or was it Voltaire?) around two hundred years ago.Perhaps the bovine masses will finally understand this time round!

  33. margaret howard
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    The whole thing is an unholy mess.

  34. Mactheknife
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Whilst the recommendations are very sensible, we have to be honest that many of these issues were caused by a Speaker who clearly had his own agenda and was prepared to ‘stretch’ the house rules, procedures and traditions in the direction he wanted in support of his aims and objectives.
    The main change for me would be to have something written in place to address these issues and some mechanism to remove him/her should they veer from their expected role. Had this been in place Brexit would have been done and over.

  35. Tony Sharp
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    On the Supreme Court it has not simply replicated what the Law Lords did, sitting in the upper chamber, but has gone beyond that. This is purely because it is now constituted not of leading and experienced Lords of Appeal and other Senior justices but has many members who have simply sat in EU Tribunals and Administrative Courts and have very junior Judicial appointments not having even been junior Recorders experience. Indeed the current President Baroness Hale has been a legal academic and as far as I can see has never even been a lay Magistrate. The qualifications for this body must revert to the previous Law Lords quality standard. It is no coincidence that the UKSC flatly ignored the Court of Appeal’s decision, constituted of the most experienced and senior Judges we have, the Master of the Rolls, the Lord Chief Justice and the President of the Queen’s Bench.

  36. Gareth Warren
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    The other problem that really aught to be fixed is vote splitting, the idea that two people with similar views mea that view is less popular.

    Here the AV+ system seemed better, but people were persuaded to keep the current broken system. The fears over the brexit party vote are a perfect example.

  37. Rule Britannia
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Agree with all of that – exactly what I’ve been saying here for months so it’s good to see that JR agrees.

    The problem is… will the next government?

    I have high hopes of Lindsay Hoyle applying limits to the Speaker’s role.

  38. mancunius
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Completely agree with all three of your suggestions, Sir John, and about their importance.
    I wish all your colleagues were as clear-sighted.

  39. davies
    Posted November 5, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Spot on totally agree.

    The constitutional plumbing has been blocked for a while. The FTPA Act in particular needs sorting ASAP

  40. Posted November 5, 2019 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Bravo! I thought, at times, I was the only one who knows this!

  41. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 6, 2019 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Agreed on getting rid of the fixed term parliament.

    Second reform – we need to ensure that never again can a back bencher be allowed to move something like the wretched Benn Act.

    Major reforms of the systems of appointments to the Supreme Court and the House of Lords are needed (cleansing of the Augean stables).

    House of Lords appointments: an appointments committee of approximately 15 people should be elected by universal suffrage. This committee would appoint peers.

    Supreme Court appointments: an appointments committee of approximately 15 people should be elected by universal suffrage. This committee would appoint Supreme Court judges. There would need to be eligibility criteria for this appointments committee, because its members would need to assess the merits of judges.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve made this proposal. If Sir John doesn’t like it, I would quite like to know his alternative.

  42. Richard Giles
    Posted November 8, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Fourth: require referenda to approve treaties like Maastricht and EU member accession, as occurred in many other countries but not here.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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