The Joint Select Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (.pdf) has issued a public call for evidence:
According to their Press Release:
"The Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill has been heralded by the Government as a chance for Parliament to hold them to account more effectively and we will seek to find out how this can be achieved.
"We will look at the Bill in its entirety and are interested in receiving evidence from any interested parties who can give us their insights into how the proposals in the Draft Bill will affect Parliament's ability to scrutinise the Government."
Below are some comments on:
- Part 6 - power of Ministers to amend the Act by Order
- Civil Service
- Abuse of the Bill of Rights to suppress Freedom of Information etc
and details of how to send in your evidence to the Joint Committee by the June 12th deadline i.e. in less than a month
Why is the Joint Committee asking so many questions about the complete repeal of the inept and notorious Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 sections 132 to 138, which chills free speech and freedom of assembly in a wide area of central London around and within Parliament, et out in Clause 1 of this Bill ? Are they trying to sneak in some more general restrictions on the right to protest peacefully, and to extend these to the rest of the country as well ?
This must not be permitted.
Part 6 - power of Ministers to amend the Act by Order
Since this is, by definition a Constitutional Bill, we hope that this Joint Committee will clarify the wording in Part 6 of the Bill, to make it absolutely clear, in plain English, in the actual text of the Bill, sufficient extra safeguards, so that it cannot be abused by future Government Ministers, as highlighted in our previous blog posting
Danger ! Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill Part 6 tries to remove even the limited constitutional safeguards of the "destroy Parliament" Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006l
The Joint Committee does not seem to be giving a priority to Part 4 on Treaties.
There must never be a repeat of the appalling UK - USA Extradition treaty affair, whereby the notorious disgraced Home Secretary David Blunkett signed a document, which still uses United States rather than British spellings, without the full text of the treaty having been laid before Parliament and the public, and which was then rubber stamped into law via the Extradition Act 2003. The US Government did not bother to ratify this treaty until years afterwards.
Surely the provisions bi-lateral treaties should not be allowed to come into legal force unless, and until both the United Kingdom and the foreign Government have signed and ratified that treaty ? If there is some sort of deal or quid pro quo between the UK and a foreign Government or international organisation, as is usual, then the foreign Government must not be allowed to benefit from the UK's concessions, before their own concessions which favour us, come into force.
The definition of a "Treaty" is also unclear. Is this recently published Agreement between the European Union countries and the United States, over the Galileo and Global Positioning Satellite systems, e.g. Agreement on the Promotion, Provision and use of Galileo and GPS Satellite-based Navigation Systems and related Applications Dromoland Castle, Co.Clare, 26 June 2004
This will have a large impact on the economy, and on the viability of various Government and commercial snooping and tracking systems, but is it an actual Treaty or just a non-binding Agreement, and an acknowledgment of certain technical standards ?
It is unclear if the new Constitutional Renewal Bill means that such an Agreement in the future would be published immediately, or it would still take almost 4 years to do , as in this case ?
There is no good reason for excluding civil servants working for the the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the Northern Ireland Courts Service from being able to formally complain to the Civil Service Commissioner.
Where is the legally binding Code of Conduct for Ministers, as well as their Special Advisor apparatchiki, especially with regard to lobbying and influence peddling either when in office or afterwards ?
Given the vast numbers of former civil service jobs which have been outsourced, and the large numbers of private sector Management Consultants, and Public Relations spin doctors etc. who are employed by Government Departments where is there a binding Code of Conduct which applies equally and fairly to them ? What official complaints mechanisms do they have ? Surely for the purposes of the enforcement of the Civil Service Code of Conduct and the complaints mechanism, these people should also be classed as civil servants whilst working on Government contracts ?
Abuse of the Bill of Rights to suppress Freedom of Information etc.
Although obviously not included in this Bill, it does seem to be appropriate to raise the Constitutional matter of the Government's legalistic abuse of Parliamentary Privilege under the Bill of Rights, to suppress Freedom of Information rights.
Surely it would be appropriate for this Constitutional Renewal Bill to include a section which permitted , for example, Parliamentary Select Committees, to voluntarily waive their right of Parliamentary Privilege under Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689, so that their publicly published reports, which may be critical of Government policy, can be used as evidence in Court cases and Tribunal hearings ?
Currently, they cannot do so, even if they wish to.
How can Parliament be said to be properly holding the Executive branch of Government to proper account and scrutiny, if Parliamentary Select Committee Reports are, effectively, worthless outside of Parliament ?
This legal loophole currently being exploited by the Government and the Speaker of the Commons must be closed forthwith. Doing so would have no effect at all on the Freedom of Speech of MPs within Parliament, which is what Article 9 of the Bill of ghts should be used for.
There is less than a month until 12th June 2008 if you want to try to influence this Committee, to make sure that they do not recommend some other equally undemocratic and restrictive alternative.
GUIDANCE FOR THOSE SUBMITTING WRITTEN EVIDENCE
Submissions should aim to be no more than 3,000 words and a summary is helpful.
We welcome submissions that cover particular aspects of the Committee's inquiry as well as those that cover the Draft Bill more widely. Annexes may be submitted, but will not necessarily be published. Relevant material prepared for other purposes (such as reports or submissions to other inquiries and consultations) may be submitted to the Committee for information, but will not be printed. Witnesses who submit written evidence may be invited to give oral evidence to the Committee if time allows.
Submissions should be sent electronically (in Word) and in hard copy. Evidence should be clearly printed or typed on single sides of A4 paper, unstapled, and should be set out in numbered paragraphs. If drawings or charts are included, they should be in black-and-white and of camera-ready quality. The hard copy submission should be signed and dated, together with a note of the author's name and status and whether the evidence is submitted on an individual or corporate basis.
Please ensure that you include relevant contact details. These will be removed before publication.
Evidence and inquiries should be addressed to:
Clerk to the Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW
email to email@example.com
Tel: 020 7219 8675; Fax: 020 7219 4931
The deadline for submitting written evidence is 12 June
Once submitted, evidence submitted becomes the property of the Committee, and may be published. Witnesses may publicise their written evidence themselves, but in doing so should indicate that it was prepared for the Committee.
You can follow the inquiry via the Committee web pages, accessed from
This is a public call for evidence.
You are welcome to bring it to the attention of other groups and individuals who may not have received a copy directly.