Coalition deal on political reform and liberty

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
12 May 2010

These are the sections of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat agreement on two key areas of interest to OK readers. For full document see Liberal Conspiracy

6. Political Reform

The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive
result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the
Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take
during such a referendum.

The parties will bring forward
early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to
force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious
wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed
by 10% of his or her constituents.

We agree to establish a committee
to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber
on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will
come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that
this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely
there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim,
Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second
chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political
parties in the last general election.

The parties will bring forward
the proposals of the Wright Committee for reform to the House of Commons
in full – starting with the proposed committee for management of programmed
business and including government business within its scope by the third
year of the Parliament.

The parties agree to reduce
electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter

We have agreed to establish
a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

The parties agree to the implementation
of the Calman Commission proposals and the offer of a referendum on
further Welsh devolution.

The parties will tackle lobbying
through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree
to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party
funding in order to remove big money from politics.

The parties will promote the
radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local
government and community groups. This will include a full review of
local government finance.

9. Relations with the EU

We agree that the British Government will be a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty.

We agree that there should be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament. We will examine the balance of the EU’s existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom.

We agree that we will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future Treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would
be subject to a referendum on that Treaty – a ‘referendum lock’. We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that the use of any passerelle would require primary legislation.

We will examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament.

We agree that Britain will not join or prepare to join the Euro in this Parliament.

We agree that we will strongly defend the UK’s national interests in the forthcoming EU budget negotiations and that the EU budget should only focus on those areas where the EU can add value.

We agree that we will press for the European Parliament only to have one seat, in Brussels.

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor.

10. Civil liberties

The parties agree to implement
a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil
liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great
    Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of
    ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation
    of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing
    of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of
    the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections
    of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • The protection of
    historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • The restoration
    of rights to non-violent protest.
  • The review of libel
    laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against
    the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation
    of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage
    of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism
    to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
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