openDemocracyUK

Coalition's programme for political reform and civil liberties

OurKingdom Ourkingdom
26 May 2010

The Coalition has published its programme for government online with the opportunity to feedback via the comments system. This is what the new government has to say on political reform:

The Government believes that our political system is broken. We urgently need fundamental political reform, including a referendum on electoral reform, much greater co-operation across party lines, and changes to our political system to make it far more transparent and accountable.

  • We will establish five-year fixed-term Parliaments. We will put a binding motion before the House of Commons stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, we will legislate 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.
  • We 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. We will whip both 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.
  • We will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP is 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 will 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 motion by December 2010. It is likely that this will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely that 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 that is reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.
  • We 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 backbench business. A House Business Committee, to consider government business, will be established by the third year of the Parliament.
  • We will reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration.
  • We will establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.
  • We will prevent the possible misuse of Parliamentary privilege by MPs accused of serious wrongdoing.
  • We will cut the perks and bureaucracy associated with Parliament.
  • We will consult with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority on how to move away from the generous final-salary pension system for MPs.
  • We will fund 200 all-postal primaries over this Parliament, targeted at seats which have not changed hands for many years. These funds will be allocated to all political parties with seats in Parliament that they take up, in proportion to their share of the total vote in the last general election.
  • We will ensure that any petition that secures 100,000 signatures will be eligible for formal debate in Parliament. The petition with the most signatures will enable members of the public to table a bill eligible to be voted on in Parliament.
  • We will introduce a new ‘public reading stage’ for bills to give the public an opportunity to comment on proposed legislation online, and a dedicated ‘public reading day’ within a bill’s committee stage where those comments will be debated by the committee scrutinising the bill.
  • We will improve the civil service, and make it easier to reward the best civil servants and remove the least effective.
  • We will reform the Civil Service Compensation Scheme to bring it into line with practice in the private sector.
  • We will put a limit on the number on Special Advisers.
  • We will introduce extra support for people with disabilities who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials.
  • We will open up Whitehall recruitment by publishing central government job vacancies online.
  • We will publish details of every UK project that receives over £25,000 of EU funds.
  • We will give residents the power to instigate local referendums on any local issue.
  • We will stop plans to impose supplementary business rates on firms if a majority of the firms affected do not give their consent.
  • We will give residents the power to veto excessive council tax increases.
  • We will continue to promote peace, stability and economic prosperity in Northern Ireland, standing firmly behind the agreements negotiated and institutions they establish. We will work to bring Northern Ireland back into the mainstream of UK politics, including producing a government paper examining potential mechanisms for changing the corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland.
  • We will implement the proposals of the Calman Commission and introduce a referendum on further Welsh devolution.
  • We will review the control and use of accumulated and future revenues from the Fossil Fuel Levy in Scotland.
  • We recognise the concerns expressed by the Holtham Commission on the system of devolution funding. However, at this time, the priority must be to reduce the deficit and therefore any change to the system must await the stabilisation of the public finances. Depending on the outcome of the forthcoming referendum, we will establish a process similar to the Calman Commission for the Welsh Assembly. We will take forward the Sustainable Homes Legislative Competence Order.

And on civil liberties:

We will be strong in defence of freedom. The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties. We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness.

  • We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion.
  • We will introduce a Freedom Bill.
  • We will scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register and the ContactPoint database, and halt the next generation of biometric passports.
  • We will outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • We will extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • We will adopt the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • We will protect historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • We will restore rights to non-violent protest.
  • We will review libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • We will introduce safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • We will further regulate CCTV.
  • We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • We will introduce a new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
  • We will establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties. We will seek to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties.
  • We will make the running of government more efficient by introducing enhanced Departmental Boards which will form collective operational leadership of government departments.

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