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A new Magna Carta? Take part in our consultation on whether or not we should adopt a written constitution for the UK.

Graham Allen
18 August 2014

Flickr/Matt From London. Some rights reserved.

In July the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, which I chair, published its major report, ‘A new Magna Carta?

This marked the start of a six-month consultation on whether or not we need a written constitution for the UK and what such a document might contain. To start the debate we asked: Does the UK need a written constitution? Which, if any, of the options set out do you support? What should a written constitution for the UK contain?

This unprecedented democratic consultation on these questions offers you the chance to be one of a million Founding Fathers and Mothers of the next stage in the development of our ancient constitution. In 2015 we will mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, one of the oldest constitutional documents in the world. While this is of course important, we also need to think about what our democracy should look like for the next 800 years.

Our report sets out the arguments for and against a written constitution for the UK, and outlines the following fully worked up options for future codification of the UK constitution:

- A Constitutional Code: to be sanctioned by Parliament, but without statutory authority, setting out the essential existing elements and principles of the constitution.

- A Constitutional Consolidation Act: consolidating existing laws and practices relating to the constitution, including statutes, common law, parliamentary practice and a codification of essential constitutional conventions.

- A Written Constitution: a basic law by which the United Kingdom would be governed, setting out the relationship between the state and its citizens, an amendment procedure and some elements of reform.

The full report can be accessed in PDF form here.

We want as many individuals and organisations as possible—schools, universities and sixth forms, politicians from central and local government, academics, think tanks, charities and campaigning groups, and members of the public—to take part in this conversation about the future of our democracy.

Information on the consultation is available here.

Have your say by e-mailing your comments to [email protected] or send them by post to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. The consultation finishes on 1 January 2015. The Committee will then report to parliament on the responses from the public in time for them to be taken into account ahead of the general election.

Preamble competition

My Committee is also running an open public competition – how would you like to be the modern Thomas Jefferson and write the Preamble to a modern national constitution?

The Preamble of a nation's constitution should be rousing, ringing, inspiring and short. It should encapsulate the values of our society and the principles on which the constitution is based.

Here below is my own effort. If you think you can do better in 350 words then send in your entry (as a word document) to [email protected] with the subject line PREAMBLE, or you can submit your version through the Committee’s website at: http://www.parliament.uk/pcrc-preamble

If having your words ring down the decades of democratic history is not enough then a bottle of House of Commons champagne is also going to the best entry.

Preamble to a New Magna Carta, A Written Constitution for the UK

Whereas, it is a great and manifold blessing to a nation to possess a constitution respected and revered by its citizens, and

Whereas, this United Kingdom has no single written constitution but rather a constitutional settlement scattered and diffused among many statutes and other instruments and in parts not even written at all but having expression only through custom and convention, and

Whereas, our citizens have no ready and convenient means to view and examine this settlement and bring it to memory,

Now, we the people of the United Kingdom have created this Constitution as an expression of our nation, our democracy and as the framework of our government whose just powers derive only from our consent.

We, through the agency of our representatives in Parliament assembled, have devised and agreed this constitution to unite in one place for all to see the principles and rules by which our realm is and ought to be governed, so that our constitution may be better known, upheld and protected by all its citizens.

Through this constitution our nation:

affirms that all its people are created equal and entitled to justice, liberty and opportunity under law in our United Kingdom,

embeds and entrenches the rule of law throughout its territory,

defines the institutions of government and the inherent rights of all its citizens, and secures them from the tyranny or caprice of those in power over them,

provides for its citizens to make decisions in government at the appropriate level which is closest to them,

enables the means by which the exercise of any power or authority within the nation can be judged lawful and legitimate or otherwise and can be made accountable to all its citizens;

creates throughout its territory the conditions which ensure domestic tranquillity, promote the general welfare, advance culture, learning and the use and expression of every individual talent, and allow the establishment and expansion of lawful commerce of every kind, and

makes the rights and blessings attendant on our citizenship better known and understood that they may be more vigorously defended and promoted both by ourselves now and forever.

 


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