Show us how we are ruled!

The British government must make the Cabinet Manual - the closest thing the UK has to a written constitution - public.
Graham Allen
6 November 2010

Heard the one about the country that didn't have a written constitution, where an election took place and the directly elected representatives were instantly put on ice while the media, the markets, the civil service and 3 party leaders decided who would govern, where the rule book for all this was secret and where the newly elected Parliament didn't even get to endorse the outcome? Crazy, I know, thank goodness that it couldn't happen here!

My Select Committee questioned the Cabinet Secretary this week. We questioned Sir Gus O'Donnell on his role in the formation of the coalition Government and, in particular, on the whereabouts of the Cabinet Manual, which consolidates in one written document the existing conventions that decent “chaps” use to govern much of the way central government and Executive Power operates in the UK.

The Cabinet Manual is the nearest thing we have to a written constitution. Sir Gus O' Donnell himself agreed on the importance of this document and that the manual would be a likely starting point for any written constitution. We have called for this vital document which governs our lives to be available to electors and to the elected, but these groups are not yet regarded as mature enough to be trusted with something so important. It is a measure of how Government totally dominates Parliament that this document is 'owned' by the Cabinet, and is safely lodged in the Cabinet’s Home Affairs Committee chaired by Nick Clegg.

It is a test of “the new politics” that this secret written constitution is open to public view and then given parliamentary authority and legitimacy.

Graham Allen is Labour MP for Nottingham North and Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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