Constitution

This page highlights some of the current parliamentary material available on the constitution. This includes select committee reports, briefing papers on current legislation and other subjects produced by the parliamentary research services, and the latest Early Day Motions put down by MPs.

Commons Briefing Papers

DateDescription
22.01.2016A British Bill of Rights?
The Conservative Party went into the 2015 General Election with a manifesto commitment to 'scrap the Human Rights Act and curtail the role of the European Court of Human Rights.' This note provides a brief introduction to the Human Rights Act 1998; the European Convention on Human Rights and the work of the European Court of Human Rights.
07.01.2016Conventions on the relationship between the House of Commons and House of Lords
This House of Commons Library briefing paper sets out the conventions on the relationship between the two Houses of Parliament and their origins. On 17 December 2015 Lord Strathclyde published his review of secondary legislation and the primacy of the House of Commons. This briefing paper sets out the background to the review and Lord Strathclyde's recommendations.
15.06.2015EU Treaty change: the parliamentary process of bills
How does Parliament deal with EU Treaty amendments? Is primary legislation needed to implement them? This briefing looks at the parliamentary process of bills linked to the ratification of EU Treaty amendments and compares the amount of time spent on the major EU Treaties since the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973.
13.05.2015Parliamentary approval for military action
The deployment of the Armed Forces is currently a prerogative power. Parliament has no legally established role and the Government is under no legal obligation with respect to its conduct. In 2011 the Government acknowledged that a convention had emerged whereby the House of Commons would have the opportunity to debate the deployment of military forces, prior to doing so, except in the event of an emergency. The defeat of the Government in a vote on military action in Syria in August 2013 was widely viewed as an assertion of Parliamentary sovereignty on such matters. Yet many have argued that the convention lacks clarity and remains open to interpretation and exploitation. In 2011 the Government committed to legislate on this issue but by the end of the 2010-2015 Parliament no proposals were forthcoming. Going forward proponents of a formalised role for Parliament have suggested adopting a parliamentary resolution as either an interim step or as a viable alternative to legislation. Establishing either is fraught with difficulties and arguably, therefore, makes the continuation and strengthening of the current convention more likely in the immediate future.
11.05.2015What happens after an indecisive election result?
This note considers the conventions on forming a government in a scenario where no one party wins the majority of seats at a general election. It also covers the restrictions on government activity during the period between a general election and the formation of a new Government.
26.03.2015Role of the Lord Chancellor
History and development of the office of Lord Chancellor. This note summarises the history and development of the office of Lord Chancellor and also examines the changes that were made to the role following the enactment of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.
24.03.2015The Osmotherly Rules
The Osmotherly Rules (the Rules) give guidance on the role of civil servants and other Government officials appearing before select committees. The purpose of the Rules is to assist staff in Government departments dealing with requests for information from select committees, including: the provision of evidence, handling select committee reports and drafting responses to such reports.
19.03.2015Citizens' Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions
A constitutional convention has been defined as 'a representative body, brought together to draft a new constitution or to design or approve changes to an old one'.
02.03.2015Japan: Abe's constitutional and security agenda
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (the LDP) won a decisive victory in snap elections held in December 2014. One of the reasons for holding early elections was Abe's desire to amend Japan's 'peace Constitution' so that in future it expressly permits the country's armed forces to come to the aid of allies under attack. This is known in Japan as the right of 'collective self-defence'. In mid- 2014 the Japanese Cabinet approved interpreting the Constitution in this way. Abe is now seeking to give this new interpretation legal and constitutional underpinning. Important as it is, amending Article 9 of the Constitution is just one part of Abe's plans on the defence and security front. Japan is now looking to enhance its defence capabilities so that it can play a greater role in promoting international 'peace, stability and prosperity'. It will also increase its ability to respond effectively to any attack on the Senkaku Islands (as Japan calls them) in the East China Sea.
09.10.2014Recall of MPs Bill 2014-15
The Recall of MPs Bill 2014-15 was introduced on 11 September 2014, and is scheduled to be debated on second reading on 14 October. There was a commitment to legislate to introduce a power of recall in the Coalition Agreement, and a draft bill was scrutinised by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in 2012.

Lords Library Notes

DateDescription
05.01.2016Delegated Legislation in the House of Lords since 1997
This Lords Library briefing provides an overview of delegated legislation in the House of Lords since 1997.
18.11.2015Scotland Bill (HL Bill 73 of 2015-16)
This briefing provides information in support of the House of Lords consideration of the Scotland Bill.
24.08.2015Customs and Traditions in the House of Lords
This Library Note describes a selection of the customs and traditions, rules of behaviour and courtesies of the House of Lords. It illustrates the key ceremonies in the House of Lords, including the State Opening of Parliament, and highlights some of the less-known traditions. The Note also identifies changes that have taken place in recent decades, highlighting the way customs and traditions evolve over time.
25.03.2015House of Lords Reform 2010-15
This Note provides a summary of the proposals for reform of the House of Lords that were made during the 2010-15 parliament.
20.03.2015Constitutional Conventions: Possible Options in the New Parliament
This Note sets out some of the 'key issues' that have been put forward as being important when a process of constitutional review or reform is being devised and briefly highlights examples of the different structures used during such processes both in the UK and around the world. The Note ends with an overview of the latest known positions of a selection of political parties represented in the current House of Commons on the case for holding a constitutional convention.
19.03.2015Principal Office Holders in the House of Lords
This Library Note provides a short overview of the role and functions of some of the key office holders in the House of Lords.

Select Committee Reports

DateDescription
15.02.2012Constitution Select Committee (HL) twenty-fourth report on the Referendum on Scottish Independence.
Constitution Select Committee (HL) report [Lords]
11.01.2012Constitution Select Committee (HL) twenty-third report on Voting at the close of poll.
Constitution Select Committee (HL) report [Lords]
14.12.2011Constitution Select Committee (HL) twenty-second report on the Health and Social Care Bill:
Constitution Select Committee (HL) report [Lords]
16.11.2011Constitution Select Committee (HL) twenty-first report on Part 1 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment...
Constitution Select Committee (HL) report [Lords]
02.11.2011Constitution Select Committee (HL) twentieth report on the Protection of Freedoms Bill.
Constitution Select Committee (HL) report [Lords]

Early Day Motions

DateDescription
07.12.2010GENDER EQUALITY IN SUCCESSION TO THE THRONE
That this House notes with concern that under the rule of primogeniture men have precedence over women in succeeding to the Throne; further notes the application of gender equality ...
04.06.2009PARLIAMENTARY REFORM
That this House urges the Government to include within a constitutional renewal bill the election by secret ballot of a Business Committee of the House to arrange business whilst allowing ...
10.06.2008IRAQI REFERENDUM ON OCCUPATION
That this House notes the claim of the occupying powers in Iraq to be introducing democracy; further notes that democracy and occupation are almost certainly incompatible; takes account ...
10.06.2008PROCEDURE ON THE EU CONSTITUTIONAL TREATY
That this House notes the exceptional importance of the events of the week of 9th June 2008 to the future independence of the UK and the supremacy of Parliament; welcomes the judicial ...
15.05.2008BURMESE CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENDUM
That this House condemns the announcement by Burma's ruling junta that a new constitution was given overwhelming backing in a referendum carried out on 10th May in the midst of the ...

Glossary

  • Commons Briefing Papers (CBP) Papers providing in-depth and impartial analysis on every major piece of primary legislation and on other topics of public and parliamentary concern. Regular statistics papers are also published.
  • Early Day Motions (EDMs) - formal motions submitted by MPs in the House of Commons
  • POSTnotes (POST PN) - proactive four-page policy briefings from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology based on reviews of the research literature, interviews with stakeholders and peer review, commissioned by the POST Board
  • Lords Library Notes (LLN) - authored publications by the research section of the House of Lords Library that provide analysis of Bills, subjects for debate in the House and other issues of interest to Members.
  • Select Committee Reports - papers produced by all select committees of both Houses