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
06.06.2016Impeachment
Impeachment was a means by which Parliament could prosecute and try individuals, normally holders of public office, for high treason or other crimes and misdemeanours. Impeachment is considered obsolete, as it has been superseded by other forms of accountability, and the rules underpinning the procedure have not been adapted to modern standards of democracy or procedural fairness
18.05.2016A 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.
08.04.2016EU Referendum: the process of leaving the EU
This Commons Library briefing paper looks at some of the issues that are likely to arise for the UK during a withdrawal process and afterwards. A UK vote to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 would trigger an untested procedure for withdrawal. There could be a complex and difficult negotiation lasting two years or more, or the UK could leave without settling its exit terms or its future relationship with the EU.
25.02.2016The Parliament Acts
This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper sets out the procedures governing the use of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949. It notes occasions when they have been used and also reports on challenges to the validity of the Parliament Acts.
08.02.2016The role and powers of the Privy Council
This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper looks at the role and powers of the Privy Council.
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.

Lords Library Notes

DateDescription
04.03.2016Ministerial Collective Responsibility and Agreement to Differ: Recent Developments
This Lords Library briefing provides information on ministerial collective responsibility in the light of the 2016 EU referendum.
04.03.2016The Sovereign's Ceremonial and Formal Role in Parliament Today
On 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning sovereign in British history. This House of Lords Library briefing focuses on the Sovereign as part of the constitution of Parliament. It captures key aspects of the role of the Sovereign as it relates, in practice, to Parliament today, with an emphasis on the House of Lords. It does this through addressing a selection of the ceremonial and formal roles of the Sovereign: the State Opening of Parliament and its prorogation and dissolution; the calling of a new Parliament, in light of the Fixed-term Parliament Act 2011; Royal Commissions and royal assent; and Queen's consent. The briefing also addresses a number of aspects of the Sovereign's communications and relationship with Parliament more broadly, through Addresses and messages and the Palace of Westminster itself. It provides facts and figures relating to Queen Elizabeth II including: the number of Acts that have received Royal Assent during her reign, Addresses given by the Queen to both Houses in Westminster Hall, and the wording of Queen Elizabeth II's first message to Parliament on her accession to the throne in 1952.
19.02.2016National Bills of Rights: International Examples
This House of Lords Library briefing examines the different models of national bills of rights adopted in a selection of countries.
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.

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