Gordon Brown’s Commission on the constitution of the UK has finished its report. Much of the press focus on the proposal to abolish/reform the House of Lords but it is much more thorough than that. I wonder if in its way its as ambitious as the Chilean constitution that failed earlier this year. I feel a blog article coming, here are my notes and thoughts, I publish them on 15th Dec, I have not yet finished reading the report. So I will almost certainly add to it. …


What I’ve found

  1. A New Britain: Renewing our Democracy and Rebuilding our Economy on the Labour Party web site also SURL at https://bit.ly/newrules4britain
  2. The IfG synopsis
  3.  and a paper published on the IfG site.
  4. In the Guardian, by Gordon Brown, and a report of the response of Labour’s Peers.
  5. Richard Murphy criticises the lack of ambition and principle on PR & the rights of self-determination of the Nations of the UK, in a wide ranging article on Labour’s policy nexus.
  6. Adam Tucker on Entrenchment, Parliamentary Sovereignty, and the Limited Radicalism of the Brown Report at UK Constitutional Law Blog. He comments on the nature and proposed scope of legislative entrenchment, he criticises what he sees as a backward analytical process, and an excessive obeisance to parliamentary sovereignty. A. Tucker, ‘Entrenchment, Parliamentary Sovereignty, and the Limited Radicalism of the Brown Report’, U.K. Const. L. Blog (15th December, 2022) (available at https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/))
  7. https://ukandeu.ac.uk/vaulting-ambition-constitutional-recognition-for-social-rights/
  8. https://ukandeu.ac.uk/a-new-guardian-for-the-british-constitution-labours-proposals-for-the-house-of-lords/

I have diigo’d some of these and others using the tags browncommission and britcon,

The ToC of the recommendations chapter is as follows,

  1. Chapter 6: Renewing the Purpose of the United Kingdom
  2. Chapter 7: The Right Powers in the Right Places
  3. Chapter 8: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a Reformed United Kingdom
  4. Chapter 9: Securing the Benefits of Co-operation
  5. Chapter 10: Cleaning up Westminster
  6. Chapter 11: A New Second Chamber for a New Britain

My views

A couple of questions come to the forefront of one’s mind. The first is how can these ‘constitutional changes’ be entrenched; if implemented by Parliament it can be undone by Parliament, although it could be made harder by excluding consideration from the parliament act, embedding it with a referendum and by placing an amendment process in the new constitution. It would also be harder to amend for factional/sectional advantage if the House of Commons were to be elected by a form of proportional representation.

There was a tweet by a tory MP claiming that the report was overreach, that things like education, and health, and even poverty should not be entrenched in  a basic law, but should be the outcome of the democratic process; this is reinforced by the IfG also point out that the establishment of social rights might increase the propensity for judicial review. Also if the left puts in the right to education and healthcare, the right will put in strong rights of property and/or constitutional debt ceilings.


My notes from the IfG commentary, they say,

  • The precise powers to be devolved to local partnerships could include skills, further education, job centres, and cultural spending. These would be accompanied by three-year block grants. There is also a commitment to neighbourhood-level devolution, including police hubs in each community, a community right to buy local social infrastructure, and the use of deliberative democratic processes.
  • The aim of the proposals is to provide a degree of constitutional protection for devolved powers; during the Brexit process the UK parliament was able to override the Sewel convention on a number of occasions.
  •  … the commission’s proposals are surprisingly light on issues related to the Union, and perhaps intentionally silent on the process for triggering an independence referendum in any of the UK’s constituent regions, with Brown stating publicly that there will be no future referendum in Scotland.
  •  … calls for the creation of a new Independent Integrity and Ethics Commission, I say, “Some might call an independent integrity and ethics commission the Police. But it’s all nonsense while accountable to a one party majority in the House of Commons”.
  • The report also reiterates an existing Labour pledge to create a new anti-corruption Commissioner, to “investigate and prosecute” corruption in public life.
  • Onn the new Council of Nations and Regions, “Unlike the current second chamber, it would not be able to delay legislation for a parliamentary session.
  • but would be …. given specific powers to safeguard the constitution; would be given new powers to reject legislation that relates to “constitutional statutes”.
  • In the consultation and implementation stage, the report implies that deliberative democracy techniques mught be used, the IFG says, “Citizens’ assemblies have been used elsewhere – such as in Ireland – to tackle big constitutional issues, but there are significant costs attached.

In a supplementary preview, Jess Sargent of the IFG comments, that the current House of Lords, “performs an essential role as a revising chamber” although, today, more frequently than before legislation is introduced in the Lords. I ask if the Lords scrutiny function is this about committee time and effort, or the separate mandate; I mean it does not have a separate mandate thus it must be about time. If so, perhaps there aren’t enough MPs and the legislative process is no longer suitable, i.e. 4 readings in full sittings of each House and this is before we consider secondary legislation scrutiny.

My notes from the report, I skipped the context

Devolution/subsidiarity in England

On English Devolution, in the press, they say that decisions will be taken as close to the citizen’s as possible, in actual fact, if we examine the words of the report, they are proposing to devolve to Metro-mayors and to encourage the coalescence of counties. The report continues Labour’s leadership’s love-in with executive Mayors, which I oppose. and only proposes to devolve to super authorities. The report says, ”

Our starting principle is that the powers we set out below should be available to all parts of the country, provided that, there is capacity and capability to use devolved powers appropriately,  they are delivered at most appropriate levels, and there is proper accountability and scrutiny.

Is this another set of tea leaves? Brown clearly sees any increase in powers being devolved to metro-mayors and not below. Most appropriate ≠ lowest feasible. Another quote,

… none [of our proposals] would lead to existing local authorities or metro mayors losing the power they have today

Brown proposes the devolution of powers on “Skills and FE” ignoring the privatisation of under 16 state education. They ask for Job Centre plus to be put under council administrations control as part of a plan for full employment and good jobs. (This is supply side only; I and others are not sure its enough.) When looking at the Sheffield effect of Civil Service dispersal, I looked up the MSC on wikipedia and discovered that the TSA was given to local authorities ending the experiment of central govt. provided training. It reminds me of a story I was told when the DE was demerging the job centre’s from the UBOs, “someone is going to get themselves promoted by putting these organisations back together”. They were wrong but so often what goes around, comes around. The TSA was created and given to DE because DE would spend the money as central government wanted, if given to the DES (as it was then), the money would have been given to local authorities. The commission talk of devolving powers on transport and infrastructure by which they mean road and rail. It focuses mainly on fares but also on guaranteeing project funding which is important. On combatting climate change, they propose to enhance local powers to mandate/encourage green retrofitting and to fund EV charging points. Thet recommend some small changes in housing and development, mainly removing national guidelines/laws to allow local authorities to meet local need, such is in the regulation of short term lets and holiday homes, and to enable landlord licencing and the provision of child care. They propose a stronger local voice in culture funding programmes although they are confused as to whether culture has its own value or should be justified by economic growth. There’s a failure to understand the relationship and differences between micro- and meso-economic subsidy i.e. supporting Rockstar North might have three goals, profit maximisation, export generation or local wealth creation, maybe all three, but the policy outcome is not an accident.

The talk about accountability and scrutiny of these newly empowered local authorities. They focus on elections and recommend the reversal of the Tories tinkering with supplementary vote vs first past the post for Mayors and public question time. I’d have thought the abolition of the audit commission and reversing that would have been an important step to improve scrutiny. Labour should tell the truth, very few majority groups have the talent or inclination to press rigorous scrutiny especially when their position is at the grace of the executive. Something clever needs to be done here.

They conclude

The London Assembly model, on the other hand, allows for formal scrutiny of the Mayor by directly elected Assembly members. As devolution develops, greater powers will require fuller and more formal scrutiny, the mechanisms for which might include moves towards such a model.

There’s more in this section which I will complete at  later time.

None of the works without bi-partisan or constitutional commitment to local ‘needs-based’ funding with a long term guarantee. Money has to be transferred and guaranteed. These guarantees need to be not subject to parliamentary sovereignty.

Supporting Economic Development

On first glance this is so much better, than the subsidiarity section. The preamble talks of a series of schemes and compares the UK with Germany, but fails to mention the EU’s Horizon Europe scheme which spend 5bn EUR in the UK in the last year of the transition agreement.

They say

the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee65 notes, the government is failing to meet even its existing ambitions for science because of poor, bureaucratic, implementation and lack of the international cooperation which is essential in science.

And baked into Horizon Europe, slaso

piloting the ‘Innovation Deals’, recommended by Nesta with R&D funding devolved to MCAs that can demonstrate the analytic capacity to spend this money effectively.67


The Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) run by the UK Research Institutes has been a good start. Its aims have been to support innovation-led regional growth, enhance local collaborations involving research and innovative support and as the mission of UKRI states to “help areas of the UK to build on existing strengths in research and innovation to deliver benefits for their local economy”. … The SIPF, which should be properly supported, could usefully be extended and supported longer term from R&D commitments … it also must explicitly include the replacement for the EU regional development programmes (currently titled the ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’). This all needs shared management and multi-level governance in which devolved powers to cities, regions and mayors in all parts of the UK play a key role alongside Whitehall and the Devolved Administrations in the delivery of these programmes.

The point here is that there are institutions, which need funding, inc. replacing the now missing the EU funds. The report talks of breaking out beyond the golden triangle but as ever, has no idea of how to identify worthwhile projects and long term winners unless it’s to supplement the civil servants and their independent experts with Mayors. We should also note the historic underfunding of EU programme bids by HMG leading UK academia and medium and small businesses at the mercy of the consultancies and big business.

They recommend that the UK infrastructure Bank is given a goal of an explicit mission to address regional economic inequality. It should be renamed the British Regional Investment Bank. and that also First Ministers, Mayors and council’s should be part of the Bank’s governance. More fees? Trebles all round.

On the NIB, and the Universities they say,

The Bank could also offer more support to our world class university sector in ensuring innovative new ideas can be diffused and incorporated by SMEs and start ups. We have among the highest concentration of top universities in the world, spread across the UK – yet the record of commercialization of spinouts/research is poor outside Golden Triangle. The Bank should assist and advise universities on this, provide, providing matched funding of investments in local spinouts – with the goal of ensuring that the UK has the highest levels of spinouts per capita in the world.

No mention of Horizon Europe. They do make a nod towards the sources of innovation within the NHS and the Universities but they It reminds of a quote from ICT 2008, Europe is good at turning money into ideas, less so at turning ideas into money. We should note that outside the golden triangle the British Universities are less globally competitive. There’s some words struggling to talk about appropriate means of organising and hearing the voices of local entities that do not have a local govt. representation. It’s an important problem to solve and nothing has worked so far.

They talk about the UK’s world leading Universities; I last looked at this in June 2022, when the QS Index scored the UK with eight Universities in the top 50 universities and now third to the USA & China. The US outnumbers us both.

Section 4: Fiscal power for local government

England is the most fiscally centralised of any large country.80 Virtually all tax decisions are taken by the central Treasury, and the remaining tax powers of local councils heavily circumscribed. Central government also takes virtually all spending decisions, forcing councils to bid repeatedly for resources from the centre, even as their core budgets are being cut. This trend has worsened under the Conservatives. In the West Midlands for example the mayor controls just 0.4% of day-to-day public spending, compared with 84% is controlled from Whitehall.81 Devolution in England must involve greater power over spending and taxation decisions, but this must be done in a careful, managed way, to ensure equity in the distribution of public resources and access to services. Change should begin with greater certainty and flexibility for local government in present budgets and powers.

This is spot-on.

Recommendation 13: Local government should be given more capacity to generate its own revenue with new fiscal powers. They say,

We therefore recommend giving local government greater fiscal flexibility:
• Mechanisms that ensure there is local benefit from developments including infrastructure improvements should be strengthened and further developed.86 • We support fiscal devolution, where relevant and beneficial. Local decision makers are considering taxes and levies at a local level. It is for the Shadow Chancellor to make any announcements in due course. • Local areas could also retain some of the savings they generate in taking people off benefits and into work. • We note that Labour has announced a plan to replace non-domestic rates with
a new tax on business property. This should build on the business rates retention scheme, and ensure that local authorities share in the proceeds of local economic growth.

The last of these proposals is one of the key reasons that New Labour’s regional policy failed last time.

They then talk about three or five year plans. Joke. They talk about care being needed not to disrupt any equalisation scheme but there isn’t an equalisation scheme, those areas with the greatest need generate the least income.

The whole local government proposals cannot work without a transfer union. From each according to their ability, to each according to need. This is particularly so whole income transfer schemes are funded by councils.

Local Authority initiated legislation

We therefore propose a new and different mechanism which we call Special Local Legislation. There should be a different, and special, procedure which applies, so that it is quicker, less cumbersome and expensive, but still subject to proper democratic scrutiny. They recognise the opportunity to conflict with devolution settlements and propose that these acts are scrutinised by the new upper chamber. It is unclear if they propose that the Commons get a say or not. Surely they must!

Strengthening Community power by establishing a community right to buy, a local police hub in all communities and a local collective say in community endeavours such as football teams.

Greater use of deliberative and participative processes at a local level, great but how well used is it where it happens.

Great ambition but small steps.

Recommendation 15: There should be “double devolution” that pushes power closer to people – giving them and their community the right to have more of a say on the issues that affect them, the services they use and the places they live

Finally, but can we do this and sustain metro-mayors?

Civil Service Numbers

They are concerned about the state, quality and independence of the civil service, and propose a legislative solution.

A well designed statute would for the first time guarantee the permanence, impartiality and objectivity of the civil service. It would define who is accountable for what between ministers and civil servants.

However this proposal does not make it into the recommendations list. Shame

They propose to relocate 50,000 Civil Servants from London to the Regions, this is fanciful,

  1. Most Civil Servants are now outside London https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/location-civil-service Those in London are either in service delivery or close advisors to Ministers. The secret barrister documents the effects of even regionalising services i.e. the courts.
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/civil-service-statistics-2022/statistical-bulletin-civil-service-statistics-2022

From the IFG,

As of March 2022, there were 510,080 people employed in the home civil service, across the UK and overseas*. Of these, 104,830 (21%) were based in London – an increase of almost 3,000 since March 2021 and 13,170 since March 2020.

50,000 from 510K is doable, 50K from 104K when over half of these people are engaged in service delivery to Londoners, i.e. DWP, MoJ & HMRC sounds infeasible to me, particularly given the current government is planning to relocate 15,700 in the next three years. The extensive list presented as targets for relocation, almost certainly generate trivial numbers of jobs. There is no mention of the downsides of relocation of government depertments also known to me as Sheffield syndrome; when the Manpower Services Commission Head Office moved from London to Sheffield, it generated a local house price boom, followed by a shortage pricing out long term residents.

I note that the criticisms aimed at the civil service, i.e. little knowledge of the world outside government, insufficient scientists, and the strange idea that Londoner’s can’t understand the regions,  have been there for ever. There is no mention of the influence of Oxbridge nor the private schools on the Civil Service, but then the Commission was probably full of Oxbridge graduates Their arguments are confused on numbers in local goverment and those working for central government.

Devolution and Co-operation between the nations


They propose, after recognising that the English devolution measures will change WEstminster’s relationship with all communities in the UK, recommend,

  • The new “solidarity clause” under which each of the UK’s governments will be committed to work together. (That’ll work then; see Northern Ireland and GFA).
  • A new Council of the Nations and Regions, replacing the present dysfunctional Joint Ministerial Committees, based in statute and with an
    independent supporting secretariat, to drive joint working.
  • Entrenchment and protection of devolved power, safeguarded by new powers of the reformed Second Chamber of Parliament, acting as an Assembly of the Nations and Regions to ensure that the powers of the devolved administrations are always respected by central government, and cannot be overridden simply by a government using its majority in the House of Commons. (Interesting, could this work?)
  • As a result, there will be more open, transparent and accountable ways in which disputes and disagreements between the governments can be
    dealt with.
  • a new, statutory, formulation of the Sewel convention, which should be legally binding, and the legislation giving effect to the Sewelconvention should be one of the protected constitutional laws which require  not just of the House of Commons but of the reformed second chamber also
  • the Scottish Parliament and government to have greater powers to promote Scotland across the world, both to represent Scotland as a nation, and to promote its economic and social interests. We therefore propose that the Scottish Government should, with the approval of the Scottish Parliament (and where appropriate, the assistance of the UK government) be able to enter into agreements with international bodies relevant to devolved matters.
  • Members of the Scottish Parliament should enjoy the same privileges and protections as Members of Parliament in relation to statements made in their proceedings
  • Within Scotland, the commission says, its a matter for Scotland but that if the english devolution plans work then Scotland could benefit from similar proposals, this is summarised in a recommendation, “There is a strong case for pushing power as close as possible to people in Scotland, and consideration should be given to establishing new forms of local and regional leadership, such as directly elected Mayors” I have said before what I think of DEMs.

On powers within co-operating polities they say, on P106,

Nevertheless it is important to keep under review which different issues are best the responsibility of either the UK or devolved legislatures or, as is increasingly clearly seen, best managed through cooperation between them. In doing so, our objective is balance the legitimate desire for autonomy with the obvious and pressing need for cooperation in the interests of the people of our country. We believe that two guidelines follow from this:

  • The first is that unless conditions can be better managed by the UK institutions, or perhaps in cooperation between the UK and devolved government, we should apply the principle of subsidiarity, so that powers should be decentralised and so operate at the devolved level (or indeed be decentralised there). This already underlies the Scotland Act 1998, which provides that matters are automatically devolved in Scotland unless explicitly reserved.
  • The second is that cooperation is essential in an interdependent world. Scotland benefits from being part of a wider economic area in which more than £50bn of trade is conducted (four times more than with mainland Europe) and on which over one million jobs depend. The UK economic market is for all underpinned by a social market where we share common minimum standards in, for example social welfare such as pensions, or employment rights including the minimum wage and basic conditio ns of work.

Could everyone note, that point 2 in that piece applies to the relationship with the EU too. Are they trolling Starmer & Reeves with their not in 50years?

More importantly is point one where they declare a principle of subsidiarity

The recommend the transfer of the administration of the Job Centres and the primary legislative responsibility for workers rights to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.  Some soft words about macro-skills management and co-operation between the UK & Scottish Government on the work of the Migration Advisory Committee. There’s some odd words on borrowing and taxation, where the SP has powers but needs permission from the Treasury, permission that would not be forthcoming under the Tories. (I think this is just vacuous fluff, but I am prepared to be persuaded otherwise.) There’s some more stuff about the National Investment Bank and industrial innovation clusters, but again no mention of Horizon Europe nor its mandatory town/gown collaboration features.


They start with, “Enhanced Protection: Welsh devolution should be constitutionally protected by strengthening the Sewel Convention and protecting it from amendment through the new second chamber.” and like Scotland, they propose to extend parliamentary privilege to Members of the Senedd.

Job Centres, devolution of youth justice and the probation service but not the police? Although they state the desirable principle is equivalence with Scotland.

Investment to increase growth and support innovation access to the National Investment Bank.

Northern Ireland

Notes a different roiute to devolution, and syas, “the future of self-government is determined under the Good Friday Agreement. Today the priority
to restore devolved government in Belfast. Recommendation 26: We support devolution in Northern Ireland, consistent with the principle of consent and the commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and wish to see it restored and strengthened.

And of course a remit to the NIB to support Northern Ireland. Nothing about Brexit or the Border.

Bringing it together

  1. Entrenching and Safeguarding the Division of Powers between Governments
  2. A “Solidarity Clause”
  3. New Legally-based Institutions of Cooperation: A new, statutorily mandated, Council of the Nations and Regions, to promote cooperation and facilitate joint working between different levels of government in the UK as a whole and within England, with its role enhanced by the creation of an independent secretariat
  4. Openness, Transparency and accountability in intergovernmental working, … and have the serious issues of concern debated in the new second chamber.
  5. We also propose a new requirement on UK wide public institutions including the Bank of England and other public bodies to include the nations and regions of the UK in their governance and oversight arrangements

It is proposed “wholly new body but an upgraded version of the Joint Ministerial Committee, and should therefore draw upon existing staffing and resources.101 It would be tasked with managing relations between the UK government and the Commission on the UK’s Future 119 devolved administrations, with an internal structure able to develop over time, especially as English devolution grows. The see this evolving from the Joint Ministerial Councils which have become ineffective and they see there being a council of Regions and Nations, Council of the UK and Council of England. These are to be mainly bodies consisting of executive bodies. (Pages 118-119)

They recommend that in Parliament there should be an English Grand Committee, one of who’s jobs would be to scrutinise and validate locally initiated legislation.

On international trade which is clearly an issue in which devolved Governments have an interest,”Recommendation 32: International trade policy should be made more inclusive of devolved leaders across the UK, and have an explicit focus on reducing the UK’s regional economic inequality”. In the preamble to this they mention regional inequality but not Brexit. 🤓

Cleaning Up Westminster

They say,

We believe the following recommendations will achieve that:

  • Eliminating foreign money from UK politics
  • Banning the vast majority of second jobs for MPs
  • A new Independent Integrity and Ethics Commission, with the power to investigate breaches of a new, stronger code of conduct
  • A powerful new body to ensure all appointments in public life are made on merit
  • Juries of ordinary citizens to determine whether rules have been broken; interesting, how large would this be?
  • A new UK wide anti-corruption Commissioner, appointed by the parliaments of the UK but now suggestion of powers, except to report to Parliament[s].

It’s probably not enough, we need to ask why it doesn’t work today. Most of this is law or convention anyway. Our Money Laundering and anti-corruption laws are amongst the strongest in the world. The problem is the accountability of regulators, which brings us back to the Audit Commission, and the Police, who seem loathe to investigate leading politicians. For most MP corruption, the House of Commons is its own judge and jury. The IfG state that Labour’s commitment to independence is limited as they still see Parliament i.e. the House of Commons having a significant role in dealing with corruption. We also have the increasing politicisation of the control process as we see in the US, where people designated as Judges even in treason cases, take the Party whip. The independent integrity and ethics commission is just tinkering,

Jim Pickard says, and I retweet a summary of the “Cleaning up westminster” section, I reinforce the need to keep foreign money out of politics.


Chapter 11: A New Second Chamber of Parliament for a New Britain

They say,

The Johnson administration demonstrated beyond all doubt that our system allows the government of the day, if it is heedless of propriety and convention, to act in any way it sees fit and abuse the power with which it has been entrusted.  …..  it also requires new constitutional limits on government, so that no government of whatever party can ever behave like this again. …

We must ensure that political power in the UK is, and will remain, shared and distributed, rather than hoarded at the centre; that it is subject to proper constitutional limits, not simply exercised at the whim of government; and that it is properly accountable to Parliament and the courts.


They have a section which seeks to codify second chambers around the world sile acknowledging that at least two small countries, NZ & Israel do not have one. They compare and contrast the US Senate and the Canadian upper house, but do not look at the French or German models.

They say,

There are things which the second chamber should not do:

  • It should have no role in the forming or sustaining governments. That, as today, must fall to the House of Commons.
  • Similarly, it should have no responsibility for decisions about public spending or taxation, including National Insurance
  • It should not in general be able to reject legislation but should be able to propose amendments
  • These limitations on its powers must be set out clearly in the statute which creates the new chamber, so that there is no ambiguity about the relationship between it and the House of Commons. Commission on the UK’s Future

But it can have a new role, complementary to, and not in competition with, the House of Commons. It should discharge four broad functions:

  • Constructive scrutiny of legislation and government policy, as the House of Lords at its best does today.
  • Bringing together the voices of the different nations and regions of the UK at the centre of government.
  • Monitoring adherence to standards in public life.
  • Most significant of all, exercising new but precisely drawn powers to safeguard the constitution of the United Kingdom and the distribution of power within it.

So, preserve the commons power of initiation and finance, formalise that the 2nd chamber cannot veto the Commons.  The second chamber should be elected on a different cycle, the rpeort is silent on means and electorate; they stae it needs to be geographically representative.

The new second chamber will exercise important functions for which such legitimacy is required, and we therefore propose that it should be elected a regional basis across the United Kingdom. We a envisage chamber three quarters smaller than the present Lords, at around 200, and more in line with second chambers elsewhere.

See below on numbers

If the new second chamber is to function as an Assembly of the Nations and Regions, there is a case for elected national and regional leaders to be able to participate in the second chamber to raise issues of pressing concern on which the voices of the nations of the UK, or of its different localities, should be directly heard.

This could be a right of address or could be ex-officio membership.

Revising Chamber of 200,

200, really? They have a table of other upper house sizes.

Table 1 : Upper Houses

I review the academic papers on the size of parliaments, and the ratio of elected politicians to people. One interesting point is that assemblies that are too small are easily captured (by the executive),  and those that are too large, more likely to deliver reduced quality as people look for unnecessary work, “The Devil finds work for idle hands”. One proposal to guide avoiding these threats is that assemblies are sized to be the cube root (∛) of the population. Personally I am not convinced.  While representation and these ratios, are important, the size of a legislative chamber also needs to take account the amount of effort required to perform the functions. An assembly of over 1000, will almost certainly mean that some/many representatives will not speak in the chamber, however these underestimates the work of committees, this is so particularly if the chamber has restricted, in terms of dates, sittings times. The second chamber in the UK has become the 1st source of legislation when the Govt . has a busy programme and plays an important role in scrutinising secondary legislation, which itself should be more limited than currently occurs. The sole purpose of secondary legislation is to avoid effective parliamentary scrutiny.

An assembly of two hundred with geographical balance means some very small delegations from the Nations, and also would make say the election of colleges on different cycles difficult while maintaining geographical balance.

On the basis of of representation, focus, independence, integrity and effort, 200 is far too small.

One interesting fact I discovered was about the German Upper House, the Bundesrat . It consists of 46 appointed by the Länder cabinets and each Land delegation votes as a block. Interesting, no wonder the German’s are Ok with the EU Council. The Indian upper house, the Council of States, is the  has a maximum membership of 245, of which 233 are elected by the legislatures of the states and union territories using single transferable votes through open ballots, while the president can appoint 12 members for their contributions to art, literature, science, and social services.

The table lists countries their size of upper house, their populations they represent, the ratio, i.e. a measurement of how representative reps are, a high number means that each rep is representing many people. The 5th column, 😄, is the ∛ of the population and the 6th column measures the difference of the upper houses from that rule.

PR & the Commons

The elephant in the room, the ERS have made a statement, entitled,“Brown Commission reforms offer first blueprint for much needed democratic renewal” has some interesting further reading to explore, they say in image only, “without addressing the Commons, the aims of Brown’s Commission can only fall short.

What if Sharpf is right, and that judges & basic law, will stymie even social democratic ambitions.

Is it a social rights based constitution?

So many words are spent on describing the political location of powers, igt’s easy to fail to find the Commission’s statement about the need to restate the purpose of government and the collective purpose of the state. (Well it was for me, perhaps that says something about me. In Chapter 6: Renewing the Purpose of the United Kingdom, the report proposes,

Recommendation 1: The political, social, and economic purposes of the UK as a Union of Nations, which the overwhelming majority of people in the country already accept, should be laid out in a new constitutional statute guiding how political power should be shared within it.


The UK is a group of nations, peoples and places and which have come together in a shared Parliament at Westminster to provide together what can be better provided together than separately:
• The UK as a union aims to provide security and safety for all its citizens through a shared foreign affairs and defence policy.
• The UK also ensures the rule of law and the provision of domestic security and order, and common civil and political rights irrespective of race, sex, gender or religion.
• The UK seeks to provide economic opportunity and security for the whole country through a shared economic system with a common currency and macroeconomic framework and an efficient single domestic market for goods, services and capital, as well as a common UK labour market which provides opportunities for workers while protecting their rights.
• The UK is also a social union, recognising its obligation to guarantee Social Security and pensions, universal education, universal health care free at the point of need and other social support to all, irrespective of whether they live in more or less prosperous parts of the country and with a view to ensuring that no child, no family and no elderly citizen need live in poverty.

They this propose tbat new constitutional rights be entrenched,

We therefore propose the following basic rights package, which would be subject to constitutional protection:

  • Health: Every person entitled to healthcare in the UK, will receive it free at the point of need, wherever they are in any part of the UK; no person shall be denied emergency treatment.

  • Education: every child shall be entitled to free primary and secondary education, wherever they are in any part of the UK

  • Poverty: So that no child, family or elderly citizen need live in poverty, every person legitimately present in the UK shall be entitled to social assistance in relation to periods of unemployment, disability or old age, in accordance with the relevant laws. No person shall be left destitute.

  • Housing: every person shall be entitled to decent accommodation, in accordance with the relevant law relating to housing and homelessness.


Dave Politics , , ,

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