Labour has failed to deliver real constitutional reform

September 12, 2008 3:55 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference today backed new plans to give citizens a much stronger voice in Britain's democracy.

The proposals include: Making it easier for people to petition Parliament, particularly online Introducing 'people's bills', where the six legislative proposals which receive the most petition signatures are guaranteed a debate in Parliament Introducing Single Transferable Vote for all elections to the upper and lower houses of Parliament Setting up a constitutional convention to review and improve the governance of the UK

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson, David Howarth said:

"Over the last decade the Government has nibbled at the edges of constitutional reform without delivering any meaningful reform.

"Their endless promises of change will not impress the millions of people whose votes are irrelevant under the deeply unfair electoral system that Labour and the Tories seek to protect.

"The proposals passed today would not only transform the electoral landscape of Britain, they would give everybody a stronger voice in our democracy.

The full text of the motion is copied below:

Conference notes:

a) In the Government's 2007 Governance of Britain Green Paper, it proposed to 'improve direct democracy', yet has failed for over a year to produce substantive proposals on how it plans to do this at Parliamentary level.

b) Liberal Democrat-run councils such as Kingston have led the way in developing more participatory forms of decision-making.

c) The party outlined a number of proposals for rolling out best practice nationwide in Policy Paper 79, The Power to be Different (2007).

Conference believes that giving the public a greater say in policy-making and a right to petition elected representatives at all levels of government could enhance representative democracy by providing accountability and clearer lines of communication between elected representatives and their constituents.

Conference also believes that it is imperative that local authorities, communities and civic society have access to the best advice and resources to support the empowerment of individuals and communities. Conference therefore regrets the closure, by the Government, of the International Centre of Excellence for Local e-Democracy, which was set up to provide extensive resources, training and advice for local government.

Conference therefore calls for:

1. A petitioning system fit for the 21st century: the system for petitioning Parliament should be simplified and it should be possible to submit petitions online; Parliament should develop a system formally to consider petitions submitted to it and take action where appropriate, and any resident or expatriate of the UK or a British Overseas Territory would have a right to petition Parliament in this way.

2. People's bills: whereby the six legislative proposals that received the most petition signatures from registered voters in any given year would be guaranteed a second reading debate in the House of Commons.

3. A responsive electoral system: elect both Houses of Parliament using single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies (STV); unlike other electoral systems, STV gives the voter choice between candidates from a particular party, as well as choice between parties.

4. A Constitutional Convention: an independent convention to review how to improve the governance of the UK, including producing a written constitution, as set out in Policy Paper 83 For the People, By the People; at least 51% of the Convention's membership would be made up of randomly selected members of the electorate, and the government would be required by law to co-operate with the Convention.

5. An e-Democracy Centre: to initiate and encourage the use of e-Democracy tools by individuals, communities and governments at all levels, funded by central government on a permanent basis.

Due to the clear need for security when implementing such measures, conference reiterates its call for individual voter registration and resolves that submitting petitions in support of People's Bills and to veto legislation should be subject to the same level of scrutiny as nominating candidates for election.