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Thursday, March 09, 2006
A Written Constitution for Britain - time we had one !
There are some sure disgruntled journalists at a newspaper I will refrain from naming .... I have received several emails from journalists who read this blog - with regard to the issues of lawyers 'slipping in to the trade & masquerading as journalists' ..... seems I was right about that .... no surprises there though ....
Unfortunately, the case seems to be that if anyone raises this as a point at their work these days, they get fired, or hounded out of their jobs .. so that would account for a heavy slant towards the legal profession in some unnamed Scottish newspaper I would guess ... yes ? ...
well, lads, keep up the good work as much as you can, and be assured - I am bound to the same levels of keeping my sources secret as much as you are ... won't get me telling on any of my contacts identities - and I never have !
Anyway, on to a related topic - of interest to us all I think :
Something we sorely need in the UK - a written constitution, rather than the mess of laws and fiddles we currently have to rely on to safeguard our rights .... something which is damned hard to do these days in Britain - with Tony Blair opting out of European Commission Human Rights Legislation when he feels like it ... and of course, lawyers only taking on cases relating to Human Rights issues when it doesn't cross with their own profession's policy on ECHR and transparency .....
example - ask a lawyer in Scotland to take a case on against the legal profession for abuse of human rights ? - you get nowhere - you are denied Legal Aid, if you need it, and you case is buried ..... but ask a lawyer to take on an issue which the legal profession can back-door bargain with the Executive ... ? then .. yes ... the case goes forward, in a contrived, arranged way ... but you don't really get a success of course ....
New push for written constitution By Ollie Stone-Lee BBC News political reporter
The case for a written UK constitution is proved by the government's decision to create a guide to the constitution, says campaign group Charter88.
The UK relies on a mass of laws, conventions and judges' decisions instead of a specific constitution.
But ministers are paying for a guide to teach teenagers about the constitution.
The government says it is not creating a written constitution by the "back door". Charter88 says if the guide is needed, so is a full constitution.
Debate surfaced recently about the role of the Prince of Wales when a former aide told the High Court the heir to the throne saw himself as a "dissident" working against political consensus.
Peter Facey, co-director of Charter88, said he welcomed any guide which tried to clarify the constitution for schoolchildren, but he wished the publishers luck.
"Our current constitutional settlement is largely unwritten. Different things apply in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland," he told the BBC News website.
"Misunderstanding is rife, and even in academic circles there are still massive debates going on."
We don't want to look as though we want to create one through the back door Department for Constitutional Affairs spokesman
"Writing a quick, simple guide to this tangled mess will be quite the task.
"It's obvious that the very need for a guide to our constitution demonstrates the requirement for a clear and transparent constitution, one that British citizens will be able to access quickly and easily."
The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) is paying the Citizenship Foundation £197,000 to produce the constitution guide, not including the costs of printing and distributing it.
It will be aimed at 14 to 19-year-olds, amid government fears that the younger generation is ignorant about constitutional issues.
Work on writing the guide is just finishing and it is expected to be printed in April or May, and distributed in July.
The authors say they want it to be accessible and designed in an engaging way so students understand what the constitution is.
Ministers want to improve youngsters' knowledge of the constitution
The guide will make clear in its introduction that there is no specific written constitution.
A DCA spokesman stressed the government did not want to create a written constitution.
"We don't want to look as though we want to create one through the back door," he said.
The spokesman added: "We think it is important that people understand our constitution and the way it works.
"It chimes with the government's general commitment to citizenship education."
Anthony Barnett, editor of Open Democracy, said having the guide would make people more aware of the need for a written constitution.
"Anything which makes the present state of affairs more widely know is a good thing definitely," he said.
"It will make the arguments stronger for a democratic citizens' constitution, which obviously has to be written."
Former Cabinet minister and constitutional expert Lord St John of Fawsley said it would be difficult or "probably impossible" to write a guide to a constitution which was not a specific written document.
"But if keeps them out of mischief...," he joked.
"You do not need it. There are plenty of books on the constitution. I have written a few myself."
Lord St John said he hoped the authors of the guide would consult widely.
"The whole point of our constitution is that it has grown over the centuries and it can adapt to the circumstances," he argued.
"You can see if you contrast it to the United States constitution the folly of having a written constitution. We have depended on our institutions."
Conservative shadow constitutional affairs minister Oliver Heald said he thought the guide was worth producing as long as it did not cost millions of pounds.
"There is a real problem that young people do not know enough about our system and our constitution and I think they ought to know more about Parliament too," he said.
Mr Heald was also opposed to having a specific written constitution, although he thought it was worth looking at calls for a bill of rights.