Open Letter on Constitutional Reform
The Centre for Welfare Reform, working with a broad alliance of different organisations, is calling for a Citizens' Convention in order to develop a better constitution for the UK. At the beginning of 2018 published an open letter calling for change.
We are currently running an ongoing project and you can get involved here.
Open Letter on Constitutional Reform: A new settlement between people and government is needed. We need a written constitution.
We, the undersigned, work to bring about a better, fairer society. However we have come to see that our efforts are compromised by an economic and political system that serves only the interests of the few.
Every day we see grotesque inequality, poverty wages and rising consumer debt, over-powerful banks and energy companies, a housing crisis, and disregard for environmental standards. Worst of all we see a retreating welfare state that inflicts punitive sanctions on some of our most vulnerable people and communities.
Multiple injustices at home are mirrored by a deeply unethical foreign policy. Rather than promote peace, uphold human rights and democratic norms, our foreign policy is dominated by commercial imperatives which include lucrative arms sales to countries with repressive regimes and abysmal human rights records.
None of these crises can be resolved without reference to basic principles of economic, social and environmental justice and these in turn should not be separate from the legislative principles that guide the work of Parliament.
To make this happen, we need a new settlement between people and government in the form of a written constitution that embeds a comprehensive bill of human rights, including economic, social and environmental rights. It must delimit the power of Parliament by devolving real power to the regions and nations that make up the UK and place local government on an independent legal footing. Only then can ordinary people gain real control over their lives and shape their own future. The people, not Parliament, must be the new sovereign and a written constitution is the means to achieve that.
We therefore call for a Citizens’ Convention on a written constitution as the first step towards this goal.
Extracts from letters of support from the political parties
Tom Brake MP of the Liberal Democrats
“I applaud your organisation's initiative...Britain is currently an over-centralised political system with a lack of openness and accountability. ….local government is hobbled by central control, and people feel they have no effective means of making known their concerns and priorities. It’s no wonder people feel frustrated and angry at the system….”
Caroline Lucas MP and Jonathan Bartley, co-leaders of the Green Party wrote:
"In common with the signatories to your letter, we are sickened by the grotesque inequality evident in our society today… and by the ideological privatisation of the NHS and destruction of the welfare state”.
“....the Green Party is committed to...developing a written constitution with a comprehensive Bill of Rights…. a system of proportional representation, using the Additional Member System, for parliamentary elections...aspiring to a 50:50 Parliament, with equal numbers of women and men, by 2025.”
Ian Blackford MP of the Scottish National Party wrote:
“As you will be aware, the SNP has long called for the transfer of power from Westminster to Scotland and we make no secret of the fact that we think the form of government best suited to the needs of people in Scotland is an independent one.”
“The SNP understand the need for ordinary people to take control over their lives and shape their own future. I fully support the principles of what you and others are trying to achieve through a constitutional convention and wish you the best in your efforts.”
Leanne Wood AM, Leader of Plaid Cymru
“I welcome the campaign’s willingness to engage with a wide range of voices, and look forward to making proposals for the multi-national nature of the UK to be recognised, and for self-determination for the constituent nations to be included as a principle.”
In addition the Centre had support from the Yorkshire Party and the Party for Cornwall.
The full list of signatories:
Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform
Doreen Kelly, Director of Beyond Limits
Damian Joseph Bridgeman of Bridgeman Healthcare
Katie Clarke, Director of Bringing Us Together
Dr David Towell of the Centre for Inclusive Futures
Steve Paget MBE Chair & Jane Johnson Chief Executive of disAbility Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
Simon Barrow, Director of Ekklesia
Laird Ryan, vice chair of Faiths4Change
Eri Mountbatten, Fellow Centre for Welfare Reform
Clare Hyde, Director of the Foundation for Families
Liz Leach of Imagineer and the National Brokerage Network
Steve Atherton, co-ordinator of Justice and Peace Network, Liverpool
Bob Rhodes, Director of LivesThroughFriends
Professor Mark Gamsu of Local Democracy and Health
Tim Keilty of New Prospects Association
Caroline Molloy, co-editor of Open Democracy
Pete Richmond CEO of Partners for inclusion
Peter Tatchell of Peter Tatchell Foundation
Deborah Harrington and Jessica Ormerod, Directors of Public Matters
Judith Moran, Director of Quaker Social Action
Paul Feldman of Real Democracy Movement
Will Snell of Tax Justice UK
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK
Catherine Hale, Project Manager of The Chronic Illness Inclusion Project
Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of the Equality Trust
Karen Imogen Senior, Director of the People Focused Group
Ed Straw of Treaty for Government
Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy
Cat Hobbs of We Own It
Les Scaife of West Lancs Peer Support Group
Jenny Engledow of Womens International League for Peace and Freedom
Owen Winter of Youth Parliament for Cornwall (ex member)
Klina Jordan, campaigner for proportional representation
Malcolm Ramsay of Local Sovereignty
Jennifer Forbes of Forbes website
Alain Catzeflis, Fellow of the Centre for Welfare Reform
Dr Claudia Gillberg, Senior Research Associate, National Centre for Lifelong Learning
Pat Onions of Pat's Petition
Mo Stewart, independent disability studies researcher
Colin Newton, co-founder of Inclusive Solutions
Phil Groom of 5 Quid for Life
Dr Lynne Friedli, Independent Researcher
Steven Preece, Editor and founder Welfare Weekly
Noreen Blanluet of Co-production Network for Wales
Jayne Linney, Disability Activist
Jamie Stanley, founder of electoral reform campaign group NOTA UK
Charmain Larke, Atlantic Energy, Cornwall
Sue Jones, Politics & Insights
The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.