Ministry of Justice
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Governance of Britain Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill gives more power to Parliament
New proposals to give Parliament more power to hold the Government to account and strengthen its relationship with the people were announced by Justice Secretary Jack Straw today.
The proposals include lifting restrictions on protests around Parliament, giving Parliament a clear process to approve decisions about going to war, greater scrutiny of treaty ratification and reforming the role of the Attorney General.
Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, said:
"The reforms proposed today are a significant commitment to ensure that power lies where it should - with Parliament and the people. The draft bill builds on the Government's record of constitutional reform - we have set up assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland and the parliament in Scotland, a new Supreme Court for the United Kingdom, and introduced the freedom of information and human rights acts.
"Today is the next stage of that process and of redistribution of power to Parliament and the people. In this way the bond between the Government and the governed remains strong and the people who bestow power through the ballot box can have confidence in those who exercise it through Parliament."
Building on proposals and consultations set out in the 2007 Governance of Britain Green Paper, the Constitutional Renewal White Paper and Draft Bill published today put forward firm proposals for change.
Key reforms include:
Managing protest around Parliament
The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith will remove the legal requirement to give notice of demonstrations around Parliament and obtain the authorisation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Role of the Attorney General
Introducing a new requirement for the Attorney General to report to Parliament on an annual basis.
Removes the Attorney General's power to give directions to the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Director of the Serious Fraud Office or the Director of Revenue and Customs Prosecuting Office except to safeguard national security.
Transfers the requirement to obtain the consent of the Attorney General for a prosecution to specified prosecutors in most cases and abolishes the Attorney General's power to halt a trial on indictment.
Removing the Prime Minister from the process for appointing Supreme Court judges and reducing the Lord Chancellor's role in judicial appointments below the High Court.
Formalising in law Parliament's role in scrutinising treaties: consent will only be provided once a treaty has been laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days. This excludes European Union treaties.
Putting the Civil Service's core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality into law, as well as the fundamental principle of appointment on merit on the basis of fair and open competition.
Setting out the process Parliament should follow to approve any commitment of Armed Forces into conflict. A House of Commons resolution will define a clear role for Parliament while ensuring national security is not compromised.
Flying the Flag
Following a consultation led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the relaxing of restrictions that currently allow the Union Flag to be flown on only 18 designated days on UK Government buildings. On St Andrew and St David's days the flags of Scotland and Wales can be flown with the Union Flag.
The proposals are another step in the Government's programme of constitutional change which, since 1997 has seen fundamental reforms such as devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a Mayor of London; the transformation of the role of Lord Chancellor; set the course for the creation of a Supreme Court; introduction of the Human Rights Act; the Freedom of Information Act and major reform of the House of Lords, including the removal of the majority of heredity peers.
Notes to Editors
1. The Governance of Britain Constitutional Renewal White Paper, Draft Bill and consultation responses are available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/whatwedo/governance.htm
2. The Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary's oral statement is available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/announcement250308a.htm
3. The Governance of Britain Green Paper is available at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/governanceofbritain.htm
4. The Draft Bill contains legislation on managing protest around Parliament (the repeal of sections 132-138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005), the role of the Attorney General, judicial appointments, ratification of treaties and the civil service.
5. The Governance of Britain Constitutional Renewal White Paper contains proposals on reform of the Intelligence and Security Committee, wider review of the Royal Prerogative, flag flying, passports, National Audit Office and senior public appointments.