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Constitutional Conventions: Possible Options in the New Parliament

Published Friday, March 20, 2015

This Note sets out some of the ‘key issues’ that have been put forward as being important when a process of constitutional review or reform is being devised and briefly highlights examples of the different structures used during such processes both in the UK and around the world. The Note ends with an overview of the latest known positions of a selection of political parties represented in the current House of Commons on the case for holding a constitutional convention.

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Discussion of the case for a UK constitutional convention predates the Scottish referendum on independence held in September 2014, but has received increased attention in the months since voting in that referendum took place. Four of the five UK-wide political parties currently polling above 5 percent in the run-up to the general election scheduled to be held on 7 May 2015—the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the United Kingdom Independence Party and the Green Party—have supported calls for a constitutional convention to consider aspects of the constitution or the constitution as a whole. Some politicians in the Conservative Party, though not the leadership of that party, have also reportedly expressed support for the idea of holding a constitutional convention in the new Parliament. However, despite agreement among some of the parties, there appears to be less clarity, or indeed consensus, on a number of factors, including on what form such a convention may take, what remit it may have and what difficulties it may face in practice.

This Note sets out some of the ‘key issues’ that have been put forward as being important when a process of constitutional review or reform is being devised and briefly highlights examples of the different structures used during such processes both in the UK and around the world. The Note ends with an overview of the latest known positions of a selection of political parties represented in the current House of Commons on the case for holding a constitutional convention.

This Note uses the definition of a constitutional convention as a representative body collected together to discuss constitutional change. It is not concerned with constitutional conventions in the sense of uncodified procedural agreements followed by the institutions of a state.

Lords Library notes LLN-2015-008

Author: Thomas Brown

Topic: Constitution

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