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I have written before about the recently published Draft Clauses that would form part of a new Scotland Bill, the purpose of which would be to implement proposals made by the Smith Commission concerning further devolution to Scotland. The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee — to which I gave evidence on this matter — has now published its report. Continue reading…

Professor Cheryl Saunders gave the 2015 Sir David Williams Lecture at the Cambridge Law Faculty last week. Her title was: “Devolution. Federation. Constitution. From here to where?” In the lecture, Saunders considers the relationship — and the extent of the differences — between constitutional models based on federalism and devolution, using those notions both to illuminate the nature of the current British constitution, and to explore the way in which it might develop given the present trajectory of constitutional reform in the UK. I highly recommend the lecture to anyone interested in these issues. It can be viewed either below or via this link.

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Lady Hale gave the 2015 Bryce Lecture earlier this month, taking “The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom Constitution” as her title. The lecture does not break any new ground, but is a helpful overview of a range of issues concerning the constitutional authority of the courts vis-a-vis the other branches of government, with particular reference to contemporary issues relating to parliamentary sovereignty. In particular, Lady Hale considers the Jackson and AXA judgments, the implications for parliamentary sovereignty of devolution and membership of the European Union, and the courts’ role in relation to protecting fundamental rights. Law students, in particular, are likely to find this to be a useful survey. The full text of the lecture can be found here.

I posted here about the decision of Stewart J in R (Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. The case concerns a challenge to the lawfulness of UK Government allocations of EU funds to different parts of the UK, the essential argument being that the basis upon which such allocations were made failed to treat like regions alike and unlike regions differently. The Supreme Court ([2015] UKSC 6) has now given judgment, holding, by a 4-3 majority, that the Government’s decisions were lawful. The factual background and judgments are summarised very well in the Court’s press summary, and I will not attempt a further summary of my own. Rather, I simply draw attention to three significant aspects of the judgment. In doing so, I focus on the judgment of Lord Sumption (with which Lord Hodge and Lord Clarke agreed; Lord Neuberger, with whom Lord Clarke also agreed, was the other member of the majority), consider its relationship in certain aspects with other judgments. Continue reading…

I have written in other posts — here and here — about the constitutional implications of the proposed Scotland Bill arising from the Report of the Smith Commission. In advance of giving oral evidence on this matter to the House of Lords Constitution Committee and the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, I have made the following written submission to them.

The paper argues that clauses 1 and 2 of the proposed Scotland Bill are likely to be of limited, if any, legal effect; that the drafters of these provisions could, if they had wished, have attempted to implement the relevant provisions of Smith Commission’s report more fulsomely; that, however, the legal enforceability of more ambitious provisions would at the very least be open to question; and that the real significance of clauses 1 and 2 is likely to be political and symbolic rather than legal.

The paper can be downloaded as a PDF document via this linkContinue reading…

The Draft Scotland Bill — which aims to implement “the vow” made by the leaders of the major UK political parties in the closing days of the referendum campaign — has now been published. The first two sections of the Draft Bill are of interest (to me, at least) from a UK constitutional law perspective. They purport to implement proposals contained in the Report of the Smith Commission for Further Devolution of Powers to the Scottish Parliament to make the Scottish Parliament “permanent” and to put the Sewel convention — according to which the UK Parliament will not normally intervene in devolved affairs absent the consent of the relevant devolved legislature — “on a statutory footing”. Continue reading…

The House of Lords returned again yesterday to the implications for judicial review of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. (I have written about the Bill in several previous posts, the most recent of which can be found here.) The speech made by Lord Pannick in yesterday’s House of Lords debate sets out in emphatic and compelling terms why judicial review is constitutionally imperative, and why government attempts to clip the courts’ wings must be viewed with grave suspicion. The speech is worth reading in its entirety, but the following passage is particularly powerful:  Continue reading…