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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
At-a-glance: Constitutional plans
The government is planning to reform the UK's constitution. Here is a guide to what is proposed.

BILL OF RIGHTS AND DUTIES/WRITTEN CONSTITUTION

  • Eventually the government hopes to create a general document, or set of documents, setting out reforms to the UK constitution.

  • It is consulting in several areas, with the aim of achieving a "consensus" on change.

  • Justice Minister Michael Wills has said he thinks that, if far-reaching reforms are proposed, a referendum would be "inevitable".

    FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

  • Ministers say there will be no tightening of charges for freedom of information requests.

  • There will also be a consultation about whether to extend the Freedom of Information Act to include private companies with public sector contracts, such as security firms running prisons.

    PUBLIC RECORDS

  • The government is reviewing the "30-year rule", which says departments must transfer public records to the National Archive after 30 years.

  • Making departments release the information earlier would "enhance openness", ministers say.

  • Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers - which owns the Daily Mail - is one of three people on a panel looking at the plans.

    PARLIAMENT AND WAR

  • A consultation paper asks if Parliament - rather than the prime minister - should be given the power to decide whether the UK's armed forces are deployed.

  • It suggests either drafting new laws or achieving this through a "new Parliamentary convention", or a mixture of both.

  • But Parliament would not always have to be consulted in advance where there "is not time" to get its consent or "there is a need for covert or secret operations", such as in rescue missions.

  • The prime minister would have to tell MPs afterwards when "he had committed armed forces under exceptional circumstances".

    PARLIAMENT AND TREATIES

    There is already a convention that Parliament has the right to ratify international treaties and agreements.

  • But Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he wants to put this "on a statutory footing".

  • The government says there should be a more formal structure for Parliament to scrutinise treaties and, in some cases, to debate and vote on them.

    APPOINTING JUDGES

  • The government is asking whether "more could be done" to limit the role of ministers in choosing judges.

  • Since 2005, the Lord Chief Justice (a judge himself) has become head of the judiciary - taking over from the Lord Chancellor (who is a minister) - and an independent committee has taken on the work of appointing new judges.

  • The consultation is about whether the government's remaining role in choosing judges - the Lord Chancellor can still reject a candidate - should be cut.

  • But the government says it has "serious reservations" about adopting "confirmation hearings", where legislators question and vote on judges before they are appointed, as happens in the US.

    PARLIAMENT SQUARE PROTESTS

  • The government has launched a consultation, asking whether the 1km exclusion zone around Parliament Square established in 2005, in which protests require police permission, is still needed to maintain security.

  • It suggests a system where large groups planning a demonstration should instead be asked to give "prior notification" to the authorities.

  • Parliament's role at the centre of democracy means it should "not be sheltered from the voice of protest groups", the government says.

    POWERS OF ENTRY/STOP AND SEARCH

  • There will be a review of existing police powers of entry, and a review of whether the police need further guidance on the stop and search powers set out in the Terrorism Act of 2000.

    FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

  • A review was announced to ensure that future legislation does not limit the freedom of expression.

  • SEE ALSO
    Protest curbs 'will be reviewed'
    25 Oct 07 |  UK Politics
    Brown sets out reform proposals
    03 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
    Key points: Constitutional proposals
    03 Jul 07 |  UK Politics

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