Gordon Brown outlines plans for constitutional reform

Gordon Brown has just given a speech on electoral reform. In it he declared that after citizenship education has improved, Labour would give Parliament a free vote on reducing the voting age to 16.

On 5th April the thinktank Demos argued that the voting age should be dropped to 16. Richard Reeves Demos director said that at 16 young people were old enough to work and pay tax, and as the nation prepares to face decisions with ‘profound’ consequences for young people, they too should be given the right to vote (read the full BBC report).

Summary of Gordon Brown’s speech

Speaking on People’s PMQs just now, the Prime Minister asked the British people for a mandate to undertake the most comprehensive programme of constitutional reform in this country for a century to secure the recovery, protect and reform frontline services and rebuild faith in public life.

He said a Labour government would create a new system of politics that ensures people who hold positions of authority are more accountable and truly representative.

He committed to the following:

  • That MPs will be banned from working for lobbying companies;
  • MPs who want to take up paid outside appointments will have to seek prior approval from an independent body to avoid jobs which conflict with their responsibilities to the public;
  • Ensuring that MPs are permanently accountable to the people.

But, he stated, a new politics does not simply mean constraining the behaviour of individual MPs – it also means strengthening the power of Parliament to hold the executive to account. The British people will be given a new right to petition the House of Commons to trigger debates on issues of significant public concern. They have also supported changes to give a stronger voice to backbenchers, so in the next Parliament, select committees and their chairs will be elected by a secret ballot of MPs.

Labour’s manifesto will include a commitment to charting a course to a written constitution and fixed term Parliaments.

‘After citizenship education has improved, we will give Parliament a free vote on reducing the voting age to 16’, the Prime Minister said.

If elected he proposed a referendum next autumn to enable British people to make choices on the central questions of constitutional future by:

  • Reforming the electoral system so that no MP is elected without the majority support of those who vote in their constituency;
  • Ensuring British people are served by an elected House of Lords.
Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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