Founded in 2009, the Constitution Society is an independent, non-aligned educational trust. We promote public understanding of the British Constitution and work to encourage informed debate between legislators, academics and the public about proposals for constitutional change. We do not take any position on the merits of specific reform proposals, and we neither support nor oppose the introduction of a written constitution.
Although we are neutral about substantive constitutional issues, we strongly support due process and good government. We believe that constitutional changes should only be introduced to address genuine deficiencies, and only after careful analysis and broad consultation. Legislation should be properly prepared and clearly drafted, and Parliament given adequate time for scrutiny and debate. New laws which affect the structure of our constitution should be designed to meet the requirements of future decades, not the political interests of the government of the day.
The coalition government has an ambitious programme for constitutional change, with major implications for our constitutional and political landscape. A referendum on the AV voting system was held in May 2011. Proposals to equalise constituency sizes and reduce the size of the House of Commons are likely to be implemented following reports from the Boundary Commissions. The government has passed legislation for five-year fixed parliamentary terms and has submitted a draft bill on Lords reform for pre-legislative scrutiny. Our work focusses on encouraging thoughtful and informed debate about these provisions and the processes by which they are introduced.
The Constitution Society is a company limited by guarantee (number 7432769) and a registered charity (number 1139515). We have no connection with any political party and we do not take any money from government. We rely for our funding on individual donations and grants from educational trusts and foundations.
- All-Party Parliamentary Group on the British Constitution
We provide organisational and secretarial support for the new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the British Constitution, chaired by Lord Norton of Louth. Most MPs and peers are not experts on constitutional issues or electoral systems; the APPG will work to broaden legislators’ knowledge base and improve the quality of debate on the government’s reform programme.
The Reconstitution website is our main educational resource. It provides an impartial commentary on current constitutional debates, video interviews with politicians, lawyers and academics and forums for public discussion and comment. The site contains detailed background information about major aspects of the British Constitution, accessible to users without existing knowledge, and links to source material and the sites of other groups active in the constitutional area. Membership of Reconstitution is free. To register, simply set up a username and password.
- Deliberative polling on government proposals
In August 2010 we commissioned YouGov to poll 2000 people on a broad range of issues surrounding electoral reform and the government’s referendum proposal. An analysis of the results is available here. It is our intention over the coming year to explore public understanding of other key elements of the government’s constitutional reform proposals in the same way.
- Better Government Initiative
We provide The Better Government Initiative (BGI) with administrative and financial support. BGI is an independent and politically non-aligned organisation seeking to improve legislative standards and the conduct of government. The members of BGI’s organising committee, chaired by Sir Christopher Foster, are distinguished former civil servants, including Lord Butler, the former Cabinet Secretary, Sir John Chilcot, Sir Richard Mottram and Sir David Omand. Alongside many politicians and organisations, we support the recommendations of the BGI’s 2010 report on Good Government .
- Cambridge University Masters degree in Public Policy
In the long term, the quality of government in Britain can be improved by better education of those planning a career in politics, public administration or political journalism. We have provided Cambridge University with start-up funding to develop a Masters programme in Public Policy, which, if successful, will eventually lead to the foundation of a new School of Government.
Nat le Roux, Chair of Trustees
Nat spent most of his career in finance and was Chief Executive of IG Group plc for four years before retiring in 2006. He remains non-executive Deputy Chairman of IG and is an independent director of the London Metal Exchange where he chairs the Audit and Risk Committee. Nat holds an MA in Law from Cambridge University and an MSc in Anthropology from University College London.
Lisa Dumas, Trustee
Lisa qualified as a solicitor in both London and Hong Kong. She worked for Herbert Smith and Clifford Chance and then moved in-house, latterly with Morgan Stanley, where she was European Head of Litigation. She has an LLB from Bristol University.
Jo Eddings, Trustee
Jo's background is in corporate finance and commerce. She worked in the City and in Hong Kong, latterly as a partner of Richards Butler and a director of the Listing Division of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. She has an MA in Law from Cambridge University and qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales and Hong Kong.
Nigel Lester, Trustee
During Nigel's career in the city he was CEO of County NatWest Investment Management and the Global Head of Research at UBS. Earlier he qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries and worked in Hong Kong and the USA. He now runs an executive search firm. Nigel has a BSc in Mathematics from Sussex University and a BA in Politics, Philosophy and History from Birkbeck, London University.
Professor Sir John Baker QC, University of Cambridge
Professor Sir John Hamilton Baker gained his LLB/PhD at University College London. He was called to the Bar at the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple in 1966. Professor Baker previously lectured at UCL before moving to Cambridge University where he resides as the Downing Professor of the Laws of England.
Sir Christopher Foster, Better Government Initiative Chairman
As an academic, Sir Christopher Foster has held posts at Oxford University and MIT and was Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. He also worked as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers for several years. Sir Christopher has authored numerous publications on privatisation, transport, local government finance and the public sector. He currently chairs the Better Government Initiative.
Professor Richard Gordon QC
Richard Gordon is widely recognised as one of the world's leading legal voices in Constitutional Law and Human Rights/Civil Liberties. He is a Visiting Professor at UCL and at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In 2008 he was senior Visiting Fellow at Melbourne and Auckland Universities. He appears regularly before the House of Lords and Court of Appeal as well as before the ECJ and European Court of Human Rights.
Lord Alan Howarth of Newport
Lord Alan Howarth of Newport gained his BA in History at Kings College, Cambridge in 1965. During his time as the Member of Parliament for Startford-upon-Avon from 1983 to 1997, and Newport East from 1997 to 2005, he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Arts. He was awarded a life peerage on 13th May 2005.
David Howarth, University of Cambridge
David Howarth gained a BA in Law at Clare College, Cambridge, before achieving an LLM from Yale Law School and an MPhil in Sociology from Yale University. He has lectured in Land Economy, Law and Economics at the University of Cambridge and served as the city's Member of Parliament between 2005 and 2010.
Professor Dawn Oliver, University College London
Dawn Oliver is Emeritus Professor of Constitutional Law at University College London. Her research interests include fields of UK and comparative public law, and in particular UK constitutional reform. She has been a member of the Study of Parliament Group since 1991, Chair of the UK Constitutional Law Group since 2005, and a member of the Executive Committee of the International Associaition of Constitutonal Law since 2007.