Category Archives: Constitutional Theory

Could parity principle for UK nations on EU referendum veto be basis for reformed second chamber?

Will Self has written a cogent, pointed, and important piece in the New Statesman which echoes some of the points made by Sir David Edward about the House of Lords and parliamentary sovereignty in his recent lecture at St Andrews. Self takes aim at the House of Lords and argues, following  Professor Colin Kidd, that reform of the Lords could adopt the model of Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat, as a legislative chamber representing the nations and perhaps regions of the United Kingdom.

One key question, picking up on the post-referendum tensions, will be whether a new upper house for the UK should be constituted on a basis which accords equal representation to the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, or at least provides a veto to each nation on important issues? The immediate political test for whether reform of the upper house might proceed on such terms may occur when the bill for an EU referendum comes before Parliament. The SNP has promised to table an amendment to any EU referendum bill requiring that any decision to leave the EU must be backed by a majority of voters in each of the four nations of the UK. While the reaction from eurosceptic Conservatives and UKIP would be predictably hostile, David Cameron could see such a veto amendment as a political lifeline, allowing him to criticise the EU as much as he wishes, safe in the knowledge that there are unlikely to be majorities in all four nations to leave the EU. Whether, as Will Self implies, there would be the political will among the UK parties to entrench permanent constitutional parity between the four nations in a reformed UK second chamber, perhaps through a veto or super majority provision, remains to be seen.

 

 

 

Hobbes and Law: The Past in the Present

Hobbes and Law: The Past in the Present

This workshop, held at the University of St Andrews on 10 July 2013, will explore ideas of law in the work of Thomas Hobbes, both in his context and today. Rather than the precursor to Austin’s positivism, Hobbes’ theory of law puts across a much more complex understanding of law. The workshop will focus on law’s relationship to authority, justice and  equity; the distinction between natural, civic, divine and international law; and meaning of obligation and punishment. Confirmed speakers include Larry May, Patricia Springborg, Tom Sorell, Alan Cromartie and Juhana Lemetti. Anyone interested in the workshop should contact the organizer, Dr Gabriella Slomp.

James Wilson and Constitutionalism

James Wilson and Constitutionalism

The Centre has an ongoing interest in the political and legal theory of James Wilson, the St Andrews graduate, American founder, and key drafter of the American constitution. On 30 March 2012, Director Anthony F Lang, Jr presented a talk St Andrews alumni in San Francisco on the importance of Wilson’s thought both in its context and today. In 2014, Dr Lang will be speaking at a conference on Wilson’s thought to be held at the University of Pennsylvania.

James Wilson presentation: Constitutional Theory for the Modern World(PDF, 1,528 KB)

Political Constitutionalism

Political Constitutionalism

The Centre cosponsored a workshop on Political Constitutionalism organized by Glasgow Caledonian University and held at their London Campus on 7-8 June 2012. The workshop explored the nature of political constitutionalism and will result in a publication of the selected papers in 2013.

The Global Rule of Law

The Global Rule of Law

The project began with a workshop on The Global Rule of Law held on 22-23 June 2011 at the University of St Andrews. The workshop was launched with a 600th lecture series: Justice Richard Goldstone. This was followed the next day with presentations by key figures in the field of law and political theory: Professor Richard Bellamy, University College London; Professor Susan Marks, London School of Economics and Political Science; Professor Neil Walker, Edinburgh University; and Professor Jeremy Waldron, Oxford University/New York University. The speakers explored the contested nature of the rule of law at the global level and sought to develop an account of how it might function more effectively.

A Global Rule of Law? (PDF, 149 KB)