The Great Debate UK

Why Britain must deliver enduring constitutional reform

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lester- Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC is a leading constitutional and human rights lawyer. The views expressed are his own -

Almost alone on the democratic world, we British have no written constitution protecting our basic civil and political rights. We have no constitutional charter defining the scope of the powers of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government or the relationship of these branches with the European Union (EU). Parliament struggles to assert its power while the government uses its ancient monarchical authority — that is the prerogative power vested in the Queen — to exercise its executive powers.

There is now widespread discontent with our system of government, and a massive loss of confidence in politics and politicians.

The early days of the “New Labour” government were times of promising reform. Major changes such as devolution for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, removal of most hereditary peers from the House of Lords, abolishing the role of Lord Chancellor and creation of a Supreme Court were accompanied by measures directly empowering individuals, in particular the Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act.

Regulatory changes needed to end Heathrow hell

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- Rupert Darwall is a guest columnist. The views expressed are his own. A London-based strategist, he is author of Reluctant Managers, a study of Whitehall performance (KPMG, 2006) –

If April is the cruellest month, then July can be awful for people using Heathrow. Business travel is still humming and the holiday season is getting into full swing.

Why big government is bad government

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jill-kirby-Jill Kirby is author of “The Reality Gap” and director of the Centre for Policy Studies. The opinions expressed are her own. -

In the midst of an economic crisis, we have a crisis of trust in politicians. But it is not through their lack of activity. Over the last ten years, layers of government have multiplied, more regulatory bodies have been put in place, thousands of new laws have been passed and greater powers of surveillance have been accorded to the State.

Reining in Lloyds

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paul-taylor– Peter Thal Larsen and Paul Taylor are Reuters columnists. The views expressed are their own –

Sir Win Bischoff appears to relish a challenge. His brief spell as chairman of Citigroup was spent resisting regulators who wanted to break up the bank. If the veteran banker takes over as chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, his first fight will be with competition authorities in Brussels. This is one battle where it would be better if Sir Win did not live up to his name.

No quick buck from Northern Rock

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REUTERS- Margaret Doyle is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own. -

The crisis at Northern Rock marked the beginning of Britain’s slide into large-scale state ownership of the banking system. Returning the mortgage lender to the private sector would be a sign that normal service is being resumed. But rumours that the British government is poised to sell Northern Rock, are premature. Suggestions the government could do so at a profit are even more far-fetched.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is apparently keen to offload the Rock, ideally “at a substantial profit” before the general election, which must be held before next summer. According to the Times, the prime minister “wants desperately to avoid a Conservative government taking the credit”.

Age against the job machine

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michelle_mitchell- Michelle Mitchell is Charity Director of Age Concern and Help the Aged. The opinions expressed are her own. -

Reports in the media about job losses are commonplace these days, with young people’s struggle to find work dominating coverage. Yet at the other end of the age spectrum, the lives and future prospects of older workers have been set in turmoil by the recession.

Cry for freedom from Tamils

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suren surendiran- Suren Surendiran is the spokesman for the British Tamils Forum. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The war against Tamils has ended, if we believe the statements coming from Sri Lankan state news media and the carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign.

Leaking in the public interest

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nicholas-jonesNicholas Jones is the author of Trading Information: Leaks, Lies and Tip-offs (Politico’s, 2006). He is a member of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.

Whatever reservations there might be over the way the leaked information was obtained, the publication of hitherto secret details about the endemic abuse of MPs’ expenses was without doubt in the public interest.

Fortis rebels flog a dead cheval

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REUTERS– Margaret Doyle is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own –

Belgians may like a tasty cheval-burger with their frites, but they ought to desist from flogging a dead one. The European Commission has thrown out an attempt to have the sale of Fortis Bank in Belgium to BNP Paribas cancelled, but the rebels are now threatening to take their case to the European Court of Justice.

Equities may now be a better bet

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menashysmall2- Edward Menashy is chief economist at Charles Stanley. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Not exactly shock and awe as the MPC keeps base rates on hold at 0.5 percent while the most recent financial surveys have been unanimous in expecting a no change decision for some time now. It was always going to be an MPC meeting to discuss whether or not to persevere with quantitative easing. The difficulty for the MPC is that it is too early to judge the effectiveness of the quantitative easing. Clearly the Bank of England would prefer to wait at least until it publishes new quarterly growth and inflation forecasts to explain how it wishes to proceed.

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