Political and Constitutional Reform - Overview

Law scrolls; Parliament copyrightThe Government set out a programme for political and constitutional reform as a fundamental part of the Coalition agreement. The programme is wide-ranging and aims to restore people’s faith in their politics and politicians.
A great deal of work has already taken place. The UK now has fixed-term Parliaments of five years, removing the power of the Prime Minister to call elections.

The Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act provided for a referendum, held on 5 May 2011, on whether or not the keep the existing first-past-the-post system or adopt the alternative vote, and also legislated for the current boundary review of House of Commons constituencies.

As part of its commitment to reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (moving from the traditional system of household electoral registration) the Government has introduced the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill. This will allow the introduction of the new voter registration system in 2014-15. The Government is working closely with Local Authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, devolved administrations, IT suppliers and other government departments to provide a modern registration service that is convenient for electors to use and that also improves the accuracy and completeness of the register.

The Government is also working on greater accountability for politicians, through the introduction of a power of recall. This will enable voters to force a by-election where their MP is guilty of serious wrongdoing. Other work includes reform of party funding and the rules on lobbying, changes to the rules of succession and work across Government to change local governance and police accountability through new elections and referendums.

Referendum on Scottish Independence

Following the Scottish Parliament elections in May last year, the Scottish Government has made clear its intention to hold a referendum on independence. The question of Scotland’s constitutional future is for people in Scotland to answer, and, recognising the Scottish National Party majority in the Scottish Parliament, the UK Government has committed to facilitating a fair, legal and decisive referendum, to provide clarity about how this will be decided.

The UK Government’s position is clear: Scotland benefits from being part of the UK and the UK benefits from having Scotland within the UK. The UK Government is confident that the people of Scotland will choose to remain part of the UK, and is not planning for any other outcome.

The Secretary of State for Scotland and the Prime Minister David Cameron have therefore signed an agreement with Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond which will give the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum on independence.

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