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Rights, Responsibilities and Values

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 30 March 2010


My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Michael Wills) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government are today publishing two reports on important aspects of constitutional reform. The first is a summary of responses to the Green Paper, Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework. The second is an independent analysis of the programme of deliberation that was carried out between October 2009 and February 2010 on identity, values (including a Statement of Values), a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities and a written constitution.

The reports bring to a conclusion key aspects of the first stage of public debate initiated by The Governance of Britain Green Paper in July 2007. They also meet the commitment in Building Britain’s Future to complete a national consultation on a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities during 2009-10.

The responses to the Green Paper, combined with the programme of deliberative research, reflect the views of around 2,500 people. They demonstrate an appetite for further debate about a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities as well as a broader range of constitutional issues, such as a statement of values, and for making progress on them.

The programme placed public deliberation at the heart of decision-making. The research was carried out independently, ensuring that the public were given the opportunity to debate issues in a balanced way, exposing them to views from across the political spectrum to inform their deliberations and providing a space to enable views to influence policy. As the independent analysis says:

“The study can be viewed as a constitutional experiment in deliberative democracy—with the deliberative method helping to inform representative systems of government and promote democratic legitimacy. This approach was not intended to replace representative democracy but to complement it—enabling participants to come to an informed view on policy; which in turn, and alongside other evidence, will inform the views of decision makers in Government”.

As part of the process, the Government made an explicit commitment to participants that any constitutional reform would progress only if there was sufficient public appetite.

The independent report shows that such deliberative approaches were valued by what were demographically representative groups of participants as a means of building public views into policy making. It shows there is a clear appetite to take further these aspects of the debate on constitutional reform: stating the values that bind us together as a nation; building on the existing protections for individual rights; and clarifying our responsibilities.

The Government believe that work taken forward in this area must reflect the approach adopted so far, putting the public at the heart of policy formation.

In taking forward work on a new Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, the Government remain committed to the Human Rights Act and the protections and remedies provided by it. It is encouraging to see the responses to the Green Paper support the Government’s view on this point. The Government are proud of the Human Rights Act and will not resile from it.

Copies of Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework—Summary of responses have been laid before Parliament. Copies of People and power: shaping democracy, rights and responsibilities have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.