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Unlock Democracy welcomes written constitution plans

Unlock Democracy has welcomed Jack Straw's announcement on the Today Programme this morning that he would like to see the UK develop a written constitution over the next 20 years.

Jack Straw will be giving a speech in Washington on constitutional reform tonight. It is reported that he will say: "We need to think carefully about whether a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities should be a step to a full written constitution, which would bring us in line with the most progressive democracies around the world."

Commenting, Director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey said:

"We welcome this positive step, although we question the idea that it will take around 20 years to develop a written constitution Such a long process would almost certainly shudder to a halt before it was completed. No other country has taken so long to develop a constitution: what's so different about the UK?

"Either way, it is important that the process is taken out of Whitehall and Westminster and that the public are given a central role in the process. Any constitution should reflect the public's priorities, not the vested interests of politicians and civil servants. There is a growing range of international examples about how to do this, ranging from Canada to South Africa to Northern Ireland.

"The government could commit to such a process tomorrow by adopting the Citizen's Convention Bill, which more than 100 MPs have leant their support for. This would commit the government to establishing an independent Citizen's Convention and working with it to implement its recommendations."

CALLING NOTICE: Unlock Democracy and openDemocracy (in association with Mishcon de Reya and Lexis Nexis) are organising a seminar in central London on 21 February 2008 (10am-12pm) entitled "Popular Participation in Constitutional Reform - Can Citizen Involvement Work?" Speakers include Dr Matthew Mendelsohn (Deputy Minister, Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs and Associate Secretary of the Cabinet, Government of Ontario) and Professor Brice Dickson (Former head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission). The Ministry of Justice have been invited to provide a speaker to respond. If you would like to attend, please email alex.runswick@unlockdemocracy.org.uk to reserve a place.

ENDS

Notes:

Unlock Democracy, incorporating Charter 88, is the UK's leading campaign for democratic renewal and active engagement in the political process.

For more information, a quote or an interview, please contact James Graham on 020 7278 4443 or 07966 237550.

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