Thursday 19 July 2007

And finally, well almost nothing

The last section of The Governance of Britain is on "Britain's future: the citizen and the state" and as far as I am concerned they might as well have left it out as it suffers most of all from waffle and complete lack of any significant proposals on the way forward. After a huge section that basically says "nobody seams to be sure at all about what Britishness is" it moves on to talking about teaching "citizenship" whatever that is. I am serious about this point, if the government cannot put down what it means to be a British Citizen in a chunk of green paper titled "Citizenship and national identity" then what are they teaching to children in schools? Apparently Citizenship Studies is the fastest growing GCSE subject, so what is on the syllabus that is used for this short course GCSE? I expected to find points in this document that made me angry, but I always thought that it would be a point of principle rather than just sloppy thinking. While I accept this is a document to let discussion prosper, it is always easier to start such a discussion when there is a starting point.
Even more woolly is the subsection on "common British values" but it at least has a concrete proposal, allow the flag to be flown above government buildings on more than the current fixed 18 days, that will make a huge difference!
Then it gets really bad, the item on a "British Bill of Rights and Duties" is actually mostly a defence of the Human Rights Act. I can see that this piece of legislation has been attacked recently and support it being upheld, but to define one possible future set of laws in terms on holding on like grim death to another is bordering on pathetic.
Lastly you might be fooled by a heading "Constitution" that there would be proposals contained within about bringing the various parts of our constitution into one ordered document, instead we get this:

"It is clear that neither a Bill of Rights and Duties nor a written constitution could come into being except over an extended period of time,"

Which really gets my goat, firstly because we have a written constitution; it may be written in thousands of places, but given the way Britain works, the land of the Civil Service, the home of following the rules (even if we occasionally do so in a way that could be counted as playing the system). Secondly what does extended period of time mean is it going to be reviewed over months years, decades. You can call me cynical if you like, but for someone brought up watching Yes (Prime) Minister that phrasing makes it simply sound like neither document will ever happen.


Anonymous said...

"It is clear that neither a Bill of Rights and Duties nor a written constitution could come into being except over an extended period of time,"

Hmmmm....that is interesting, especially as a written Bill of Rights is one of the few things we do have, and is often considered one of the major parts of our otherwise unwritten/scattered constitution (along with the Magna Carta, of course)

Actually, according to that page, the Act of Settlement and Parliament Acts are also of similar import, which I was previously not previously aware of.

As for "an extended period of time" - given the amount of history behind the British legal system and government, that could mean centuries. :)

Tony said...

The act of settlement is tremendously important unless the succession is simple and doesn't involve any of those catholic fellows ;-) the various parliament acts are actually important, but any reform of te HoL will need to reform these as well.
I was just expecting that given it was 308 years since the last one, if the government an announces an new bill of this kind is in the frame they might give a time-scale or a roadmap, rather than leaving it utterly open ended...