Constitutional Reform in the UK: A Conference on the Brown Commission Report

Event date
5 May 2023
Event time
09:30 - 16:30
Oxford week
TT 2
Bonavero Institute of Human Rights & Zoom

Notes & Changes

This event will be hybrid. To attend online, please register here. To attend in-person, please email

Conference Description

The Brown Commission Report on A New Britain: Renewing our Democracy and Rebuilding our Economy (2022) contains proposals for far-reaching reform of the United Kingdom’s constitution. Should the Labour Party win the next general elections, the Report is likely to frame the political agenda for constitutional reform.

The Report has many key dimensions, including constitutional entrenchment, devolution of further power to non-English nations, intergovernmental relations, social rights, inequality, and poverty. Given its wide-ranging nature, it is impossible to attend to all its dimensions adequately within a single day. In order to balance scope with depth of engagement, therefore, the Bonavero Institute invites you to a day-long conference on 5 May 2023 in Oxford to discuss the following aspects:

Conference Programme

9:30 am: Tea and Coffee

10 am: Welcome

10:05 am: Introduction to the Brown Commission Report (Jim Gallagher)

10.30 am: Panel on the Process of Constitutional Change—The Report suggests a series of consultations and public engagement (including a series of citizens’ assemblies) before its constitutional proposals are finalised and adopted. This is a key departure from the long-standing traditional view which affords to every new government a mandate for significant constitutional reform that may be secured through a simple majority in Parliament. This session will focus on whether the UK needs to reconsider how it makes key constitutional changes.

Panellists: Kate O’Regan (Chair), Leah Trueblood, Hannah White, Alan Renwick, Silvia Suteu, Tarun Khaitan(discussant)

12 noon: Lunch

1 pm: Second Chamber & Electoral System Reform—The Report proposes the replacement of the House of Lordswith an elected Assembly of Nations and Regions, with key functions of representing the devolved nations and of defending the constitution. It is non-committal on the electoral system that may be used for this chamber, or indeed on the retention of first-past-the-post system for the Commons. This session will consider the nature, purpose, and structure of the second chamber, alongside the confidence and supply function of the Commons, as well as the electoral systems that might be apt for each of these chambers.

Panellists: Timothy Endicott (Chair), Jeff King, Michaela Hailbronner, Hayley Hooper, Gavin Phillipson, Matthew Palmer (discussant)

2.30 pm: Tea/Coffee Break

3 pm: Panel on Ethics, Integrity & Fourth Branch (Guarantor) Institutions—The Report suggests new robust standards on ethics and integrity. It recommends three new independent constitutional guarantors: an Integrity & Ethics Commission to enforce the code of ministerial conduct, an Appointments Commission for merit-only appointments to public bodies, and an Anti-Corruption Commissioner. It also recommends further empowerment of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to provide evidence on the implementation of the new proposed social rights, ‘with a remit, membership and staffing substantially altered to give it capacity to do so’. It seeks to offer a new constitutional mandate to the UK Infrastructure Bank and rename it as the British Regional Business Investment Bank. These institutions are tasked with guaranteeing various constitutional norms. This session will consider how these standards and norms may be best enforced, what the distinction between these guarantor institutions and ordinary statutory regulators might be, and what sort of relationship these fourth branch institutions have with the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.

Panellists: Brenda Hale (Chair), Jake Rowbottom, Aileen Kavanagh, Murray Hunt, Marcial Boo, Pamela Tate(discussant)

4.30 pm: End of Conference

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