At the heart of the Cambridge Centre for Public Law’s ‘Constitutional Law Matters’ project are two key objectives. First, we are seeking to engage with and answer the question, ‘Does the UK constitution (still) work?’ Second, in considering that question, we are putting public understanding of constitutional issues front and centre, with a view to fostering well-informed public debate.
Asking whether the UK constitution (still) works is particularly timely at present, given the several respects in which the constitution is currently in a state of flux or under pressure. Prominent examples of these phenomena include the possibility of a second referendum on Scottish independence, the ongoing legal and constitutional reverberations of Brexit, increasing tension between the political and judicial branches of government, changing understandings of the relationships between Ministers, civil servants and Special Advisers, recent and ongoing reviews of administrative law and of the Human Rights Act 1998, a perceived imbalance of power between Parliament and the Executive (as evidenced by the mountain of regulations produced in response to Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic), and growing concerns about the protection of the right to peaceful protest. With so much constitutional activity going on, our aim is to provide the public with clear and accessible information that they can understand and engage with.
We will be adding to this website regularly during the course of the year and our aim is for it to develop into a collection of resources that will be of use to anyone who wishes to find out more about how (and whether) the UK constitution works. In particular, we hope that this will be of use to members of the public, Law students and others who wish to inform themselves about Constitutional Law matters.
During the academic year 2021–22, we will be holding four public debates, concerning Parliament’s place in the constitution, the role of the judiciary, the territorial constitution, and the relationship between the Executive and the civil service. Information about these events, including details of how to register and join online, will be published on this site.
The generous support of the Gatsby Foundation, which has provided the funding for the Constitutional Law Matters project, is gratefully acknowledged.
Alison Young is the Sir David Williams Professor of Public Law at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Robinson College. She is a legal advisor to the House of Lords Constitution Committee, co-edits the UKCLA Constitutional law blog and is the author of the new edition of Turpin and Tomkins’ British Government and the Constitution. You can read more about her research here.
Mark Elliott is Professor of Public Law at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St Catharine’s College. He is a former legal advisor to the House of Lords Constitution Committee, the author (with Robert Thomas) of Public Law (OUP 2020) and writes a blog, Public Law for Everyone. You can read more about his research here.
Joanna George is a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge and steering committee member of the Constitution Reform Group, a cross-party group chaired by the Marquess of Salisbury which advocates for a new Act of Union. She is a regular contributor to publications including The Times and Prospect.
Dora Robinson is a PHD Candidate in Law and Research Assistant at the University of Cambridge. She is researching the UK’s compliance with adverse European Court of Human Rights rulings, focusing on the decision-making processes in Parliament and government and is currently carrying out interviews to this end.