Publication of Constitution and the Appropriate Citations

This proposal may sound obvious, but nothing should be taken for granted.  Basically, when the Constitution is finalized, the government shall publish (and thereafter annually publish) the text of the Constitution ALONG WITH citations to supporting statutes, case law, principles, Royal Prerogative, Conventions, International Law, etc... that currently support each provision.  For any new principles that are not presently supported by any citation, then the publication should state that.  

By having this publication with citations to each provision, the average will have that information easily available to them, instead of the present "constitution" in which the citations and principles are essentially a "wild goose chase" to the average person.  The key point is that "the people" are the main focus of the laws;  it is not intended for just lawyers, Judges, academics, etc...   

John Z Apr 5, 2015

"The government shall publish on a periodic basis the text of the Constitution along with the relevant supporting legal citations".  

This seems pretty straight forward.  Any thoughts or objections? 

Tom Austin Apr 6, 2015

I object!!

The Government is surely as much 'the tail of the Constitution's dog' as the rest of us, and it seems unlikely that any here, or anybody at all, would like to see Government's hand passing-off the least declaratory statement as to the condition of 'our' Constitution.

Even: "The Government shall cause to be published..." Grants 'government' a still too strong a position.

Elsewhere, I trust, we shall be discussing who or what shall be granted leave to protect and preserve the integrity of the Constitution. [The 'office' of Head of (the) 'State'?]

John Z Apr 6, 2015

I use the word "government" with a small "g", not a capital "G";  this was done not to imply the PM and the Cabinet, but a branch of government (perhaps the Judiciary, or a combined effort by the three branches of government).  But ultimately, some entity has to ensure and produce the publication of the document.

Tom Austin Apr 6, 2015

"Some entity." Yes.

John Z Apr 6, 2015

I'd rather not leave it open ended in the Constitution.  Is "Judiciary" more acceptable?

Tom Austin Apr 6, 2015

There is no rush John. This is a holiday weekend, and there is still 12 days to go. Plenty of opportunity yet for views to come from other quarters.

John Z Apr 6, 2015

Understood.  Let me know which is acceptable to you so I can build on that.  But you are right, no rush.

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Ian Smith Apr 6, 2015


I have to deal with the issue of citations in my idea 'The Relationship between the Constitution and Ordinary Laws'.  Perhaps we can liaise to be consistent.

I would certainly be concerned if the government of the day decides how to publish and annotate the constitution.  I would like to see what others think about the idea that the judiciary both publish and annotate the constitution.

(As things stand, HM Stationary Office publishes statutes)

John Z Apr 6, 2015

On the surface, it appears that they are two distinct yet related ideas.  The only way I can see the two ideas being combined is if the Constitution in an introductory statement or a Preamble provides for the legal construction of the Constitution and the order of subordinate legal provisions (such as statutes/regulations/etc..), and in that specific paragraph it also mentions the periodic publication of the Constitution and the appropriate citations. 

Christine Farquharson Apr 7, 2015

Thanks for starting off the phase 2 discussion so well! It's great to see concrete proposals being improved and to see different idea authors communicating to move towards concise, coherent clauses.

Here's a quick summary of what was discussed during phase 1; hopefully it will help during the refining phase. Please remember to keep voting for/against ideas and comments so that idea authors know what the community would like to see in their updated proposals!

- There was substantial support for the notion that the people are the main focus of the constitution.

- Boadicea: the constitution should be linked to the Bill of Rights 1688 and to the Magna Carta; it should not include any EU legislation (1 up, 2 down)

- TomPeach-Geraghty: This is a good idea but the publication should be digital and updated as changes occur, so the constitution need not specify that publication happens annually. (2 up)

- JimF: This is a good idea but it's not clear what purpose the citations would serve. Annotating the constitution with rationale for each clause could be helpful. (1 up)

- John from Jersey: e.g. for freedom of speech, 'the citations would be to statutes, case law, Conventions, etc... that support that concept.' (1 up)

- ausjane: This should go even further and include a responsibility to include information about the constitution in the curriculum so that students learn early on about their rights and responsibilities under the constitution (3 up, 1 down)

- GavinRuss notes that civics education is already included in the curriculum and questions whether more education is really necessary. He would rather see the constitution influence culture and the social context, rather than being treated as a 'reverential document' by the education sector. (1 up, 1 down)

John Z Apr 7, 2015

My updated proposal states that the citations/annotations be updated "periodically" (instead of annually).  I didn't mention that it be "digital", as "digital" technology may quickly become outdated.  Twenty short years ago, we would have had it be on CD, and that is outdated today.

Andrew Bulovsky Apr 13, 2015

For clarity, could you post (and italicise) your proposal below for us, John?

Great discussion here everyone, let's not forget to vote on comments!

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John Z Apr 13, 2015

"The Judiciary shall publish on a periodic basis the text of the Constitution along with the relevant supporting legal citations".  

Tom Austin Apr 13, 2015

Wonderfully succinct John. might there be a proviso to the effect that 'Wilful misreporting of these publications shall be viewed as Contempt of Court.'

John Z Apr 13, 2015

I can't imagine the Judiciary intentionally misreporting information that is already public knowledge. 

Tom Austin Apr 13, 2015

Funnily enough John, neither can I. I meant 'media' reporting; main stream and off-piste.

John Z Apr 13, 2015

This provision is limited to the publication of;  as for the media, that is a separate issue.  If the UK Supreme Court rules "x", and the media reports that UK Supreme Court ruled "y", despite the report being false, the media have their reputation to be concerned about.

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Rob G Apr 13, 2015

If a body such as a Constitution Commission ( is established, would it not be more sensible for that body to be responsible for this?

I suspect the judiciary would be deeply hostile to producing a document like this - their role is to arbirtrate on disputes, not to determine, up front and "in the abstract", potentially controversial matters like this.

John Z Apr 13, 2015

How is it controversial.  The publication reports legal fact (ex. statutes, case law, treaties) that support Constitutional provisions.  Also, I mentioned the Judiciary publish it, but it can be any other government entity OR entity appointed by the government to publish it.  (Please note, I stated government with a small "g", as opposed to the Government with a capital "G").

Rob G Apr 13, 2015

I think I may partly have been thinking of IanSmith1's proposal on having "explanatory notes"; but there's also the fact that there isn't full agreement on which conventions are actually conventions and which are "proto-conventions" (nor when one becomes the other).

There's also the question of the extent to which the Constitution would "supplant" all existing sources of constitutional law, whether statute or common law, so a reference to existing "sources" would actually muddy the waters by suggesting those old provisions continue to hold sway. Though it's perhaps a moot point until we see the size and shape of the finished product - if it's a concise document, such references may be entirely appropriate, and necessary; whilst a longer document could stand on its own.

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