Charter88 the first Sovereignty lecture March 1992. Gordon Brown, Will Hutton and Helena Kennedy.
Constitutional Change and the Future of Britain
Gordon Brown MP
This Charter88 Sovereignty lecture was given on 9 March 1992
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I believe that in Britain constitutional change is essential for two quite fundamental reasons. It is vital because it is our responsibility to ensure the individual is protected against what can be called the vested interests of the state. And it is vital too because constitutional change is also a necessary means of advancing the potential of the individual in our community.
I will argue not just for acts of Parliament enshrining in statute the long held demand for a Bill of Rights, but also that we must now take seriously the case for a European Bill of Rights so that we can protect the citizen from the potential abuse of power by any major public institution that touches our lives.
I will argue not just for immediate implementation of a Freedom of Information Act to ensure the flow of information from government to citizen and the right to know - and I believe we could do so in months - but argue also that there should be precise duties guaranteeing the right of individuals to information where it is in the public interest to do so, in the dark and secret corners of the private sector.
I will argue not just for reform of the judiciary but for reform of the security services and for a reformed second chamber in place of the anachronism which is the House of Lords.
And I will argue the case not just for home rule for Scotland within the United Kingdom and for the importance of the fresh look now taking place into electoral reform, but also for the principle of devolution applied all round throughout the country. I see the historic role of the Labour Party as nothing less than to stand up for the individual against any and every concentration of power that denies opportunity to individuals in British society whether cartels or cliques, whether in the public or private sector. And that is why socialists must demand that individuals have entrenched rights to protect them from the modern state.
In conclusion, the current movement for constitutional reform is of historic importance. It signals the demand for a decisive shift in the balance of power in Britain, a long overdue transfer of sovereignty from those who govern to those who are governed, from an ancient and indefensible Crown sovereignty to a modern popular sovereignty, not just tidying up our constitution but transforming it.
What I have tried to do is to set the movement for constitutional change within the framework of democratic socialism and I make no apology for doing that.
Date: 9 March 1992
City: London, England
Scene 1: Gordon Brown Lecture
Original Format - colour, hi8, 170 mins
Language versions - english
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Hi8 Sound good.
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