Constitutional Renewal Bill

Lord Norton

The Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill completed work on the draft Bill last Tuesday – the last day of sitting prior to the summer recess.  Though the recommended period is a minimum of three months for a committee to engage in pre-legislative scrutiny, we had under three months to examine what constitutes five bills in one.  We only managed to complete our task by meeting twice a week, with each sitting lasting usually two hours or more.  We had a total of twenty sittings. 

Four members of the committee achieved a 100% attendance record.  Three of them were MPs.  Modesty forbids me mentioning the name of the peer.  These figures, though, are misleading in that at virtually all the sittings, peers notably outnumbered MPs and at times we were in danger of not having a quorum because not enough MPs were present.  (To be quorate, there had to be three peers and three MPs present).  One Member put his head round the door at the first meeting but was never seen again.  We got through a large volume of evidence, both oral and written, in the time available and were assisted greatly by excellent clerks and specialist staff.  They demonstrated a remarkable capacity to produce fluent drafts at short notice.

We were not unanimous on all points, though I was impressed not only by the level of agreement reached on most of the report but also by the extent to which much discussion was cross-party.  When we did disagree, it was not necessarily along party lines.  The report is being published on Thursday.  I thought I would give advance notice so that readers can get ready to purchase or download a copy…

I will be interested to have comments on the report once it is published.  Just to remind you, the Bill covers demonstrations outside Parliament, the role of the Attorney General, judicial appointments, parliamentary scrutiny of treaties, and the civil service.  The committee was also asked to consider Parliament and war-making.

3 comments for “Constitutional Renewal Bill

  1. Adrian Kidney
    28/07/2008 at 8:05 pm

    I managed to attend one or two of the initial meetings and found it very interesting. I read the Government’s papers on war powers and treaty signing and I must say I’m not convinced – I see revision of these ‘powers’ as potentially constricting Parliament’s powers to act by spelling them out. By leaving them undefined Parliament’s scope is unlimited – just the way I like it.

  2. ladytizzy
    29/07/2008 at 1:29 am

    Thank you (all) for taking up the gauntlet, and congratulations – you’ll figure out why.

    Have these meetings been televised on BBC Parliament? If so, can you find out when they will be repeated? Thanks.

    I certainly will attempt to download the Bill and try to make some sensible contributions, though I remain dependent on the whims of the communications giants. Apparently, it’s too expensive to properly repair my line. It was patched today, and broke down within hours. Yet I pay the same as others who are having the finest updates available.

    And they wonder why businesses don’t move to the North East.

  3. 17/08/2008 at 5:33 pm

    We better get this over with; I don’t want to dwell on constructive suggestions. It gets habit-forming. Then I’ll start wanting to make the world a better place, and by some very precise if obscure mechanism…

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