In tune with so much of what has been happening in London this week, I attempted on Tuesday to arouse some politicians from their complacency about the dire reputation of Parliament.
My Constitutional Renewal Bill, which received its First Reading then, seeks to put this whole issue back on the agenda. You may recall that, in his very first statement as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown set out proposals to “agree a new British constitutional settlement that entrusts more power to Parliament and the British people.” Those brave intentions have long since been diluted, through a series of documents and even a draft Bill, but the need to revive them now is greater than ever. In the midst of this economic crisis, with the reputation of Parliament and politicians at a very low ebb, people may well feel completely disillusioned, disconnected and dangerously alienated. That is how extremist groups can flourish.
My Bill could start a process of reform which would at least show that we are listening in Parliament to the people we represent, and not merely to ourselves. If Gordon Brown was right about the need for renewal in July 2007 he would be even more right now.
I do not know, of course, whether the Bill will make any progress, since we are well into the legislative year. I was, however, intrigued to note that the consent of the Queen would be required because I (like the Prime Minister) seek to get back some of the so-called “Royal Prerogative” powers that the Government has inherited and make them subject to Parliamentary sanction – like decisions on going to war.
The Queen’s “consent” is not to be confused with the “Royal Assent”, which is a very different matter indeed. That comes much later, and I am not that optimistic !