The debate on Lord Tyler’s motion to call attention to legislative proposals for constitutional renewal – mentioned in his earlier post – can be read here.
In my speech, I argued that the current crisis of confidence was in the political class and not in our basic constitutional structures. The focus should therefore be on rules – standard-setting rules – rather than structures. We should focus in the remainder of the Parliament on making changes within, and not to, our basic constitutional arrangements. Any major constitutional change is for later Parliaments and not for the fag-end of this one. I argued the case for a commission on the constitution, or something similar, in order to make sense of where we are. We have had a raft of disparate and discrete constitutional changes which, collectively, have had a major impact on our constitution but which derive from no clear coherent view of constitutional change. We need to make sense of those changes before embarking on more and creating a somewhat mis-shapen constitution.
Lord McNally thought that there was no need for further reflection, given that we had already had lengthy debates on such issues as electoral reform and reform of the Lords. This rather missed the point I was making. There is indeed much literature on electoral reform. There is a great deal on reform of the Lords. There is very little on the constitution. That is the essential point.
I also invited the minister to tell us what the philosophy was underpinning the Government’s constitutional changes and Wednesday’s statement. In reminding us of what we had been told the day before, he clearly had one of those absent-minded moments and forgot to tell us. It is something we will have to work out for ourselves.