When the Constitution Committee of the House of Lords was created in 2001 – I was the first chairman – one of the the first reports we did was on the process of constitutional change. The Committee returned to the subject this year and has just published The Process of Constitutional Change, noting in effect that the situation has not improved in the course of the decade. As the Committee says (para. 35) ‘There has been an inconsistent approach to the process of constitutional change. Whilst particular processes may be employed in relation to some proposals, they have been entirely absent in others’. It then goes on to observe that there appears to be no consistent rationale as to the use or otherwise of such mechanisms.
In the report, we make a number of – we think practical – recommendations for ensuring that the process is more consistent, with measures of constitutional significance being recognised as such and subject to a sustained process of scrutiny (Green/White Papers, pre- and post-legislative scrutiny) with ministers making statements covering the process, including how the Bill has been considered within Government. We are keen to achieve a cultural change within Whitehall, ensuring Government recognises that Government works within an established constitutional framework and must not treat the constitution as something that can be changed at will. Achieving that also requires vigilance on the part of Parliament.