On Tuesday, the House debated a report from the Constitution Committee of the Lords on The office of Lord Chancellor. It was a reasoned report, making a number of recommendations. In the debate, peers commended various of the proposals advanced by the committee. However, what was remarkable was the unanimity among backbench speakers as to the inadequacy of the Government’s response. (You can read it, in the form of letter from the then Lord Chancellor, here.) The report was published last December and it took the then Coalition Government more than two months (they are expected to respond to reports within two months) to prepare a response. The response was notably inadequate, both In terms of length and content. As I said in my speech, it basically conveyed the message, “We broadly agree with the report, except where it makes any substantive recommendation, in which case we don’t agree with it, but we can’t be bothered to engage with the report and provide reasoned arguments for our stance”. As I went on to note, the minister’s letter consisted of 115 lines, excluding headings, of which 58 comprised direct quotes from the committee’s report. In other words, half the Minister’s letter simply reproduced the committee’s recommendations. The Government’s actual response occupied 57 lines, constituting fewer than 800 words.
The criticism came from all parts of the House, including from distinguished jurists on the cross-benches. The strength of feeling was clear and the minister could hardly ignore it. He has taken the views of the House back to his Department. I suggested the Government produce a fresh response to the committee’s report. Watch this space.