Constitutional Renewal
Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister
12:30 pm

Photo of Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown (Prime Minister, Prime Minister; Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, Labour)

It is our responsibility to recognise that the problems of expenses are in every party in the House of Commons, and we must all accept the responsibility for sorting them out.

The Leader of the Opposition is quite wrong about the Constitutional Renewal Bill. It has been discussed by Committees of both Houses, and it was published in draft form some time ago. We have been debating it so we can get it absolutely right. It will come before the House of Commons for its Second Reading very soon, but before that we have to deal with the expenses crisis. The Constitutional Reform Bill removes the royal prerogative in key areas: the ability to declare peace and war is no longer a matter just for the Prime Minister or the Executive; it is a matter for the House of Commons, as are the declaration of treaties, the selection of people and pre-appointment hearings. There are a range of areas where the Executive have surrendered power to the House of Commons, and will continue to do so.

The time is also right for Parliament to make its affairs more accountable to the public. I think I am the first Prime Minister to propose a review to ensure that Select Committees can work in a new way, and I hope everybody will take up the opportunity to discuss that. I am also proposing that we look at means by which the public petitions that now come to No. 10 could come to Parliament in such a way that they could be debated.

As for the devolution of power, let us be clear that we devolved power to Scotland and Wales against the views of the Conservative party, and we also put forward constitutional proposals, including on freedom of information, which are now being seen to be changing our political system as a result of transparency. We want to expand that. The Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposal is to open up information more widely, and if we do that the Leader of the Opposition's proposal about information about money can be put on the internet. There are, therefore, a range of proposals.

On electoral reform, I think it is fair to say that before the Leader of the Opposition asked me questions at Prime Minister's Question Time, he had sight of the statement that I was to make to the House of Commons—

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