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Orders of the Day — Defamation Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:28 pm on 21st May 1996.

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Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright , Cannock and Burntwood 10:28 pm, 21st May 1996

The Minister's intervention invites me to go further than I intended, but I shall resist that temptation. I shall say simply that the fact that we have no special procedure to deal with constitutional matters, and instead treat them as though they were ordinary laws, is the source of many of our problems and discontents.

The time has come to try to develop the mechanisms and machinery that would enable us to deal with the Bill and all the other things that we propose. Personally, I would favour a constitutional commission—analogous to the Law Commission—to which such matters could be referred and which could produce expert and authoritative advice for the House. The way in which this change is being made is precisely the way in which it should not be done. We should not proceed casually and in a hurry without the reflection and expertise that is required.

We have had a golden rule governing the relationship between Parliament and the courts for 300 years. It has been enshrined in the article of the Bill of the Rights to which I have referred. In so far as we have anything resembling a written constitution, that article of the Bill of Rights is an important component of it. I do not believe that, on reflection, the House would want to sweep all that aside without consideration on the back of a Bill that is really about something else.