The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point. I am happy to agree with it, and I am sure that it will find support among Members from across the House.
In seeking to strike a new balance between the Executive and Parliament, most of our initial attention must be focused on our deficiencies in respect of parliamentary oversight and Executive accountability. The rag-bag of statutes, powers and conventions that make up what passes for a British constitution gives plenty of scope for unaccountable Executive authority. The very notion of the royal prerogatives, dating from the mists of time, creates an air of mystery, but beneath the colourful, confusing veneer, many of those prerogatives have morphed into modern-day instruments of raw Executive power. Many outside this place find it staggering that the Prime Minister alone can take the decision to enter into armed conflict. The Cabinet's role is not formalised, never mind Parliament's. Although politically it would be hard to ignore a vote in the Chamber that had gone against the Government, there is no explicit constitutional bar on the Prime Minister of the day doing just that. That must change, too.
The way in which government is conducted must also change. As I said before, we have not yet had a full inquiry into the disastrous decision-making processes that led to our participation in the Iraq conflict, but through the Hutton and Butler reports and the work of right hon. and hon. Members on the Committees of the House, we have had a glimpse of the informal and ill-judged way in which the Prime Minister took us to war. Certainly, we have learned more than enough for Parliament to demand more.
We start from a position that may be slightly different from that of earlier speakers. On matters of such significance, we should have legislation, rather than simply tweaking Standing Orders. That is why we supported the private Member's Bill in the past. All of us must be prepared to discuss these matters when the Government's proposals are submitted for consultation. In the private Member's Bill that was debated 18 months ago, there were sensible proposals that provided a proper starting point for that debate. I hope that the Leader of the House will examine those proposals closely as he considers what to bring forward.
The House will not have moved the game on unless any vote that we are asked to take is based on the kind of report envisaged by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood and many others, which sets out the reasons for the proposed action and the legal authority for it—more like the 13-page opinion from the Attorney-General on
We must look at how that scrutiny is maintained appropriately once the conflict has begun, and later when it has finished. If we are to consider new ways in which the Executive explains its reasons for and seeks support for military action, surely we must also find new ways of scrutinising events afterwards. Positions on this have changed and hardened in the light of the Iraq experience, with the Conservatives now also committed to an inquiry, at an appropriate time, into what happened.
A great deal of political energy has been expended on the demands for and rejections of inquiries. Without constraining the Committees of the House in the work that they undertake, we ought to have a clearer system of review which, at the right moment, allows proper investigation of the background to conflicts and our involvement in them. Governments can no longer expect Members of the House or members of the public to accept anything at face value. After Iraq, who will?
During the Second Reading debate on the private Member's Bill, a range of voices were raised in opposition to it. Legitimate issues were highlighted but, sadly, the clear objective for many on the day was to see the Bill killed off. That it was not even allowed to progress into Committee when ample opportunity was given makes that clear beyond doubt.
Whatever the reasons, we on the Liberal Democrat Benches welcome the fact that the political winds have changed direction. We must quickly return to all the detailed issues at the heart of this debate. Our priority must now be for Parliament to be put at the centre of decision-making and scrutiny, where it belongs.