Constitutional Renewal — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:12 pm on 10th June 2009.

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Photo of The Bishop of Durham The Bishop of Durham Bishop 4:12 pm, 10th June 2009

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for her Statement, repeated from the other place. Many of us on these Benches and around the country are aware of the problem of all that is going on being seen as simply a party issue. Many people out there are aware of what has been happening, but do not see it in terms of the either/or of ordinary party politics. These are questions of much wider interest. Will the noble Baroness accept that the public are bound to see this sudden rush of proposals as sheer displacement activity to distract attention from recent events which have happened on all sides of the political spectrum?

Many of us believe that we urgently need reform. However, suddenly to rush through a programme in this way cannot be the right way to do it. It is like somebody who, under the guise of so-called visionary leadership, decides to cut down all the old oak trees in the great park, only then to discover a few months later that the topsoil has all blown away. There is currently a real danger of us losing some of the political topsoil, and I hope that that will be taken into account.

Will the noble Baroness agree, while we of course need regulation and discipline to replace the indiscipline that has gone on in so many areas of public life, that regulation by itself is not enough? We have been drowning in regulation these many years, with the forms that we all fill in and all kinds of things that have come out of our overgenerous Home Office for many years past. We urgently need, not regulation, but character. The Government have talked about character. I look forward to seeing the development of character, values and virtues in a way which regulation by itself simply will not do.

Finally, does the noble Baroness agree that, although we have had many proposals and interesting suggestions over the years, there is still an enormous amount of confusion around in terms of legitimacy on the one hand and accountability on the other? These words are waved around as though we all knew what they meant. Again and again, however, when you poke your finger at them, it goes straight through the paper and we are left with puzzles continuing. We urgently need that sort of debate about the nature of government and constitutions, and we will simply not have it if we have a programme rushed ahead as a way of distracting attention from other events.