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 Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 4:12 pm, 10th June 2009

My Lords, how does the suggestion of a written constitution lie with questions of reform of the House of Lords? It is obvious that, if there is constitutional reform on a grand scale in the shape of a written constitution for the first time, questions must arise about the position in that constitution of both Houses of Parliament.

My second question is in relation to the authority that is proposed in respect of the House of Commons. As I understand it, a committee is sitting at the moment on the reform of the allowance system in the House of Commons and it is hoped that a good, transparent, effective and reasonably cost-effective system will be proposed by Sir Christopher Kelly and his committee. If that is the case, it removes a considerable part of the difficulty that has affected the House of Commons in recent months. If, in addition to that, the expenses of the Members of the House of Commons are immediately made public, perhaps the problems that have existed will disappear. Is it right for this Parliament—with the problems that it has had, in particular this House of Commons—to take upon itself, prior to a general election, to conclude that those to be elected as MPs in the future will not be worthy of trust without the supervision of this body? I believe that may be seriously underestimating the electorate, who are capable of taking a pretty serious account of the matters that the right reverend Prelate referred to of character and conduct when it comes to electing Members of Parliament.

Thirdly, has any consideration been given to the relationship between this new body, if it comes into existence, and the existing Parliament? At the moment, Parliament enjoys a very special position in our constitution in that the ordinary courts of justice do not interfere with Parliament on the basis that it is supreme. This new body will apparently have disciplinary powers over Members of Parliament. If so, there must be a considerable question as to how its status will lie with the ordinary courts.