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 Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, House of Lords, Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 4:12 pm, 10th June 2009

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord first raised the issue of a written constitution. The Government propose that the UK could move towards a written constitution but only after extensive public engagement and the appointment of a commission. Therefore, we are talking about something that is clearly not immediate. These things necessitate a great deal of reflection, but it is right to start the discussions about these things now. Of course, a written constitution would have to have proper regard for Parliament and its two Houses.

The noble and learned Lord then talked about Sir Christopher Kelly publishing expenses on the internet. It is absolutely correct that whatever Sir Christopher Kelly's committee comes up with, including the publication of expenses, will help to restore trust in parliamentarians. However, as I mentioned earlier, the days of self-regulation are gone and an independent regulator is necessary. That is not to say that MPs are not worthy of trust. They are, but it is something that the electorate expect these days, because no other similar body is self-regulated. This is also important for MPs themselves. We all have friends and colleagues in the other place who have been under the most enormous pressure and are having the most terrible time at the moment. They might well feel comforted by the fact that there is an independent regulator.

The point about the relationship between the new body, the courts and Parliament is extremely important. I am afraid that I have no answers at this stage, but it is being very carefully considered.