Justice Committee

Press notice No. 58 of Session 2008-09

20 October 2009 / For Immediate Release


The Chairman of the Justice Committee, Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, said today that:

"The Justice Committee has looked at a range of proposals for constitutional reform and renewal over the last few years - some of these have made their way into this bill but many have not, such as reform of the dual role of the Attorney General as Government minister as well as independent legal adviser. The UK constitution is always described as 'unwritten' but this is not wholly accurate. It is, however, distributed across the politico-legal landscape in a complex web of text, precedent and convention. We believe that reform of any significant part needs to take the whole picture into account, to involve a much more substantial and creative consultation process than the Government seems to be envisaging, and there should be a referendum on any fundamental change." He added that "the reform of the Commons should be part and parcel of this process and we have identified three priorities for change: the near total control of the House's agenda by the executive; the dual role of the Leader of the House as the main channel for House business and member of the executive; and the fact that the House itself has no mechanism for introducing effective motions relating to business and timing."

The Committee published a report before the summer which summarised current thinking on constitutional reform and in particular drew attention to the potential for unexpected interactions between different strands of the debate. This report was the Eleventh Report from the Justice Committee, Session 2008-09: Constitutional reform and renewal, HC 923 (the Government reply was published last week as HC 1017). Other particularly relevant recent work has been:

Fifth Report, Devolution: a decade on, HC 529 (Government response, Cm 7687)
Seventh Report, Constitutional reform and renewal: Parliamentary Standards Bill, HC 791 (Government response, HC 1017)

Fourth Report, Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (provisions relating to the Attorney General), HC 698 (Government response, Cm 7689, July 2009)

Fifth Report, Constitutional role of the Attorney General, HC 306 (Government response, HC 242 (2007-08)).

Committee membership is: Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP (Chairman), Mr David Heath MP, Rt Hon Douglas Hogg MP, Siân James MP, Jessica Morden MP, Julie Morgan MP, Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Robert Neill MP, Dr Nick Palmer MP, Linda Riordan MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Mr Andrew Turner MP, Mr Andrew Tyrie MP and Dr Alan Whitehead MP.

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