Embargo: 00:01 Tuesday 20 February 2007
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659
HIGH LEVEL GOVERNMENT SPLITS ON PARLIAMENT'S ROLE IN GOING TO WAR LED TO FUDGED RESPONSE - LORDS COMMITTEE
The House of Lords Constitution Committee have today criticised the Government for their response to the Committee's report
Waging War: Parliament's Role and Responsibility.
The Committee also criticise the Government's delay in responding to the report and suggest that high level divisions on the matter within the Cabinet may explain the 'fudged' response.
The Committee point out that the Government's response to their initial report, which was published in July 2006, only appeared as a Command Paper on the 7 November 2006. This three month gap came despite assurances that a response would be published by the time the House returned from summer recess on 9 October. The delay in responding goes against a commitment made by the Leader of the House of Lords that Government responses to Lords Select Committee reports should be made within two months.
The Committee go on to state that the delay in responding to their report cannot be justified on the ground of complexity as the "the brevity and paucity of the Government's response renders such an excuse unconvincing."
The Committee describe their surprise and disappointment that the Government's response consisted of just one and a half pages of comment. They make clear that they believe both the delay in publishing the response and the failure to engage with the Committee's key arguments and recommendations can be blamed on disagreement on the issue within the highest levels of Government. They point out the disparities in comments made publicly by the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor, against more systematic Parliamentary scrutiny of decisions to go to war, compared with comments by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Leader of the House of Commons who have been more positive about a new convention setting out Parliamentary involvement in any decision to go to war.
The Committee conclude by stating that although they are thoroughly disappointed by the Government's response there appears to be a growing cross-party consensus that the current arrangements are unsustainable and they are optimistic their recommendations will be revisited by government in the very near future.
Commenting, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, Chairman of the Lords Constitution Committee, said:
"We are extremely disappointed both with the delay to the Government's response and with the completely inadequate nature of that response.
"The Government have failed to think seriously about what is an issue of vital constitutional importance.
"It is clear that this fudged response is a result of disagreement at the highest levels of Government. Some senior Cabinet figures, including the Prime Minister, have argued against a Parliamentary convention requiring a vote on military action, while others appear to have a much more positive attitude to such a proposal.
"It is therefore unsurprising that the Government have fudged their response. However, when dealing with something as important as the basis of decisions to go to war, such a cursory response is simply unacceptable. It is now urgent that this report should be debated in the House of Lords".
Notes to Editors
1. The House of Lords Constitution Committee published their report
Waging War: Parliament's Role and Responsibility on Thursday 27 July 2006. The Government have previously undertaken to respond to all Lords Committee reports within two months. The Committee agreed to extend this deadline to the 9th of October due to the summer recess. The response was finally published on 7 November 2006.
2. The Committee's original report as well as the Government's response and the Committee's follow-up report can be found at:
3. For further information or to request an interview with Lord Holme, please contact Owen Williams, Committee Press Officer on 0207 219 8659.