The UK needs a clear and consistent process to make governments accountable for the constitutional changes they introduce says the House of Lords Constitution Committee today.
In its report on the Process of Constitutional Change, published following a six-month inquiry, the committee says that it is not acceptable that the UK has no agreed process for constitutional change when the constitution is the foundation upon which law and government are built.
The government should not be able to "pick and choose" what processes apply in different cases, says the committee. Constitutional legislation should meet the highest standards of consultation, consideration and scrutiny.
The committee's report sets out a "comprehensive package" of processes which governments should follow to ensure it meets these standards, including publishing green and white papers and draft bills, and considering the detail of proposed changes in Cabinet committee. The committee also recommends that the minister responsible for initiating constitutional change should explain to Parliament the processes used to develop the government’s proposals when a new bill is introduced. This is intended to focus ministers' minds and ensure that the government justify any failure to meet the highest standards.
Committee Chairman, Baroness Jay of Paddington, said:
"Currently, there is little to stop governments with a Commons majority from changing the UK's constitutional arrangements as they please. The constitution is vulnerable to the political agendas of successive governments, with insufficient regard to what is best for the people. This is unacceptable.
We must make sure that this country’s constitutional framework is respected and treated with more care by those who seek to change it. This can only be done by introducing a rigorous process for bringing about such change. My committee urges the Government to take up its recommendation as to what that process should be."