The House of Lords Constitution Committee has today published its report on session 2012-13, which highlights the impact its work has had in improving legislation over the session.
The Committee, which examines the constitutional implications of all Bills coming before the House of Lords, highlights where its recommendations led to amendments to legislation and ensured that proposals met a high standard of constitutional propriety.
Amongst the legislation highlighted by the Committee is:
Crime and Courts Bill
The Committee’s report on the Bill led to the removal of the Lord Chancellor from selection panels for the Lord Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court and a new duty on the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice to promote judicial diversity. The Committee also supported an amendment that secured the independence of the Chief Executive of the Supreme Court from the Government.
Justice and Security Bill
The Committee reported that the Bill challenged two principles of the rule of law: open justice and natural justice, by allowing judges to see evidence presented by the Government which was not disclosed to the defendant. Following the Committee’s report a number of improvements were made to the Bill, including a requirement for an independent review of the Act in 2018.
Referendum on Scottish Independence
The Committee’s report on the agreement between the UK and Scottish governments for a referendum on Scottish independence stressed the importance of the Electoral Commission providing a candid and rigorous assessment of the referendum question. In January 2013 the Scottish Government promptly accepted the Commission’s advice on the question.
Electoral Registration and Administration Bill
In January 2012 the Committee reported on its concerns about the law regarding voters queuing to vote at the close of polls. This had emerged as a prominent issue in the 2010 General Election, where an estimated 1,200 voters in 16 constituencies had been unable to vote despite being in a polling station queue at 10pm. A further report from the Committee on the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill led to a Government amendment that changed the law so in future voters who are in a polling station, or queuing to vote, at the close of poll will be able to do so.
Succession to the Crown Bill
As a result of criticism from the Committee of the Government’s proposal to fast track the legislation the Government doubled the amount of time allowed for the Bill to be debated in the House of Commons and allowed the Bill to proceed through the House of Lords by the normally legislative process. In today’s report the Committee re-asserts its belief that fast-tracking is rarely appropriate for legislation of constitutional significance.