Prime Minister’s Statement – The modernisation of Parliament

Posted on June 14th, 2011 in Parliamentary News

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Since my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister, he has spoken of a new settlement with the British people. I welcome his commitment to a written constitution. He will accept that this process will take a long time, but there is no excuse for not starting it. Does he agree that it is essential that as we write this new constitution, it is not just law-makers, parliamentarians and the good and the great, but members of the public, who are directly involved in writing what will be the most important document in our constitution?

The Prime Minister: We have at the moment a consultation on a Bill of rights and responsibilities. My right hon. Friend is right—as I said in my statement, any written constitution would have to involve the widest possible consultation with the people. Let us be clear where our constitution is at the moment. It is not unwritten, in the sense that there are no written documents and no pieces of legislation. We have devolution to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which in a sense creates a written constitution for those parts of the United Kingdom. There is the European Union legislation, which in a sense creates the conditions in which we operate as members of the EU. The Human Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act and other Acts guarantee equality, including the Equality Bill before us at the moment. There is no shortage of legislation that defines some of our rights and some of the responsibilities of institutions. It is a fact that we have not brought those elements together coherently and cohesively, nor have we set down a statement of objectives and aims as other constitutions do, and that is the subject for our debate. We should recognise that the circumstances in which the debate about a written constitution should take place are completely different from where we were 20 years ago, when there was no devolution, when we did not have the same relationship with Europe and when we did not have human rights or freedom of information legislation. Things have changed fundamentally in the last 20 years.