During yesterday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech, one of the topics covered was the constitution. In my speech, I identified what I regarded as three key points to guide Government in addressing constitutional change.
First, don’t expect too much of it. Constitutional change is not going to solve our economic or social problems, or indeed our political problems. Grand claims are made for it, but in practice it may be used by politicians to absolve themselves of responsibility: ‘it’s not our fault, it’s the system’.
Second, make sure it relates to a clear view of what is expected of our constitutional arrangements. The point I made in my earlier post about putting Lords reform in the context of Parliament’s place in our political system was very salient to this point. The last Government implemented major constitutional changes but they were essentially disparate and discrete changes. They were not embedded in an intellectually coherent approach to the constitution.
Third, make sure it is evidence based. Constitutional change should not be the product of a minister’s sudden idea or the result of some back-of-the-envelope calculation or deal. Constitutional change – indeed all public policy – should be grounded in clear empirical evidence.
Ensuring proposals for constitutional change are sound may take time. In the interim, we could utilise the time to enhance our means of ensuring such proposals are subject to rigorous and informed scrutiny.