As readers may have realised from earlier posts, Wednesdays tend to be rather busy days. Yesterday was even more crowded than usual. I started with a pre-arranged meeting with a fellow peer followed by a meeting of the executive of the History of Parliament Trust. As soon as it finished, I dashed to the meeting of the Constitution Committee. We were taking evidence from Lord Jay, Chair of the Independent Appointments Commission, on the work of the commission. It was a case of a brief lunch, followed by a meeting of the executive (I seem to be on a number of executives) of the Association of Conservative Peers, followed by a meeting of the ACP. I had to go straight from that to speak to a party of Open University students on the role of the Lords: a one-hour session became a one-and-a-half hour session. It was straight from that to a meeting with another peer – we were then interrupted by a division – and little time to finalise notes for a talk I was giving at 6.00 p.m. (It was now 5.30!) At 6.00 I was on a panel (along with Baroness Jay and Professor Dawn Oliver) organised by the UK Constitutional Law Group to talk about the first ten years of the Constitution Committee in the House of Lords. I spoke on the origins of the committee and what it has done in the first decade of its existence.
For my talk, I had analysed the number of reports published by the committee since its creation in 2001. (I was the first Chairman, as well as a current member, hence the reason for being invited to talk.) On my count, the committee has published a total of 126 reports. These can be sub-divided into those that are responsive (reports on Bills) – 71, own initiative (substantial evidence-taking inquiries initiated by the committee) – 20, and for the information of the House (annual reports, transcripts of meetings with the Lord Chief Justice etc) – 35. I singled out some of the own initiative reports as having had a notable impact (notably those on Parliament and the Legislative Process and Fast-track Legislation). I summarised the functions developed by the committee as informing debate, developing constitutional principles, calling Government to account, and shaping the legislative process – though not yet the constitutional process.
The House rose shortly after 10.00 p.m. I got away just after 10.30. Today is less hectic: it is a case of balancing what is going on in the chamber (Committee stage of the Scotland Bill) with marking – a rather large stack of scripts.