The past couple of weeks have been somewhat manic. When at the Lords, I have been lucky if I have got away from the Palace before 11.00 p.m. – actually, thinking about it, I haven’t been that lucky – with meetings or debates packed in between morning and evening. Some of the work has been in the chamber. I spoke on Second Reading of the European Union Referendum Bill. You can read the speech here. Some has been committee based. On the Constitution Committee, we are continuing our inquiry into devolution and the union. This morning, I moved to the other House to give evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in its inquiry into English Votes for English Laws (EVEL). You can watch the session here: my evidence (with Sir William McKay) commences at 10.25.
Well, it was ostensibly on EVEL. Part of the questions did indeed cover the subject and the recommendations of the Commission to Strengthen Parliament, which I chaired, and which formed one of the three options considered by Government. However, coming after yesterday’s events in the Lords – when the House defeated a statutory instrument on tax credits – the questioning opened on that. The session concluded by asking my views on the constitutional implications if the size of the House of Commons is reduced, but there is no change in the number of ministers. I gave evidence on this to the committee in the last Parliament (and indeed was appointed a specialist adviser by the committee in order to help draft the report) and members are keen to return to it given the planned reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600.
The fact that the questions ranged over these topics gave me an opportunity to address the problems of successive Governments pursuing a raft of constitutional issues but doing so as discrete measures without addressing their implications for other changes or indeed thinking about them within the context of the constitution as a constitution. I didn’t quite put it in these terms (though I came close), but Governments tend not to understand the constitution. We may be seeing more evidence of this shortly.