Select Committee on Constitution Fifth Report


26 FEBRUARY 2003

By the Select Committee appointed to examine the constitutional implications of all public bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution.



1.  A bill has been introduced into this house to make provision enabling alterations to be made to the total number of Members of the European Parliament to be elected for the United Kingdom and to their distribution between the electoral regions; to make provision for and in connection with the establishment of an electoral region including Gibraltar for the purposes of European Parliamentary elections; and for connected purposes. The European Parliament (Representation) Bill was brought from the House of Commons on 4th February 2003 (HL Bill 29), and received its second reading in the House of Lords on 20th February.

2.  We considered that the bill raised significant constitutional issues, both in relation to elections to the European Parliament, and also in relation to the novel provisions which will allow Gibraltarians to vote in UK elections. We therefore wrote to the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Minister in charge of the bill, requesting further clarification on matters principally relating to the powers of the Lord Chancellor to make Orders under the bill, and his duty to consult before making such Orders (see Appendix 1).

3.  We are grateful for the Lord Chancellor's comprehensive and swift response (see Appendix 2). We are also grateful to Roger Creedon, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, who we asked to comment on the Lord Chancellor's reply (see Appendix 3).

4.  The Lord Chancellor's explanation for the power under Clause 12(3)(a), to create powers to make subordinate legislation, is that it "will be limited to provisions which are necessary or expedient in consequence of or in connection with the inclusion of Gibraltar in an electoral region". This limitation is not, however, incorporated on the face of the bill. As it stands, we consider that this provision is very wide, and that it would be better were the power to be more narrowly drawn.

5.  We draw this, and the other matters raised in our letter to the Lord Chancellor, to the attention of the House, as raising questions of principle about principal parts of the constitution.

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