The constitution is the foundation upon which law
and government are built. Yet the United Kingdom has no agreed
process for constitutional change. We do not accept that the government
should be able to pick and choose which processes to apply when
proposing significant constitutional change. We therefore recommend
in this report the adoption of a clear and consistent process.
Our recommendations are not intended to restrict the government's
right to initiate constitutional change, but to hold ministers
to account for their decisions.
We regard it as essential that, prior to the introduction
of a bill which provides for significant constitutional change,
- consider the impact of the proposals upon
the existing constitutional arrangements,
- subject the proposals to detailed scrutiny
in the Cabinet and its committees,
- consult widely,
- publish green and white papers, and
- subject the bill to pre-legislative scrutiny.
We examine these processes in this report, as well
as considering the desirability of public engagement and building
consensus. We also stress the importance of not rushing parliamentary
scrutiny of legislation once introduced into Parliament and of
conducting comprehensive post-legislative scrutiny of significant
constitutional legislation once passed.
We recommend that the minister responsible for a
significant constitutional bill in each House set out the processes
to which a bill has been subjected in a written ministerial statement.
The processes which we recommend are intended to form a comprehensive
package from which the government should depart only in exceptional
circumstances and where there are clearly justifiable reasons
for so doing. Our proposals will, if accepted, focus the minds
of ministers and help to bring about a cultural change in Whitehall
regarding constitutional legislation. We believe that our approach
is pragmatic and achievable, enabling the flexibility of the United
Kingdom's current constitutional arrangements to be retained whilst
enhancing and underpinning those arrangements.