There needs to be a good reason to change the checks and balances of our constitution. But the changes proposed by successive Governments have so far failed to provide them.
I opposed my Government and voted against the AV referendum in 2011. I believe in retaining the ‘first-past-the-post’ system, as it usually makes for clearer election outcomes, decisive governments and more accountable politics.
I opposed House of Lords reform, believing that an elected Second Chamber would compete with the House of Commons. An elected House of Lords would also be the first step towards a written Constitution.
I also voted against the Boundary Changes proposed in the 2010-2015 Parliament, believing that a reduction of 60-70 MPs in the House of Commons would fundamentally alter the balance between the legislative and the executive and consequently Parliament’s ability to question/check the Government. The equalisation of seats did not require a reduction in their number. I would have supported the proposals had there been a corresponding cut in the payroll vote.
I await to see the outcome of the latest raft of Boundary Changes, but am pleased that the Government has now abandoned plans to reduce the number of MPs.
The Fixed Term Parliaments Act should have been a temporary measure for the duration of the Coalition Parliament, rather than a permanent fixture of our constitution. The downsides of removing the ability of the Prime Minister to call a General Election to break through a Parliamentary logjam were decisively shown during the Brexit process – where it turned out the Act had transferred the power to call an early election from the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition. It is welcome that this Act has been repealed.
I continue to have concerns about the Union, both with Scotland and with Northern Ireland. Scottish independence would be to the detriment of both Scotland and the rest of the UK, as I have written here, and the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol is putting a strain on the Union and the identity of unionists. Having served in Northern Ireland as a soldier, I know how finely balanced community tensions are. The Government must be prepared to take all necessary steps – including triggering Article 16 of the Protocol if negotiations continue to be fruitless.