HC Deb 09 April 1968 vol 762 cc1069-70
Q1. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Prime Minister whether he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to clarify the constitutional position of the Government, relevant to the individual, and to define the rights of individuals in a form of written constitution.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I doubt whether the case so far made out for a written constitution is strong enough to justify my recommending the appointment of such a Royal Commission.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

What has the Prime Minister got against setting out impartially the advantages and disadvantages of a written constitution as a safeguard against the constant erosion of the liberty of the subject?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that most hon. Members feel that a written constitution would be in grave danger of infringing the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty and of creating a special category of law which could not be changed by normal legislative process. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the previous Government rejected the Wyatt Report calling for the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner, or Ombudsman, whereas we accepted it, with the result that the Parliamentary Commissioner is now functioning.

Mr. Archer

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the protection of the individual in United Kingdom public law is to be found in the International Human Rights Convention to which we are a party? May we hope for ratification during Human Rights Year of the two 1966 Human Rights Conventions?

The Prime Minister

On the first part of his supplementary question my hon. Friend is quite correct. On the latter part I have nothing to add to what has been said before.

Mrs. Ewing

Does not the Prime Minister agree that the rights of Scottish individuals would best be served by any constitution, written or otherwise, emanating from a Scottish base?

The Prime Minister

The rights of Scottish individuals are best protected by the vast majority of Scottish Members of this House.

Mr. McGuire

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to safeguard the liberty of the individual is to extend the powers of the Parliamentary Commissioner?

The Prime Minister

These matters were fully debated during the passage of the legislation and the House has had an opportunity to consider one of the Parliamentary Commissioner's Reports. We want to get more experience of the system and, indeed, the report of the appropriate Select Committee before we consider any changes.