Reports Of Committees

Publication Date01 Sep 1974
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1974.tb02402.x
REPOR%S
OF
COMMITTEES
KILBRANDON:
THE
Sun
THAT
LAUNCHED
A
THOUSAND
FACES?
Our
schemes provide in one way
or
another for new
representative bodies in all regions.” (Report, para.
1222)
FEW
Royal Commissions have had as rough a passage as the
Commission on the Constitution. The voyage was dogged by mis-
fortune-two deaths among the crew, three more jumped ship-
and disagreement-not only two outright mutineers, but dissen-
sion among the remainder as to which of five possible courses to
follow; and the welcome, when the weary crew paddled into port
with their heavy cargo after four long years at sea, was mixed,
with a fair part of derision in it. They deserved better. and the
Memorandum of Dissent,2 and within that majority, was open,
thorough and illuminating, clarifying problems and issues in a way
no united recommendations could ever have done. Perhaps it
was also inevitable. Arguably-indeed the signatories of the
majority report came close to saying
so
explicitly-the remit was
impossibly vague. Omitting the references to the Channel Islands
and the Isle of Man, whose problems are too specialised to concern
us
here, it was
‘‘
to examine the present functions of the central legislature
and government in relation to the several countries, nations,
and regions of the United Kingdom; [and] to consider, having
regard to developments in local government organisation and in
the administrative and other relationships between the various
parts of the United Kingdom, and to the interests of the pros-
perity and good government of
our
people under the Crown,
whether any changes are desirable in those functions
or
other-
wise in present constitutional and economic relationships.”
This is certainly far from being clear, unambiguous English:
between whom
or
what, for example, do the constitutional and
economic relationships last spoken of subsist
?
Possibly the nation-
alistic stirrings which led to the appointment of the Commission
commanded the translation of the original terms of reference into
Welsh and Gaelic and their re-translation into English, and this
was the result. In any event, the Commissioners, not surprisingly,
The argument, both as between the majority report
1
Royal Commission
on
the Constit$ion
196’?;1973,
Vol.
I,
Report, Cmnd.
6460
(1973);
hereinafter referred to
as
Report.
2
Royal Cornmission
on
the Constitution
196S1973,
Vol.
11,
Memorandum of
Dissent by Lord Crowther-Hunt tnd Professor
A,.,
T.
Peacock, Cmnd.
5460.1
(1973)
;
hereinafter referred to as Memorandum.
544
SEPT.
1974
REPORTS
OF
COMMITTEES
545
found it impossible even to agree
on
the kind of inquiry to be
conducted, with the majority concentrating their work of detailed
examination and their practical recommendations on issues
primarily geographical in character, while the authors of the Memor-
andum of Dissent thought they should look at the system of govern-
ment as
a
whole and consider whether
it
satisfied the needs and
aspirations of people in all parts of the United Kingdom.a
As
a
result of this all-embracing approach to constitutional review, the
dissentients offered a number of reforms not directly related to the
devolutionary issues on which the majority concentrated, such as
the creation of a substantial Prime Minister’s Department, group-
ing the Central Policy Review Staff, the Civil Service Department,
the Cabinet Offlce and part
of
the Treasury; a system of functional
Parliamentary committees which would associate Members of Parlia-
ment with departmental work of policy formulation; legal regu-
lation of the process of selecting candidates for Parliamentary and
other elections,
of
party expenditure
on
publicity outside election
campaigns and of election broadcasting; and contributions to party
expenses from public funds.4 They were able, moreover, to take
account of the long-term constitutional impact of United Kingdom
membership of the European Communities in
a
systematic and
comprehensive way, rather than viewing it, as the majority did,
purely negatively, as
a
possible impediment to devoluti~n.~ They
were also bolder than the majority in recommending changes in
established institutions flowing naturally from the scheme of devo-
lution they proposed, such as reform of the House of Lords to
provide
it
with a regional element which would interlock Parliament
with the new regional organs of government.% The majority, guided
here perhaps by its interpretation of its terms of reference, rejected
this possibility as
cc
unrealistic
and
c6
raising questions ex-
traneous to the question of regional government.’’ Lastly, the
freedom offered by a separate Memorandum of Dissent enabled
them to present a continuous line of argument leading up to a single
specific set of recommendations.
In
contrast, the majority, no
doubt mindful of the differences among them as to the best con-
crete solutions, adopted a format in which chapters of general analy-
sis and evaluation of the various possibilities
off
ered-separatism,
federalism, the public finance of and general scope for devolution,
and its various forms, legislative, executive and administrative,
and other variants-were followed by separate chapters putting
forward the Commission’s several concrete proposals, identifying
8
It
is
unfortunate that while arguing that the majority construed the Commis-
sion’s terms of reference too narrowly, the authors of the Memorandum should
themselves be
unable
to state them correctly: Memorandum, paras.
1-4.
4
Memorandum, paras.
280-296,
311-316.
5
Compare Memorandum, paras.
83-113,
with Report, paras.
409-415.
6
Memorandum, paras.
297407.
7
Report, para.
858.
8
Report, para.
1073.
VOL.
w
(6)

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