Dispatches from the chamber

It is just coming up to 11.00 p.m. on Monday.  The House is still debating the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.  There were 55 peers on the speakers’ list.  However, the start of the debate was delayed by a motion by Lord Falconer of Thoroton to refer the Bill to the examiners on the grounds it may be hybrid.  We debated and rejected the motion.  There were then two statements.  As a result, the Second Reading debate did not get under way until 6.30.  If we had continued until everyone had spoken, we would probably still be here at 4.00 or 5.00 a.m.!  As a result, it was agreed to have the first 38 speakers and then adjourn the debate until tomorrow, when it will resume after a debate on the interim report of the committee set up to consider reducing the size of the House. 

I am down to speak shortly before the end of tonight’s debate.  I estimate I may be on my feet about half-past-midnight.   Not much chance of getting a good night’s sleep, not least because I have to catch a train shortly after 6.30 a.m. to get back to Hull, and will then return to Westminster in afternoon for the rest of the debate, as well as chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Constitution.

As I was getting a quick bite in the Bishop’s Bar, Baroness Kennedy told me that if the House were to be elected, my electors would doubtless be impressed by my willingness to go to such lengths.  I pointed out that if I were elected, I wouldn’t expect to have two jobs!

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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13 Responses to Dispatches from the chamber

  1. Carl.H says:

    My Lord that`s a self employed schedule, no other person or industry would allow it. Not that I suppose it`s unusual for you and I feel it is in someways a life you enjoy.

    Good luck on the speech, I caught a few earlier but with the length I don`t suppose I`ll ever get to hear it all, certainly not those on after midnight.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Craig.H: Many thanks. I didn’t mind it at all, though I may take a different view if it was a regular occurrence. I find the very early morning to be the best time of the day.

      I will provide a link to the speech!

  2. ladytizzy says:

    Just found a new toy…but who/what is craigieb?

  3. Carl.H says:

    My Lord, why was Lord Falconers motion defeated ? Was it clearly technically wrong not a hybrid ?

    • Croft says:

      Carl – fwiw the argument it should be sent to be examined as hybrid seemed pretty uncontroversial. The bills gerrymandering of Orkney and Shetland/Western Isles for the benefit of the LDs is the sort of specific exclusion that has seen past bills considered hybrid. The government won only because it has a massive majority and still only scraped in by 14 which doesn’t say much for its whipping or conviction of its peers.

      • djb13 says:

        There was only one coalition rebel on that bill. I think basically Labour threw everything they could at the motion, and the coalition knew they had a large inbuilt majority, so didn’t bother too hard.

        As I understood a hybrid bill is one with both public and private interests being affected. This being constitutional, is therefore public. Although I might be wrong?

      • Croft says:

        You always have to consider not voting can be active abstention of those not wishing to support their party but not willing to vote against rather than just not bothering to vote. 14 is too tight for the whips to have intentionally left that size of majority.

        I can do no better than quote from the parliament fact sheet:

        “Speaker Hylton-Foster described a hybrid bill as “a public bill which affects a particular private interest in a manner different from the private interests of other persons or bodies of the same category or class”.”

        The treatment of those constituencies and their voters is clearly different than those in the same class ie all the other seats.

      • djb13 says:

        From a legalistic point of view, I don’t see this affects private interests at all, simply because I don’t see that any constitutional bill can have private significance.

        That said, there should be other safeguards on constitutional bills, like a requirement to vote down a referendum (rather than failure to put one in), absolute Lord’s veto, some sort of requirement for pre-legislative scrutiny, plus perhaps a statutory period for academic studies of the proposed changes. Don’t think that I’m all in favour of changing the constitution without proper consideration. It’s just that just on this specific matter, I don’t feel that the residents of the Isle of Wight have an automatic right to be consulted on this bill.

        Anyway, I don’t see the rush to get AV through for 2011. If there referendum’s on AV, then it can be passed any time before early-/mid-2014 and it won’t make the blindest bit of difference. What matters (from the government’s POV) is the getting the constitutuencies part through as soon as possible.

  4. Croft says:

    I think your slightly misunderstanding private in this context. Railways and Council programmes have both been brought in via hybrid bills yet are very much public matters.

    The AV bit is crude politics, the LD get AV for supporting the constituency changes so they have been bound together to stop the more rebellious LDs causing trouble as they think they are more likely to get AV past before the cuts really bite

  5. Lord Norton says:

    The motion by the Opposition was essentially an attempt to delay the Bill. One Labour peer – a distinguished lawyer – saw me after the vote and admitted there was no way that the Bill was hybrid. They only voted for the motion knowing it would be defeated. The Bill began life in the Commons and, as with all Bills, was examined before introduction by the Public Bill Office. The Bill was not found to be prima facie hybrid and no motion was tabled in the Commons to refer it to the examiners. When it came to the Lords, it was examined by the Clerk of Public and Private Bills, who came to the same conclusion as the Clerk of Public Bills in the Commons. The right to vote is a public right and the manner and place in which it may be exercised are not private interests. The Bill engages no private interests as defined by private business standing orders 4 to 68.

  6. Croft says:

    I’ve heard far worse legal arguments succeed in parliament. The SO are largely reflect the convenience of government That Labour had a political reason for delay seems no more of merit than than the government had a political reason to ram all business though on the public bill process because they have a deeply time sensitive bill.

    • djb13 says:

      The merit of what the Government’s doing is that it’s legally accurate. I can see there’s clear expediency on both sides here, but that’s not the salient point here. Governments often do the wrong thing for the right reason and vice versa.

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