I have had a fairly busy parliamentary schedule this week. After teaching on Tuesday, I got down in Westminster in time for the first day in Committee on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. I had several amendments tabled. I was in the chamber throughout the proceedings, other than for getting something to eat during the dinner-break business. I variously spoke, especially in support of my argument to shift the emphasis from lobbyists (or rather a few lobbyists) to those being lobbied. As I pointed out, the words ‘transparency of lobbying’ in the short title were inaccurate, as it was not about transparency of lobbying. My attempt to shift the emphasis drew support from Labour and cross-bench peers (I was the only Conservative contributing frequently), but the Government was sticking to its defence of a rather friendless Bill. You can see proceedings on the Bill here. We finished proceedings shortly after 10.00 p.m.
I was in early on Wednesday morning for a 9.00 a.m. start for the Joint Committee on the Voter Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill. We took evidence from the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, former Norwegian Prime Minister, Thorbjorn Jagland, and then from Attorney-General Dominic Grieve: they were impressive and it proved a valuable morning’s session. I then have a string of meetings – the executive committee of the Association of Conservative Peers (ACP, the full ACP, and the trustees of the History of Parliament – followed by what for me is the main business of the day: giving evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft Deregulation Bill. There is a massive Henry VIII provision in the Bill, enabling ministers by order to get rid of any Act or part of an Act that in their judgment is of no practical use, and providing for only a limited form of parliamentary scrutiny. I had already put in a memorandum to the committee and I spoke to it. After my evidence, the committee saw the relevant ministers – Ken Clarke, Oliver Letwin, and Michael Fallon. I am told afterwards that their defence of the provision was less than persuasive.
In the evening, I attend the tenth annual History of Parliament annual lecture, given by Baroness Hollis on the suffragettes and whether their aims have been realised. It is a stimulating lecture.
Today the main business for me has been initiating a Question for Short Debate (QSD), in Grand Committee, on commencement orders. Regular readers will be aware of my interest in the subject. I drew attention to the waste of parliamentary time and the problem of the public understanding that what is in an Act of Parliament is not necessarily the law. There are 147 Acts passed between 1997 and 2010 which have provisions that have not been brought into effect. One Act in its entirety has not been commenced. I advocated repealing provisions not commenced five years after an Act has been passed. There were helpful speeches from two backbench colleagues, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville and Lord Cormack, and from the Leader of the Opposition, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon. The minister, Lord Gardiner, gave a not unsympathetic response and was keen to ensure that what was said was fed into the Good Law initiative. It is something I will need to pursue if anything is to happen.
Certainly a more productive week than last…