2011 - Another Year for British Politics

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Asabrush, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    The government majority has just been slashed to 14 on a rebel ammendment during Committee Stage. The government has promised to bring in similar ammendments when the bill goes to The Lords.

    It should be noted that the government's disgraceful behaviour in informing MP's that it will make ammendments in the Lords has made a farce out of today's proceedings. Then again it's about all I expect from this government.
  2. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    I watched much of this on the Parliament Channel. Didn't go to bed till late. It was reassuring to see MPs actually attempting to hold the government to account.

    I agree that the manner in which the government informed the Commons of potential changes to the bill was outragous! How can the Commons debate and vote on something that is promised will happen in the Lords????

    This highlighted the attitude of the government towards Parliament.
  3. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    It have to say that the stance of the Conservative party on this issue has pleased me a great deal. To make a firm defence of liberty when the present public mood is not favourable to such a cause and to take a beating from the newspaper whose support the party seeks most of all (The Sun) deserves praise. It's almost enough to make me forgive Howard for his earlier backing of the ID cards bill.
  4. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I am going to have to retract my previous praise for the Conservative Party on this issue now that they look like climbing down. The statements made by the Conservative front bench in The Lords were very depressing. I should have known that the leadership wouldn't have the nerve to stick to such a brave and principled position [face_plain]
  5. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Yeah. Very disappointed with the Tories (again). Just when it seems they are getting it right they bottle it!
  6. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    What is even more annoying is that both the Conservatives and the Lib Dem's screwed up like never before. On the important vote where Labour's majority was slashed to 14 they should have been defeated. Not only did 62 Labour MP's rebel but 77 failed to vote, easily enough to overturn their working majority of 165. However 24 Conservative MP's and 17 Lib Dem MP's (including Charles Kennedy) did not vote. Plaid Cymru were the only opposition party at full strength.
  7. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Crap! Our opposition parties can't even to the maths and bother to vote!
  8. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Having little better to do I have come up with a list of the 24 Conservative MP's who failed to vote on the all important ammendment. I was astonished by how many senior figures in the party missed the vote, the list includes a member of the shadow cabinet, three other fronth bench spokesmen, two former cabinet ministers, seven former members of the shadow cabinet (one of who is a deputy chairman of the party) and at least three highly respected backbenchers. Eight of them are Privy Councillor's.

    The list in full

    Angela Browning
    Bill Cash
    Tim Collins
    James Cran
    Quentin Davies
    Stephen Dorrell
    Michael Fabricant
    Michael Fallon
    Adrian Flook
    John Gummer
    Nick Hawkins
    Oliver Heald
    David Heathcote-Amory
    David Liddington
    John Maples
    Michael Mates
    Andrew Mackay
    Jonathon Sayeed (currently suspended from the party whip)
    Richard Shepherd
    Michael Trend
    Robert Walter
    Ann Widdecombe
    John Wilkinson
    Nicholas Winterton

    Astonishingly Bill Cash and Richard Shepherd (Both of whom I admire greatly for their stance on Europe) were both present during the debate and later voted against the bill at third reading, why they failed to support the ammendment is beyond me. In the case of Shepherd it is all the more surprising because as he is probably the most libertarian minded of all conservative MP's
  9. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Once again The House of Lords has shown it's worth by inflicting a crushing defeat on the government's Prevention of Terrorism Bill. Peers voted 249 to 119 in favour of a Liberal Ammendment to ensure that all control orders should be made by a judge rather than the home secretary. While this is a welcome move it does not in itself make the principle of control orders acceptable. The law denies due process to British citizens, the fact that a judge, not a politician makes the decision is only a marginal improvement.

    Anyway, it seems to me that the government are going to have to concede this point if it want's to get this law onto the statute book by next monday. Even if they can reverse this defeat in The Commons on wednesday (which is far from certain) I seriously doubt that The Lords could be won round. Had the majority been smaller the government might have given it another try but a majority of 130 is not going to vanish in the space of a few days.

    Two more Lib Dem ammendments were passed without a vote. The first raised the standard of proof for making a control order from "reasonable grounds for suspecting" to "satisfied on the balance of probabilities". The second ensured that the court would have to be informed by the Director of Public Prosecutions that there was no reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution before making a control order.

    With luck the Lords will pass further ammendment's tommorrow including the so called sunset clause which will see the bill expire within eight months.
  10. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Thank the Lord for the Lords! Shame the government made such a hash of that situation too!
  11. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I still can't believe that Lord Irvine voted against the government. It's a real slap in Blair's face.

    It's also practically unheard of for the government to simply accept defeats, without calling a vote, on two ammenments that they were against.
  12. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    The House of Lords has indeed shown its worth. Before the House of Lords is 'fixed', the Commons needs to be fixed, so that it never again passes legislation of vital importance on the basis that the government will have it amended in the other Chamber (and after a miniscule amount of debate)!

    The Commons is a rubber-stamp, and the House of Lords--its all-appointed makeup notwithstanding--contributes far more to the parliamentary process.

    I haven't yet looked into the precise form of the amendments passed by such a huge majority in the Lords, but they do seem to go a long way towards fixing the Bill's problems (e.g., on standards of proof, and judicial involvement).
  13. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Before the House of Lords is 'fixed', the Commons needs to be fixed, so that it never again passes legislation of vital importance on the basis that the government will have it amended in the other Chamber (and after a miniscule amount of debate)!

    Do you actually have any suggestions about reforming The House of Commons?

    The fundamental problem of course is that a majority of MP's are willing to blindly support the government in it's abuse of parliamentary process. As one Lib Dem MP said last week, IIRC it was David Heath, When is The House of Commons going to start standing up for itself?

    One idea's that IMO should be considered would be to do away with, or heavily reform, programme motions, which were introduced in 1999. While the idea behind them was a fairly good one they have been abused time and again by this government. Instead of simply improving the time tabbling of Bills they have been used to curtail debate. It is now common for large swathes of Bills to be unconsidered at Committee stage and/or suffer a severely truncated Report Stage. Allocation of time (guillotine) motions while much less flexible could still be used to prevent opposition parties using unreasonable delaying tactics.

    Another idea would be to set a mandatory minimum time of say 12 hours for The Report Stage and The Committee Stage when a bill goes before a Committee of the whole house.
  14. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    I think the select committee system should have more power thus giving MPs another "career" route that may curtail the influence of the Whips.
  15. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I certainly agree that a more powerful Select Committee system would be very helpful.

    Anyway, The Lords continue to savage The Prevention of Terrorism Bill. The sunset clause was passed by a huge majority of 187. Shadow lord chancellor Lord Kingsland said "Parliament has spent the last 700 years protecting our liberties. It seems outrageous that we should be asked to allow an open-ended right to remove the most fundamental of them from our statute book." Further ammendments on the right of suspects to have state benefits and for all types of control measures to be listed on the bill have been passed.

    Either the government or The Lords is going to have to make a huge climbdowm in the next couple of days. I know where my money is, tommorrow will be a very bad day for Charles Clarke.
  16. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    Those majorities in the Lords will not simply be erased--and in view of last week's events in the Commons, the government might well have trouble getting the votes even to have the Commons disagree with the Lords amendments.

    Either the Lords amendments are agreed to by the Commons, or the Bill won't pass. Clarke will simply be left with no alternative but to accept the Lords' changes.

    With regard to the committee system, it might indeed be an excellent way of making MPs more independent. (One of the reasons why I have such a favourable opinion of my own MP, Robert Key, is that he has specifically chosen a career in the committee system as opposed to one on the Tory front bench.)
  17. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Two more very welcome ammendments have been passed by The Lords. The first states that the rules of court in control order proceedings should be made by the Lord Chief Justice after consulting the Lord Chancellor. The second prohibits the use of evidence obtained under torture abroad. By my reckoning that makes 8 opposition ammendments that have been passed. The bill, while still objectionable in principle, is now far less damaging.
  18. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Maybe, with the election around the corner the government deliberately made this a bad bill in order to look tough on terror to the electorate and were always willing to accept reasonable ammendments that still passed the bill into law.

    I wouldn't put it past this administration.
  19. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I wouldn't put it past this government but I suspect that it was more a case of their typical arrogance. That they actually thought they could get such a bill through parliament.
  20. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    I actually disagree with the first additional change mentioned by DarthKarde. The Lord Chief Justice should not be put in the politically difficult position of determining how control order proceedings will operate with regard to evidence, etc.

    The Lord Chief Justice handles court administration; he should not be put in the position of taking responsibility for contentious political matters.
  21. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I actually disagree with the first additional change mentioned by DarthKarde. The Lord Chief Justice should not be put in the politically difficult position of determining how control order proceedings will operate with regard to evidence, etc.

    The Lord Chief Justice handles court administration; he should not be put in the position of taking responsibility for contentious political matters.


    I can accept that point. However the Lord Chief Justice is already involved in some decisions that are politically contentious so I don't see it as a major issue. Also given that the role of the Lord Chief Justice is set to be expanded at the expense of the Lord Chancellor if and when the governments reform of the the office of Lord Chancellor and the creation of a new Supreme Court finally gets passed you could argue that it would be consistant with the governments own constitutional reforms.

    Anyway, It would seem that this government is even more stupid and even more arrogant and it's backbenchers even more feeble than even I thought. If Blair and Clarke think that today's minor concessions will be enough to buy off the Lords they are living in a fantasy land.

    Incidently had someone on the Conservative front bench made the speech, with the same level of passion, that Douglas Hogg made during todays debate I would have changed my mind about not voting conservative at the general election.
  22. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    It seems that yesterday's post of mine was slightly optimistic; the Commons this evening 'overturned' the Lords' major demands comfortably. However, I continue to believe that majorities of 130 to 190 in the House of Lords will not simply be erased overnight, and that further concessions on the Bill will have to follow to avoid it faltering entirely.

    (Incidentally, I love the way the media report the Commons 'overturning' Lords amendments, as though we do not actually have two Houses of Parliament which are--subject to the Parliament Acts--equal in authority.)

    I haven't yet seen the performance (which seems to me an appropriate term), but on the basis of reports Blair's behaviour at Prime Minister's Question Time reached a new low today. Of course the police and security services want the measures in the Bill, but they are not impartial authorities to appeal to. Blair's apparent insistence that not doing what MI5 wants to do must be foolishness is (appropriately enough for this Bill) Orwellian.
  23. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Both the government and the Lords seem to be digging in for a game of parliamentary ping-pong. I find it hard to believe that the government would really let this bill fall. If Blair and Clarke really believe that the threat is as great as they claim they would accept whatever compromise is necesary to get the bill on the statute book. The Lords know that and so they should hold their ground.
  24. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I must admit to being somewhat divided on the final compromise solution. I accept that the deal offered by Blair and Clarke was pretty much a sunset clause in all but name. However, the burden of proof on non-derogating orders remains too low and the Home Secretary, not a judge, will still be issuing those orders in the first place. Both of those points were of fundamental importance and I was in part saddened to see the conservatives concede on that point. I reluctantly accept though that having pretty much got the sunset clause it would have been extremely dangerous in political terms to hold out on the other point as well.

    Incidently I love the idea that at 7:30pm on a Friday it is still technically Thursday in parliament. Both house have been sitting for over 32 hours.
  25. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Good to see the Lords sitting bright and early this morning!

    How can we trust a Prime Minsiter that once said "If you saw the advice I have, you'd support the war on Iraq."?

    This whole process actually warms my heart a little and increases my faith a little in our Parliamentary process.

    If only we could get some closure on the reform of the Lords and put this "elected" House of Commons "overturning" the unelecetd Lords argument to bed once and for all!