Minding our own business?

Lord Tyler

As a former Shadow Leader of the Commons, I naturally take a close interest in what is happening at the other end of the building.  Many people will have been dismayed to learn that MPs would not have been able to debate and vote on a motion of confidence in the Speaker without Government co-operation.  We had an unprecedented situation in which a leader of one of the major parties (Nick Clegg) and numerous backbenchers on all sides publicly withdrew their support for the Speaker, yet the situation could not be resolved without Ministerial assistance.  The reason is not because of any archaic rule – it is simply that the Executive is dominant in our legislature; there is no time – save for on rare Opposition Days – for Members of Parliament to take votes on serious issues, or even on internal imperatives, unless the Government makes the time.  The Conservatives, of course, could have allocated of one of their days for debate, but that seemed unlikely.

In the Lords, however, we are more democratic!  Because is no majority for any party, it’s much easier to get a motion debated – we call it “calling for papers” and though by convention these are not voted on, they could be if a Peer called for such a vote.  Indeed, I am seeking such an opportunity my Constitutional Renewal Bill.  Amongst many other reforms, the Bill would tackle the lack of effective disciplinary procedures for both Members of both Houses.

In the meantime, had we tried to debate Michael Martin’s speakership – and the parlous position into which his office and his stewardship of it had descended – I fear we would have angered MPs.  Many of us may think that the Speaker has made a bad situation worse, but I am sure Members of the Commons would resent us interfering in their affairs.  It may have been timely for the Lords to prove what it’s like to have control of our own business, but on this occasion I think MPs might just have told us to mind our own business.

4 comments for “Minding our own business?

  1. ladytizzy
    19/05/2009 at 4:35 pm

    How is he likely to be received by the Lords, assuming he takes ermine?

  2. Senex
    19/05/2009 at 8:10 pm

    Lord Tyler: If MPs have become discredited, then by association so have MPs taking promotion to the Lords. Best to leave sleeping dogs lie. Don’t mention the war so to speak.

    The new regime of expenses will encompass the Lords which means that tax returns will no longer be passed straight through but will undergo scrutiny by the tax authorities just in case a CGT entry is declared.

    Is there an MP in the Commons untouched by the expenses scandal to allow choosing a new speaker? The publics view is turf the lot out or to be more sensible have a general election.

    What’s the Chinese curse? May you live in interesting times.

  3. 20/05/2009 at 12:19 am

    Surely the business of both houses is the sound running of the national government, and as such an issue of national importance is fair game for the Lords to debate even if it puts some parliamentary noses out of joint.

    Propriety can be an impediment to sound management, on occasion, you know.

  4. Croft
    20/05/2009 at 4:45 pm

    Lord Tyler: I’ve posted on Lord Norton’s post about the Speakership querying if it really is the position that there couldn’t be a vote without government (or an opposition day motion). The speaker clearly has powers to have an emergency debate as from time to time a 3hr (usually) emergency debate is allowed. Erskine May doesn’t seem to help – there must be a record somewhere of the procedure. Lord Norton said Sir John Trevor (the last speaker removed) put the motion to remove himself from the chair.

    If I was being mischievous perhaps the Lords should have moved a motion ‘this house has confidence in the Lord Speaker’ which would have allowed peers to draw revelent comparisons. 😛 Actually do we know the procedure for removing the Lord Speaker?

    LadyTizzy: “How is he likely to be received by the Lords, assuming he takes ermine?”

    Politely no doubt. It’s almost one of Lord Norton’s quiz questions but I wonder who the last peer created who didn’t receive the polite ‘cheer’ when they took their seat?

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