The House this evening agreed to suspend two peers, Lords Truscott and Taylor of Blackburn. After a very good debate, the House agreed, without a vote, to accept the first report of the Privileges Committee (thus agreeing that we had the power to suspend members) as well as the second (with its findings in respect of the four peers considered by the committee). The House then, again without a vote, agreed to two motions, the first to suspend Lord Truscott for the rest of the session and the second to suspend Lord Taylor of Blackburn for the rest of the session.
In addition to the party leaders, and the convenor of the cross-bench peers, there was heavyweight support from leading legal figures in the House, including those who have held office as Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Lord Mackay of Clashfern), Attorney General (Lord Morris of Aberavon, Lord Goldsmith) and Law Lord (Lord Lloyd of Berwick). Only Baroness Mallaleui, a barrister, spoke against, but her argument (that the procedures may be against the provisions of the Human Rights Act) were immediately and authoritatively countered by Lord Lester of Herne Hill, the leading human rights lawyer.
One could take the view that the penalty was severe, given that no member has been suspended since 1642, and on the other that it was not severe enough, given that the period to the end of the session (especially if counted in sitting months) is a short one. It does, though, demonstrate that the House is now willing to use the power to suspend peers who contravene the rules of the House.
There is also the recognition that this not the end of the process. We need also to review how we regulate our conduct as well as our system of allowances. The House Committee last night agreed to have an external review.
UPDATE: The debate can be read here.