This is both a new post and a follow-on to Lord Tyler’s last. Last night was an exciting evening in the Chamber. The Commons response to the Lords amendments in the Coroners and Justice bill returned to our House for consideration. The process by which a Commons amendment A (usually a re-insertion of the former Government position or a modified response) is debated alongside an amendment A1 by any peer (usually the official opposition or a Lib Dem) who wishes to hold out for the original Lords position. We then proceed to B, B1 and C, C1 and so on through the Commons amendments. In the ‘secret inquests’ question the Government had moved a considerable distance to add safeguards; the Inquiry substituted for an Inquest in these rare cases is now to be decided on by the Judiciary not by Ministers. The Majority was satisfied the Government had now largely met the anxieties expressed on all sides in previous debates and won the vote.
The next vote was sexual infidelity being removed as a partial defence to murder, at lease that was how it was perceived although many lawyers in the house pointed out that in fact sexual infidelity alone has never an ‘excuse’ for murder. This was the first vote where perceptions outside the House, particularly the campaigns of women’s groups seemed to be having a major influence. Before I came into the chamber I’d received (and I guess then so did every crossbench peer) a badly written and ill conceived e-mail letter from Harriet Harman (twice, from different parts of her office) exhorting us to vote for the Government. I was so irritated by the letter I’d almost made up my mind to vote against. Then I listened to the debate, and Heavens, the loquacious speech of the Lib Dem opposing the Government position, Lord Thomas of Gresford was enough to drive me into the Government’s arms. It seemed to me an unnecessary addition to the bill but probably won’t do any harm either.
The last big vote I stayed for (Lord Tyler won’t like this but I decided after it that I wanted to go home for dinner) was the so called ‘free speech’ clause or The Waddington Amendment. Again, before I came into the House to listen to the debate I thought I’d probably vote against the government, but having listened to the safeguards and watched how many homophobic peers were voting for the amendment, I decided in the end I didn’t want to keep company with them and voted against. A long winded and rather bad tempered debate, at one point the incomparable Baroness Trumpington intervened
“My Lords, I wonder whether I would be right in saying that 99 per cent of the Members in this Chamber have already made up their minds which way they are going to vote. Will the Minister cut the cackle and let us get on with it?
Yes, that’s exactly how we all felt. Lord Bach did try and speed things up with the thankfully short-winded Lord Henley for the Opposition and we eventually voted. The Government lost so it will return today for a final ping or pong. Then we will be prorogued for a break before State Opening. I’ll try not to giggle during the pantomime-like ceremony of prorogation