Wash Up – what is it?

Baroness D'Souza

We are fast approaching that pre-election period when all unfinished business is up for grabs. I have never been involved in the ‘wash-up’ since what legislation will stand or fall is decided by the leaders and whips of the political parties.

Basically it is a time of bargaining, inevitably along highly party political lines. Thus certain clauses of a bill  may be favoured or rejected by a party which hopes to become the new administration.  It is, as I understand it, the occasion for the major opposition party to wield considerable power since there has to be unanimity for any bill or part of a bill to get through.

My chief concern is that the House of Lords Reforms set out in the Constitutional Reform and Governance bill reach the statute book. My only power despite leading a group of almost 200 peers is one of persuasion with the party leaders and whips. Of course it may  be that they too fully agree with these reforms but,  if not, the chances of success are slim.

This reform bill has been delayed for months and months in the House of Commons (it was first introduced in July 2009) and it has still not arrived in the Lords.  So there will only be time for it to have  a Second Reading in the Lords  before Dissolution of Parliament. This means that the normal bill  stages of Committee,  Report and Third Reading will go by the board and consequently there will be no opportunities for amendments and therefore  for votes. We will get what the parties decide should survive of the bill.

24 comments for “Wash Up – what is it?

  1. Croft
    24/02/2010 at 2:59 pm

    I’m slightly surprised you don’t get involved as while you don’t lead a party you must know broadly which way the XB peers will vote on some/many bills. Perhaps the XBs need to find a way to stand up for their (admittedly disparate) interests so they have a say in such matters.

    I was under the impression that the house SOs always allowed for amendments to be debated. You’re describing effectively a cloture which presumably members could vote against.

    Which bills do you expect to survive then?

  2. Carl.H
    24/02/2010 at 2:59 pm

    The wash-up appears undemocratic and not in keeping with how normal legislation would pass the tests our Parliament should use.

    The use of ONLY the primary parties to decide law is abhorrent. Small groups/whips controlling how/if major legislation enters our law books is a travesty.

    I`m astonished this is allowed, it shouldn`t be and to be honest I`m fuming so much words defeat me at this time.

    If a system of legislation is seen to be fair and just, to then cut it down to a mere few to dictate along party lines is a disgrace.

    This isn`t democracy, stop it now.

  3. Louisa
    24/02/2010 at 3:23 pm

    As the CSF bill heads for the wash-up I’m pretty disgusted to see Khyra Ishaq being abused by the DCSF for political ends. Attempts are being made to whip up the public and media into a panic over home education and abuse using the death of a child who was never home educated. How low can this government sink? Khyra Ishaq was *NOT* home educated. She was never legally withdrawn from school to be home educated, she was simply kept off school. That makes her truant or absent without leave, it does not make her home educated. This is a cynical attempt to shift blame from social services depts who failed to follow the case up onto a law abiding minority group to justify oppressing them. The Tories have promised to kill the CSF bill in the wash up and these lies about Khyra are blatant propaganda designed to whip up moral outrage against home educators. I say again Khyra was not home educated. Home educators must legally deregister their children. There is no deregistration letter on Khyra’s file.

    Will Ed Balls *please* allow Khyra to rest in peace and stop abusing her for political gain and will he *please* leave our home educated children in peace too? The hideous CSF bill must die in the wash-up.

  4. Gareth Howell
    24/02/2010 at 3:40 pm

    As often as not they do not have time to decide, so where this “wash up” expression comes from is anybody’s guess, something that men don’t usually do?

    This is the first time, that we have known five years ahead when the next general election would be!

  5. Senex
    24/02/2010 at 4:23 pm

    BDS: As I’m researching Parliament in medieval times through online books I came across a book entitled “The Lives of the Speakers of the House of Commons” (c) 1851.


    Its best to download the pdf and save it to the desktop. What is helpful about this edition is that it can be searched electronically.

    A section at the front titled “Notice – Duties of the House of Commons” is noteworthy. It seems in 1851 one of the speakers duties was to “to adjourn the house at four o’clock, if forty members be not present”.

    Clearly, this practice is still evident and accounts for the late arrival of the bill you mention.

  6. Gareth Howell
    24/02/2010 at 4:32 pm

    “Managing spin cycle can leave a government all washed up”

    This comes from the Australian press, which suggests it is a newly invented metaphor, extending the idea of political spin.

    The Spin cycle of the 5 year Labour government washing machine.

    How low! How boring!

    Otherwise my own search gives the Lords of the blog as being more or less the only website/blog to use the term…..

    An in-word!

    • baronessdsouza
      24/02/2010 at 8:26 pm

      Actually – it is an official term. It appears in a cabinet paper on Dissolution and also in a Library Research Paper 09/44.

      • Gareth Howell
        25/02/2010 at 7:39 am

        “official term. It appears in a cabinet paper on Dissolution and also in a Library Research Paper 09/44.”

        Wash Up at that time might have as much to do with the “wash up” on to a beach (1944) as in the kitchen!

      • Senex
        25/02/2010 at 11:00 am

        Talking of spin cycles…

        We bought on of these Korean beltless drive washing machines several years ago for about 600 notes. It was great to begin with all fancy with blue LED lights and novel notes that played at various times in the cycle.

        We soon discovered that it would not spin bedding; you know the stuff that we lie on. The cycle would go on and on relentless. It had a two year warranty but every time the service engineer called he would say that he was not allowed to wait and watch it spin, he had to make progress. They came and went replacing many parts but to no avail and then the warranty ran out.

        The problem was it used fuzzy logic to decide when to spin; all of this to eliminate the heavy concrete annulus of convention. After three years of domestic torture a perfectly ‘good’ but expensive washing machine was replaced and relegated to storage. I flagged down passing a rag and bone man complete with horse and cart and this frustratingly inept project was loaded up to be recycled.

        What is the moral of this? 1. Avoid new labour saving devices they can cause intense frustration and are not always reliable. 2. Not all domestic crises are political.

    • Ken
      25/02/2010 at 12:19 pm

      Re citation of ‘wash-up’ term, do you mean this Library Standard Note, rather than the Research Paper you cite?


      Dissolution of Parliament
      Standard Note:SN/PC/05085
      Last updated:3 February 2010

  7. baronessdsouza
    24/02/2010 at 6:04 pm

    I think that a consitutional expert is needed here. However, I believe that if there is agreement between the two Houses of Parliament certain Standing Orders can be waived. I am finding out more about this arrangement!

    • Croft
      25/02/2010 at 2:01 pm

      How is the agreement in the Lords reached though? If it’s via a cloture motion then how does each party have a veto (clearly the LDs could be easily ignored by Lab/Cons reaching an agreements among themselves) if it’s a stitch up among all parties to whip that no amendments be put down then how does that stop rebellious backbenchers or XBs from blocking proceedings. I’m still as clear as mud about how the wash up really works. Hope you can provide some clarity!


      • baronessdsouza
        27/02/2010 at 3:28 pm

        Croft, good point! As I understand it the agreement is reached outside the Chamber between the three political parties – which are whipped, so highly unlikely that any of their number from any party would submit amendments. That would not, in theory stop a crossbencher tabling an amendment. However the factors that would militate against this include the reluctance to ‘kill’ a bill which may have good bits salvaged; the certainty that there would be no support from the politial parties and thus the amendment would be lost before it started!

        It would be an obstructive move and only undertaken if there were monstrous clauses within a bill – which is again unlikely due to the ‘wash-up’ deliberations of the parties.

      • Croft
        02/03/2010 at 11:21 am

        Thankyou for at least trying to make some sense of it all!

    • Gareth Howell
      25/02/2010 at 4:49 pm

      Perhaps Senex’s faulty gadget started spewing out parliamentary bills left right and centre, or were they lying dead in the wash up of a French beach in 1944, like the Bills in parliament of 2010? A very mixed metaphor indeed!

      Senex is studying Medieval parliament’s and will not have missed the assembly of Whitland called by Hywel Dda, (Howell the Good) which I have also researched as Welsh and family history, called in 928AD.

      I have got the modern book of Law which was discussed at that assembly, and various tomes investigating the literary credence of the 13thC manuscripts.

      Bedd Gelert, the fictitious Welsh man, on these boards, will also be pleased to know of my enthusiasm and probably Senex’s too.


  8. Carl.H
    24/02/2010 at 7:06 pm

    My Lady it would be good if we HAD a written constitution !

    The public complain about properly scrutinised Bills, this just flies in the face of reason. I am truely concerned about this, any Government COULD use it to advantage.

    We`re complaining there`s not enough INDEPENDENT scrutiny of legislation during normal procedures only to find that during the death throws of a Legislature they are able to throw all sorts of things in the bucket and as long as the PARTIES (NOT ALL) agree it`s fair. I think not.


    It`s ridiculous to have a political system that we then throw to one side when a Government is possibly on it`s way out and let through legislation on an “Arrangement”, that may well appear conspiratorial.

    Would you give someone notice from a position and implement all their ideas leading upto their leaving ? Ludicrous.

  9. Gareth Howell
    24/02/2010 at 8:39 pm

    “let through legislation on an “Arrangement”, that may well appear ”

    It is not the Westminster bills which matter so much Carl, since the lobbying system is tried and tested here, but the hacking about of European Delegated Legislation, without so much as a by your leave or thank you (why should they?), which is rather more serious.

    The power of international organizations which attempted, for example,to destroy the “Cooperative difference” at European level, and may yet have sown the seeds of the end of the Coop Manchester as a true cooperative,
    is huge, without allowing the small man to do the contrary,for lack of funds, to get to Strasbourg or Bruxelles by any means, to do the lobbying.

  10. Carl.H
    24/02/2010 at 10:29 pm

    “It is not the Westminster bills which matter so much”

    Tell me again once someone has cloned your IP for downloads and you`re cut off the net or they`ve MADE your SEN child attend school.

    Besides which I don`t blog so well in German and I believe they have the most members, in the other ” OTHER” place. 😉

  11. Bedd Gelert
    25/02/2010 at 2:51 pm

    As a four-legged pooch who has been dead for over a century, I might be able to get away with suggesting that you reach an arrangement with the Lords where they can leave early and the Baronesses are left to do the Wash-Up, because they are so much more efficient at it..

    I’ll get my [canine] coat and beat a hasty retreat…

    • baronessdsouza
      27/02/2010 at 3:30 pm

      Bedd Gelert, I tend to agree but what’s YOUR evidence?

  12. Tim
    25/02/2010 at 3:13 pm

    Am I missing something?

    Surely since the whips decide which way the major parties vote anyway it doesn’t make very much actual difference whether there’s a debate.

    Or is that a highly cynical view?

    • baronessdsouza
      27/02/2010 at 3:33 pm

      Tim, at ‘wash-up’ this probably true.

      However, at other, more normal, times there are always rebels in each party who vote against the party line. In addition, there are lots of so-called ‘free votes, especially on moral/ethical issues, where peers vote as they wish and there is no whip.

  13. baronessdsouza
    27/02/2010 at 3:22 pm

    Ken, I did in fact mean the Library Research Paper 09/44 published in May 2009 and entitled ‘Election Timetables’ (42pp)

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