Crunch Time


According to the Government’s briefing, we are expecting a guillotine motion to be tabled tonight for voting tomorrow.  This will determine whether or not the remaining debate on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill will be brought to an end.

This would be a massive step for the Lords.  I may not have been in the House for very long but it will be an extraordinary attack on the principle of self regulation that defines the Chamber.  Instead of the Lords themselves deciding who should speak and for how long, that power will be taken by the Government for the first time.  They will seek to use their unique voting strength to steam roller this through.

They will attempt to argue that this is an isolated case and they’ve been forced into it by the lack of self discipline by Labour peers.  They will point the finger at ex-Labour MPs debating through the night.

I’m not saying every speech has been perfectly judged but this is a fight of the Government’s own choosing and is not an excuse for permanently changing the character of the House of Lords.

The Bill, unlike other constitutional changes, had no white paper and no pre-legislative scrutiny.  No chance to debate the issues in advance and try to achieve consensus.  By anyone’s judgement changing the electoral system to the House of Commons is a massive change.  It should have had scrutiny over time and its own bill.  If it had, then it would now be on the statute book and we’d be campaigning on whether or not to have AV.

But for political reasons – to get backbench Tory support -it was bolted together with the other change, to reduce the number of MPs and remove public enquiries from constituency boundary reviews.   Just as big a change, and many more detailed issues to consider.

And as we have debated it in the Lords I detect more MPs in the Commons, on all sides, getting cold feet about the implications of reviewing every constituency every Parliament, and of reducing the number by 50 before the next election.  The implications for the Government’s whips will be disastrous as Tories and Libdems absent themselves from Westminster to fight amongst themselves for the reduced number of safe seats.

The Government is desperate to get both and to do so in time for a May 5th referendum.  I genuinely don’t see why they want to bind us to that date.  The Lords have already amended the bill so that it could be any date before October 31st – and my judgement is that a yes vote is more likely later in the year with more time to make the case.

But these are all the issues we’ve been debating on the Bill.  A guillotine motion is a bigger debate.  The Government is wanting to impose its will on the Lords, just because it wants a referendum on May 5th and is unwilling to do a deal to protect that date.

There are other choices.  Split the Bill.  Hold the referendum on another day.  Compromise and allow an independent body decide the number of MPs, with some right of the public to be heard if it disagrees with the Boundary Commission.  Compromise has always been the way before, as the Labour Government did to get rid of hereditary peers.

But no, they want a permanent change to the relationship between the revising chamber and the Government.  Having packed Parliament with more unelected Peers they are hoping to push through this change so they can reduce the number of elected MPs.  To defeat the guillotine we need near unanimity from the cross benches and a few rebels on the Government side.

We’ll see.  Hopefully we’ll have a successful compromise instead.  Finger crossed.

8 comments for “Crunch Time

  1. Lord Blagger
    31/01/2011 at 1:16 pm

    Having packed Parliament with more unelected Peers they are hoping to push through this change so they can reduce the number of elected MPs.


    Such as yourself. You’ve not been elected to the Lords. You owe your position to patronage.

    So are you going to do the honourable thing, and not be a hypocrite, by not turning up?

    • lordknight
      31/01/2011 at 3:22 pm

      Nice one Blagger. I’ve never pretended that people like me should become a member of the second chamber by patronage – I am in favour of elected peers. However until I can be part of a winning vote on that question I’ll continue doing what I was appointed to do.

      • Matt
        31/01/2011 at 11:21 pm

        “Nice one Blagger. I’ve never pretended that people like me should become a member of the second chamber by patronage – I am in favour of elected peers. However until I can be part of a winning vote on that question I’ll continue doing what I was appointed to do”.

        Fair comment as far as it goes. But why not take it just one step forward and reduce your numbers by a form of in-house election??

  2. Carl.H
    31/01/2011 at 3:09 pm

    I`m virtually played out on this now. I was against this bill and still am but unlike some have virtually run out of things to say, that are pertinent.

    What can you say to a leader that applauds the riots in Egypt and stands behind the protestors yet ignores Britains streets? What do you say to Mr. Osbourne who has threatened more law so the Unions cannot protest? What do you say to a very minor party who broke a solemn promise for a few pieces of silver and must be by now realising that the promises they were given were false ? What do you say to a Government who ignore the pleas of their Parliamentary expert in reduction in Ministerial size ?

    What I can say to the Lords is this Bill needs the same scrutiny you will later give Lords reform and that is so much more that what this has had.

  3. Lord Blagger
    31/01/2011 at 4:31 pm

    Strange. I get the notification of your reply, but the comment is still awaiting approval.

    So, you still want to dictate.

    Now, lets see what the electorate will say.

    1. You’ve run up 6,800 billion of debts, and counting.

    It’s a well established legal principal that any contract must be accepted by both parties.

    You haven’t asked me to run up those debts, and I haven’t certainly consented.

    The reason is that you sit their like Mubarak and dictate to us. You never ask us to decide on an issue.

    Ah, I can hear you now. AV is an issue. It isn’t. AV is just a means of deciding with dictator such as yourself (you’re unelected) dictate to us.

    Even the ‘but you can vote us out at the next election’ mantra of MPs is twaddle.

    Lets say I want to get rid of a troughing MP in a constituency where the choice is Mr Pig, MP and Mr Racist, BNP.

    I have to vote for the Racists to get rid of the Pig. It’s not a good option is it?

    01/02/2011 at 1:06 am

    Don’t worry too much about Blagger. He denies the existence of the Ntional Insurance Fund and insists on counting liabilities but refusing to count the corresponding assets. he is very one eyed in his point of view.

    For the record, I too, would like to see a wholly elected House of Lords but not on the same voting or constituency basis as the House of Commons.

  5. Lord Blagger
    01/02/2011 at 11:21 am

    I don’t deny the existence of the fund.

    However, lets look at it.

    Here’s how it works.

    You take out a piece of A4. You right on it. I Peter Morris, owe Peter Morris, 20 million pounds, and sign it.

    There you are. You’ve got a valuable asset worth 20 million pounds.

    It’s the same with the NI fund. How can the government make an asset out of its own debts?

    Next, lets look and see if the assets come anywhere near the liabilities.

    As of March 2010, the fund had 48.5 billions of loans the government has made to itself.

    The government is due to spend 126 billion on pensions this year.

    Can you explain why the government fund has 5-6 months of pension payments made up with one part of the government writing an IOU to another part of government?

    If the money goes in half a year, what about the pensions for the next 80 years?

    It very simple. It’s a Ponzi supported by fraudlant accounting.

    It’s the biggest oversight by the Lords who are complicit in the deception.

    They do after all have a track record on their own expenses in similar matters.

    For example, we have no idea what’s a second home, but lets give you lots of cash anyway.

      01/02/2011 at 5:41 pm

      Blagger – when that piece of paper is signed, under your definition, there is a liability and an asset created at the same time.

      The National Insurance Fund is contributed into by employers and employees to the tune of billions of pounds of real money each and every month. That is called an “income stream”. Surely even you would agree that this happens each month? The value of an income stream can be classified as an asset. That income stream, if calculated over, say 10 years or even 50 years can give rise to a substantial asset. That asset can then be offset against all those liabilities that you recognise and count, like the value of state pensions paid out to everyone from reitrement age until they die.

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