One of my fellow bloggers – or even more likely, one of our regular contributors/commentators – may be able to prove me wrong, but I don’t recall much, if any, discussion of the work we do in the “Moses Room”.
This is where the “Grand Committee” meets, under a huge picture of Moses handing over the 10 Commandments (hence the name), and where very useful and interesting scrutiny takes place, sometimes during the Committee stage of a less controversial bill, but more often when we need to look carefully at Secondary Legislation. At relatively short notice I was deputed to appear there on Wednesday to contribute to the examination of several new regulations (officially known as Statutory Instruments or SIs). Although we Liberal Democrats no longer are under an obligation to provide a second opposition viewpoint on these, we feel there is real value in a spokesperson adding to the Coalition Government Ministerial presentation. There is always, of course, a contribution from the Labour opposition, and sometimes from interested backbenchers from any of the three parties or from a Crossbencher with relevant experience.
You may like to take a quick look at the Hansard report of the various SIs we were discussing on Wednesday. The first (on ballot papers for the forthcoming mayoral elections) was in my portfolio territory, and I had some forewarning that I would be dealing with it. The next two (on licensing and appeals under the Marine & Coastal Access Act) were landed on me at a couple of hours notice, because our expert colleague was ill. Fortunately, having worked with him through very many long hours of debate on the Bill, I retained some working knowledge of its provisions. The final set of regulations – implementing improvements to Waste targets and guidance to local councils – was entirely new to me. I did my best to swot up the issues in the limited time available. I leave it to you to judge whether we did a reasonable job between us. Having noticed that the bulky book of regulations was not apparently printed on recycled paper, I was able to extract a promise from the Minister that he and the Government would practice what they preach, and publish the forthcoming Waste Review in a more environmentally friendly form.
However, what I hope you will notice especially is the relatively consensual, cooperative and constructive tone of the whole afternoon’s work. In contrast to the more confrontational attitude in the Lords Chamber (getting more so, with the influx of yet more ex-MPs perhaps?) this is where really useful work can be done, at reasonable speed but with careful cross-party scrutiny. I would be interested to hear what you think, when you have read the Hansard report.