As Lord Knight has reported – and indeed as have several newspapers today – the Government suffered a significant defeat last night on the Police and Social Responsibility Bill. This was the second defeat in two days. The previous day, it lost an important amendment on the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill.
These bring to 16 the number of Government defeats so far this session. These last two defeats are notable, though, for the fact that they are not the consequence of cross-benchers voting in some numbers and disproportionately against the Government, as has been the case with almost all of the preceding defeats. The votes of cross-benchers were necessary in both cases but they were not sufficient. (They divided 45 to 2 against the Government in the first division and 37 to 11 against in the second.) On the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill, the Government lost by 6 votes, with 6 Conservative peers going into the lobby against the Government. On the Police and Social Responsibility Bill, they lost by 188 votes to 176, with 13 Liberal Democrats (and 4 Bishops) voting for the amendment. Indeed, as Lord Knight reports, the amendment was moved by a Liberal Democrat.
The presumed ‘in-built’ Government majority is not exactly providing a reliable protection. The 16 defeats constitute 16 more than the number so far suffered in the Commons.