More defeats

Lord Norton

Despite the supposed in-built Government majority in the House of Lords, the Government lost a further three votes this week on the European Union Bill.  On Monday, the Government lost a division on an amendment moved by a former UK Ambassador to the United Nations, Lord Hannay, by 214 votes to 209.   (There was second division, which the Government won by one vote, 188 to 187.)   On Wednesday, the House carried an amendment moved by a former Conservative Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, by 242 votes to 209 and another, moved by a former head of the Diplomatic Service, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, by 209 votes to 203. 

In the first and third defeats, the cross-benchers divided approximately two-to-one against the Government, but what ensured that the Government lost was that in each case a number of Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers voted for the amendment (3 Conservatives and 7 Liberal Democrats in the first, 4 Conservatives and 19 Liberal Democrats in the third).  On the second defeat, the cross-benchers divided 52 to 11 against the Government, so ensuring the Government lost, though 5 Conservatives and 10 Liberal Democrats also voted for the amendment. 

This brings the total of Government defeats this session to 19.  That is 19 more than in the Commons, where the Government majority is clearly that.

14 comments for “More defeats

  1. Dave H
    17/06/2011 at 7:08 pm

    I think it healthy that the government gets defeated occasionally, it keeps them on their toes.

    It also shows that the Lords is prepared to stand up and tell the government it got something wrong and should go and rethink it. It’s also nice that I’m not hearing the PM whining about how the Lords is out of touch with the will of the people.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      18/06/2011 at 4:48 pm

      Dave H: Without commenting on the merits of the individual amendments, I agree with your general sentiment. When Lord Denham was Government Chief Whip under Margaret Thatcher, he reputedly took a similar view.

  2. MilesJSD
    18/06/2011 at 3:10 am

    Captivating, Lord Norton.
    This would be a clear and impartial report of connected facts;
    such as a police-officer or military-scout would be expected to give;
    were it not for your opening words
    “Despite the supposed in-built government majority in the House of Lords” and in your second (of three) paragraphs)
    “but what ensured that the government lost” (was a ‘split’ within the coalition members, a telling combination of whose votes went against-their-own-Coalition’s intent).

    The topic is thereby not at all clear; neither is any greater Issue;
    except ‘between the lines’ that Lord Norton is one vested-interest seeking to bolster, nay ‘retain’, the independent powers of the Upper House which is to a very small percentage of the Public a current political/constitutional/democratic topic and possible future issue about the Lower House seeking to dis-empower and monopolistically-party-politicise the Second House.

    Checking first for a moral validity, I can find neither a Normative nor a Descriptive claim;
    so I turn to Formal-Argumentation but can find neither an deductive nor an inductive argument in-the-making;

    except (still wearing my freshman student gown)for the shadow of possible Fallacy, such as
    Argumentum ad misericordiam (People, pity us poor underpaid and disempowered traditional experts, in your own calmly but strongly democracy-protective British House of Lords);
    Argumentum ad novitatem (People, look how we your traditionally-protective Lords have just won a new battle defending your Upper House from destructive infiltration by the Lower House)
    Argumentum ad numeram (People, more Lords members are now supporting Upper House independence from erosion by the Lower House);
    and possibly
    Argumentum ad verecundiam (People, trust me, a well-established and highly respected professor in higher-academia as well as herein being your reliably objective parliamentary-reporter);

    but (Principle #3 for good-communication and honest-argumentation, “Self-Corrigibility”) might negate all of my milesjsd JSDM above, simply under the fallacy of
    Audiatur et altera pars (People, all of the premises in Lords of the Blog argumentation should be stated explicitly)

    but if not, then that a second-supportive e-site should contain all such possibly-relevant material should not be dismissed as a
    Non sequitur (People, milesjsd is “off topic”)…


    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      18/06/2011 at 12:00 pm

      milesjsd: I think I know how Enoch Powell would respond…

      • maude elwes
        18/06/2011 at 3:06 pm

        The people of this country long for this kind of House of Lords. Those who are willing to go with their sense of integrity rather than follow a party line they feel uncomfortable with.

        And, what should be reconsidered is, how can a Bill pass with one loan vote? The balance in this instance is way off. It means there is a less than ‘righteous sense of agreement.’ Before it is considered to have won the day, government should have at least 20 votes in favour for anything put forward to pass the mark of acceptance.

        More time should be taken to consider any possible outcome in detail.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          18/06/2011 at 4:49 pm

          maude elwes: I am not sure about setting a higher voting bar – there will always be an issue as to where to draw the line – but I agree that more time needs to be taken to consider measures, not least their consequences, in some detail. I am a great believer in pre-legislative scrutiny as the norm.

          • danfilson
            19/06/2011 at 3:22 pm

            Absolutely – nothing but a simple majority on votes please. Once you get higher thresholds, stultification can set in.

  3. maude elwes
    18/06/2011 at 4:54 pm

    @Hansard people:

    How long is it going to be before we have an edit button? It is slow coming.

    My errors drive me insane. And yes you may well say I should be more thorough before I post, but, sometimes I miss them anyway. And then I’m forever red faced knowing I should have been more careful and not so ready to take a chance.

    • Hansard Society
      Beccy Allen
      20/06/2011 at 10:14 am

      Hoping to do much more than that reasonably soon! I understand there is much more that we can do to make commenting simpler – allowing access to previous posts, spellcheck, basic html functions in the comment box etc. all things we’re looking to do soon.

      In the meantime no one minds the odd typo I’m sure…

      • maude elwes
        21/06/2011 at 2:14 pm


        I await the excitement with bated breath.

        Thank you for the reply.

  4. Gareth Howell
    19/06/2011 at 11:18 am

    The perspective of The noble Lords Hannay and Kerr was certainly the right one for the task.

  5. danfilson
    19/06/2011 at 3:48 pm

    I’d be interested to know, but am possibly too lazy to research, whether there is a pattern discernible in the 19 defeats so far. Is it just that some coalition party members don’t feel especially committed to measures not mentioned in either partner’s manifesto?

    Or is the House less eurosceptic and less socially-conservative than the Conservative Party, despite the best (and repeated) efforts of Lord Pearson of Rannoch who, ennobled as a conservative, flies the flag for UKIP?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      25/06/2011 at 10:41 am

      danfilson: In the first year (up to the referendum) most of the defeats were attributable to cross-benchers turening up in strength and dividing disproportionately against the Governmment. In the period since, the votes of cross-benchers have been necessary but not sufficient to defeat the government. What has made the difference has been some Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers going into the lobby against the government. However, this may be explained by the fact that these more recent defeats have been on the EU Bill rather than the wider political context.

  6. Twm
    21/06/2011 at 5:23 pm

    The .php message boards which are so easily searchable, and clear in multiple subject headings, would be a good departure.

Comments are closed.