An early election?

Lord Norton

I have been somewhat surprised to see media speculation that, in the light of tensions within the coalition, we could see the end of the coalition and ‘an early election’.   Comparative experience suggests coalitions can survive internal tensions – as I pointed in a chapter on the subject, disharmony should not be confused with instability – but, that aside, the suggestion of a possible early election ignores a rather fundamental chage in our constitutional arrangements.  That is, that we now have fixed-term Parliaments.  Section 7 (2) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 provides that ‘This Act comes into force on the day it is passed.’  It received Royal Assent on 15 September. 

The Act provides that the next general election will take place on 7 May 2015.  The only circumstances in which there could be an early election are (a) if the House of Commons carries a vote of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government (and no new government can be formed within 14 days) or (b) the House votes by a two-thirds majority for an early election.   Given that there are strong political and financial reasons why none of the three main parties would favour an early election, there is no obvious incentive to trigger either option.

74 comments for “An early election?

  1. Dave H
    13/12/2011 at 10:21 pm

    I’d say that however much the LibDems might be having second thoughts, they know they’d probably get wiped out if we had an election now. I could see them dropping out of coalition and providing minimum support to keep things ticking over until such time as they improve their prospects, although no doubt some Conservative backbenchers would take great delight in pointing out to them that they’d done to the government what Cameron had done to the EU.

    At least you’d find it easier to get a seat if they did swap benches.

  2. Lord Blagger
    13/12/2011 at 10:55 pm

    Given that there are strong political and financial reasons why none of the three main parties would favour an early election,

    ===========

    Financial? They are as bust as the government accounts. Hasn’t stopped them so far.

    However there are political reasons. The Tories can now wind up the Lib Dems with impunity. What can the Lib Dems do? They are too busy reneging on the promises that to go to the polls would mean being wiped out.

    So the latest promise broken, the right of recall. They daren’t let the public have the say because lots of lib dems who get 4 pinocochios for their performance at the election on student fees would be recalled, and that would be that. So its yet another example of dictate from the centre.

  3. MilesJSD
    13/12/2011 at 11:08 pm

    How are Emergencies covered, such as Italy-Greece-Spain-Portugal going bust, Europe goiung’bust’, or the USA, or China, or the Earth’s Lifesupports suddenly suffering a Catclysm not prepared for by the Global-Economics ruling upper-crust of billionaires ?
    or even Great Britain Itself ‘going down’ ?

    Will the British Canute-Constitution hold back such an Emergency long enough for the next election to be held three years hence ?

  4. Twm O'r Nant
    14/12/2011 at 9:05 am

    That particular act was passed and hey presto, along came coalition governments.

    “disharmony should not be confused with instability” Too true; an inane government like Major’s would be far worse.

    Disharmony may not mean discordance but I would have to check in a theory of Music text book to be sure. It may merely mean a lively tune, from time to time.
    Constant discord would be distressing to the
    populace.

  5. Gareth Howell
    14/12/2011 at 9:30 am

    http://mises.org/daily/5502/The-Profound-Significance-of-Social-Harmony

    A new take on the old theme by one, Sanchez, relevant in the present Euro discussion.

  6. Shazzyrm
    14/12/2011 at 9:53 am

    I think Nick Clegg has already walked away in his mind. I can see him gearing up his attack on the Cons now incase an Election is called, hoping that they would be the ones to get in. Sadly I’m inclined to vote for a total outsider just because I have no confidence in them to tell the truth or to do the right thing.

    • maude elwes
      14/12/2011 at 2:36 pm

      @Shazzyrm:

      I feel you are right regarding Clegg. He has given up his entire belief system. His sense of self must be at an all time low. That aggressive bull dog, the beastly Conservative right wing, have done for him.

      And I cannot see this lasting for another four years. He will collapse under the strain.

      That is if he’s principled, and not just playing the game.

      You know, one very good thing has come out of all of this side stepping and political toing and froing. And that is, the true face is being reveled.

      We are now, for the first time in years, really getting to know who leads us. And what their plans for us are.

      Except, they are once again, hiding the facts. And the facts are, there will be no change in social policy, which is what the public want if we leave Europe.

      The Human Rights policies will not change. Not more than they could already, without having to separate. The regulation in the banking and financial services will continue to take place, with or without us. Immigration will not be controlled any more than it is presently and can already be, within Europe. We are being conned if we believe that this will all be rescinded. And that is their tactic, they want you to believe we will be free of political correctness. But, once again, they are not being honest with the voter.

      Clegg knows it. They all know it. And as Senex so competently tells us, that is uncivilised and will create enormous unrest in our society, should we be silly enough to buy into their trick.

      Here is a little discussion piece on poor Clegg. Its called, Clegg is helping his enemies to annihilate his own party.

      And the biggest joke of all, the Lib Dems back him, as is Labour.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/matthew-norman/matthew-norman-clegg-is-helping-his-enemies-to-annihilate-his-own-party-6276504.html

      If you believe I am mistaken, ask the government to put on paper what they want you to believe is the policies they envisage for our future, and see if you get a reply.

      • Gareth Howell
        15/12/2011 at 8:44 am

        Maude’s post is highly speculative and personality driven.

        It is always best to speak and write to the subject and not the personality.
        It can be difficult with prime ministers, I agree!

        Content is king!

        I heard a very eminent lawyer describe monarchy in the same breath as “stage”, as though monarchy were a staged event!

        I did not argue, but kings and queens are,surprisingly enough, human too, however much they would like you to think otherwise.
        It helps to pay the bills.
        —————– ——–

        Completely of Topic , how far can the Church of England be considered a Sovereign Order. Is it a Church of Sovereign Orders? Is it conceivable that it could be a “Sovereign state” in its own right, distinct from the state of the United kingdom?

        • maude elwes
          16/12/2011 at 12:54 pm

          @Gareth Howell:

          The way things are going, Christians will soon be in a position to ask for special status as a threated group. Similar to the Amish. On the grounds of possible extinction.

          Under that auspices, they should be able to claim the right to a reservation or land mass, to be allocted to them in order to continue, unfettered, as a religion or ‘race’ facing discrimination and possible demise.

          Perhaps Cornwall, or, an island similar to Guernsey or Jersey should be granted and those Christians who feel they are living an unbearable life, as a result of regulation and discrimatory laws, not in tune with their beliefs, will be able to go for sanctuary. That way they could set up a whole new country, with passport, laws, and so on, to enable them to have a sense of peace and acceptance amongst themselves.

          It cannot be a right offerred one group and not another. That is not justice.

          • Gareth Howell
            16/12/2011 at 6:12 pm

            “Christians will soon be in a position to ask for special status as a threated group”

            Thanks to Maude for taking the trouble to reply to my off topic post.

            I have posted an answer to the question but it has not been published, so again in answer to
            being a threatened group, in view of the vast numbers of non- Christian and non CofE
            people in the UK, and the ever increasing likelihood of there being far more in due course. To name the CofE and its Anglican communion chattels and properties worldwide,
            asa “Sovereign state” is entirely possible and would answer the question of the “established Church”.

            For example; is the Catholic church an established church in France?
            “Oui; D’un Certain point de vue”

            and only in so far as most people in France who go to church at all,do go to the Catholic church, but there is no other sense in which it is established.

            The CofE may become a sovereign state within a state, in the UK, and sovereign over all its properties and chattels worldwide, wherever they may be. It is all a question of choice of definition.

            In that way, the Bishops and archbishops in the HofL would no longer be members of the HofL, in the same way that Law Lords are no longer necessarily members of it,(because the supreme court has moved house), but do attend, if they wish.

          • Gareth Howell
            18/12/2011 at 8:16 am

            Perhaps Cornwall, or, an island similar to Guernsey or Jersey should be granted

            Maude misses the point that a Sovereign state may be totally non-territorial, and yet be prepared to defend any of its interests worldwide, that become threatened.

            The question is, who would the sovereign of the CofE/Anglicans be, Watkins or Windsor, if it were an independent sovereign state, and not the formally established church?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      14/12/2011 at 2:57 pm

      Shazzyrm: The point is that, given the provisions of the Act, an election is not likely to be called.

      • Shazzyrm
        14/12/2011 at 10:28 pm

        Lord Norton: Maybe not on it’s own maybe but judging by the last year and a half of the coalition it seems so likely that something else will happen to turn the snowball into an avalanche.

        Maude Elwes: Absolutely agree, which is why I would never vote for any of the three involved ever again.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          15/12/2011 at 6:05 pm

          Shazzyrm: The only avalanche that would apply would be where two-thirds of MPs thought an election desirable or a majority were prepared to vote for a motion of no confidence.

          • Shazzyrm
            16/12/2011 at 11:01 am

            There are so many countries rising up against their leaders right now, it’s scarey. What if that were to happen in the UK, wouldn’t they have to call an election then? Or would law get in the way? I’m in no way a rebel, just interested in how that would work out.

            I appreciate all the input you put in Lord Norton. Thank you for your replies to me. 🙂

          • Lord Norton
            Lord Norton
            16/12/2011 at 8:04 pm

            Shazzyrm: If there was popular pressure for an election, it would be possible for Parliament to repeal the Act – or to utilise the powers under the Act as I have indicated. There is no way otherwise that an election could be triggered. Some may regret this and indeed the problems associated with getting rid of the current flexibility were stressed during the debates on the Bill.

  7. MilesJSD
    14/12/2011 at 8:52 pm

    Lord Norton versus Shazzyrm
    “The point is that…an election is unlikely to be called” (before May 2015).

    The deliberately-hidden and denied Point is that the UK Constitution and Establishment are hiding under the bedclothes whilst with other countries around the whole world we slither deeper into quicksand-like economic-mires;
    and the Earth’s Lifesupports also increase their imposed-by-global-human-civilisationism Slide downwards into extinction and irreversibly militant-politico-economic Destruction.

    Of course any sort of ‘democratic’ election is out of the question – it is too late to establish even one Nation-State big or small on a dynamicly-balanced, forward-sustainworthy, demo-cratic civilisation base.

    ‘Democracy’ has had its time, and in effect both Parliaments and Peoples have wasted it.

    The whole World is insidiously sliding faster and steeper down a catclysmic slippery-slope, into Emergency-One-Party- State Rule, and when that too starts failing, into Juntas, Martial Law, and Warlordisms.

    AWe are weighed down under an all-engaging “we’re all in this fight for survival together”, just so that the highest-‘meritocratous’ and indispensable careerist millionaire governance-communities can continue and, yea verily yea, steadily increase the number of human-livings each has become addicted to taking from the Common Purse and from this Living Earth, as their “earned right”.

    Your ‘democracy’ has become like the false-love bearing down upon the very English Patience:
    “Thy love is like a flower
    That fades within the hour;
    If such thy love, o Shame,
    Call it by other name,
    It is not love –
    It is not Love”.

  8. DanFilson
    14/12/2011 at 9:22 pm

    The consequences of this foolish Act are now clear. I can conceive it possible that the House of Commons carries a vote of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government, on the issue of the EU – the precise motion would be a treat to draft! – and also that no new government could be formed within 14 days, since the Tories need allies to achieve an overall majority and cannot get one without the Liberal Democrats or Labour, and nor can Labour with the present array of minority parties. So an election would be possible if, and only if, the Liberal Democrats join in a no-confidence vote. Abstention would not suffice. The other way of triggering a general election requires a 2/3rd majority, an absurd test in a House where a simple majority suffices for legislation.

    So in effect Parliament has surrendered to its 57 members of the Liberal Democrat party (some locked into Deputy Speaker roles), which is unlikely to vote for a turkey’s Christmas, the power of life and death of its term. Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. This Act should be repealed as soon as possible – it runs against the entire run of the (unwritten) British constitution.

    • Croft
      15/12/2011 at 1:27 pm

      “So an election would be possible if, and only if, the Liberal Democrats join in a no-confidence vote.”

      No, the Tories could vote against themselves or not in favour – as has happened in Germany – the LDs/minor parties position would only matter if the net votes of Labour/Tories cancelled themselves out. In terms of forming a new government there are theoretically enough minor party MPs + Tories to pass without LD/Lab support

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/12/2011 at 10:56 am

      DanFilson: The motion has to be ‘That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government’. It is prescribed in the Act.

      • DanFilson
        24/12/2011 at 2:44 am

        That’s not in dispute, but generally a no confidence vote has a theme, like a pudding. The theme might be as I described, even if the motion did not mention it.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          03/01/2012 at 3:09 pm

          Dan Filson: Indeed, there would need to be substantive basis for the vote. The most likely scenario is defeat on a major issue, such as the second reading of a keyGovernment Bill,followed by the Leader of the Opposition tabing a motion of no confidence.

  9. BM
    15/12/2011 at 1:00 am

    @Lord Norton

    Indeed, lots of commentators seem to ignore the change of powers the Fixed-term Parliaments Act brought about. Not so Toby Young for the Telegraph:

    “David Cameron can’t “call” an election. The Prime Minister was stripped of that power by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Since September 15 when the Act received Royal assent an election can only be triggered if two-thirds of MPs vote for dissolution or if the government loses a vote of no confidence and no alternative government can be formed within 14 days. Cameron couldn’t very well table a motion of no confidence in his own government and he couldn’t persuade two-thirds of MPs to vote for dissolution without the support of the Labour Party, hardly a foregone. He could initiate a divorce with the Lib Dems, but that wouldn’t automatically lead to dissolution. Instead of tabling a motion of no confidence, Nick Clegg could simply cross the floor and attempt to form a rainbow coalition with the Labour Party and others.”

    To me all that sounds rather familiar – I’m German. It’s quite impossible for the chancellor to get an early general election, unless he engineers a loss of confidence in himself. That’s obviously not what the drafters of the constitution had in mind, but it’s been done successfully twice. And we had our floor-crossing liberal too: Mr Genscher. When in 1982 he and his FDP changed sides from the social-democrats to Kohl’s conservatives, there was a huge public outcry. Switching partner in cards has been called ‘to genscher’ ever since.

    The Lib Dems defecting to Labour doesn’t seem probable to me. No verb ‘to clegg’ in BE.

    But don’t you, Lord Norton, think a Prime Minister could easily engineer a vote of no confidence in himself? Politics would probably find that unacceptable, but I don’t see the broader public being outraged. They’d be allowed to vote. What can be wrong about that? With public support the PM might very well get away with it. So maybe the media aren’t that wrong in ignoring the Fixed-term Parliaments Act and still talking about snap elections?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/12/2011 at 6:08 pm

      BM: Yes, the obvious way to trigger an election would be for the Conservatives to engineer and vote for a motion of no confidence – but they don’t have the numbers by themselves to carry it.

    • maude elwes
      15/12/2011 at 9:47 pm

      @BM:

      What a good post. Here we have a true European view on our political machinations this side of the tunnel. Willkommen!

  10. 15/12/2011 at 1:09 am

    Lord Norton,

    You write that the law provides:
    “(a) if the House of Commons carries a vote of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government (and no new government can be formed within 14 days) or (b) the House votes by a two-thirds majority for an early election.”

    I do agree the change is significant. I know vastly less than you as to the whys and wherefores but nonethless do agree that an early election is problematic. Yet, I do think it will be important if this bill endures unrepealed to see how the 14 days plays out. If it goes all the way to becoming a mere formality in which no strong efforts are expected to form a government then not so much has changed. If on the other hand the first time out a real reshuffling is done and an effective government hold out till the end of the fixed term then Parliament has (for better or worse or both) evolved siginificantly. That is a matter for precedent which does not yet exist to determine.

  11. Lord Blagger
    15/12/2011 at 2:52 pm

    “David Cameron can’t “call” an election. The Prime Minister was stripped of that power by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

    ===========

    He can engineer one. Throw out all LibDem ministers. Demote Nick Clegg to the official job of tea boy.

    Now they get the hump.

    Make the next bill a no confidence bill.

    Now you have an election, because you can’t get a majority to form a government.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      15/12/2011 at 6:03 pm

      Lord Blagger: You are confusing the loss of a confidence vote with the carrying of a vote of no confidence. The Govermment declaring that a vote on a Bill is one of confidence would not have the effect, if the vote was lost, of triggering an election.

  12. Lord Blagger
    15/12/2011 at 9:07 pm

    While we are at it. Didn’t you say that the Lords can’t ban Peers for fraud? Ah yes. you did.

    Now we find out that a short bill is going through to ban Uddin and Hanningfield until they have repaid the cash.

    So when you said that we (the lords) couldn’t get rid of criminal peers, its not quite the whole truth is it.

    You could do exactly the same as is being down now, and ban them for a long period, say 100 years.

    However, its been tacked on in a weak form to the Steele bill, which won’t become law because turkeys don’t vote for the chop.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      16/12/2011 at 7:53 pm

      Lord Blagger: Neither Baroness Uddin nor Lord Hanningfield can be expelled. The only power the House presently has is to suspend a peer until the end of a Parliament and that power of suspension has been variously employed recently. The House Committee has recommended that the power be utilised in respect of peers who are required to repay money to the House. That recommendation comes before the House next week. There is no Bill, short or otherwise, going through: it is a case of using the existing power of suspension.

      • DanFilson
        24/12/2011 at 2:53 am

        Can Parliament still pass an Act of Attainder – my reading of Wikipedia suggests it has not lost this power, but has not exercised it for some time? “Unlike the mandatory sentences of the courts, acts of Parliament provided considerable latitude in suiting the punishment to the particular conditions of the offender’s family. Parliament could also impose non-capital punishments without involving courts; such bills are called ‘bills of pains and penalties’.”

        There’s also impeachment for officials. Has Parliament lost its power of impeachment? Again, Wikipedia suggests the power still exists, and indeed that one potential target himself expressed this view.

        Is there still space at Tower Hill for a block and room for the axeman to swing his axe? I jest, though at times I’m tempted to volunteer my services, and with my eyesight the executee might enjoy several visits of the axe before a successful hit.

  13. Daniel
    16/12/2011 at 7:44 am

    Interesting commentary which unfortunately ignores a fundamental point: much like the appallingly drafted EU Act, this government has a basic misunderstanding of constitutional law.

    Parliament is sovereign and remains sovereign regardless of the content of any Act made therein. An easier way to call an early election would be simply to repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act with a simple majority, and thereafter for the PM to call an election. No need for a 2/3 supermajority and no need to go through the rather bizarre process of manufacturing a no confidence vote.

    • BM
      16/12/2011 at 2:10 pm

      @ Daniel

      You’ve certainly got a point. Although it’s not completely clear to me whether a power, formerly exercised under royal prerogative, now regulated by statute law, would, without any further ado, fall under royal prerogative again as soon as the statute were repealed. Well, that’s a rather formalistic question. Parliament might as well adopt a bill stating that “notwithstanding the provisions of the FTP Act, there shall be a general election on “.

      On a more substantial point: Do you really think it would be “easier”, as a matter of practise, for the PM (or anyone who wants a general election to take place) to get a bill through all its stages in two houses, than to get one awkward motion carried in the Commons and do nothing for 14 days?

      • Lord Norton
        Lord Norton
        16/12/2011 at 7:56 pm

        Daniel and BM: Parliament could indeed repeal the Act, though the point made by BM about the power previously exercised by the royal prerogative is one that occurred to me as to the content of the Act of repeal. However, as BM notes, it would be easier (at least in time terms) to utilise a majority to pass a vote of no confidence than to get a repeal Bill through both Houses.

        • DanFilson
          03/01/2012 at 1:10 pm

          Since the royal prerogative is normally only exercised by the sovereign on the advice of her ministers, I wonder how much use considering that power is worth.

  14. maude elwes
    16/12/2011 at 11:00 am

    @LB:

    As you raise, Uddin, I thought I’d mention this ‘Baroness’ is deeper in the mire than openly discussed here.

    This lady, according to Kelvin Mackenzie, (Daily Mail) not only lives in a Council House with a subsidised rent, she also has a ‘palace’ in her home town in Bangladesh. Fitted out with Italian marble, et al, along with unpaid servants. What a surprise that is.

    Mowever, Mackenzie suggests that as she was given the Baroness status by the Blair carbuncle he should foot the bill personally for her as he was her sponsor. And that is the best suggestion I have seen on this to date.

    Get him to pay off her debt to the tax payer, then ban her for life from the Parliament building altogether. And the other offenders should be treated equally. Just the way our leaders feel ‘tough treatment’ on rioters is the way to go, then ‘tough treatment’ is the way to go for those who are privileged cheats.

    It is titled: Blair should pay up for his robber baroness

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2063469/Blair-pay-robber-baroness.html

    Happy reading!

    • Lord Blagger
      16/12/2011 at 3:51 pm

      Well its a bit of a miracle. Uddin can apparently walk through walls and avoid being registered by security at Westminster, so that she could claim her expenses.

      And before the mods query it, its all FOI info.

      • Lord Norton
        Lord Norton
        06/01/2012 at 3:08 pm

        Lord Blagger: No peer is ‘registered by security’.

  15. BM
    16/12/2011 at 4:22 pm

    Daniel touches on a much broader question of course: how do you change constitutional law? Or, to put it differently, how can you get a new constitutional rule firmly entrenched into the system? One possible answer is: exactly in the way one adopts normal rules, by Act of Parliament; and if it’s supposed to be firmly entrenched, one better makes it a good rule, so future Parliaments won’t want to change it. But isn’t there another way, much more typical for your constitutional system in the UK?

    If there’s a constitutional rule, based on convention and precedent, and you want to change it, you simply don’t follow it but do something better instead. “Better” means that anyone can see it’s really a better way of doing it than before, i.e. there is broad support, no huge opposition in the political class, academia, affected communities or the public. If your new way of doing it is accepted, at least for this time round, you’ve tabled a proposal for constitutional change. If your successor, in similar circumstances, sticks to your new way, your proposal gets its second reading. And if all goes well, after some generations your new way of doing it, possibly slightly amended, will have been adopted as a rule, firmly entrenched into the system, and heavily binding everyone it concerns. Until someone has en even better idea.

    Cameron could have simply made a statement in the Commons: “As Prime Ministers should not time elections for their own tactical gain; but should announce a prospective date for dissolution as soon as a new Parliament has met; and should only alter that advise to an earlier date if such alteration meets broad support in this House, well beyond their own parliamentary party or coalition, or in circumstances where this House is clearly unable to agree to support any government; I hereby announce that I will advise HM to dissolve this Parliament in 2015, in order for elections to be held on 7 May 2015; that I will adhere to the above-stated principles; and declare that I expect any future Prime Minister to do likewise.”

    Such a statement might even have been a proposal for a meta-constitutional rule: never change the constitution by statute if it can be done by practise.

    Now everyone: Am I completely mistaken or extremely naive here or would this have worked?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      16/12/2011 at 8:00 pm

      BM: The point that it would have been sufficient for the PM simply to have announced that he would not be requesting the Sovereign to dissolve Parliament until May 2015 was one variously made in discussions on the Bill.

  16. Lord Blagger
    16/12/2011 at 9:23 pm

    The only power the House presently has is to suspend a peer until the end of a Parliament and that power of suspension has been variously employed recently

    ==============

    Not true.

    Currently there is a bill originating in the Lords to suspend the fraudsters until they have paid back all the money. They aren’t even being asked to pay interest on their gains.

    If they don’t pay it back, they aren’t allowed in. [Although Uddin has managed to dodge security rather too often]

    Nothing about terms of parliament.

    So it is in the Lords power to change the rules if they see fit.

    They haven’t seen fit on Truscot et all – selling changes to the law for hard cash. Mind you, you have said that’s alright because they wouldn’t have got away with it. However, you need to read up on the law of fraud. If you offer to commit a crime and take money for it, and then don’t commit the crime, you have still committed an offence of fraud. Taking money for a criminal act that you don’t commit still makes it fraud, as would taking money for a legal service you have no intention of supplying. However, you think that’s not a problem.

    So the evidence is now that the Lords can originate legislation. They can pass legislation, and they can ban peers. All they need to do to get rid of the other criminals is to ban them for 100 years.

    No need either to tack in on the end of the Steele bill in order to kick it into the long grass

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      23/12/2011 at 11:00 am

      Lord Blagger: As explained above, the House is using its power to suspend members. There is no Bill originating in the House to suspend them: the power already exists and the House voted on Tuesday to utilise it in respect of members who are required to repay money to the House. Legislation is required in order to enable the House to expel members.

      • Lord Blagger
        23/12/2011 at 11:57 am

        So why is Archer? Long term jail sentence for perjury, not been suspended for life?

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          23/12/2011 at 1:28 pm

          Lord Blagger: The House only has the power to suspend until the end of a Parliament.

          • Lord Blagger
            26/12/2011 at 12:15 pm

            Not true. As you have just admitted, you can introduce a bill to ban them for life.

            Hell, let me suggest a name for it.

            The “Steal Bill”. Has a certain ring to it.

      • Lord Blagger
        23/12/2011 at 12:00 pm

        There is a bill – Called the Steele bill – that enables you to kick them out. Now we all know why the threshold was set at a year in the Steele bill, its because the fraudsters were getting a year in the clink, so if you set it at a year, you don’t have to kick them out.

        So

        a) Bills can originate in the Lords.
        b) The lords can decide to kick out fraudsters.
        c) The Lords haven’t got any intention of doing so.
        d) Even your statements in the past about it happening, have not happened.

        So why don’t you propose a one line bill that any Peer convicted of an offence loses their seat for life?

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          23/12/2011 at 1:20 pm

          Lord Blagger: Wrong. The Steel Bill (note spelling) does not allow the House to expel a member. It provides that a peer convicted and sentenced to a year or more is expelled. This brings us into line with the position in the Commons. However, I am planning to move an amendment to give the House the power to expel a member who has brought it into disrepute through a gross breach of the code of conduct.

          Of course a Bill can originate in the Lords; several do each session.

          • Lord Blagger
            26/12/2011 at 11:24 am

            Makes a change that you finally admit that the lords can originate bills.

            So why put it in as an amendment?

            Why not put a new bill together just on getting rid of criminals from the Lords.

            1. Anyone convicted of a criminal offence is banned for life.

            Very simple one line bill.

            Job done.

            Except that it won’t happen that way. It will be tacked on to another bill, endlessly debated and kicked into the long grass.

          • Lord Norton
            Lord Norton
            03/01/2012 at 3:12 pm

            Lord Blagger: I have always made the point that Bills can originate in the Lords. That has never been an issue. You seem to confuse originating a Bill with passing a Bill. You may find that a one-line Bill is introduced.

  17. Gareth Howell
    18/12/2011 at 8:10 am

    If Baroness Uddin is Bangla Deshi, there is every chance that she has been supporting quite a few families in Bangla Desh. She may not have accounts to prove it, if she was taking too much from the till, in expenses, to finance it, but where would we be, if a whole lot of Banglas did that?

    Bangla Desh is at the very least a failed state, some of the poorest, and the most populous, in the world.

    The International football Association has gt the right idea; they overpay people who can kick a ball around by so much, and then import individuals from Togo, or Congo,or any failed state, who then become the wealthiest and most celebrated in their country,and big benefactors of the country they come from, individually.

    Perhaps the House of Lords is doing the same.

  18. Lord Blagger
    03/01/2012 at 3:57 pm

    And how long ago was action promised?

    Quite. Not productive. Not worth the cost.

    And we still have peers who can walk through walls and not get registered with security.

    Perhaps terrorists might be interested in how peers get in without the passes being registered in order to claim wonga.

    So go on. Introduce a bill.

    Any peer convicted of a criminal offence is banned from the Lords for 200 years. You did say you couldn’t expel them, but you can ban them for a long time.

    Make that ban retrospective so we can deal with the likes of Archer, Hanningfield and others.

    Make it also illegal to offer to or to accept money to change legislation, and make that retrospective.

    Or is it that ‘because they wouldn’t have got away with it’, that its acceptable. [It still fraud]

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      03/01/2012 at 7:27 pm

      Lord Blagger: What on earth are you talking about? Peers can enter the building through several entrances. Whether they go through manned entrances or through an entrance requiring a swipecard is irrelevant. You seem to confuse entering the building with attendance in the chamber. Entering the building has no relevance at all for the purpose of claiming expenses. Expenses are claimed on the basis of attendance in the chamber, where the name of each member is noted by a Clerk and/or an attendant. You cannot claim expenses unless your name is recorded. How you get into the building is totally irrelevant.

      It is already against the rules to accept money for any purpose associated with parliamentary business. Any accusations of impropriety are investigated by the Lords Commissioner for Standards. I may be introducing short Bills on more than one issue in the new session, but in the interim let’s see how Report stage of the Steel Bill goes.

      • Lord Blagger
        03/01/2012 at 9:14 pm

        You seem to confuse entering the building with attendance in the chamber.

        ============

        No. What if the number of days a peer enters the building is less than the number of days they claim on expenses?

        For example Uddin.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          04/01/2012 at 3:39 pm

          Lord Blagger: There are no data on the number of days a peer enters the building. If you enter via a manned entrance, such as Peers’ Entrance – or via St Stephen’s – there is no record of you entering.

          • Lord Blagger
            04/01/2012 at 3:48 pm

            Oh yes there is, or the Lords have lied on FOI requests

          • Lord Norton
            Lord Norton
            04/01/2012 at 5:48 pm

            Lord Blagger: They have done no such thing – I have seen the FOI responses – and they make the same points I do about entry to the Palace.

          • Lord Blagger
            04/01/2012 at 9:17 pm

            Go back and re-read them. You have misread them.

            Nice of the Lords to drop the head of security in it too.

          • Lord Norton
            Lord Norton
            05/01/2012 at 2:38 pm

            Lord Blagger: It’s not me who has misread them. They are entirely compatible with what I have written.

          • Lord Blagger
            05/01/2012 at 3:23 pm

            You’re wrong.

            I’ll go into details later for other reasons.

        • Lord Norton
          Lord Norton
          05/01/2012 at 6:28 pm

          No, I think you should go into details now.

  19. Lord Blagger
    03/01/2012 at 9:13 pm

    It is already against the rules to accept money for any purpose associated with parliamentary business.

    ==============

    That’s a weasel statement. Trustcott didn’t ‘accept cash’. He just offered to change the law for cash.

    Propose a new bill – independent of the “Steal” bill which has lots of other baggage involving peers voting themselves out of existence.

    1. Ban for life for Peers convicted of crimes.

    2. Ban for life (why not 10 years in jail) for people like Truscott flogging the law for cash?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      04/01/2012 at 3:41 pm

      Accepting an offer falls under the rubric, fairly obviously so. What you propose re expulsion of those convicted of offences is in the Steel Bill and there may soon be an amendment to deal with the other point.

  20. Gareth Howell
    04/01/2012 at 9:50 am

    Why not put a new bill together just on getting rid of criminals from the Lords.

    1. Anyone convicted of a criminal offence is banned for life.

    Very simple one line bill.

    What kinds of crime? “Loitering with intent to commit an offence?” Job done! Banned for life!

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      04/01/2012 at 3:43 pm

      Gareth Howell: There is a serious issue if the provision is made retrospective, should it be used to expel a member who was convicted of an offence that is no longer an offence?

  21. Gareth Howell
    04/01/2012 at 4:33 pm

    Retrospective legislation is not good legislation on the whole.

    I was thinking more of the pettiness of a criminal offence, being the cause of a man/woman’s inability to enter the chamber, rather than individual instances of now lawful activity.

    A dividing line would be a custodial sentence
    or not.

    At the moment is it not 12 months or more used as a pointer?

    It could be changed to a custodial sentence of any sort, as a banning for life rather than Blagger’s instant answers.

    ——
    I live near several prisons,of all categories, so I do give these matters some thought!!! It is a thriving local industry.
    It is said by some that only 30% of those convicted have committed a crime at all, but I have my doubts!

    ———-

    Who is to say that only Law lords/criminal lawyers have the answers to knotty
    questions of criminal law in the senate?
    There may be those, who have had minor skirmishes with criminal law, able to offer good advice on some such matters, but again I have my doubts!

    I always think of the late Enoch Powell agonising over “criminal damage” to somebody’s car wing mirror, in exasperation!
    (the man was parking to annoy the Hon Member,knowing his good rank, and his patience was tested too far!)

    There is an ethos of everyman catch-as-catch can-of-every-other, in this modern society which makes Blagger’s suggestion seem unwise.

    I would say custodial sentence of any sort;
    Banning for life.

    If you said criminal record of any sort you would get more policemen available for the senate, compared with others since they have different ways of paying fines for wrong doing while in the force!

    Can of worms, Blagger!

    Custodial sentence; banning for life.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      04/01/2012 at 5:51 pm

      Gareth Howell: I appreciate the point you were making in your original post about where to draw the line and I agree with your observation about retrospective legislation. In this case, the argument about retrospective legislation is less clear cut, giving that it is a difficult argument to maintain that at the time you accepted a peerage you understood that if you committed a serious criminal offence you would not be subject to penalities by the House.

  22. Gareth Howell
    04/01/2012 at 5:22 pm

    I also thought that Geoffrey Archer’s self inflicted punishment, brilliantly gifted novelist that he is/was, was also a very valid comment about the self righteous hypocrisy
    of the law making places,the vanity of it all.

    But with his reputation as a novelist, not being in doubt at all, I don’t suppose he gave a tinker’s cuss about it. He was just marking his contempt in the one way he thought he could.

    Some of his works may stand the test of time better than any of the laws made in parliament! Think of Jonathen Swift.

    Then there is the question of money buying people out of trouble. If you are saying that HofL is an exclusive place, so buying out of trouble is a sensible thing to do, all well and good, but if it is to be a place to be elected to, then it should be open to all men/women surely, not just the monied self righteous, who believe in lock up and shut up
    of all men who argue,but have no capital resources!

    At present, custodial sentence, Banning for life is the best action to take.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      04/01/2012 at 5:52 pm

      Gareth Howell: I think you mean Jeffrey Archer. Geoffrey Archer was I recall a distinguished reporter.

  23. Lord Blagger
    05/01/2012 at 3:24 pm

    In the meantime, what are the odds that the Lords publish the letters sent to peers questioning their attendance?

    215 for one year had to explain.

    Any bets that Peers tried over claiming (fraud), and had to reduce the claim after being caught?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      06/01/2012 at 3:12 pm

      Lord Blagger: As was made perfectly clear in the letter sent in response to your FOI request, it is quite common for peers to be contacted if there appears to be a discrepancy between the records held centrally and their list of dates attended. The fault is not necessarily that of the peers.

  24. Gareth Howell
    06/01/2012 at 9:02 am

    Actually banning for life is no answer either since a certain number of teens and 20s demonstrate or even commit a minor offence and get 28 days for it. and they would be banned for life. That won’t do.
    So it would have to be

    “Custodial sentence, banned until the record is wiped clean.(10 years)”.

    You really have got to consider previous incarnations in this matter.

  25. Lord Blagger
    06/01/2012 at 11:53 am

    You might also like to comment on the last Clerk of Parliament’s investigation in to peers.

    1. There was no definition of second homes.
    2. If there is no definition of a second home, why was he handing out money for them?
    3. He was responsible for the House of Lords finances.
    4. Why then did he investigate his own involvement in the matter and not recuse himself?
    5. He then finds what has gone on. He absolves peers on the grounds of there being no definition.
    6. He now says that we are not allowed to know what the peers have done, because the peers actions, or his actions, would bring the house of lords into disrepute.

    So what is it?

    What have the disreputable peers done, and why haven’t they be kicked out?

    Or is it that his handling of expenses was so bad that he signed the certificate to keep his handling of the affair secret?

    Why hasn’t he been prosecuted for Malfeasance in a public office?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      06/01/2012 at 3:03 pm

      Lord Blagger: No thanks, I think I shall wait until you have answered the early question. When you find you can’t reply to a point, you then move on to another one.

      • Gareth Howell
        06/01/2012 at 3:20 pm

        When you find you can’t reply to a point, you then move on to another one.

        Blagger has got an Agenda, which is quite convincing.

        The Expenses and fees don’t seem to add up to the general figure given in a different part of the Lords website.

        ave. 800x300x20=4.8m and yet the total figure given is 18m.

        Lord Norton said that it says, and it does… not add up.

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