Sorry, but just ocassionally I need to have a bit of a moan. Parliamentarians aren’t supposed to complain, it is our job to listen and respond to other people’s complaints. And anyway we’re alright so what have we got to moan about. Despite all that, like everyone else, I sometimes want to sound off about the stupid way they do things at work.
Last night at 23.53 we started, yes started, a second reading debate on the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Bill. The debate lasted just short of two hours by which time we had completed our scrutiny of what is probably now law and we all tried to find a taxi home.
This law allows the government to give every South West Water customer a rebate of £50 (just in time for the local elections), and to give Thames Water up to £4.1 billion (yes that is a lot of money) to help fund the new tunnel needed to deal with London’s sewage.
In the Lords there is a convention that we don’t amend legislation if all it does is spend money. This bill was certified a money bill and so we were just commenting on this measure by the Commons. It was therefore never going to be high profile or high priority because we were only commenting and few would listen.
Nevertheless if we are going to be asked to comment we might as well do it properly. And the early hours of the morning is not properly.
It was not a bad debate all things considered (Hansard record here), and again we heard characteristic Lords expertise from the likes of Earl Selborne, Lord Smith and Lord Fowler. But we were denied the contribution from Lord Berkeley who had assiduously prepared because it was impossible for him to stay.
And why did we get in this mess? Because of incompetent government timetabling, the responsibility of the Lords Chief Whip.
Having suddenly extended our Easter recess by a week she finds there is not enough time for the Scotland Bill and the Legal Aid bill to be finished off with enough time. On Monday the Chief Whip was heavily criticised in the Chamber by Lord Forsyth on her own side for not giving the Scotland Bill enough time after the time taken to discuss procedure. They even had to pull Lords discussion of the statement on Party Funding.
So when it became clear yesterday morning that the LASPO Bill on legal aid would go late I tried to persuade people to postpone the Water Bill. we didn’t want another shambles. But no we had to do it last night. It couldn’t be moved into today because that would annoy the Scots again. They would have been happy if we had given them proper time in the week that was, but it was too late to cancel the extra week of recess.
So that was that. However late LASPO went we had to debate all stages of the bill before going to bed. And that is what we did to the best of our ability. But it still wasn’t good enough.
Thanks. Glad it have got that off my chest.