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Business of the House

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

Motion on Standing Orders

Moved By

That Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Monday 20 July to allow the Parliamentary Standards Bill to be considered on Report and read a third time that day; and that Standing Order 49 (Amendments on Third Reading) be dispensed with to allow amendments to be tabled for Third Reading that day in the event that the Bill is reported.

My Lords, in moving this Motion I would like briefly to remind the House of why it is being proposed. The timetable of the Parliamentary Standards Bill is and has been intense, and will continue to require a significant investment of time and energy by many noble Lords. However, as we have seen so far, the Bill is benefiting from a high level of scrutiny in this House. The Government have listened carefully to the views of Members of this House and we are, together, amending the Bill and improving its provisions. The Motion would allow consideration of the Parliamentary Standards Bill to proceed on a timetable that would allow the Bill to receive Royal Assent before the House rises for the Summer Recess next Tuesday.

The reason for seeking Royal Assent before the Summer Recess is that we want IPSA to be operational by the time of the next election so that Members of the House of Commons returned at the next election are on the new system. Passing the Bill this side of the Summer Recess would also ensure that by the time the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, reports on MPs’ expenses, a body to implement and run the new allowances and expenses system would already exist and soon be up and running. I therefore invite the House to support this Motion.

My Lords, I believe it is completely wrong that the Bill should be forced through Parliament in this way. None the less, the House generally would recognise that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has gone to very great lengths to try to facilitate the discussions that we have had. The problem is that, despite the very radical changes that have been made to the Bill and further changes that may be made today and on Report, it will still be immensely difficult for anyone to know whether the dangers to the constitutional position which were originally proposed for the Bill have been totally eradicated by the action that is taken in this House before it is returned to the House of Commons. I therefore suggest to the Leader of the House that it might be appropriate at Third Reading for the Attorney-General, who fortunately sits in this House, to assure the House that the constitutional position will not be affected by the provisions that remain in the Bill at that stage.

My Lords, as a Member of the Government, I feel empowered to give that advice myself. However, I recognise the importance that is attached to privilege. I will speak to my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General and come back to the House next week. In the mean time, I trust that the House will agree to the Motion.

My Lords, I support the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Higgins. Perhaps it is an omission on my part, but I intend to quote from the Statement made on 3 April by the Attorney-General on the Damian Green affair when I proposed new Clause 78. The Attorney-General made a number of points about parliamentary privilege and the role of the courts that are very important, and it would be enormously helpful if she could be here to advise the House on what she admitted in the Statement are enormously technical matters.

My Lords, as I said, I will speak to my noble and learned friend. I hope that she will come to the House accordingly, but I must speak to her first. I can give no absolute commitment, but I will do my utmost.

Motion agreed.