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House of Lords: Code of Conduct

Volume 718: debated on Tuesday 30 March 2010

Motion to Resolve

Moved by

To move to resolve that the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Lords adopted on 30 November 2009 be amended as follows:

In Paragraph 16 delete “Rules” and insert “Code of Conduct”.

Delete Paragraph 17 and insert:

“17. After investigation the Commissioner reports his findings to the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct; the Sub-Committee reviews the Commissioner’s findings and, where appropriate, recommends a disciplinary sanction to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. The Member concerned has a right of appeal to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct against both the Commissioner’s findings and any recommended sanction”.

In Paragraph 18 after “Privileges” insert “and Conduct”.

Delete Paragraph 19 and insert:

“19. In investigating and adjudicating allegations of non-compliance with this Code, the Commissioner, the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct and the Committee for Privileges and Conduct shall act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness”.

Delete Paragraph 21 and insert:

“21. No Member shall lobby a member of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct or the Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct in a manner calculated or intended to influence their consideration of a complaint of a breach of this Code”.

In Paragraph 22 delete “Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests” and insert “Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct”.

In Paragraph 24 delete “Sub-Committee on Lords’ Interests” and insert “Sub-Committee on Lords’ Conduct”.

In Paragraph 25 delete “Rules” and insert “Code of Conduct”.

My Lords, I trust that it is for the convenience of the House if I speak to the reports on the code of conduct, the scrutiny reserve on EU legislation and the scrutiny of opt-in decisions on EU legislation in one very brief speech. I have agreed this with the noble Baroness's office this morning. I do so because I was not able to be present for the substantive debate on 16 March, and I cannot let these decisions pass without at least minimal comment.

First, on the code of conduct, I simply comment that paragraph 54 of the new code is a scandal. It states:

“Members are not required to register pension arrangements, unless conditions are attached to the continuing receipt of the pension that a reasonable member of the public might regard as likely to influence their conduct as parliamentarians. Such conditions attaching to pensions from European Union institutions do not normally require the pension to be registered or declared in proceedings in the House”.

The scandal arises because continuing conditions are indeed attached to EU pensions, because such pensions can be removed if the holder does not respect continuing obligations arising from their time in office. It is therefore wholly wrong to exempt EU pensions from the requirement that they be registered and declared in our debates. I have agreed to speak very briefly, so I will say no more on this point now. Students of the decline and extinction of British democracy can find the whole sordid story in a short debate in your Lordships’ House on 19 July 2007, at cols. 402-418 of Hansard.

I can deal even more briefly with the new rules on our scrutiny of European legislation and of opt-in decisions under Title V. Put briefly, none of these manoeuvres will make any difference to the powers already acquired by Brussels under the Lisbon treaty, nor to the steady advance of the project of European integration at the expense of our national parliamentary sovereignty. They are pure window dressing, designed to fool the people into thinking that the project has somehow become more benign and democratic.

On the scrutiny reserve, I remind your Lordships that the Government admit to overriding it no fewer than 435 times in the past five years. As most EU legislation is now agreed by majority voting, the Government, who have some 9 per cent of those votes, are powerless to respect this new code even if they wanted to. The best that can be achieved under the scrutiny reserve is that, after either House merely debates the legislation in question, the reserve is automatically lifted. We do not vote on it because we have no power over it—some safeguard, that.

Nor do I take any comfort from the eight-week delay in agreeing new measures because Ministers can simply override it, and they will. The whole concept of national Parliaments being able to stop EU legislation under the Lisbon treaty is, in any case, fraudulent, because in the end Brussels can go ahead with whatever it wants to do. I give one brief, current example. The Government say that they will not opt in to the proposed new European public prosecutor, but of course the octopus has a tentacle ready to deal with such futile posturing. It will extract British citizens for trial in another European jurisdiction by using the infamous European arrest warrant. There will always be a way around any national interest.

The battle lines are now clearly drawn between the political class and the people—between those who are determined to appease the project of European integration, to its inevitable and frightening conclusion, and those of us who have decided to join the resistance. I very much regret that the Government and your Lordships’ House have decided to throw in their lot with the former.

My Lords, I note what the noble Lord says, although I do not share his views. I should make it clear to the noble Lord that the opportunity to debate these issues was when the relevant papers were before the House for agreement. I very much regret the fact that the noble Lord was not present at that time to make his views known. The decisions having now been taken by the House, these Motions are simply intended to give effect to those decisions, not to create an opportunity to revisit them.

Motion agreed.