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Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

Commons Amendments

A message was brought from the Commons, That they agree to the amendments made by the Lords to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill with an amendment, to which they desire the agreement of your Lordships.

Motion on Amendment 20A

Moved by

That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 20A consequential on Lords Amendment 20.

20: Clause 57, leave out Clause 57

20A: Page 35, line 4, leave out subsection (3)

My Lords, the only amendment made in the other place was to delete a redundant cross-reference to the disclaimer of peerage. The provisions to which it originally related are no longer in the Bill, and this consequential amendment removes the reference.

It is probably appropriate that I am here to apologise for detaining the House on this amendment, because it is through my error that it has arisen. What we are seeking to remove applies to Clause 57, with which we agreed not to proceed last night. It was with us last night as Amendment 118. During the many constructive discussions that we had yesterday, for which I thank all noble Lords on behalf of the Government, it was my job to track what should be agreed to, disagreed, moved and not moved. My instruction on that amendment, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, was not to oppose it. The noble Lord had got into the habit of not moving amendments by that point in the evening. He did not do so, and I was not fast enough to light upon it. For that reason, I have to bring it back. The amendment is purely mechanical, to take out a reference in the Bill to a clause which no longer exists. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am not sure that there was such slackness when the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, was chairman of bar at University College, London, Students’ Union more than 40 years ago, and I am sorry that this has slipped into his behaviour. I wait to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, but I fear that this may well unstitch the whole of the agreement that we came to yesterday, and I await the noble Lord’s guidance on this.

I, too, have sat on the government Front Bench in the sort of role filled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and I have huge sympathy for him. I immediately forgive him for his one and only very modest error. But there is a lesson to be learnt. The difficulty of putting major legislation through in this way, as we have been doing, opens the way for inadvertent errors of this kind and is no doubt one lesson that will be learnt for the future.

I add my voice to that. I saw the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, getting to his feet and thought, “Where is the noble Lord, Lord Bach, who has been dealing with this Bill?”. However, I think that we would all accept the noble Lord’s apology. It is very difficult. Like the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, I have been in that position before; we all make mistakes as we watch the amendments go through, particularly in the so-called wash-up. The Government and any future Government should learn some lessons from this about what they do about wash-up. They might think very carefully about what Bills go into it. I leave the noble Lord with that—but I think that the whole House is grateful to him for making his gracious apology for a mistake that his Government made in proceeding with the Bill.

Motion agreed.