Clause 8 — Enforcement
Bill Presented — Sustainable Energy (Local Plans) Bill
Dominic Grieve (Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Attorney General, Justice; Beaconsfield, Conservative)
I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I go back to the evidence given yesterday to the Justice Committee by the Speaker's Counsel; I refer to page 33 of the transcription. He was asked to highlight his areas of concern about clause 8. He contrasted clause 8(2), on which I have touched and whose necessity has been questioned, with clause 8(5):
"clause 8(2) is not really saying anything about the basis of the powers for the Committee on Standards and Privileges to act...I think clause 8(5) might be saying something because it says that the failure may be punished by the House of Commons. If that is interpreted as a kind of statutory permission then there might very well be an issue as to whether the conditions of that permission had been fulfilled. If the Commission had acted unreasonably you would not have the conditions for that permission to operate, whereas contrarily with section 8(2), if I may say so...Dr Palmer is right to say it is simply like some other actor who says something should be done and then the Committee on Privileges does something. It is not a condition of the Committee of Privileges doing something that someone else has probably said something to it."
It is clear that the Government should justify why any of the second part of clause 8—below subsection (2), which I suggest should be amended—is necessary to achieve the House's functions, IPSA's functions and the proper regulation of MPs. That part of the clause is a seriously dangerous step that involves the scrutiny and review in court of how the House of Commons works.
We have tabled amendments. Others have tabled theirs, and will doubtless speak to them. Sir Stuart Bell has tabled a really important amendment that would take away the Standards and Privileges Committee from the protocol set out in clause 8(6). Our amendment 34 seeks to leave out clause 8(4), which, as far as I can see, is completely unnecessary. There is an amendment proposing to leave out subsection (5). Each one of those needs a response from the Minister justifying the necessity for not making those changes: it should not be for us to have to justify every line that we are trying to take out.
If the Minister is wise, and the Government are wise, this clause in its entirety can be substantially altered. She will then find that the Government have met their objectives of enabling IPSA to carry out its investigation and report to the Standards and Privileges Committee, leave it to the Committee, under our present powers, to implement whatever sanctions are necessary, and avoid the extraordinary mish-mash in the provisions as drafted, which will drag the House of Commons and its procedures into the courts.