Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill

Part of Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:00 pm on 8th April 2010.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Secretary of State (Justice) 1:00 pm, 8th April 2010

I thank the Secretary of State for his approach to the issue in the wash-up.

I start by providing some reassurance for Dr. Harris. The position is very clear. When the process started, the Secretary of State approached me and asked for my views and those of the official Opposition on what might remain in the Bill. We worked together very amicably to narrow the areas of difference. As I have no doubt that the Secretary of State will be willing to confirm, I pointed out to him at the outset that my own information coming down from the other place was that whatever we agreed would almost certainly not be sufficient to meet the objections of some of their lordships. I am, I hope, a parliamentarian as well as a politician and, as far as I am concerned, a perfectly valid case had been made. This is a constitutional Bill of sufficient importance that it had to be taken on the Floor of this House. In those circumstances, any hon. Member who criticises a Member of the House of Lords for obstructing a constitutional measure that their lordships were being asked to pass within a very small number of hours, without proper consideration, is on shaky ground. The fact is that their lordships were entitled to say that they did not want the Bill at all. I think that if a sufficient number of them had felt that that was the position, the Bill would have fallen in its entirety.

The Secretary of State and I-and, I suspect, everyone in this House-agree that some clauses are of such importance and so desirable that they should be put on the statute book before the election and that everything possible should be done to try to facilitate that. In fairness to Members of the other place, I should point out that it was clear that most of them accepted that some of the proposed reforms needed to be enacted. I am thinking particularly of those that deal with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, with the treatment of non-domiciled peers and Members of the House of Commons and with the civil service-the latter largely non-contentious reform was hugely desired. We have all done our best to put this measure in reasonable order.

I am sorry if the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon is disappointed. I am disappointed about one or two things that have come out of the Bill, but I will certainly not say a word of criticism about the way in which it was handled at the other end of this building, because their lordships were fully entitled to take the view that they did.

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