The way in which the Bill has been handled throughout has been catastrophic. The Government delayed the Committee stage in this House, randomly extended it and failed to secure the Bill in the House of Lords, for which they are entirely to blame. Especially on items such as the referendum clauses, the question that occurs to Opposition Members is: did the Government ever intend this to be anything but a political manoeuvre that would inevitably end in an announcement by the Prime Minister of one of his famous dividing lines, rather than a serious attempt to change the electoral system through a referendum? I very much doubt whether the Government were ever serious about that. That throws into grave doubt their seriousness about this issue. They made the promise in 1997 and they are making it again this year, and it has the same validity this year as it did then.
There is also a serious point about the relationship between this House and the other place. As Lord Campbell-Savours pointed out, the House of Lords was quite content to leave in the IPSA aspects of the Bill, because they concerned this House. Surely the same applies to the referendum clauses, which relate to the voting system for this House. I do not think that the way in which Members of the House of Commons are elected has anything to do with the House of Lords.
The other things that have gone from the Bill are equally catastrophic. The House of Lords reform aspects of the Bill throw into doubt the commitment of the whole of Parliament to the reform of Parliament and the return to high standards in public life. That is surely the most serious part, for the reputation of politics, of the wash-up process.
From the point of view of my party especially, the failure to reform the law on protests surrounding this place is catastrophic. The Prime Minister promised, virtually on his first day in office, to change the law, but he has failed to deliver.
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