Clause 1 — Expulsion and suspension of Members of the House of Lords

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:40 am on 6th March 2015.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit) 10:40 am, 6th March 2015

It is a pleasure to be here today in support of my right hon. Friend Sir George Young putting this important Bill on the statute book, particularly given that my present, inward-facing role in the policy unit does not afford me too many opportunities of this nature.

As there was a thorough debate on this group of amendments last week, I shall keep my comments brief. The amendments would strike at the heart of the Bill, which is intended to give the House of Lords the power to deal with conduct that takes place before the Bill is passed. Amendments 1 to 5 and 16 would remove all references to expulsion from the Bill, thereby completely removing the power to expel a peer. As I said, that would strike at the very heart of the Bill, which is intended to give the Lords similar powers of discipline to those we enjoy here in the House of Commons.

There is no question of peers being expelled for reasons other than misconduct, which is the concern that amendment 20 seeks to address. The Bill clearly states that any resolution to expel or suspend must relate to “conduct”. My hon. Friend Mr Chope referred, as he did last week and in Committee, to the House of Lords Reform Bill of 2012. On a point of clarification, that Bill did not make explicit reference to a code of conduct in respect of the proposed powers of expulsion and suspension. Like this Bill, it referred to

“conduct giving rise to the resolution”,

but it did not specify that that conduct had to be a breach of the code of conduct. The reason was that no code of conduct or list of offences can include every single example of behaviour for which the other place may wish or need to suspend or expel a Member. The power of this House to expel or suspend Members is not circumscribed in that way. It is surely appropriate that the two Houses of Parliament have broadly equal powers to discipline their Members.

Amendments 7, 8 and 10 to 12 address the potential retrospective provision of the Bill. The Bill allows the House of Lords to expel or suspend a Member for misconduct that took place before the Bill was passed if it was not public knowledge until after the Bill was passed. That means that the House of Lords will not be able to revisit misconduct that has already been dealt with. The Bill therefore does not allow for double jeopardy, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire made clear a minute ago.