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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:00 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) 11:00 am, 6th March 2015

There is a limited ground there.

Without primary legislation, the House of Lords cannot override the right of individual peers to receive a writ of summons. That would encroach on the Lords position as a self-regulating Chamber and could have other unintended consequences for parliamentary privilege, in that the courts could be asked to judge on the exercise of the powers.

To answer the question from my hon. Friend Mr Bone, the Government support the retrospective application of both the Bill’s sanctions because the House of Lords already has the power to sanction a Member who is found guilty of misconduct as part of its inherent power to preserve honour and decency. Therefore, a peer who engaged in misconduct before the Bill came into force would have known that their actions had consequences. Although the power currently extends only to the ability to suspend a peer, it would seem extremely odd if the Bill allowed more serious past conduct to go unpunished or to be sanctioned less severely than it could be under the Bill. The public will expect misconduct that comes to light after the Bill comes into force to be dealt with, particularly the most serious misconduct.

On the final point that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch raised, given that there is considerable support for the Bill in the House of Lords, it can be expected that the Standing Orders that will give effect to the provisions will be passed swiftly after the Act comes into force. It therefore makes little practical difference whether the powers are dated from the coming into force of the Act or the coming into force of the Standing Orders. The Government therefore do not support any of the amendments in the group.