I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I express my gratitude to all those who recently took part in the Division, ensuring that the Bill reaches this important and final stage. I am grateful to a number of people who have assisted me in the preparation of the Bill. The Leader of the House of Lords and her staff have been enormously helpful. Baroness Hayman has also briefed me on it. They managed to get it through the House of Lords with more ease than I have managed to get it through the Commons, which is a tribute to their skill, and an acknowledgement of the relative lack of skill when the Bill reached my hands here.
I am grateful to the three Cabinet Office Ministers who have taken part in our proceedings—my hon. Friend the Minister for the Constitution did the Public Bill Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister for Civil Society was here last Friday, and the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend Joseph Johnson graces the Front Bench today. I am grateful to the Cabinet Office for the support that it and its Ministers have given to the Bill. Likewise, the Opposition have had a number of different players on the stage—Stephen Pound was on the Public Bill Committee, Sadiq Khan was here last Friday, and Mr Slaughter is on the Opposition Front Bench today.
The Bill was not controversial when it went through the upper House, which is the House to which it applies. Peers’ conduct in the course of the parliamentary duties is governed by a code of conduct. That is binding upon Members. Breaches of the code are investigated by an independent House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, who reports his findings and any recommended sanctions to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct, which hears any appeal. It then goes to the House.
The problem is that sanctions are currently limited in two key ways: a peer cannot be expelled except when he or she has been sentenced or imprisoned for more than a year; and a peer cannot be suspended beyond the end of a Parliament, no matter how brief that period might be. There was no dissent on the second barrel of the gun in the legislation.
The debate has been on the power of expulsion. The House of Commons has the power of expulsion. We use it rarely, but it is there. We can also be expelled by the electorate.