Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 22nd October 2015.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North 1:54 pm, 22nd October 2015

Let me do something that nobody else who has anything on the Order Paper can do, which is read out my amendment. If we had to listen to all the amendments that are before the House, it would take longer than a speech by Pete Wishart. For those who want to vote rather than turn tail and go to the Tea Room, I will press my amendment to a vote at 4 pm. It states that

“this House concurs with the Lords Message of 21 July, that it is expedient that a joint committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on the constitutional implications of the Government’s revised proposals to change the Standing Orders of the House of Commons in order to give effect to English Votes for English Laws, and that the committee should report on the proposals by 30 March 2016.”

That amendment is supported by seven different parties in the House, and until I heard some tribalism in the debate’s early exchanges, I had hoped that Members of good will throughout the House would have supported it. It is clear that there is no consensus. There are those for and against, and I accept that that is the way this place works. However, if we are to do something of a democratic nature—such as change the Standing Orders of the House of Commons or the way that votes are recorded—I hope that people will seek consensus because they are Members of Parliament, as well as members of the Government or the alterative Government.

That amendment first saw the light of day in July and was crafted in the House of Lords by that wild maverick, Sir Robin Butler, now Lord Butler of Brockwell. Together with a number of colleagues, including the former Scottish Secretary, the former Home Secretary, and many other distinguished people from the second Chamber, he was trying to create something that could unite people not merely across parties, but across Houses.

There are clearly problems and many people have raised difficulties—today’s Order Paper runs to 17 pages, plus seven pages of amendments. I hope that everyone will accept that there are difficulties, so let us find a mechanism to resolve those problems. Let us take our time. There is no need to rush at this; there is nothing pending or desperately urgent that will not be dealt with. The Government have a majority and can do what they wish in this place. I ask only that they not be tyrannical, and that they consult. By setting up a Joint Committee they could see the evidence being prepared in the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and look carefully at the report that was published this week by the Procedure Committee.

They should listen to last night’s debate—I bet many Members have not had the chance in their busy day to consider what some eminent, respected people across the House of Lords said about this issue.

We should take time to look again at the McKay proposals produced by a distinguished, and totally impartial, Clerk of this House. The views of political parties, and others, could be fed in, so that we come up with something that everybody in the House can agree on, not because it is imposed, or because “We don’t like it because they’re doing it”, but because we respect work that has been done by a Joint Committee of eminent people across the House. I hope that those warning flags will be heeded and that the consequentials for our democracy and constitution will be taken seriously with the creation of a Joint Committee when we vote at 4 pm.