Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:44 pm on 22nd October 2015.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 2:44 pm, 22nd October 2015

I understand that, and there are very powerful forces for a move towards an English Parliament, because those on the Opposition Benches believe that is the way they will get their independence, but this is not about independence.

I say to the Leader of the House—or his deputy as he is not here at the moment—that these proposals are too complicated and far too long. I am extremely grateful to the Procedure Committee for its valuable work and for the manner in which it has managed these matters. I am also grateful to the Leader of the House, who has been amenable to its proposal for a pilot study. These proposals are a compromise, however; they are not perfect. They are far too complicated. You know only too well, Mr Speaker, that they involve 30 pages of unbelievably obscure changes, which will be a nightmare to interpret and to apply.

The Speaker’s certificate is an answer. I put forward a proposal, which was agreed to by a former Clerk of the House and others of similar distinction, to deal with this problem in—believe it or not—seven lines of changes to Standing Orders. I am completely committed to the idea of these changes being done through Standing Orders. A lot of constitutional nonsense is being talked about doing this through an Act of Parliament. That would invite a judicial review, whereas this method would avoid one, which is absolutely essential. Article 9 of the Bill of Rights will prevail, whatever some Scottish ex-Law Lord might have said. The bottom line is that the courts will not want to interfere in these matters, and I do not believe that they will. If they did, it would raise a whole raft of matters relating to the Human Rights Act, which we are going to deal with anyway.

This is a manifesto commitment and I therefore completely understand why we have been presented with these proposals. A number of measures were put through during the previous Administration, but they were too complicated and the amendments that have been made to them are very minor. I also believe that 30 pages of Standing Orders are beyond the wit of man, and they will do nothing but create complications. I will vote for the proposals today simply because this is a manifesto commitment, but if they could be simplified, that would be the right way to go. Seven lines of changes to Standing Orders would be one way of dealing with that. I put that proposal to the Prime Minister at the Chequers meeting, but a decision was made subsequently to go down this route. I am not against the principle but we need to find a much simpler way of dealing with these matters.