Committee (and remaining stages)

Part of Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – in the House of Lords at 12:45 am on 7th April 2010.

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Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Constitutional Affairs 12:45 am, 7th April 2010

My Lords, I do not intend to move Amendments 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19 and 20, but I and my noble friend Lord McNally wish to speak briefly to Clause 29 stand part, which is part of this group.

We were enormously impressed by the sagacity, eloquence and persuasive skills of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in not only changing his mind on the whole issue of electoral reform, but in persuading so many of his colleagues in the other place, that it achieved the highest majority for a matter of any substance in this Parliament.

I would be remiss if I did not reiterate the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, which has been made on a number of occasions in this House. That is a matter for the other place and we agree that it may well be sensible not to press for this section, at this stage, at this time of night, to be the subject of lengthy discussion in this House. However, we will look with great interest to see how persuasive the "un-noble" Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice will be able, with his usual eloquence and persuasive skills, to persuade the other place to do an amazing u-turn. Having so eloquently persuaded them in one direction, no doubt he will be equally persuasive in presenting the case for doing a major u-turn. We would have been quite happy to push this through, even at this stage, but we recognise that at this time of night that is not likely to be the case.

However, this again emphasises to this House how we have been treated on this Bill in this wash-up. Here is a very important proposal which was thought through very carefully, as we understand it, in the other place, and now the Government are retreating so fast and furiously simply because this does not meet the party political interests of the Conservatives. It is so extraordinary. This provision does not introduce any change to our constitution; it was simply to ask the public whether they thought it was appropriate to consider a change to our electoral arrangements. That principle was so persuasively argued by the Lord Chancellor in the other place. We are disappointed that it has proved impossible in this House, at this stage, to maintain that position.