Committee (11th Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:59 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 5:59 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, I make this application more in sorrow than in anger, but actually in both. The reason that I beg to move that the House do now resume is that it is the Committee's only way of showing our distaste and anger at the use of the procedure of closure that has been moved this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. This precious procedure of the House has strength because it is extremely rarely employed. Indeed, apart from the other night, as I understand it, the closure procedure had not been employed for 20 years, but it has now been used twice in less than 48 hours.

Closure may sometimes be justified-although it is hard to think when-but how it could be justified in a debate on an important amendment on the question of the underregistration of 3.5 million of our fellow citizens in the voting registers is hard to understand. The debate had lasted for 93 minutes and was coming to a conclusion. It is true that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, of whom I make no criticism at all, had spoken quite early in the debate. However, this is Committee stage, not Report. In Committee, even if the Minister speaks early, other Members of your Lordships' House are entitled to be heard and to make their speeches in due course. The noble and learned Lord made his speech and then there were speeches from other noble Lords around the Committee. However, for a debate of this seriousness to be effectively guillotined-because that is what it was-after that period of time and when, as I said, it was coming to a close is, in our view, an abuse of the House. For that reason, I beg to move.