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 Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve Crossbench 5:59 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, we must do some simple and clear talking among ourselves. The situation that we have arrived at, with the double use of the closure Motion, is edging us towards a guillotine. If this House introduces a guillotine, scrutiny will be impossible. I think that scrutiny has become impossible in the course of the debate on this Bill, in part because of the repetitive and irrelevant comments, whether co-ordinated or not, made in many speeches by noble Lords on the opposition Benches. That, too, is an abuse of the procedures of the House. However, I also believe that the resort to the Motion for closure, with its implicit guillotine, is an abuse of the process of the House. As a Cross-Bencher, I beg the leaders of the Opposition and of the coalition to remember that their loyalty to this House stands above their partisan loyalty.

At the moment, I and some other noble Lords do not vote on the substance of this legislation only to prevent closure and the move towards the guillotine. I know that many noble Lords opposite care greatly about the House. I hope that they will discuss with their colleagues why the repeated use of the Motion for closure will prove destructive. It will end up as an argument not for an elected or a non-elected House, or for a hybrid House, but for unicameralism.

At the other end of this palace there is a guillotine. We know how much legislation reaches us undiscussed, undigested and unscrutinised. The function that we try to carry out is important. It is not the grandest function, but it is essential. Until things are changed, we have a duty to preserve that function. We will lose it if collectively we adopt tactics that either amount to a filibuster, even if they were not co-ordinated as such, or that amount to a guillotine, even if they are not so labelled.