Report (3rd Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 9th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 7:30 pm, 9th February 2011

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, has the respect of the whole House. However, with regard to the two areas to which he referred, the Government's record over the past eight months has been dismal. The first issue that he mentioned was the Government's respect for Select Committees, but I have today been shown a letter sent by the Constitution Select Committee of this House, agreed by every single member of that committee, complaining about the fact that the Government did not provide a reply of any sort to their comments on this Bill. The Select Committee said that now that the proceedings are almost over, any reply would be "of no value". Therefore, the Government are wrong to claim that they have a good record on Select Committees. Secondly, as my noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport said, the Government now have the biggest payroll vote in history.

Therefore, in my view it is misplaced, first, to complain that we should admire the Government for what they have done in those respects over the past eight months, and, secondly, to ask us to trust the Government in relation to delaying the reduction in the size of the Executive proportionate to the reduction in the number of MPs. The noble Lord asked why we should do that now when it would not come into effect until 2015. However, we are legislating now to reduce the number of MPs, and therefore the obvious time to make the change is at the same time. I am completely unclear what further information is required to make a decision about this, the Government having said that they support such a reduction, and so I wish to test the opinion of the House.