Strathclyde Review — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:19 pm on 13th January 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 10:19 pm, 13th January 2016

It had already decided what its view was on the statutory instrument and we do not have that mechanism for a dialogue.

The role of this House and its powers on SIs is not a new issue; this is something that we have heard from many noble Lords speaking today. My noble friend Lord Wakeham, through his royal commission, and other noble Lords have grappled with this issue in the past. Over the past few months, and indeed through today’s debate, what has crystallised, for me, is the fact that there is no clear agreement among us about how we exercise our powers. We are still debating and still disagreeing today about whether the Motions that were tabled in October were fatal or non-fatal. I feel that, for us to be effective, we cannot sustain that lack of agreement between us about how we use our powers.

The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, was the first person that I noted down who said, “It’s not broke so let’s not fix it”, but he was not the only one who made that point; in fact, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, said the same. But, as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde and others argued, conventions work only when both sides agree on what they mean in practice. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, looked back on the submissions made by my noble friend when we were in opposition. I also looked at the submissions made to the Joint Committee on Conventions by the noble

Lord’s Government when they were in power. Back then, the then Labour Government said in their submission:

“A contested convention is not a convention at all”.

I agree. That is the problem we have at the moment—we are contesting.

For us to fulfil our role effectively, we need clarity, simplicity and certainty—what my noble friend outlined as principles in his report—and we need to ensure that the other place has the decisive say on secondary legislation, just as is the case when we consider Bills. My noble friend’s report gives us the opportunity to consider how we could do things differently and tackle the long-standing questions raised.

Before I talk about some of the options that my noble friend outlined and the responses to some of those that he put forward, I should be clear that the Government are still listening. Tonight I will not offer any government response to what he put forward in his report—the options and the recommendation. In terms of considering the way forward, the Government will take account of this debate, which is why it has been such a valuable exercise. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked earlier that we should consider, and I am considering what has been argued—I am taking it on board. I have listened carefully to the debate tonight.