Housing and Planning Bill - Commons Reason

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:50 pm on 11th May 2016.

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Photo of Lord Lisvane Lord Lisvane Crossbench 3:50 pm, 11th May 2016

Even as the farewell symphony is playing, I will just trespass on your Lordships’ patience briefly. My concern is the possibility, even if remote, that the further exchange with the House of Commons that followed the vote last night might lead to an overreaction, rather in the way that led to the Strathclyde report. Regardless of the remaining imperfections in the Bill, the exchange yesterday and today may has been one too many. For the record, it is important that the understanding in your Lordships’ House of the practical application of Commons privilege is clearly demonstrated. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for quoting in extenso from the paper that I wrote in 2012.

It is very important to realise that financial privilege operates on something of a hair trigger; you do not need very much to engage it. As an example, when, a few years ago, as Clerk of Legislation in the House of Commons, it fell to me to take a view on the designation or otherwise of amendments coming from your Lordships’ House, I had to examine an amendment to the Bill which became the community land tax Act. Your Lordships had amended it in the sense that a period of consultation would be required before the Act could be commenced. I took the view that designation was appropriate because there was a risk that the consultation would delay the receipt of payments under the Act. Your Lordships—those noble Lords in the House at the time—were outraged and the decision to designate was roundly condemned on most sides of the House. I have a very clear memory of that. Indeed, I think I still have the Hansard. But it makes the point that at the heart of this is the phrase, which is in all three reasons in front of us:

“Because it would alter the financial arrangements made by the Commons”.

It is therefore wholly irrelevant whether your Lordships’ amendment would cost more or less or the same, however powerful the policy advocacy may be. I cannot finish without adding my thanks to those of other noble Lords to the Minister and her colleagues for their patience, forbearance and help throughout the proceedings.