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Privileges and Conduct - Motion to Agree

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 30th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord McFall of Alcluith Lord McFall of Alcluith Chair, Freedom of Information Advisory Panel (Lords), Chair, Hybrid Instruments Committee (Lords), Chair, Liaison Committee (Lords), Chair, Committee for Privileges and Conduct (Lords), Chair, Procedure Committee (Lords), Chair, Committee of Selection (Lords), Chair, Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee (Lords), Chair, Sub-Committee on Leave of Absence, The Senior Deputy Speaker 4:45 pm, 30th April 2019

My Lords, I thank the 17 Members who have contributed to the debate. I have notes to respond to every one of the 17, but I know I will be stretching the patience of the House if I start to do that, not least because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, the chair of the sub-committee that devised these proposals for the P&C committee, has expanded on that issue.

I commend the House today for the constructive debate and the spirit in which it was held. It underlines the fact that this is a significant move forward. We have near unanimity, with 16 people telling us it is going in the right direction and one person saying that it is maybe going in the wrong direction. That near unanimity is extremely important.

I want to comment on the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Weardale, who, in his position as chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, has met me on two occasions. He sent us a letter as part of the House of Lords consultation on the implementation of the process, among 27 others who responded. I shall read just one sentence from that letter:

“Any self-regulatory regime must include a strong, resilient and robust independent element”.

The spirit of today’s debate shows that we have done that.

I mentioned at the beginning that this process is not finished. Naomi Ellenbogen has been mentioned; I shall be meeting her next week. She has asked to meet me and others in the House and I do not see why others, if they wish, should not contact her. I believe that some 121 people have approached her and that she has spoken to more than 170. The more people she speaks to, the better, and I encourage Members to do that.

A couple of comments were made about staff and support for staff—I think by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. When I received the letter from the 74 members of staff, I spoke to quite a few individually; they were depending on our putting in a robust process. All I can say is that, without going back to them in detail on that, my feeling is that they feel that we are taking a step forward; so both Members and staff feel that something positive is happening here.

A point was made about what support there is. Helplines are envisaged and there is support for mediation. There is also the issue of signposted professionals. The professionals who have been engaged here have been in this field of mediation for a long time, and the information we have, in both the Commons and the Lords, is that they will support the process. This has balanced the relationship between complainant and Members; it is important that both have the support of the House. I am confident that we will get a new system, but until the new conduct committee is established, I will be happy to engage with people and pass on what is said. However, if your Lordships pass this Motion today, this will be my last time at the Dispatch Box on this issue. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions and for the spirit of the debate today.

Motion agreed.