Business of the House - Motion to Agree

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:23 pm on 28th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Labour 1:23 pm, 28th July 2020

My Lords, I will resist the temptation to go into the wider issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. There are points that need to be debated about the hybrid system and the voting system and it is unfortunate that we have not had the chance to do so over these weeks, when we could easily have spared an hour or so for that discussion.

I want to raise two specific issues in relation to the Motion before us. The first concerns the timings. I wonder if the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip could outline whether those involved in the discussions on the arrangements for September have given any consideration at all to the fact that, when we meet at one o’clock on a Monday afternoon, it is physically impossible for Members who have to travel from north of Glasgow and Edinburgh to attend the Chamber. That is fundamentally and perhaps even constitutionally wrong. Given that nine years ago your Lordships’ House withdrew the potential for reimbursement on an overnight basis, a Member would have to incur the costs and make the arrangements to travel down on a Sunday to take part in proceedings at one o’clock on a Monday. At the moment, the first train that I can take out of Stirling is at 6.40 am. I can make the connection to the 8 am train from Edinburgh, which gets into London at 12 40 pm, but there would be a significant risk in trying to get to this place from the train station for one o’clock. A similar problem exists at the end of the week, but I understand that that may be impossible to avoid because of the fact that, because so many train services are not running at the moment, it is not possible to return home after the last debate on a Thursday. I understand that that is the situation at the moment and it is something that we need to live with.

If the Grand Committee is to meet on a Monday, has any consideration been given to the Grand Committee or your Lordships’ Chamber, or both, meeting later than one o’clock on a Monday, so that everyone can take part? On that issue of taking part, we are all willing to be flexible and we understand that there had to be some arrangement between the four groups or blocs in your Lordships’ House when it came to speaking lists and the selection of Members to ask questions, which I appreciate had to be done for a short time through the party Whips. However, if there is any justification for an unelected House in this Parliament, it is because people bring their individual experience, judgment and knowledge to their contributions to Questions and debates, so it cannot be right over the long term for the final selection of those who can speak to be made on a party basis by the Whips. What consideration have the Government given to reviewing that system if, for example, we are in a situation where the number of Peers who will be able to take part in the new Grand Committee proceedings will be so small that they will need to be selected by the party Whips under the system as it currently stands?