Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 - Motion for an humble Address

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 23rd September 2020.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 2:00 pm, 23rd September 2020

My Lords, I have nothing to add on the substantive issues to the excellent speech made by my noble friend Lady Grender. I just want to say one or two things on affirmative Motions. I have been a Member of this House for 20 years. During that time, there have been a handful of occasions when the Conservatives have moved or supported fatal Motions on affirmative instruments. Their view seems to change according to whether they are in government or not.

Whenever there has been an investigation into the powers of the Lords on affirmative instruments—there have been two major investigations in that time—on each occasion, the conclusion was that the Lords have the power and ought to keep it but it ought to be used extremely sparingly. Therefore, it is wrong to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, that this was contrary to the practices and conventions of this House. Rather, it would be contrary to the practices and conventions for such powers to be proposed and used frequently.

There are some occasions when fatal Motions are justified. One is when there is a very unusual situation and the Government have got themselves in a mess over what they are doing procedurally. That is the case at the moment, when all the statutory instruments that we are getting are not being dealt with properly, so we are in an exceptional situation. Another occasion when they are justified is when the fatality is technical. If this were to be voted down today, it would be a fatal Motion but not in practice. For example, 20 years ago, the House rejected a statutory instrument on GLA elections, but that did not stop those elections because it was possible for the Government of the day to turn around and sort it out.

Why have affirmative instruments in the first place? If we can never vote them down, there is no point in having them. The fact that we can, and occasionally do, vote them down actually gives all affirmative instruments a great deal more importance and means that the Government have to pay attention to them, so we should vote for this Motion.