My Lords, I have put down this amendment for one simple reason. By voting for it—and I intend to test the opinion of the House—we will give ourselves time to reflect on the wisdom of Standing Order 68 and to decide whether it is in accordance with natural justice to impose penalties on those who have done no personal wrong or injury to anyone within or outside the House but who are being punished because they have not followed, within a prescribed time and in a difficult year, an instruction to follow a training course on how to behave. Standing Order 68’s constraints, within which I am having to speak, do not permit of others to speak in this debate. However, I know that many in your Lordships’ House share my concern.
The Standing Order prevents discussion. I know that a number of colleagues share my feeling that in the high court of Parliament we should not be forbidden from exercising our judgment on the recommendations of a small group of colleagues and outsiders who are deciding sanctions on a small group of other colleagues. We may debate at length the recommendation of every other Select Committee but, to those reports from the Conduct Committee, we can only say “content” or “not content”.
This final week of term is a very full one, and our brief September sitting is very crowded, with four long days devoted to the vast and important Environment Bill. In October there should be a chance to look at how we regulate and organise ourselves, perhaps reflecting on Harold Macmillan’s famous reminder that:
“Quiet, calm deliberation disentangles any knot.”
I submit that we have tied ourselves in a very restraining knot. I urge that we begin to untangle it today. Do we really want to treat former captains of industry and others as recalcitrant schoolboys and say: “Because you didn’t do your prep, you can’t go to the tuck shop or the library,” especially as the Library has a number of books on good behaviour?
I urge those of us who share my concerns to vote for this amendment, which does not pass any judgment on the report that the noble Lord, Lord Mance, has moved, but which gives us an opportunity, during the forthcoming recess, after a very tiring and difficult year, to reflect, “Have we got this right? Is this the way to treat colleagues?” I beg to move.
Ayes 107, Noes 331.