Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2021 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:15 am on 15th December 2021.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 11:15 am, 15th December 2021

If nobody else is going to get up, I will. My Lords, some of the things my noble friend said, I entirely agree with. There has been a very real degree of confusion. It is inexplicable to have a situation in which you are told not to go to your place of work, but do go to the office party. This confusion spreads like a cancer through a community—but we are here to debate something slightly different.

Yesterday in the other place, there was a massive majority in favour of the propositions before us. There is a very important constitutional issue here. This House is not the elected House. I believe fervently in it and have made that plain on innumerable occasions, and I believe that we have a real job to do, but when the elected House has given, by a massive majority, approval to certain orders dealing with the most important issue of the day, it would be ill advised for us to vote in a contrary direction.

While I admire my noble friend’s persistence—he certainly has not come new to this subject—I urge him, as the debate takes its course, to consider very carefully before he divides the House. There is clearly no doubt that there is a very real division in the Conservative Party, with the so-called libertarian wing. However, all these things have been oversimplified; the keynote of the debates has been hyperbole, which is not really very good for sensible parliamentary debating and democracy.

The fact that the Conservative Party is divided is common knowledge. I urge those who have not done so yet to read the main leader in today’s Times and a very penetrating article by our colleague, my noble friend Lord Finkelstein, also in the Times. I ask noble Lords please to read those articles and consider carefully what they say. We are at crisis point in this country when a large number, more than a hundred—99 voted and many abstained—of the governing party refuse to support the Government. That is a very serious matter.

However, an MP is an MP, no matter what constituency he or she sits for. Each Member of Parliament has a vote of equal value. Yesterday, as I said at the beginning, a massive majority of Members of the other place decided to support what the Government are proposing—a divided Government, yes, and the division in the Government is not caused, let us be honest, just by this subject. The appalling way in which the Owen Paterson affair was handled is indicative of a Government which have lost their grip.

My noble friend the former Chief Whip—he is an old friend—may be waving his hands at me; Chief Whips are important, but parliamentary democracy is even more important. I believe, as I said, that it would be ill advised for us to vote today against what the Government have proposed. We should not seek to contradict the other place but, with a degree of sadness perhaps, we should endorse it and certainly not divide the House.