Posts Tagged ‘legal aid sentencing and punishment of offenders bill’

Whip’s notebook

17/11/2011, 01:00:13 PM

by Jon Ashworth

It got no publicity, not even in my local paper, but a month ago I joined the front bench as a whip. I never expected it. Indeed, on the day Ed called me I was out shopping with my wife and baby in Leicester’s High Cross Centre. I didn’t notice numerous missed calls on my mobile till much later that afternoon. When offered the job, though flattered, I wasn’t even sure whether I should accept it – after all I’ve only been an MP for five minutes (well 6 months), I’m no expert on Parliamentary procedure and still trying to find my way around the Commons.

But here I am a month or so later: a member of her majesty’s opposition whips office, working with Sadiq Khan’s justice team.  That means not only am I busy reading up on my Erskine May, beginning to understand what a programme motion actually is, I’m also trying to get to grips with the government’s legislation on justice issues.

The other week was my first big moment whipping our side on the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill in the Commons for report stage and third reading (i’m even talking like a whip now). We had three days for debate and scrutiny in the Commons before sending it off to be considered by their Lordships. It ought to have been a reasonable amount of time but the government introduced something called an instruction motion at the start of proceedings, allowing the government to effectively introduce pages and pages of new clauses, new schedules and new amendments – in other words reams of new policy which hadn’t been debated, discussed or seen by anyone previously. Consequently, huge sections of the bill were never properly scrutinised by the House.


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