Posts Tagged ‘programme motion’

Whip’s Notebook: Who does the PM ask to find out what’s going on with his flagship equal marriage bill? The Labour whips

07/02/2013, 01:16:13 PM

by Jon Ashworth

If you want to find out what is going on in the Commons you ask a Labour whip, so said a Tory MP to the Labour whips’ office on the night of the equal marriage vote. While I can’t claim to know what is always going on I certainly know that the prime minister’s party management skills were again called into question this week.

This blog has already argued David Cameron’s modernisation of the Tory party is on its last legs. This week we had more evidence. On something that Cameron himself had decided was a touchstone issue, the majority of his MPs voted against him. In fact 136 voted no, 127 voted yes and 36 abstained. More starkly roughly 40 per cent of the “payroll” vote failed to back him – including nine out of fourteen in his own whips office – the very people who are supposed to enforce the will of the prime minister.

Of course the issue was a free vote but Cameron, Michael Gove, George Osborne and Theresa May were all out in force in recent days desperately trying to persuade their backbenchers to back the prime minister, and yet amazingly 70 per cent of Tory backbenchers ignored them and refused to vote the same way as the Prime Minister.

The free vote on Tuesday evening was on whether to give the bill its second reading and so the bill will now go off to committee to be scrutinised line by line before returning to the Commons and then the Lords. Immediately after these second reading votes the Commons also usually agrees a “programme motion” which timetables the bill though committee, a “money resolution” which agrees the relevant funds for the policy enacted in the bill and a “carry-over motion” to agree that the bill can be “carried over” to the next Parliamentary session should its passage not be completed in this session. The Commons often, though not always, agrees these motions without “dividing” i.e. voting on them.

But on Tuesday evening some Tory backbenchers were determined to cause as much trouble as possible for the Tory leadership and so forced votes on all of them.

And yet despite the scale of the vote against second reading, the Tory whips either were not motivated or caught unaware as to what would happen next. Perhaps it was a bit of both.


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Getting it right on House of Lords reform

09/07/2012, 07:00:43 AM

by Wayne David

Tomorrow the House of Commons will vote on whether to give the government’s House of Lords Reform Bill a second reading. Labour will vote in favour because we believe in principle that the House of Lords should be democratically elected. This was a commitment we expressed in our general election manifesto and it is a view we still hold firmly.

But this is not to suggest that this is a “good” bill. Far from it. The government’s proposals are poorly thought-out and need to be radically improved.

One of the biggest weaknesses in the bill is its failure to set out how the House of Commons and the reformed chamber will relate to each other.

At present, the primacy of the House of Commons rests upon the Parliament Act, a set of “conventions” and the fact that the House of Commons, because it is elected, has a legitimacy which is lacked by the House of Lords. The government has said that the Parliament Act will remain in force but that it believes that the existing conventions will simply continue and post-reform the relationship will be unproblematic.

This view flies in the face of virtually all informed opinion and it defies common sense: once you have an elected second chamber without clear rules, or explicit conventions, it is inevitable that the members of that chamber will feel that they have a democratic authority to challenge the House of Commons.

The result will be that the two chambers could be locked in endless conflict, resulting in government grinding to a halt.


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