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UNITED KINGDOM


quo. However, the consensus that we have been inching towards says that the status quo is indefensible in a modern, 21st century democracy, and that view is reflected in the proposals in the Bill.” Mr Chris Bryant, MP, (Lab)


was also critical of what he saw as potential conflicts of interest between the professional backgrounds of many Peers and


Mr Conor Burns, MP Mr Chris Bryant, MP


their role in scrutinizing legislation relevant to their interests. By contrast Mr Jesse


Norman, MP, (Conservative), criticized many aspects of the Bill. He argued that the government had ignored many key recommendations of the Joint Committee on the draft Bill. He urged the House to oppose both Bill and programme motion, “the Bill is a hopeless mess; it is in no sense a piece of Conservative legislation; it lacks any genuine manifesto commitment; it proposes a new upper Chamber


than the present one, let alone one after sensible reforms; and the issue is absolutely irrelevant to the overwhelming need to put out the fire in the economic engine room. I shall be voting against it and I would venture to suggest that the Bill is such that all MPs, Conservative or not, have a constitutional obligation to vote against it.” Mr Conor Burns, MP,


(Con), resigned his position as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in order to vote against the Bill. He argued that “I want to start with this simple assertion: the House of Lords works. It does its job effectively as a revising Chamber, not as a rival Chamber, and that is demonstrated by the number of amendments made to our legislation in the Lords which we choose to accept here in the Commons.” The former Secretary of


State for Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon. Hazel Blears, MP, (Lab), was also critical of the Bill. She saw the idea of 15-year terms as undemocratic and election by party list as promoting patronage by centralized parties. She argued that it would be better to abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a unicameral system. The second day of debate


Mr Jesse Norman, MP


on the Bill was opened by the Leader of the House, Rt Hon. Sir George Young (Conservative).


that will be less expert, less diverse and more expensive


He informed the House that, “we have listened carefully to the debate so far, confident that we will get a significant majority on Second Reading tonight. “But for Lords reform to


progress, it needs those who support reform to vote for reform and to vote for that reform to make progress through this House. It is clear that the opposition are not prepared to do that, so we will not move the programme motion tonight”. Without the programme


motion, the amount of time allowed for debate on the Bill in committee would be unlimited – potentially leaving it open to being talked out. Many Members interpreted


the government’s announcement Ms Angela Eagle, MP


call the whole shooting match off.” The Leader of the House


rejected this argument, saying that the government would re-examine its plans over the summer and come back with a proposal in the autumn. The Leader of the House


Rt Hon. Hazel Blears, MP


as effectively conceding defeat on the Bill. Mr Pete Wishart, MP,


(Scottish National Party) asked


also criticized the opposition, claiming that “before we had even tabled the programme motion, the Labour opposition said that they would vote against it”. The Shadow Leader of the House, Ms Angela Eagle, MP, (Lab) rejected this argument, saying “this government seems to spend so much time on inter-coalition diplomacy, however, that they keep forgetting to work with Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, and on issues of constitutional change, that is an insult and a mistake”. At the end of the debate, the


Bill received its Second Reading by a vote of 462 in favour to 124 against.


However, without the Mr Pete Wishart, MP


“should we not just go home? The Leader of the House knows it


programme motion its fate remained uncertain. Indications over the summer have been increasingly that the government will choose not to move ahead with the Bill in the autumn, choosing instead to use the parliamentary time freed up for other legislation.


The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three | 223


is all over; government Members know it is all over. We have more important things to debate and decisions to make today. Let us just say, ‘enough is enough,’ and


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