Dear Lord Falconer…

Dear Lord Falconer,

You have me confused with your claim that the Parliamentary Constituencies and Voting Systems Bill is a hybrid bill (and so should go through a different and slower Parliamentary procedure).

Now, I know that you have many more years of legal training and experience than me, so I wouldn’t be confused if there was just the one reason for you appearing to be wrong. But there are three, you see.

First, as you know when a Bill is introduced the Department of the Clerk of the House has to rule on whether or not it is a hybrid bill. We’ve already had that ruling for the second reading in the Commons.

Second, Parliament’s own definition of a hybrid bill really doesn’t seem to match what you’ve been saying in the media.

But third, let’s just suppose you are right. Let’s suppose that the special references to some constituencies make it a hybrid bill. Well, then there’s the question about why none of the previous Bills which have gone through Parliament that also changed boundary rules and made specific references to individual constituencies were counted as hybrid?

Take, as one example, Section 86 of the Scotland Act 1998 (introduced and sheperded through Parliament by a Labour government). This added Rule 3A to the Parliamentary boundary rules, specifically preserving Orkney and Shetland as a separate Parliamentary constituency.

So what makes this current Bill a hybrid Bill when those previous Bills, including ones taken through Parliament by the last government, were not?

As I said, I’m confused.

Yours etc.

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32 Comments

  • The guy’s a crusty old arse who pretends not to be acting for Labour. Why the Today prog had him on spouting such nonsense I’ve no idea.

  • Billy Pilgrim 15th Nov '10 - 1:41pm

    You know, I’m absolutely gutted.
    I wanted a more proportional system. AV is a bit crap, but at least it’s a step in the right direction..however, you guys (Lib Dems) have turned it into such a partisan issue that, come May, I don’t think I can vote for it (nor against, I’ll just become apathetic).

  • Clearly just Labour attempts to create uncertainty and doubt, and throw spanners in the works of constitutional reform that they blocked for so long.

  • This is a thoroughly bad bill. (1) It reduces the number of MPs, thereby weakening Parliament. (2) It allows an accelerated review of constituency boundaries based on arbitrary population criteria, with no right to a public inquiry. Labour opposition doesn’t make a bad bill good.

  • @Sesenco

    Not only that, but by reducing the number of backbenchers, whilst retaining the same number of government ministers, the bill strengthens the power of the executive. Who would have thought that LibDem MPs would support the reduction of Parliament’s power to influence the decisions of the executive?

  • John Richardson 15th Nov '10 - 2:24pm

    Well it was in the Lib Dem manifesto to reduce the number of MPs to just 450. I could accept this if the quid-pro-quo was a properly elected HoL. (Ministers are accountable to parliament not just the HoC.) I await with interest details of the reforms in that area.

    It might not be a bad thing if the referendum is delayed until, say, the Autmun anway. It would allow Labour to campaign for it properly (or at least remove the barriers to that), thereby increasing the chances of winning.

  • @John Richardson

    Was there anything in the manifesto proposal regarding a proportionate reduction in the number of government ministers?

  • Ben Johnson 15th Nov '10 - 2:36pm

    It is mad to vote against fairer votes, just because you may be upset at the libdems.

    This is much more important than political point scoring (from either side!). It is the future of our democracy.

    Yes to fairer votes people!

  • John Richardson 15th Nov '10 - 2:38pm

    @jayu

    No there doesn’t seem to be anything about that in the manifesto. Btw, sorry, it was 500 MPs not 450. Oops!

  • John Richardson,

    “Well it was in the Lib Dem manifesto to reduce the number of MPs to just 450.”

    That was a hangover from the days when we were advocating regional assemblies. With centralised government, we need as many MPs as the building will take.

    Ben Johnson,

    “It is mad to vote against fairer votes,”

    I fail to see where the bill makes provision for fairer votes.

    John Richardson,

    “It might not be a bad thing if the referendum is delayed until, say, the Autmun anway.”

    We could well be out of the “coalition” by then – and in a position to vote the whole lot down.

  • And….back on planet earth:

    1. There will be a Scotland Bill to hand more power to the Scots
    2. There will be a referendum to hand more power to the Welsh if they vote yes.
    3. Power is being devolved to NI in drips and drabs.
    4. Let us wait and see what the3 localism bill brings, who knows LA’s may get more clout?

    To sum it up:

    – Why do we need so many MP’s now? As Clegg stated in the HoC at this rate the commons will just keep growing and growing and growing. Limit the number as power has been both devolved and passed to Europe.

  • Anyone else think Falconer became a politician as he evidently isn’t a very good lawyer?

  • Cogload,

    “Limit the number as power has been both devolved and passed to Europe.”

    If your intention in writing this was to breathe life into UKIP, you may well have succeeded!

    Clegg is talking nonsense.

    “Why do we need so many MP’s now?”

    I would have thought the answer was pretty obvious. As all Liberal Democrat MPs will tell you, the workload is enormous. More MPs, please, not less.

  • The idiot who linked changes to constituencies to AV is to blame…..

    Labour can now avoid backing the bill due to perfectly legitmate concerns over boundary changes. And therefore hurt the Lib Dems in the process. If the Bill had been split (as had been requested by Labour) then they would have to either back it or renage on their own promises.

    I say this not as a supporter of Labour but as someone who understands linking the two issues stops broad agreement being able to be simply reached.

    Finally, there are very good arguments regarding the timing of the vote that have been ignored. Higher turnout in areas with other elections will skew the vote and leave it open to moral (if not legal) challenges irrespective of the result.

  • Chris Rennard 15th Nov '10 - 5:19pm

    Labour’s attempt to delay the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill has just been defeated in the House of Lords by 224 to 210.

    Lord Falconer and Labour tried to say that the Bill was ‘hybrid’ ie that it should be referred to ‘the Examiners’ and if found hybrid would be dealt with by a special Select Committee ie. significantly delayed until it would possibly be too late to have the AV referendum in May.

    The examiners are actually two parliamentary officials – including the Clerk of the Public and Private Bill Office. This Office had already said before the Bill was introduced in the Commons that it was not prima facie hybrid bill. The Clerk, who would normally be one of the 2 examiners, said in a letter to all peers that the Bill does not affect private interests and is not hybrid.

    But Labour sought to delay proceedings by referring the Bill to the Examiners and they resented suggestions of obvious ‘filibustering’.

    I raised in the debate on this issue the point to which Mark Pack drew to our attention ie. that the last Labour Govt did not regard the Scotland Act of 1998 as hybrid when it set up the Scottish Parliament and made separate provision for Orkney and the Shetland Islands.

    Labour have had six months to make the suggestion that the Bill is hybrid since Nick Clegg introduced it to the House of Commons.

    The fact that they have only done so now does suggest that they are seeking a fillibuster in order to to delay the Bill’s progress.

    The 2nd reading will not take place later today and tomorrow.

    Chris

  • “The fact that they have only done so now does suggest that they are seeking a fillibuster in order to to delay the Bill’s progress.”

    Whatever legalese Falconer is hiding behind those who want to kill AV have happily had a setback with this defeat.
    However, the decision to glue AC to boundary changes was still foolish and there are still plenty of Conservative MPs as well as Labour who will happily torpedo the AV vote if they can find a way to do so.

    Even with the actions of those in Labour and the Conservatives, who despise any prospect of electoral reform, the Legislation should still be able to get through.
    But the actual issue of AV has to be won in public and it is still sinking relentlessly in the polls with no sign of a fightback pointing out why FPTP is so iniquitous and unfair.

  • Emsworthian 15th Nov '10 - 6:52pm

    What’s so special about 600 MPs and how did the Tories arrive at the number in the first place? I have yet to see one reason for the change that doesn’t look nakedly political. It saves just £12m!. A miserable little measure to go with another in one Bill to pacify the Tory Right.

  • Sesenco.

    Not answering my central point. There is no reason for 650MP’s where we have full scale devolution on the charge. There will be a bills to hand more power to the respective countries parliaments/ assemblies and the rest. And if the localism bill actually contains measures which pass power down to the local authorities then instead of “glorified social workers” (Tony Banks) we may actually get MP’s who scrutinise legislation.

    The latter point, however depends on many other caveats.

  • @ Sesenco: “It reduces the number of MPs, thereby weakening Parliament.” LOL! So the strength of a parliament is proportional to the number of reps in it? The North Korean Supreme People’s Assembly has 687 members, so by that idiotic logic is stronger at holding Kim Jong-il to account than our own Parliament is for Cameron. The Chinese National People’s Congress has 2,987 members, and so by your logic is the strongest legislative body in the world. Moron.

    @jayu: The number of ministers could be cut at any time. Nothing to do with redrawing boundaries.

  • @ben
    It is mad to vote against fairer votes, just because you may be upset at the libdems.
    This is much more important than political point scoring (from either side!). It is the future of our democracy.
    Yes to fairer votes people!

    If this is such a great system why did Nick Clegg say “Its a dirty little compromise”
    I don,t want my MP elected with the help of the BNP, as i my party will get their vote once they drop out ,no THANKS
    The way the Libs are going the YES vote has no chance ,keep it up please
    Andrew Edinburgh

  • “I have asking for an explanation for a reduction of 50 in the number of MPs. … it just does not make any sense. ”

    Let me have a shot at it.

    1. Cameron needed to pose as a reformer, while avoiding any real reform that would prevent him winning power with only a minority of votes. A cut in the number of MPs, ostensibly to save money, made a good smokescreen for not doing anything more radical.

    2. The cut will reduce the number of potentially “independent” minded MPs, without altering the “payroll vote” of Ministers and PPSs who are unable to rebel. Hence, it acts to reduce the already low risk of an effective Parliamentary rebellion.

    3. The equalisation process is also being used as a surreptitious way to reduce the independent powers of individual MPs. The new anonymous, artificial, constantly changing constituencies will soon put an end to the idea of a local MP who gains the confidence of constituents in a well-defined locality. Bye bye the independent health campaign MP for Wyre Forest, in the future the likes of you will stand no chance because there will be no clear or consistent locality you can offer to represent. Bye bye the Lib Dem local strongholds like Berwick, Yeovil, Oxford, or wherever, you will be defeated by constant boundary shifting. Hello, clone Tories or Labourites everywhere.

    Worried, Nick? No of course not, Daddy will look after you with a nice safe Home Counties seat when the time comes, won’t he?

  • Chris Rennard 16th Nov '10 - 10:12am

    There is obviously a fierce battle ahead in the House of Lords on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill.

    The debate on second reading continues today.

    But here are my contributions from yesterday – the number of interventions from Labour shows the ferocity of the argument ahead.

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/peer/lord_rennard

    Chris

  • MBoy,

    An answer to your question:

    (1) In order to retain their seats, Liberal Democrat MPs have to do a colossal amount of work in their constituencies. If you increase the size of their constituencies, they will not be able to maintain the level of support they currently give. The same applies to MPs of other parties who are active constituency members.

    (2) As David Allen has pointed out, if you reduce the number of MPs without also reducing the size of the payroll, there will be less backbenchers to carry out the scrutiny function and hold the government to account.

    How will the new Conservaive Members for Half of Yeovil and Lots of Tory Villages, Colchester South and Tiptree, Portsmouth West and Ryde, etc, perform, one wonders?

    “Coalition” apologists are fast running out of arguments, methinks, and are finding it increasingly hard to Shanghai people into doing their talking for them.

  • Cogload,

    “And if the localism bill actually contains measures which pass power down to the local authorities”

    And the moon is made of marmalade!

  • Have Cameron and Clegg woken up to the fact that they are going to have to defend the reduction in the number of MPs? How even the most accomplished psychological manipulator would go about such a task defeats me. I mean, come on. Comparing the Westminster Parliament with those in North Korea and China. You’ve just got to be desperate, mate.

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