Government defeated by 93 votes in Lords over party funding element of Trade Union Bill

Good cross-party work in the Lords today as an amendment written by Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler and tabled by Labour won the day. This sets up a select committee to oversee party funding and make a fairer playing field. The vote was won by 327 to 234.

It remains to be seen what the Government will do with this. The Parliamentary ping pong could delay it for a year. That’s an important time in which we should try to have a proper public debate on the issue of party funding.

After the vote, Paul Tyler said:

The Lords have stopped the Government from getting away with this blatant manipulation of the rules in their favour.

The Tories must not be given a free ride to remould our democracy in their favour and today we have shown that we will stand in their way.

The Lib Dems will continue to stand up to any attempts to rig the political system and we will continue to ensure that the Government is opposed whenever it puts party advantage ahead of the public interest.

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  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jan '16 - 9:41pm

    I would celebrate it, but my opinion is that Labour and Lib Dem Lords, especially Lib Dem Lords, have been disrespecting the general election result by being overzealous in the House of Lords.


  • @ Eddie Sammon

    The only ‘disrespecting’ was being put into the House of Lords in the first place. The H of L is a crummy out of date system, as is a General Election voting system whereby 37% gives over 50% of the seats.

    What do you want them to do, Eddie, just sit around, do nowt, and take the money ??

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 20th Jan '16 - 10:07pm


    Actually, the Conservatives have decided to unilaterally carry out a major reform to the funding of political parties which serves to cripple their main opponent, yet leaves their own funding sources untouched. You’ll pardon me for saying this but, if that’s democracy, then I’m a banana.

    As the Conservatives surreptitiously game our democratic structures in their favour, we should celebrate the fact that our Peers have stood up in defence of something that we gain no benefit from, because it’s the right thing to do.

  • The general election result followed Daily Mail reports that young Tories weren’t bothered to vote because there area was always going to be Tory, Sunderland constituencies more concerned with counting votes fastest than actual results and dead cat strategy. The democratic system that produced the elected body should scrutinised and, the intention to make politics work for one party only should be challenged but not every move made by the elected party can be blocked.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jan '16 - 10:39pm

    Hi people, I agree it is a good thing to do, but without getting into a big debate about it I just don’t want to give them too much confidence. It seems there is a bill every week that they are talking about voting down.

  • But the Tories could not win the support of even 25% of the registered voters. Does this give them any right to over-rule the colllective judgement of the members of the House of Lords? Lib Dems do not approve of the non-elected House of Lords either, but at least it can be said that they are there according to the law of the land, and as such are legitimate.

    At least as much as the Tory Government.

    Or as litle.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jan '16 - 1:45am

    We need another thread where we talk about legal legitimacy and it has to include the will of the people and not simply strict constitutionalism.


  • Allan Brame 21st Jan '16 - 6:56am

    @ Dan
    As far as I can see, the amendment is not protecting Union funding but setting up a select committee to oversee political funding. Hopefully including unlimited donations by big business

  • Barry Snelson 21st Jan '16 - 9:21am

    JohnFR is correct, of course, that both the House of Commons and House of Lords are operating within their legitimate envelope. But so would Cameron if he now appointed 500 new Tory Peers. LibDem peers should be leading the argument to reform this constitutional farce of the House of Lords.

  • Chris Rennard 21st Jan '16 - 12:05pm

    With respect we have always made it clear that we do not support the way in which the Labour Party receives much of its funding from the Trade Unions. I repeated our opposition to this in my speech:
    But removing Labour’s major funding source, whilst leaving that of the Conservatives intact, weakens democratic principles that are now constantly being challenged by Cameron’s Government on many fronts.
    Whilst always arguing for Lords Reform, we also have to recognise that the House of Lords has a duty under present legislation to prevent any one political party abusing its majority in the House of Commons to ensure that it can in future resist any democratic challenge.
    The Committee on Standards in Public Life published sensible proposals to reform party funding in 2011. As they said at the time, they had to be taken as a complete package. It is quite wrong to just pick the one that favours the Tories/handicaps Labour and ignore the rest of their proposals.
    If this report had been published before May 2010, it should have been part of the Coalition agreement and a ‘red line’ for entering it, as opposed to the much vaguer coalition agreement commitment to ‘take the big money out of politics’. We should also have been more properly supportive of the package that was put forward in 2011. The General Election campaign of 2015 could then have been fought on a fairer basis.

  • A satisfactory outcome but in their arrogance Labour have missed a trick. It would surely have looked less like Labour looking after it’s union paymasters if this motion, drafted by the Lib Dems, had been in our name instead of theirs.

  • leekliberal: good question but there was a good reason: I negotiated for Labour to re-table the original motion I had drafted because (1) only the “Official Opposition” could guarantee prime time and (2) I wanted to put additional pressure on Labour Peers, who have been strangely reluctant to vote recently – even for their own policies ! And it worked. The Select Committee will now ensure that the spotlight turns onto excessive Conservative donations and campaign expenditure. I hope to have a fuller account for you shortly.

  • There was an interesting piece by Michael Crick on the Tories apparently trying to hide local expenditure in the national figures. They are arguing that a fairly hefty hotel bill belongs in the national figures rather than in those for the constituency Nigel Farage was challenging. There may be other examples?

  • It’s not often I offer unqualified praise of the Lib Dems but the Lords have done an extremely noble thing here, voting to support a party and a funding system they dislike for no other reason than that they want to defend democracy. I doff my cap to them.

    Let’s hope that both parties (and others) can push on from here and really try to lance the boil that is anti-democratic party funding practises in this country. I think most people agree that it’s wrong to have one party massively richer than the others, when it isn’t even that popular; it’s wrong that rich people are able to fund parties, with what most believe to be an expectation of political influence in return; and the union funding of Labour, though not nearly as bad as funding by wealthy donors (in fact it has some positive aspects), isn’t particularly great either, and obviously disliked intensely by those parties which do not benefit from it.

    I’m aware of only one solution that is remotely capable of solving all those problems: state funding.

  • Tony Greaves 22nd Jan '16 - 10:05pm

    There is a very dreadful new Bill appears in the Lords almost by the week. On Tuesday we have the second reading of the next one, the Housing and Planning Bill, a thorough disgrace in all kinds of ways. All being hammered through Parliament by an arrogant and angry Tory Party on the basis of 37% of the vote.

    Tony Greaves

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