Lib Dem Peer Lord Goodhart calls for filibuster ban

Video also available at BBC Democracy Live.

Liberal Democrat Lord Goodhart has called for legislation to stop filibustering in the House of Lords.

From the BBC:

In a debate on the effect on Parliament of coalition government on 20 January 2011, Lord Goodhart said the recent tactics of Labour peers during consideration of legislation to set up a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) for Westminster elections and reduce the number of MPs represented a “serious constitutional crisis”.

The 11th day of committee stage debate on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, which got under way just before 4pm on Wednesday, ended at 3am – less than eight hours before the start of the next sitting.
It followed an all-night session on Monday, during which peers considered a series of Labour amendments to the bill.

Lord Goodhart said,

Some time between 5.30 and 6.30 yesterday afternoon it became apparent to me that this House had entered a serious constitutional crisis.

The use of minority blocking has not previously been used in this House, at least during the 13 years during which I have been a member.

The actions of the Labour party, I believe, has opened up possibilities which may well reappear later perhaps to its own detriment.

On the seventh day of committee stage debate on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, Liberal Democrat Lord Rennard challenged Labour’s Lord Harris about the possibility of a Labour “conspiracy” to delay the Bill’s passage:

Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Wills has done the Committee an enormous service by presenting this amendment today, because it has enabled those of us who have engaged with the debate at least to consider the conspiracy not to talk about certain matters that really needed to be resolved in advance of taking final decisions on this legislation. I know there has been a lot of comment about an apparent conspiracy among Labour Members of the Committee to spin the discussion out. I have to say to your Lordships that I am not part of that conspiracy. I have not previously intervened in Committee on the Bill to speak on any of the amendments.

Lord Rennard (Liberal Democrat)

Has the noble Lord just confirmed that there is a conspiracy and that he is not a part of it?

Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour)

I am merely saying that some people-the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, is clearly one of them-believe that there is such a conspiracy. I can assert that I am not part of any such conspiracy, if one even exists.


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  • ‘The actions of the Labour party, I believe, has opened up possibilities which may well reappear later perhaps to its own detriment.’

    Perhaps, but I’m not altogether sure that the possibilities raised by legislating to prevent people speaking in Parliament based on – it would seem – subjectively decided motive are any less detrimental.

    How many hours of Parliamentary time were spent on fox-hunting? I seem to remember reading that it was an awful lot.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 21st Jan '11 - 11:05pm

    “The use of minority blocking has not previously been used in this House, at least during the 13 years during which I have been a member.”

    Could I suggest that Goodhart go and look at how many votes the last Labour Government lost in the Lords and then compare with what used to happen beforehand.

    Of course he seems to think that there is nothing constitutionally wrong with Coalition pushing through legislation agreed by the parties concerned after the election which was different from that which either of the parties put to the electorate – or had been detailed as possible compromise.

  • Erm . . . and who is this Lord. Has he ever been elected on a public vote. Of course not because on the various occasions he stood for office n a public election he was rejected by the public. An ex-SDP member who couldn’t cut-it in the eyes of the people and now he thinks he speaks for them.

    I think enough said.

  • NoOffenceAlan 21st Jan '11 - 11:24pm

    It would be better if we had leglislation to have a wholly-elected House of Lords.

  • Because he can’t get his own way! What democratic legitimacy is he talking about? he has none.

  • Patrick Smith 22nd Jan '11 - 10:45am

    The Noble Lords Tyler,Maclennan and Goodhart have spoken lucidly in this section of the seminal Constitutional Bill debate and I would agree that the final pragmatic requirement in view of persistent `delaying tactics’ i.e.fillibuster, now amounts to a prescient need to go for `closure’ and `timetable’.

    I would agree there should be `closure’ on the Constitutional Bill and a new updating of the Salisbury-Addison Convention 1945 in favour of a MacNally-Strathclyde Convention 2011 appropriate for the `New Politics’ democracy that is a product of the post 2010 General Election that has effective majorities in both Houses of Parliament.

    The tail should not be allowed to wag the dog.

  • NoOffenceAlan
    Can’t wait for the filibustering when they try to introduce the elected second chamber! That should be enough to convince everybody to get rid of current HoL!

  • David Boothroyd 22nd Jan '11 - 11:51am

    After 1945 Salisbury was leader of the Conservative and Unionist peers; Addison was leader of the Labour peers. The agreement between them was therefore an agreement between Government and Opposition. Patrick Smith now suggests that an agreement between the two government parties about what the opposition is allowed to do would be appropriate. The government deciding for itself may be your idea of Parliamentary scrutiny but I don’t think anyone else would share it.

    In any case the Liberal Democrats in opposition argued that the Salisbury-Addison Convention should be abolished, which would mean that oppositions in the Lords were free to act against any Bill. What’s sauce for the goose, etc.

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