Lib Dems to boycott Commons police raid enquiry

The Guardian has the story:

An attempt by the Commons Speaker, Michael Martin, to establish a cross-party committee of senior MPs to examine the police raid of Damian Green’s parliamentary office collapsed amid acrimony on the floor of the house last night.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg vowed to boycott the committee in protest at what they regard as an attempt by the government to limit its work, after MPs narrowly rejected a call for the inquiry to start immediately.

The failure to get cross-party support for the committee is a fresh blow for Martin, and came as a former Labour home secretary, Charles Clarke, warned of “widespread concern” about the Speaker’s performance, after the Commons authorities allowed the police to search Green’s parliamentary office without a warrant.

The narrow rejection in question consisted of a nail-biting vote on Ming Campbell’s amendment to the government’s motion to hold an enquiry. The amendment would have allowed the enquiry committee to meet immediately, rather than waiting for the police investigation to conclude, and report only when it was ready rather than operating to a deadline. Critically, it omitted the provision in the main motion for a compulsory government majority on the committee.

The amendment was defeated by 285 votes to 281, with 29 Labour MPs voting against the government, despite what must have been some serious whipping. Following that, the government won on the main motion to hold the restricted form of enquiry, complete with government majority and postponed start date.

By all accounts the debate leading up to the vote was a cracker. We’ll bring you the link once Hansard is up and running, but for now this is how Simon Hughes set out the Lib Dems’ position during the debate:

We do not feel we can recommend to our colleagues that they serve on a committee that will be a nonsense, that sits to choose a chairman and then can sit no more. I hope you will understand if we don’t recommend participation in this process.

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  • Hywel Morgan 9th Dec '08 - 12:17pm

    Assuming they weren’t paired – which is a possibility on a Monday.

    That said, if the primary job of an MP isn’t scrutinising legislation and holding the executive to account in Parliament then I’m not sure what it is.

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