24 Lib Dem peers “rebel” as Lords reject government’s judicial review proposals

The Guardian reports:

A rebellion in the House of Lords has inflicted a second defeat on the government’s plans to restrict access to judicial review challenges.

The vote by 274 to 205 means that for a second time peers have rejected keys proposals in the criminal justice and courts bill. It will restore to judges their discretion in handling such cases.

The 274 “contents” included these Liberal Democrat peers:

Alliance, Bradshaw, Carlile, Cotter, Doocey, Goodhart, Greaves, Hussein-Ece, Lester, Ludford, Macdonald of River Glaven, Maclennan, Marks, Phillips of Sudbury, Rennard, Rodgers, Scriven, Sharkey, Smith of Clifton, Storey, Strasburger, Thomas of Gresford, Thomas of Winchester, Williams of Crosby.

During the course of the debate, it was revealed that Chris Grayling had told the Commons when it rejected the Lords amendment something that wasn’t true. He had corrected the error by letter, but MPs may not be aware of that. Lord Pannick brought that to the Lords’ attention:

The Lord Chancellor intervened in the debate and said:

“The ‘exceptional circumstances’ provisions would allow a judge to say, ‘This is a flagrant case and must be heard’”.—[Official Report, Commons, 1/12/14; col. 82.]

The Lord Chancellor made the same point at col. 72. That is precisely the defect of this clause. It contains no exceptional circumstances provision. It contains no power for the court to say, “This case must be heard”. The clause imposes an absolute duty on the courts to dismiss cases where it is highly likely that the defect would have made no difference, however flagrant the legal error and however important the issue from the perspective of the public interest. Since the Lord Chancellor in the debate recognised the obvious need for a degree of discretion in this clause, it is incomprehensible to me why the Government are so determined that the clause must be enacted with no degree of judicial discretion.

Jonathan Marks explained why this stuff actually matters:

I do not regard this clause as merely protecting government from the effects of minor procedural errors that have made no difference to decision-making. I regard it, as do other noble Lords who have spoken, as an attack on the rule of law and an attack on parliamentary democracy. To take the example given by my noble friend Lord Lester, where a statute is passed by Parliament, often after discussions such as the ones that we have had on this Bill, which requires that the Government consult before making a decision, it should not be open to government to flout that requirement imposed by Parliament and then claim an immunity from judicial review on the basis that a lawful consultation would have made no difference to the outcome of the decision-making so that permission and relief should be withheld. That is the heart of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben

The public interest amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, reflects an amendment that I moved in Committee. If carried, and if this House insists on it, a court will not be compelled to say, where a government department has acted unlawfully, that the decision would have been the same anyway and therefore permission to apply for judicial review must be refused and relief must be withheld. The court will instead be able to say that the decision was illegal and, before it can be properly made, the Government must follow the law—quite simply because that is what the law requires. That is the rule of law. That respects the will of Parliament. That gives effect to be principle of government accountability. This House has a constitutional duty to be very careful indeed when what is happening here happens—when the Executive seeks parliamentary sanction for breaking the law, as this clause does. I shall support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.

Amid the seriousness of the subject, there was a quite amusing rebuke by Lord Carlile to the Labour spokesperson who was trying to lecture US on civil liberties:

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, and I know that what he is saying is being said in a constructive spirit, but he might like to bear in mind that lectures from the Labour Party on civil liberties are not popular in the Liberal Democrats. He might possibly just leave it to our own consciences to determine how we vote on this matter.

Peers also rejected another part of the Bill for a second time. The Government proposes setting up a secure college  for young  people to which they propose admitting girls and under 15s of whom there are a tiny number detained.  Organisations such as the NSPCC have Shirley Williams was one of the Liberal Democrat rebels on this occasion. Her speech was interesting for two reasons: the substance of the issue and on the nature of government and parliamentary democracy:

The first question rests on the fact—noble Lords can check this—that young women are most likely to engage in serious self-harm between the ages of 16 and 20. Self-harm is much more common among women prisoners than among male prisoners; it is four times as high—so disproportionate is this attempt to raise sympathy and get attention. Is the Minister aware of these quite striking figures for the very high level of self-harm among young women, some of it serious self-harm, in the very age group that we are considering sending to secure colleges? What steps will be taken to ensure that any girl sent there has no previous record of self-harm?

My second question is quite different. We have all listened closely to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and we respect his extraordinary integrity in this House on issue after issue. Is the Ministry of Justice determined effectively to rule Parliament out of a system of consultation, advice and help, which I believe that most of us in this House are crying out for? We have seen an astonishing list of dismissals of Parliament in the course of proceedings on this Bill. I find it very unfortunate, and I am not sure that it is what the Minister intended, but it is certainly the net effect.

Floella Benjamin also criticised the plans:

My Lords, I would briefly like to speak on Motion A1, which would ensure that girls and younger children are kept out of secure colleges as we know them. We know them to be tough, intimidating and challenging places. The children’s charity, the NSPCC, believes it would be unsafe, inappropriate and potentially damaging to hold girls and under-15s in such institutions, especially as they would be with many older boys. The main reason for this is that many of the girls in custody are highly likely to have experienced sexual abuse. Placing them in custodial institutions may be traumatising and damaging to their rehabilitation. Placing girls and young children in secure colleges will cause serious and unprecedented safeguarding risks that should be considered.

Every child deserves to have the best education on offer, to help them prepare for the future and to help them cope with life. But to reach their full potential, children need to feel safe and not intimidated or bullied. We know that these environments will be made up of the most troubled children in the country. There is a need to give these vulnerable children the confidence to reach their potential, to help them engage with their education and to give them stability and consistency. The evaluation report by Ofsted does nothing to address these serious safeguarding concerns. I ask my noble friend the Minister: how will these concerns be addressed? What type of facilities will be put in place to give children and young people the stability, safeguards and requirements that are needed to deal with their mental and physical health and well-being?

So, what happens now? More Parliamentary Ping Pong. The Commons will discuss it again, in pretty brief form, by the end of this week before it returns to the Lords on Monday. If you agree with me that it’s time for our MPs to say No, write to them. The Government can force this legislation through but if our backbench MPs say they aren’t going to vote for it, there is a chance of forcing change. After all, the secure colleges stuff is rejected by no less a person than David Ramsbotham, the Chief Inspector of Prisons who was forced out of his job for being too awkward. I strongly recommend that you read the whole debate here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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52 Comments

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 10th Dec '14 - 9:46am

    They are listed in the post, Sarah: Alliance, Bradshaw, Carlile, Cotter, Doocey, Goodhart, Greaves, Hussein-Ece, Lester, Ludford, Macdonald of River Glaven, Maclennan, Marks, Rennard, Rodgers, Scriven, Sharkey, Smith of Clifton, Storey, Strasburger, Thomas of Gresford, Thomas of Winchester.

  • Caron, Can you list the Lib Dem MPs who voted in favour of this and those who rebelled? Thanks

  • From the Public Whip Sarah Teather is the only Liberal Democrat MP to rebel. Two Tories rebelled as well, and UKIP voted along with Labour, Greens, SNP and Plaid.

    The fact that the Liberal Democrats can even consider voting for this is extremely worrying.

  • Rabi Martins 10th Dec '14 - 11:00am

    What happened to the rest of our Lib Dem Peers? Are they all content to see state intrusion in our judicial system ? I am especially disappointed not to see Brian Paddick’s name amongst the rebels ! But then should I really expect a former senior Police officer to protect the judges?

  • @David Evans

    48 LD Peers voted in favour. You can see their names using the link:

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/business-papers/lords/lords-divisions/?date=2014-Dec-09&itemId=2&session=2014-Jun-04

    Given that they knew Grayling had admitted to misleading MP’s, it surprises me that 48 Peers still voted in favour.

  • The only MP to vote against was Sarah Teather and she is standing down as an MP. It really says a lot that the LibDems can’t persuade excellent young MP’s to stay on, perhaps they thought she was too liberal in her views so didn’t bother trying. Clegg, Laws, Alexander etc do seem far more at home working alongside the Tories.

  • Totally agree that we should vote the secure college proposal down – there’s precious little evidence for it, and it is no way to treat some of the most vulnerable and disturbed young people in our society.

    Mixed views on judicial reviews though; while the rule of law has to be sacrosanct, if a judge is satisfied that the alleged defect would have had no bearing on the decision, it seems pointless and expensive to drag proceedings forward, creating a delay at best.

  • We really need an upper house with the legitimacy to just throw out such bad ideas rather than just play the game of ping pong with them. But barring that in the immediate future, this is good news.

  • James Sandbach 10th Dec '14 - 11:30am

    I’ve written about the MPs response on the Judicial Review issues here – http://www.socialliberal.net/judges_beware ; it would have been better if they had supported the Lords amendments in the first round of ping-pong; what was really disappointing about last week’s Commons debate on the final stages of the Bill is that no-one from our benches even turned up for the debate – as if it didn’t matter – or to let it be known that Libdems have been working behind the scenes to try and get some concessions out of Grayling, though that’s like trying to get blood out of stone.

    At least as concerning as the JR provisions are what the Tories want to do with their new private sector run “Secure College” for young offenders, trying to make it a large mixed sex institutions with under 15s (a group for whom all the evidence suggests are better dealt with in small units) with harsh disciplinary regime including permitted use of force by staff against young offenders – truly shocking that the Tories are trying to take Youth Justice down this route.

    I’ve been banging on for months that the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is probably the most illiberal Bill the Government have brought forward in this Parliament (in fact I’d probably rank it as the most illiberal Bill I’ve seen over the past 3 Parliaments); it even includes provisions for defendants to be (financially) charged for using the Criminal Courts. We’ve had plenty of opportunities to block this stuff as it first emerged towards the end of last year.

  • Jenny Tonge also voted alongside the 23. She is still a member of the Liberal Democrats but not a member of the LD Group in the Lords because she also dares to speak out on matters of the judicial rights of Palestinians.

    The forces of darkness in this vote only consisted of Coalitionists and a tiny handful of cross benchers and “others”

    The forces of elightenment included 169 Labour, 24 Liberal Democrat, 57 Cross benchers, 3 Bishops, a dozen “others” and even some Conservatives.

    What were the 48 nominally “Liberal Democrat” peers thinking when they followed the Coalition line?
    Or were they simply lobby fodder ?

  • Good article Caron, but you appear to have unaccountably left the name of Shirley Williams of the list off the honourable defenders of JR… (see Martin B’s link, above, which says there were 24).

  • Quite simply this is just another example of the total mess Nick has made of leading us in this coalition. It’s not grown up government. It’s doing what those at the top tell you.

  • So a minority of Lib Dem Lords oppose this attack on the rights of citizens to challenge government, as do a minority of Lib Dem MPs.

    Whither the party of civil liberties?

  • Well, presumably, David, we got something in return for voting for this in the Commons? Otherwise, what the *&^% are they playing at? Perhaps some Liberal Thing the Tories Would Never Have Agreed To Otherwise was obtained as a quid pro quo?
    But unless someone comes along her sharpish to explain the Front Bench’s reasoning, the suspicion remains that we roll over far too easily, even on fundamentally illiberal measures.

  • From what I can see the rebellion itself was somewhat nuanced. The Lords don’t seem to have rejected everything they rejected before, in that they seem to have accepted the Government’s plan to levy charges on groups that offer expert testimony, assuming my cursory reading is accurate. While this may not have been the main objection, I still see dangers in expert testimony carrying financial risks.

  • Tony Greaves 10th Dec '14 - 12:46pm

    The number of LDs who voted against the government on this vote (the second yesterday) was actually 24 – the list in the posting should have added to it Andrew Phillips and Shirley Williams. Plus Jennie Tonge who is a LD but does not take the whip. It looks as though there may also have been LD 10-15 abstentions on this vote though it’s never possible to get an accurate figure on this.

    The first vote, on which Floella Benjamin spoke, was on whether boys under 15 and girls should be locked up in secure institutions. 27 LDs voted against the government and the government lost the vote by 304 to 240 (an amazingly high turn-out for the Lords).

    On the third vote, also on judicial review, the government lost by 210 to 192 with 12 LDs voting against the government. The number of LDs voting went down from 77 to 52 so there were probably some abstentions (though some will have gone by that time).

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 10th Dec '14 - 12:49pm

    It does look as though on the crucial vote on JD abut half of the LDs present in the Lords did not support the government.

    Don’t blame the LD peers for the impossible position in which we were placed yesterday by (in my view) a shambolic failure within the coalition.

    Tony Greaves

  • Gemma Roulston 10th Dec '14 - 1:24pm

    I really cannot understand how, the party that is for civil liberties is allowing the rule of law to be ignored, for there to be no judicial review. Why are we not standing up for our principles? We are for liberalism, and blocking judicial review seems perverse. It would be good to know why our MPs are backing this, is it the chance to keep the Tories on side so that we can a few crumbs of comfort, or what? Sarah Teather should not be alone when this next is debated in the other place. We are showing that we don’t have any principles. The secret courts was bad enough, but this is even worse.
    We should not be agreeing to the secure colleges, they are too dangerous for those who are potential self harmers, or those who have been abused sexually. Grayling may not care for our future,, but we should. They should not be allowed. Where is the backbone in our House of commons party? Nowhere it seems. Why is Simon Hughes agreeing to support this?
    I am really sad that this has got this far, I just hope the Tories don’t use the Parliament act to get this through. Our MPs should be ashamed of this and other illiberal things that we have allowed.

  • When this was at committee neither of the Lib Dems (Julian Huppert and Bob Smith) even spoke on the substantive points – and voted for the key clauses

  • Don’t the parliamentary party of both houses get together to discuss and agree a line?

  • This thread sums up several of our current problems:

    -lack of clarity in what the Lib Dem position rather than the Government position is
    -absent leadership. Who is speaking for us on this? Who is co-ordinating the line on an issue with many rebels?
    -little impact of good Lib Dem ministers in their departments.
    -no understanding of why we are agreeing to Tory measures, either in making the case or in getting something in return.
    -incoherent press allowing conflicting messages from ministers about whether we are supportive of what the Government is doing, or tempering the Tories.

    I’m not the slightest bit surprised there is so much angst at the moment – it seems that the party leadership has gone AWOL in the past few weeks (the trip to Cornwall a perfect example.) Over the summer things got better, with pre-manifesto announcements on Lib Dem issues – drugs policy, safe standing in football , nature policies etc.

    Why has it all fallen away in the past month?

  • chris j smart 10th Dec '14 - 2:38pm

    Gemma,
    I agree with you but You must realize by now that our views are juvenile, irresponsible and not in keeping with the grown up politics needed for coalition government. The leadership have told you repeatedly that principles and integrity can only exist when the party is in opposition; go away and take your vote with you.
    The party has totally lost it’s reputation for integrity and therefore lost the trust of the majority of it’s supporters.
    I had voted Liberal and Liberal democrat for 57 years. I wont be doing that again until the current leadership has been removed and the party returns to it’s radical self. I, and I am sure many others, would start voting Lib Dem again even if the party was leaderless but at least showing some glimmer of it’s old self.

  • A perfectly reasonable question from Mike Drew —

    Mike Drew 10th Dec ’14 – 2:07pm
    Don’t the parliamentary party of both houses get together to discuss and agree a line?

    You would expect a modicum of organisation and coordination between Liberal Democrats in the two Houses’ especially when parliamentary “ping pong” is the name of the game.
    Unfortunately, (according to my moles in the Commons) meetings of our MPs are not exactly models of democratic participation even without their Lordships present.
    The suggestion of an effective joint meeting of MPs and Lords brings a wry smile.

    Our Lords outnumber our Commoners by two to one at the moment. In a few weeks time the reduced number of MPs will make the group in the Lords seem enormous in comparison. Personal rivalries and petty jealousies are apparent in all groups of politicians; anyone with experience as a local councillor will know that.
    In many cases our Lords and Ladies are more experienced, articulate and indeed more Liberal Democrat than some of the leadershsip MPs and this apparently results in friction.
    Shirley Williams once commented in public that Clegg seems to have difficulty taking advice from anyone who is older than him. I guess that rules out just about everybody in our group in the Lords.

  • There is no future for any version of the Liberal Democrats that votes against liberalism.

  • Is someone having a laugh?

    It is entirely proper that the Lord’s (and not MPs) should vote for a review into the review of Judicial Review if legislative processes aren’t followed absolutely correctly. That is the job of the Lords.

    This shows the Coalition Government is working in perfect concert with Parliament… And ironically there couldn’t be a better Lord to lead the challenge than Lord Pannick!

    Seriously, is business so slack in the pre-Christmas build-up and activist attention so easily diverted that LibDems have to have paroxysms of existential angst whenever our legislators do their own jobs well, rather than someone else’s badly?

    This is a cause for celebration because it is proof our party is mastering Parliamentary processes to block the excesses of opponents. It shows we are finally becoming a potent party of power, not a rag-tag bunch of whiners who care more about petty grandstanding gestures than exerting a real influence on outcomes.

  • James Sandbach 10th Dec '14 - 5:05pm

    The train crash over this Bill (cooked up by Chris Grayling and No 10) and fallout has been predictable to say the least; Evan Harris and I saw an early draft and remonstrated with Simon Hughes about it just after he had been appointed as an MoJ Minister. Simon agreed with our points but he wasn’t responsible for the Bill which was drafted before his appointment and not within his Portfolio/job anyway, so his room for manoeuvre to change anything was limited (in fact some things in it were substantially changed or watered down as a result of LibDem influence) – I respect Simon’s position he would have lost any credibility at MoJ if he had tried to get them to abandon it. The main concession Grayling offered us/the Party was to include the LibDems’ call to criminalise revenge porn as one of the many new criminal offences contained within the Bill, enabling Libdem spokespersons to say look what we’ve done in Government – we’ve criminalised revenge porn. However, the problem with using this Bill as a vehicle to deal with revenge porn is that it made it a whole lot more harder for any our MPs to object to the many parts of the Bill we don’t like (secure colleges, JR etc) – the quid-pro-quo was for our MPs to tow the line.

    Personally I don’t like criticising how our MPs and Peers deal with legislation in coalition – they’ve had to deal with dozens of dreadful Bills over the last 5 years on health, justice, equalities, welfare etc that are totally inconsistent with party policy&values and to make difficult judgements on what they can improve, amend, achieve concessions on or rebel on in the context and constraints of the whipping system and Coalition Govt; so almost nothing they do to change things will ever be good enough for some campaigners.

    However, this one could clearly have been better handled at the Commons end. Julian Huppert is our backbench spokesman on Justice matters (also on the Bill’s standing Committee) and Chairs a joint Lords/Commons LibDem group on justice, equalities & home affairs to filter our responses to & backbench input into controversial government measures, and hammer out Party tactics. I know Julian has worked hard to get concessions, and echoed all the justice campaigners concerns in the Bill Committee quite effectively. But it looks as if there’s been a lack of strategy and any effective communication between Lib Dem Peers and MPs working on this (and not much communication with the wider party about the issues).

  • Oh to be a tabloid headline writer!

  • David Evans 10th Dec '14 - 5:32pm

    James Sandbach – How can you “respect Simon’s position he would have lost any credibility at MoJ if he had tried to get them to abandon it,” when it was clearly a dog’s dinner of a bill. We had a chance to do politics better. Putting forward such lame excuses makes me wonder why we bothered.

  • James 10th Dec ’14 – 5:04pm
    “Is someone having a laugh?
    — It shows we are finally becoming a potent party of power….”

    This must be “parody”. James must be a member of the Trumpton local party battling with Trumpton UKIP.

  • “This is a cause for celebration because it is proof our party is mastering Parliamentary processes to block the excesses of opponents.”

    Very much the opposite. Where was the attempt to block this at the Commons committee stage. Like I said the two Lib Dems on that committee – Julian Huppert and Bob Smith didn’t – in relation to the substantive points – propose any amendments, didn’t speak and voted for. That’s not opposition.

  • Hywel, I don’t understand what you are proposing. That members of a government should oppose themselves in committee??? That’s just silly.

    The job of Lib Dem MPs was to exert influence prior to the committee stages, and if unhappy to build support among the Lords to return it. That is exactly what has happened.

    Clearly there remains a rump of commenters who prefer to run roughshod over protocol for show. it is ironic that that’s what Judicial Review is designed to prevent.

  • Tony Greaves 10th Dec '14 - 6:55pm

    “Don’t the parliamentary party of both houses get together to discuss and agree a line?”

    No, not as such. The Commons party meetings are in any case not inclusive meetings at which things are thrashed out and planned, they are very much “top table and the rest” meetings. Lords party meetings are more inclusive and more democratic even though there are more of us, and some (including the special meeting yesterday on this Bill) are very good meetings indeed.

    There are however a series of processes and means of communication between the LD groups in the two Houses – significantly more, I think, than in the Tories. These include the joint ” co-chairs” committees on a departmental basis. The fact is that the processes just did not work as far as this Bill is concerned.

    By the way there seem to have been at least 92 or 93 LD peers in the Lords yesterday at the maximum, out of 105/6, an astonishing turnout for this House. This means that the number of abstentions on the second vote might be as high as 20. Whatever, it is clear that half the group did not support the government on a 3-line whip. That shows just how badly things went wrong on this issue in this Bill.

    Tony

  • 1) They are backbench MPs not members of the Government. They are members of a party which is in government but that is very much not the same thing.

    2) There are plenty of examples of Lib Dem MPs proposing amendments in committee and elsewhere – indeed Julian did propose an amendment on a rather anciliary point to the JR proposals (relating to costs and intervening parties).

    3) The Lords HAVE returned this bill once. The Commons insisted on their amendments (and actually for the rather dubious reason that it was right to impose a requirement rather than a discretion on the courts – people might want to think about that for a bit…..)

  • Tony Dawson 10th Dec '14 - 7:17pm

    This item shows classically how the Lib Dem ‘leadership'(sic) don’t have a clue about how to operate within a Coalition. This illiberal measure was not in the Coalition Agreement so why were our MPs and peers whipped into voting for it?

  • Tony Dawson 10th Dec '14 - 7:21pm

    @JohnTilley:

    “This must be “parody”. James must be a member of the Trumpton local party battling with Trumpton UKIP.”

    Ah me. {shows age} I was thinking more along the lines of ‘The Woodentops’.

  • Stevan Rose 10th Dec '14 - 9:26pm

    There is an awful lot wrong all round here. Whatever you think of the policy itself a bunch of unelected appointees and birthright politicians, many of whom in all parties have been soundly rejected by the electorate, have interfered with the will of the Commons. It is an affront to democracy and a sad day.

  • But it ISN’T the ‘will of the commons’. It is the coercive results of MPs having their arms forced up behind their back to the nape of their collective necks.

  • cllr Nick Cotter 10th Dec '14 - 10:29pm

    I COULD not disagree more with Stevan Rose – Congratulations to Lord Brian Cotter of Congresbury (my “old man”) who was one of the Rebels, and by the way he was previously an MP (Weston-super-Mare) so no “affront to democracy and a sad day” as far as I am concerned !!! He held the seat for two terms, after winning it off the Tories after 70 years !!!

    Keep up the Good Work H of L Parliamentarians !!!

    Cllr Nick Cotter (formerly Lib Dem, now Independent), Bicester, Oxon.

  • Nick,

    I didn’t realise he was your dad. I have relatives in W-S-M who say he is much missed as the local MP!

  • James Sandbach 10th Dec '14 - 11:11pm

    @David Evans – There are other areas of MoJ policy where Simon has been able to do some really good things, including securing funding for a significant scheme to held litigants in person in the family and civil courts (which doesn’t make up for the disastrous legal aid cuts but does provide much needed support), and on other areas like domestic violence. I suspect he would not have been able to do this if he had spent all his political capital in the MoJ trying to fight this Bill from the inside – and he did secure some concessions. I’m not making excuses but Ministers have to sign up to co-responsibility for everything their Department does, and junior Ministers can’t usually bloc pet projects of the Secretary of State who happens also to be their boss.
    @Tony – yes absolutely right and thanks for your informed commentary and insight, there are internal Lords-Commons communication procedures on Bill tactics but as you say they didn’t work well on this occasion. It’s a credit to the Lords Party that so many of our Peers decided to rebel or abstain.

  • “There are other areas of MoJ policy where Simon has been able to do some really good things, including securing funding for a significant scheme to held litigants in person in the family and civil courts”

    If I hadn’t read a lot of sensible things you’d written this would be among the most ridiculuous comments people have made about Lib Dem “achievments” in coalition. As you say this has only been necessary because of legal aid cuts the government made in the first place!

    This all smacks of cosy behind closed doors deals. That’s not the way liberals should conduct themselves in government. “Ooooh if we don’t do everything the Tories ask they might take our little crumbs away”.

    Well how come the back bench MP for OXWAB has been able to get changes to this bill by proposing amendments? What happened to the idea of campaigning ethos of the party.

    Quite frankly if Simon’s approach is “I can’t do that because I’ll lose standing in the department” then he’s no business being a minister and pretty much no business even being in Parliament.

    Remember this isn’t legislation the LIb Dems (in the Commons) are opposing – it is legislation they are rolling over and giving up on without a fight, and amendment or a speech.

    Brian Clough once said if a player wasn’t interfering with play (and hence offside) then what was he doing on the pitch. If liberal MPs aren’t “interfering” with legislation like this then what are they doing in Parliament?

  • James Sandbach 10th Dec ’14 – 11:11pm
    James,
    I am genuinely interested to kow why you said —-“. I’m not making excuses but Ministers have to sign up to co-responsibility for everything their Department does, and junior Ministers can’t usually bloc pet projects of the Secretary of State who happens also to be their boss.”

    Is there something in The Coalition agreement that says this? I don’t think there is.

    Or are you saying it is me of those unwritten rules ?

    I can think of examples of junior ministers doing the exact opposite of what their Secretaries of State want , or throwing sufficient “logs on the line” to ensure that the Secretaryof States train never leaves the station. See numerous autobiographies, in particular The Crossman Diaries etc it is not a new idea.
    In my experience junior ministers of all parties have always done this. Sometimes it is political, sometimes Sir Humphrey is wisely playing off one minister against another and thereby stopping either of them embarrassing The Department.

    Or are you saying that there is some new “convention” or “tradition” that some Tory or some SpAd has just invented and our people have swallowed it?

    Who says that –“..Ministers have to sign up to co-responsibility for everything their Department does” ?

    Especially in a coalition of two parties so different as The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats?

  • Patrick C Smith 11th Dec '14 - 9:28am

    If nearly all L/D Peers are attending i.e.92 L/D Peers,and voting on the revisionary nature of the two pieces of legislation under scrutiny this shows that the role of the House of Lords works, as a second democratic reasoning chamber, in our bicameral system of law making.

    The purposeful role of L/D Peers is paramount in protecting both the integrity of the sanctity of Individual Human Rights under our entrenched `Rule of Law’ and in safeguarding girls from any potential self-harm,in the proposed `secure colleges’.

    This is all good work on the part of our appointed team of L/D Peers led by many talented Civil Rights Lawyers, with decades of Human Rights of experience, as their vested interest.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Dec '14 - 11:15am

    “This all smacks of cosy behind closed doors deals”

    Hywel – I don’t think the “closed door deals” that are made in the coalition are particularly “cosy”. It is not however clear how such deals would be made in public – on Newsnight perhaps? Deals are in the nature of coalition. Whether specific deals are good deals or bad deals is another matter.

    Tony

  • James Sandbach 11th Dec '14 - 1:15pm

    @ John and Hywel – the Bill was drafted and the policy agreed BEFORE Simon was made Minister…as I understand, it was his predecessor in MoJ (I think you know who I mean) who signed the Libdems up to this. Combine that with having to work under the most intransigent, ignorant and authoritarian Lord Chancellor in living memory who doesn’t listen to anybody – I don’t often often find myself defending lib dem ministers but I don’t think Simon had the power to stop this. The only way to stop the Bill would be either (i) backbench MPs rebelling on it in significant numbers in addition to LibDem peers so the Government could not get its legislation through (ii) an intervention by the Party at a more senior level – ie Clegg, No 10 , the quad etc – alas neither have happened. (Ideally both of these, plus Simon objecting should have happened and that would have killed it off)

    @ Tony – interesting that even Tory grandees like Hesltetine and Michael Howard who were present in the Lords on tuesday evening abstained rather than supporting Grayling

  • Tony Dawson 10th Dec ’14 – 10:13pm
    “But it ISN’T the ‘will of the commons’. It is the coercive results of MPs having their arms forced up behind their back to the nape of their collective necks.”

    So that makes it OK for unelected appointees and those born to rule to override those who the public have elected does it? If electors feel their representatives have been coerced, have not stood up for their interests, then they can and will unelect them and vote in someone committed to reversing the offending legislation. Sadly, all too often many of the rejects then end up sitting in the Lords interfering with their successors’ legislation. That some MPs may be spineless and lacking in principles is hardly a valid argument for an unelected/hereditary legislative chamber. Sometimes in a democracy laws get passed that we may disagree with; that is the price of elections. Undermining democracy to achieve a victory is not a victory.

  • James Sandbach 12th Dec '14 - 1:59pm

    @ Stevan Rose – are you familiar by any chance with the notion of an “Elective Dictatorship” – that’s why you need other constitutional checks and balances to sustain Democracy like Upper House scrutiny and judicial oversight of public law, liberal constitutionalism is predicated on the rule of law (applying to all executive decision-making, plus remedies under JR) which is what this debate of the CJCBill is all about. Plus most people who want Lords reforms (and some reform has already taken place in getting rid of most heriditaries) and the introduction of Upper House elections, recognise that cross-benchers and more independently minded senior party figures with distinct professional backgrounds on the Lords benches do bring real expertise and value to the legislature – so that however we reform the Lords, we should also try and retain its best features rather than making it a mirror image of the Commons (which itself has become increasingly enslaved and subordinated by the Executive via the Govt. Whips)..there’s probably no perfect model for this, though various models of a hybrid house plus senatorial elections (perhaps based on regional lists with some element of expertise to be maintained on the list).

  • James – you just identified two ways in which Simon could have worked to stop this. There is clearly no encouragement to back benchers to oppose it.

    Two more options are he could resign, or he could vote against it. The precedent that ministers can vote against Government policy and not resign was set by Sarah Teather way back. The problem is our ministers only play by the establishment rules they are told must apply – rather than being the radical reformists, challening authority they should be.

    As I’ve said before, if you are a Lib Dem minister and you can’t stop this then are you actually doing anything useful?

    Elsewhere you suggested that this could be a quid pro quo for getting legislation on banning revenge porn. Now apart from that being a pretty bad deal what does it say about the extent of reform this coalition government has delivered that the deal was “we’ll allow a measure which probably does command a majority in the house to pass if you make sure a measure that probably doens’t command a majority in the house passes”.

  • Stevan Rose 12th Dec '14 - 7:06pm

    “you need other constitutional checks and balances to sustain Democracy like Upper House scrutiny and judicial oversight”

    The checks and balances can and should be undertaken by a fully elected upper house, perhaps regional in nature. But there again New Zealand gets by with a single Chamber. Scotland, Wales, Queensland, legislatures too. You do not *need* an upper house but it is desirable. An alternative or addition is a written constitution with a constitutional court.

    Where is your evidence that most people who want Lords reform want to retain any of its features? You mean most people in the Lords and amongst the political elites who see themselves with a peerage one day want that perhaps? It would be great if people with distinguished and distinct professional backgrounds would stand for election and the electorate can decide whether or not they want them checking and balancing their MPs. You call appointees a ”best feature” I call it corrupt patronage. And you could always include such backgrounds on party lists if such a system were to be used. I find it quite incredible that people who call themselves Liberal Democrats should defend any aspect of the Lords. Upper House elections? You mean hereditary peers with zero qualification other than birth voting for other hereditary peers to legislate for the general population? Yes, that’s progress isn’t it. It is sickening that such a practice is tolerated in 2014.

    There are perfect models. All involve the people choosing who makes the laws of the land without interference from elites who think they know better.

  • James Sandbach 13th Dec '14 - 12:35am

    @stephan – I didn’t say anywhere that I want to see a unelected upper house maintained, and said quite explicitly that that I would like to see popular elections and the expulsion of all heritaries, but I also think there is a role for independents who don’t come from party hack lists subject to party whips – in recent years on issue after issue in the Lords crossbenchers have displayed far more knowledge and leadership than over-promoted party hacks and donors. The debate over the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is a case in point. And you haven’t answered my point about elected dictatorships (and nor is it necessarily undemocratic to have legitimate representatives and leaders of Civil Society in the Upper House, elitism is more a feature of the Parties intake.)

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