Debates between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 6th Jul 2021

Conduct

Debate between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
Tuesday 6th July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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We should be very careful about amending these provisions without proper discussion involving all of us. This is an excellent report. It covers a lot of items in a very comprehensive and straightforward manner. The Conduct Committee and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mance, are to be congratulated on bringing it forward before the Summer Recess.

I wish to raise just one relatively small issue, where the recommendations are a little bit inconsistent. Paragraph 7 refers to late registration of interests and rightly highlights the anomaly where someone who registers an interest late—I have been guilty of this, as I am sure almost everybody has—in the past could have their interest removed from the register without having to have it publicly registered for the normal time of 12 months. The recommendation then refers to the necessary changes at paragraphs 46, 79 and 85 in the guide to the code. Paragraphs 79 and 85 make clear that where that mistake in registering refers to an overseas visit, the registration should continue for 12 months from the date of registration, not from the date when the registration should have taken place, and the same is true in paragraph 85 for the registration of gifts. However, on the registration of general interests, the committee is recommending that it should be the case only if the late registration has happened after the date of cessation of the interest itself. So, for example, somebody could still register late if they felt that was an advantage to themselves and not have their registration on the register for 12 months unless the interest had already ceased. I wondered whether the committee did in fact consider making this more consistent and having a compulsory minimum of 12 months’ registration for those interests as well as the others relating to gifts and travel.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I am afraid I disagree completely with my noble friend Lord McConnell. He and I have the advantage, as have the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and a few others, of being here and being able to comment on this, but hundreds of our colleagues will be profoundly and significantly affected by what we are about—or I hope not about—to approve today. It is disgraceful.

This has happened before. Things have been put through and Members suddenly realise that they will be severely affected, without having had an opportunity to consider and discuss them. That is absolutely disgraceful. Some Members are unable to come down, for one reason or another, to participate in the debate. A few of us are going to push this through. It is totally outrageous. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, some people have been caught out on this before. Even when they have been present, things have been rushed through—but when they are not able to be present it is even worse. I suggest to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mance, that he should hold this over and withdraw it until the House comes back and is fully operational, so that everyone can vote and participate in the discussion.

The noble and learned Lord said that these were minor provisions. That is a disgraceful misrepresentation of what this report suggests. Page 13 deals with sanctions that will affect all of us, including those who are not able to be here today. It suggests that we delete from the sanctions “no action”—that will not be possible any more—and “no further action” if there is a resolution through mediation. Those are being deleted. That is very significant. What will happen? The Conduct Committee will be able to say that, for a period of time, Members should not be able to participate. The Conduct Committee could recommend that Members

“be removed from membership of select committees”—

the Conduct Committee will remove Members from Select Committees—or deny

“access to the system of financial support for members. This sanction can be applied for any period of time and may be applied in addition to a sanction of suspension.”

I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mance, that these are not minor provisions; these are major provisions that we are about to push through on the nod without Members who are not here having had a chance to look at, discuss and consider them. I hope the noble and learned Lord will reconsider this and take it away. Nothing significant will happen between now and September in relation to this. I hope he will bring it back for us to discuss and consider, when Members who are not here have had an opportunity to look through it and consider it carefully, and to speak and vote on it.