Debates between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Trefgarne during the 2019 Parliament

Business of the House

Debate between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Trefgarne
Tuesday 28th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Trefgarne Portrait Lord Trefgarne (Con)
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My Lords, I will not delay your Lordships. I regret very much the need for hybrid arrangements both in your Lordships’ House and now, as we are to decide shortly, in Grand Committee. I think that we have all been given to understand that the hybrid arrangements will end when the two-metre requirement goes and I look forward to that very much indeed. In the meantime, would it not be possible to provide more accommodation for your Lordships in, for example, the Royal Gallery, in the Robing Room or perhaps in the galleries around the Chamber?

I want particularly to ask about the voting arrangements during the hybrid proceedings. Is it not possible for noble Lords to cast their vote here in the Chamber, or perhaps in Grand Committee, by, for example, handing their vote to the clerk? I have been told that doing so is possible in special circumstances but not routinely, but I hope that that can be changed. So far as the hybrid voting arrangements are concerned, I am not keen on the idea of allowing anyone situated remotely anywhere in the world to do so. That is surely not a satisfactory position. I express the hope again that your Lordships’ House will return to normal as soon as possible.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I will resist the temptation to go into the wider issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. There are points that need to be debated about the hybrid system and the voting system and it is unfortunate that we have not had the chance to do so over these weeks, when we could easily have spared an hour or so for that discussion.

I want to raise two specific issues in relation to the Motion before us. The first concerns the timings. I wonder if the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip could outline whether those involved in the discussions on the arrangements for September have given any consideration at all to the fact that, when we meet at one o’clock on a Monday afternoon, it is physically impossible for Members who have to travel from north of Glasgow and Edinburgh to attend the Chamber. That is fundamentally and perhaps even constitutionally wrong. Given that nine years ago your Lordships’ House withdrew the potential for reimbursement on an overnight basis, a Member would have to incur the costs and make the arrangements to travel down on a Sunday to take part in proceedings at one o’clock on a Monday. At the moment, the first train that I can take out of Stirling is at 6.40 am. I can make the connection to the 8 am train from Edinburgh, which gets into London at 12 40 pm, but there would be a significant risk in trying to get to this place from the train station for one o’clock. A similar problem exists at the end of the week, but I understand that that may be impossible to avoid because of the fact that, because so many train services are not running at the moment, it is not possible to return home after the last debate on a Thursday. I understand that that is the situation at the moment and it is something that we need to live with.

If the Grand Committee is to meet on a Monday, has any consideration been given to the Grand Committee or your Lordships’ Chamber, or both, meeting later than one o’clock on a Monday, so that everyone can take part? On that issue of taking part, we are all willing to be flexible and we understand that there had to be some arrangement between the four groups or blocs in your Lordships’ House when it came to speaking lists and the selection of Members to ask questions, which I appreciate had to be done for a short time through the party Whips. However, if there is any justification for an unelected House in this Parliament, it is because people bring their individual experience, judgment and knowledge to their contributions to Questions and debates, so it cannot be right over the long term for the final selection of those who can speak to be made on a party basis by the Whips. What consideration have the Government given to reviewing that system if, for example, we are in a situation where the number of Peers who will be able to take part in the new Grand Committee proceedings will be so small that they will need to be selected by the party Whips under the system as it currently stands?