Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Buzzing a stone at a wasp's nest

I was one of 123 peers who were voted to disrupt the government's casino plans, and as they could only muster a meagre 120 votes, we have caused something of an upset, especially since the Commons were 13 votes short of overturning the measure.

The House of Lords does not usually vote down secondary legislation, but we have always had the power to do so. One of the consequences, I think, of the Commons deciding that it wants an elected House of Lords is that we have begun to take our position and powers more seriously, and to think twice before giving in to convention when we think that something is really awry.

We came quite close to doing down the sexual orientation regulations (not that I would have voted against the government on that), and I suspect that we will feel encouraged to look fiercely at similar regulations in the future. This will not please my chief whip, who was keen that we should abstain -- I think that he is content with the status quo (perhaps looking to a time when he is part of the government), and does not wish to revive the debate on the future of the House of Lords just when it seemed to have died down. I think that secondary legislation is now such an important part of government that we, as a revising chamber, must take a more serious and unrestrained attitude to dealing with it.

As an eventual outcome, I would like much more regulation to be amendable when it appears before us. For the present, to send the casino regulations back to the government once seems to me to be sufficient. They know they have to concede something to get it past us, but as long as they go further than they have currently indicated they are willing to do then we should not stand in their way.

Evolution rather than revolution should be the motto, I think.