I’m grateful to John Bolch (again) for his reminder last week about what happened to Lord Lester’s Cohabitation Bill: it ran out of time, basically, after committee stage in the Lords on 30 April, and since the government opposes it, it’s not going anywhere.

John and I disagree sharply on this Bill: since I was always against it, I’m delighted it ran into the sand. And perhaps it’s not surprising that we differ, too, in our attitudes to the committee stage debate. John quotes an article in Resolution‘s magazine saying the debate was not reasoned, but wrecking; and he fingers Baroness Deech as wrecker in chief.

Well, obviously I agree with Baroness Deech’s opposition to the Bill, so perhaps I’m biased, but looking at the amendments and the debate, I think her approach was legitimate, and I applaud her. Yes, she wanted to wreck the Bill. The authors of the Resolution article talk as though that’s a bad thing – but then they start from the assumption that the Bill was good. Her amendments and the criticisms she made of the Bill were sensible – I don’t agree with her about the need to protect cohabiting siblings, but it’s not a bonkers point, and her arguments about retrospectivity were important and right, I think, and certainly addressed real issues rather than pettifogging procedures. In any event, Lord Lester himself tabled 32 amendments – twice as many as Baroness Deech, and since in the event their Lordships only debated 3, his list alone was more than enough to have used up all the time. And his agreement to amendment 1 shows he was already on the run and felt he needed to make a serious concession to his opponents. I agree that more time ought to be available to discuss private members’ bills; it’s not good enough that time just ran out like this. But I don’t think the unsatisfactory position as regards time means opponents of a bill like this have a duty not to oppose. That way would lead to less scrutiny, and more bad legislation, than we have already.

Good riddance to a bad proposal.

2009-07-01T08:37:00+00:00Tags: , |