Are the Conservatives abusing the procedures of the House of Lords?

Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde is Leader of the House of Lords.  As such, he is supposed to act as Leader of the WHOLE House.  The Companion to the Standing Orders of the House of Lords is quite explicit on his role:

“The Leader of the House is appointed by the Prime Minister, is a member of the Cabinet, and is responsible for the conduct of government business in the Lords. Because the Lord Speaker has no powers to rule on matters of procedure, the Leader also advises the House on procedure and order, and has the responsibility of drawing attention to violations or abuse.”

The advice on procedure and order is supposed to be impartial and at Question Time he is expected to ensure – in the case of dispute – that supplementary questions are asked in order by the different sections of the House and that the House sticks to 7 1/2 minutes per topic.  This afternoon, however, he chose to ignore impartiality and to ignore the time limit by favouring Lord Tebbit over Labour’s Baroness Rosalie Wilkins.

The question was asking the Government what plans they have for improving the lives of carers and Lord Tebbit made several attempts to get in, including being trumped by the former Conservative Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern.  After Lord Mackay’s question had been answered, it should have been a Labour Peer’s turn.  However, two Government Peers tried to get in: Lord Tebbit (for the third time) and Lord Alderdice, the Convenor of the Liberal Democrat Peers.  So too did, Rosalie Wilkins, but because she is in a wheelchair she could not rise in her place – so Lord Strathclyde ignored her.  And in the ensuing fuss, the question went over time as well.

You can watch it here.  And there was real anger in the House.

But I expect there is more to come.  Next week’s business has now been published and three consecutive days of Committee deliberations on the Government’s Academies Bill have been scheduled.  No-one I have spoken to can recall three consecutive days being scheduled like this without the agreement of the Opposition.  It is beginning to look that the normal courtesies are being abandonned and the consensual approach to managing business is being ditched by the Coalition.

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