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TORY PEERS TO VOTE AGAINST QUEEN'S SPEECH - AND SEND A WARNING TO THE DETR

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Hansard 17 Nov:Column 7 et seq ...
Hansard 17 Nov:Column 7 et seq

Conservative peers will vote against the Queen's Speech for the first time in 50 years, Lord Strathclyde, the party's leader in the lords, announced yesterday.

And he made a scathing attack on the government's handling of legislation since 1997, singling out the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions for insulting parliament with its handling of the Greater London Authority Billl last session.

He viewed the prospect of another monster Bill - the Transport Bill - from that department with horror.

Last year was another exceptional session in the lords, sitting 154 - longer than MPs - putting in 1,200 hours and on 89 days sitting after 10 pm.

On the Greater London Authority Bill, Lord Strathclyde commented: 'We were deluged with hundreds of amendments at the end of the summer recess, amendments which could and should have been available much earlier.

'A mass of material was produced at the later stages. We had the grotesque spectacle of the government moving commons reasons amendments to their own later-than-last-minute amendments in the Lords.

'I recoil with horror at the thought of another monster Bill from the same department, the DETR. Why cannot its Bill be split? What possible relationship between the regulation of railways, buses and air traffic control?

'I hope the answer is not an 'integrated transport policy' and I hope very much that the department will think most carefully about it. There must be no repeat of last year's fiascos. If there is, I hope that your lordships will use your powers to compel those responsible to appear before this house.'

At the end of the last session, the Lords found itself dealing with five major Bills in an unacceptably crowded and illogical timetable, said Lord Strathclyde.

'The result was poor legislation. This session this more legitimate house will not allow a repeat of that. I make that clear beyond all doubt, not as a threat but as a statement of our duty. For if we are not a revising chamber, carefully scrutinising every line of every Bill on behalf of citizens and businesses alike, what are we here for?...

'We shall not wilfully obstruct the Queen's business. The duty of this house is to see that good government can be carried on. But there are too many big measures in this speech, some of which are not in any sense pressing in terms of time, and the risk of bad law as a consequence is high whtever our views on the merits of each measure.'

Liberal Democrat leader Lord Rodgers said his party would not vote against the speech - but that did not mean it liked the speech. 'We shall take the next few days to examine it closely, perhaps dismember it a little and make clear where we can support it or will have difficulty in doing so,' he added.

Leader of the house Baroness Jay cautioned the Conservtive peers to think carefully about the consequences of rejecting the Queen's speech. While she admitted that when Labour was in opposition it very occasionally did the same. 'It is legitimate if, perhaps, opportunistic gesture politics,' she said.

Of course Labour knew its motion would never be carried in the lords whereas, even following the first stage reforms, Conservatives still had a majority in the house.

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