One of the surprises of life in the Lords is that our laws are partly decided by the bar room stamina of government supporting peers. The Lords defeated the government three times yesterday over the charter of fundamental rights and also earned a good concession from them over the protection of public health. The Opposition was on a roll and not one of the peers in the chamber got up to speak against the amendments sponsored by green NGOs to retain the EU’s environmental protections and principles. No one opposed, but vast numbers of Conservative peers were hanging out in the bars and restaurants, waiting for their whips to call them to vote. In the end, the Minister rose, made concessions and the amendment was withdrawn.
I am an early bird who wakes before 5am and hates late nights, but this was the post Brexit future of the UK we were discussing, so I was still there, although yawning. I can’t blame individual Crossbench or Labour peers for going home after dinner; it is the civilised thing to do. However, it reinforces my belief that we urgently need an elected second chamber, working family friendly hours.
There will be two more chances in the Lords to vote to keep the EU policy rules like the precautionary principle, or the rights of future generations. I think that the government Ministers understand they need to put some guarantees in place, but I’m sceptical that they will do enough unless a combination of peers and MPs make them. Let’s make it easier to vote and still have some personal time.