Parliament Matters – Westenders: The battle for the heart and soul of the Conservative Party (Episode 7)

8 Dec 2023
Aeroplane at Heathrow Airport. ©Unsplash

If Parliament feared that their proceedings would be overshadowed this week by Boris Johnson’s appearance before the Covid inquiry, they need not have worried. MPs rose to the challenge. There was a high-profile ministerial resignation, Rishi Sunak suffered the first Commons defeat of his premiership, and Suella Braverman delivered a vengeful personal statement to the House.

But what is actually going to happen in Parliament with the treaty with Rwanda and the Bill that declares the African nation to be a safe place for the UK to relocate illegal migrants?

As the Conservative Party descends into recriminations, Mark and Ruth discuss the implications for Parliament as the Defence Select Committee loses its Chair just two months after his appointment.

And there’s a new crop of Private Members’ Bills – what are they and what chance have they got of making the statute book?

Parliament Matters is produced by the Hansard Society with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.

Parliament Matters Episode 7

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You are listening to Parliament Matters. Hansard Society Production supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn more at

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Hello and welcome to Parliament Matters Podcast from the Hansard Society. About the institution at the heart of our democracy, Parliament itself. I'm Ruth Fox. And I'm Mark Darcy. Every week we're going to be analyzing what's going on behind the Gothic facade of Westminster, hoping you to stay on top of the key parliamentary issues of the week and what lies ahead.

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And we'll be explaining how the system works. Hearing about the latest research and innovations in Parliament and politics from influential thinkers and practitioners providing new perspectives from inside and outside of Westminster. I will be traveling back in time to some of the pivotal moments in parliamentary history to help you understand exactly how we've arrived, where we are today.

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Coming up, it's been another crazy week in the House of Commons or West Enders, as I now like to fictionally think of it. Bruni's TV drama. When you've got the soap opera that is Westminster on Thames. Yes, indeed. There was a fear in parliament that that proceedings might be rather overshadowed this week by Boris Johnson's appearance at the COVID inquiry.

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But never fear MPs rose to the challenge. A high profile ministerial resignation not one but two significant Commons rebellions, including one which brought Rishi Sunak's first Commons defeat of his premiership and a capital loss that was celebrated once all the vengeful resignation or possibly sacking statement in front of MPs. And there's also an interesting new crop of private members bills.

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Plenty of excitement to be had with the latest collection of them. There's an attempt to block Sadiq Khan expansion of the London ultra low emission zone. The Ulez. There's an attempt to clamp down on SLAPP strategic lawsuits against public participation, and former Prime Minister Liz Truss is an interesting looking bill a bit late down the batting order, which will attempt to block young children getting gender changing treatments.

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So we start at the beginning of the week with the drama the government backbench rebellions, first on the victims and prisoners bill and then swiftly followed later in the evening by a backbench rebellion on the statutory instruments related to net zero. There are two very distinct causes here. The first one was an amendment to bring in a body that would oversee compensation payments to people who had suffered under the contaminated blood scandal.

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People have been given things like hepatitis and HIV by blood transfusions or blood products factory to something useful, like hemophiliacs, for example, from the NHS in the seventies and eighties. This is a very, very long running campaign. This has been rumbling on for decades. There's been an official inquiry. It's recommended a body like this. The government went some way towards saying that it would try and bring something like that in, but MPs, more or less regardless, plowed on and enough of them voted to override the government by a majority of I think it was to in the end, yeah, to defeat the government.

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And that was Rishi Sunak's first actual Commons defeat since he became Prime Minister. Yes, 22 Conservative MEPs backed the amendment from the Labor MP, Diana Johnson. And as you say, it's interesting because the Minister had made attempts to get his troops on board by offering to put in an amendment in the report, stay in the Lords to deliver much of what the amendment proposed.

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That wasn't enough to get them onside. The MSPs clearly wanted something. Now they wanted something nailed down and they voted for a provision to set up this compensation body. It was interesting, was a disparate body, disparate group of conservatives. So it was it wasn't one faction. I mean, when you've got a cause that unites the former Lord Chancellor, Sir Robert Buckland, on the one hand, and Dame Andrea Jenkins, a pretty hard line Brexiteer on the other.

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This is not just one bit of the Conservative Party. This is a sort of full spectrum rebellion, if you like. So I think one of the uniting factor here is not necessarily a sort of an ideological difference. It's about those employees, I suspect, having got constituency cases that are quite difficult. I mean, Raymond Christie was a Conservative MP who backed down Johnson's amendment, and he made very clear he got experience of a constituency case that he'd been fighting for compensation for.

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I suspect that was true of most of the employees who backed the amendment, because I think it was a three lane whip. I think it was, yeah. I mean, it usually is on these things. And it was it was quite significant. There is a suggestion that the government whips didn't quite realize the extent of the rebellion they were going to face, partly perhaps because it didn't come from one particular faction and that might have set alarm bells ringing a bit more quickly.

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But there was a suggestion that they were caught a bit on the hop by this. The other point that people are making, though, is the role played in this by Dame Diana Johnson, who's the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, vastly experienced Labor parliamentary in, but someone who also networks very effectively. And she got the Labor opposition behind this.

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No rebellion against a government normally succeeds unless the opposition is voting pretty solidly for the same proposition as well. And she got Labor to sign up to this. And that's quite an achievement because what we're talking about here is hundreds of millions of pounds worth of compensation, at the very least potentially billions. No one's really quite sure what the figure is ultimately going to be.

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And she got Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, to sign up to that, to at least some degree to that spending commitment, even though she's taken a very, very hard line that labor is not going to be signing any blank checks before the next election. Yeah, I think she got 140 MP signed up to the amendment in the end with representation from ten parties.

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So it was a pretty solid statement of intent. But the interesting thing about it is you're right, the whips didn't perhaps pick it up early enough and a number of either abstentions or absences on the Conservative benches. So only 262, I think of 350 Conservative MP was actually voted one way or the other. Some of the course will be absent for good reasons.

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I mean, I think a lot of that will turn out to have had unavoidable dental assessments that evening. But yeah, I mean, you know, James Cleverly, for example, would have been en route to Rwanda. So some people have been slipped from the whip. There would have been some pairing. I think. For example, Stephen Kinnock had indicated that he would have liked to have been in the chamber, but he was paired with a Conservative MP who would have voted against the amendment.

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Stephen, of course, had lost his mother, Glenys Kinnock, earlier in the week, so he wasn't in the house. And one of the problems we have is that there's not a lot of transparency around the voting records when because we can't really count for absences and who's been who's been paid and who's abstained because we simply know who voted for him, He voted against him.

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We don't know what the others were. Well, I suppose it would be a bit too much to ask them to say I'm absolute because of this. Yes. I'm not. You know, that's one of the problems. But still, a lot of Conservative MP were not present and didn't didn't participate. And of course, there was a second issue a little bit later on that evening, a vote against a statutory instrument to do with net zero.

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And this did come from a bit of a faction, the kind of anti net zero crowd on the Conservative benches who think that the country's willy nilly signing up to commitments that are far too expensive for ordinary people. So they they turned out in force to vote against something. But the government sailed through there because even a quite a number of Conservative MPs defied the party line because the opposition was backing the government.

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It didn't really matter very much. Yeah, I mean Professor Philip Cowley has pointed out, you know, he's the sort of doyen of studies of revolts on the backbenches. He pointed out that this was actually a bigger conservative backbench rebellion than the one on the victims and the compensation amendment that 26 Conservative MEPs voted against this statutory instrument known as the draft vehicle Emissions Trading Schemes order.

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So not the sexiest statutory instrument you could be voting against, but that was the sort of the right of the party, the net zero zero brigade to form a Home secretary. So Liberal and Patel voted against the Government. Jacob Rees-Mogg So yes, you say the Opposition was backing the Government on this, so it sailed through, but it's an indication of there was a quite a crowd, 26, 26 backbenchers prepared to to defy that, defy the government a harbinger of trouble to come, perhaps, and one that there doesn't seem to have been a great sort of read across between the two rebellions.

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What it does kind of suggest, it seems to me there are very strong late period. John Major vibes now about the government. There's this constant low rumble of trouble in the commons for one reason or another, unless it's an end times feeling developing. Yes. And that then brings us quite neatly to to the events of Rwanda, one third civil libertarians, as you said, resignation or sacking speech, depending upon how you view it and the immigration minister resigning over a bill that he thinks is not tough enough to tackle illegal migration and that Boris Johnson had a phrase in the Kofod inquiry about trouble ahead with COVID seeming like a cloud no bigger than a man's

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hand. And this one has suddenly moved into view and is now over Westminster, pouring out rain, thunder and lightning as the government seeks to get it through, and a policy literally as well as metaphorically off the ground. They haven't been able yet to perform their stated policy of deporting people seen as illegal migrants to Rwanda. The Supreme Court has blocked them with its latest ruling that amongst other things.

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So it did not regard Rwanda as a safe destination to deport migrants to. And that's really caused ructions on the Conservative benches where immigration and clamping down on illegal migration in particular is something that really, really resonates, is an incredibly high priority for a lot of conservative nmps, particularly the red wall seats that they won from Labor back in 2019.

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They really want to see that done. They're increasingly infuriated and frustrated that it hasn't happened now. And I think when you look at the language that's been used this week, you've essentially got a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party, the heart and soul of the Conservative Party. What do they see as the role of parliament versus the courts?

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Do they respect the rule of law in terms of how it engages with international law? Robert Jenrick resignation statement as immigration minister said that the small boats crisis is a national emergency, so a Liberal government talked about, you know, the Conservative Party facing electoral oblivion. Rishi Sunak reportedly said in the meeting of the 1922 backbench committee after the treaty had been published that if the Conservative Party was unite or die.

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Absolutely. I mean, this is absolutely existential now. So the government I mean, there's there's a basic law of politics here, which is that the general public may not notice the fine details of your policy, but the one thing they don't like is a government that looks like a shower. And this government is not getting its stuff through partly because of the courts is beset by rebellions and ministerial resignations.

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So there are problems and so it just looks very scrappy to start with. And you do get a feeling that Rishi Sunak's like, well, they're sort of Roman horse riders with one suit on the back of two different horses, trying to keep both of them together and not be pulled apart and end up crashing to the ground. And he's got the MPs who believe that the UK should remain in the European Convention on Human Rights, should respect it and should respect international law.

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It's got the MEPs for whom immigration is an existential issue on which their electoral future depends and who think bluntly that the government in some cases Lee Anderson, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, actually said this out loud, should just simply ignore the rulings of the courts and start deporting people. So you've got you've got a huge division there, and it's very, very difficult to see how they can root them together unless some sort of herd survival instinct kicks in.

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And it doesn't feel like that at the moment. Yeah, I mean, essentially it looks like the Conservative Party, you can make an argument it's been this for some time. It is an ungovernable coalition. I think the problem is, you see that may not have with this deal is have the moderates in cabinet, the law offices, for example, given quite a lot on this bill in terms of how far they've gone with some of the provisions around breaches of international law, albeit limited, it's not the full facts leaving the European Convention on Human Rights that some were speculating it might be in that obviously Parliament and Jenrick wants.

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So have they given ground only to discover that John Rex walked out of cabinet and sort of left them with this bill that they're perhaps not entirely happy with themselves you think around now to give? Yeah. And then you've got Robert Jenrick involvement outside the cabinet now making clear that in their view the bill is not going to achieve the stated objectives.

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So it becomes very difficult to see how the right wing of the party is going to support the bill if they're sort of outriders, are basically saying it won't achieve what the government wants. And how far do you move before the other wing of the party decides? It doesn't really like what's there and decides it can rebel too.

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It's a very I mean, there are a lot of moving parts in this. First of all, there's a new treaty with Rwanda, which is designed to keep the Supreme Court happy by having lots of new mechanisms which will guarantee the proper treatment of migrants who are eventually sent there under the scheme. And secondly, you've got the new bill that the Government's bringing in emergency legislation due to have its second reading next Tuesday.

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And this essentially declares that Rwanda is a safe place and no one can say that it isn't a safe place. And if you have a an attempt in the courts to say you can't send this person to surrender because it's not safe there, it's very, very difficult to make that stick. That's coming up for debate on Tuesday. But what's the full timetable for this?

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Well, we know that the second reading will be will be next week. The government's talked about this is emergency legislation. Now, when they use that phrase, what's normally meant is that fast tracked through the House of Commons all it stages in in a day and then it goes to the Lords. They usually want a couple of days. It looks like the Government's taking potentially longer than that, but it's not going to push everything through in a day because it's only scheduled second reading for next week.

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We could potentially say that the next stages will be the following week and push isn't much time because they rise on the 19th. So the Christmas break. Yeah, but they might want to get it into the Lords for the beginning of January or they might be saying they will be dealing with the later stages at the start of the the January sitting.

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So, so we don't know in short, but it's, it's not the sort of approach to emergency legislation that's normally taken. Interestingly, Suella Brafman, of whom we'll be seeing a bit more later on, no doubt said in her resignation come sacking statement to the Commons that she thought maybe you should sit over Christmas, if necessary, to get this bill through, which I don't think will be exactly a popular course, would love to think that that was going to win friends.

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But there's there's interesting things. Maybe one reason that this isn't emergency legislation is that the one thing that you might be able to get the conservative rebels who want a harder line and the opposition parties led by Labor, who probably want a softer line together on is to oppose a timetable motion on this bill. It's very hard to see them finding a common line on the substance of the bill, but they might decide that they could disrupt things and take out their fury by stopping the government from ramming the thing through in a single bite.

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So that may be one reason why this isn't emergency legislation. Or maybe the government is still getting its details together and wants a little bit longer to make sure it's got all its ducks in a row. I mean, it does feel a bit rushed because thought it was interesting. They published the bill the day before. They laid it before parliament, which is not normal.

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Normally it's published at a time that it's laid before parliament, but they did it a day beforehand. Now, some suggestions were that that was designed to undercut so Liberal government speech and it was it was pushed through quickly. So we'll see. But yeah, I think programing just to explain to listeners programing is is a motion that takes place at the same time as second reading where the government sets out the timetable for each stage of the scrutiny process of the bill.

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So there'll be X number of hours for committee stage and then you'll take report stage after certain number of hours and so on. And so forth. So it's all rigorously timetable. Yeah. And it can be debated and voted on. So there will be, you know, as you say, possibly attempts normally these are sort of, you know, agreed between the whips, the business managers behind the scenes and the they're often not controversial, but where there are real debates and divisions on a bill, sometimes this is where you see it on the programing motion.

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This is why you see it come together publicly, because it gives them an opportunity to to vote, to basically say we need more time for scrutiny and maturity. Remember that? I mean, the classic example of this is the Nick Clegg Lords reform bill, which was completely stymied, having got a massive majority at second reading. It was then completely stymied because Labor wouldn't agree a timetable for debate, say, how many weeks of scrutiny you want Labor asked.

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And they wouldn't say. And so it was the government of the day. It was faced with this open ended, never ending debate and eventually ended up pulling the bill. So that's the kind of games that could be played now. Now, the second moving part in in all this is, of course, the Rwanda treaty. Now, parliament does have a bit of a way of getting into debating treaties, although the mechanism for doing it isn't particularly strong.

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It's under a thing called the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act that was sort of whistled through in the final hours of Gordon Brown's premiership. Yes. So parliament doesn't have to debate, doesn't have to vote on doesn't have to formally approve a treaty provision, as you say, in the constitutional Reform and Governance sex crack Act, whereby the government lays the treaty before parliament for up to 21 sitting days and it is for one of either House of Commons or the Lords to consider whether they wish to pass a motion expressing a view on it so they can force a debate on it in the end if they want it to.

00;17;10;15 - 00;17;38;08

I suppose except in the Commons. Of course the Government controls the timetable, so whether or not the vote took place, how that comes about is is interesting because this is quite an untested mechanism really. I mean, it may have been around since 2010, but it hasn't really been picked up and used. No, not not often. And the the issue is even if parliament expresses a view, it can't actually stop the government ratifying the treaty, all it can do is essentially delay ratification if the government is willing to to wait.

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It's not really a provision that's been tested because if Parliament, one of the Houses of Parliament did resolve that they wanted to delay ratification within the 21 day sitting period, it's not at all clear what would then happen because that has never been tested. So you could have another 21 sitting day period delaying things, but then what? You know, could you just then roll over the you have another 21 day delay?

00;18;01;03 - 00;18;23;17

Nobody knows. Nobody knows. And I do wonder whether know, depending upon the numbers and how this debate develops over the next few weeks, whether this is something that will come to the forum more than it has in the past. And actually, you might see an attempt to try and delay ratification of the treaty and we might see the crack provisions tested for the first time.

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We'll have to wait and see. And I suppose the point about this as well is that the 21 sitting days deadline takes us well into January in one single gulp, so that the deadline that the government is ultimately operating against is trying to have something to show to the electorate by the time it goes for a general election.

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And it's very, very hard to see how the new system it's trying to bring in now kind of generated palpable results to show the voters by, say, a spring election. So there's that factor playing as well here. Yeah, I mean, you're assuming that there might be a spring election. I think the question is, does this does this political situation in which she finds himself lend itself to the possibility of an early general election, or is he still going to be minded, perhaps to play it long into the autumn?

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We'll have to see. But, you know, it's not impossible to see if the bill gets basically snarled up, if it comes across objections in the House of Lords, the pay is, you know, delaying tactics. They are not happy with it. It's not difficult to see how the Prime Minister might decide that actually an election is needed to resolve the matter.

00;19;27;20 - 00;19;55;25

And you go to the to the country on a a sort of, you know, who is sovereign, Is is it going to be parliament, Is it going to be the courts? Is it peers versus the people? Yeah. So a classic. Yeah. And that's the point we haven't yet talked about is you take this bill into the House of Lords and listeners may remember a while ago we talked to Lord David Anderson, the crossbench peer and super lawyer about this very subject, and he was saying that the bill that simply declared as a kind of finding a fact that Rwanda was safe was going to run into deep, deep trouble very quickly in the House of

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Lords. So take that prediction on board because we may see it act it out quite soon. And all this raises the question of where now for Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, how is he going to get the Rwanda bill through without doing further damage to party unity? How is he going to deal with some of his ex ministers who now appear to be gunning for his position, certainly or on immigration matters?

00;20;20;19 - 00;20;44;09

Could we possibly see yet another conservative leadership challenge? he's seriously talking here about the prospect of a fourth prime minister within a single parliamentary term, all from the same party. Some Conservative MP. It's clearly all because the theory is that more letters have gone into the 1922 committee expressing a lack of confidence in him. Now they need 15% of MPs to do that in order to force a leadership confidence vote.

00;20;44;09 - 00;21;10;15

But I don't think I mean, as you say, a fourth Conservative leader. I mean, it sounds preposterous, frankly, but all bets are off given, you know, the behavior of the and think how things have gone over the last few years. We talked to Philip Naughton, the author of The History of the 1922 Committee on an earlier episode. And as he he said, you know, the way that the 22 works MPs can put their letters in confidentially, they don't have to reveal that they've done it.

00;21;10;17 - 00;21;29;20

So we don't exactly know how many letters are, in fact, going to tell the truth about it. Yeah. Yeah. You know, it's a plotters charter and there's clearly a lot of plotting going on and there are clearly Conservative MPs who are looking not just what's going to happen in the coming months and the prospects of a of a general election and whether they'd be better changing horses.

00;21;29;23 - 00;21;45;22

They're also looking at positioning for what may come after a general election. Well, indeed. But you always feel this. We were talking earlier about, you know, is this going to end up as a sort of Piers versus the people kind of themed general election? The question here seems to me, who governs the Conservative Party and is it Rishi Sunak?

00;21;45;29 - 00;22;05;09

Yeah, and it's not at all clear at the moment that he does. Is he going to lose control of this process or his troops going to revolt or is it kind of unity, herd instinct going to reassert itself and the Conservative Party takes a deep breath, calms itself down, does a little bit of like yoga meditation and achieves inner peace.

00;22;05;12 - 00;22;25;13

It is the most extraordinary situation and it's very hard to see how you could go on if you change Prime Minister yet again without having a general election. But on the other hand, lots of people said that when the change was made from distrust of Rishi Sunak, really not all that long ago. And, you know, just as a result of these changes, Robert Jenrick resigning.

00;22;25;15 - 00;22;52;16

We've now we're not going to have two new ministers splitting the immigration rolls. It's too big a job for one person. What a poisoned chalice it is too, I would have thought, because whichever way you jump on policy terms on that issue, it seems to me that half the parliamentary Conservative Party is going to take against you. Yeah, and we've now got the chair of the Defense Select Committee taking a job in government just, well, a couple of months after he became chair of the committee in a solicitor general.

00;22;52;18 - 00;23;11;17

Yeah, this is Robert Courts, who had been a minister very briefly and then went for the chair of the Defense committee when Tobias Ellwood, a blessed memory was defined castrated from that job for speaking out of turn, really essentially taking policy positions that his committee wasn't behind. And Robert Courts came in just in September, and now he's back in government as solicitor general.

00;23;11;22 - 00;23;35;16

He's a solicitor. And yet when the prime minister calls and says, Robert, I need you, maybe it's quite a hard thing to do to say no, Prime Minister, I've only just been elected to the Select committee, but the Defense Select Committee is a fantastically important select committee. At a time like this, when there's a live war going on in Europe and deep concern about the state of the armed forces and an incoming chair always has a slightly different agenda, which the troops on the committee have to get lined up behind.

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And so, Robert, courts will have just come in and be about that process of setting his own stamp on the committee and then he's out and someone else is going to come in as well. I mean, I don't know whether he's interested in the job, but my personal tip is Jessye Norman, the former minister who's just come in as an ordinary member of the Defense Select Committee, might make a sensible conservative chair for that committee, but who knows?

00;23;54;29 - 00;24;16;14

It's early days yet. But but the point here is that the inner divisions within the Conservative Party and the effect on government have a ripple effect on Parliament and Parliament's ability to scrutinize the executive. And once again, we've got churn on the committee corridor churn within government departments in these circumstances, Is it any wonder that we don't get any policy coherence for everything?

00;24;16;14 - 00;24;35;23

Churn, churn, churn. There is a season. Sorry, that was awful. And moving on. It's moving delicately on. It's also a new private member's bill season and this week has seen MPs who've been lucky in the private member's bill process, who've won a bit of debating time for the bill of their choice, announcing some of their proposals. Take it away.

00;24;35;23 - 00;24;52;27

Move. Yes, so we're talking about ballot bills. So these are top 20 that were drawn out of the ballot a few weeks ago. They had to present their bills this week. I always describe it sort of winning the sort of legislative equivalent of Willy Wonka's golden ticket, the opportunity for time in the in the chamber to bring your legislative proposal forward.

00;24;52;29 - 00;25;19;07

So, yeah, we know now what the 20 bills are going to be, so top of the list and therefore that's got the best chance of getting a bill through in terms of the time available is Julie Elliott, the Labor MP for Sunderland Central, who's got a bill about the Building Societies 1986 Amendment bill, which sounds incredibly dull, but essentially is to allow building societies to support more first time buyers to basically buy their own homes.

00;25;19;07 - 00;25;38;16

A very noble, noble intent. And what she's got is the chance to have the first debate on the first day allocated to private member's bill. So she's absolutely front of the queue. She's chosen something that's relatively non-controversial. So there may even be time for a second debate on another bill that day. And someone further down the line will be making the calculation of whether that's a good moment to pounce.

00;25;38;16 - 00;26;03;27

But look, looking at some of the other thoughts, I mean, there's some hard line politics from, for example, the MP for Dartford, Gareth Johnson, who is bringing in a bill intended to stymie the mayor of London City, Khan's ultra low emissions zone expansion. He wants to reverse that by act of Parliament. That will be, I think, some some quite hard London related politics in a mayoral election year.

00;26;03;29 - 00;26;27;04

So watch that particular space. So quite an interesting argument about challenging the powers, the democratic mandate of the Mayor of London by Westminster, London based Westminster MP Yeah, absolutely. I mean this is this is a direct attempt to interfere in the devolution settlement in some ways and, you know, argue that the devolution settlement isn't quite right or that it extends beyond the boundaries of London.

00;26;27;06 - 00;27;08;05

So there are all sorts of reasons why you can do it, but it's going to be a pretty hard edged debate. That one, I would have thought. Yeah. Another one of of interest is when David Bell, the Caerphilly Labor MP for Caerphilly, he's got a bill about strategic litigation against public participation, which is also known as slaps, which is essentially is attempts by frankly, rich people, rich individuals, you know, Russian oligarchs, for example, companies who can afford it to employ lawyers to essentially pursue strategic litigation against journalists, people who are investigating them, authors who are writing books about them that they don't like to basically snarl them up in legal proceedings in the courts and

00;27;08;05 - 00;27;30;06

legal costs and legal costs and essentially use their financial firepower to stop these individuals or organizations looking into what they're doing, because you can actually bankrupt a hostile journalist or possibly a newspaper or small news organization without ever actually having to win the action. You can just swamp them in court costs and legal costs to the point where they have to surrender.

00;27;30;08 - 00;27;50;15

Yeah, mean a good example of this recently was the author Katherine Bolton, who's written a very good biography of Vladimir Putin and got snarled up in, I think it was four or five libel suits. Now, her publisher stood by her and fought it, but if they hadn't, the book wouldn't have come out. And essentially, you know, the people behind the legal proceedings would have won by snarling her up in legal costs.

00;27;50;22 - 00;28;20;22

Another one, and this is very much in your particular comfort zone is a bill from the Labor MP, Emma Lou back to amend the Licensing Act 2003 so that licensing our orders can be made by negative resolution statutory instrument crowds excitedly gathering around Westminster as we speak. Yes, I think be pretty rare to see a bill of any kind private member's bill proposing that they want to do things by statutory instrument and by the formal statutory instrument that attracts the lowest level of parliamentary scrutiny.

00;28;20;24 - 00;28;47;14

But the rationale behind this is essentially, I think, a response to the mess that the Government got itself in during the Women's European Championship final, I think earlier this summer, where the government hadn't given sufficient thought to the fact that if they got through to the final, they might need to relax licensing hours and as a consequence they found that in pubs and clubs and so on couldn't open and provide their customers with alcohol earlier in the day.

00;28;47;16 - 00;29;19;17

Now, interestingly, the Government's launched a consultation for the men's championships next summer should we get through to the semifinal final. So they've obviously given sufficient thought to that. But essentially I think what Emma's bill is trying to do is to resolve the problem so that basically if we got through to another, you know, not just a football final, but any major sporting event and there was a desire to relax licensing hours, Government ministers could do it quite quickly through a statutory instrument, a form of delegated legislation, without needing to go through the full parliamentary fandango.

00;29;19;18 - 00;29;41;13

Basically. Yeah. I mean, there's plenty of other interesting stuff in there. The Labor MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle is attempting to ban conversion therapy. Another MP can. Johnson is looking to reform the law on joint enterprise. This is the kind of catch all law where, you know, if you're a member of bank robbing gang and one of the gang shoots a cashier, everyone in the gang is caught with, you know, charge of murder or whatever as a result of that.

00;29;41;13 - 00;30;01;14

And the suggestion there is that this law is drawn too widely, and a lot of people who really don't deserve heavy sentences are getting caught up in it. And so she's trying to change that. There's a very interesting looking bill on the nature of British citizenship from the Northern Ireland dupe, MP Gavin Robinson as well. So there's plenty of action going to be taking place on those private member's Bill Fridays in future.

00;30;01;16 - 00;30;23;21

Yeah, and of course an interesting one, although it's very low down the list so probably won't make much progress, is the one from Liz Truss, the former prime minister. Yes indeed. Health and Equality Act's amendment bill, which will regulate access to hormone therapy for children under 18. I suppose the question about all this we've just been talking about the prospect of an early election is how many of these bills will actually get to the wicket if there's a spring election, It's hard to see pretty much any of these bills becoming law.

00;30;23;28 - 00;30;41;27

Yeah, I mean, if you're looking at it's a sort of a may general election. Parliament would have to dissolve in March. The first seven Fridays. You get through the top of the list of private members bills. So they would they would make some progress, but they wouldn't be able to complete their proceedings and they wouldn't be able to go through the Lords because, of course they've got to go through the second year.

00;30;41;28 - 00;30;59;29

So they've got to find a peer to adopt them and take them forward. Forward in the Lords, if we run right into the autumn, there's a better chance. But inevitably, as in previous sessions, it will. A lot will depend upon which bills attract government support and you can see some clear and obvious ones that might. But quite a number I suspect, all will fall by the wayside.

00;31;00;03 - 00;31;16;19

It would be, I think, a bit of a surprise that pretty much any of these private members bills actually made it very far. If there was a even a later spring or even an early autumn election. But the timeline is very, very tight for getting stuff through now. So just time really to take a look at what delights Parliament has in store for us next week.

00;31;16;22 - 00;31;36;12

This was one thing not going on in parliament, but which will attract an awful lot of parliamentary attention will be Rishi Sunak's appearance before the COVID inquiry on Monday. He, of course, was the author of the highly controversial Eat Out to Help Out Policy when he was chancellor during the pandemic. And that might be a rather awkward time to be away from parliament if there's a rebellion brewing in the Tory ranks as well.

00;31;36;13 - 00;31;55;18

You think of Margaret Thatcher being at a summit in Paris during the leadership challenge, which effectively ended her premiership. Yeah, I'm not sure quite being at the covered inquiry a few miles away in London is quite, quite the same. But yeah, it does make potentially for an interesting PMQs next week depending upon what is revealed. Absolutely. They want to look for the other one.

00;31;55;18 - 00;32;17;03

I think you need to look out for is Monday. There is a debate on three petitions now we've talked to on the pot in previous episodes about the importance of petitions. The three on the question of Palestine. An interesting 500,000 people plus have signed the petition. So much of huge public interest and there'll be an awful lot of people watching online.

00;32;17;03 - 00;32;36;23

I'm sure it doesn't tend to be directly broadcast on BBC Parliament because they always look at the main chamber, but people can log onto Parliament life dot TV and watch the proceedings there and an awful lot do. It's all driven by use of media campaigns and hashtag social media. Yeah. So Cat Smith, the Labor MP who is chair of the committee now, I think is going to lead on that.

00;32;36;25 - 00;32;55;16

And then of course, we got the second reading, the Rwanda bill, which we already talked about, and then Foreign Office questions with the Minister of State, Andrew Mitchell So Deputy Chief David Cameron is Andrew Mitchell himself, of course a former Cabinet minister, formerly as Minister for International Development back in the day, deputizing for David Cameron in the House of Commons.

00;32;55;22 - 00;33;12;13

David Cameron, of course, has also had his own First Lords Question Time in the House of Lords and MP. So I think we'll still be grappling with this vexed question that we talked about a couple of times now about how they managed to keep their fingers on the pulse with David Cameron because it's very difficult to monitor a big beast of politics.

00;33;12;13 - 00;33;36;16

He's not in the House of Commons coming to the dispatch box every month or so for questions. Yeah, so I think that's all for for this week. Malcolm, We'll see what drama awaits in the coming days and we'll we'll be back next week. So an old tune in drop out. Thanks, Ruth. I well, that's all from us for this week's episode of Parliament Matters.

00;33;36;18 - 00;33;52;18

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00;33;52;18 - 00;34;15;03

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00;34;15;06 - 00;34;41;05

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