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- Events, Dear Boy, Events (2)
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- Government Defeat in House of Lords on Brexit Bill | Liberal Lord Tony Greaves
Some of the media have been full of sneers about the “zombie parliament” with “nothing to do” in recent weeks. By which they mean the House of Commons – the Lords have been busy enough. But of course much of the media are ignorant and use the word Parliament to mean just half of Parliament – the green end known as the Commons!
Yet if things have been winding down in a dignified way (putting PM’s Questions to one side) this is one of the unremarked success stories of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. What it has done is to abolish one of the hidden absurdities of the British constitution – the Wash Up. (Or the Washing Up as I called it).
When no-one knew when a General Election would be called, and Parliament could be dissolved at a day or two’s notice, there were invariably lots of Bills that were stranded in their passage through the two Houses. Some had passed the Commons and were meandering through the Lords. Some might even have only had a Second Reading and no details scrutiny at all.
The “Usual Channels” would get together and strip such Bills of anything the opposition didn’t like, and they would then be pushed through, all stages at the same time and sometimes at silly times of the night, to get Royal Assent before the Dissolution. As a result a lot of rubbish got passed without proper consideration and had to come back in a future Parliament to be sorted out. And there were all kinds of unintended consequences.
This time – not a bit of Washing Up in sight! The legislation in progress proceeded to the end of its passage through Parliament, “That this Bill do now pass”, with no more than a little flurry of ping-pong to worry the Whips. Sensible mature law-making for once.