Slightly later than yesterday, but my e-quill is rather overburdened...
An answer to that ever-intiguing question, "How long is a Government commitment good for?", was gleaned by
Lord Brooke of Stoke Mandeville in a question regarding the planned relocation to Birmingham of the Export Licensing Unit of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
In response, Lord Davies of Oldham confirmed that the decision was taken following an efficiency review, which came as a bit of a surprise to Lord Brooke, given the 2006 commitment to co-locate the Unit with the Council in London. He then want to claim that the commitment had been honoured, but that any decision for 2009 and future years was outside of that agreement.
So, a commitment lasts for three years, or Birmingham is the nation's capital - which is it to be, Lord Davies?
However, the main debate was saved for the Second Reading of the Parliamentary Standards Bill. Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, the Leader of the House, claimed that the Lords should pass the Bill because the Commons wanted it. Perhaps the Government wants it, but the Lords was not going to be bounced into giving its assent lightly. The Constitution Committee in the Lords had been scathing in their criticism of the sort of rushed, ill-considered legislation that is all too sadly common these days, and Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, a former Conservative Leader of the Commons, was keen to signal his opposition.
He wasn't alone, as a torrent of opprobrium was unleashed upon a Bill which has shed clauses in the manner of a stripper in a hurry to get to a more lucrative gig elsewhere.
Whilst some Peers attacked the Bill for its undue haste and resultant inadequacy, others noted that it introduced differential treatment - fraudulent expense claims would lead to a maximum sentence of one year, yet the Fraud Act permits a ten year maximum for equivalent offences. It was all most unsatisfactory.
However, as Lord Shutt of Greetland noted, the Bill was the result of a hasty collaboration between Party leaders, hardly the cross-party consensus that Baroness Royall had claimed in vain. As he put it, the Commons wants this Bill, and it will probably get it.
That isn't to say that the Lords, unaffected as it is by the proposals, will come quietly...