Ministerial statements: Antiphonal or Sequential?

I admit, I’ve been busy. I should have posted about the likely conclusions to the Tale of Three Bills series, the Procedure Committee’s report on the backbench business committee, the Canadian financial procedure review and countless other things. But this just caught my eye in a special way.

The inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Leveson reported today and in both houses two separate statements were issued; one, purporting to be government policy, from the mouth of the prime minister/leader of the Lords and another, apparently Liberal Democrat policy, from their respective deputies. This is, to use the words of Lord Strathclyde, innovative. This raises all sorts of issues – statements are *government policy* which the House can then hold the government to account on. It’s no good having an entirely separate statement on something that’s not government policy because the House isn’t there to hold the Liberal Democrats to their promises; they’re there to hold the government as a whole to account. If Nick Clegg wished to comment, he should have done so in the first statement in my opinion with the prime minister stating the points of disagreement on which government policy would soon be forthcoming.

Still, the Speaker allowed the two statements and Lord Strathclyde, leader of the Lords, did say there was a precedent from the last peacetime coalition in the 1930’s. I’m intrigued if there actually was, especially since the Commons Library apparently denied that this had ever happened before.

Also, it’s worth watching a quick debate in the Lords about this procedure. They have quite a lot of fun with it, and watch out for Lord Cormack enjoying himself.

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