The report on letting Lords oral questions be determined by fair ballot rather than on an easily abusable first-come-first-served basis (which I covered in some depth here) will be debated on Wednesday the 9th of January, and (unsurprisingly) two Labour peers are leading the charge against it.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark wants rid of the whole recommendation on oral questions – he’s a recent peer parachuted in after Gordon Brown’s tenure who is/was the party’s Director of Finance and Compliance and quickly was shunted to the front bench where he is more combative and provocative than peers are ordinarily meant to be and has questioned the government at the despatch box in the Lords many times. So perhaps he has a vested interest there.
The other is Lord Lea of Crondall who merely wants to reserve the first oral question for a first-come-first-served basis. He’s a longer-serving peer (ennobled in 1999) who used to be involved in many of the Trade Union Congress’ research commissions and campaigns.
Of course, if I was being cynical, Labour thinks it can’t fight for the current system effectively and so is making Lord Lea’s amendment look like the reasonable position rather than letting the question be between Labour’s preservation of the old system and the coalition’s creation of the new system. It may well come down to the cross-benchers and how the debate goes, but I have a sad, sneaking suspicion that Lord Lea’s motion might succeed. I hope I am proved wrong, because the new system would be so much fairer.