Yesterday we had another row in the Commons over a long running complaint.
The Government is accused for interfering in the order in which private members’ bills proceed:
The order is determined fairly by ballot.
After surviving a second reading debate however, in order to proceed further, they need a money resolution which only the Government can put to the House.
The allegation, is that the government is promoting some bills of which it approves, from further down the queue, by granting them money resolutions, and demoting the bills at the front, which it doesn’t like, by withholding the money resolutions.
Yesterday great outrage was expressed again.
The irony is that last Friday the Government sought to interfere again in the order by another means.
At the end of the day, the established precedent is that the whip on duty prevents any bill from proceeding which has not yet been debated.
Last week however, the government announced that it liked the bill that was number 7 in the order and that, despite only the first two being debated, it was going to let number 7 through but not 3,4,5, and 6.
Sir Christopher Chope spotted this ruse and entered his own objection when the duty whip remained silent.
Instead of receiving the thanks of the House, which claims to be outraged about Government interference in the order of private members’ bills, Sir Christopher has incurred the opprobrium of the entire nation.
As it happens, Sir Christopher’s action has forced the Government to do the right thing and bring forward its own up-skirting bill which will benefit from government time and the government whip, suffering none of the vagaries of the private member’s bill system, so it will be on the statute book much quicker.
I doubt however, that Sir Christopher will be given any credit.
It’s a funny old world.
As to the issue the importance of the bill itself, I initially expressed doubts on the grounds that there are common law and public order offences under which up-skirting can already be prosecuted.
I was partially right: prosecution under existing law is possible. The difficulty is that it will not be treated as a sexual offence and offenders cannot be placed on the register. A new statutory offence is therefore desirable.
Essentially, up-skirting is the reverse of ‘flashing’: it is another way in which a perverted individual attempts to exert sexual power over another.
The sooner the new bill becomes an act, the better