Readers of last week’s column will recall the furore over Sir Christopher Chope blocking progress to a private member’s bill because it had not been debated (notwithstanding that it was a highly desirable measure which would have afforded greater protection ton girls considered to be in danger of genital mutilation).
In the row that followed, some of the criticism fell on Sir Christopher’s judgement, and some on the Government itself for leaving such an important measure to the vagaries of a private member’s bill.
The Government has now responded by undertaking to pass the bill in Government time and with the support of the Government whip. Consequently, it will become law much quicker than it otherwise would have done. So it turns out that Sir Christopher has done us a favour, as he did in exactly the same way last year over the issue up-skirting.
What did worry me however, was the number of colleagues sounding-off about Sir Christopher’s actions when it was clear that they had little understanding of procedure, or experience of handling private members’ bills on Fridays.
They were arguing that a member’s right to object and block progress on an un-debated bill should be removed. Essentially therefore, they are arguing that legislation can proceed without being examined or voted on, which is completely absurd.
The word ‘parliament’ derives from the French ‘Parler’, meaning ‘to speak’, which is exactly what we are supposed to do before legislating.