In Parliament on 10 May 2018, my colleague Afzal Gorton was granted an ‘urgent question’ to ask Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom to make a statement on the government’s policy on introducing money resolutions for private members’ bills.
A money resolution must be agreed to by the House of Commons if a new bill proposes spending public money on something that hasn’t previously been authorised by an Act of Parliament. Money resolutions are normally put to the House for agreement immediately after a bill has passed its second reading in the Commons.
This urgent question was about the government refusing to bring forward a money resolution for Afzal Gorton’s Boundary Review Bill.
Like Afzal, I believe the actions of the government are undemocratic. The private member’s bill on parliamentary constituencies is of fundamental constitutional importance. It passed its second reading unanimously. The government is trying to frustrate the democratic will of Parliament and to block the bill by procedure.
I asked: “I understand what the Leader of the House has just said, but does she not accept that, to the people whom we represent, this will look like she is actually the Cabinet’s representative to the legislature? We need action on this and on so many other private members’ bills so that the people whom we represent can truly feel that we are able to represent them on the issues that matter to them.”
Andrea Leadsom’s response ignored my point: “I think people will be delighted at the progress being made in some very important private Members’ Bills, including Bills to prevent assaults on emergency workers, to provide better support for parents who have been bereaved, and to provide better support for those who have mental health problems and are taken into secure units.”
The government is clearly taking an inconsistent and partisan approach to granting money resolutions to private members’ bills. Whatever arguments can be made for or against the Boundary Review Bill, it should take place in the debating chamber, between MPs and in front of the public, rather than in the backrooms of government offices.
And I’m concerned that the precedent the government is setting will not only block this bill, but will allow the government to halt any future private members’ bill – such as the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill, which passed its second reading with enormous support from across the House.