When MPs misbehave in a repetitive manner over long periods of time it seems vital that there is some way of holding them to account or that the systems that are in place are changed to ensure that their actions are no longer able to cause pain and suffering to other people. At yesterdays attempt by Parliament including the Government on this particular occasion as indicated by this tweet and this statement make clear, to allow the passage of two private members bill, two very experienced and ‘capable’ disruptors of the process stood up and disrupted the bills. They both used features that are part of the Parliamentary System, both features that no doubt when the early rules and processes where being formulated made sense. These features are:
Philip Davies, MP for Shipley – Filibuster
Sir Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch – Object
I am purely speculating that when these rules were set, the likely outcome if someone behaved in an irrational and stupid manner as both men did yesterday, that those who chose to filibuster or object to private members bills would be challenged by whoever raised the bills to a duel or some equivalent outcome. In a society when the MPs represent people rather than their own estates and local places of power we either need to see the removal of both of these tactics from the private members bills, or else we need to find a way for the metaphorical equivalent of a public curtailing of the impact these people have. Many of my previous blogs have focused on this sort of behaviour by these men and their chums in the last few years. The last time Chope prevented a Bill from going through its second reading was in the case of a Bill that would allow 16 and 17 year olds a vote. Perhaps the most significant filibuster by Davies was over a Bill to give carers free parking in Hospitals.
The truth is that the Bills would have had a long way to go in terms of their democratic journey if they had been voted through yesterday. There would have been plenty of chance for changes to be introduced and they would only be passed as law if Parliament as a whole voted them through. It is clear that these objections prevent democracy rather than represent democracy. Imagine if one member of the public chose to Object or Talk Out the Referendum 2 years ago. This would have led to the person or people being placed in a very difficult position. Whether that would be seen as accountability depends on ones definition but it is clear that Chope and Davies along with their small cohort of law disruptors need to be held to account for their appalling behaviour or else the rules which allow them to act in this way are changed. The rules for referenda do not allow us to Object or Speak Out the process. The question is why is this still the case in the context of Private Members Bills.
The two Bills impacted where the Bill to make attempting to photograph peoples genitals etc unlawful and protecting Police Dogs and Horses by increasing the punishment for people who attack either of these groups of animals. Both Bills are widely supported by the public and both are supported by the Government. Both were blocked by Christopher Chope and at least one of them was also filibustered by Philip Davies.