Surprise defeat for govt over parliamentary standards

The government suffered a defeat last night
The government suffered a defeat last night

By Ian Dunt

The government suffered a shock defeat yesterday over the parliamentary standards bill.

A part of the bill allowing parliamentary proceedings to be used in court was defeated by 250 votes to 247.

Labour backbenchers joined forces with Tory and Lib Dem MPs to take down the clause, with senior Labour figures such as John Reid and Margaret Beckett backed the rebels.

It was the first time Mr Reid had ever voted against the government.

MPs cited a corruption of the principle of parliamentary privileges - where they can speak in the Commons while defended against legal action - as their reason for the vote.

Mr Straw told MPs: 'I understand the concerns of the House and we will respect the decision.

But the move will be a further blow to Gordon Brown's authority, and leave the government with a severely watered down bill to clean up parliament.

Many parliamentarians took offence at the introduction of various legal offences to the bill, which was forced through the Commons in a bid to get it passed before the summer recess.

On Monday justice secretary Jack Straw dropped plans which would have made MPs' new code of conduct legally enforceable.

On Tuesday, a further part of the bill which would have legally obliged MPs to declare any "specified financial interest" before a debate was also dropped.

It is Mr Brown's third Commons defeat as prime minister, after the Gurkha vote and a second on regional grand committees.


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