Last night saw that rare event a tied vote in the House of Lords. The occasion was an amendment moved to the Counter-Terrorism Bill on the minutiae of the authorisations required by the police before they can question someone after they have been charged. The vote was 130 in favour to 130 against and the amendment therefore fell (in accordance with Lords’ Standing Orders or for that matter Citrine’s “ABC of Chairmanship”). After this period of high drama, the opposition parties clearly decided to take away their ball (there clearly were not quite enough of them about to defeat the Government) and said that it would not be possible to carry on and debate the final three amendments on the Bill as they had not had time to be briefed properly, so discussion had to stop at 7.30pm even though it had been scheduled to continue till 10,00pm. It later transpired that the real reason is that they want to vote on one of the three amendments left over and would rather do so “in prime time” next Tuesday ….
There were probably rather too many Labour colleagues around last night for the Opposition’s taste – certainly too many to risk a vote at 8.00 or 9.00pm. However, this was not just because there was a three-line whip, there were also the added attractions of drinks, peanuts and pretzels in the office of the Leader of the House of Lords with the television tuned to CNN for the American election results. We were all set for the long haul – apparently the Opposition weren’t!