The Tories sprang an unexpected vote in the House of Lords last night at 9.25pm on the previously fairly uncontroversial Marine and Coastal Access Bill. The vote had not been anticipated and most Labour Peers had been sent home two hours earlier. The Government won the vote by 39 votes to 33 – a majority of six (I was one of them!).
The issue was arcane. The Bill would set up a new Marine Management Organisation to streamline and centralise the various aspects of marine regulation (I am afraid that is the extent of my detailed knowledge and understanding of this area). The amendment would have written into the Bill that, if the MMO were to delegate any of its functions to another eligible body, then that body should have relevant expertise. However, as Lord Philip Hunt (the Deputy Leader of the House) pointed out the MMO was accountable to the Secretary of State and therefore ultimately to Parliament for ensuring that all of its functions were carried out properly. It was therefore unnecessary micromanagement to specify the experience required from any delegated organisation, as the MMO would be responsible for making sure the funtion was carried out properly in any case.
The Tories pressed the vote – probably just to test whether the Whips were doing their job properly by keeping enough Labour members around the House. The Whips were and the Tories lost, but the Tories did prove their support for more regulation rather than less.