It was, of course, too good to last. The three-game unbeaten streak for the Liberal Democrats in the Lords had to come to an end eventually, and last week saw the Empire strike back with a vengeance.
Baroness Garden of Frognal attempted to improve the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill with Amendment 27;
in clause 40, page 20, line 37, at end to insert:
“( ) a documented discussion of training needs resulting in a decision on whether to extend such provision to the applicant took place within the previous 12 months”.
This amendment had been suggested by the Institute of Directors, no less, and sought to lessen the organisational burden on those companies that have regular performance reviews bult in to their HR systems and, whilst the Conservatives claimed to support it, when Sue Garden decided to 'test the opinion of the House', they were nowhere to be seen, and the amendment was lost by 65 votes to 131. Yes, we ended up with the bizarre scenario of a proposal from the Institute of Directors being lost for want of Conservative support.
Worse still was to follow, as the shambolic performance of the Conservatives continued, with their subsequent amendment being lost despite significant Liberal Democrat support. Indeed, only twenty-eight Conservative Peers could rouse themselves to support their own proposal, whilst thirty-nine Liberal Democrats turned up to support them. Anyone would think that they didn't want to give Labour any ideas for when they return to opposition...
The Policing and Crime Bill is now back in the Lords for its Report Stage, and our leading goalscorer since play resumed in October, Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, moved amendment 1;
to insert the following new clause Transparency in policing.
Apparently, the Association of Chief Police Officers is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and Sue Miller was keen to change that, given that ACPO develops policing strategies. Clearly, the Government doesn't believe that policing strategy is a matter of urgency, even though they support the proposal (go figure...), and the Conservatives are disinterested (clearly, Conservatives have nothing to fear from the police...), so the amendment was lost by a fairly resounding 142 votes to 50.
The next day, our plucky Peers returned to the fray, with Baroness Sharp of Guildford moving Amendment 131 to the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill;
in clause 111, page 70, line 19, after "body" to insert "but excluding a regional body such as a Regional Development Agency".
Her attempt was borne from the knowledge that giving that power to Regional Development Agencies the size of that for the South East would, in her words, 'eviscerate the notion of a bottom-up development of skills' as had originally been envisaged. Yes, Labour's centralising tendancies strike again. And, despite the Liberal Democrats turning out nearly 70% of their potential vote, the absence of credible Conservative support was enough to condemn the amendment by 136 votes to 96. Like Luton Town in the face of a Rochdale comeback, we had allowed the Government to snatch an equaliser, and worse was to follow...