The chamber was full, as Liberal Democrat and Conservative Peers attacked the arbitrary nature of the Order, the failure of the Government to adhere to their own published criteria, for the impact on the rural parts of Norfolk and Devon to be abandoned. Yes, the votes were there to stop the proposals dead in their tracks.
And then, Lord Bates got up to summate on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition. Amongst his comments was this statement;
"Her Majesty's Opposition have made it absolutely clear that should we form a Government after the general election, one of the first acts that we will take will be to issue an order to annul these orders."
This was a bad sign, in that, to be able to issue an order to annul the orders, they have to be approved in the first place. So, in effect the Conservative position was declared to be, "we hate the Order, we oppose it, but rather than defeat it, we'll wait until we win the General and then scrap it". And sure enough, when a vote was sought, the Conservatives sat on their hands and the vote was lost. Less than ten minutes later, a vote regretting the Order was carried with a large majority.
And here's the kicker. If the Conservatives do win the General Election, then they probably will annul the Orders for Norwich and Exeter. But what if they don't? Will a coalition Government, or worse still, a minority administration, find time to annul them? Would that even be a good use of Parliamentary time, given the more pressing issue of the economy?
So, the Conservatives, wasting your time and your money in Swaffham and Ilfacombe, North Walsham and Teignmouth...
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