When ordinary citizens voice heresies about human biological realities, the police are around almost instantly to question and harass them. In the House of Lords, the peers have been insulated from such tactics but the chilling effect has reached the chamber. Supposed members of the public were offended by the speech of several peers when there was debate on Lord Blencathra’s amendment to the Police,Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in mid January. Lord Blencathra moved to recognise sex specific incarceration for transgender violent sex offenders, including those with a GRC certificate. The amendment was withdrawn after debate but members of the public apparently complained about the peers who had stood up to support and speak in favour of the amendment.
The Commissioner for Standards dismissed the complaints on a “technicality” (the grounds that they were third-party complaints and therefore not permissible) but still sent four peers letters about the complaints. The outraged peers in turn wrote to the Comissioner and Conduct committee expressing their deep unease and raised the matter in the House of Lords on 19 January 2022. Hansard records unanimous support for the 4 peers amid concerns that the very fundamental parliamentary right of free speech was being encroached upon.
Parliamentary privilege is one of the bulwarks of democracy. In the sixth edition of that splendid guide which many of us know, How Parliament Works, written by our colleague the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, and a former clerk in this House, Rhodri Walters, they explain the importance of parliamentary privilege. It is a guarantee of freedom of speech within both Houses of Parliament and our committees. Anything said on the Floor of this House or in Committee is protected as a result of Article 9 of the 1688-89 Bill of Rights, which is one of our foundation documents. It states:
“That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament.”
There can be very few subjects which are more relevant or important to your Lordships’ House. There is no doubt in the minds of those of us who received these letters that the complaints against us were designed to silence us, and that has very sinister implications.
This over-reach by the Comissioner for Standards is reminiscent of very similar pandering to trans activists in many other institutions and almost seems to be a reflex action, perhaps after heavy indoctrination, sorry, make that inclusivity training by Stonewall. It may be entirely coincidental but the House of Lords withdrew from the Stonewall Diversity Champion scheme last week.
The rather chilly announcement read :
“As part of the wider Action on Inclusion strategy, the House of Lords has decided not to renew its membership of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme.
“This follows an assessment of the costs and benefits of the programme.”
However it seems that some peers lobbied Lord McFall, the Speaker of the House of Lords, and Simon Burton, the chief clerk, for the withdrawal after what the Times mischievously describes as the mother of all rows. The peers were concerned about attempts to use gender-neutral language such as the government’s use of pregnant people instead of mothers in its new maternity legislation. The peers rejected the gender neutral term and the government reverted to the stale old phrase mother.
Well done House of Lords!