Late last night there was a remarkably busy chamber for an hour-long debate which began at 10.18pm in order to nominate six members (five Labour MPs and Independent Conservative, Andrew Pelling) to a new London Regional Select Committee.
The Conservatives are opposed to the existence of the committee in principle and have therefore not nominated MPs to be members of it. After all, with a devolved London Mayor and Assembly in place, and with other departmental select committees already scrutinising issues of relevance to the capital (such as the Underground, the Olympics etc) it is hard to see what meaningful purpose such a committee can possibly have.
Rather than allow the setting up of this talking shop on the nod, the Tories opted to oppose the motion and a debate (some might say filibuster) ensued for a whole hour, which saw contributions from Tory MPs from across the nation and regular interventions from the Speaker to keep them to the strict terms of the debate. It was a piece of parliamentary theatre which can be read in Hansard here or even better viewed in its entirety via the BBC Democracy Live website.
Speaking from the Conservative front bench, Justine Greening summarised the opposition to the new committee thus:
"The Select Committee will be in place for the term of this
Parliament. It could only be a matter of days, hopefully, but it is
more likely to be just a matter of months before this Parliament
finishes. Even this Prime Minister will have to call an election
eventually. There is simply no time for a Select Committee, even if a
full set of members is nominated to serve on it, to conduct any
meaningful inquiries… The reality is that this
will be another talking shop that costs taxpayers more money at the
time that they can least afford it."
After an hour the Government Chief Whip was able to move a closure motion, after which the vote on the main motion saw Labour MPs ensure the committee was formed, by 212 votes to 124.