I have admired Sarah Champion for quite some time. She has always come across as a refreshingly honest and engaged MP. She has also been a tireless advocate for those affected by the awful revelations regarding abuse in Rotherham.
It was with quite some disappointment that I read Champion’s statement on her ten minute rule bill. For someone who has made candid plain-speaking a trademark, it is depressing to see she is very willing to deliberately mislead the public when it suits her politically.
Champion’s bill is an important one, with a single, substantive requirement:
“Require the Secretary of State to make Regulations under Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 to require employers of more than 250 employees to publish information relating to the pay of employees for the purpose of showing whether there are differences in the pay of male and female employees.”
Champion’s speech is well worth a read. And it is reassuring testimony to progressive politics that both Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs voted overwhelmingly for her bill, opposed only by a handful of entitled, dinosaur Tories.
My complaint is not a big thing in the grand scheme of things. It is one for the constitutional nerds among us. It also speaks volumes about honesty in our politics, however.
Champion claims that:
“A second reading had been planned for next week, on the 27th February, but the Government scheduled it as the 16th bill to be read, meaning in reality it would never get called.”
Champion “strongly criticised the Government for kicking her recent motion for gender pay equality into the long grass.”
This is simply not true.
Her bill is a form of private member’s bill known as a ten minute rule bill. They are called this because, unlike other bills, the person hoping to introduce the bill is allowed to make a ten minute speech at the point of introduction, making the case for the proposals. Unlike other bills, it is at the point of introduction that votes are often taken on ten minute rule bills.
After introduction, a day is nominated by the MP in charge for the bill’s second reading (usually a Friday). It will take the first available slot after other bills already nominated. This is done entirely by the MP without any input from government. There are various complex rules which inform the ordering or private members bills, but one thing is very clear: the government has no say in deciding the order bills will be considered. It is not a regular business day.
Champion’s bill was introduced late on in the private member’s bill process and so naturally fell behind bills introduced earlier. The government did not schedule it to come sixteenth on the 27th February. Champion did – by nominating a day on which other bills were already scheduled.
Either Champion has poor understanding of procedure, or else she is deliberately misleading people to manufacture a reason for bashing the government.
If it is the former, I am sure she will be quick to issue a correction. If it is the latter, it is disappointing that someone like Champion would play on the public’s understandable ignorance of arcane parliamentary rules quite so cynically.
The really stupid thing is she has a great point to make about transparency in gender pay and doesn’t need to mislead people in order to make it.