Friday is easily the dullest day of the Parliamentary week. The House is usually half empty, with many MPs using the day to travel back to their constituencies and the legislative programme, such as it is, is generally confined to secondary legislation and private members’ bills, few of which tend to be of much interest to anyone but thier sponsors.
Today, however, is set to be a little different as a somewhat unusual parliamentary event (for this day and age) is set to take place.
Around the time that former Tory Whip, David MacLean, introduced his private members’ bill, which seeks to exempt MPs entirely from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, he commented rather boastfully that:
“I am showing some of the younger hands how you can get a bill through parliament after long experience as a whip in both getting and blocking bills through parliament.”
Well, I’m reliably informed that his boast will come back to haunt him today, as Lib Dem MP Norman Baker intends to give a display of his own experience in blocking bills by mounting a filibuster on the bill in order to prevent it becoming law, a fairly rare event in an era in which parliamentary time is tightly controlled and use of such tactics heavily curbed by means of guillotine motions.
Without checking the schedule, its not clear quite how long Baker will need to speak for to talk out the bill – the record for this century (3 hours 17 minutes) was set in 2005 by Andrew Dismore while ‘talking out’ another private members bill – the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Protection of Property) Bill – although Dismore’s speech was not a true filibuster in the sense that he accepted interventions during his speech rather than speaking continuously for the entire period.