You know something stinks when its only debated at midnight

SQUASH campaigners have just returned home from a three hour stint in the House of Lords public gallery. After an hour discussion on scrap metal the debate on squatting finally took place just before midnight. Considering the hour the honourable noble speeches couldn’t have gone any better. Baroness Miller who had tabled five amendments in opposition to Clause 136 – which seeks to criminalise squatting in residential properties – denounced the injustices of this ill thought-out clause, and explained why this clause needed radically rethinking. Baroness Lister and Lord Bach (both Labour) spoke forcefully on the devastating impacts that this clause will have on the homeless, and stressed the fact that this law is fundamentally unnecessary as the law already protects residents. In response, the minister for the government read from the same old script, spouted legal fallacies, and dodged the questions.

So in conclusion? After a very dodgy-looking exchange of papers between the parliamentary staff and the government minister, the minister emphasised that the matter “remained open”. At this point Baroness Miller needed to know for sure whether this meant we would get another shot at Third Reading (which takes place next Tuesday 27th March), as if not true we would have to push it to a vote tonight – even at such a late hour. When pressed by Lord Bach to answer the Baroness’s question, the minister squirmed, and replied with the same answer. Baroness Miller then said “she would have to seriously consider her position” if the Government tried to wriggle their way out of a debate and much-needed vote at Third Reading. The Government will not be allowed to use vagueness as a way to avoid proper discussion of this issue – all systems go for next Tuesday when we should get a proper time of day in the House of Lords.

Other points of note: SQUASH got a mention, lots of SQUASH quotes were used throughout the debate and four SQUASH briefings were spotted in front of Lords. So nice one to all you troopers for your hard lobbying work! We’ve obviously been doing something right.