A fatal motion is a rare parliamentary procedure that could kill off the passage of the government’s legislation and is the strongest opposition which can be taken in the House of Lords.
If the secondary legislation is rejected today the Government will have to restart the process. The Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 which established the ultimate supremacy of the Commons do not apply to secondary legislation.
The Government previously lost the vote in the Lords on the Public Order Bill to change the interpretation of ‘serious disruption’ of other people’s day-to-day activities to mean ‘anything more than minor’ which was opposed 254 votes to 240 only a few weeks ago.
Baroness Jones’ motion aims to stop the government from using a ‘Ministerial decree’ to overturn the vote and amend the interpretation regardless of the decision made in the Lords. This is the first time ever that the government has tried to use secondary legislation to directly overturn the will of Parliament.
The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee drew ‘special attention’ to the change. The committee’s report stated: "As well as not justifying the substance of the provisions, the Home Office has not provided any reasons for bringing the measures back in the form of secondary legislation, which is subject to less scrutiny, so soon after they were rejected in primary legislation.
“We are not aware of any examples of this approach being taken in the past; the House may wish to verify this with the Minister. We believe this raises possible constitutional issues that the House may wish to consider."
A petition asking Labour peers to back the Fatal Motion in the Lords is currently at over 55,000 signatories.
— Jenny Jones (@GreenJennyJones) June 13, 2023
Green Party Baroness Jenny Jones tabled the fatal motion at the end of May. She commented at the time: “This is a make-or-break moment for parliamentary democracy. The Lords defeated the government on this issue and the Minister is now acting like a seventeenth-century monarch by using a decree to reverse that vote.
“What is the point of Parliament if a Minister can just ignore the outcome of debates and votes by imposing draconian laws on the public?
“This is not a one-off, but part of a trend of legislation that undermines parliamentary democracy by giving Ministers increasing powers to make, delete or change laws. In the last four years, we have seen a series of skeleton bills pass through parliament that hand over powers and discretion to Ministers to make decisions with minimal parliamentary scrutiny."