Two Conservative MPs clashed in the Commons last Friday. Tory whip Brooks Newmark spoke for about an hour on localism, in favour of Alistair Burt's Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (Amendment) Bill. Douglas Carswell suspected that he was filibustering in order to stop discussion of his own bill on an in/out referendum on the EU. The exchange is posted below:
"Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): My hon. Friend has spoken eloquently about the need to restore faith in our democracy. Does he agree that that extends to not seeking deliberately to talk out items on the agenda that are of interest to millions of voters?
Mr. Newmark: I have no idea what my hon. Friend is talking about, unless he is referring to his own Bill. Earlier this week, I had a discussion in the Tea Room about this Bill. I stressed how strongly I felt about it, and my hon. Friend gave me some advice.
Mr. Carswell: "Keep it brief", is what I said.
Mr. Newmark: I do not believe that my hon. Friend said that; he encouraged me to talk about the importance of localism, which I have supported ever since I have known him."
I'm told that the Government was determined to talk out Nigel Dodds MP's bill on the Lisbon Treaty anyway – and because that was number three on the order paper, and Douglas Carswell's was number four, the Commons was unlikely to find time to discuss it. Whatever the exact truth, we have some way to go before backbenchers have the powers that the frontbenches promise.