At 8:55am the House of Commons committee of 16 MPs met for just 90 minutes to decide on the fate of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Even the MPs on the Committee itself had only been appointed 15 hours before it met and the room arranged for the debate was so small that there was not enough room for all the MPs and people had to sit on the floor.
The meeting started in confusion as MP after MP stood up to voice complaints at the way the Government was rushing through the SORs with no time for MPs to look at the Regulations (which having been taken offline were only made available again at 3pm on Tuesday and with over 20 changes from the original published Regulations). Labour, Lib-Dem and Conservative MPs all criticised the Government for refusing to allow a full debate in the House of Commons.
Repeated requests were made to postpone the debate and to give time to find a more appropriate room. The requests were refused by the Labour MP chairing the debate. That chairperson declared that the only way possible to delay the debate would be for a special motion to be passed: David Burrowes MP duly sought to bring such a motion for the Committee to decide the issue and the chairperson refused to accept it: she would not even allow it to go to a vote.
After speeches from only 4 MPs, the chairperson took a vote and the vote was won by those supporting the Sexual Orientation Regulations.
The Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative parties all united to support the Regulations: it was left to back-bench MPs (mostly conservative) to give strong opposition (most of whom were unable to vote because they were not officially on the Committee). However, Eleanor Laing (the official spokesperson for the Conservatives) supported the Regulations and said that 'her brand of Christianity' preached 'live and let live'. This contrasted with her fellow-Conservative, the Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who spoke about the deep legal flaws to the SORs.In addition, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments which met on Tuesday, gave the SORs the 'all clear', even though a number of committee members raised serious questions. The way in which the JCSI allowed the SORs to be rushed through, despite many outstanding concerns, seems odd in light of their readiness to draw the 'special attention of both Houses to the [almost identical Northern Ireland] Regulations on the grounds that they are defectively drafted' only 6 weeks ago.