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Holocaust memorial setback
Bill ruled hybrid — but Gove says he’s ‘pleased’
The government’s ill-fated plan to build a Holocaust memorial and learning centre in a much-loved public park adjoining the Houses of Parliament has run into further difficulties. Last Thursday, a team of parliamentary officials known as the examiners of petitions for private bills ruled that the bill was hybrid.
A hybrid bill is a public bill with private elements: one that affects a particular private or local interest in a manner different from the private or local interests of others in the same category or class.
This was a defeat for the communities secretary Michael Gove, whose lawyers had tried to persuade the examiners that the bill was not hybrid. But Gove tried to portray it as a victory.
“I am pleased that the examiners have now reached their view on classification of the bill so that it can now proceed through parliament,” he said. “The government is absolutely determined to complete the Holocaust memorial.”
The examiners announced that the bill had not complied with six private business standing orders. These were:
4 Contents of notice
4A Copies of bill to be made available
10 Publication of notice in newspapers
11 Publication of notice in the Gazette
38 Deposit of printed copies of bill in vote office and private bill office
39 Deposit of copies of bills
The bill has been referred to the standing order committees of both houses. Those committees are most likely to order the bill’s promoter — in effect, the government — to comply with these standing orders, however belatedly.
That should not be particularly challenging for the government. But it all takes time.
Gove confirmed that the examiners’ decision would allow “those who believe they will be affected by the provisions of the bill the opportunity to put their views to parliament as the bill is considered”. That must be the last thing the government would want; if nothing else, it is bound to delay the bill’s progress.
Campaigners believe the bill will not have its second reading debate before the autumn. Once that takes place, it will be possible for petitions to be lodged against it. These can be challenged by the government.
All this is hugely complicated. The government may get its bill through during the last parliamentary session before the general election. But nothing is certain.
And that’s only the beginning. Gove’s announcement quotes the chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust, Karen Pollock CBE, as hoping the memorial will be completed in time for Holocaust survivors to see.
I have long argued that it would have been opened — and the learning centre would have been in use by now — if the government had not chosen what many of us whose family members were murdered in the Holocaust regard as an entirely unsuitable location.
The point is made with unintended irony by a Holocaust survivor, quoted in the government’s news story.
Manfred Goldberg BEM said:
I was 84 when [the] prime minister, David Cameron, first promised us survivors a national Holocaust memorial in close proximity to the houses of parliament. Last month I celebrated my 93rd birthday and I pray to be able to attend the opening of this important project.
Update 23 May: the London Parks & Gardens charity, which brought the successful challenge in the courts, says “this is the latest in a long series of regrettable setbacks for everyone hoping to see this project delivered but the blame for delays sits with the government”.
Update 28 May: the points made in this blog were endorsed in the House of Commons last week by Sir Peter Bottomley, father of the house.
Update 30 May: I have now read the examiners’ statement of reasons, published on 22 May. They found that the bill would have a “much greater adverse effect” on the private interests of local residents than it would have on the private interests of other members of the public:
It is self-evident that residents of a specific local area have a particular local interest in the amenities, including green spaces, provided therein. Local residents would be particularly affected by the removal of the protection enshrined in the 1900 act and the consequent lack of certainty that this would introduce as to the future of the space and its surrounds.
That was enough for the bill to be declared hybrid.
Update 23 June: with standing orders either waived or complied with, the bill will have its second reading debate in the Commons on 28 June.
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