§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [14th November],
§ That Standing Order No. 56 (Lords amendments) be amended as follows: —
§ Line 4, at end add—
§ (2) When the Order of the Day for the consideration of Lords Amendments to a public bill has been read, the House shall proceed to consider the same without question put, unless the Member in charge thereof desires to defer their consideration:
§ Question again proposed.381
§ 11.21 p.m.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter
As the right hon. Gentleman said, we have discussed this, and I doubt, therefore, whether there is much reason, in the Government's present mood, in discussing it further tonight. It is an infinitely less important change than those which the House has already considered, and does very little damage to our procedure compared with the immense damage which the Lord President has perpetrated earlier this evening. Nevertheless, it is unnecessary.
We were given no evidence previously, and the First Secretary has given none tonight, that the provision under which, before we take Lords' Amendments, we take a Motion that they be now considered, has ever done any harm or been abused. The right hon. Gentleman has never argued that. It is simply being removed as part of the streamlining of our procedure for streamlining's sake, in which the Government seem to be engaged.
Although it has done no harm, it has been useful to an Opposition at least twice in my recollection, on the Land Commission Bill and the Leasehold Reform Bill. In both cases, the House was asked to consider highly complicated Lords Amendments at very short notice without any opportunity to make up our minds about their significance and importance or to discuss them with well-informed outside opinion. This is a way —a small one, I agree, compared with the previous one—in which the Government can treat an Opposition badly and therefore it is, on balance, a pity to take it away.
I know that it has been argued—my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) argued it on the previous occasion—that if we are pressed to take Lords Amendments too quickly, we can seek to move the Adjournment, but this depends on the Chair's willingness to accept such a Motion, whereas, under the present Standing Orders, we have the right, if we wish, to debate the Question of whether or not we then debate the Lords Amendments.
I do not wish to take up much time on what is relatively infinitely less important a proposal, and, in view of what has been done tonight, there would be 382 no point in taking this relatively small matter to the Lobbies. But I do not propose to let it go without protest and without saying that this, in a small matter —as earlier in big matters—is an indication of the Government's determination to bend our procedure to a state in which, more and more, we become merely the means of registering the decrees of Government.
§ 11.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I support my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) in his protest against the Motion. It is again preventing the Opposition and back benchers opposite from protesting at business being rushed. It is not just fanciful that this may happen. It happened only a few weeks ago, on the Leasehold Reform Bill, when their Lordships finished dealing with the Bill in another place at five o'clock in the evening, whereupon we had to debate the Lords Amendments on the following day, quite insufficient time having been provided for us. But because we were allowed to debate that matter, protest was made on the Motion that the Lords Amendments be now considered. It was a proper protest at that time and it is wrong that we should not be given that power. We are merely endeavouring to put a curb on being rushed into legislation without having the opportunity of consulting people outside as well as inside the House. I therefore add my protest to that of my right hon. Friend.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ That Standing Order No. 56 (Lords amendments) be amended as follows:
§ Line 4, at end add—
§ (2) When the Order of the Day for the consideration of Lords Amendments to a public bill has been read, the House shall proceed to consider the same without question put, unless the Member in charge thereof desires to defer their consideration.