§ 2.35 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask the Leader of the House, whether the Standing Orders can be so altered as to prevent a debate on an important Motion being delayed by Bills and other matter placed in front of it on the Order Paper subsequent to the tabling of the Motion.]
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS AND LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE EARL OF HOME)
My Lords, while I have a good deal of sympathy with my noble friend, I regret that I am unable to accept his suggestion. Your Lordships' House is primarily a Legislative Assembly. Any proposal, therefore, permanently to limit the priority given at present under our Standing Orders on Tuesdays and Thursdays would, if accepted, make it difficult, if not impossible, to ensure that the House had adequate time to do its legislative business. I think that the objects of my noble friend can be achieved if—as is indeed the case—the Government are sympathetic and watch the situation closely. Business, such as a Motion for debate which may take a long time, is not normally put on the Order Paper on Thursdays save in exceptional circumstances, when it may receive sympathetic consideration.
§ LORD KILLEARN
My Lords, I beg to thank the noble Earl for his Answer— 186 more particularly the latter part of it, which shows that the Government fully understand, as do your Lordships, the awkward position in which Private Members are placed in this House. So long as that is so, I think I have really achieved my object. What I have now to say I must, of course, put in the form of a question. I take it that the noble Earl is aware that on March 28 when I moved a Resolution I was assured that it would come on early. But other business was put ahead of it, and, as a result, I could not get up until 4.48 p.m., the House having met at 3 o'clock. When the time came for a Division to take place, there was a very thin House, and I lost the Division. So the House will perhaps have a little sympathy with me in putting this Question down on the Order Paper. I put it down in the general interest and not in a particularly personal interest, because, as your Lordships well know, this sort of thing has happened in a great many other cases—not to me but to other noble Lords.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl if he would consider whether it is not possible to make fewer changes in the business on the Order Paper, so as to make life a little easier for those of us who live at some distance from London?
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, whenever possible we will try to consult the convenience of the majority of Members. But that is not always possible, so we sometimes have to change the Order of Business. With regard to what Lord Killearn has just said, may I say that we will take all steps available to us to see that he does lose a Division whenever he moves a Motion.
§ LORD KILLEARN
I thanked the noble Earl for his reply, but I am not sure that the sting in the tail of what he has just said is not somewhat of a reversal of his original Answer. Indeed, I am not sure that I do not get off worse than before.