HL Deb 17 July 1961 vol 233 cc470-2

My Lords, this may be a convenient moment to adjourn for dinner. I hope your Lordships will agree with me that three-quarters of an hour will be enough.


My Lords, before the House adjourns, I should like to make one objection to adjourning, which, I understand, is to some extent due to the Hansard staff, with whom I have great sympathy and who have our admiration for the way they carry out their duties. I do not think that the Government's allocation of time for the Licensing Bill is a proper one. Licensing is a most important subject. The Bill will affect the social conditions of our people for many generations. With much of the Bill I wholeheartedly agree; there are certain parts which I do not oppose. The Bill, however, is coming on on three occasions at a late hour in the evening. On Thursday night it came on after a long, heated and interesting debate on whether we should sell broccoli in one part of London or another. It came on in a very small House, I may say. I do not think there were more than four or five people listening to this important Bill last Thursday; a few more turned up for the Division, but the actual people listening were very few.

To-night it will come on at about 8 o'clock, again after an interesting and important debate on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, and I do not think many people will really be fresh enough to give it the consideration that it ought to have. To-morrow it is to come on after the debate on the Committee stage of the North Atlantic Shipping Bill, another important Bill, which, no doubt in its Committee stage will give rise to quite a number of differences of opinion, and there are several Amendments down. In these circumstances, one cannot but say that this Bill is not having the consideration that we should give it. One of our major tasks is to be a revising medium, and I do not think this House is being given the time or the opportunity to give this Bill in Committee the consideration it ought to have.


My Lords, might I, in just a sentence or two, support the noble Lord? Over the week-end I have met quite a number of people. They asked me what happened last Thursday night in the House of Lords. They have not seen or heard of it in a single paper—not a word—and they wondered why it was kept out of the Press. I told them that this came on so late, because of other important matters and procedures, and that it was not likely that the Press would take notice. But the people of Wales are concerned about this Bill, and they think that although the Bill itself is shabby treatment for Wales, this is making the shabby treatment shabbier still.


My Lords, whatever else can be put to the door of the Government, we cannot be blamed for the Press coverage that this Bill received, especially during a week when other things were happening which attracted a good deal of public notice. The actual allocation of time to this Bill has, as noble Lords will be aware, been fully discussed through the usual channels. The Government have changed their plans two or three times to my knowledge, in order to meet the convenience of as many noble Lords as possible in the requirements of the Bill, and I do not think we can be charged with being unreasonable or unthoughtful in the matter. Naturally, nobody could be sorrier than I am that any noble Lord is inconvenienced at any time, but at this time of the year we always find difficulty. The other place sends its legislation to us about now, and this happens every year. We do our best to carry through our business, and I can only say how grateful the Government is to Members of the House for giving so much of their time and undergoing so much inconvenience, in order to do the legislative business which is required by Parliament.

[The Sitting was suspended at twenty-four minutes past seven o'clock, and resumed at five minutes past eight o'clock.]