HL Deb 20 May 1965 vol 266 cc559-62

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That leave be given to advance the Second Reading of the Sexual Offences Bill (which stands appointed for Tuesday next) to Monday next.—(The Earl of Longford.)


My Lords, as a Back-Bench Peer but, like other noble Lords, one who is interested in the Business of the House, I venture to make a few comments on the Motion now before us. In the first place, I can not understand why this important Bill was ever put down for Tuesday, a day when the House was already being asked to deal with five Second Readings and a highly controversial Motion regarding the War Damage Bill. When I saw that the Bill had been put down for this day. I was astonished, and I imagined that we should be sitting well beyond midnight. However, this has been somewhat belatedly realised and now we are asked to advance this Second Reading to Monday.

In this House, we do not normally expect to sit on Mondays so long before Whitsun: it is a device to be adopted only when the greatest pressure of Business exists. Is there such desperate urgency about the Sexual Offences Bill as to justify its being put down on a Monday so early in the year? Many noble Lords, and certainly I, have a good deal of business outside your Lordships' House. I have to choose between missing a very important local government engagement and being in my place on Monday. I should have thought that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, might better have consulted the convenience of your Lordships if he had been content to put this Bill down at a somewhat later stage.


My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Earl, Lord Arran, wishes to say anything at this time. I think that he would speak for himself better than I would speak for him.


My Lords, the Second Reading was down for Tuesday, but apparently it fitted in better with the arrangements of your Lordships' House to put it forward one day. It has caused a great deal of inconvenience, but I cannot be responsible for that. I think that Monday is a good day. The notice is admittedly short; on the other hand, we discussed these matters at great length last week, and I should hope that the debate on Monday would not be of unconscionable length. That is all I have to say.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, is here because, if I give an incorrect interpretation of his aspirations in this matter, he will soon put me right, but I think that I am saying what is true, and am not being indiscreet, when I say that he was anxious that this Bill should be brought forward as soon as possible. I think that is a fair account of his own outlook. I think that I am also correct if I say that a Peer who wishes a Bill brought forward as soon as possible has the right to bring it forward. Perhaps some older Member of the House—and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, has been longer in your Lordships' House than I have—will know whether I am correct or not.

It was a question of whether this Bill could be taken on Tuesday or Monday, bearing in mind that the matter is going to be discussed in another place on Wednesday. I think that it would be the feeling of some Members of the House that it is always our duty to give a lead to the other place. This view may not be universally shared, but, at any rate, to be candid, it was felt right that, because this subject was to be discussed in another place on Wednesday, we should discuss it here first, in view of what had gone on the other day.

The question then arose of whether Tuesday was a good and reasonable day on which the Bill should be discussed. I think that Monday would be a better day than Tuesday. No doubt we shall be exhausted by the end of the discussions on the War Damage Bill on Tuesday, and there is no doubt that wide public interest attaches to both these discussions. Speaking for myself and taking, I suppose, the ultimate responsibility for accepting the change, I think that it would not be right to take the War Damage Bill and the Sexual Offences Bill on the same day. If one had to be disposed of before Wednesday, I am afraid that we had no alternative but to put down this Bill for Monday. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, accepts such implied account as I have given of his own objectives.


My Lords, the noble Earl the Leader of the House has said the complete truth. His views accord very precisely with my own.


My Lords, I feel that I ought to apologise to the House for this change, for which I accept responsibility. I only hope that the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and others will not be greatly inconvenienced. In view of what the noble Earl has said, I cannot avoid the fear that in fact there will be some inconvenience, but I hope that it will be as small as possible.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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