HL Deb 09 August 1966 vol 276 cc1746-9

6.26 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, on one thing I think that all of us—I repeat, all of us—can be agreed: that in every word he spoke the noble Lord, Lord Alport, was out of order. I include him in this, because he said in the course of his speech that he had originally put down a Motion and had found that the Motion was out of order; and then he spoke to the Motion that he had not put down. So I think we can all be agreed that he is out of order. If your Lordships wish to be precise on the matter, I would draw your attention to Standing Order No. 26, which says: The debate must be relevant to the question before the House. The question before the House was—


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? My addendum to the Motion was, in fact, accepted. It is perfectly true that it is within the power of the House to decide whether it is relevant or not. But I should have had an opportunity of arguing its relevance—and I still maintain its relevance—if I had kept the addendum on the Order Paper. I was therefore not out of order in putting the Motion down, but I admitted that, with permission of the House, I was speaking only to the addendum, although I had withdrawn it, and therefore I was placing myself on the good will of the House in making the speech that I made.


My Lords, the noble Lord has explained the matter; but, in fact, his statement only makes the matter more clear. He put down a Motion which was out of order, and then he spoke to it, not by permission of the House—because he did not ask permission of the House; he spoke as a Peer speaking as of right and in his place. Standing Order No. 26 says that: The debate must be relevant to the question before the House. The question before the House was a matter which had laid on the Table of the House for your Lordships' information for months, and the matters to which he addressed himself were matters that occurred only last week. Therefore I think we can all agree—I think the noble Lord must agree—that he was out of order from beginning to end.

There are some other points on which I should like to touch. First of all, the suggestion that the statement in advance given to us by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack on the 4th of this month, is not (this makes my point quite perfect) something that could be referred to the Procedure Committee. I would remind your Lordships that the Procedure Committee is a non-political Committee of your Lordships' House, appointed by your Lordships to frame Rules, or to suggest amendments to the Rules, for the better ordering of the debates in your Lordships' House. It is entirely non-political, and it would be entirely improper and, if I may use the word in the proper sense, utterly impertinent of the Procedure Committee to pass an opinion on a matter which was going to form the subject of a Bill in the future but which had not even yet been put into words. I am not at all sure that I heard the noble Earl the Lord Chairman too well—from these Cross-Benches hearing aids are simply non-operative—but I think that he said something of the kind. I think everyone will agree with that.

I think there is a point which we may take as a lesson for the future and which I should like the Government to consider. Two Mondays ago we passed a Resolution dispensing with Standing Order No. 35 (which governs the order of Business)and the Standing Order which forbids the taking of more than one stage of a Bill on any one day. I submit that it might very well be considered whether it would not be better, at the end of the Session, to pass that Resolution solely in relation to Government business, for one remembers what in fact happened. The Lord Chairman put down this very proper Motion which we are now discussing, and the noble Lord, Lord Alport, put down a perfectly irrelevant Amendment which introduced a matter on which he was very keen. If he had got away with it, he would have had all the advantages of a Wednesday afternoon debate.


My Lords, I interrupt the noble Lord, not in my capacity as Leader of the House, but just as a fellow Member of the House. The noble Lord has been very severe on the noble Lord, Lord Alport; it is not for me to say whether he was justified or not. Is it not just conceivable that the noble Lord himself might be out of order now?


My point is that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, availed himself of the absence of Standing Order No. 35 in order to alter the order of Government business to defeat Lord Alport.


My Lords, I suggest that the reason we agreed to alter it was that it was for the convenience of the House. There was very important Government legislation to be considered, and I thought that that should be dealt with first before we moved to what is admittedly an important Motion, but as the noble Lord has said, Government Business should come first.


I am not attacking the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd; I am merely congratulating him. I think that we ought to be rather careful about making recommendations which may have a political bearing, to a Committee which is a non-political body set up by your Lordships to assist your Lordships in framing the Rules and principles for the governing of the House. That is all I have to say on the subject, and I hope that the noble Earl who leads the House will consider it to be relevant.


My Lords, I shall not detain the House for many minutes. I want to say three things. The first is in reference to the debate we had on July 4 this year in which this House defeated the Motion of my noble friend, Lord Alport, by 53 votes to 25. My noble friend Lord Alport in alluding to that occasion in the present debate said that perhaps he took the House of Lords too seriously, or perhaps took himself too seriously. I would assure him that he did not take the House of Lords too seriously. The 53 in the majority were quite as serious in their opinion of the House of Lords as was the noble Lord himself. Nor do I think that I am a wholly frivolous character, and I took a fairly prominent part in the debate and was a Teller against the noble Lord. The reason the House of Lords defeated the Motion by 53 to 25 votes was that the House of Lords by that majority thought that he was wrong.

I now pass to the subject of the two other matters which the noble Lord would like to be considered by our Procedure Committee. As regards the Statement of the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, I believe that we are unanimously in agreement with the view expressed by the Lord Chairman of Committees, the Lord Chancellor himself and the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, that that would be utterly unsuitable for reference to the Committee on Procedure.

I now come to the remaining matter, the matter of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on August 3. I gather that there is nothing to stop my noble friend Lord Alport from referring that matter to the Procedure Committee, should he wish to do so. He can do that by writing a letter and neither requires nor seeks the authority of this House. But in case he does so, and because I am not myself a member of the Procedure Committee, perhaps the House would permit me to say this. I do not think I shall generally be thought to be unduly favourable to the passage of Her Majesty's Government's recent legislative proposals. But faced as he was with the problem with which we were faced, I should like to express it as my opinion—and I know many of my noble friends agree with me—that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, the Government Chief Whip, did his honest best to serve the interests of this House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.