HL Deb 24 November 1966 vol 278 cc359-62

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, it is not the normal practice to make Business Statements, but it has sometimes been done in order to meet the convenience of the House. The House will be aware that we are faced with two very large Bills on which progress should be made between now and Christmas, and I thought it right, therefore, to indicate to the House the proposals we are making to deal with the Committee stages of the Land Commission Bill and the Companies Bill.

It is proposed that we should take the Land Commission Bill as main Business on Monday the 5th, Tuesday the 6th and Thursday the 8th December. In regard to Monday, November 28, it is suggested that we should start with the Land Commission Bill, then adjourn in order to take the Committee stage of the Armed Forces Bill and then, when that is completed, continue with the Land Commission Bill. It is proposed that we should take the Committee stage of the Companies Bill on Monday the 12th, Tuesday the 13th, Monday the 19th, Tuesday the 20th and Wednesday the 21st December. I hope the House will agree that these important measures should he adequately considered, and that the House will agree to sit on these particular days until 10 o'clock. The dining room will be fully open, and I hope that Peers and their guests will make good use of the accommodation. It is proposed to adjourn the Committee stages in order that noble Lords may enjoy their supper.


My Lords, there are two points I should like to make. First, I hope that the noble Lord, when arranging Business for this House, will bear in mind that many Lords on both sides of the House have other work to do on Mondays, and that it would be of considerable convenience if major Bills were not taken on Mondays. Minor Bills, which do not require the attendance of large numbers of your Lordships, would be more suitable for Mondays. The noble Lord suggested that we should sit until 10 o'clock on these various nights. I would hope that he is not meaning that too literally, and that if the House makes reasonable progress it will be able to adjourn at a more suitable hour.


My Lords, I seem to have heard the first part of the noble Earl's comments before. In fact, I think that when we were on the other side we repeatedly made the same comments to him. I appreciate the problems of Mondays, but one of the difficulties, as the noble Earl well knows, is that if I put Scottish Business down on a Monday then great trouble ensues for both of us. We are to a degree limited, particularly as the House does not like sitting on Fridays. But I certainly take the point of the noble Earl and will see if it can be met.

In regard to sitting until 10 o'clock, I think one has to weigh up the pros and cons of sitting, on average, till 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening, which is not very convenient to those taking part, and doing it pretty well every night. I have taken the view—and those whom I have approached seem also to take the view—that it is infinitely better that, when we must sit beyond the normal late hour, we should sit until later than that and make progress. These are two big Bills, and the Companies Bill particularly needs a great deal of examination, so I think we must provide adequate time.

I am quite sure the noble Earl is also aware that after Christmas we are going to have a whole series of major Bills coming from the other place which will need a great deal of examination; and I would hope that at this stage we could make good progress on these Bills, even if we have to suffer a little, and then later on in the year we may be able to relax a little. I think it would be best to make marked progress on these Bills at this stage, but as the noble Earl knows, I am always open to consultation.


My Lords, all Chief Whips have great difficulty in fitting in Business, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has our sympathy—moderately, anyway. But would he please once again look at the point which we on this side of the House have made a good many times—that is, that there is quite a lot of the year when no legislation comes up from the other place at all and when we are dealing with nothing but Motions and debates? Then the legislation all comes up at once, and we have this difficulty. Would he please see that more legislation starts in this House, such as the Companies Bill, which I think is a very good new departure?


My Lords, in the case of a major Bill of the importance of the Land Commission Bill I think it unsatisfactory that on Monday we are to start dealing with it and then adjourn its consideration in order to deal with the Armed Forces Bill. I cannot see why we cannot have two days for this important Bill. It is not even on the list of Business for Tuesday, but I am told that it is to come in at the end of Business on Thursday after a lot of other important Business. I think it is very unsatisfactory, and I fully agree with my noble Leader on that. In the case of an important Bill like the Land Commission Bill or the Companies Bill (although I think it has been arranged to take the Companies Bill on two consecutive days) I think that, having got your team together working on such a complicated Bill, we ought to go through it, and in any event not sit very late at night, which is very tiring. I hope better arrangements can be made so that we can adjourn at a reasonable time.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord if he has taken into consideration one factor which is very important at this time of the year, and that is fog? If there is a lot of had fog and we have to sit very late at this time of year, noble Lords may not be able to get home at all. Some arrangements should be made to enable them to sleep.


My Lords, we on these Benches have put down Amendments to the Armed Forces Bill and the Land Commission Bill. It would be of convenience if the noble Lord could indicate when he expects to adjourn con- sideration of the Land Commission Bill to take the Commitee stage of the Armed Forces Bill.


My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, we have tried to meet the wish of the House to have major Bills introduced in this House. We have done this in the case of the Companies Bill; and therefore this is one of the Bills on which we should make progress. Obviously, this Bill must be considered in another place, and therefore progress should be made. If we fail in that, it is going to make it infinitely more difficult in the future.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, the reason we suggested the break-up of the Committee stage on Monday the 28th was not ony to provide some relief to Ministers—in our particular case we have a team of Ministers—but also to help the Opposition, because I know from my own experience, having been in opposition, that to provide opposition for six hours on a difficult Bill produces considerable difficulties. The last Conservative Government helped us by breaking up certain Committee stages, which is what we are suggesting should be done here. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord will reconsider his criticism. I will certainly see what can be done to notify the House on the first and subsequent days how far we should like to go with the Bill. Perhaps we could have discussions on this.


My Lords, as we are on Business, could the noble Lord say when he thinks it is likely that a debate on Rhodesia will be fitted in? I understand the Government are pledged to have a debate in both Houses before any vital decision is taken.


My Lords, the Statement I have just made was related to two particular Bills and was made for the convenience of the House. I do not think it should be an opportunity to raise other matters which clearly come within the province, in the first instance, of the usual channels, the two Front Benches and the noble Lords of the Liberal Party. I have no information to give the noble Lord in regard to a debate on Rhodesia.

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