HL Deb 20 March 1967 vol 281 cc545-7

3.33 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. Your Lordships will remember that on the Committee stage of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Grimston of Westbury, moved an Amendment which he subsequently withdrew. In the course of the discussion he suggested that it might be right for this House to make an Address to the Sovereign in somewhat similar terms to the proposed Amendment, and I said I would consider that. I have considered it and I have had some correspondence with the noble Lord about it. I think that for to-day's purposes it is perhaps sufficient that I should say that, according to Erskine May, at page 621, Addresses ought not to be presented in relation to any Bill depending in either House of Parliament. That appears to have been the position since 1666.

When the Bill has become law, it will of course be open to the noble Lord, or to any other noble Lord, to move such an Address as he thinks right, and the House could then consider whether that course would be either appropriate or likely to achieve any particular object. It is for this reason that I have been unable to support the suggestion that, while the Bill is pending, there should be any such Address. I have so informed the noble Lord, and I rather think that he is now of the same opinion. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I fully appreciate what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, and obviously it would be quite out of accord with practice for an humble Address to be presented about a Bill which has not yet received the Royal Assent. But I did not gather that that was really the proposition which was being put forward. I thought the idea that the Royal Assent should be pronounced in the formal manner on at least one occasion each Session, which seemed to me to be a very sensible one (we were all agreed on all sides of this House, as I think another place was), was that when the Bill had received the Royal Assent an humble Address might then be presented by both Houses to Her Majesty praying that that might happen. That, I think, would certainly be strictly in accordance with Erskine May and with all the precedents. I hope that after the Bill has received the Royal Assent it might be considered through the usual channels whether there could he an agreed Address by both Houses, such as there is in response to the gracious Speech from the Throne.

It is not that we have the least doubt that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the Government have every intention of carrying out every undertaking which was given. But, at the same time, when a great change like this goes through, it would be as well to put it on record in a formal manner with the agreement of both Houses that that should be the practice in future. I think that that would be strictly constitutional and, I hope, in accordance with the wishes of both Houses of Parliament.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships for more than a moment, but I should, first of all, like to express my thanks to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the courtesy and speed with which he has gone into the suggestion which was made on the Committee stage. I am very grateful to him. He has put the point very clearly, and I entirely agree that, whatever might be done at a later stage—and there are, as he has so kindly pointed out, difficulties about this—there is no question that an humble Address could not be presented before the Bill became law. As I say, I thank him for his attention to this.

It only remains for me to say that we have made our desire very clear on all sides: that the procedure referred to in Clause 1(1)(a) should be preserved. One hopes that perhaps the combined wisdom of all of us will find some means of ensuring what will happen after this Government have left office. We know that until then the procedure will be preserved, and for the moment I think we must leave it at that and speed the Bill on its course.


My Lords, I reply to say only two things. First, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said that he was sure the Government would carry out their undertaking, so I thought it right just to make it clear that of course the Government have given no undertaking at all. I have informed the House what is the present intention of the Leaders of all Parties in both Houses. Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Grimston of Westbury, has been kind enough to acknowledge what he calls the courtesy and speed with which I dealt with the matter. I should be less than courteous if I did not acknowledge that the fact that I was able to do so was due to the courtesy and speed which Lord Chancellors always receive from the Clerk of the Parliaments.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.