HL Deb 08 July 1968 vol 294 cc643-5

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask Her Majesty's Government a Question of which I have given them Private Notice: namely, what action is being taken to meet the refusal of the Nigerian Federal Government to allow relief by airlift to the hungry thousands in Biafra?


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Shepherd will be answering this Question at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. I shall also be making a Statement on the Central Banks meeting at Basle; and after that there will be a Statement on fisheries policy.

My Lords, I have been provided with a number of rather conflicting estimates as to the time which will be taken by the Town and Country Planning Bill this afternoon. If the Bill finishes before six o'clock, it will leave us in a somewhat difficult situation, since a number of noble Lords involved in the Theatres Bill are now sitting in another room on the Gaming Bill; and the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, who is sponsoring the Theatres Bill, cannot be here until six o'clock. In view of this, I hope your Lordships will agree that if we finish the Committee stage of the Town and Country Planning Bill before six o'clock, we should then proceed to the Committee stage of the Friendly and Industrial and Provident Societies Bill, and take the Committee stage of the Theatres Bill after that.

I am aware that this alteration infringes Standing Order No. 34, which provides that the House shall proceed with business in the order in which it stands on the Order Paper. But I hope that, in view of all the circumstances, your Lordships will accept that this alteration is not intended for the convenience of the Government, but to meet with the convenience of all noble Lords involved in their respective Private Members' Bills.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for making that statement. I agree that it is contrary to the Standing Order, but I should have thought that it would definitely be for the convenience of the House that the noble Lord's suggestion should be followed.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Earl.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question on the Business of the House—and I do not know whether this is in order. I am informed that it is possible that the Sunday Entertainments Bill and the Divorce Bill will not go through Parliament in this Session, and the reports are that it is because the House of Lords is unable to give time to these small, but very important measures. Is it not possible for this House to consider altering its time of rising, in order that we can assure the Commons that if they pass these Bills and give them time, we can give them time here? Otherwise, they will be lost for this Session, and perhaps for a long time afterwards.


My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House dealt last week with one aspect of what the noble Lord has asked—namely, referring to the Divorce Bill—and I have nothing to add to what he told your Lordships.


My Lords, while we are speaking on the Business of the House, may I ask my noble friend whether he has seen reported in the Press this morning a statement by a Member of the other House to the effect that owing to the lethargy of the House of Lords, which he says is only sitting three days a week, a number of Bills are being held up? Can my noble friend arrange for a statement to be made on behalf of this House to indicate the extent to which we are sitting?


My Lords, I also saw the statement. Accustomed as we are to slightly off-colour remarks about your Lordships' House from time to time, I tend rather to note these things, and make a mental note to speak to the individual in question and tell him how wholly wrong ha is. I do not think this is a matter on which it would be very profitable for us to go into a debate. It may well be that if noble Lords wish to discuss the Business of the House arrangements could be made; but we have not had any notice of this. Perhaps my noble friend may also wish to correct the remarks of the Member in question.


My Lords, bearing in mind that this House is sitting one week longer than another place, some of us might perhaps think it rather unreasonable that the House of Commons should debate all their measures at their convenience, and that we should sit through the rest of the summer debating them here.