HL Deb 30 October 1969 vol 305 cc119-22

My Lords, with permission I should like to make a statement on the subject of Parliamentary Papers. As the House will be aware—painfully aware—neither yesterday's Hansard nor the prints of the Bills which were read a first time yesterday are available to-day. This is a result of further industrial action at St. Stephen's Parliamentary Press. I hope that it will be possible for these papers to be available to-morrow, but whether this will give the House sufficient time to consider the Bill which is set down for Thursday next; namely, the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Bill, is another matter, and we must discuss this through the usual channels.

I do not think it is much good my expressing a personal regret to the House because I have already done so on a number of occasions, but I do so again and say that we are all in a most difficult situation. For that reason, I think we shall have to consider the position with regard to the business next Thursday, and I shall be happy to discuss this with colleagues in the House.


My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House is always very reasonable, but I think he would be the first to admit that this is a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs. It may well be that we shall have to postpone the Second Reading of the Bill of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I understand that it is a long and complicated Bill, and I do not think that we on this side of the House could possibly debate it unless we had had time to examine it.

However, there is something much more important than that: it is whether or not Parliament is going to be disrupted by a strike of this kind. The noble Lord and the Government are in charge of the mechanics of this matter and it is up to them to see that Parliament is not disrupted and inconvenienced.


My Lords, is it possible for the Government to find any alternative means of a temporary nature for printing our documents?


My Lords, one of the difficulties on this occasion, as I understand it, was the suddenness with which we found ourselves in this position, and it was not possible to make the arrangements we made previously for putting copies of the typescript of Hansard in the Library.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was kind enough to say that I am always very reasonable. I really have no alternative but to be reasonable, and I only hope that your Lordships, who are kind on these occasions, will realise the difficult situation that I am in. I acknowledge everything the noble Lord says, but there are matters which at the moment are beyond my power. I would say to the noble Lord that naturally the Government are concerned, and are seriously considering the situation. I fully accept what the noble Lord says about the disrupting effect of this action. If we do not have papers and we do not have the Bill, I think we must accept the consequence that clearly, we cannot discuss it, and that is a serious thing. On the other hand, I am hopeful—although I am hesitant about expressing any firm hope in regard to this situation—that the Papers may be available either later to-day or tomorrow. But I certainly do not make any promise, and I can only be completely frank with the House and acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.


My Lords, surely a strike of this kind ought not to be allowed to disrupt the whole running of Parliament. Have the Government considered getting the material printed elsewhere? If they cannot get it printed in England, can they get it printed on the Continent?


My Lords, I do not know how that would help us to get last night's Hansard, for instance. The noble Lord having said that, and knowing the delicacy of these matters, I hope he will not press me to say anything more. I have taken note of what he has said, and ideas that occur to him are likely to occur to other people, too.


My Lords, could the noble Lord the Leader of the House tell us why the House of Commons received their Hansard and we did not?


My Lords, I can only suggest that it might be favouritism.


My Lords, in connection with the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Bill, may I ask my noble friend whether he recalls that the text of that Bill was printed in the Law Commission's Report. Would it not be possible to get some Xerox copies of the Bill from the pages of that Report to circulate to the House?


My Lords, I believe that my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack has this prospect in mind, although of course that would produce only a limited number of copies. I think it is intolerable that we should have to resort to devices of this kind, but I am grateful to the noble Lord for his helpful suggestion, and we will do the best we can. I undertake to your Lordships that we will certainly discuss this and will have due regard to what is reasonable and proper for the House.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there are always some underlying reasons for strikes, and that I hope he will not accept the advice of the Front Bench opposite and accept a blacklegs' charter?


My Lords, that is the sort of comment that I do not want to get drawn into at the moment. I am really in no position to pass judgment, and would not wish to do so, and I am sure my noble friend is well aware that, on the whole, statements in Parliament do not always help industrial disputes.


My Lords, does the noble Lord realise that what was intended to be a helpful suggestion from the Benches behind him will not quite meet the case, because the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack announced in his speech yesterday certain points on which the Bill would differ from the Bill printed in the Law Commission's Report, and unfortunately owing to this strike, or whatever it is called, the remarks of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor are not available to us?


My Lords, I thought there was probably a catch in it somewhere.

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