HL Deb 10 December 1970 vol 313 cc1039-42

3.24 p.m.

EARL JELLICOE rose to move, That leave be given to the Marquess of Lothian to move en bloc the first nineteen Motions standing in his name on the Order Paper. The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Motion is rather unusual, and I think I should therefore briefly explain its purpose to your Lordships. Your Lordships will have seen from the Order Paper that there are no fewer than 19 separate Motions down to-day relating to Consular Privileges and Immunities Orders. There are also two Orders relating to European Immunities and Privileges. I ought perhaps to add that, as noble Lords will doubtless have seen, to-day's White Order Paper has been printed in a slightly unusual form. The first 19 Motions in the name of my noble friend as printed are in fact the Consular Orders; the last two Orders in my noble friend's name are the European ones I have mentioned.

My Lords, under our normal and accepted procedure this would necessitate no fewer than 21 separate Motions being proposed and Questions being put and determined. As your Lordships know, criticism has been expressed recently—it was expressed last July by my noble friend Lord Alport—about die putting of multiple Questions, and this matter is in fact to be considered by the Procedure Committee of your Lordships' House at their next meeting. The purpose of my Motion to-day is to enable us to avoid, and to avoid for this occasion only, pending the advice of the Procedure Committee, 21 Questions, which could of course take up a great deal of your Lordships' time. If your Lordships agree with my Motion, only three Questions will become necessary. I should like to say straight away that if any noble Lord objects to this procedure now I shall not press my Motion, and we will of course proceed to take the 21 Questions in their turn.

My Lords, as I understand it, if my Motion were agreed to we might follow our frequent practice and have a general debate on all 21 Orders on the first Motion. I should, however, like to make it clear that if your Lordships agree to the Motion which I am now moving but in the course of subsequent discussion criticisms of this course of action arise, my noble friend Lord Lothian will not then avail himself of the power which the House will have given to him but will move each Motion separately. So there is a second option, as it were, available to your Lordships.

I should like to conclude this brief statement by saying that my sole motive for having tabled this Motion, which I do not in any way intend should be regarded as a precedent or should prejudice the consideration of the general question by the Procedure Committee, is that I hope it may prove, in the rather exceptional circumstances in which we may find ourselves this afternoon, to the general convenience of your Lordships' House. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That leave be given to the Marquess of Lothian to move en bloc the first nineteen Motions standing in his name on the Order Paper.(Earl Jellicoe.)


My Lords, I am in general agreement with the noble Earl. I am sure that it does no good to waste a lot of time in formalities, and it does not add to the dignity of the House. It makes us look just like a sausage machine. The sort of arrangements which the noble Earl has proposed are similar to those which we introduced to cut out Committee stages on Bills on which nobody wanted a Committee stage.

I must admit that I think all noble Lords were probably rather mystified by the Order Paper. I am not quite clear whether this is an historic way of arranging the Order Paper, but if this is so then it might be helpful if the pages were numbered on these occasions, because until the noble Earl explained it was not quite obvious which were the special two. I think the noble Earl is quite right to say that this whole matter should go to the Procedure Committee. It is an unusual situation, and there was not time, obviously, to do it before. I think he has taken the right course.

I am not sure whether I understood the noble Earl aright, but I should like to suggest to him that, if any noble Lord wishes a particular Order to be singled out, some way of omitting it or of taking it in advance should be evolved. This would obviously involve the co-operation of the Lord Chancellor, as to how the Questions are put. I think that if there is just one Order on which somebody wants to have a particular discussion it would be a nuisance if all the other Orders had then to be put singly. It may be that the noble Earl had this in mind. I am not quite clear whether this is so, but there has been consultation through the usual channels and I am quite certain that the noble Earl, like any Leader of the House, is jealous to see that our rights in this matter are not curtailed.


My Lords, on behalf of my colleagues may I say that, naturally, the motives of the Leader of the House in this as in all matters are above suspicion. I think this is a very good example of how the House can regulate its own business according to the rules of common sense. I think it would be right to take these Orders en bloc. I reiterate what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said: that, depending on which way you open the Order Paper, you get a remarkable number of choices as to which Orders constitute the first 19 Motions on the Order Paper.


My Lords, I have an interest in this because, with the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, I am going to take part in the debate on these Orders. I was party to the agreement to take them in this way, but my understanding was that the Orders would be moved and then put to the House after the debate on them. The difficulty, it seems to me, is that if we accept the Business Motion now before us we shall have the option to take the Orders either separately or en bloc, and I gather that it would be contrary to the Rules of the House for us to take any of these Orders separately, or out of turn.

As the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, knows, some Orders may go through relatively easily while others, which may be mingled with those that go easily, may prove more difficult. I wonder if I may ask the help of the noble Earl in inquiring whether, instead of pressing his Business Motion at this moment, we could have the debate on these Orders and then, after that debate, have his Motion put. We shall by then have a pretty good idea whether we can agree or whether we should reserve our position and take the Orders individually.


My Lords, might we not save the time of the House by getting on with these 19 Orders?


My Lords, I should like to support that very much: that we should get on with these 19 Orders now and save the time of the House.


My Lords, in answer to both noble Lords who have just spoken, I should remind them that the 19 Orders are not the next business. Unless we proceed with the acceptance of my Motion it will take about 1½ hours of formal business. There is a great deal to be said for taking the Orders en bloc, if this is the general wish. I think that we can give effect to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd.


My Lords, I am wondering whether the noble Earl can do so. I am sure that this is the right way of proceeding. I think there should be a little conversation on this, and it may be that there is some way round the procedure if we want to single out one of the Orders. Obviously the House is strongly in favour of this.

On Question, Motion agreed to.