HL Deb 23 July 1970 vol 311 cc1071-5

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That in the present Session a Committee of twelve Lords be appointed to join with a Committee of the House of Commons as a Joint Committee to consider the following classes of Bills:—

  1. 1. All Consolidation Bills whether public or private;
  2. 2. Statute Law Revision Bills;
  3. 3. Bills prepared pursuant to the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act 1949, together with any memoranda laid pursuant to that Act and any representations made with respect thereto;
  4. 4. Bills to consolidate any enactments with amendments to give effect to recommendations made by one or both of the Law Commissions, together with any report containing such recommendations;
  5. 5. Bills prepared by one or both of the Law Commissions to promote the reform of the Statute Law by the repeal in accordance with the Law Commission recommendations, of certain enactments which (except in so far as their effect is preserved) are no longer of practical utility, and by making other provision in connection with the repeal of those enactments together with any 1072 Law Commission report on any such Bill;

That the Lords following be named of the Committee:

That such Committee have power to agree with the Committee of the House of Commons in the appointment of a Chairman.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, in rising and shortly saying "Content", I would point out to your Lordships' House that I think this is the first business of the day to which anybody has said either "Content" or "Not-Content". That has not been the custom in the past. It is not, I think, the business of the Opposition to say "Content" when Motions are brought forward. I have always thought, from the point of view of members of the public who may be present, that it is very extraordinary, when a Motion is put to the House, that nobody says "Content" and nobody says "Not-Content", and that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack then says, "The Contents have it". I should have thought, with the greatest respect, that the practice of the previous Government of somebody saying something should be followed.


My Lords, I have said "Content" each time, and so has my noble friend beside me here.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I take it that what we have just done in relation to the First Report from the Select Committee on House of Lords Offices was actually in order. Not only was there no Notice on the Order Paper, but I do not think that anybody on these Benches was even informed that it was coming up. It seemed to be a very odd thing. I cannot believe that most noble Lords, except possibly the members of the Offices Committee, had the slightest idea of what they were doing. I should like an assurance from the noble Earl the Leader of the House—and he may just conceivably wish to consider this a bit further. If my understanding is correct, Notice has to be given in some way. Perhaps notice, technically, has been given; but there was no note on the Order Paper. I appreciate that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, explained what was going on; but it was a rather startling thing. At that moment I was trying to get the Paper to look at it—by which time all the procedure had been gone through.

I hope that this is not going to become, normal practice. Quite frankly, if we are going to do something as irregular as this seems to be, I should have thought that it would have been as well if the House had been consulted about it. If the Motion to approve the Report had then been moved a little later, there would have been an opportunity for noble Lords to familiarise themselves with it. I do not wish to harass the Leader of the House—one gets caught in this sort of spot—but I should like to know that it is in order for the House to consider and approve of something without any Notice of it having appeared on the Order Paper.


My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we have done nothing out of order. What was done, although it was very much to the inconvenience of the House, was in accordance with Standing Orders. I had almost as little Notice as did the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this; but it was in accordance with Standing Orders. The noble Earl the Chairman of Committees did apologise for the inconvenience caused to all of us as a result of a mistake. But although that was in order, I think that we are now getting out of order in back-tracking on something we have already discussed, although to the inconvenience of the House. But I can give the noble Lord the assurance that he has sought.


My Lords, may I ask what other forms of business it is not out of order to move and pass in this House without any Notice appearing on the Order Paper? This particular item may be completely innocuous; but visions arise in one's mind of all sorts of other possibilities.


My Lords, I would again support the noble Lord. I would submit that we are now in the not unusual situation of discussing a business problem which has arisen and, although it has arisen in rather an embarrassing form, this is not a general debate. I am merely asking again to be assured that what was done was in order. All I can say is that I think it was a great surprise to most noble Lords. I think that the last thing one wants to do is to criticise the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in this matter; but it appears that there was no advance warning to the Leader of the House and to the other side and to noble Lords generally. I know that we cannot go back on it now; but I think that perhaps at a later stage in the day we could have some further explanation as to how it is in order and, particularly, an answer to the noble Lord's question.


My Lords, the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees said that the reason for asking the House to approve the Report to-day was that it was for the convenience of certain noble Lords that two recommendations in the Report should come into operation before the House went into Recess. It would be helpful—for I was as surprised as other noble Lords by this move—if we could have some explanation as to why this departure from normal practice in the House had to take place.


My Lords, I think we are really getting out of order in pursuing a matter which has already gone through. But I should like to respond straight away to the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and say that the noble Earl the Lord Chairman of Committees would be glad to makes a further statement on this at a mutually convenient time later in the Business to-day. We could then deal with the points fairly raised by the noble Lords, Lord Inglewood and Lord Alport.


My Lords, with respect to the noble Earl, I would submit that we are not out of order. There is certainly no Question before the House on this matter. When procedure comes up for discussion—and this constantly happens—it is right for the House to look to the protection of their rights in the matter. This has happened time and time again, and the only way we can operate in this House when we get into difficulties is to discuss the sort of hole we find ourselves in. I would draw the attention of both noble Earls to Standing Order No. 31, and when they come to make their further statement perhaps they will explain to us why, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 31, no Private Notice was given. There is provision in this Order for Private Notice of business, but this was not given; although it surely would have been possible for it to be given. I will press the matter no further than to point out that I am sure that the House must be prepared to look at the situation which has arisen and that it is in order to do so.


My Lords, with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I am afraid that I must revert to the fact that we are out of order in discussing this because the Report has been agreed to. But of course I shall be glad to look into this whole matter. The Chairman of Committees and I will be glad to respond to the invitation to go into it later.


My Lords, if as the noble Earl the Leader of the House says we are out of order in discussing it at this moment, shall be not be equally out of order in discussing it in an hour's time?


My Lords, if I may revert to the Question which I put, I should like to assure the noble and learned Lord who spoke from the Front Bench of the Opposition that, being very acute of hearing, I distinctly heard the loud shout of, "Content" which came from my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard.

On Question, Motion agreed to: Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith and to desire them to appoint an equal number of their Members to be joined with the said Lords.