HL Deb 18 May 1970 vol 310 cc951-4

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, it might be for the convenience of your Lordships if I now reported to your Lordships an announcement which is being made from No. 10 Downing Street.

The Prime Minister has asked Her Majesty the Queen to proclaim the Dissolution of Parliament. Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to signify that she will comply with this request. In order to complete essential financial and other business the Government have therefore requested Mr. Speaker to recall the House of Commons to meet on Tuesday, May 26, and the House of Lords will also be asked to continue to sit that week. Parliament will be prorogued on Friday, May 29, and Dissolution will take place on the same day.

Polling will take place on Thursday, June 18. The new Parliament will be summoned on Monday, June 29, when the first business will be the election of the Speaker and swearing in of Members. The new Parliament will be opened on July 2. Your Lordships will also follow the usual precedents with regard to the swearing of Members of your Lordships' House.

My Lords, in view of this statement I should like to inform the House of certain consequential arrangements which have been made, after consultation through the usual channels, for business this week and next week. I shall table now the "Business of the House" Motion to suspend Standing Orders Nos. 35 and 41 in order to expedite the progress of certain Bills at present before the House. I shall also, following consultations with certain noble Lords concerned, table certain Motions to advance some items of business from Wednesday of this week to tomorrow, Tuesday. In view of the shortness of time involved I do not think it would be feasible for us to hope to make a great deal of further progress on the Ports Bill. I would accordingly suggest that we should not resume the Committee stage, either to-night or on any subsequent day—'though no doubt there will be opportunities for the present Government, in their new form, to introduce it again shortly after the General Election.

With these new arrangements I hope that the House will be able to rise on Wednesday, May 20—that is, this Wednesday—and, subject to the progress of business, We should return either on Wednesday, May 27, or possibly even on Thursday, May 28. This will be a matter for further discussion through the usual channels. I regret if this interferes with your Lordships' holiday arrangements for this week, but it may be that there will be an opportunity for some noble Lords to relax after the following week.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for the statement; and we welcome it, because I think it would have been very regrettable if we had existed until October in the sort of Election atmosphere that had been building up over the last few weeks. Although we shall meet again, both this week and next week, I know that those of us on this side take comfort from the fact that when we do come back in the new Parliament we shall still see noble Lords opposite, who will look even more agreeable as seen from the other side. There are two noble Lords who I know will be particularly grateful indeed for the noble Lord's statement: The noble Lord, Lord Hughes and my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, who have been wasting their time, and the House's time, for the last three hours. Provided that the Ports Bill is never seen again I do not think my noble friend will mind that very much.

I think the noble Lord the Leader of the House has proposed some very sensible and admirable arrangements. We on this side would not wish in any way to be difficult about passing through the House Bills which we all want to see on the Statute Book, and we shall do everything we can to see that they get on the Statute Book. I only hope that perhaps, as we have been done out of one week of our Whitsun holiday while the other place is sunning itself abroad, or wherever it might be, it may be possible for us not to come back until Thursday week. That, I think, would be most agreeable.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord very much indeed for repeating this announcement. I do not in the least want to get involved in the fight as to who is going to turn up on one side or the other of the House. So far as we are concerned, the sooner we get on with the pressing business outside Parliament the better. Certainly we will co-operate with the Government and the usual channels in expediting Business so that we can get down to the real light. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord what is going to happen to the Finance Bill.


My Lords, I am most grateful to both noble Lords, the Leader of the Opposition and the permanent Leader of the Liberal Opposition, for their reception of my remarks. There is a certain amount of business that we must get through, and I am quite sure that with the constitutional priorities and the co-operation which during the last few years (with, just now and again, a slip from grace) we have had from the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn and the Leader of the Opposition, we shall get these Bills through. It is clearly vital to your Lordships that we should get the Bill that deals with disablement, which we hope to complete on Wednesday. We shall hope for the restraint which your Lordships on both sides of the House would like to see with regard to this desirable measure.

With regard to the Finance Bill, this will arrive in your Lordships' House, I hope, next Thursday. It may well be that your Lordships will want the traditional economic debate. I can see certain useful advantages, as they may think, for the Opposition on this. We also see certain advantages. It may be that we can cancel one another out on it. None the less, the Government will obviously have regard to this. Such is my confidence that I do not propose even to answer some of the other remarks of the noble Lord, beyond saying that we shall all have a rather easier time than some of our colleagues in another place. I am sure that we all hope that this important, vital proceeding which, despite our difficulties, in this country we conduct rather better than many other countries, will proceed according to our usual traditions.


My Lords, may I just clarify one point? The noble Lord referred to the Finance Bill coming on "Thursday next". Does he not mean Thursday of next week?


My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I have been so wrestling with the timetable that I am not quite sure which week I am in. I think it is Thursday of next week, but we shall have to see whether that is so. I note what the noble Lord has said and, if we are able to expedite the business satisfactorily, it may be that we shall not need to come back earlier. But either I or my noble friend the Captain of the Gentlemen at Arms will make a Statement on Business, probably to-morrow.