§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords I know that many of your Lordships are anxious to leave the House at the earliest possible moment. My intervention on this occasion is going to be very brief. especially as I gather that neither the Government nor the official Opposition are going to participate at this stage. Yet I feel that: at this moment of time the House should not dissolve for what may be quite a long period—and certainly with a General Election—without some slight consideration of the economic situation of this country. I hasten to say to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that I expect no reply to the few remarks I am going to make, but I would remind your Lordships of what Mr. Enoch Powell said in another place on April 20 and recommend that you consider his analysis of our economic situation.
1214 He pointed out that three successive Budgets have resulted in the net repayment of debts of over £2,000 million—that is, the last three Budgets. This vast surplus for the repayment of debt is not only, according to Mr. Powell (and I agree with him) over-insurance, but also it has reached a point, as Mr. Powell pointed out, where, instead of the gears biting, the wheels merely slip. We are thus confronted, as a result of this gigantic taxation and debt repayment, with the extraordinary phenomenon, almost unknown in history, of an inflationary recession; and that goes for almost the whole of the Free World. As Mr. Powell said, this is a paradox which creates a challenge to monetary thinking and the budgetary policy of both sides of the House, and in every other country in the Free World.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, in fact, accepted for the moment the views of Professor Milton Friedman, of Chicago, hook, line and sinker. For him, money supply is the only regulator of the national economy, and domestic credit expansion must be regulated accordingly in order to achieve his supreme objective of a favourable national balance of payments, to which, I think, we have been paying excessive attention. Because, supposing the United States and ourselves did achieve very favourable balances of payments in the near future, it could only be done in the absence of an increase in international reserves, at the expense of deterioration in the balance of payments of other countries in the Free World. My Lords, the present Finance Bill might well have been written by Professor Friedman himself, in Chicago; except that I do not think that he would have gone so far.
On the other hand, as a Cross-Bencher I must be quite fair and unbiased. Although I cannot agree with the present Budget proposals I must also add that when, on television the other day, Mr. Iain Macleod proposed decreases in taxation amounting to between £800 million and £1,000 million a year, he said nothing at all about what to put in the place of the taxes, or of this money, or where to find it, or how to achieve the economies. That is really the economics of Cloud-cuckoo-land. We cannot decrease present taxation by £1,000 million a year, either by achieving a comparable reduction in 1215 expenditure or by imposing additional taxation, except in new forms, such as an added value tax, of which I am not very much in favour.
My Lords, all I want to say this evening is that there is only one cure for the inflation from which we are suffering at the present time: it is economic growth and increased productivity—and I am sure that I shall carry noble Lords on both sides of the House with me when I say that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer should have given most to encouraging investment in industry in this country, and least to encouraging consumption. In fact, he did the reverse; and, as a result, in the first quarter of this year the gross national product of this country has fallen at an annual rate of 3 per cent., while prices have risen at an annual rate of 6 per cent. My Lords, that is simply no good. As Mr. Anthony Barber, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, said the other day:One thing above all else lies at the heart of our troubles; and that is the failure to achieve a rate of growth comparable to that in almost every other advanced country in the world.That is what has been going on during the last few years, except during the last year—with the exception of the United States where economic growth has ground to a standstill.
Meanwhile, we are back in square one; we are all back at square one. I find myself, as I so often do these days in respect of economic affairs, in agreement with Mr. Enoch Powell when he says that he is not prepared to sacrifice himself on the altar of an unknown god; at least, not until the paradox of inflation side by side with non-inflationary budgeting has run a considerably longer course, and we can see what are the causes of it, and why it has happened.
I am myself, my Lords, a Keynes man. I was brought up under his shadow. I believe that he was the greatest economist we have produced in this century, and perhaps one of the greatest economists of all time. He was essentially an empiricist. He believed that with imagination and intelligence most economic problems could be solved. He said himself, again and again, that the economic problem was a tragic muddle which could be sorted 1216 out. His basic theory was that the size of total demand, whether tending towards inflation or recession, depended mainly on the propensity to consume and the propensity to invest; not on the size of the money supply, which was effective only in so far as it had any effect on these two propensities. The two main themes of his life's work were the conquest of unemployment and a more liquid international monetary system; in his own words:The transition from economic anarchy to a rágime which deliberately aims at controlling and directing economic forces in the interests of social justice and social stability.With this object in view, in 1933 he proposed the issue of international gold notes; in 1941 the establishment of a Clearing Union and in 1945 the creation of "Bancor" to support the Bretton Woods Agreement. In 1946 he put his faith in the International Monetary Fund as a means of expanding the international liquidity of the whole world. In fact, the reverse happened; international liquidity has fallen to about one-third of what it was at the time of the Bretton Woods Agreement—hence eleven currency devaluations.
The primary objective of the international monetary authorities of the Free World at the moment seems to be no longer economic expansion, full employment and increased productivity, but the transformation of national deficits into national surpluses at all, and almost any, cost; and that is no way to run the economy of the Free World. A few months ago I foresaw the present recession—I have not always been wrong—and I suggested to your Lordships that it might be a good idea to raise the price of gold. I thought that that was the easiest, the swiftest and the best way of increasing international liquidity, and I still think so. My proposal was turned down, as I anticipated it would be, with contumely by all sides—there were about two exceptions.
I now turn to another proposal. It is not the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, with whom I profoundly disagree, that we face another devaluation. It is that we should, in international conference, aim at a wider margin than exists between exchange rates under the Bretton Woods Agreement so that there 1217 should be more flexibility. In 1925 we went back to the gold standard at the pre-war parity of exchange. Keynes wrote that the whole object was to link rigidly the City and Wall Street; and he added that a ripple in the United States could become an Atlantic roller by the time it reached this side of the Atlantic Ocean. That is, roughly, what has been happening in the last 48 hours.
At the moment, my Lords, we have astronomical interest rates for which we have to go back to the Middle Ages to find a parallel; and I believe they are the primary cause of the rise in the cost of living, because the cost of money is the basic factor in cost itself. We cannot go on paying 7 and 8 per cent. for money without a steadily increasing inflation and a rise in prices, which in turn gives rise to increased demands for wages. This is a completely vicious circle. All we are now doing in fact by these astronomical interest rates, which exist now in almost every country in the Western world and certainly in the Free World, is to put glue into the machine.
I believe (and these are my last words) that our great mistake is to have forsaken Keynes and to have adopted Friedman, because Friedman is doctrinaire whereas Keynes was an empiricist and a very much abler man. The whole present economic set-up of the Free World would have horrified Keynes. Those who are against liquidity (and he was very much in favour of it, both domestically and internationally) and who favour tight international money rule, even over the banks, are in total command to-day. For my part, I believe that the basic peril confronting the Free World is not overproduction; it is under-production. Expansion is the prescription that I would offer for a world which is starving, not only for food in many parts but for capital goods almost everywhere; and an abundance of liquidity to sustain and finance it on an international scale. Otherwise, my fear is that the Communists may increasingly prevail. As I say, it is under-production that is the great danger.
Increased wage demands, if not matched by increased productivity and cheaper money, will of course result in a wage-cost inflation and rising prices. The workers will have to realise that, and I only hope that they will not have to learn 1218 it the hard way. There is no doubt about it. But rising prices are better than continuous deflation culminating in recession and an immense reduction of output all over the Free World. That is what is going on at the present time. As I say, I have not always been wrong in the past. I opposed our return to the gold standard at the pre-war parity of exchange in 1925; I opposed Snowden's ghastly Budget in 1931, rightly described by Keynes as "replete with folly and injustice"; and I opposed our "Stop-Go" tactics in the 'sixties. Therefore my simple plea to-day is for economic expansion. If the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, thinks that I expect him to give a comprehensive reply to the observations that I have just made, let me hasten to say that I expect no such thing.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ECCLES
My Lords, I wish to detain your Lordships for only a moment or two in referring to Clause 4 of the Bill, which extends the tobacco excise duty to substitutes for tobacco. Why is the clause in the Bill? For a number of years the medical profession have been telling us that there is sufficient evidence that smoking cigarettes encourages a number of diseases, the worst of them being cancer. This evidence is really beyond refutation, and the Government themselves, I think quite rightly, are spending considerable sums of money on warning the public of the possible dangers of over smoking. As a result of the medical campaign, a number of companies in this country set about research into the development of substitutes for tobacco—and here I must declare my interest because I am a director of one of those companies. Because two or three of them are known to be very near finding a substitute, along come the Treasury officials to tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he must not lose any revenue. So before an "innocent" cigarette has been put on the market the Government extend the enormous tobacco excise duty to tobacco substitutes.
This is not only wrong in itself—it is wrong to prefer taxes to human life—but it is thoroughly unfair on those people who are near to the point of producing an acceptable "innocent" cigarette. Let us consider the difficulty of marketing such a product, against all the entrenched forces of the great tobacco 1219 companies, who are of course determined to see that a tobacco substitute does not attract the public. I listened to my noble friend Lord Boothby saying that if we got our economics right we could get our general situation right; but I have to disagree with him. I believe that what is wrong is that we have not got our feeling for people right. If we did, then I think that many of our economic difficulties would be soluble; and they are not going to be soluble by the old economists' tricks, however clever they may be. I regret very much—and I believe that any Member of your Lordships' House who, like myself, has had a member of his family die from lung cancer will agree—that this clause should be in any British Finance Bill.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I was not expecting that there would be a debate on this Bill to-day, but in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has said, I should like to add just a few words in regard to the problems of economic expansion.
First of all, it is interesting to note that during the period from 1960 to 1970 the growth target set by O.E.C.D. has been more than fulfilled. That was that all the countries of O.E.C.D., stretching across Europe from Sweden in one direction, across North America, and as far as Japan in the other, should increase their total real growth of national product by 50 per cent. The actual figure reached was nearer 60 per cent., which means that the capacity of the Free World to create wealth has been increased in the last ten years by an amount corresponding to something like the United States of America as it was in 1960. That is an amazing achievement, and nobody can say that we have not got economic growth.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting, that does not apply to this country.
§ LORD HANKEY
I am coming to precisely that point, I warmly agree with the noble Lord, and I am going to rub the point home. During the next 10 years, from 1970 to 1980, the Ministers of O.E.C.D., who met last week, have agreed (although your Lordships will hardly have seen it in the Press) to adopt 1220 a new growth target of no less than 65 per cent., which means at compound rates of interest a growth rate of 5.3 per cent. per year.
Some countries have a very high rate. Japan is in a "recession" when it achieves only 7 per cent. a year, and is in "some danger of inflation" if it exceeds about 13 per cent. By the turn of the century Japan will be one of the super-Powers, economically speaking. Some other Powers have only attained a much lower rate, and I am sorry to say that that goes for the United Kingdom, where we are achieving an average of only 2 or 3 per cent. The effect of this is that whereas the rest of the world has been expanding at a rate of which we in this country are hardly conscious (unless we travel a great deal), this country is rather rapidly falling behind. I am sorry to say that if you take the O.E.C.D. statistics of income per head, the United Kingdom has fallen in the last ten years from, I think, sixth or seventh to no less than thirteenth. That is in terms of income per head.
Those figures are rather difficult to compare with one another. Outwardly it appears that France and Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and some others in Europe, are all ahead of the United Kingdom in income per head. If one comes to working out the real standard of living which people enjoy, I think it is harder to compare them. But there is no doubt that if the figures are compared from year to year the United Kingdom is going down slowly. I think that one day we may have to answer a very awkward question from some of our children. When our children, or grandchildren, say, "Dad, why was it the United Kingdom became poor in your time?", I do not quite know what we are going to answer. As my noble friend Lord Boothby has said, we must have a greater regard to increasing production in the United Kingdom and, above all, to increasing productivity.
There is some reason to think, quite frankly, that economic expansion is very difficult to separate from a tendency to inflation. When one decides to build a factory one raises a tremendous amount of money; proceeds to spend millions on land, railway lines, roads, cement flooring, buildings and machines, on 1221 training people and building houses for them, buying buses for them to go around in, buying raw materials; and finally the people are trained and the first lot of products are usually not much good. At the end of the process one has spent probably several million pounds before there is anything in the form of products on the market to show for it. That, I believe, necessarily means that beneath expansion there is an inflationary tendency. In an economy which is expanding, therefore, I believe we always have to look out for a certain danger of inflation. If we look at the steady decline of the real value of pretty nearly all currencies since the great periods of economic expansion started, it seems difficult to combat this theory. But certain it is that unless productivity advances with wages, inflation is absolutely inevitable.
The Government have been extremely brave, in my opinion, in trying to make an incomes policy work. I said some years ago that it was excellent economics but it might be bad politics, because in this country our population have got into a state of absolute despair at the way in which their wages have been held back and prices have fairly continuously risen. Prices in this country have not risen as fast as prices in some other countries, but the fact remains that the growth of our people's standard of living has fallen behind the growth of the standard of living of other countries; and the rise of our prices, which is a very serious factor at the present time, has diminished our competitivity in international markets.
I am not one of those who believe that we are in great danger owing to the shortage of international liquidity. I believe that the techniques developed by central banks for exchanging deposits on a huge scale to counterbalance short-term movements, the expansion of I.M.F. quotas and the introduction of S.D.R.s, and various other techniques, which I will not go into, have created a somewhat new situation. It is true, as my noble friend Lord Boothby said, that the reserves in the hands of this country have not increased at a rate corresponding to trade; and that, I believe, is dangerous. I think there is another factor also: that the time taken for the swings of international trade to produce corrective factors is longer than it used to be, because there are so 1222 many social policies which prevent, and indeed have to prevent, many natural corrective factors from operating. Therefore there is some shortage of actual reserves, first-line reserves, in the hands of national banks, when one compares them with the enormous increase in international trade.
However, there is another factor to which I particularly want to draw attention. There is an enormous increase in the amount of money which is lying about waiting to be used, as economic expansion proceeds, and is liable to swing about the world at rather short notice. This amount of money is so absolutely colossal that if it all moved at once I do not suppose any system of international exchange control or exchange regulation, or indeed international exchanges, could stand up to the strain. Fortunately that does not happen; but I feel that the world economy is rather like a truck going along a road, full of liquid. It is rather a "ropey" old truck and swings from side to side, and the liquid in it swings more and more and is liable to overbalance the truck. What do we do in order to protect the truck and the driver? We do not take the liquid away—we must have liquidity. What I think we do is to put a baffle-plate down the truck so that the water can move but it cannot all move at once. That corresponds to the controls on capital movement which we have been obliged to introduce.
What worries me about the present situation is that the United Kingdom is falling steadily behind and, as my noble friend Lord Boothby said, every time the Government introduce further taxes on consumption, everybody—it is almost a universal conspiracy of our people—finds some way round it by asking for extra wages, and so the ability to consume goes on upwards. I do not know how this is going to be checked, but I believe that the economists and everybody else are going to have to think again.
I agree with Lord Boothby that the rate of interest has reached a level where it is discouraging further economic expansion. But we cannot reduce the rate of interest in one country without the danger of producing precisely the kind of capital flows which I was mentioning just now. The duty of the Economic Policy Committee of O.E.C.D., of which I used to 1223 be Chairman, is to see that these changes of interest rates and other internal measures are kept more or less in line, so that the lorry of the world economy, as it proceeds along this bumpy road, is not swung right off the road at any one time.
I do not believe there is any great danger of a recession at the present time, because everybody knows, particularly from Keynes, of whom I am at least an equal admirer with my noble friend Lord Boothby, how a situation of that kind can be controlled. But it certainly is very difficult to reach a satisfactory control in one country without taking account of the developments in another country. The changes in the situation produced by the growth targets, and the tremendous economic growth, give a dynamic factor to the situation which is going to require very close study. My Lords, I believe that O.E.C.D. is a great help in this matter and that if we in the United Kingdom can only get our own situation straight, we shall greatly benefit by it.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, I nearly always agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, when he speaks in the House. I must apologise to him because I was not in the Chamber when he spoke this afternoon, but I think I know what he was saying, from the speech made by the noble Lord. Lord Hankey, who has just sat down. The point I was hoping to make was this. It is easy to talk about growth, but it is very difficult to compare like with like. Growth in Iceland, or growth in Japan, is a different matter from growth in Great Britain. We started a long way ahead of other people—in fact. ahead of any other nation in the world that I can think of. It can be said that there has been growth in Brazil; and that would be true. But it costs £1.500 to join the local beach club. This is inflationary growth. The point I should like to make is that we in this country have already grown, and there is little room here for much in the way of a quick increase in the standard of living. It will increase, although more slowly. This point has not been made sufficiently strongly.
The other point that occurs to me is that nowadays our currency is probably one of the few in the world which is 1224 not grossly overvalued—and I mean grossly overvalued. Apart from certain currencies, such as the German mark and the Swiss franc, the pound sterling is now on a basis of real strength; and to my mind this is probably of more importance, from the point of view of the standard of living, than any rise or fall in the annual percentage rate of growth.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, in the normal way I should seize with both hands the invitation extended to me by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and not reply to this debate. But it so happens that we are still awaiting the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, and the choice before us is either listening to me for a few minutes or adjourning the House. So in the time available perhaps I might endeavour to make one or two references to what has been said.
May I first of all say to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that I understand very well indeed why he made the point on Clause 4; and he made his point, if I may say so, very convincingly. As he himself will admit, there is nothing that we can do about this now. The debate on the merits of this is over. All I would do is to repeat the undertaking which was given by my honourable friend the Minister of State, in another place when he said:I can give this undertaking … that there is nothing in the clause which, when the time comes, will be an impediment to the successful marketing of such cigarettes"—he was referring to cigarettes with a synthetic tobacco—if they can be produced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons. 27/5/70, col. 1833.]I hope that assurance will at any rate be of some help to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles.
The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, apparently has two admirers in this House—my noble friend Lord Addison and myself. I, too, always listen with great interest to what he says on financial affairs. I have listened to him now over many years and, as he says, there have been times when he has been right. There have also been times when he has been wrong. The noble Lord and I exchanged some words last October about gold, and he made some prophecies. Well, the final 1225 day has not yet arrived, but it has been interesting to me to notice what has happened to the price of gold since that discussion. From 44 dollars an ounce, it came down to 40 dollars at the time of our debate. It then fell to 35 dollars, and even though it is now a little higher—I believe it is 36 dollars—nevertheless I still feel that what I said was right and that what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said on that occasion was inaccurate.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, we will see. I must also say how much happier I was when I heard the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, move from the authority of Mr. Powell and Mr. Barber to that of the late Maynard Keynes. I am bound to say that I was very worried when the noble Lord quoted, at such length and with such approval, Mr. Powell on economic affairs. I really feel that the noble Lord should not allow the stock markets to make him quite so pessimistic.
That leads me to the next thing that I ought to say to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. While I recognise his qualifications for giving us a warning, I think he will probably agree with me on my first point, that we are in much better shape to meet any difficulties now than we were five years ago, or even two years ago—very much better shape.
The second point is that we ought not to over-exaggerate the difficulties which we see around us. It is true that output has recently fallen in the United States of America, but elsewhere—in Europe and Japan—growth is continuing at a healthy rate, and there are several economies that are running very near to capacity levels. Here in this country, taking account of probable external developments, we have forecast a growth of output of 3½ per cent. between the first half of this year and the first half of 1971. I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Hankey and Lord Boothby, that everyone wants growth. Of course we have had growth in the past, but we have always had a balance-of-payments problem as well, and it is a fact that the past year is the first time that we have had growth and no balance-of-payments difficulties. I do not think we should underestimate the achievement that stands to our credit there.
1226 The Organisation for European Cooperation and Development, as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, has reminded us, have recently published an assessment of the American economy. They recognise that there is a risk of a down-swing there, but they took the view that renewed growth is probable in the second half of this year and that it is reasonable to expect that the pick-up in economic activity anticipated for the second half of this year may continue into 1971. There has undoubtedly been a severe fall on Wall Street, but I do not think we should allow a fall in share prices to cloud our view that the long-term prospects of the United States economy are sound. Naturally, short-term uncertainties in the United States have had an unsettling effect on share prices in other financial centres, London not excluded, but I trust that settled conditions will soon return, and I am glad to note that although, as the saying is, one swallow does not make a summer, at a quarter to three this afternoon the Financial Times Share Index stood at 329.6, which is 8.6 points up from yesterday's close. So the situation is not altogether depressing.
The noble Lord referred to the possibility of concerted action between major financial centres. On that I would say two things. The first is that, although the situation is worrying, what I have said makes it clear that we do not believe this is the verge of any catastrophe. The second (and the noble Lord will agree with me about this) is that the machinery for international financial consultation is profoundly different from what it was on those earlier occasions when he gave a warning. Representatives of the countries mainly concerned are in constant regular contact, under the ægis of the International Monetary Fund, the O.E.C.D., the Group of Ten and the Bank for International Settlements, quite apart from the more informal but very frequent contacts that go on between Governments and central banks by exchange of visits and correspondence. This machinery provides not only the means of international vigilance but the basis on which vigilance can develop into concerted action if and when the need arises. And I put it to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, worried as he is, that this consultation, this expertise that we now have, is a considerable insurance against the sort of risk to which he called our attention.
1227 I do not think it would be light of me to go further. I listened with great appreciation to what the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said, and to what was said by my noble friend Lord Addison, who was very apposite. Taking everything into account, I see absolutely no reason why this House should not now give the Finance Bill a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution), Bill read 3a, and passed.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, in order to give time for another place to let us have the Consolidated Fund Bill, I hope that it will be for the general convenience of the House if we now adjourn until five o'clock.
My Lords, so far as noble Lords on these Benches are concerned, that is perfectly agreeable, but I trust that it will be somewhere about five o'clock, and will not mean that noble Lords will have to sit about here until six o'clock or nearly seven o'clock.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, if the Bill does not reach us by that time, it will be my proposal that we then consider it at an agreed time before the announced Sitting of the House tomorrow. From signals I have received, I am assured that the Bill ought to be with us before five o'clock.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am sorry that there is this further difficulty, but my information is that the Bill for which we are waiting is actually on its way, and I think it may be more to the convenience of the House if we remain sitting for a short time, when I trust the Bill will be with us. Otherwise, it will be necessary to adjourn again during pleasure.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, there appear to be certain difficulties in establishing communications with the other place. The business has actually been 1228 transacted there, but the physical porterage of the document from that Chamber to this seems to be confronting the authorities in another place with certain difficulties, which I must say—and I take the opportunity of putting on the Record—are quite intolerable. It is the second time we have had this take place. It is nothing to do with the legislative side of the thing; it is the sheer machinery of it. They appear to be incapable of putting the document together, wrapping the tape round and sending it to this place. I think that ought to be on the Record, and I hope that maybe the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition would care to support me.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I was going to ask the noble Lord, since we are busy wasting time, whose fault this is. It brings the House and the whole Parliamentary system into disrepute when this House sits waiting for something to happen when the other place has finished the Bill. I have just walked back from the other place—it took me 30 seconds. Whose fault is this? Perhaps the noble Lord the Chief Whip would give an assurance that, even though Parliament is going to be prorogued to-morrow, he might take up this and suggest that everybody in this House, regardless of where he sits, gets fed up with this.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for what he has said. I do agree with him. I did take it up on a previous occasion, and we received certain assurances that it would not happen again. Nevertheless, we now have the same situation and I see no alternative—I am now told that the Bill is on its way, but it seems to be rather a long way. I think that perhaps the dignity of the House would best be served—does the noble Lord wish to put another point?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
Who is responsible for this? Is it some office of the House of Commons which is responsible for seeing that the Bill is here? It is nothing to do with anybody in this House. I cannot conceive of another place allowing this to happen, and I do not see why we should.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, may I put a suggestion to the noble Lord that if this is going to happen we take over the 1229 administration from the portals of the House of Commons and make sure that we bring up the Bill as soon as they have finished with it? It seems to me that they are totally incompetent in this administrative problem.
§ LORD BESWICK
The Speaker has endorsed the Bill. The inability lies in getting it from there to here. I can see nothing of any dust arising, and I think the best we can do is again to adjourn during pleasure.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.