HL Deb 29 July 1971 vol 323 cc622-7

3.21 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Ninth Report from the Select Committee be now considered.

Moved, That the Report be now considered.—(The Earl of Listowel.)

The Committee's Report was as follows:


The Committee have heard an oral report on the evidence which was given on July 7, 1971 by the Chairman of Committees and the Leaders of the three Parties to the House of Commons Procedure Committee on the four subjects of proposed co-operation between the Houses, viz.:

  1. (a) distribution of Bills between the Houses;
  2. (b) joint pre-legislation committees;
  3. (c) joint post-legislation committees; and
  4. (d) a joint committee to examine or debate subordinate legislation.

The Committee will give further consideration to the question of the proposed co-operation in the Autumn.


The Committee have considered the practice of putting down amendments to leave out Clauses or Schedules on the Report Stage and the opinions expressed by the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition on this subject (H.L. Debates, July 1, 1971, cols. 491–7).

The Committee endorse the guidance then given to the House to the effect that it is undesirable, as a general practice, to move amendments on Report to leave out whole Clauses or Schedules, where the purpose underlying the amendments is to probe rather than a genuine desire to leave out the Clauses or Schedules in question. The proper time for such probing is the Committee stage.


The Committee have given further consideration to the experimental procedure on Divisions and recommend:—

  1. (a) that the Question should be put a second time after three minutes from the calling of the Division, instead of after two minutes, as recommended in the Fourth Report from the Procedure Committee on 3rd May, 1971;
  2. (b) that the experimental procedure on Divisions should be continued until Christmas; and
  3. (c) that at the end of six minutes from the calling of the Division, the Question should be repeated by the Lord on the Woolsack or in the Chair, but that the words at present used to invite those Peers who have not already voted to proceed to the Division Lobby should be dispensed with.


On 7th July, 1971, a Starred Question was asked in which certain words were italicised in order to give them emphasis.

The Committee are of opinion that it is not in accordance with the custom of the House to italicise or underline words in Motions or Questions put on the Order Paper in order to give them emphasis.


The Committee have considered the way in which amendments are recorded in the Minutes of Proceedings, particularly in any Committee or Report Stage which extends over more than one day. They note that at present there is no indication of the point reached in a Marshalled List of amendments at the end of a day's proceedings, unless the House has completed its consideration of the List. The Committee recommend that the Minutes should give details of the last amendment considered and disposed of.


My Lords, may I refer briefly to this Report? There is some very important material in it, and I hope that noble Lords who do not always see these Reports may take the opportunity of looking at this one. May I comment very briefly on two aspects? There is in this Report an endorsement of the views expressed by the noble Earl the Leader of the House, and myself, on the undesirability on Report stage of moving, for probing purposes only, to leave out clauses. We discussed this matter and there was general agreement. This situation was brought about by circumstances which were not wholly within the control of the Opposition at the time. I am sure that this conclusion is right and I support the endorsement of the Procedure Committee.

It ought however to be formally recorded, so that there is no misundering—and I am sure this is the intention—that this endorsement still does not in any way remove the right of noble Lords to move to leave out clauses on Report, provided that that is precisely what they mean. That is really the basis of that part of the Report. I mention it only so that if, in future, noble Lords in any part of the House choose to take such action, it is understood that this will not be quoted against them. Of course the purpose of moving to leave out a clause on Committee stage is really to draw attention to the fact that one is going to have a debate on the Question, that the clause shall stand part of the Bill, and one may vote against it. I hope that the noble Earl the Leader of the House, agrees with that.

There is a second point to which I wish to refer, and this may save my speaking on the Motion with regard to the amendment of Standing Order No. 50 which provides, as does the Report, for the continuation of our new procedure on Divisions. This, I think, is working extremely well and is of great convenience to the House. I believe it is right to alter the period before the second call from two to three minutes. Some noble Lords may find it disturbing to wait a little longer in the Division Lobby; but, bearing in mind that the Clerks sometimes take more than two minutes to come from distant parts, I think this decision is right. I am sure we are right to continue the experiment a little longer and not to come to a final decision at this stage.

Finally, I should like to make a protest which I have made before, that we ought not to produce temporary Amendments to Standing Orders, because the House then has to amend an Amendment to a temporary Standing Order. I am sure that in future, if we are going in for this sort of experiment, it would be better merely to suspend the Standing Order and for the House to record what it wants, so that we do not have to come back and keep making Amendments to what is essentially a temporary Standing Order. In fact, there ought not to be such a creature in existence.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl, the Lord Chairman of Committees, can help me here, because I do not seem to be in complete agreement with what my noble friend said in the first part of his speech. Is it not a fact that on Report stage we never have the Question put, That a clause shall stand part of a Bill? Therefore, there is no opportunity, unless one moves that the clause be left out, of discussing the clause as a whole.


My Lords, I think I ought to remind the House that the Question before it is, That the Report be now considered. If we want to consider it, we ought to wait until the next Question which is, That the Report be now agreed to.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now agreed to.

Moved, That the Report be now agreed to.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, this enables me to make another speech and I much appreciate it. I do not wish to proceed further upon this matter, but it would be interesting if the noble Earl felt like repying to my noble friend. My impression is that in either place one cannot vote against a clause in this sort of way, unless one really means to throw it out. Furthermore, on Report we do not have debates on the Question, That the clause stand part of the Bill.


My Lords, may I reply to the procedural point of the noble Lord, Lord Royle? The noble Lord is of course completely correct, that on Report stage we do not have to move that clauses stand part of the Bill. That is done only on Committee stage. But the point in the Procedure Committee's Report to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has referred is the recommendation that if, on Report stage, a noble Lord wishes merely to probe, he should not move the omission of a clause. He should move that a clause should be omitted—which he is still perfectly free to do—only if he really wishes the clause to be omitted.


My Lords, I think we are now in order. All that I should like to say on the two substantive points is that I endorse completely what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, has said. I am of course reminded, in discussing the question of Amendments to leave out clauses on Report stage, that the discussion which the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, and I had was on the night of the great flood in your Lordships' House. I should also like to say that I have taken note of, and I have some sympathy with, the subsidiary point which the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, made about Amendments to Amendments to temporary Standing Orders. I thought he had a point, and perhaps this is something which we can bear in mind. But on the two substantive points, I cordially support what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, has said, and indeed the Report of the Procedure Committee.


My Lords, may I ask how one would raise on Report any matter in regard to a clause? If one wants to ask questions or to be clear about an amended clause, how does one do it unless one has the opportunity of putting something on the Marshalled List?


My Lords, the answer is to put down an Amendment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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