HL Deb 16 July 1974 vol 353 cc1064-6

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of your Lordships' House, I wish to make a Business Statement. As some noble Lords may know, the Commons have sent a Message to your Lordships' House asking that we should return the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill to them for further consideration. I would propose that this Message should be taken into consideration at the conclusion of our Second Reading debate to-day and before the Question on the Second Reading is put. I understand that if we return the Bill to the Commons they may consider it further to-morrow, in which case, of course, the Bill will be then returned to us. The Question on the Bill will be put at some stage after it has been returned, I hope on Thursday. My Lords, I hope that this course commends itself to your Lordships' House.


My Lords, before the House passes this, could we know something of the circumstances? What are the precedents? I looked up the Record, and there is a precedent on August 1, 1972, but this is related to minor printing errors. In this case the Bill has been passed by the House of Commons, and the Motion now before this House is to consider this Bill on Second Reading. Are we now being asked, just by your leave, to bring these proceedings to an end, or to go through the charade of a debate until all the list of speakers has been exhausted, and does the Leader of the House then propose to get up and ask that the Bill be sent back merely because the other place has demanded it? Is that the independence of the Second Chamber? I wish the Leader of the House would give the House some guidance on this. After all, this is his job. The Statement has now been made. Is it debatable? Is the Motion that he puts before the House debatable? And what is going to happen to the Motion for Second Reading that is now before the House? Is that going to be allowed to lapse? So the questions I would ask are: first of all, can we know about precedents—not precedents concerning printing errors, but substantive precedents—for the guidance of the House? Secondly, at what point can the House discuss this matter?


My Lords, I am sure my noble friend will appreciate that, as Leader of the House, I should seek to do what, after consultation, I feel is in the interests of your Lordships' House. I have just made a Business Statement. I am never quite clear whether such a Statement is debatable. Sometimes, of course, extensive questioning leads into what appears to be a debate; but I think that in practice and by custom a Business Statement such as the one I have just made is not debatable.

My Lords, I would however say to my noble friend that the House is not yet aware of the Message. I hope the House will accept my advice that we consider that Message at the end of our Second Reading debate. Then it will be for the House to decide whether it should respond to the request of the other Chamber. There is no automatic reaction from this House; it is for this House to consider. I can only say to my noble friend that there will be a Motion in order that we can debate this issue, and certainly my noble friend will then have a full opportunity to deploy his views on the matter.


My Lords, if I might have the leave of the House to add a word, I think I would support what the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said. We are feeling our way here; the procedure is very loose. What we normally do is to act with common sense. What the Leader of the House has proposed is that we should discuss if we wish to do so—and the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, may well wish to do so—the reasons lying behind this, the precedents and advice on what Standing Orders have to say to us, at the conclusion of our debate. We are in the middle of a Second Reading debate, and I would advise your Lordships in all parts of the House to accept what the Leader of the House has said and to debate the matter further, if we wish to do so, after the Lord Chancellor has concluded the Second Reading debate.


My Lords, I should like to support this view, because the British Constitution is a flexible one. But may I say how gratifying it is to hear the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, plead for the independence of this Chamber? It really is magnificent.