HL Deb 28 July 1975 vol 363 cc717-24

3.1 p.m.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In moving this Motion, may I refer to the programme for two Bills which are affected by it? The Remuneration Charges and Grants Bill has now passed its Committee stage in another place and is expected to complete its remaining stages there tomorrow night. I propose that the Bill should have its Second Reading here tomorrow and for the Committee and other stages to be taken on Thursday. On Wednesday a debate on the economic situation will be followed by a Motion, and the Finance Bill will also be taken through all its stages then.

If noble Lords wish to move Amendments to the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill, this will be possible on Thursday and I have arranged that the Public Bill Office will accept notice of Amendments at any time between now and the Committee stage of the Bill, and these will be published from the time when the Bill is received from the Commons. I hope that this arrangement will be for the general convenience of the House. Although unusual, it is not without precedent to put down Amendments before Second Reading. I believe that it is to everyone's advantage to have as much notice as possible of any Amendments that we shall be discussing. I should also inform the House that it is our intention to introduce tomorrow the Community Land (No. 2) Bill which will be for debate on Monday, 4th August.

Moved, That Standing Order No. 38 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be suspended until the Summer Recess so far as is necessary to give the Government power to arrange the order of business; and that Standing Order No. 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be suspended for the same period.—(Lord Shepherd.)


My Lords, the Motion which the Leader of the House has just moved is one we have come to expect all Governments to move at this time of the year, so nobody on this side of the House would object to what the noble Lord is doing. However, I should like to clear up two points arising out of what he said. First, I understood him to say that the Second Reading of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill would be taken tomorrow. Did the noble Lord mean that?


I did not, my Lords. I was doing some quick paraphrasing of a prepared statement and I misunderstood or mistook my own writing; the Second Reading will be on Wednesday with the Committee stage on Thursday.


My Lords, that seems to have cleared that up satisfactorily. I hope that my other point will be cleared up equally satisfactorily. In all parts of the House, and certainly on this side, I think there is increasing concern about the amount of legislation which is left for the spill-over, the four weeks before the Prorogation of Parliament. There is no doubt that the House will be very busy indeed. There are three Bills, two of which will only just have been discussed by your Lordships, and all of them have to be on the Statute Book, if the Government have their way, by the end of the Session. They are the Community Land (No. 2) Bill, the Employment Protection Bill and the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill. I doubt very much whether in that short time those three Bills can be discussed by the House in the way they should be discussed. Indeed, two of them have large sections which have never been discussed at all by the House of Commons. Consequently, I am exceedingly worried about what may happen to your Lordships in that month.

All Governments—I am not making a Party point here—make a habit of pushing everything to your Lordships' House at the end of the Session; but there comes a moment when it is almost too much for the House to bear, and it might very well be that unless the Leader of the House finds some other means it will not be possible for the House to do that which he is asking. It is proposed, as I understand it, that next week the second day of the Report stage of the Industry Bill should be taken and that at the same time we should take the Third Reading. I really do not feel that my noble friends and I could agree to that—

Several Noble Lords

Hear, hear!


—and it does not seem to me right that on a Bill of this importance, a Bill as controversial as the Industry Bill, we should have the Report stage and Third Reading on the same day. I therefore ask the Leader of the House to take note of the fact that certainly we on this side of the House could not agree to that.

3.7 p.m.


My Lords. I wish to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said. This House is in grave danger of risking its reputation as the Revising Chamber if we go on putting this sort of pressure on it at this time of the year. I must express to the Leader of the House my serious doubts about the way in which we are asked to treat the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill, by taking all the remaining stages in one day. This Bill has been hastily put together, a tremendous number of Amendments have been put down and selected in another place, and it may be that we shall not only require a Committee stage but a Report stage if, as a Revising Chamber, we are to do our job properly.


My Lords, I am entirely in the hands of the House in regard to our business. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, all Governments at this time of the year find themselves in embarrassing situations. I tell the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in all honesty, that I find myself in perhaps the most embarrassing situation because I freely recognise that the pressure of business this year is abnormally heavy; but some of that pressure is as a consequence of agreements reached through the usual channels in another place to overcome some of their problems, and of course we have been aware of those arrangements.

This is one of the reasons why we have a particularly short time for dealing with the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill. The Bill is required for Royal Assent by 1st August and I am quite willing—I have already had some conversations—to have conservations through the usual channels on how best this Bill can be conducted through your Lordships' House. I had intended to take all stages on Thursday with the general debate on the White Paper on Wednesday; but it had been put to me, again through the usual channels, that it might be wiser to take the Second Reading on the Wednesday, leaving Thursday much freer for the Committee and remaining stages of the Bill. If the noble Lord, Lord Byers, feels very strongly in regard to the Report stage, I am willing to listen to any representations to see whether the situation can be met; but I suggest that we see how we go with this Bill.


My Lords, the difficulty is that the Report stage is not being taken in another place until tomorrow and we shall not know the attitude of the Government and therefore what attitude this House ought to take as to the Amendments which should be put down here.


My Lords, that I fully appreciate. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, is as well aware as I am of the problems and difficulties in another place. If the noble Lord would wish, I will develop my speech somewhat on Wednesday to indicate to your Lordships what Amendments have been made between the conclusion of the Committee stage on Friday afternoon and the Wednesday. In regard to the problem of the spill-over, it is true that we have three major Bills. Looking at the programme, I should have thought that we could have done justice to these Bills; but I can only say to your Lordships that if there is a genuine desire for a fuller examination of them, then I am quite willing to suggest to your Lordships that we come back sometime in September so that we might then have a much more relaxed examination of the legislation.

In regard to the Industry Bill, I recognise that it is controversial. I would not hazard a guess what will be the situation for some of our companies which may need assistance during what may be our Summer Recess. I should have thought that there was very great advantage in having the Bill on the Statute Book by the Summer Recess, but that is a matter for your Lordships. I am quite willing to have further discussion with the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition to seek to persuade him and his noble colleagues to let the Bill receive the Royal Assent by then but, if your Lordships insist, there is nothing I can do but let the Royal Assent take place in the spill-over. However, I do not believe that it would be for the good of many companies which are in need of assistance from an organisation like the NEB that we should delay the passage of the Bill.


Is my noble friend aware that, being one of the greatest employers of labour in the country, we should take into consideration the employees in Government service who will be responsible in the various Departments? I was rather surprised to hear the observations of the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Byers. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, especially, as an old Parliamentarian from the other place, ought to know the procedure and how matters are conducted there. It was rather remarkable to hear the observations which he made in support of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.


My Lords, I only say to my noble friend that I feel that the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Byers, have done something perfectly understandable and right. I am indeed fortunate that neither of them quoted a speech that I made in 1971, on a very similar occasion when I said, "Enough is enough!" never dreaming that I should have to deal with a similar situation. But this is a matter for the House. I do not complain. I believe that it is right that Governments should from time to time be brought to heel if they put too great a burden on both Houses. However, I feel that this is a matter which can best be dealt with through the usual channels with our usual degree of harmony and understanding. I believe that in the end we shall reach the best solution.


My Lords, with regard to the Industry Bill, may I say that we on this side of the House very much doubt whether it will be necessary to carry the Industry Bill through in order to help companies. The previous Government put the Industry Act on to the Statute Book and Sections 7 and 8 of that Act still remain. It is very much more important, I believe, that we should not give the impression in the country that we are hastening legislation through and are not discussing it properly.

Secondly, the noble Lord said he was proposing to give a First Reading to the Community Land (No. 2) Bill. Is not this a second example of a rather dubious practice—namely, is it not being brought forward a little too soon? We have already had that procedure with the Protection of Policyholders Bill, but that was for a very different reason. Now we are having a Bill brought to this House before it has been fully discussed in another place, and we shall be debating on Second Reading what may well not be the Bill as it ultimately comes to this House. Surely that cannot be right? It is just an example of how the House is being grossly overladen and of how the possibility of discussing legislation properly is being denied to this House.


My Lords, with regard to the Industry Bill, I should have been very much happier and should perhaps have concurred with the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, had the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation still been in being. The noble Lord will know what I mean when I say that. With regard to the Community Land (No. 2) Bill, the proposal is made for convenience in order that the House may debate the broad principles of the Government's proposals. The Bill, when it conies from another place, will of course be subject to debate; but it is hoped—again through the usual channels—that having had a broad discussion of the general principles, your Lordships will be willing to give the Bill a formal Second Reading when it comes from another place and to start work on the Committee stage immediately. In my view—and I believe the noble Lord will agree—that is the real purpose of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, is it really necessary, in addition to the Report stage and Third Reading of the Industry Bill, to take the Second Reading of the Employment Protection Bill next week? Some of us are engaged on both Bills. Would it not be more sensible to deal with only one, the Industry Bill, and to seek to get it right so far as this House is concerned, rather than starting on the Employment Protection Bill, since we cannot hope to discuss it further in Committee for another month or two?


My Lords, the noble Lord would be correct, and I should be very happy to go along with him, if the House would be willing to come back in September to debate the Second Reading and then go on into Committee in the spill-over. Unless we either come back in September or take the Second Reading next week, it will not be possible to provide the usual time between Committee and Report stage to which your Lordships' House has always attached special importance.


My Lords, without wishing to distract the Leader of the House and noble Lords opposite from the enticing prospect of buckets and spades, is the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill coming to this House before we rise and, if so, on what day are we to have the Second Reading?


My Lords, on 7th August.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that information, may I ask whether he is expecting or hoping that that Second Reading will go through on the nod, or is he expecting a real debate about it in view of the unsatisfactory debate we had last week?


My Lords, there is a great deal between hope and expectation. My expectation is that it may last a little longer than I had hoped, but I still hope that it will be short.

On Question, Motion agreed to.