HL Deb 13 January 1976 vol 367 cc12-4

2.58 p.m.

The CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (The Earl of Listowel)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the following Lords be named of the Select Committee on the Bill, as proposed by the Committee of Selection:—

That it be an instruction to the Committee that they should report the Bill to the House not later than Thursday the 6th of May next;

That the Committee have leave to adjourn from place to place;

That the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee from time to time be printed and, if the Committee think fit, delivered out; and

That the Committee do meet on Thursday the 29th of January at Three o'clock.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, in accordance with the notice I have given, I rise to ask the Government whether they are happy about the legislative timetable for this Bill. Had I possessed any idea that the Government would agree to a Select Committee on this Bill, I should have spoken on the Second Reading. It seems to me that it is a matter on which a great deal is already known, contrary to some of the things which were said in the debate, although the judgment as to what to do about it may be considerably more complex. I sincerely hope that the setting up of this Committee is in no way seen as a move which will delay the further consideration of this Bill in Parliament as a whole. I do not say the further progress, because I do not yet know which way I would vote. It would be a great pity if the further progress was delayed by what I believe to be a procedural tactic. Are the Government really happy about the legislative programme?


My Lords, Governments are never very happy about their legislative programme. When we discussed this Bill on Second Reading it was the view of the Government that all that needs to be known is, in fact, known. But there were other noble Lords, particularly on the Benches opposite, who felt that before this Bill was passed there should be another inquiry, the previous inquiry having been very many years ago. It was with some reluctance, not only in terms of time but also with regard to the question of precedent, that I agreed to the setting up of this Select Committee. I did so in the firm understanding with those noble Lords who wished to see a Select Committee that this was not a means of delay in the consideration by this House of the remaining stages of the Bill and it was agreed, as the noble Lord will see, that there should be an instruction. That is the instruction that the Committee shall report the Bill to the House not later than Thursday, 6th May. I have no doubt that that instruction will be complied with, and therefore I do not see any difficulty in seeing this Bill through its remaining stages in order that another place may give its own consideration to it, bearing in mind of course that another place has already passed this Bill in its present form. I should have thought, therefore, that within this Session this Bill ought to be able to go through all its proceedings in both Houses.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that my concern is slightly the other way? In view of the quite astonishing level of ignorance displayed by contributors both in another place and in this House during the course of the debate, may I ask my noble friend whether he is satisfied that this proposal gives sufficient time in which to provide noble Lords with the information and knowledge which they then so obviously lacked? If the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, feels that this time is not sufficient for his task, will it be open to him to come back to this House and ask for more time so that, as a result of his and his colleagues' efforts, noble Lords and Members of the other House may be properly informed when they discuss this matter next time, as they obviously were not properly informed last time?


My Lords, whether or not the House was ignorant on this matter on the last occasion I would not wish to conjecture. Of course the Committee can always come back, but I think it would be the feeling of your Lordships' House that this Committee, under the noble Lord, Lord Trevelyan, will be able to steer its way through this complicated and emotional subject and be able to meet this timetable. It was a date which was decided upon after consultation through the usual channels and I have complete confidence in this Committee's being able to conclude its work and to make the proper report to your Lordships' House by that date.