HL Deb 22 October 1976 vol 375 cc1761-3

My Lords, I should like to ask the Leader of the House what he proposes to do about the next Business. It has come to my knowledge through the usual channels that it is the Government's intention to proceed with the next Bill. It is now a quarter past four on a Friday afternoon in a week in which we sat all night on Monday night until 8 o'clock the following morning, and every other night, except Tuesday, we have sat until midnight. I think that it is asking too much of your Lordships to start the Second Reading of a Bill at four o'clock on a Friday afternoon, when even the House of Commons does not sit after four o'clock on a Friday afternoon.

There is one other issue I would ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House to consider carefully, and that is that it is not just your Lordships who are involved in this. There is the staff of the House, and the staff of the House have had a pretty difficult three weeks. I think that if' the noble Lord and those behind him who are cheering him are going to insist upon sitting these late hours, they will find that sooner or later they will not get any co-operation from this side.


My Lords, may I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said? It is quite clear to me that the Parliamentary time-table is out of hand.

I think the noble Lord will be quite interested in what I have to say, and I shall take only one minute. I have given notice to the Government and have placed on the Order Paper—it will appear on Monday—a Motion to debate the whole question of the Parliamentary time-table, and that Motion will be debated on Tuesday. That gives the Government their Monday business, when that Motion will appear, and I hope noble Lords will support me in the debate on Tuesday.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)

My Lords, may I just say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I was rather surprised he should address this question to me in this tone. My noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies has informed me that she has consulted speakers who are dealing with the next Bill and it will be quite short. I am rather surprised that one should have adopted this attitude so quickly. The debate on the Docks Bill has been a good debate. I am sorry about the result but I accept it. I hope this is not a reason for any arrogance on the part of anyone. I should have thought that we could proceed with the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill since there have been discussions on it.


My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord the Leader of the House, there are seven speakers on this Bill. I happen to know that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has considerable reservations about the Bill. My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone tells me that he has a great deal to say about this Bill. That is what Parliament is for. It is no use noble Lords opposite taking this view. Either they believe the Houses of Parliament are there to discuss something or they are just a cypher. I must honestly tell the noble Lord the Leader of the House, with the greatest possible courtesy, that he is pushing us too far.


My Lords, I accept that I must take note of what the noble Lord said, but I should have thought that on the Sexual Offences Bill, which is to come after this, there has been acceptance that speeches will be made by noble Lords on all sides and I should have thought that this could proceed sensibly.


My Lords, would it not be a great deal easier to put up with the almost intolerable pressure under which your Lordships' House has been put if the Prime Minister had not recently described the vitally important revising role that we seek to carry out as being a "self-appointed task"? Was that not adding insult to injury?


My Lords, I can only say that I accept that noble Lords have played an important part. On matters in which I have a deep interest, they do. I was responsible only last night for a very important Bill affecting agriculture. Noble Lords who differed with me I thought made constructive criticisms and we proceeded sensibly. All I am saying now is that this programme has been arranged and I am rather surprised that after this decision on Felixstowe we should have this situation. I should have thought that noble Lords could finish reasonably. There is no pressure here.