HL Deb 26 October 1976 vol 376 cc274-6

3.6 p.m.


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

Moved, That Standing Order No 36 (Order of Business) be dispensed with this day for the purpose of taking the Motion standing in my name forthwith.—(Lord Byers).


My Lords, I have the utmost respect for the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and I am in no way hostile to his honourable intentions in the Motion that he proposes to move later on, but I want to oppose the present Motion that we should dispense with the normal business which appeared on the Order Paper and proceed to a further Motion. I do so not because I object to debates: on the contrary, I enjoy them. I do not profess to be an orator at all, but in matters of debate I gain considerable experience. However, I have no desire for "fun and games" this afternoon; nor do I suppose that any Member of your Lordships' House in the existing situation, not only economic and financial, hut political, desires to indulge in frivolity of any kind.

My reason for opposing the Motion is because in neither the Motion to be proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, nor in the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is there anything constructive or likely to promote greater goodwill, either in this House or between this House and another place. All I want to say at this stage is that it occurred to me when I saw the Motion on the Order Paper that if the noble Lord, Lord Byers, with his influence—and he has undoubted influence, not only in his own Party but in your Lordships' House—had consulted the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Leader of the Conservative Party in your Lordships' House, and they had both then consulted my noble friend the Leader of the House, had met together and had asked a few other Members, for example the noble Earl, Lord Home of the Hirsel, with his vast experience, and the Chief Whips of the three political Parties in the House—or two of them, whoever they are—they could have gathered round a table to consider what representations ought to be made to Her Majesty's Government and to the Prime Minister in particular (or in the first place) with a view to removing any difficulty that exists in connection with the timetable in your Lordships' House.

If this Motion is accepted and we proceed to the further Motion I should wish to take part in the debate, but I can see no great advantage or any relevance in the situation. I recall a statement made by the noble Viscount, Lord Thorney-croft, the chairman of the Conservative Party, some time ago in one of our debates, when he pleaded for a better understanding with Members of your Lordships' House. That does not mean that we should always agree with each other; that would be asking too much. But in a matter of this sort, concerning the timetable and difficulties and even hardships imposed on Members of your Lordships' House, by asking them to r main, sometimes through the night, for the purpose of dealing with Government business, to which they naturally object because of their political philosophy, (I can understand all that), to enter into a debate of this kind at this stage when there are so many other subjects that could occupy our attention, I regard as a complete irrelevance.

I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, should not proceed with his Motion to suspend the Standing Order and proceed with another subject, but that he should do as I have suggested and consult with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the noble Lord the Leader of the House, the Chief Whips, and any others who are acquainted with procedure, in order to try to remove this obstacle, this dispute between some Members of your Lordships' House and Her Majesty's Government. For that reason I oppose the Motion.

3.9 p.m.


My Lords, I understand the sentiments and feelings of my noble friend Lord Shinwell. I would only say that there are the usual channels, and they have gone through the procedures in the best spirit. I personally believe that we should have a debate. I agreed to the Motion to dispense with Standing Order No. 36, because I believe that if we have a debate we shall not be wasting time unnecessarily. I think it is the general tone of the House that this debate should come at the beginning, and for that reason I have taken this move.

On Question, Motion agreed to.