§ 4.6 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (Lord Melchett) rose to move, That the draft Road Traffic (Seat Belts) (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, laid before the House on 19th June, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order will permit the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland to make regulations, subject to the approval of Parliament, requiring the compulsory wearing of seat belts in Northern Ireland, and prescribing exemptions from such requirements. The order would require seat belts to be worn only in the front seats of vehicles that have, by law, to be fitted with belts. This would include all cars first registered after 1st January 1965, light vans registered after 1st May 1967 and some three-wheeled vehicles registered after 1st May 1967 and others registered after 1st September 1970.
§ The draft order recognises the need for a number of exemptions which will be provided for in the regulations. The order mentions two in particular: drivers who are reversing their vehicles, and drivers and front seat passengers who have a medical certificate from a doctor certifying that there are medical reasons why they should not wear a seat belt. This will be a matter solely for the doctor's own judgment and no specific diagnosis need be spelled out on the certificate. The Government are, of course, ready to consider any reasonable approaches for other exemptions, and the order provides enabling powers for this. Infringement 806 of the regulations would be a summary offence liable to a maximum fine of £50, and it would come within the general range of fixed penalty offences.
§ As noble Lords will know, the provisions in this order were originally included in the Roads and Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, which was approved by your Lordships last week. During the consultative period for that draft order, it was clear that the most controversial provisions would be the introduction of the compulsory wearing of seat belts, and many people suggested that this provision should not be included in an Order in Council dealing with a wide range of uncontroversial road safety and traffic matters. The Government did not share that view, but we were anxious to be as helpful as possible, and that is why the mandatory wearing of seat belts is being introduced in this separate Order in Council.
§ I should like, if I may, to set out fully the arguments in favour of these provisions, and then to do my best to answer the reservations that some people have about them. First, I should like to explain to the House why the Government are proposing to introduce the compulsory wearing of seat belts in Northern Ireland. The Government were naturally concerned about the appalling road accidents problems of Northern Ireland, and in 1976 we set up a local road accident study group to advise us on how to reduce the terrifyingly high toll of death and injury.
§ Statistics show that the number of deaths on the roads in Northern Ireland per 10,000 vehicles registered is double the number in Great Britain. In every 1,000 road accidents in Northern Ireland there are 60 deaths compared with 25 in Great Britain. The number of deaths and injuries caused by road accidents throughout the United Kingdom is bad enough. But the grim statistics in Northern Ireland show clearly that we have problems there on a different scale altogether from the rest of the UK; in particular, the very high fatal accident rate is a cause for great concern. By establishing a study group in Norhern Ireland, the Government accepted that the particularly high rate of road deaths and injuries there might well only be reduced by introducing special measures in Northern Ireland.807
§ The study group was an entirely local body, made up of members of a wide range of relevant interests, including motoring organisations, the road safety movement and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The study group was not, of course, asked to consider whether Northern Ireland should be used as a test bed for other parts of the United Kingdom. Nor did it recommend any such thing. It was asked to consider carefully, and on their merits, what new measures could be taken to reduce the road deaths and injuries in Northern Ireland. And that is what this locally based and locally composed study group did.
§ One of its main recommendations was that the wearing of seat belts should be made compulsory. It was convinced that, in a community where so many fatal accidents were occurring, we could not neglect the experience accumulated in the very many other countries which had introduced the compulsory wearing of seat belts. This is not a new or untested idea. It is commonplace in Western Europe.
§ Noble Lords will be pleased to hear that the study group's proposal has had a wide welcome in Northern Ireland. Those most knowledgeable and experienced in road safety matters wholeheartedly support it. And, above all, the proposal has had the solid and virtually unanimous support of responsible medical opinion. I have no doubt that this support, and the moderate and positive way in which it has been expressed, will impress noble Lords. Society as a whole owes a great debt to the surgeons in Northern Ireland's hospitals. They have had to cope with the appalling consequences of many years of violence. Anything which will reduce the burden on them should, I believe, have our full support.
Day by day and week by week, these surgeons have had to cope with the tragic consequences of violent death and injury. Their views on this order are clear. On 9th March no fewer than 70 of Northern Ireland's leading surgeons sent a letter to me, as Minister with responsibility for Health and Social Services. They estimated that in 1976 road accidents had cost Northern Ireland something like £30 million. They said that a significant proportion of this cost fell on the Health Services, and that the risk of being killed
in a road accident was about four times greater for the "unbelted" and that their injuries were likely to be more serious. Referring to the many countries where compulsory wearing of seat belts has been introduced in the last few years, the surgeons said—and I quote from their letter to me:
They all show impressive reductions in death and injuries on their roads. If we could achieve similar reductions the burden on our surgical wards would be eased considerably. In a time of financial stringency it is difficult to see any other way in which one could make extra beds available without additional cost. The result would be equivalent to building and staffing half a hospital.
I entirely agree with what Northern Ireland's leading surgeons have said to me. This measure is not simply a vital road safety measure, but also one of the most significant initiatives open to us in the field of prevention of illness and death.
§ I would now like to mention some of the reservations which have been expressed. First, some people have said that we should not use the Order in Council procedure to make a reform of this kind.
§ But Orders in Council are the normal means of legislation for Northern Ireland in transferred matters. The Government do not believe that they are an ideal way of legislating, but until there is a devolved Legislature in Northern Ireland again they will be the only practicable method. Parliament recognised this when it passed the Northern Ireland Act 1974.
§ Orders in Council have already been used to place a wide range of measures on the Northern Ireland Statute Book. While some of these enacted provisions for Northern Ireland which were already in force in the rest of the United Kingdom, many made provisions for Northern Ireland which have no equivalents in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Seat Belts Order is, therefore, in no way unique in this respect. I am sure that your Lordships would not want to confuse the issue of Northern Ireland's constitutional arrangements, which we debated very recently in this House, with a measure designed to save lives.
§ Objections to this order have, of course, been advanced on libertarian grounds. I find these arguments extremely difficult to understand, let alone accept. In the 809 last two years I have made innumerable flights from London to Belfast by plane, and I have never yet come across anyone who refused to fasten their seat belts on any grounds. I have certainly never met anyone who claimed that the switching on of the "Fasten Seat Belts" sign, and the cabin staff's checking to make sure all passengers, without exception, comply with this, was an infringement of their personal liberty. Of course, everyone knows that on take-off and landing an unbelted passenger could be thrown with force against the back of a seat, and voluntary persuasion and personal checking by cabin staff has been effective, in ensuring 100 per cent. wearing of seat belts in aeroplane.
§ With cars, where there are unfortunately no cabin staff to check on drivers and their passengers, persuasion and advertising have failed. But—as current Government publicity on seat belt wearing points out—a head-on crash at even 30 miles per hour has much the same effect on an unbelted driver as taking a high dive on to a solid surface.
§ People do, of course, argue that individuals have the right to do, or not to do, something which places only themselves at risk. But society no longer takes that view—for example, as far as the wearing of crash helmets by motor-cyclists is concerned. In any event, I believe that the general argument is a difficult one to sustain. Noble Lords will be aware that the Government car service is suffering from industrial relations problems today. I had to wear a crash helmet when travelling to work on my moped, but I did not feel in any way that my personal liberty was infringed by that particular legislative requirement. Unnecessary deaths and injuries involve social as well as personal costs; make unjustifiable demands upon scarce hospital beds and the time of doctors and surgeons, and often leave families dependent upon the support of the community at large.
§ Some people, I know, argue that in particular types of accidents, people may be in a worse position as a result of wearing a seat belt. I certainly would not claim that that is inconceivable, in some very rare cases. But the balance of advantage is overwhelming. The risks when wearing a seat belt are a great deal 810 lower than the risks when not. Governments and Parliament do not base their policy or law upon extremely exceptional cases.
§ Finally, people have asked whether it will be possible to enforce this measure in Northern Ireland, given the many other demands on the RUC. Clearly the requirement will not be self-enforcing.
§ But the information available, as a result of the experiences in other countries where seat belt wearing is compulsory, indicates that the vast majority of people will comply with this new law. Indeed, wearing rates of up to 80 per cent. have been reported in other countries, without the need for exceptional enforcement effort. Moreover, the Royal Ulster Constabulary was, of course, represented at a very senior level on the working party which recommended this proposal to the Government in the first place.
§ My Lords, I hope this House will support an advance in the road safety law in Northern Ireland which has been proved to be effective elsewhere; which has been pressed on the Government by responsible and expert local opinion in Northern Ireland; which is not merely supported but demanded by the local medical profession. Your Lordships' House regularly and rightly expresses horror at the appalling tragedy of the deaths and injuries that result from terrorist and paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. Yet, in terms of the number of people needlessly killed and injured, road casualties are by far the worse tragedy. Since 1969, when the troubles began in Northern Ireland, a total of 1,852 people have died in Northern Ireland from terrorist or paramilitary activity. Of those, 1,373 were civilians. Over the same period, road accidents have claimed the lives of 2,981 people. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the draft Road Traffic (Seat Belts) (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, laid before the House on 19th June, be approved.—(Lord Melchett.)
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord CARRINGTON rose to move, That further debate on the Motion for approval of the order be now adjourned.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should first explain to your Lordships the reason 811 for this rather unusual Motion. It seems to me that the circumstances surrounding the presentation of this order warrant it, and it has nothing whatever to do with the merits or otherwise of the order itself. It is usually the case that we in this House do not oppose Government orders. It is true that on very rare occasions we have done so, sometimes with rather unexpected results. Generally speaking, orders pass through your Lordships' House with nothing other than discussion. The reason for this is that orders do not come under the provisions of the Parliament Act. Therefore, the rejection of an order by this House is the end of the matter; there can be no second thoughts, though, of course, it is possible for the Government to re-lay the order at a later date in slightly different terms. Your Lordships will remember that there has been some debate in the past, particularly from those who sit on the Government Benches, as to whether or not this state of affairs should continue.
§ Some little time ago, there was a Bill making the wearing of seat belts compulsory in the United Kingdom. As this matter could hardly be said to be a Party affair, there was a free vote and the House rejected the proposal. Indeed, this House on two separate occasions rejected a proposal for the compulsory wearing of seat belts—whether rightly or wrongly it is not for me to argue at this moment. It now seems to be the Government's proposal to use the people of Northern Ireland in an experiment to see whether or not the compulsory wearing of seat belts is both effective and acceptable, and for the other reasons which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has explained.
§ Speaking for myself, I do not feel very strongly on the subject of seat belts or the proposal that there should be an experiment in Northern Ireland. Indeed, if anything, I tend to think that it might be rather a good idea. However, I am well aware that this issue raises considerable controversy and it may well be that on a free vote your Lordships will once again reject this order; after all, your Lordships have rejected such a proposal twice already. If that is so, that would be the end of the matter.
§ But, on this occasion, the proposal has not been discussed in another place 812 and, should the order be rejected, there would be no opportunity for the House of Commons to make its views known about this matter and—perhaps rather more importantly in this particular case—there would be no opportunity for the only elected representatives from Northern Ireland in the Westminster Parliament to make plain their position with regard to their own Province. I do not think that it would be right that this House should deprive the other House, in particular those most concerned, of the right to have a discussion.
§ There is another point which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, touched on. This is, in effect, a Northern Ireland Bill, and it is only because of the abolition of Stormont and the Emergency in Northern Ireland that the Government at Westminster can use such a procedure to differentiate between one part of the United Kingdom and the other. Once again, it would surely be wrong for the House of Commons not to have at least a chance of commenting upon that most important constitutional departure.
§ As I understand it, the order is down to be discussed in another place later this week. There would be no objection whatever to your Lordships taking the order next week, after the House of Commons has debated it; after all, the House is sitting and will not be particularly busy. If we postponed the discussion of this order until next week, we should in no sense be reflecting upon the merits or otherwise of the order. Indeed, if the order was rejected in another place, that would be that and we should have no further say in the matter. But, if it was passed in another place, then noble Lords could make up their own minds, having regard to what happened and knowing the debate and the views of those in another place.
§ I must say that I think that seems to be a much more suitable way of arranging things. I am surprised that the Government—to whom I have put this proposal and who presumably want to get their order through Parliament—have not been prepared to accept it. We have so often heard from noble Lords opposite that the elected House must always have the last word and that we, in this House, must be careful not to usurp the functions of the elected Chamber. It seems to me very 813 curious that the Government should seek to do precisely the opposite, and that it is those of us on this side of the House who seek to safeguard the position of the House of Commons. I hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord the Leader of the House will be prepared to accept my Motion, but I must tell him that, if he does not, I shall ask your Lordships to to into the Lobbies. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That further debate on the Motion for approval of the order be now adjourned.—(Lord Carrington.)
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, without repeating from these Benches the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, perhaps I could, very shortly, support what he has just proposed. I think that it is wrong to introduce controversial measures of this nature into this House at a late stage in the Session. This is not a precedent which would commend itself to the House if we really thought it out. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that this is a matter which is very controversial. I am a passionate believer in seat belts; I have always voted for seat belts; but I do not think that it is right for this House to pronounce on a controversial matter—on which I certainly could not carry the whole of my Party—late in the Session and before the House of Commons has had an opportunity, with the Ulster Unionists and others there, to give its views.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and to the noble Lord the Leader of the House that it is rather odd that, on the day when we read in the next Labour Party Manifesto that we shall be abolished in favour of a unicameral Parliament, we, in this House, should be seeking to protect those in the other place. Therefore, for those reasons and for the reason of common sense, I hope that we shall support the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, each of the speakers who has so far spoken is attractive in argument and persuasive in some of the things that he has said. But I wish to oppose the motion for the adjournment on this issue although, over lunch, I was invited in a jocular way to support the noble Lord who has spoken from the Opposition Front Bench. I 814 oppose the Motion because I share what I know to be his deep concern about this problem.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, is totally sincere when he says that he is deeply worried—as we all are—by the appalling consequences of bad driving on the roads. Although it may perturb noble Lords on the Front Bench, I am now speaking to the issue on the adjournment and I intend to make a speech in support of that which I think will be within the order of this House. I am so advised and I rise carefully to make this speech. I hope that the House will be tolerant in allowing me to make it. This is a tolerant Chamber and we are concerned about the appalling tragedies that occur.
If I needed a further argument to put before noble Lords, it is that which is contained in a letter which I have seen written from a Mr. William Rutherford of the Royal Victoria Hospital to the Prime Minister of this country. I have asked the House to be tolerant. I know that there are some noble Lords who are more tolerant than others.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, I have been assured that I am allowed to do this. I shall accept a ruling of the House if otherwise.
§ Lord HAILSHAM of SAINT MARYLEBONE
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but the issue is whether or not the debate be adjourned. As far as I know, there is nothing to prevent the noble Lord, Lord Parry, saying anything relevant to that or, supposing that the debate is adjourned for a week—which is really what the Motion amounts to—making a speech on the merits. But, with great respect, I suggest to him that a speech on the merits is not in order in the rather narrow terms of the Motion which my noble friend has put forward.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I think, that the noble and learned Lord would agree that my noble friend can give the reasons why he thinks we should not adjourn.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, thank you very much. I realise that this is a very difficult and contentious issue and that it is tempting to use the procedure of the House in order to set the matter at rest. However, I also believe that this is such a vital matter and time is so vital that, on reflection, noble Lords will believe that they are right to allow me to speak and, in fact, to allow matters to proceed to a debate of the House at this point.
I was about to give this quotation:By allowing the recent Bill in the House of Commons to lapse for want of a quorum in the House, the death, disfigurement and crippling of many road victims has been assured".That is one man's opinion, but that man is an eminent consultant surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital. When the noble Lord was moving his Motion, he said it had nothing whatever to do with the merits or otherwise of the measure. My respectful submission is that it has everything to do with it; that, when the adjournment of the House is moved—in fact this has been said openly—it is almost a form of sinister attempt to introduce this discussion.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, I say that looking at the words before me. It seems rather odd that the Government should attempt to bring this discussion before the House in this way. However, if noble Lords opposite think I put too strong a point on it by using the word "sinister", I would use the word "odd", with whatever implications that might have. If that is the insinuation, it is my belief that the Government do not intend to bring this debate before your Lordships' House to circumvent any of the processes of democracy, with which we are as much concerned as any other noble Lords. This is germane to the question of whether or not we adjourn. My first point is that we cannot afford to waste any time in dealing with this problem and therefore it is vastly important that we discuss it. We must not waste any time.
§ Lord PARRY
Yes, my Lords. We must not waste even a week. In one week, 30 more people could be killed in road smashes by not wearing belts and, 816 if we can save 30 lives by bringing the whole process forward one week, then we shall have achieved something to the credit and not to the discredit of this House.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, does the noble Lord really believe that the passing of this Motion would save 30 lives just like that? Surely he knows that, while this sort of provision might help, if people believe that way, it cannot completely turn the statistics upside down.
§ Lord PARRY
I welcome that question, my Lords. When I last spoke on this subject, noble Lords thought I had introduced some emotion into the debate because I referred to my experiences. Briefly, I can repeat those experiences by saying that I have been in two accidents, once unbelted and once belted. I experienced those accidents myself, and my father, not wearing a belt, was killed in an accident. I believe the introduction of seat belts would substantially reduce the loss of life and that if we introduced this measure at once we could save a measureable number of lives. In my view, 30 is a conservative, not a radical, estimate of the saving.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, it is all very well for noble Lords opposite to shout "Order", but I will go anywhere and speak before any audience if I can advance the case I am seeking to put. I have already established that nobody will convince me that we should delay discussing this matter. I shall accept the will of the House. I see that noble Lords opposite would prefer that I were not speaking in these terms. Very well. If the issue before the House is that we should now adjourn on some point of principle, I simply wish to make it clear that I for one, and there are many like me, shall resent very much indeed the fact that we were not given the opportunity to speak on a subject which we consider to be vital.
§ Lord PARRY
Not next week; now, my Lords. This is a subject on which we have been invited to speak by groups of people in Northern Ireland. The 817 Government are not seeking to use Northern Ireland as a test-bed, nor the people of that tortured nation in an experiment that will help to come to conclusions to be used elsewhere. They are simply using evidence that has been brought forward at the invitation and on the instigation of people in Northern Ireland who are qualified to judge.
A recent international conference in Australia evaluated the experience available, and, as my noble friend said, on 5th March the British Medical Journal summarised the findings of that conference. There was overwhelming evidence to show that we should as soon as possible introduce in Northern Ireland legislation to make the wearing of seat belts compulsory. The two debates we have had in this House have not been concerned with the introduction of seat belts in Northern Ireland; we have debated only the introduction of seat belts in this country. I had hoped to persuade the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, for whom I have a deep regard, not to seek the adjournment of the House but to allow us to have our debate and come to a conclusion properly.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, I share with the noble Lord, Lord Byers, regret that this order should have come so late in the Session, but there may be reasons for that. My main concern is the question of business, a matter with which I have been involved for a number of years, and I believe I can claim to have an understanding of what is involved. First of all, it is for the Government to decide as and when to introduce their legislation. In practice, of course, there is consultation between the two sides, but at the end of the day, whether a Conservative or Labour Government are in office, it is for the Government of the day to decide, as and when within their timetable, to introduce legislation.
The noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Byers, seemed to rest their case on the fact that if your Lordships' House were to consider this order today and were to exercise their undoubted right to reject it, we should have precluded the House of Commons from considering this matter. Lord Carrington himself recognised that that was not the case. He 818 said there had been occasions when this House had rejected an order; an order has then been reintroduced—with different phrases but in substance the same—and your Lordships' House has then acquiesced in the passing of that order. Thus, if this House were to reject the order, it would then be open to the Government to re-lay, first in the House of Commons, a new order, differently phrased, and for the other place then to have its debate and reach a decision on it.
Regarding the problem of orders, I have for long felt that your Lordships' House should always have the right to tell another place, "Think again", but as Lord Carrington said, with orders we very reluctantly do not do that; we do it only on the rarest possible occasions. If we were to reject this order, another place could take into account what we had said—our thoughts on it and reasons why we rejected it—and we could then have a second chance of looking at the matter in the light of what had been said both here and in another place.
There is much advantage in the proposals the Government have put forward and for doing this today. As I say, I regret it is late in the Session because it is a matter of controversy in your Lordships' House. However, I must tell Lord Carrington that if he insists on his Motion he will not have placed the House of Commons in any different position than if the order were rejected. If that were not the case, the other place would not be placed in a different situation because it would have to consider the matter and vote on it. Therefore I do not believe there is a great deal in what Lord Carrington said.
I fear there could be a danger of it becoming a precedent in that never should an order be taken in your Lordships' House before being taken in another place. I do not believe the noble Lord, Lord Denham, if he has the misfortune to be the Government Chief Whip, would wish to have that sort of precedent round his neck. My final comment is that it seemed to me from the way Lord Carrington was speaking about the order, about your Lordships' House and about the other place, that this House should he purely a rubber stamp for another place.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, sits down, would he not agree that virtually no notice whatsoever was given of this order, with the result that a great many noble Lords who feel extremely strongly about this issue which affects the freedom of so many people have not been able to come along this afternoon to discuss or vote upon it?
§ Baroness LLEWELYN-DAVIES of HASTOE
My Lords, may I for a moment intervene to say that that is not the case. The House has known for at least a week.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Lord MELCHETT
My Lords, if I may, I should like to respond to some of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, put in moving his Motion—if that is not going to upset noble Lords on the Opposition Front Benches too greatly. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for signifying that he approves of that suggestion.
The noble Lord first of all suggested that legislation on seat belts in Northern Ireland, which is the substantive issue before the House in the order today, had been rejected by your Lordships' House on previous occasions. But may I say to the noble Lord, with great respect, that that is not the case. So far as I am aware this is the first time that your Lordships' House would have had the opportunity of discussing an order which related explicitly to Northern Ireland. It is simply not true to say that your Lordships' House has rejected an order—of the type which the Government are asking your Lordships to discuss today—on two previous occasions. On many other occasions your Lordships' House has passed orders which introduced legislation for Northern Ireland, which is unique to Northern Ireland, and has not concerned itself with whether they have been previously debated or not debated in another place or in your Lordships' House. There are a great many examples of orders which have been passed with the approval of noble Lords opposite which have introduced unique legislation for Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, also suggested that the Government were 820 attempting to use the people of Northern Ireland for an experiment. But, as my noble friend Lord Parry said, that is not true. A very large number of bodies in Northern Ireland supported this measure, including the Transport and General Workers' Union, the Methodist Conference, the Road Safety Council for Northern Ireland, the Association of District Councils—which represents all those elected representatives in Northern Ireland—the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the RUC, the AA, the Approved Driving Instructors' Association, a number of political Parties and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. All those bodies have had the courage of their convictions and have felt able to stand up and say what their views on this measure were. I suggest that it would be a matter of great regret if your Lordships' House approved this Motion and did not place itself alongside that large number of responsible bodies in Northern Ireland in supporting this measure. That will be the effect of approving the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has put before the House.
§ Lord MELCHETT
It certainly will, my Lords. The Government are asking the House to approve the order put before the House today and the noble Lord is suggesting that we should no longer discuss it.
§ Lord MELCHETT
I hear my noble friend behind me saying "next Friday" with some horror in my heart, as I confess that Northern Ireland Ministers do not get very much opportunity for holidays. I should like to answer one other point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington —and my noble friend Lord Shepherd dealt with this at some length—and that was that if your Lordships' House were to reject this order today we would be denying the House of Commons the opportunity to discuss this matter. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said.
§ Lord MELCHETT
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is agreeing with me although all his colleagues on his Front Bench do not seem to be agreeing with him. If he wants to retire for a moment to sort this matter out between himself and his noble and learned friend I should be quite happy to allow him to do that. But if I could follow the noble Lord, Lord Carrington's own view of what he said, that is only true if your Lordships defeat this order. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, may be privy to some information to which I am not, but unless the House has an opportunity to hear the arguments and to have a debate as the Government have suggested we should, we will not know whether the danger which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is suggesting the House will face will actually arise.
§ Lord MELCHETT
If it is too late because the House rejects it, as my noble friend Lord Shepherd has already said, and as we have previously done with Northern Ireland orders in another place, the order can be re-laid in a slightly different form.
Though I do not entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, about your Lordships' House, I was interested by the novel constitutional proposition that controversial measures should not be debated in, or considered by the House of Lords if they have not already been considered in another place. That would have interesting effects, for example, if it were applied to the Scotland and Wales Bills. As I understand it, on those Bills, noble Lords opposite were suggesting the exact opposite; namely, that your Lordships' House should make a special effort to debate and discuss controversial issues which had not been considered by another place. I find it a little hard that one law applies to Government business on devolution and another law apparently applies so far as noble Lords opposite are concerned about a vital measure to save lives in Northern Ireland.
I would also have thought that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, might have suggested to your Lordships that there was some value in an expression of opinion by your Lordships' House, regardless of 822 whether or not another place had considered this matter. I would not necessarily go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in putting that forward, but I am surprised that he did not suggest that there was some value not only for the people of this country but for the people in Northern Ireland hearing your Lordships discuss this order and knowing what your Lordships' opinions on it were. That will be, at least for today, denied to us if the noble Lord's Motion is carried. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, said that while he was a personal supporter of this Order—
§ Lord MELCHETT
I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is again in dispute with his colleagues. I apologise for sowing such dissension among noble Lords opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, suggested that he might not be able to carry the whole of his Party with him if it came to a division on this matter. I do not know whether the same thing applies to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, but in my view the noble Lord, by moving his Motion, is not making any attempt to preserve the rights of the elected Chamber in this matter. He is simply trying to ensure that your Lordships do not get a chance to say whether or not your Lordships approve of the order and in that way protecting if anything, the image of your Lordships' House and not of another place.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, I must admit I am rather surprised that the Leader of the House has not answered.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I shall be delighted to respond. I think that my noble friend has put a powerful case and it was reinforced by the noble Lord, Lord Parry. We should like to discuss this matter, but if noble Lords feel that they wish to force it to a Division immediately then let them do so. That is all I have to say. It is clear.
I must say, my Lords, I am slightly surprised at the bad temper shown opposite. It seems to me—
§ Lord PEART
I hope that I never showed bad temper in my intervention. 823 I thought there was a bit of bad temper among those on the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, I was slightly surprised at the bad temper shown, with the exception of the noble Lord the Leader of the House. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Parry, misunderstood me—and he did misunderstand me. What I was seeking to do is something quite simple. It seems to me that since this House has on two occasions rejected the principle of wearing seat belts, there was, to say the least of it, a likelihood that it might do it again. If it did it again that would raise certain difficulties. The difficulties it would raise would be that the House of Commons
§ would not have discussed this order. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is quite right that at a later stage, right at the end of the Session, they could put down another order saying much the same thing, which after two debates would lead to two more debates. All we need to do in order to avoid having four debates is to postpone this debate for four days and have it in four days' time. If I may say so, I have never heard so much song and dance about so little.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether further debate on the Motion be now adjourned?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 114; Not-Contents, 74.825
|Airedale, L.||Forester, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Fortescue, E.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||O'Brien of Lothbury, L.|
|Alport, L.||Gainford, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Glendevon, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Atholl, D.||Gridley, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Rawlinson of Ewell, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Hale, L.||Ridley, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Hanworth, V.||Rochdale, V.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Henley, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Bolton, L.||Hereford, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Byers, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Caithness, E.||Hood, V.||Sandys, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Seear, B.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Jeffreys, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Carrington, L.||Kemsley, V.||Sharpies, B.|
|Cathcart, E.||Keyes, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Spens, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Long, V.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Loudoun, C.||Tenby, V.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Luke, L.||Teynham, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Lyell, L.||Thomas, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Mackie of Benshie, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||McNair, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Mancroft, L.||Trevelyan, L.|
|Elles, B.||Marley, L.||Tweeddale, M.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Vernon, L.|
|Elton, L.||Mernvale, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Monson, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Energlyn, L.||Mottistone, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Evans of Claughton, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Exeter, M.||Westbury, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Newall, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Northchurch, B.||Winstanley, L.|
|Ashby, L.||Boston of Faversham, L.||Burton of Coventry, B.|
|Aylestone, L.||Brimelow, L.||Castle, L.|
|Baker, L.||Brockway, L.||Darling of Hillsborough, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Bruce of Donington, L.||Davies of Leek, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||Listowel, E.||Rhodes, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]||Roll of Ipsden, L.|
|Dowding, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Fisher of Camden, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Gaitskell, B.||McCarthy, L.||Segal, L.|
|Garner, L.||McCluskey, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Gordon-Walker, L.||Maelor, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Hall, V.||Melchett, L.||Sligo, M.|
|Halsbury, E.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Snow, L.|
|Hamnett, L.||Mishcon, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Morris of Grasmere, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Henderson, L.||Murray of Gravesend, L.||Stone, L.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Noel-Baker, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Oram, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Paget of Northampton, L.||Walston, L.|
|Janner, L.||Pannell, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Kennet, L.||Pargiter, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Parry, L.||Wigg, L.|
|Leatherland, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)||Wilson of Radcliffe, L.|
|Lee of Asheridge, B.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.||Winterbottom, L. [Teller.]|
|Lee of Newton, L.||Raglan, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and further debate on the Motion adjourned accordingly.