HL Deb 17 December 1979 vol 403 cc1437-9

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the legislative programme intended for the present Session, and to be taken before the Summer Recess, will avoid a repetition of certain past years when this House has been expected to deal with a congestion of legislation which could only be passed by unduly prolonged sittings, the House having to continue sitting into the Recess, or Bills having to be passed without time for adequate consideration and debate.


My Lords, the Government recognise that Parliament will be under some pressure this Session. I can assure your Lordships that we will nevertheless do our best to see—with, I am sure, the help of the Opposition—that the arrangements which are made for the conduct of business are as acceptable to your Lordships as possible.


My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware of the appreciation felt, I believe, by Members of all sides of the House of the efforts which Ministers here—in particular the noble Lord, Lord Soames—have made to ensure that some major Bills are started in this House? Furthermore, will not the Government decision (which was insisted upon by the Opposition in another place) to take the Local Government Bill first in the Commons and then here seriously increase the risk of a July log-jam? In order to ease this possibility, will the Government consider a really formidable carrying-over of legislation after the House meets after the Summer Recess and before the winding up of the Session?—for only by such means do I believe that the log-jam is likely to be avoided.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for the kind remarks that he has made about my noble friend Lord Soames. Anyone who has been Leader of this House will know (as the noble Lord, Lord Peart, does) that it is always difficult to get major legislation starting here. Clearly, the decision to take the Local Government Bill in another place will, in the words of my noble friend, risk the July log-jam becoming greater; but it is entirely up to this House to decide how we conduct our business to deal with that log-jam. I have no doubt that, as we have met the real points that the Opposition had, they, in turn, will make sure that they will help us to see that Government business is got through.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that it is quite out of the question for the Opposition in the other House to insist on anything about Government business? It is the Government who decide, and the Government did decide. Secondly, may I ask whether the noble Earl is aware that it does not depend upon this House, but entirely upon the Government, whether there is a log-jam in August or September?


My Lords, of course it is the Government's decision as to the House in which a Bill should be taken, but being an accommodating kind of Government, we considered the view of the Opposition and tried to meet them over it. Having done so, we are in control of our business in this House and I am sure that we shall all do the best we can to ensure that the disagreeable thoughts that my noble friend has will not materialise.


My Lords, are there no major Bills that we could take in this House at an early stage instead of the Local Government Bill which we have now lost?


Yes, my Lords, there are some new Bills which will be coming shortly after Christmas and in the New Year. Progress on the Competition Bill and the Industry Bill in the other place indicates that they will be with us fairly soon.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we shall be most helpful in getting legislation through, particularly if we drop something like the useless trades union legislation in order to make it easier?


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will find many ways in which he can help us, even though that might not be one of them.