§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Lord Soames)
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ Moved, That Standing Order No. 43 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispended with for the purpose of taking the Pensioners' Payments and Social Security Bill through all its remaining stages this day.—(Lord Soames.)
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
My Lords, I have objected on a previous occasion to a Motion to take all stages of a Bill on the same day without explanation and without justification. If I may say so, in moving this Motion the noble Lord did it just as casually as if he was saying that it is a nice, warm day—which it is! The noble Lord said not a word about the need for suspending our normal procedure for dealing with Bills. He said nothing about the urgency of the matter. Christmas is still a little way away. The noble Lord offered no explanation. I think that we have to watch very carefully casual attempts to override the normal procedure of this House, unless there is a very strong justification for it.
This is not an Irish terrorist Bill which, for the security of the realm, has to come into operation in the next 24 hours. This is an important social security measure which raises questions of expenditure relating to the National Insurance Fund and which also raises a question of principle, in my judgment, because I have commented on a previous occasion on this method of paying out social security benefits. May I ask the noble Lord to be courteous enough to give to the House an explanation of why we have this Motion before us?
§ Lord SOAMES
My Lords, I am extremely sorry if the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, thinks that I have in any way maltreated the House. Certainly it was not my intention so to do. I was informed—and my experience is limited in this respect, I must say—that this is what has happened regularly year after year after year, and that this is how the matter has been handled. The fact that I dealt with it in this way was because I was advised that this is how it should be dealt with. I assure the noble Lord that I did not intend to treat the House with any over-degree of levity.
The main principle which lies behind this Bill is that there should be a £10 Christmas bonus for old-age pensioners. I am told that, in order for it to go through all the processes which inevitably it has to go through, the matter has to be decided before the House rises for the Summer Recess and that hitherto this has always been done. I think that this is a moderately, at least, non-controversial issue. If, of course, anybody wishes me to do so I can elaborate further upon the point.
I think that the House will be fairly well aware of what the Bill sets out to do, and the reasons for it, although I must add that an extra provision is contained in this year's Bill. This provision removes from the Secretary of State the duty to review the amount of the earnings limit for dependent wives. Apart from that, this is the Bill which, I am led to believe, the House has passed year after year in the same way as I have suggested that the House should pass it today.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.