HL Deb 17 July 1979 vol 401 cc1280-2

3.1 p.m.

Brought from the Commons; read 1a, having been printed pursuant to Standing Order No. 47.

Lord DENHAM rose to move, That Standing Order No. 43 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with for the purpose of enabling the Second Reading of the Education Bill to be taken this day. The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper. In moving this Motion I should like to say that I had very much hoped that it would not be necessary to move suspension of the Standing Order so as to take First and Second Reading of the Education Bill on the same day. Developments in another place have meant that the Bill did not leave the House of Commons until yesterday instead of last week as originally expected.

However, notice of the intention to take Second Reading today has been on the Order Paper for 10 days, since 5th July, which is the usual notice for a Second Reading debate. A number of your Lordships have indicated an intention to speak, and I therefore felt that it would be for the convenience of the House not to alter the arrangements at short notice, particularly in view of the printing difficulties.

Moved, That Standing Order No. 43 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with for the purpose of enabling the Second Reading of the Education Bill to be taken this day.—(Lord Denham.)


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord for explaining why Standing Order 43 should be dispensed with, and we understand the procedural necessity. But I must tell the noble Lord that on these Benches, and I think in all parts of the House, there is a real feeling of outrage that so important a Bill as this should be pushed through Parliament with such unseemly haste.

This Bill is not being taken in the usual summer rush with the Session ending in July. Her Majesty's Government look forward—and we hope, mistakenly—to a long period in office with a sizable majority in another place. Your Lordships should have been allowed adequate time for proper consideration of so important a Bill. Education is a matter which affects almost every family in the country, and any Government, one would have thought, would hesitate before bringing politics into education.

I am sorry to have to say this, but I thought that the House would like to know how the arrangements came to be made. When the timetable for the Bill was first put forward we learned that the Government proposeed to take it all in one week, with just one day for Committee and all the remaining stages. On behalf of the House we made very strong representations to the noble Lord the Chief Whip, that it was quite wrong that the revising Chamber consisting, as it does, of many Peers with great expertise, knowledge, and experience of education should not be allowed to consider the Bill with due care.

The only concession we were able to wring from the Government was that we could have one separate Committee day. Since the Bill has only today arrived from another place there will be practically no time to consider appropriate amendments for the Committee stage on Thursday. Of course the House will not want to put all the blame on the noble Lord, Lord Denham. The responsibility lies with his Government. I am sorry to say it, but your Lordships' House, and I am sure the country, will know and disapprove of the cavalier manner in which the whole matter has been treated.


My Lords, I would not like to shelter behind my right honourable friends and my noble friends. As Chief Whip in this House, I must of course accept the responsibility. But I am, of course, very sorry indeed that this has been done. There are, I would submit, mitigating circumstances to the extent that we had a general election on 3rd May, and therefore the House met a week later, and there has been a very short time before the Summer Recess.

This is a one clause Bill. I appreciate the depth of feeling which noble Lords opposite have about the content of this Bill, but it is a one clause Bill, which I think I should like to put down for the record. It also implements an election Manifesto, and this Government intend to act on the policies which won us the election. It is necessary to make the position with regard to comprehensivisation clear before a new school year begins. It is, therefore, in the view of Her Majesty's Government essential that the Bill reaches Royal Assent before the Recess in order that this particular Manifesto commitment should be honoured. I do not of course expect noble Lords opposite to feel the same about this particular commitment as we do, but I should like to assure your Lordships that no discourtesy to the House was intended, and to apologise for the inconvenience caused by this rush to noble Lords in all parts of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.