HL Deb 05 August 1980 vol 412 cc1377-9

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if, with the leave of the House, I make a Statement on certain changes to the remainder of this week's business which will now be necessary as a result of changes of the business in another place which took place earlier today.

The Housing Bill will not now be returned from another place until Thursday, 7th August. It cannot therefore be taken tomorrow, Wednesday, 6th August, as at present indicated on the Order Paper; but it is intended that it will instead be taken forthwith as first business on Thursday, 7th August. The other business will be as on the Order Paper.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for making that Statement and, if the Commons Messages reach us on Thursday, the House will, of course, debate them. But I would ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that almost all parts of the House believe that if the Government had not been so exceptionally rigid in their handling of these latest Bills to reach the House and if they had not disregarded the expert advice available to them, which was given from all parts of the House, they would not be in the trouble in which they are in now.

I should like to make a last appeal, through the noble Lord, to Her Majesty's Government to concede the amendment on old people's dwellings, which was passed by this House by a large majority. In all my experience of government there has always been give and take, for the sake of Parliament itself—it is a democratic Parliament. Of course, we shall debate the Commons Messages on Thursday, if they reach us, and we shall endeavour to maintain the position of principlewhich we won by a large majority, once again supported by noble Lords in all parts of the House. I am sure that the seemly and dignified position for the Government to take at this point is to modify their attitude of total rigidity and to give way on this one amendment.


My Lords, it is not unknown for a newly incoming Government to pledge themselves to produce far less legislation than their predecessors and then to find themselves in this difficulty at the end of the first Session. It is not unknown either that Her Majesty's Opposition should then become, with some reason, somewhat critical of the situation that has developed. It is extremely unfortunate that we should find ourselves on a Tuesday well into August having to debate the Second Reading of the important measure we have this afternoon and then finding ourselves on the Thursday, the day before the Recess is due to start, having to deal with important amendments to another equally important Bill, the Housing Bill. Any self-respecting union would have called the boys out long ago!

I am anxious to seek to be constructive in this situation. The Government have limited the area of disagreement on the Housing Bill by accepting the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Banks on the option mortgage scheme. I echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies; if the Government could also show similar understanding and accept that one amendment which dealt with the position of elderly people in specially adapted accommodation, they might again reduce the area of disagreement on the remaining stages of the Housing Bill to such a stage that both Houses would be able to complete their business this week with expedition and dignity.


My Lords, I am most grateful for the way in which the noble Baroness opposite and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, have commented on the Business Statement that I have made. I must apologise to your Lordships for any inconvenience that this has caused. I have of course taken note of what the noble Baroness has said and of the things to the same effect that have been echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. But in view of recent memory, I am sure that they would be the first to agree that it would not be proper for me in this House to comment on what may happen to the Bill when it is in another place.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that my noble friend and the noble Lord had an important point to make here. I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House Lord Soames—who I am certain is sympathetic, and he is behaving as a fine Leader—will take to heart that it really would be a scandal if there was no concession. I mean that sincerely.


My Lords, if the noble Lord is not going to respond immediately to that, may I ask him if he would make it clear to his colleagues in another place the feeling on this side of the House on this matter, and have further discussions with them so that he could make an informed statement, perhaps tomorrow.

The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Lord Soames)

My Lords, since I am being goaded by noble Lords—

Several noble Lords



I learned a sharp lesson the other day not to start talking about Bills when they are in another place. I am not going to say anything, but there will be all sorts of things that will be sayable, I have no doubt, at the proper time. It would not be right for me to say it now nor to comment upon it at all. I think that the less I or any of my noble friends say about this Bill at this particular juncture, the better, but that is not to say that there will not be all sorts of things, good things, to say about it later.