HL Deb 02 July 1981 vol 422 cc293-4

3.23 p.m.

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 dispensed with for the purpose of taking the Representation of the People Bill through all its remaining stages this day.—(Lord Soames.)

Viscount Simon

My Lords, before we agree to this Motion, I wonder whether I may say this. I listened with care through the Second Reading of this Bill, and it did not seem to me that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who spoke for the Government, made out a case at all for the urgency of the Bill. That question was put by several speakers from this side of the House, and I thought that when he came to wind up he would deal with that matter; but, unless my memory has failed me, I do not think he did deal with it. He certainly did not leave it in my mind that he had dealt with it. It seems to me extremely important that this House should not pass a Motion of this kind—which, of course, the Government of the day can carry through if they wish—unless we are really satisfied that there is a reason for this urgency. It was agreed on all sides of the House that this was a difficult Bill and that it was a Bill with considerable constitutional implications. I must say that I do not myself remember whether, at the time the Bill was introduced, there was any indication that it was going to be pushed through in this way. I just wonder whether it is right for us to pass this Bill without hearing from the Government what is the real urgency for passing it in one day.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, I wonder whether I may repeat a protest in support of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, which I endeavoured to make on Second Reading. This is a Bill which was described by the Minister of State in another place as certainly a Bill which gives rise to unusually important issues. It came to this House on 26th June, we had the Second Reading on 30th June and we are asked to deal with the Committee stage and all other stages two days later. And this is supposed to be a revising Chamber. I add my protest to that of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. I feel that it is an affront to this House.

Lord Soames

My Lords, it certainly is not designed in any way to be an affront, if I may make that totally clear to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. As to the point which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, first made about the urgency of the matter, there is, of course, a constituency which does not have a Member. A writ has to be moved. We do not want that constituency to remain unrepresented for any longer than necessary. So, as far as the timing is concerned, the point is specifically that here is a constituency which is unrepresented, awaiting the moving of a writ. On the next point, as to the timing, I take what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said. This is not something which the Government like to do—to rush legislation through either House. But I would only point out, perhaps in mitigation, first, that in this instance there is the pressure of time, to which I have referred; and, secondly, that I did not think we were doing things timing-wise that would fail to be understood in your Lordships' House, in so far as in another place, equally, they were rushed and they had two days to go through all the proceedings on the Bill.

That does not mean that it follows that this House should have only two days—of course not. On the other hand, this is a particular Bill the application of which will have more effect upon the other place than upon your Lordships' House. To put it no higher, I think it would be not unreasonable to suggest to your Lordships that we should not require more time to debate it in your Lordships' House than was taken in another place.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, is it not the case that many constituencies have gone unrepresented for many months, for all kinds of reasons, in the past? Is there not a maxim, that if one legislates in haste one often repents at leisure?

Lord Soames

My Lords, on the other hand, you could repent very much if you did not legislate quickly.

On Question, Motion agreed to.