§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, before we proceed further, in view of the enormous importance of the Local Government Bill and the implications of the very long list of speakers—namely, 55—I wonder whether the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has given consideration to the matter of whether the time available for the debate ought to be extended so that we have two days and not one for the Second Reading of the Bill? In the circumstances it is impossible for noble Lords on all sides of the House who are anxious to speak in this debate to do justice to it. Indeed, if the 55 speakers each speak for only 10 minutes, the proceedings will take 10 hours and take us until three o'clock tomorrow morning. I make no complaint about this whatever; but it is a matter of concern to the whole House that we should consider this at an early stage. Alternatively, has the noble Viscount considered other means of curtailing the debate so as to make it as effective as possible?
§ The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)
My Lords, certainly I have considered no other means of curtailing the debate. In the circumstances, I think that that would be improper and outside my capacity. However, equally I hope that we shall be able to end this debate at a reasonable time. It has been understood for some time that this would be a one-day debate. To use the time-honoured phrase, perhaps I may say that I should like to see how we get on.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, why does not the noble Viscount follow the past practice in this House of allotting two days to the debate, with one day going fairly late to 10 o'clock and then bringing the matter to the vote at 6 o'clock on the second day? That is the practice that we have followed in the past.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I hesitate to question the considerable wisdom of one of my predecessors as Leader of this House, but I am informed by my noble friend the Chief Whip that on those occasions when that has been tried it has not proved satisfactory to the House, and therefore we decided to proceed on this basis on this occasion.