HL Deb 06 June 1985 vol 464 cc849-51
The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, at a convenient moment this afternoon my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the contamination of tap water in the Norman Shaw South Building.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I announce that the Committee stage of the Interception of Communications Bill will be adjourned at about 7 p.m. for approximately one hour. During the adjournment, the Report stage of the Hospital Complaints Procedure Bill and the Second Reading of the Road Traffic (Production of Documents) Bill will be taken.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether it is really necessary to repeat this Statement in this House? We are all of course very much interested in the welfare of another place, but surely they are able to take care of themselves I think the time has come when we really should look at Statements from the point of view of considering whether they are of real importance to this House.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I must say that personally I have a certain sympathy with what the noble Earl has just said; but I think that I should just quote from the Companion to the Standing Orders, which, on Statements generally, says that: Ministerial statements made in the Commons are normally repeated in the Lords, unless, following discussions through the usual channels, they are not thought sufficiently important to the Lords to be repeated". This, in the normal way, was offered through the usual channels and it was decided that it was important enough to be repeated. However, when my noble friend the Chief Whip and I announce Statements we very carefully say, My noble friend will, with the leave of the House". Therefore it is very much a matter for the House. This is a matter which will be discussed shortly by the Procedure Committee and perhaps it might be better to leave this particular Statement and let the whole matter of Statements generally be considered.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, perhaps I may add to what the Deputy Chief Whip has said in answer to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that in fact there is a concern at this end of the building, particularly among the staff, about the quality of the water supply. For that reason it was thought wise to take the Statement.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, may I just say that it raises questions other than that of the quality of the water supply? It raises the question of how we alert Members of both Houses and the staff to any serious emergency there may be in the Palace. I think this is a matter of great importance for this House as well as for the other place.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, if that is the wish of the House, so be it; but I would very much hope that what the noble Earl has said—namely, that there is to be consideration of this whole issue in the Procedure Committee—will enable that committee to take into account what I know is the feeling of many of your Lordships on the point that I have raised today.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, is my noble friend aware, in support of what the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has said, that it is not only Statements which are sometimes repeated when they need not be in this House but, for example, this week we had the Answer to a Private Notice Question in another place repeated in this House in the form of a Statement? If Private Notice Questions and Statements are going to be taken here, that could well interfere with the general work that this House ought to be doing.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, perhaps, having noted the views put forward by your Lordships, I should say to my noble friend that in fact Private Notice Questions are offered to the Opposition through the usual channels in the normal way. Frequently they are thought to be important, and frequently, I must say, they are important-I have to say possibly rather more important perhaps than this particular one that we are discussing this afternoon. Therefore, on that basis, if the Opposition want them, it has been the habit of the Government to make sure that they have them. Having heard the debate, I am sure that the House would wish to have this Statement today. I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for what he has said. We shall have the Statement today and I am sure that in future the usual channels on all sides will take careful note of what has been said this afternoon.

Lord Morris

My Lords, before we finish this matter, may I just ask my noble friend the Deputy Chief Whip whether the repetition of a Statement is really a matter for the leave of the House or whether it is a matter for the usual channels?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I think the answer is that it is for both.