HL Deb 20 May 1986 vol 475 cc135-6

3.6 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 this afternoon, I shall, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement being made in another place on university funding. This will be followed by my noble friend Lord Caithness, who will, again with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement on British Rail Engineering Ltd. It may also be for the convenience of the House if I announce that the Report stage of the Education Bill will be adjourned at approximately 7.30 p.m. for approximately one hour and that during this adjournment the Second Reading of the Horticultural Produce Bill will be taken.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, while on business, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, the Deputy Leader of the House, a business question? Yesterday, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, made a Statement on the South African agression against three Commonwealth states, virtually a declaration of war on the Commonwealth. During her Statement, she said that information was not yet complete because reports that she was awaiting had not been received and could not have been received at that time from the High Commissioners. We all accept that and recognise it. But, as I told the noble Baroness yesterday, it was already clear, before the reports had been received, that at least in Zambia the attacks by the South Africans had been on a United Nations refugee camp at Makeni and not on the ANC. Will the noble Lord urge his noble friend Lady Young, when she has received the reports from the High Commissioners concerned and when she is able to give us the full details that she was not able to give yesterday, to make a further report to this House before we rise for the Spring Recess? Is it not even more important that this should happen when meetings of Commonwealth states are taking place right now and when it has become clear this week that appeasement only increases the danger of South African aggression and that nothing less than economic sanctions can protect our fellow Comonwealth members from future aggression from the same source?

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, Questions in your Lordships House are, of course, a matter for the usual channels. However, I shall draw the attention of my noble friend Lady Young to what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, has said about matters that he believes arise from my noble friend's question yesterday. If my noble friend thinks there is anything that should be added from the point of view of the Government, I know that she will consider it.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I should like just to put the record straight. We were not talking about questions. We were talking about a Statement. I was simply asking that another Statement be made when the full facts have been received and before we rise for the Spring Recess.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, my answer to that question on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House was that I shall of course draw the matter to the attention of my noble friend Lady Young. If she thinks that there is anything that should be added, I know that she will consider it carefully in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, has said. If, of course my noble friend does not think there is anything that should be added as a result of the Statement, then, in this House, there is ample opportunity for any noble Lord to raise any question that he or she may wish.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Leader of the House, since he is in his place, whether he would be kind enough on some future occasion to give your Lordships' House some guidance as to business questions and in particular with regard to the kind of question which has just been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby—at very great length—and whether this kind of practice is to become a general precedent? To put it mildly, what the noble Lord has said is not commanding a vibrant interest on the part of the whole of your Lordships' House.

The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)

My Lords, in answer to my noble friend, I obviously suffer from the disadvantage, for which I must apologise to the House, that because I had an important engagement elsewhere I was not in my place to hear some of the previous exchanges. I am therefore not fully informed. I ought to say to my noble friend that your Lordships' Committee on Procedure makes clear its views as to how the House should conduct itself. It is important to try to follow them.

It is my job to interpret the wishes of the whole House in carrying through the recommendations of that procedure. That I always do. I do not expect to satisfy everyone. That would be quite impossible. If I am too lenient (as I am told by some) or too harsh (as I am told by others) it may be that possibly I have sometimes interpreted the views of the House, which is my job. I shall continue to do my best. I hope that noble Lords will remember some of the procedures we set down and try to follow them, because we are masters of our own procedures and that is the way your Lordships wish to conduct the business of the House.