§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I am rising to a point of order. In the light of the statement that the Chief Whip has just made, I would ask him whether it would be possible to arrange, for the convenience of the House, that the important Statement which is to be repeated in this House could be made before we get into the Committee stage of the rates abolition Bill? We are now close to the magic hour of half-past three, and if procedurally it were possible to take this Statement before we started the Bill, I should have thought that it would be for the general convenience of the House.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw)
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for having given me notice that he would raise this point, which has enabled me to look into all the possibilities available to the House. Of course it is a fact that I am entirely in the hands of the House as to what it decides it wishes to do. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will hopefully rise at half-past three in another place.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, I am not quite as well aware of the procedures in the other place as he is, but very nearly. I think therefore I could say that that possibility had crossed my mind as well and I was going to refer to it. That is why I said "hopefully". It may not be exactly at half-past three.
We cannot take the Statement in your Lordships' House until such time as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has risen in another place. That is in accordance with our arrangements. It is true that if we do not take it now, or very soon, we shall be embarked—
§ Viscount Whitelaw
I do not think so. We shall be embarked on, I understand, an important and long debate, concerning students in the Scottish rating Bill, and will take some time. If the House wishes to continue for that time, that is for the House to decide and it is perfectly reasonable. If, on the other hand, the House wishes to have the Statement first, that would be possible only in the event that my right honourable friend has risen to speak before we start on the Bill. If not, with the agreement of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the Committee, it would be possible, after the noble Earl has moved his very important amendment, for the House to resume at that point for the Statement. The other option is to wait until the whole debate on the student issue has been concluded.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I should like to support the proposal put so briefly and so well by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. The first debate of substance in the Scottish rates Bill which is to follow is a very important one. I do not think that it would do justice for everyone to be waiting for a very important repetition of a Statement from the other place. I support what my noble friend has suggested.
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, I have a substantial point on which my noble friend can perhaps enlighten your Lordships. Is there any machinery to enable us to tell what has happened in another place so that as soon as the Prime Minister has started to make her Statement, we should be free to permit—if I am not using the wrong word—my noble friend the Leader of the House to repeat the Statement in your Lordships' House?
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, the answer is, yes, such machinery exists. However, I have to point out to your Lordships that once the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has started to move his amendment, it would not be proper to suggest that we should break in, at least until he has finished his speech. If noble Lords wish to go through the whole debate, so be it.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I shall say just this. I shall be perfectly happy, if the House so wishes, to move my amendment, and then to allow the Statement. The general debate could proceed afterwards.