HL Deb 21 July 1988 vol 499 cc1490-1

3.35 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 44 (No two stages to be taken on one day) be suspended until the House rises for the summer recess.—(Lord Belstead.)

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I do not believe that we should allow this Motion to pass without comment and possibly some question. I do not believe that this should be a seasonal ritual in your Lordships' House towards the summer recess, especially since it is almost certain that this suspension of the standing order is intended principally to catch the Finance Bill. I ask the Leader of the House what other Bills besides the Finance Bill are likely to be caught by the suspension of this standing order? That is important.

The Finance Bill this year is of special importance to your Lordships' House as I shall explain when the time comes next week. I do not believe that we should submit to this concertina procedure at a time when the Finance Bill contains more than it has for many years past, including clauses dealing with management which previously were dealt with under the Taxes Management Act and which amend that Act. The Taxes Management Act was not a money Bill but this is. I believe that your Lordships' House must take note of the way in which legislation that was free from the restraints of the Parliament Act was passed, but when it comes to be amended it is put inside a money Bill. I do not believe that your Lordships' House should be cheated out of the right to discuss questions regarding the liberty of the subject and the obligations of citizenship merely because they are under the shelter of a money Bill.

I should have thought that this year was the time to test the constitutional position of putting down amendments to Chapter V of the Finance Bill dealing with matters relating to the obligations of the citizen and the penalties imposed upon him. That is why I believe it is of special importance that we should never pass a Motion of this kind as a matter of ritual. On a special occasion we should take steps to ensure that the concertina procedure does not apply. In conclusion, I respectfully suggest that there is other business that could well have been left over to the resumption of the House on 10th October, whereas the Finance Bill, as we all realise, cannot wait for that length of time.

When one sees the spectacle as regards the firearms Bill, for example, with all the gun runners on the Benches opposite and all my noble friends scattered to the winds as if grouse shooting had already begun, it seems to be misusing the time of the House. It is quite wrong to have the firing squad there, all with dummy ammunition, and the rest of your Lordships held up for a long time. If only we could have discussed the Finance Bill during that time, what a fruitful time we should have had. I suggest to the Leader of the House that he should study some of the passions in this House as well as the petty convenience of some parts of the Government's programme.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, it has been very refreshing to have a short tour d'horizon from the noble Lord about government legislation and legislative methods on this particular Motion which I have moved. The fact of the matter is that, despite what the noble Lord said, the Finance Bill is a money Bill and the other money Bill that will be taken under this Motion is the Consolidated Fund Bill. The substantive answer to the question which the noble Lord asked me and which I need to give, is that the other Bill which will benefit from this Motion, if the House agrees to it, would be the Electricity (Financial Provisions) Scotland Bill. That Bill would have its Second Reading and remaining stages taken on Wednesday 27th July.

It is true that that Bill is not a money Bill; it provides for an increase in the statutory financial limit of the Scottish electricity boards by increasing their maximum borrowing powers from £2.7 billion to £3 billion. I believe that the House is normally content to take such Bills through all their stages on one day, though technically in this case it is not a money Bill.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, should it not be clearly understood that what is and what is not a money Bill is a question upon which Mr. Speaker's Certificate is absolutely conclusive by statute, and that the firearms Bill has nothing whatever to do with grouse shooting?

On Question, Motion agreed to.