HL Deb 20 July 1989 vol 510 cc918-29

1 After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

"Increase for child benefit

.In section 63(2) of the Social Security Act 1986, after paragraph (a) there shall be inserted the following paragraph— (aa) which increases the sum specified by virtue of section 5(1) of the Child Benefit Act 1975 by a percentage not less than the percentage by which the sum prescribed for the purposes of section 2I(6)(a) above in respect of a child aged less than 11 years is increased by the up-rating order; and".

The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason:

2 Because this amendment might involve charges on public funds, and the Commons do not offer any further reason trusting that this reason may be deemed, sufficient.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 2.

The amendment passed by your Lordships during the Committee stage of the Bill inserted a new clause which provided for child benefit to be uprated by at least the same percentage as the child credit rate of family credit. The House of Commons has now considered that amendment and has disagreed to it. I ask your Lordships therefore not to insist on the amendment.

The reason for the other place disagreeing is a privilege reason. As Erskine May puts it: This hint of privilege is generally accepted by the Lords, and the amendment is not insisted upon". In view of this, I do not believe it would be right for me to go further and to rehearse once again the Government's arguments for retaining flexibility in the uprating of child benefit. I say that with no disrespect either to my noble friend Lady Faithfull, who originally moved the amendment, or to any Member of your Lordships' House who supported the amendment.

It is however for another place to decide, in considering an amendment received from your Lordships' House, whether the amendment touches on financial privilege. In this case the Commons has so decided. At this stage we have to consider our response to the decision of another place. I do not suggest for a moment that it would be wrong if your Lordships wished once again to press in debate your views of the merits. On the contrary it is fully within the powers of your Lordships' House. But what I suggest is that the debate should in the end be decided on the single point of the financial privilege asserted by another place. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 2.—(Lord Belstead.)

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, many people in all parts of the House will have received these messages with deep regret—and in some cases, I know, with genuine anger. We must stress that the only reason given in the messages is that the amendment might involve charges on public funds. The Commons does not offer any further reason. We might as well be talking of a Finance Bill.

All through our debates on the Social Security Bill we have heard nothing from government representatives except talk about money, figures, statistics and costs. The fact that the Commons sends this message to us saying that there is no further reason indicates the attitude of the Government towards social policy. They give no reason of justice, no reason of fairness, no reason of concern for the people we are trying to help—only finance.

We are all aware of the limitations on our powers imposed by the Parliament Act. We were not trying to start a revolution. In fact it would have been difficult for us, considering the all-party nature of the support for the amendments, to have gone down that road. All we were trying to do, well within our powers as a revising Chamber, was to send a message to another place asking it in these two respects to look again at clauses which we feel redound so unkindly to many people in this country.

Your Lordships have been given only the mercenary argument. One wonders what kind of philosophy underlies the Government's thinking on these important matters. Many experienced noble Lords supported the amendments, mostly out of their knowledge and concern. I shall not name anyone in particular, but looking through the Division lists it is clear that there was a great deal of wisdom, understanding and experience in the support which the amendments received here.

The brevity of the reply from the Commons is an insult to this House. It indicates that no genuine consideration was given by the Government to noble Lords of all parties when the Bill reached the other place. I do not want to go over all the arguments again because I am sure the House is familiar with them, but I must say that I resist the argument that what we suggested has to be thrown away because of a charge on public funds. One would think that the other place makes no charges on public funds, although that of course is its job.

I have been looking at some of the charges on public funds that the Government seem happy about. Following the Finance Bill of 1977 there is a statutory indexing of personal allowances, and that was accepted. I notice from the figures that tax allowances for a wife, however rich she is, have risen by 22 per cent. in real terms. Child benefit has gone down 13 per cent. in real terms. There is a charge on public funds for mortgage tax relief, however rich the house buyer might be. Now we are to have income tax allowances for private health care for the elderly, however rich they are.

This Government appear to have the most extraordinary lack of understanding and concern for children. A family with children clearly has higher expenses than a family without children or a single person without children. But, no, for two years running the Government have insisted on no uprating for child benefit and that there should be no concern for people who are endeavouring to bring up their families. As I said, I do not intend to go into arguments of detail. I do not intend to attack the other government proposals for helping low income families. That is not the business of the House today, though when I was in the other place last night it seemed to take up a lot of time. I only say that there is a great deal of talk in some quarters about this place, the reforms that are necessary and how things should be altered here. However, when we deal with matters of human welfare I hope that we have a meeting of minds. In fact, we had a meeting of the majority of minds in these two cases.

I know—and I can say so having been a constituency Member for many years—that in this House we do not exactly have constituencies but we have our concerns for the people we want to help. In having these two amendments accepted with, as I said, support from all sides of the House, our constituents were the children, the blind, the deaf, the crippled and the disabled. By turning their back on these suggestions the Government have shown the ugly face of Toryism, and the people of this country will take note of that and they will pay for it.

3.45 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, Edward Gibbon was once commanded by his father to desist from a courtship on which he had set his heart. He sighed as a lover and obeyed as a son. It is a story which comes regularly to my mind when one of our amendments comes back from the Commons with a privilege reason attached.

This will cause a great deal of grief, as the noble Baroness said, not only in this House but throughout the country among families with children. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, said on the Motion that the Bill do now pass; that our debates have been characterised by noble Lords wishing to push the Government in directions where they do not wish to go. He added the qualification, "Not now". And for that crumb of comfort I thank him.

However, there is a name for that process. It is called politics. I accept that those who bear sway in another place have the power. The common point of course of the story of Edward Gibbon and what has happened today is that it is true that he who pays the piper calls the tune, but those who have power are normally prudent if in the exercise of it they take some account of strong feelings which are held in other places and in other parts of the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Denham, speaking on 8th December last, said of this House that it is a revising Chamber and for that it is uniquely fitted. That is a view with which many of us would very much like to agree. However, when I think of it I cannot recall any amendment carried on a Division in this place which has been fully accepted in another place since he spoke. I accept that we may be wrong a lot of the time, but it would cause me considerable surprise if we had been wrong all the time.

In the current issue of The House Magazine Sheila Gunn says of the Prime Minister: She and her Cabinet colleagues reverse defeats inflicted in the Lords more readily without giving concessions—and they can no longer hide their irritation when the peers take a stand. In recent years the Lords have become, if not her poodle, at least Mrs. Thatcher's ageing labrador". It would be unwise of the House to allow that view to spread too far.

I now turn to the matter of the amendment. I must confess to some disappointment. I read the Secretary of State's answers to Oral Questions on 3rd July last He praised what he described as a judicious mix of child benefit and family credit which, he argued, this Government have achieved. He said: The Government would not maintain that commitment as strongly as we do unless we believed that that mix was right."—[Official Report, Commons, 3/7/89; col. 13.] Of course it was precisely the purpose of our amendment to keep that mix as it is now. If the Secretary of State believes that it is right to do so, I am a little surprised that he did not accept the amendment. The fact that he did not do so raises certain questions.

This is the second year in succession that child benefit has not been uprated. Tax allowances o course have been uprated. This raises the question which the Secretary of State refused to answer in another place last night: are the Government prepared to accept that child benefit can be uprated at some time in the future? I know that we will receive the answer that the Secretary of State has discretion to review benefits. I accept that. However, that is like saying, "How's that?" and getting the reply, "The umpire's decision is final". We know that it is final but we want to know what the answer is. We want to know whether child benefit will be uprated in future.

We want to know, if there is to be no uprating of child benefit, whether the Government intend to reintroduce the child tax allowance, which of course would be a great deal worse targeted in their terms than child benefit—for in equity I cannot see how the Government can fail to do one or the other.

I also repeat the question that I heard asked from the Government's own Front Bench below the Gangway last night. Has it now become the policy of Her Majesty's Government to discourage people from having children? If that is so, since this is a change in policy of some importance, are we to receive an announcement and an explanation of the reasons why such a decision might have been taken? It would be a matter of legitimate concern in this House.

I also wonder why it is that there is so much concern on the Government Benches about the notion that if this amendment were accepted the money might well go to the well-off. I say that because I did not know that that was contrary to government policy—that is, for money to go to the well-off. But, if it is on this occasion contrary to government policy, and it is not when they are passing a Budget, that seems to suggest rather too rigorous a distinction between what is labelled "taxation" on the one hand, and what is labelled "welfare" on the other. We seem, again, to be moving into a category of "wrong boxes". After all, it is all money and if the money can be more efficiently used in this way than in any other, I do not see why it should not be.

I accept the authority of those who hold the purse strings, but I think they have exercised it with a very great lack of wisdom.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I think that the debate this afternoon disqualifies Parliament from having anything useful to say to industry, commerce or our institutions about modernising their methods and procedures, economising on manpower and finding more modern methods of discharging business. It is no good rehearsing the merits behind these two amendments this afternoon, because they are of no consequence in another place; they do not care what the merits are. Those in another place are concerned about whether it is a breach of their privilege on matters of public expenditure.

We receive this brush-off every time and we take no notice of it. We go about helpless with a futile look on our faces. It is incredible that we put up with this in 1989. It has been going on since 1911. It is a historical inheritance from the Parliament Act 1911, when taxation was dealt with and when a ban was put on the powers of this House to tamper with either taxation or public expenditure.

Of course, in 1911 the national insurance scheme was in its infancy; indeed, it had hardly been born. It had not become the second biggest taxation system in our economic affairs. But, now has grown to be just that. I have drawn attention before to the anomalous position in which we find ourselves where we cannot amend the personal release for taxation in this House; but we can bankrupt the National Insurance Fund, if our amendments are given effect in another place. Can we not find a better way? Do we have to put up with this brush-off every time? Where is the ingenuity" Where is the will-power to do something more sensible than go through this rehearsal at the end of a Session every year?

I suggest that there are reasons behind these amendments which would qualify for a request to be made to another place asking it to think again. One of the points about our role in the parliamentary system is that although we acknowledge the sovereignty of the elected Chamber, if it insists upon what it wishes to do we can at least offer a check, or a pause, during which we can ask it to think again about what it proposes to do. But when we touch finance Members of another place do not think again; they do not need to think again. They can tell us to mind our own business—and that is what we put up with.

Then, as a means of coping with the situation, we have a rehearsal of all the reasons for passing the amendments in the first place. It is fatuous. Why does it fall to one of the oldest Members of your Lordships' House to pontificate about the modernity which is required of Britain to find its way in the world? We are obsolescent in the way we are going on now. The day will come when we shall be brushed aside and other forces of public administration will take our place. They deserve to do so.

I ask that those who are responsible for the leadership of the House these days should pay attention to some of the historical legacies of past years. Seventy-nine years ago was the origin of what we have today. The preamble to the Parliament Bill said that there would be major reform of the House of Lords but that, in the meantime, it was necessary to do something ad interim; and they did something ad interim in 1911 and it is still ad interim today, according to the statute of 1911. I am indignant, I really am. I am becoming rather tired of being in a House of Parliament which is so behind the times.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the origins of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, were a little more than 79 years ago, but that is no reason why he should be swept aside. I intervene only to put right two misapprehensions, as I see them. First, it was suggested that the amendments put forward by this House are never accepted by another place. I have myself been at the Dispatch Box reporting the acceptance of an amendment from another place. Secondly, many amendments come back to us in another form, either as a compromise honourably worked between the two Chambers—and there is nothing wrong with that—or made to fit better into a scheme which is already in the statute. Again, there is nothing wrong in that procedure.

It is an accepted fact in our constitution that matters of finance are not the business of this House. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, that it is not an insult if the other place tells us so and then does not proceed to argue about the merits of the case expressed in this House, when they are not the business of this place. I do not think that we need a long constitutional debate about the future of the House of Lords, but I hope that I have said enough to show that this is an effective Chamber and that it has not been insulted by another place.

Baroness Faithful

My Lords, as the person privileged to move the amendment in the first place in your Lordships' House, it is natural that I should say that I am sad and disappointed that it has not been accepted by another place. But, having said that, perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, will remember that many years ago—it may well have been more years ago than we would care to count—when she was in the House of Commons she implanted in me the understanding, and told me in no uncertain terms that we were a democracy and that the House of Commons took precedence over the House of Lords. I do not know whether the noble Baroness can recall the occasion; I think that we were in fact sitting on an island in Malawi at the time. I have always remembered the occasion.

I should prefer to look to the future as regards this amendment. I do not believe that it would be right for your Lordships' House not to accept the reasons put forward by the House of Commons in this matter. I take heart from the fact that many Conservatives voted against the Government in another place. Therefore, as I said, I look to the future hoping that perhaps in the years to come there may be a change of attitude and that we shall have contributed, perhaps, in our way to that change. But, from the point of view of the present time, I support the Government in accepting the House of Commons' reply to the House of Lords' amendment, Sorrowful though I am, I am sure that it would not be right for this House to contest the matter with the other place.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, in case it should be thought that my noble friend Lord Houghton was alone in the views he expressed about this particular matter, I must tell him that he has considerable support. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said in defence of the system, it is a fact that when anything fundamental needs to be decided this House is overruled. Of course, it may be proper that it should be overruled; but, nevertheless, that is the situation.

Here, once again, we have a social measure which has wide support throughout the country and certainly wide support in this House, as an amendment was carried against the Government, and also in another place, where 19 Members of the Government voted against them and in favour of our amendment.

Here once again the House of Lords is being told, "Despite what you say, despite the remarkably good arguments you adduced in support of your amendment, despite the fact that it is a social measure that is supported in that way, and because we believe as the House of Commons, that we have financial privilege, we want you to undo what you did in good faith and after good argument". That does not smack of a responsible Chamber which is held in respect by the Government and another place. That is what we are complaining about.

What on earth is the use of good-hearted people, with a conscience about and a feeling for their country, coming along here day by day to thrash out the Bills that come before us and to give their considered opinion to the Government and to the country if they are to be overruled at a stroke with no reasons properly given?

We have become nothing more than a curiosity, and an expensive curiosity at that. If we are not to be considered seriously, if we are not to have our views taken into account after much argument, much debate and much voting—

4 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, the noble Baroness has stopped me in mid-flight but I shall certainly give way.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, if the noble Lord's argument is right, why does his party wish to get rid of the House of Lords?

Lord Elwyn-Jones

It does not.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I have said nothing yet about getting rid of the House of Lords; but by accepting this sort of diktat from the House of Commons, the House of Lords is getting rid of itself. That is the point that I am trying to make. If it once becomes obvious to the electorate that it is wasting £,12 million or £15 million a year on this Chamber, they will demand that it be closed and be used merely as a tourist attraction for foreign visitors.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I was one of those who spoke against the amendment when it was in your Lordships' House. Despite, or perhaps because of, my opposition it was duly carried. That does not prevent me from understanding the strong feelings of those who supported it and who feel strongly about the matter when they find that it has come up against the barrier of Commons privilege. It is only human, when one has been keen on a proposal and when one believes, as many noble Lords on both sides do, that it would have been an improvement in our social security system had it been carried into law, to feel strongly about the matter. But we are up against one of the major features of our constitution.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, was, if he will allow me to say so, wrong when he attributed the difficulty to the Parliament Act 1911. In fact if he will consult Erskine May, he will see that long years before the Parliament Act it had been accepted that this House would not insist upon measures which imposed substantial charges on the public. It was largely for, it seems to me, foolish reasons when in 1909 the Opposition tried to challenge that position that the Parliament Act was enacted. It is a mistake to believe that the financial privilege of the Commons is as recent as 1911.

One can understand the basis of that privilege. If your Lordships' House were free to carry amendments which would impose substantial additional charges on the taxpayer, one would in fact compel another place to do what we cannot do and impose adequate taxation to pay for it. If we are not to be concerned directly with taxation, surely it makes nonsense of the whole limitation if we can carry measures, however expensive, which inevitably involve another place having to impose additional taxation.

One or two rather harsh and unfair things have been said about the attitude of another place generally. As my noble friend pointed out, many of your Lordships' amendments, including those imposing some expenditure, have been accepted by another place; equally, others have been varied a little and sent back to us, perhaps somewhat improved as a result of the variation.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will give way. We have heard this argument from the noble Lord, Lord Elton. We are now hearing it again. Will the noble Lord, who has a good memory, outline the matters upon which he is now basing his argument? I cannot recall instances of our amendments being accepted when they involved finance.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, they have accepted so many. I do not propose to weary your Lordships by reciting the work of the past few years. It would be a waste of everyone's time, because the fact that another place has accepted our amendments is surely not an argument against it because in this case it has decided to reject them. It is fully entitled, by long-standing constitutional practice, to reverse our decisions where they involve substantial expenditure. That has been indisputably the position for a great many years. It serves little purpose, and perhaps does not help relations between the two Houses, if we become too excited about it.

I suggest that the dignified thing for the House to do is, where the Commons exercises its undoubted privilege, to accept the decision with dignity and not appear to be too immensely hurt. I would venture to differ from noble Lords and the noble Baroness who said that because of that constitutional position, the House is useless and ineffective. That is not true. Even in these matters we have the right, which we exercised in this case, to ask another place to have a look at the proposal and consider it. That involves accepting, when it has had another look and decided to reject it, that that rejection stands. There is also so much work that does not involve the imposition of charges. I do not want to weary your Lordships with it, but there is the consideration of the mass of legislation with which we have to deal—in the view of some of us, we have to deal with too much legislation. The careful analysis and examination given to it by your Lordships' House is of immense value, as of course are the general debates which your Lordships' House undertakes in respect of major matters; and there is the work of its Select Committees.

It is a mistake, because for a very long time the House has not had the power to impose public expenditure against the wishes of another place, to say that this House is useless or ineffective. The House performs considerable functions, and we do not help their performance by taking too hardly—as I said I understand the feelings—the case where, within its undoubted rights, another place rejects them.

I shall quote again if I may, although I believe that my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal quoted it: This hint of privilege is generally accepted by the Lords, and the amendment is not insisted upon". That is what our Bible, Erskine May, says, and that is the course which I suggest to your Lordships that we should take, with dignity, this afternoon.

Lord Coleraine

My Lords, this is I believe the fifth time that we in Parliament have discussed child benefit this year. One thing that the debates have made clear, especially the debate in the other place last night, is that the question of uprating will not go away. It will certainly not go away while the Government leave unanswered the question of whether child benefit may be uprated to take account of inflation one day. This is the question to which the noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred and which was put to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State by my right honourable and honourable friends in the other place last night.

The other place has spoken. So far as I am concerned I do not propose, any more than my noble friend Lady Faithfull, to look back at the amendment. I shall certainly not do so with the anger to which the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, referred, nor do I propose to associate myself in any way with the sniping at the constitution which has come from the Benches opposite today. I propose to look forward to the uprating review which will be in three or four weeks of this House sitting in Ocotober.

I have been puzzled by the last two reviews. As a simple Back-Bencher, I cannot help wondering whether my right honourable friend is receiving the best advice and whether he is directing himself to the questions to which he ought to direct himself when he undertakes what is not a discretion, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, says, but a duty.

In October 1988 he said in his uprating Statement: I have never made any secret of my belief that this benefit is not the most effective use of social security resources."—[Official Report, 27/10/88; Col. 1714.] The Secretary of State has always correctly described child benefit as a hybrid, combining social security benefits with the tax allowance. He also says—and we have heard this again and again from one source or another—that child benefit is a deduction, pound for pound, from social security means-tested benefits. When the Government tell us that an extra bit on the child benefit will not help those poor people on means-tested benefits, surely what that means is that by the Government's reckoning, child benefit is now little more than a replacement of the child allowance. So why does it have to be treated as having to come from social security resources?

Do not the Government accept that there should be horizontal equity between taxpayers with children and those without? This was a question which my right honourable and honourable friends put last night to the Government and to which there was no reply. I do not for a moment suppose that the Secretary of State is against child benefit. The trouble is that he appears to subscribe to the theory that the child benefit up-rating provisions are nearly meaningless or that if they have any meaning at all, it is merely that so long as someone somewhere is in a state of poverty then the money which would otherwise go to child benefit must go to uprate the means-tested benefits.

That is a theory to which I do not subscribe. In my view it was best expressed in another place during Committee by the late Mr. Penhaligon. On 7th July 1975, during the debate on the Child Benefit Bill, the then Secretary of State, the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, moved the amendment from which the present uprating provision is derived. It has to be said that she did so in order to defuse the united opposition demands that child benefit should be index-linked. Mr. Penhaligon said that he would lead his party into the Lobby against the amendment because importing the paper on which to print the provision in the Act would be a plain waste of money.

The Secretary of State seems to me to share that view. He sees himself trapped in a box with the Treasury outside. What he is saying is quite simply this: that one—and indeed the most important—of the relevant matters which he must consider is that the Treasury will not give him the money with which to uprate child benefit. I must reject that view of the matter. I submit that the Government should not split themselves into two in this way in order to defy the will of Parliament, as expressed in the statute.

My right honourable friend should review the benefit and he should not allow the Treasury to do it for him. The Government should see that the money is available. I await with very keen interest the uprating Statement in October and I accept the amendments of the other place today.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, once or twice over the last 20 years I have agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I just want to say that I agree with him today.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, was perhaps uncharacteristically less than fair when, at the beginning of her remarks, she referred to the Government's attitude to debates which took place on the Bill. Of course the noble Baroness took a leading part in those debates from the Opposition Front Bench. Before I leave the point I would just say to the House that my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale arranged meetings with noble Lords to discuss issues arising from clauses relating to equal treatment for men and women and the recovery from damages of sums equivalent to benefit. I know that appreciation was expressed of that as the Bill reached its last stages.

Then, in addition, during the passage of the Bill, the Government announced agreement on two matters which were of concern to your Lordships: reviewing the six months' qualifying period for attendance allowances for the terminally ill; and doubling the statutory disregard in housing benefit for war pensioners.

I think that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter was justified in saying that the House does good work and has been doing good work on this Bill. I would go further and say that in fulfilling our revising role, your Lordships' House obviously has the right to ask another place to think again. My noble friend, Lord Elton, reminded us that we often do so successfully. When I heard that being questioned by some noble Lords on the Opposition Benches, I could only reflect that perhaps noble Lords opposite had not been following the Water Bill quite as carefully as some of us have been over the last months. Many, many amendments were made to it by this House and accepted by another place.

The revising role is an important right. I do not believe that it should be unduly restricted. But that said, I believe that where the other place has given as the Reason for disagreeing that: …this Amendment might involve charges on public funds, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient", we should have very much in mind that Erskine May says: This hint of privilege is generally accepted by the Lords, and the amendment is not insisted upon". So I believe that on this occasion that is the sense in which the amendment should be decided. I therefore ask that the House do not insist on their Amendment No. 1, for the reason given in Amendment No. 2.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat, I wonder whether he could clarify one matter which has caused concern to a number of us. Before I come to the point, I wish to make it plain to the House—and I am sure that those in all parts of the House would agree—that we have been meticulous in our observation of the 1911 Act. I am not aware that at any point we have ever sought to breach it. We should not wish to do that today.

Nevertheless there is a feeling on this side that the Government have used the sledge hammer of that Act to smash a matter of high principle. This is causing acute concern. But the basic point on which I would value the noble Lord's comments is the wording, namely: Because this Amendment might involve charges on public funds". There is an ambiguity there which I and others have not observed before. The wording on previous occasions, as I recall, is: Because this Amendment would involve charges on public funds". Before we proceed, I wonder whether the noble Lord the Leader of the House could explain that to us.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if I may say so to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, I do not believe that it would be appropriate for me to attempt to look behind the wording of the Reason. But I am advised that exactly these words about which the noble Lord is questioning me have been used in the past in such a way as to give the "hint of privilege" referred to by Erskine May. There is therefore no question of another place attempting in some way to expand the bounds of financial privilege, if that is the particular concern in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. Equally, however, there can be no doubt that by using those words the other place has invoked its financial privilege in this matter.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, if the noble Lord assures the House that there is ample precedent for this wording, then I must accept what he says. However, I must repeat the point I made previously. There is a good deal of uncertainty on this side of the House about the use of those words on previous occasions.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, that is an uncertainty which I hope I have now dispelled.

On Question, Motion agreed to.