HL Deb 20 February 1990 vol 516 cc146-8
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord a business question. He will be aware that the student loans Bill is down for Second Reading today week. I understand that that Bill has not yet been received from another place. I should therefore like to know how the Government propose to comply with Standing Orders which stipulate a minimum interval of two weekends between the introduction of a Bill or the date on which a Bill is brought from the Commons and the Second Reading. How has that situation arisen? It will cause great inconvenience to many noble Lords if it is necessary to postpone the Second Reading of the Bill.

Lord Denham

My Lords, the time of arrival of a Bill from another place is a matter for another place. However, in arranging for Bills to be taken in your Lordships' House sometimes the usual channels have to make a prediction as to when a Bill will arrive in order to give noble Lords a date for consideration on Second Reading. I believe that that is the more important when, as in the present case, a Bill is expected to be of interest to many of your Lordships.

In the present instance I regret that we guessed wrongly. Nevertheless I believe that it is for the convenience of your Lordships that, having informally advertised the date for Second Reading as next Tuesday, 27th February, we should stick to that date. When the Second Reading is put on the Order Paper this evening the entry will be marked according to the convention as being an item of business which is set down within the minimum intervals recommended in the Companion to the Standing Orders. If the noble Lord opposite wishes to make representations that the Second Reading be postponed beyond that date I shall be only too happy to discuss the matter with him.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, the noble Lord did not answer the second part of my question as to how the situation has arisen when another place finished with the Bill last Thursday evening.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I believe that it would be improper for me to comment on what is very much the prerogative of another place. We can receive the Bill only when it is sent from another place. We have not had it yet.

I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that the mimum intervals in this House are very important. They were arrived at on a recommendation of the Select Committee on practice and procedure. In a previous existence I was able to make representations to that Select Committee and suggest that minimum intervals should be enforced. The reason was the quite intolerable way in which the previous Administration, the one before 1979, treated this House, which I am pleased to see the party opposite now implicitly regards as totally wrong.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord the Chief Whip will excuse me if I say that his last remarks are not particularly helpful to achieving a sensible arrangement in the circumstances. We all understand that the pigeons which produce documents from pigeonholes at the other end of the building have somehow gone lame and are taking rather longer than normal to bring the Bill forward for First Reading in this House.

It is true that noble Lords have in their diaries a date for the Second Reading of the Bill. I believe that noble Lords on all sides of the House would wish to be accommodating in the matter. However, it seems that the First Reading is not yet imminent. Although I understand the difficulty of the noble Lord the Chief Whip in predicting what may happen in another part of this building, try as we may, our patience may be tried beyond measure if the matter is delayed much later today.

Lord Denham

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, spoke in a very patient tone of voice. I hope that that patience will not be abused and that lame pigeons, however lame they may be, will manage the 150 yards down the Palace of Westminister rather sooner than we feared might have been the case.

3.14 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, by way of clarification and for the record, I should like to say that, while I agree entirely with what the noble Lord the Leader of the House said about the time taken on Questions today, my noble friends Lady Lockwood and Lady David rose merely to correct the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who referred to paragraph 13 of the report and not to paragraph 15, which was the paragraph referred to by my noble friends.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if I have done an injustice to either noble Baroness I apologise. However, they will bear in mind that Question Time is for seeking information and not for giving it.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Noble Lords


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