HL Deb 22 July 1991 vol 531 cc499-596

5.14 p.m.

Motion for consideration of Commons amendments resumed.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, following consultation through the usual channels, it has been agreed that the business should proceed as arranged. I should say that this has been agreed with the full consideration of what was said earlier this afternoon on the basis that this would be on balance more for the convenience of the whole House.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I do not know whether it is in order to reply in any sense to the statement made by my noble friend. If so, I should be glad of the opportunity. We have been told that this has been agreed between the usual channels. I should like to say that the usual channels may have their own particular reasons, but whatever they are they would surprise me very much. I am sure that I speak for a number of noble Lords when I say that we deeply regret the decision. Speaking for myself, while the Statements were being made I was working as hard as I could to try to master some of the consequences of the amendments. I found a small mistake in one of them. I deeply regret that we have to proceed in this way.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, perhaps I may add to what my noble friend Lord Renton said and say that I very much regret this decision and the grounds on which it is alleged to have been taken. It was said by my noble friend that the proposal to continue with the Bill—beginning now, at a quarter-past five in the afternoon—was for the convenience of the House. I do not believe that to be so. No doubt it is for the convenience of the usual channels. They have made these arrangements and it is convenient for them to adhere to them. To say that it is for the convenience of the House to tackle a Bill of such complexity and considerable importance—a Bill which was received by most of us only this morning—in a debate beginning quite late this very afternoon, is a misstatement.

It is not for the convenience of the House, nor, I say with respect, is it good for the reputation of the House. We are supposed to be a revising Chamber. Many noble Lords (if not I) have given great attention to this Bill and taken a great deal of trouble over it. Now to proceed as is suggested—namely; straightaway, with the Bill straight back from another place and with no opportunity whatever for reasonable consideration of the amendments and of whether we should accept them—is undoubtedly harmful to the position of the House as a revising Chamber. Like my noble friend, I immensely regret that the Government have taken that line.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that what has now been decided is not for the convenience of the House but for the convenience of the Government and presumably the Opposition Front Bench. That is quite deplorable. As I have already said, in my view there is absolutely no reason why this Bill should not be discussed when we come back for the spillover period.

I find it quite reprehensible and truly amazing that we have just been discussing a citizen's charter, which is supposed to give more rights to the citizen, yet only a few minutes later we find that the rights of Members of Parliament are denied; namely, the right to proper consideration of a very detailed and important Bill. Whatever happens, I find the proceedings quite reprehensible and regrettable.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, perhaps I may speak from these Benches, as part of the usual channels. I do not believe that anybody within the usual channels would dissent from many of the comments that have been made. It is very unfortunate that the House is faced with such a situation at this stage of the year. It is not new. It tends to happen every year because that is the way in which foolishly we do our business.

We are very much at the behest of the Government's programme. We could seek to disrupt it. We could seek to continue the Session into August. But, on the whole, the usual channels try within reasonable limits to facilitate progress of business within your Lordships' House. The difficulty is that we are in the last week of the Session with a still quite heavy programme. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, suggested that certain matters might be moved from Wednesday to Friday. That would cause considerable difficulties to the people who seek to do what they have to do on Wednesday and who have equal rights in those matters to noble Lords concerned with this Bill.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, the noble Lord has referred to me. I made that suggestion in order to try to meet the wishes of those who wanted the Bill to become law before we rose. I wish to make it clear that my own preference is to carry the matter over until October when the Bill can be discussed fully, at leisure, and after proper consideration. Perhaps what the noble Lord said is a warning to me against ever trying to be helpful.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will not stop trying to be helpful. I say that merely to illustrate that in the present situation one moves one piece of jigsaw and finishes up with an even more confused pattern than one started with.

It is reprehensible that the House is faced with these problems. It is no way to run Parliament. It is no way for Parliament to be able to challenge the Executive. However, I hope that noble Lords will have some slight sympathy for the usual channels. The alternative of keeping the House sitting through August in order that the Government may achieve its business by the determined time is not a matter of which I wish to be part.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for allowing me to intervene. However, that is not the alternative. There will be quite a lot of time in the spill-over period. The alternative is to consider the Bill during that period. I can assure the noble Lord that that will not affect the Bill. It will not affect it coming into operation in 1993. Work can be done between the start of the Recess and when we return. We can begin its implementation, if that is necessary, with discussions and so on. The noble Lord's suggestion is not the alternative.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I fear that it may be the alternative if the Government wish to pass this Bill before the Summer Recess. That may be a reprehensible demand from the Government, but it is part of the whole package of running your Lordships' House. We can do that only by consent, as we do with all other matters in your Lordships' House. I concurred with the programme. I may have been wrong. However, having done so, I fear that if it were to come to a Division on this issue, I should have to advise my noble friends to support the Motion that we continue with this business today.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS [Page and line references are to Bill [157] as first printed by the Commons.]

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