HL Deb 17 December 1992 vol 541 cc654-6
The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(The Earl of Caithness.)

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, I rise not to initiate a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill but to preserve intact the right of Back-Benchers in this place to raise matters in debate on the Bill.

Many noble Lords will recall the time when such debates took place. It is only in comparatively recent years that it has been taken as the practice to allow the Consolidated Fund Bill to pass through on the nod. I am aware that the matter has been raised on frequent occasions by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby. In many respects all I am doing is to echo what he has said in the past.

I am sure that your Lordships will agree that it would be unfortunate if it became confirmed as a practice and established by tradition that the Consolidated Fund Bill always went through on the nod. Having said that, and I hope having asserted the right of Back-Benchers in this place to raise matters on the Consolidated Fund Bill, I say no more.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, from this side of the House perhaps I may say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington—not for the first time. Certainly I recall debates in this House on the Consolidated Fund Bill, which is a fundamental measure on which we cannot vote but which we can discuss. It would be most unfortunate if the tradition were allowed to develop that speeches on the measure were excluded. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will make it quite clear that any of us who wish to debate the measure on future occasions are fully entitled to do so.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington and my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter recall the days when debate took place on Consolidated Fund or Appropriation Bills. However, my advice is that they have not been debated since 1907. There has been debate on a Finance Bill, which is a different matter. I cannot recall a debate on a Consolidated Fund Bill. Of course I was not around in 1907.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend arguing that debate on the measure is out of order?

The Earl of Caithness

No, my Lords. Under our procedure the House has habitually passed such Bills without printing them and without discussion or dissent. It has become a convention that proceedings upon them are taken formally.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, in the other place, which is primarily concerned with finance, a Consolidated Fund Bill is normally only the subject of general debate on any matter that any Member wishes to raise. Matters can be discussed that are raised specifically by those interested in the Consolidated Fund Bill or the Appropriation Bill.

It is undoubtedly open to any Member of your Lordships' House to raise any matter on a Consolidated Fund Bill. Although it may not have been done actually on such a Bill, I can distinctly remember it being done on a Consolidated Fund (Northern Ireland) Order. Therefore your Lordships are entitled to raise any matter within the compass of a Consolidated Fund Bill. However, it is not necessary in this House as it is in the other place, because your Lordships have so many other opportunities of raising matters of general importance as they arise. Moreover, undoubtedly your Lordships are entitled to discuss a Consolidated Fund measure from the point of view of the financial provisions, even though your Lordships are not entitled to vote on it.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord mentioned affairs in the other place. When I was there, there were occasions when a Consolidated Fund Bill was put forward and it was generally accepted without any speeches. In one instance the late Mr. Robert Maxwell stood and proceeded to make a speech which began to run on for around 20 minutes. There was booing from all sides. A Conservative MP rose and asked for Mr Maxwell to be ruled out of order. The Speaker said that he was not out of order.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, in reply to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, there was a time when there was discussion on a Consolidated Fund Bill in the Commons. But it may be appropriate to draw the attention of the House to Standing Order 54, which was agreed by another place on 19th July, 1982 and came into force from the beginning of the 1982–83 Session and which states that proceedings on a Consolidated Fund Bill or an Appropriation Bill are purely formal. The best I can do is to refer the whole matter to the procedure Committee. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time; Committee negatived.

Then Standing Order 44 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution of 16th December), Bill read a third time and passed.