§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, the device indicates that the 31st minute has passed.
After the debate on the funding of charities and voluntary organisations by local authorities and before the debate on legal aid, my noble friend Lord Cranborne will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement on army manpower that is to be made in another place.
With the further leave of the House, I should like to say a word about the two debates standing in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, and the noble Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg. As the mover is allowed 15 minutes and the Minister should rise to reply not less than 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the debate, in the case of both debates that means that all other speeches should be limited to a maximum of seven minutes. If any noble Lord were to speak at greater length, he would be doing so at the expense of subsequent speakers in that debate. It is worth remembering that when the seventh minute is indicated on the digital timing device, the eighth minute has commenced its existence.
§ Lord Hughes
My Lords, perhaps I may raise the matter of the 30-minute limit at Question Time. The Government Chief Whip is supposed to regulate the use of time. I was most anxious, as chairman of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, to speak on the last Question. We began our discussions on that Question with only four minutes remaining. It is impossible to do business properly if the Government Chief Whip will not do his job properly.
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, I have a considerable amount of sympathy for the noble Lord. He had a point that he wished to make but was not able to do so. Obviously he wanted an opportunity to make his point. I understand that the rules are that after 30 minutes we are required to stop Question Time and move on. We do our best to regulate the time but sometimes it is very difficult to get it right, particularly when an important issue is raised. On behalf of the whole House I am very sorry that the noble Lord was not able to ask his question but these things happen from time to time, although we try to avoid them as often as possible.