HL Deb 04 November 1993 vol 549 cc1165-76

Lord Tordoff rose to move, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 5, but the House do insist on their Amendment No. 4.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is not my intention to rake over the embers of last night's curious experiences although I suspect that, sadly, they will continue to glow for some time to come. Let us return to the central issue of the three amendments which we debated in your Lordships' House yesterday and agreed. They were amendments about allowing British Rail to bid for franchises.

Although I personally disagree with the Commons in their rejection of Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, as they are numbered on today' s Marshalled List, the other place has offered its reasons. Those reasons put forward a valid point of view whether we agree with them or not. Only time will tell whether we are correct or whether another place is correct. I fear—for the sake of British Rail and for the rail network in this country—that we are right and that the other place is wrong. However, I do not believe that at this stage anything is to be gained by pressing the amendments further.

However, Amendment No. 4 is rather a different matter. The purpose of the amendment was to ensure that British Rail could not be excluded if it offered a service which was significantly cheaper than that offered by anyone else. I have to suggest that that is ignored in the reasons given by another place. It seems to me that the reasons apply only to the first two amendments and have no bearing on the third amendment even though the other place seemed to sit up rather late last night deciding on those reasons. It is not for us to discuss the ways in which they were achieved. Nevertheless, it took another place until 2 o'clock and, for some reason, the Commons seem to have failed to produce any reason for rejecting Amendment No. 4.

Perhaps the Commons did not realise that Amendment No. 4 can be freestanding. When it was discussed in your Lordships' House yesterday, it was associated with the other two amendments even though the Government insisted on having a separate vote on each of the three amendments. The amendments could be, and were, associated. However, Amendment No. 4 is a freestanding amendment and instead of being operated as it would have been under our suggestions against Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, it will equally well operate against the benchmark of the shadow franchise which is already in the Bill and which the franchise director will have to take into account.

It may be that once again we shall have constitutional qualms. I hope not. I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, set those qualms aside yesterday in your Lordships' House. I would merely add that this is not a repeat of what we did yesterday. This is the first time that it has been suggested that we send one of the amendments back to the Commons when the Commons have rejected it. Yesterday we were merely amending government amendments.

So the reason for insisting on this amendment is first to find out whether there is a reason for the objection to it. Much more importantly, however, and much more simply, it is to save the taxpayer the possibility of wasteful expenditure. I believe that on that ground alone we have, first, the right to expect an explanation from the Government as to why they see extra expenditure being possible under the Bill as it now stands arid then, if we are not satisfied with that, to send the provisions back to another place and invite it to have another look at the matter. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 5, but the House do insist on their Amendment No. 4.—(Lord Tordoff.)

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I should like to make a few observations at this stage. Yesterday, we had sight for the first time of the Commons amendment to the one that I moved in your Lordships' House and which your Lordships accepted. I took the view, as did others of your Lordships, that the amendment from another place ate away at the heart of what we had suggested. Despite the fact that I was in some disagreement with a number of my noble friends, whose views I respect, I believe that we had every right to criticise that amendment; to point out what we thought were its shortcomings, and to seek to amend it, as indeed we did.

Another place has now made very clear its views about our amendments. It has stuck to its own views. In my opinion, for what it is worth, if we were now to press our view, we would be moving the argument to an altogether different level. Instead of merely talking about what was likely to be good or bad for our railway system, we should be talking about other matters, and we might be embarking upon a discussion and a process to which we would not find it easy to put a full stop. So, in my view, having had some part in those arguments, and not, I think having any reason to regret anything I have said, or withdraw it, I still feel that at this stage it would be unwise to press the matter further. My view of the measure remains the same, but I believe that we should be unwise to press the amendments which yesterday we carried in the face of the flat rejection of them by the other place.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, said, although whether we press it any further is another matter. It seems to me that no reply has been given to Amendment No. 4. Amendment No. 4 is, of course, the major amendment, because it was that amendment which was phrased in a way that would make it clear that we were intent upon saving the taxpayer's money. Surely that is an important issue. That point is not addressed at all in the reply that we have received from the other place. It has replied, as I see it, to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, but a reply to Amendment No. 4 does not exist. In those circumstances, I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, has a point. I shall listen with interest to what the Minister has to say in response. We must judge what we do in the light of that response.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, perhaps I may say one or two words in disagreement, unfortunately, with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil. I say "unfortunately" because I believe that we all agree that his performance and the care that he has taken with the Bill have been exceptional under the circumstances. The House and the railway industry—

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, and the community.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, and the community indeed. They have every cause to be grateful to the noble Lord and other noble Lords for the efforts that they have made to try to get the Bill right. Clearly, the House of Lords, having first passed an amendment in Committee, believed that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Bill. When the other place amended that amendment, this House continued to believe that it was right and that the other place was wrong. There is therefore a matter of principle involved. If this House believes that what it is doing is right, then it should continue to say so, and to confirm the view that it has taken on the Bill so far.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton, said that we might endanger our own institution; that we might endanger the House of Lords; that it would be unwise to have a further confrontation with the other place. However, the constitution allows this House to have its final say. There is provision in the Parliament Act for what happens if this House insists upon its amendment. There is provision for the Bill to be represented to the other place, and to pass into law within 28 days of its being given its Second Reading in the other place. In this case, we should be bringing about a delay, since the Bill would be reintroduced immediately in the next Session, of only weeks. But those weeks would give the other place and, in particular, the Minister an opportunity to have third thoughts about this issue, and, because it is so important, it is correct surely that the House, as a whole, and the Government get it right.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that that would be a minor confrontation—if we call it a confrontation—because in 1991 we had a much more serious confrontation with the other place: we refused to give further consideration to the War Crimes Bill which it had passed with a large majority with the support of the Government and the Prime Minister. But on that occasion, this House said, "No", even to considering the Bill any further. That was a much more serious matter. Here we are merely saying to the other place, "We think that you have got it wrong. We have had long discussions about this. We have had learned arguments. We have had expert arguments from noble Lords who are specialists in this matter". It is our duty to say to the other place, "We understand your position, but you must understand ours. On a matter of principle, and on a number of occasions, we have decided that there is something fundamentally wrong with this Bill, and in those circumstances we cannot agree that you should put down our amendments". Therefore we should insist upon the amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords,—

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I am much obliged to the Minister. I did not intend to intervene, but I am prompted to do so by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. I do not agree entirely that this is now a purely constitutional issue, because I believe that sufficient has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Stoddart, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, to show that there is still some policy content involved. However, I respectfully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, that, in a sense, we are moving into a new dimension, because the issue now would clearly be constitutional. We should face that fact. I suggested yesterday that, in effect, we were being asked to assent to the substitution of a one-Chamber Parliament for a two-Chamber Parliament, whenever the Government wish it. That is a Chamber where the Government have disciplined powers over their majority by the powers of the Whip and where they can impose a guillotine. Both measures have occurred in respect of this Bill; Whips were applied and a guillotine was imposed. Therefore, the question is how far your Lordships acquiesce in what is a move to a one-Chamber Parliament.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, said, your Lordships' powers are limited by the Parliament Act. But, in addition, we have a self-imposed limitation by what is known generally as the "Salisbury doctrine". We do not oppose a measure from the House of Commons which was clearly put before the electorate in an election manifesto in this sense: that we do not oppose the Second Reading where there is a clear policy commitment, and it follows that we do not countenance wrecking amendments. That follows from the Second Reading adoption. In addition to the doctrine of the mandate, which hardly stands up to examination because it treats the manifesto as though it were a referendum, there are undoubtedly the effects of the manifesto as a commitment.

Understandably, the Government have been accused of pursuing this Bill purely out of ideological prejudice carried to an absurd degree. Obviously, there is an ideological element behind it but one must be fair to the Government. They undertook a commitment in their manifesto to introduce a Bill to privatise the railway industry. Having given that commitment, they were morally bound to do so. However, that does not mean that your Lordships are bound to agree to every detail. For example, it would be quite absurd to say that that manifesto commitment—I use the word commitment and not the word "mandate" extended its umbrella effect to details such as pensions, which were introduced in a late schedule to the Bill, or to the franchising system, which I do not believe that the Government had thought of at the time of the general election.

Therefore, it seems to me that in respect of a detail such as this—an important detail, as has been pointed out—noble Lords are entitled to vindicate their view and, moreover, to vindicate their view that in reality Parliament still consists of two Chambers, of which this Chamber is a most important one. Your Lordships command an unexampled and unparalleled wealth of experience and knowledge on this and on almost every subject that might be raised in this Chamber.

The Bill does not stand alone. Habitually government legislation has been forced through your Lordships' House at very late hours and at very early hours. The other day the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, mentioned the Education Bill, which remains painfully in our minds. Habitually we were kept sitting after 11 p.m. and often after midnight. On one occasion we were kept until three o'clock in the morning.

In respect of the Child Support Bill, again your Lordships were not given sufficient time to discuss the measure. In the end there was no debate on the Motion that the Bill do now pass because your Lordships were told that the next day's business would be lost. That measure was the most bureaucratic that has appeared on the statute book. We are now learning the lesson of the widespread objection to the child support officers applying a formula in a schedule which no one claims to understand, except perhaps the person in the department who devised it. Certainly the Minister did not claim to understand it, no child support officer can understand it and still less can the unfortunate wives and husbands whom the Bill concerns understand it. That measure has now come home to roost.

Then there was the Children Act. That was debated at length and there were numerous government amendments at every stage in your Lordships' House. But when it came back from the other place the government amendments ran to more pages than did the Bill as sent to the other place. That was by no means the end because further tinkering had to take place. Subsequently the Courts and Legal Services Bill included a long schedule running to four pages which made more amendments to the Children Act.

Nor was that the end. We have suddenly woken up to find that, hardly had the words "family values" left our mouths when, due to the pressure of business, we had provided under that Act that a child could divorce a parent. That is one example of the Government treating your Lordships' House as though it were of no consequence.

Even more serious was the War Crimes Act mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. The substantial majority in your Lordships' House was simply disregarded and the Bill was re-presented under the Parliament Act. I have yet to hear any constitutional lawyer say that he thought that was a proper use of the Parliament Act, whether or not he approves of that Act.

Therefore, it seems to me that the time has come when your Lordships must make up your minds: are we supinely to allow your Lordships' House to be marginalised and sidelined in the constitution, or shall your Lordships take the perfectly feasible course of supporting the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, for whom I have the greatest respect, has addressed the wrong question. He put the issue to your Lordships as though it is a great matter of constitutional import. He did so with great and seductive skill. He appealed first to your Lordships' sense of flattery, saying that the House was an unexampled resource of all the wisdom in the world. Although I agree that among us there are a large variety of skills, it must be said that the skills and experience of privatisation lie largely at the other end of the corridor and not at this. We have had many years' experience and have profited from them.

The noble and learned Lord went on to appeal to your Lordships' sense of fatigue which is always a very lively sentiment at this stage of the proceedings. He moved from that to the irritation which any assembly such as ours must feel towards those who manage its affairs. He suggested that it would have been possible to conduct the business of your Lordships' House while going to bed at a reasonable hour and having our dinners undisturbed. That has never been achieved in the past since the reign of Queen Victoria and it is not reasonable to suppose that any decision this evening will change that.

The constitutional question is a question not of whether we have the undoubted right—because we do—to continue to insist until the Parliament Act is invoked, but whether this is an appropriate occasion on which to invoke it and, if we do that, whether the consequences will be more acceptable to us than the consequences if we do not. Nobody has addressed the question, although I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will do so, of what will fall together with this amendment if the Parliament Act is invoked. Nobody has considered the question of whether there are degrees of opposition appropriate to different occasions. The most recent occasion—and one of the very few occasions on which the Parliament Act was invoked—was a matter on which many of your Lordships held very strong philosophical and even moral feelings: it was the question of the War Crimes Bill. I believe that the attitude which the House then struck was exactly right and suited not only to the occasion but also to the variety of skills and experience present in your Lordships' House and perhaps not present in another place.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, will the noble Lord not accept that the Parliament Act is not the only alternative? An alternative is for the Government, who are mainly and crucially concerned, to accept your Lordships' view.

Lord Elton

My Lords, the point that I make is that it has been suggested elsewhere that this is an appropriate time to court the use of the Parliament Act.

I suggest to your Lordships that it would be wholly inappropriate. This amendment goes to the heart of the purpose of the Bill. It was clear at the time at which the statement was put into the manifesto that the Bill would be brought to your Lordships although the detailed method was not made clear. The amendment seeks to preserve an element of the present system which the Bill was designed to remove.

For all those reasons, I hope that your Lordships will not fall into the trap of giving such credit to the enormous experience and wisdom of the noble and learned Lord. I do not use those terms in any sense in flattery because I have been a coadjutor with him on other matters and I have seen the depth of his skills and the clarity of his vision. But on this matter, I believe that he is wrong and I hope that in addressing the amendment, my noble friend will encourage your Lordships to resist it.

4 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is perhaps a little premature in referring to the Parliament Act. As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, remarked last night, we have a provisional day set aside for business on Monday. We have Starred Questions on the Order Paper. It is quite a time before we need to think of the Parliament Act.

The noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, to whom I always listen with the greatest attention, suggested that perhaps we owed a respect to another place. That is rather more consideration than another place showed us last night. Nevertheless, if we were insisting again—

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, the noble Earl cannot have listened to me with all that close attention. Whatever I felt towards the other place, I did not this afternoon express respect for it.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that correction. I hope that he will forgive me for the occasional use of euphemism. It is a necessary part of the political vocabulary.

He suggested that perhaps it is time to give way. If this had been the same combination of amendments again, he might perhaps have had a case. I make no judgment on that. But in combination with the Bill as it now stands, as my noble friend Lord Tordoff pointed out, this is something at which we are asking another place to look for the first time. We are entitled to find out what may be its opinion. When we find it out, we shall no doubt take account of it in whatever way then seems appropriate.

The noble Lord also raises a question of the future of this House. That is a delicate question. I admit that there are times when caution is needed. In dealing with another place, which we must challenge but from which we derive our power, we must walk on a tightrope. But the point of a tightrope is that you can fall off one side of it or the other. We may show too little respect for another place, but if we show too much, we do not justify our existence. The first Earl of Shaftesbury, addressing this House in 1675 said: My Lords, if you should grow useless, you will soon grow burdensome". I believe that that is advice to which we should listen today.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, perhaps I may make a very brief intervention. The problem is narrow and has nothing to do with the Parliament Act or the War Crimes Bill. The Reasons Committee in another place has not given a reason as regards Amendment No. 4. That is the narrow problem. It is not a great constitutional matter but it is a matter which seems to have been overlooked by your Lordships. I have nothing further to say.

Lord Eatwell

My Lords, perhaps I may bring the issue back to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. In his reply, I urge the noble Earl to address himself directly and carefully to Amendment No. 4. I point out that it is designed purely to save the taxpayer money. Why are the Government opposed to saving the taxpayer money?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for not insisting on Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. That means that a determination would have to be made before invitations to tender were issued.

But Amendment No. 4 on which the noble Lord insists, would not allow the franchising director to make a determination unless he was satisfied that a transfer would not significantly increase the cost of providing the service. I believe that I was the only Member of your Lordships' House to address this amendment yesterday. I shall try to do so again now.

At the point of inviting bids, the franchising director could only have a very hazy picture of the relative costs of the private sector versus BR operation of the service in question. Any judgment that he made would necessarily be speculative. I cannot accept what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, suggested when he spoke first; namely, that this amendment is as free-standing as he would like to believe. It makes sense to consider the relative costs at the point of awarding the franchise but not at the point of inviting tenders. That is the difference.

The noble Lord is right that the franchising director will have at that stage a view about BR's costs as he will have access to BR's historical record of the costs of providing the service as a shadow franchise. But he will not have a full picture of the cost of private sector operations with which to make a valid comparison.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, omitted to mention one important aspect of his amendment. It deletes from the government amendment the criterion of promotion of competition for franchises. I am sure that the whole House will agree that that is an important issue. Competition for franchises is an important objective and it should be taken into account when the franchising director decides whether to make a determination. By insisting, as the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, wants us to do with Amendment No. 4, that that is excluded, that is to the detriment of the Bill.

We have narrowed the differences between this House and another place to the details of the franchising director's power of determination. It is an important issue but a relatively narrow one.

I can assure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that we have given the matter very serious consideration. I have spent a long time with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and my honourable friend the Minister for Public Transport, examining this issue alone. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made recommendations to another place. The other place has taken the view that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, should not be incorporated in the Bill. I hope that the House will agree that we should not press the matter further. The delayed 11 o'clock train from last night has now arrived at the station. I invite your Lordships to climb on board.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I think it would be better to say that the train now arriving in the station comes as a complete surprise to the Government. I still do not believe that we have received answers to the questions regarding the Commons reasons for rejecting the amendment, which I think are due to us. I heard what the Minister said in relation to the amendment, but it does not altogether seem to tie up with the words of his right honourable friend in another place last night who said: [It] means that the franchising director would take into account the costs in any awards that he makes, not least because he will have as his benchmark the historic track record of the existing passenger franchise, the new shadow franchise, when he examines the bids".—[Official Report, Commons, 3/11/93; col. 421.] I thought that that was what I was indicating from the beginning. Therefore, I do not quite understand the Minister's response to it.

Perhaps I may say immediately how gratified I am that., on a matter of transport which normally attracts very few people in your Lordships' House, we should have such a large gathering on both sides of the Chamber for such an important matter. Indeed, beyond the Bar of the House, there seems to be an unusual interest in the matter. I cannot think why. I am most grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in the short debate. As always, one is grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for taking us through the constitutional issues. However, on this occasion one is also most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for following up with a synopsis of what the noble and learned Lord said.

It was probably as well said on 11th November 1975 (at col.1742 of Hansard) when it was said: If now we decide to use that very limited power, we are not thwarting the will of the people for, in so far as it is represented by the House of Commons, it will and must prevail in a comparatively short time. We shall be using those powers for the purpose for which they were given to us". Those were the words of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who was Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House at that time. Therefore, I fear that the tune does change, depending on which side of the House one is sitting.

Our proposal was not meant to be a wrecking amendment and it is not a constitutional monstrosity; indeed, it is a very simple amendment designed to elicit why on earth the Government want to expose themselves to the risk of the taxpayer having to pay more than he should. The amendment was designed for the benefit of the taxpayer and for the benefit of rail users.

At an earlier stage, I said that the Bill was unamendable. We have tried to amend it on a number of occasions in order to improve it. But the fact is that, however many amendments we table to the Bill, we shall not improve it. It is a ghastly Bill. It will bring anguish in its train. I have come to a conclusion that a further minor and specific amendment will not improve the Bill all that much. In those circumstances, after a good discussion this afternoon, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

On Question, Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 to Commons Amendment No. 1, to which the Commons have disagreed for Reason numbered 5.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 to Commons Amendment No. 1, to which the Commons have disagreed for Reason numbered 5.—(The Earl of Caithness.)

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I rise from these Benches to respond to the Message from the other place in the absence of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis who has a long-standing appointment abroad and also of my noble friend Lord Carmichael who, I regret to say, currently has flu.

It is a matter of great regret that the other place has seen fit to reject our amendments. That is especially so in respect of Amendment No. 4 which we have just discussed and which would have saved the taxpayer money. I share the view already expressed by noble Lords in the House that we have received no adequate reason from the other place as to its rejection of Amendment No. 4.

I should like to say most emphatically from this Dispatch Box today that none of the amendments we have supported on this side of the House has been intended to derail privatisation, as has been alleged. Many of us may not like privatisation, including myself, but I think that there has been a genuine understanding on all sides of the House that the Government made privatisation a part of the manifesto on which they were elected. Therefore, we have had to respect that fact.

We have wanted to achieve improvements in the Bill. In particular, as has already been said, we wanted to retain the expertise of BR and to save public money. Many newspapers this morning, including the Evening Standard which normally supports the Government, have said that the Peyton-Marsh amendments were sensible. Nevertheless, they have been rejected. As a non-elected revising Chamber, we shall have to accept that, although I deeply regret it. In my view, the other place has been ill-advised to reject our amendments.

The procedures by which we have reached the current stage have, I think, been quite farcical. We were left waiting around for a long time last night for a Message which never came. I do not think that that did the image of Parliament any good. It was all unnecessary. It would have been so much more dignified last night if we had all accepted the proposition of my noble friend Lord Richard and gone home to resume, as we have done, this afternoon. It has not been our fault.

We have fought long and hard on the Bill. I believe that we have been right. The amendments tabled on this side of the House have, as I have said before, not been an attempt to oppose privatisation; nor have we been briefed by BR, as has been said in some quarters. However, we have been briefed—and I do not deny it—by organisations representing pensioners. I do not see why we should not have accepted advice from them, or from trade unions on the issue of employee rights. We have done what we thought was right to try to protect passengers, future rail users, taxpayers, employees and pensioners. We have not entirely succeeded, but we did our best. The shambles that the Government have found themselves in because of the Bill has not been the fault of the Opposition.

My Lords, as I said, we have done our best. Indeed, how can the Government expect anything else when such substantial amendments were introduced at a very late stage of the Bill's proceedings? We had all too little time—and I say this especially to the Minister—to get advice on them and consider them in the depth that we should have liked.

However, despite all those problems, we have done what we can. Time alone will show whether we were right. But I am convinced that we were right and that, eventually, the electorate will give its verdict on this misguided, misbegotten piece of legislation.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I should like to thank all speakers who have taken part in the proceedings of the Bill, not only up to and including Third Reading but also subsequently at all hours of the day and night. I believe that it is worth bearing in mind the fact that we passed about 470 amendments to another place, most of which were intended to improve the Bill. Moreover, we have had over 50 hours of debate in the Chamber. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. He just raised the point about the number of amendments passed to another place. I wonder whether he can tell his right honourable friend that it is most unfortunate that he apparently seeks to blame last night's problems on the huge number of amendments coming from your Lordships' House as if it were our fault. The vast majority of those were government amendments and for the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State to blame us for the number of amendments that the Commons had to deal with is a little unfair.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I certainly have not heard my right honourable friend blaming the House. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and my right honourable friend the Minister for Public Transport have gone out of their way to meet the concerns of your Lordships' House. It is interesting to note that during the 50 hours or so of debate that we have had on the Railways Bill in this House only about 10 hours were spent on government amendments. I believe that shows we have fulfilled our function well. The government amendments were mostly technical and revising amendments, as I had predicted. I extend a "thank you" to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for his courtesy today and to the noble Baroness for her kind words. I thank all your Lordships. I beg to move.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, the Question is that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4 to the Commons Amendment No. 1 with which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason numbered 5.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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