HL Deb 27 April 1994 vol 554 cc668-80

3.8 p.m.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Friday next to enable the Finance Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.—(Lord Wakeham.)

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will think it permissible for me to intervene at this moment in view of the fact that I have a Motion down that the Second Reading of the Finance Bill be adjourned to next Tuesday. I am most grateful to the noble Lords on the Opposition Front Benches for allowing me to go ahead in this way.

The proposal is that the Finance Bill be taken on a Friday at a time of the year when your Lordships do not normally sit on Friday. Moreover, it is a Friday before a bank holiday. What is more, only 11 days' notice was given that that was proposed. Obviously practically all of your Lordships will have made arrangements for the weekend. The Bill was read a third time in the other place only on Monday. It appeared in the Printed Paper Office only today. It is in two volumes. It runs to 462 pages. I have put down the Motion because it seems to me that the course that is proposed is derogatory to your Lordships' role in the constitution, and indeed difficult to reconcile with the terms of the Writ of Summons from our Sovereign to which your Lordships respond.

On 13th April your Lordships debated the constitutional role of your Lordships' House. There were many notable contributions. What was surprising was the degree of consensus on that occasion, even extending in large respect to those who believe that the composition of your Lordships' House should be altered. It was generally agreed that your Lordships' House has an important role to play in the constitution. That derived largely from the exceptional quality of your Lordships' House—the degree of experience and ability which is recruited and succeeds to your Lordships' House. Indeed, that is a large part of the political legitimacy of your Lordships' House. Whatever issue of public affairs comes before your Lordships, it commands a high degree of expertise, experience and knowledge. If any issue merited such attention, it would be finance, commerce, industry and fiscal matters—in other words, the issues that are contained in a Finance Bill.

It is impossible to enumerate completely, certainly without being invidious, the degree of experience and ability which your Lordships can command. However, one can start with five former Chancellors of the Exchequer, four former Chief Secretaries, a former Chief Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, noble Lords who have had experience in the administration of the fiscal laws in the Inland Revenue, three former governors of the Bank of England, the chairman of one of the biggest joint stock banks, and so on. One could go on almost indefinitely. Therefore, if there were any issue. which merited the attention of the wide knowledge that your Lordships can command, it would be a finance Bill.

I should like to ask this. How many of such people as I have enumerated were consulted? How far was their convenience taken into account? How many are likely to be available on Friday?

I say only this in addition. Owing to the cut-off date under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, the measure must be passed by 5th May. That is why I have amended the Motion that I have put down so that the Finance Bill can be considered next Tuesday, within that time. However, that date, 5th May, is not inscribed in some celestial calendar. It is the creature of the present Government, who put it into a recent Act when the Budget date was changed from the spring to the autumn. So the Government have had ample opportunity all along to know that the cut-off date was 5th May and that the Bill should arrive in your Lordships' House in time for it to be considered.

The Finance Bill was first considered in another place on 25th January. The Government have throughout had control of its progress. Yet it arrived here only on Monday. According to the Companion to the Standing Orders, two weekends should elapse between a Bill being received from the House of Commons and its Second Reading. Your Lordships have sometimes waived that requirement in the case of a Finance Bill. But if ever there was a Finance Bill where such a rule was requisite, it is this Bill—and not one word has been said to explain why that rule should have been disregarded among so many others.

This is a money Bill. However, your Lordships can amend a money Bill, and in the past have frequently done so. Your Lordships do not amend the supply provisions of a finance Bill; but your Lordships are free to amend other provisions notwithstanding that it is a money Bill. Even glancing through those 462 pages, no one can doubt that it is susceptible of improvement and clarification at least in its drafting. I hope that your Lordships will protest against being treated in this way.

I have one other point. A number of noble Lords have frequently sought to use the convenient opportunity of a Consolidated Fund Bill for a debate on general economic and financial matters. They have been brushed aside. They have been brushed aside with the assurance that there is ample opportunity otherwise. The last time was a few months ago when the Consolidated Fund Bill in question arrived conveniently between the economic debate on the Queen's Speech and the arrival of the Finance Bill.

I shall leave that issue to those who are frequently concerned with pressing their case. But it seems extraordinary that, after they have been brushed aside, your Lordships should be treated in this way, with the Finance Bill being put down at short notice on a Friday before a bank holiday.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, I believe that it is one of the rare occasions when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, is being unreasonable.

Noble Lords


Lord Harmar-Nicholls

Certainly it is. We know that the noble and learned Lord is an expert on matters to do with the procedures of this House and on adhering to standing orders. He is an invaluable watchdog. However, on this occasion, without evidence that the Finance Bill contains provisions which mean that the procedure should be adhered to rigidly, he is being unreasonable. There is no question, as I see it, of the House being ridden over roughshod. The matter is on the Order Paper. If we wish to do so, we can refuse to grant permission to my noble friend to deal with the matter in one day. The power is ours. But the Government suggest that with the business that must be dealt with in this Session this is one occasion when, by putting the two days together, we can carry out our duties.

I much admire the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, but on this occasion he is carrying the fact that he is a purist on such matters to the point where it conflicts with common sense. I should have thought that this is one occasion where we should put the two days together to everyone's advantage, without interfering with the constitutional powers which the House has.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has completely missed the point. The issue is not whether to take two stages of the Bill together. The point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, was that we in this House are not being given the opportunity to discuss the Bill at a reasonable time, having received proper notice of it. In other words, we are not to discuss it on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday but on a Friday before a bank holiday. As I understand it, that is what the noble and learned Lord was talking about. He is absolutely correct in that this House has certain rights. It has those rights because it is the only second Chamber that we have. We should not forget that. We may not agree 'with its constitution but it is the only second Chamber we have. Since the people of this country believe in bicameral government, they are entitled to expect that this House will do its duty properly and be allowed to do so by the Government and their business managers.

It is the Government's business managers who are to blame. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, said, they must have seen the problem coming and they must know that the House is entitled to expect that it should have a month in which to debate a money Bill. Therefore, they should leave adequate time to deal with it at a time which is convenient to the Members of the House and not when it is convenient to the House of Commons or the Government.

Lastly, I in no way blame the Leader of the House for what has happened. I know that during his period of office he has been careful to protect our interests. Although I believe little can be done on this occasion, I hope and ask the noble Lord that for the future he will ensure that the House of Lords is treated with rather more respect than has happened on this occasion. I ask him to ensure that in future years we have the opportunity to discuss the Bill after having received proper notice and at a proper and convenient time.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, unusually I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. It is most regrettable that we should have been presented at such short notice with the discussion on the Finance Bill. It is not a Bill with which we deal in great detail. We do not amend it. It is usually the occasion for a well informed and serious economic debate. Surely there is more than enough need for well informed and serious economic debates in which we may relate to the contents of the Finance Bill without discussing the Bill in all its depth and detail. That is not our role.

It is a great pity that the matter should have been hurried in this way and that we should be asked to deal with the Bill on a Friday. Incidentally, I cannot quite see why it is so impossible for your Lordships' House to talk sense on a Friday as well as on the other four days of the week when we meet. However, I understand that the matter was discussed through the normal channels, who agreed to the procedure. I speak in the absence of my noble friend Lord Tordoff, the Chief Whip of my party, who is much better engaged at present in South Africa. If, as I understand it, he agreed to this through the normal channels, there is nothing we on these Benches can do except agree.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, despite the gallant and loyal effort of my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, noble Lords have a simple issue before them: whether or not it is reasonable to expect the House to debate the Finance Bill this Friday. Noble Lords may not all have observed the size and weight of the Bill. It is an enormous measure which was only available in the Printed Paper Office first thing this morning. I say particularly to my noble friend that it is absurd to suggest that it is possible properly to debate the Bill when it has only been available for less than 48 hours in advance of the debate. With respect, that is not treating your Lordships' House properly.

I have no doubt that, as will be said, the usual channels have agreed to it, but the usual channels do not always have wholly in mind the general interests of the House and the fact that the reputation of your Lordships' House depends very much upon the expert nature of the debates that it stages. It has already been said by my noble and learned friend Lord Simon that the House has an enormous reserve of knowledge on the subject. It is therefore a great pity if we are to be deprived of the opportunity of deploying that amount of knowledge because of the effect on the House's reputation.

Of course, in general we cannot amend the measure. But we debate a great many matters that we cannot amend: delegated legislation, for example. We cannot amend it but it is regularly debated here. The Wednesday debates, like the one this afternoon, often raise matters of importance on which there can be no vote. If noble Lords express intelligent and worthwhile opinions on a matter on which they cannot vote, they influence public opinion. The influence of the House, particularly since proceedings have been broadcast—and here I pay tribute to our broadcasters who do an admirable job—influences public opinion.

It is quite wrong to suggest that 48 hours after the arrival of the Bill the rest of us should be expected to debate the measure on a Friday before a bank holiday. I know that my noble friend the Leader of the House has a sincere concern for the welfare of the House. I ask hire to give further thought to the matter and to understand that the reputation of the House can be much affected by the way it handles matters of great importance.

On the whole, the Finance Bill is the most important measure of the year which merits considerable debate. I do not say that by way of criticism of it, but for your Lordships' House to pass it in circumstances in which the Bill cannot be properly debated is an abdication of our duties which I do not think we should be called upon to implement.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, I should like noble Lords' permission to add my support to the contentions that have been advanced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, and those who have agreed with him. One may consider the Finance Bill on its own merits as a taxing statute, a revenue-raising statute or, as in more recent years, the occasion for a debate upon the general economic state of the country. There have been occasions on which both matters have been discussed and that has been so by convention over the past few years.

Few would disagree with the general proposition that the economic affairs of the United Kingdom are in considerable disarray. There are very considerable matters of the utmost and urgent importance that ought to be discussed in this House as well as in another place. From that point of view, to have a debate on a Friday afternoon is a little macabre. Surely the occasion of a debate of this potential—I emphasise the remarks that fell from the lips of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear —ought to be given a prominence that measures up to the importance of the subject.

Time and time again this House is faced with a situation in which matters of great importance which ought to be discussed at more reasonable times of the day and on more accessible days are relegated for some reason and given a far lower priority. I can understand, as your Lordships may also understand, that there are occasions when it suits the Government, and possibly also my noble friends, for the vital national question of salmon farming in Scotland to be given prime time. Indeed, there are many devotees of Scottish salmon in this House.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

That is a red herring!

Lord Bruce of Donington

But for a subject of this importance to be relegated to a Friday afternoon or, in some cases, for measures on issues of very considerable, importance that arise from our membership of the European Community to be relegated somehow for discussion very late at night when the Government, and possibly my noble friends, do not expect people to take very much interest in them, really one must protest. Nationally important matters which cover a wide spectrum and which go right to the roots of British national life ought to be given a prominence in day and in time in this House.

An undertaking was given by the Leader of the House, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, will recall, when we discussed the Consolidated Fund Bill that some endeavour would be made to accord the proper priorities and pre-eminence to really important debates which go right to the roots of the nation's fortunes. I hope that we shall receive some assurance upon that point from the noble Lord the Leader of the House.

Baroness O'Cathain

My Lords, is it not true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, that we do not have any influence on the Finance Bill; and also that we are not able to amend it? If that is so, and bearing in mind the fact that the Finance Bill is as large as the noble. Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has shown it to be, surely it would take a long time for us to prepare for any debate that would be meaningful. Is it not better for us to take the Finance Bill, read it and go through it, and refer to it during the debates that we have on matters such as British industry and manufacturing industry and all the other points that were mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale? Otherwise, given the pressure of business, and looking at the Order Paper going forward for the next couple of weeks when we shall be spending so much time on the criminal justice Bill, I cannot see how we are to fit the debate in. It is simply a matter of the logistics of managing the business.

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, as probably the last Member of this House who actually sat as a Treasury Minister in this House, perhaps I may say how strongly I support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter in what they said. Over the years the Government have increasingly ridden roughshod over your Lordships' rights, even where those rights are entrenched in statute, as they are in the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act as amended.

I go back to the days when I myself had to take the Finance Bill through this House in circumstances which breached your Lordships' rights under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act. I protested most strongly to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Geoffrey Howe (as he then was). I was given an undertaking that in future the Treasury would do its utmost to ensure that your Lordships' rights were respected. Shortly thereafter Sir Geoffrey Howe was exiled to the Foreign Office, I was exiled to Brussels and the undertaking was conveniently forgotten. But when I came back the matter was raised again. We had at least two, if not three, arguments of this sort in which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, myself and my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter played a part. One of those discussions related precisely and exactly to the present circumstances; namely, the tabling of a debate on the Finance Bill on a Friday, when the Government could be certain that most Members of this House would be engaged elsewhere.

Perhaps I may remind my noble friend—I do not "remind" him because he was not there—tell my noble friend the Leader of the House that in the days of old, when the Labour Party had backbone, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, mounted an ambush on such a day. But for the vigorous intervention of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, the Government could easily have lost the Finance Bill because there were not enough people present to form a quorum in a Division. Of course the Government are so accustomed to losing their legislation that no doubt they do not mind all that much if on Friday they do not get the Finance Bill through this House. But that shows what happens when memories do not go back far enough.

I suggest that the time has come when the Government need to pay more attention to what noble Lords think and feel. Quite frankly, if noble Lords look at what has been said in this House in the past few weeks, it is difficult to describe the usual channels as anything other than a conspiracy against the interests of the Members of this House. I hope therefore that my noble friend the Leader of the House will not come forward with that particular argument in defence of the monstrous thing that he is trying to do. I hope also that he will not fall for the bait that was offered to him by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and come up and say that we have had more than ample opportunity to discuss economic affairs. Some of us want to discuss the Finance Bill. And the Finance Bill this year is a monstrous document. I can go further than that and say that it is an absurd document.

What matters is not only the economic state of the country; it is also the state of the tax system. That is a matter that I wish to raise when we come to debate the Finance Bill. As a result of the vigorous efforts of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and his predecessor, we are now reducing the tax system of this country to a state of total chaos. That is a point that legitimately needs to be made in this House. We can even make that point without upsetting the Government by trying to amend the Finance Bill. On all grounds, it is about time that the Government took a second thought about the way that they treat your Lordships in this matter.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, perhaps I may say one word in support of the Leader of the House. It is not the Leader of the House who should be pilloried today. It is those in another place who have managed their business with a degree of contempt—not only on the Finance Bill but on much other legislation—in the way that it is brought to this House with the minimum of time for our consideration. I suggest that if we divide on the Motion, it should not be on the basis that we are in any way criticising the Leader of the House or the Government Chief Whip.

The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, referred to an ambush laid by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I remember that when I sat on the Benches opposite, I was confronted with amendments to the Finance Bill moved by Conservative Members of this House. I had always assumed that the Finance Bill was sacrosanct. The only such part of the Bill is that part that has been certified by' Mr. Speaker to be a money Bill. Every other part of the Bill is subject to amendment by this House if it so wishes.

I take the explanation of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, that the Bill was concluded in the other place on Monday and came to this House yesterday. By no shadow of a suggestion could this House ever consider a Bill until it is in fact before it. There is no way in that short period of time to take the Motion of the Leader of the House without first of all looking to see what part of that Bill has been certified and falls within the restrictions of our standing orders.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. Is not what he says consistent with deferring debate from Friday until next Tuesday? That is still within the number of days laid down.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, I intended to come to that point. I seek to support the noble and learned Lord and others. Under the present procedure we do not have the opportunity to look at the Bill in any kind of detail.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord but I do not want the debate to get off on the wrong track. All the advice that I have received is that this Bill is a money Bill and cannot be amended by your Lordships, nor can any part of it.

Lord Simon of Glaisdlale

My Lords, would the noble Lord the Leader of the House consult the Companion to the Standing Orders? I think he will find that a money Bill can be amended.

Lord Wakeham

The answer is that a money Bill can be amended but a supply Bill cannot. I think that the point that I was making—namely, that this particular Bill cannot be amended—is still correct.

Lord Shepherd

My Lords, I bring my remarks to a conclusion by reacting to the question put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. There has been a lack of sensitivity in terms of the way in which this Motion has been put on the Order Paper. I hope that we do not have to take a Division upon the Motion. As I said earlier, I do not hold the Leader of the House responsible, other than as a member of the Government.

To avoid any dispute on the Motion, I suggest to the Leader of the House that we should agree that it should be taken back. I am sure that the House will be ready to respond to a debate taken next week on whatever day is convenient to the Government. I am sure that if the Leader of the House so responded, he would find no aggravation and no obstruction in the passage of this Bill.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words about this matter. I have very considerable sympathy with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, had to say. The House may be surprised that, for once, I am also in sympathy with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. It is not usual that we find ourselves even in sympathy on the same side of the argument. I am bound to say that some of their comments made a great deal of sense and had force.

What is the real problem—whence cometh it? It comes simply from the fact that the other place in the Finance Act 1993 established 5th May as the date by which this Bill has to be passed. It is very clear and is effected in Section 205(4) of that Act.

I have some sympathy with and possible attraction to the notion that we do not pass the Bill by 5th May. If we do not, I am advised that the provisions for excise duty on wine, cider, tobacco and petrol as well as income tax for the financial year 1994–95 will fall. It is a proposition of some attractiveness. But I suppose one has to say that it is not the function of this House to negate the fiscal provisions which have been passed by another place. Therefore we have to get the Bill through by 5th May.

I feel that it was somewhat insensitive of the Government, knowing that 5th May was the deadline, to organise business in the other place in such a way that the Bill reached this House only within the last 48 hours and, indeed, has only just been printed. Other noble Lords have made that point and I have a great deal of sympathy with it. I agree with it. I hope very much—I express the hope on behalf of the Opposition—that the Leader of the House will do his best to ensure that this situation does not happen again.

One knows that in the past Finance Bills taken at the end of July have been in a rush in this House. But I do not believe that they have been in quite such a rush as on this occasion, though I may be wrong about that. The Leader of the House should take on board the feelings that have been expressed in this Chamber today. They are strong and widely felt. To present your Lordships' House with a Finance Bill of such complexity a day or so before it is to be debated is not the way in which the Government should behave.

So far as concerns the Opposition and the usual channels, we were told that we have to have the Bill by 5th May. That is perfectly true. We were also told that there were two possible days on which it could be debated. One was Friday of this week and the other was Tuesday of next week. We were told that the Government wished to have the third Committee day of the Coal Bill on Tuesday next week. In those circumstances we took the view that, if the Government wanted to debate the Finance Bill on Friday of this week, we would accept that. That remains our position today. If the Government wish the debate to take place on Friday, then in accordance with the discussions that took place through the usual channels, so far as we are concerned the debate can take place on Friday.

Let me say just one word about that. The part of the argument of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, which I do not totally follow is that part which argues that somehow it is worse to debate the Bill on the day before a bank holiday than it would be to debate it on the day after a bank holiday. When my noble friend the Opposition Chief Whip and I discussed this matter, it seemed to me that there was very little to choose between having the debate on Friday of this week or having it on Tuesday of next week.

I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, presented his proposition that the debate should be on Tuesday as, so to speak, a firm proposition and a practical suggestion to the House or whether it was a peg on which he wished to hang constitutional points. If it was the latter—a peg upon which constitutional points were to be made—I am, if I may mix metaphors, with him on the peg. In terms of support for a resolution to move the debate from Friday this week to Tuesday next week, I hope I have made clear that that would not be a proposition that the Opposition could support.

So far as I am concerned, at any rate, I think that there is force in the criticism that has been made. I hope that the Leader of the House will take it on board and act upon it in the future.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, first, though it may not seem so, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who took this opportunity to raise some very important points. I shall do my best to answer them. I fully understand why the noble and learned Lord—indeed, he was supported by a number of your Lordships—feels that Friday would not be an appropriate day to take the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. I am sure that the whole House will agree that the Finance Bill is an important Bill and that debates on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill afford the House a useful opportunity to debate economic affairs in general.

I know also that the House will take most seriously the advice on such matters which the noble and learned Lord chooses to offer. Nevertheless, this Friday will afford the House the best opportunity for such a debate, given the other important matters which your Lordships wish to address both in the context of the Government's legislative programme and other matters—for instance, the debate on the Select Committee on Medical Ethics which will take place shortly.

Your Lordships have debated Finance Bills on Fridays quite frequently in modern times. I was reminded when my noble friend Lord Cockfield was going down memory lane that prior to 1979 a great many Finance Bills were actually taken formally in this House and not debated at all. That position has now been dispensed with and I make no complaint about that. But Finance Bills were taken on a Friday in July 1981, July 1986, July 1990 and July 1991.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. He will recollect no doubt that those were all times with a Spring Budget. The cut-off date was therefore 5th August. Your Lordships' House then sat on a Friday in July as your Lordships habitually do. But your Lordships do not normally sit on a Friday at this time of year. That is why noble Lords were taken by surprise when they had made arrangements for the weekend and suddenly found that a Friday was proposed for so important a Bill as the Finance Bill.

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord made that point in his speech. It is an important point and I am seeking to deal with it. If your Lordships will allow me I shall try to put the argument in the way I can handle it best.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene. Can he say, in the examples that he quoted, how much notice was given of the debate? What was the interval between production of the Bill and the date of debate?

Lord Wakeham

My Lords, certainly. However, I shall seek to answer the debate in my own way. That is another point I shall seek to deal with as I go through what I am afraid will be a relatively long intervention. But I shall deal with it as quickly as I can.

I know that some noble Lords view Friday sittings with a certain amount of unease. For my part I feel that where business might otherwise be constrained by the lateness of the hour or by other competing pressures, Friday sittings can, with benefit, afford the opportunity for a more full and measured debate. I suggest that the fact that there are already 11 speakers on the list to participate in the debate on Friday suggests that the debate being held on a Friday proved no disincentive. There were 11 speakers in all in the debate on the 1992 Finance Bill and 14 in the debate on last year's Bill. Both of those Bills were taken on other days of the week.

Given the importance which many noble Lords attach to the debate next Thursday on the Coal Industry Bill it would not be for the overall convenience of the House now to change plans and displace that business for the Finance Bill which, after all, for some time had been fixed to take place next Friday by agreement through the usual channels. The sitting was publicised in the forthcoming business issued on 14th April and put down in the Minutes of Proceedings on 18th April.

Perhaps I can deal with the other points by briefly outlining the background to the timing of the Finance Bill. Certain of the Budget resolutions on which the Finance Bill is partly founded are given special statutory force under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968. The 1968 Act originally provided that resolutions on these issues should be given temporary statutory effect for a March or April Budget until 5th August that year. Each Finance Bill now contains provisions replicating the effect of those resolutions and doing so retrospectively. The authority for tax changes thus passes from the resolutions of another place to the provisions of the Finance Act itself. Under the old Budget arrangements your Lordships were therefore accustomed to receive the Finance Bill towards the middle of July and to give Second Reading and Royal. Assent to the Bill before the Summer Recess or 5th August. The Provisional Collection of Taxes Act has now been amended in respect of the new Budget date to provide that the Commons' resolutions now expire on 5th May. In short, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition made clear, that means that Royal Assent for the Finance Bill is now required by 5th May.

Perhaps I may mention some of the dates going back in the past. In 1992 the House of Commons had its Third Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill on 8th July; the proceedings in your Lordships' House were on 14th July. The Third Reading in the House of Commons of the first 1992 Bill was on 13th March and the proceedings were on 16th March, although noble Lords will recall that that was just before the general election. In 1991 the proceedings in the Commons finished on 16th July; your Lordships dealt with the matter on 19th July. In 1990 the proceedings in the Commons were on 17th July and it was dealt with on 20th July. In 1987 the Commons dealt with it on 20th July and the proceedings were on 23rd July. In 1987 the Commons dealt with it on 12th May and it was dealt with in your Lordships' House on 14th May. In 1982 it was dealt with by the' Commons on 14th July and by your Lordships on 20th July.

There is therefore a history of dealing with these matters in a relatively short space of time. The fact that the Bill has been certified as a money Bill does, I agree, give your Lordships the theoretical ability under the Parliament Acts to consider the Bill for a month before it goes for Royal Assent. However, from the descriptions I have already given —indeed, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition put it more graphically than I—of the troubles that would occur given the effect of the lapse of the Commons' resolutions under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, your Lordships would be ill-advised to insist on that. I am not aware of any occasion in recent years, save in the years in which the general elections intervened, in which a Finance Bill has been sent up to your Lordships' House more than a month before the date on which the relevant resolutions expired. Nor is there any occasion on which your Lordships contemplated interpreting the provisions of the Parliament Act in such a manner.

Your Lordships will be aware that some Finance Bills have been certified as money Bills and some not. That is purely a decision for the Speaker and that decision is only known when the Bill arrives in your Lordships' House from another place. In this case that was on Monday. Your Lordships would need to consider carefully whether it would be sensible or appropriate to contemplate asking the other place, which has the exclusive right to consider Finance Bills in detail, to curtail its deliberations on such Finance Bills simply to enable your Lordships' House to have a month in which to debate the Second Reading of such a Bill in the event the Speaker certified it as a money Bill.

Nevertheless, I recognise the strength of feeling in the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, in his original speech and emphasised in his intervention, and the point made by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, that this year's Bill, which is the first Bill that arises from the unified Budget in November, has given rise to a rather different set of circumstances than previous Budget arrangements. If there is anything that we can do in the context of those arrangements in the future I shall be happy to look at the matter again; to discuss it with any noble Lords who feel that better arrangements can be made and to discuss it with the usual channels to give your Lordships as much time as possible and avoid a Friday if at all possible.

On Question, Motion agreed to.