HL Deb 16 April 1996 vol 571 c565
Viscount Cranborne

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

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Lord Richard set down for Wednesday 17th April shall be limited to six hours.—(Viscount Cranborne.)

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, how many speakers are on the list for this debate? I believe that I counted at least 40 speakers this morning. How many minutes will that permit if the debate is confined to six hours? Why has a time limit been imposed on a Wednesday debate when there are 40 speakers?

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps I may assist in this matter. This Motion is tabled at the request of the party which is in charge of the debate. Tomorrow's debate is a Labour Party debate. We have chosen a very topical and interesting subject. As a consequence, there are a large number of speakers. On these Benches, we traditionally hold the view that a debate on a Wednesday should be for five hours. By convention, that is the length of a normal debate. That five hours may be used to debate one subject or be divided into two—either two two-and-a-half hour debates or a three-hour debate and a two-hour debate.

When we chose this topic, we thought that there should be one debate but when we saw the number of speakers we realised that we would need to look carefully at the time for the debate. I am sure that the noble Viscount is well briefed on this issue, but when we analysed the matter, we realised that each speaker would have not less than six minutes. We thought that by the time the 36th, 37th and 38th speakers had been reached, six minutes would be as much as the House could stand.

Therefore, we took the view that it would be helpful to the House to restrict the debate to six hours. Those speaking at the end of the debate will be here until 9.30 p.m., and of course there may be a Statement. A Statement is to be repeated today and that may well also be the case tomorrow. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe will also have noticed that there is the Second Reading of a very important Bill to follow the six-hour debate tomorrow. Therefore, in all the circumstances, we tried to take into account the interests of the whole House in reaching our decision.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, will the noble Lord accept that some of us are extremely grateful to be protected by the six-hour limit?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, faced with such a formidable, analytical combination, I can say only that I have nothing to add.

On Question, Motion agreed to.