HL Deb 16 April 1996 vol 571 cc563-4
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)

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 to enable the Finance Bill to be taken through its remaining stages on Friday 26th April. —(viscount Cranborne.)

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, why do the Government wish to rush through what is in many ways the most important Bill of the Session? Is it not a fact that experience has shown that the Second Reading of the Finance Bill is a good opportunity for a full dress, high level economic debate, while the later stages of the Bill can furnish a good opportunity for raising specific points which your Lordships' House may wish to discuss and feel that another place can consider in the light of that discussion? In other words, why is the Finance Bill, which some of us regard as the most important measure of the Session, to be rushed in this way?

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, my question was in connection with the Motion confining the debate on Wednesday to six hour—

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will have patience because that is the next item of business which will concern your Lordships. Therefore, with the permission of the House, I shall await his intervention with some interest.

I was not wholly surprised by the nature of my noble friend's intervention. He is as aware as any of your Lordships that the Finance Bill is a supply Bill. Your Lordships may pass or reject supply Bills but they may not amend any part of them. As my noble friend knows, that is the financial privilege of another place. I believe that he will agree that that privilege is jealously guarded by another place. As a result, your Lordships' Committee stage on supply Bills is invariably negatived.

I understand that amendments have not been tabled to supply Bills in your Lordships' House during the course of this century. Therefore, as regards the precedence, while I yield to no one in my desire that your Lordships should be able to go back to the conditions which obtained in the 19th century, I wonder how practical it is at this late stage of the present century to do so. My natural conservatism must yield to considerations of practicality, and therefore I suggest that my noble friend considers the advantages of that.

I agree that the Second Reading of the Finance Bill provides an opportunity for a general debate on economic affairs and I am sure that your Lordships will welcome that. However, perhaps I may point out that recently your Lordships have had a number of opportunities for economic debates, including a Motion on the tax and benefits system tabled by our noble friend Lord Skidelsky as recently as 27th March; a Motion on the Government's economic strategy tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, on 20th March; a Motion on wealth creation tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, on 21st February; and a Motion on inward investment tabled by my noble friend Lord Oxfuird on 31st January. I hope that my noble friend will consider that we have had a fair run on economic questions during the past few weeks.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for that answer, but will he answer the point that I raised? Why is it thought right to rush through the Finance Bill in one day when it would be perfectly feasible to take the Second Reading on one day and the remaining stages on another day? What is the hurry?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I have not been in your Lordships' House nearly as long as my noble friend. However, my clear understanding is that for some decades it has been the habit of this House to pursue that device. If my noble friend wishes to change the habit of your Lordships' House, perhaps I may suggest that he submits one of his pithily argued memoranda to the Procedure Committee, which I am sure will be prepared to consider it.

I hope that I have the correct sense of the House when I say that it is your Lordships' wish that we should try to stick to what has been a well tried precedent during the course of this century.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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