HL Deb 23 July 1996 vol 574 cc1356-70

6.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Howe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Dean of Harptree) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Instruments etc. produced and sold under authority]:

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Perhaps the Committee will allow me to point out that there has been a slight delay. However, I believe the Deputy Chairman can now call upon the noble Lord, Lord McNally.

Lord McNally moved the amendment: Page 1, line 5, leave out ("and be taken always to have had effect").

The noble Lord said: I thank the Labour Chief Whip for that intervention and also make the claim for a new sprint record down the Royal Gallery. The amendment is important. I draw the Committee's attention to the Order Paper. Alongside "Statutory Instruments (Production and Sale) Bill—Committee", we see a little squiggle. As a new boy to this Chamber. I looked up what the "squiggle" means. It indicates Bills set down before the expiry of the recommended minimum interval between stages.

I would have thought that the first thing the Minister should explain in responding to my amendment, and indeed to the Committee, is why the Bill needs to be speeded through in this way. As I understand the position, although it is related to the HMSO privatisation, it has been clarified firmly in the other place that there is not a direct consequential link between the two pieces of legislation. This legislation is not required to privatise HMSO and, even if it were, that would not be justification for dealing with the measure in this way. Why are we being asked to rush through a piece of retrospective legislation which covers a period of over 50 years? It is a serious point.

I want to make clear to the Minister why we on these Benches tabled the amendment. Sometimes amendments are tabled as probing amendments; sometimes they are tabled as helpful, constructive amendments; but sometimes amendments are tabled to draw a line in the sand and to make clear to the Executive that it cannot ride roughshod over the rights of Parliament.

There is a suspicion on these Benches that too often, particularly in recent weeks, the Government have been rushing things through this Chamber. They have been acting in a high-handed manner and behaving in some respects as though they almost believe that they have less than 200 days left to do anything. That is a recipe for bad government and bad legislation.

We on these Benches say most clearly that whichever party occupies the Government Benches, we will insist that proper procedures are carried through when legislation comes before this Chamber, not simply to employ the usual tactics of delay, but particularly because in cases such as when the Government wish to move a public asset into the private sector, expensive errors of judgment can be made and it is the duty of Parliament to check and check again.

A point made in the debate in the other place was that the Government have known of this need for retrospective legislation for well over one year when they first trawled through the implications of the privatisation of HMSO. Again. there is a massive question mark as to why, if that was known over one year ago, the legislation must come before this Chamber in this curious manner.

Our amendment is intended to question the whole status of retrospective legislation. We shall be interested to know what caused the Government to see the need. Was there a legal challenge or potential legal challenge? It will be interesting to know whether the Government now feel, since they are under such self-imposed haste and pressure, that that is the end of the matter or whether other anomalies exist that will need to be unpicked. That is the danger of the way in which the Government are going about their business at the present time.

Our debate on Thursday, the last day of this Session, in relation to privatisation of recruitment into the Civil Service, is another example. Even though the Government may feel that they are in their death throes and that their role now is to rifle through the till to see whether there are any trinkets left to be hocked, it is the duty of the Opposition to dig in our heels and stop the Government behaving in that way—riding roughshod over Parliament. We would like to make clear that the Third Reading of this Bill will take place after the Recess. We on these Benches want to consider the implications of the Committee stage. We may wish to table further amendments at Third Reading.

It was interesting to read the debate in the other place. One intervention in particular caught my eye. It was made by the honourable Member for South Hams Mr. Anthony Steen, a Member of the Government Benches. He threw up the interesting fact that we have dealt with over 8,000 statutory instruments in the past two years. Mr. Steen gave what I felt was a profound gypsy's warning to all parliamentarians concerned with the duties and responsibilities of this House and the other place. He said, There is a danger that we will pass more and more statutory instruments and find a new device for getting them printed in new and more exciting places, without tackling the issue".—[Official Report, Commons, 3/7/96; col. 1000] It is because the Government are not tackling the issues that we propose this amendment today. It is because the Government seem to be adopting a cavalier attitude to national assets and for the way in which Parliament carries out its responsibilities that we strongly advocate that the Committee support the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Always anxious to avoid the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, shaking her head as vigorously at me as she did at the noble Lord, Lord McNally, I shall use different words but ones which carry the same message. The Government have got themselves into a mess on this Bill. They have not been frank enough to say so, but when one looks at a situation such as that outlined by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, one realises that it could have been avoided. From last November until now the need for this legislation was patently clear. We on these Benches can understand why, when things are examined afresh, one must be extremely careful. We are conscious of the fact that it is not a question of looking to do damage or of damage limitation.

When the Government drew to our attention the desirability of having such legislation, we immediately saw the problems and we are still as unconvinced as noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches that there is no relationship between the privatisation of HMSO and this Bill. Those who are bidding for the tender for the privatised HMSO are bound to have some interest in whether there is a contingent liability which may explode in their face before, during or after any court case.

We can well understand the Government's desire to sell the business and to make arrangements for that. Indeed, the contract has been passed by the House this afternoon. We can well understand that the Government are anxious to make the asset as clean and as sweet as possible.

The Minister is not part of the usual channels. This is very much a question of the Whips and the business managers trying to reach a modus operandi. When the Liberal Chief Whip and I were faced with this matter, it would have been perfectly possible to extend the time which this House could devote to the Bill, but the Minister well knows that that would have been at the cost of a row, which would perhaps more than somewhat damage a delicate situation.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, made the crucial point that because we on these Benches—that is, the whole of the Opposition Benches—are far from convinced that there is no link between the privatisation which is proceeding and this Bill, we want to exercise the rights that we do have. Let us be fair about this. Last week my noble friend Lord Richard on behalf of these Benches challenged the Leader of the House at the Dispatch Box to make it absolutely certain that this week, before the Recess, we would have to deal only with the Committee stage of this Bill. Since then we have been advised that it is perfectly proper and in order, in the event of no amendments being carried, for the Report stage also to be dealt with this evening. Again, we have no objection to that—with the caveat that has been there all along: we believe that this House should be able to return to this matter on Third Reading on 15th or 16th October. There could very well be happenings which will be of interest to this House.

We on these Benches fully understand that these things happen. We are constantly torn between those who say that we should never ever shorten the gaps between legislative stages and those who say that if the Government ask for something, they are entitled to have it. The Government are, of course, entitled to get their business through. It is unheard of that the Government do not get their business through under normal procedures without the full collaboration of all the Benches. There may be disagreements about the content of the business, but the Business Statement on the next week's business cannot proceed unless by consensus. That has been the position up to now and I believe that it will continue to be the position after tonight. If the amendment, which we support, is defeated and if the Motion that the clause should not stand part of the Bill is debated but the clause remains in the Bill, this House will still have had its opportunity.

As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, pointed out, it is a great sadness that matters of crucial importance are spatchcocked into the last few days of the Session rather than being dealt with at some other time. I make no complaint about the Minister because the noble Earl is always courteous and anxious to please. He will give a full account of his department. Nevertheless, it is a great sadness that more time could not be found. We had a two-day debate on the future of the constitution and the House of Lords during a very slack period. Better management of our time might have provided some more time in which perhaps more than one amendment could have been tabled on this important and serious issue.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for having tabled the amendment which has provided us with the opportunity of this debate. More importantly, it has provided the Minister with an opportunity to explain the non-link between the Bill and the privatisation of HMSO and the reason why the Government would have wished all stages to be taken tonight. Let us be clear about it: that was their first proposal. I am not breaching any secret in saying that. The Government would have preferred all the business on this Bill to be taken in one stage. We support the Liberal Democrat Benches, who have taken a keen interest in this matter, in trying to ensure that this House is given a fair crack of the whip. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Earl Howe

I confess to being absolutely astonished by what I have just heard from the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Graham of Edmonton. It is as though the Second Reading debate did not take place. It is as though the full explanation that I gave of the need for the Bill has not even been considered by noble Lords.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, asked why there was urgency with regard to the Bill. I must advise the noble Lord that he was a little late in saying that because he could have mentioned any objections when I moved the Motion that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on the Bill. In a nutshell, there is urgency about removing a palpable threat of obstruction to the courts and possibly even of technical acquittals in the courts as a result of an anomaly, a potential loophole, that has recently been discovered. Indeed, that loophole has been in existence for the past 30 years but we have not known about it. That has nothing to do with this Government's actions. We have discovered it only recently, but the practice—

Lord Harris of Greenwich

Can the noble Earl tell us on what date that was discovered?

Earl Howe

Yes, I am coming to that. Having drawn attention to the defect in the statute, it is absolutely necessary to resolve it as speedily as possible. I believe that the only responsible course of action is for your Lordships and the other place to rectify it as soon as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, professed himself to be unconvinced that there is no relationship between this Bill and the privatisation of HMSO. The noble Lord referred to a possible contingent liability for bidders. There would be no contingent liability for bidders whatever because if the Bill is not passed, all that would happen would be that all the printing of statutory instruments would be carried out by the public sector, by the so-called "residual HMSO". As I explained the other day, that is perfectly possible, although it would be an expensive course of action which would be likely to increase the cost of statutory instruments.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, said that the Government have got themselves into a mess, echoing the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who said that we have known for well over a year that something is wrong. I am absolutely astonished by both of those statements. The Government have not known for well over a year. The Government identified a potential problem in preparing for the privatisation. We then took legal advice on the best solution available. As soon as that solution was identified—namely, the need for primary legislation—the intention to legislate was announced and the Bill was presented to Parliament. There was absolutely no delay whatever.

Perhaps I may turn to the amendment. As I understand it—

Lord Harris of Greenwich

I am grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. I hoped that he would address himself to the question that I put; namely, on what date did the Government first discover that there was a problem? I did not ask when they had taken legal advice but on what date this matter became clear to them.

7 p.m.

Earl Howe

I shall obtain a precise answer for the noble Lord, Lord Harris, if it is available. I am glad to answer questions in as much detail as I can. But I do not have the precise date in front of me.

Perhaps I may turn to the amendment. As I understand it, the intention is to remove from the Bill the retrospective powers in the Bill, to put beyond doubt the evidential status of copies of statutory instruments not printed directly by HMSO. But, it will leave intact the future power of HMSO to contract out SI printing. Any copies printed in the future by third parties would be valid, but those already printed would not be. I find that odd both because this would seem to be a pointless and inconsistent measure and also because we have hitherto enjoyed broad cross-party support for the retrospective elements of the Bill both in your Lordships' House and in the other place.

This amendment is a recipe for chaos. The debates on this Bill in your Lordships' House and the other place have inevitably drawn attention to the defects in current arrangements for printing SIs and to the possible technical defence in proceedings for breaching them. It can only have increased the chance of arguments about the status of SIs obstructing the courts and possibly of defendants being acquitted on a technicality. That is why the Government have sought urgent passage of the Bill, which would eliminate the problem if passed unamended.

However, if the amendment were to succeed, the Bill would not resolve the problem. On the contrary, it would draw attention to it. We would have highlighted a defect in statute and then failed to correct it, an approach which may not be seen in all quarters as entirely responsible.

Lord Richard

Before the noble Lord sits down, we all saw the 7th Cavalry arrive from the Box with the information requested by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. Can the noble Earl now give us the date on which the Government believe they were aware of the matter?

Earl Howe

I cannot; but I am advised that the defect in the statute was discovered around mid-April. I cannot be more precise than that.

The principle of retrospection was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McNally. I agree that legislating retrospectively should only be undertaken when it is absolutely necessary and in accordance with established principles. That is precisely the case here. If the threat to the courts is to be removed, there is no alternative but to confirm the status of existing copies of SIs. That is, by definition, a retrospective act.

But the Government are also acting in accordance with the settled principle that retrospection may be justified where it confirms prior, albeit mistaken, genuine expectations of the meaning of the law. Here, HMSO and all concerned with it sincerely believed that contracting out SI printing was lawful, and the Bill merely confirms that expectation.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, accused the Government of wanting to look for rows and disagreements. I hope I have persuaded him that nothing could be further from the truth. I cannot overstate the need to maintain the retrospective powers in this Bill. Without them, the courts risk becoming burdened by needless argument and obstructed by the need to have individual SIs specifically proved.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. I made a statement to the effect that the Government, as always, are anxious to have a row about the management of business. First, they sought to persuade the Liberal Democrat Benches and these Benches that the urgency of the matter was such that they should welcome having all the stages of the Bill taken on the same day. Secondly, as recently as last Thursday, the Leader of the Labour Benches received from the Leader of the House an assurance that the only business that would be dealt with on this Bill this week would be the Committee stage this evening. I see the Government Chief Whip shakes his head and we must read the record.

We have acknowledged that in addition a standing order, in the absence of any amendment being carried, allows for Report stage to be taken at the same time. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, and I have asked the Minister to confirm that it is not the Government's intention to do other than that this side of the Recess and to allow Third Reading to be taken in the overspill. If the Minister can assure us that it is not the Government's intention to drag out this matter, there will be no disagreement, but I can assure him that there will be a row if, by one means or another, the Government intend to ask permission of this House to proceed on this Bill other than by taking Committee and Report stages this evening.

It is not in the best interests of the House—indeed it is almost unprecedented—that business proceeds without the approval of all sides. The Government know that they do not have the approval of the Opposition Benches this side of the Recess to do other than deal with the Committee and Report stages of this Bill.

Earl Howe

I am a little surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, should raise these questions under the heading of this amendment. I should have thought that the time to have done it was when I moved the Motion that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill. Nevertheless, we seem to be having a fairly wide-ranging discussion and I shall endeavour to assist the noble Lord and the House so far as I am able.

The noble Lord is perfectly right. There has been no usual channels agreement to complete the passage of this Bill before the Summer Recess. However, I believe that there are good, substantive reasons why the Bill should he enacted before the House goes into Recess and I outlined those reasons. Therefore, I can tell the noble Lord that my noble friend the Leader of the House intends to move that the Bill be read a third time immediately after Questions tomorrow.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

That, of course, is a quite disgraceful statement. In 20 years in this House I have not known a single case in which a government of the day, whatever their political persuasion, have done that. If the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, was the Leader of the House, it would not be done on this occasion either.

Earl Howe

I do not think that that is a remark which, in the cool light of day, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will wish to stand by. It is a gross affront to my noble friend the Leader of the House.

Lord Richard

Perhaps the noble Earl will permit me to speak. He has now in effect made a Business Statement. As I understand it, the Business Statement is that tomorrow his noble friend the Leader of the House will move a Motion that the Third Reading be taken tomorrow. The Motion will be moved tomorrow against the views of the Opposition with no agreement through the usual channels. As soon as the Motion has been moved— no doubt it will be rammed through with a government majority in this House— we shall immediately move to the Third Reading. Is that what the Government are proposing for this House? If so, it is monstrous and unacceptable.

Lord Strathclyde

I had no intention of playing a part in this little debate. Frankly I am surprised that we should have this exchange of words at this stage of the Bill. It has been clear since last week that the Bill did not form part of the usual channels arrangements. It is of profound regret that that is the case. But my noble friend the Leader of the House also agreed that the Business of the House Motion that he moved last week would not include this Bill so far as it went and that he would return to the House in order to make a further statement. My noble friend Lord Howe has this evening confirmed that, assuming that the Committee stage proceeds and the Bill is unamended, using the provisions under the standing orders that the Report is received this evening, he will come forward with his statement asking the House for its permission to move the Third Reading.

There is no trickery here. There is no attempt to ram the Bill through this place. We had a Second Reading some days ago. The debate has been well previewed. This place will be asked to make a decision tomorrow. I do not see that noble Lords opposite can argue with that. Perhaps I might suggest to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition—before he gets to his feet—that it might serve the interests of this place better were we to continue with the Committee stage so that this place has a fair appreciation of what concerns the Opposition so much about the Bill.

Lord Richard

I am grateful to the noble Lord the Chief Whip for making that statement. Perhaps I may tell him what concerns me. When the Bill first came here we were asked to expedite it. We gave it a Second Reading, and it went through in the usual way. We then agreed to take the Committee stage with a truncated timetable. We agreed to that, so we are doing it tonight. When we agreed to do that, nothing was said about Report or Third Reading. Very well, the Bill is getting its Committee stage tonight.

The Government are using the provisions of a Standing Order to have a Report stage tonight—again truncated. Now we are told that they are not only truncating the Committee stage and the Report stage, they are also going to truncate the Third Reading of the Bill, despite the fact that, as far as I know, the usual channels have not discussed it, and despite the fact that it was made clear last week that we would not agree to that. It is to be put to this place tomorrow. I use the phrase again: it will be rammed through with a government majority. I say to the Government Chief Whip that that is not the way in which you ought to behave, particularly in relation to a Bill which we are told has nothing to do with the privatisation of HMSO. I have never believed that. I believe it even less tonight.

Lord Strathclyde

I do not wish to pre-empt the debate that will take place tomorrow afternoon, and the comments that my noble friend the Leader of the House will make. All I have done this evening is seek to clarify the situation. I do not believe that anything my noble friend Lord Howe said was a great surprise to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition or to noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches. I understand that they were aware of the decision of my noble friend the Leader of the House that if this place approved the Committee stage and Report stage this evening he would tomorrow move the Motion for the Third Reading.

Furthermore, that honours entirely the commitment my noble friend made when he moved the Business of the House Motion last week, that he would return to ask the permission of this place before that Third Reading was taken.

Earl Howe

I readily acknowledge that the problem for the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is that he does not believe me when I tell him that the Bill has nothing to do with the privatisation of HMSO. That is the case. It has nothing to do with the privatisation of HMSO. The bidders have not expressed one jot of interest in the Bill. We have had hundreds of inquiries from bidders. Not one of them has related to the Bill. That shows the measure of concern that they have for it. They do not care whether the printing of SIs is part of HMSO or is not part of it. It is such a tiny proportion of HMSO's turnover as not to make any difference.

I say again to the noble Lord, that there are remedies available to us if the Bill is not approved. The remedy is that SIs will have to be printed in-House. That is possible, but it does not do a service to those who purchase SIs; it does not do a service to public libraries which might want to stock them, because it will put up the cover price. It is not so much a question of the Government wanting to ram through a piece of legislation as for this place to act in a responsible manner towards the law of the land.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

Perhaps the Minister will allow me to comment. If he is saying that the Bill is not needed to do what is required, but that in order to get the Bill tomorrow he and his colleagues are prepared to face a breakdown in discussions between the usual channels and have come to the conclusion that they would rather have that breakdown than do something for which the Bill is not necessary, that makes it a very sad day. If between today and tomorrow the Government would care to reflect that there are other means of achieving their ends, other than having Third Reading tomorrow, that will be a major step towards restoring normal relations. But if they persist, they are telling these Benches that when there is a choice between administrative convenience and the usual channels, they prefer administrative arrangements. That is not good for the future of this place.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The person who is in charge of these arrangements is of course not the Leader of the House; it is Mr. Heseltine who has decided the timetable in which we are discussing the Bill. He showed an extraordinary degree of arrogance over the privatisation of the Recruitment and Assessment Services. Guarantees were given by the Leader of the House on the Floor of this place. They were dishonoured by Mr. Heseltine when he came to the committee which was considering the matter.

On that occasion, we were given undertakings that the privatisation would not be pushed through until the Government had had the opportunity to consider the report of the Committee on Public Service. When Mr. Heseltine gave evidence he made it abundantly clear that whatever the committee decided would not make the slightest difference because he was going to proceed with it whatever we said. On this occasion, too, despite all the Minister's denials, it is obvious that with the privatisation agenda all has to be pushed through before the Summer Recess, come hell or high water. That is Mr. Heseltine's decision.

The Leader of the House is merely Mr. Heseltine's messenger. The Government are prepared to rip up all the normal arrangements with regard to discussions between the usual channels about the organisation of public business in this place. If the Government continue in that way, I promise them that they will pay a heavy price in the future.

Earl Howe

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, may huff and puff, but he has not produced one argument against the substance of the Bill. I shall turn briefly to the amendment which I think we were discussing some time ago. The retrospective powers contained in the Bill are essential, because without them the courts risk becoming burdened by needless argument. They risk being obstructed by the need to have individual SIs specifically approved.

That is a process that can no doubt be undertaken, but it is not fair of Members of this place to force the courts down that road. There is a risk, albeit a remote one, of defendants being acquitted on a mere technicality. Is it for Members of this place to sanction such a risk? Discussion of the Bill has enhanced all of those risks. It is imperative that the Bill, in its final form, removes the risks. So I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

I return to what the noble Lord, Lord Graham, said. Naturally, we on this side very much reject any breakdown in the usual channels. That should go without saying. If I can say this in as kind a way as I can, it is noble Lords on the other side of the Chamber who are seeking to pick an argument when there should be no argument. There should be no argument on a Bill of this kind. I have stated here, and I repeat the assurance, that the Bill has no bearing on the privatisation of HMSO. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, does not believe me. I am very sorry about that, because I say those words advisedly. If we reject the Bill, we shall cause all manner of problems for the courts, and we shall be deliberately sanctioning possible legal loopholes. I do not believe that that is a worthy thing for this place to be doing.

Lord McNally

My Lords, sometimes, particularly when one is a new boy, one tables an amendment without realising fully the implications of it. Having listened to the debate, I am very proud that I tabled the amendment because, if the Minister has access to cable television and looks at the repeats of the Lords' proceedings when one is given a glimpse of the serried ranks of Tuscany from time to time, he will see that his colleagues behind him looked glummer and glummer as he dug deeper and deeper into the hole of his own making. If they did not fill it, then they certainly do not realise the full implications of what the Minister described as a relatively unimportant and small piece of legislation. He dragged in at the last minute the implications for the courts but cannot even tell this Committee, apart from a vague reference to last April, when his own department became aware of the anomaly.

The Minister denies, denies and denies again any linkage between the Bill and the privatisation of HMSO. And yet, as my noble friend indicated, the circumstantial evidence of that linkage and the linkage between the diktats of the Deputy Prime Minister and the behaviour of that Front Bench would stand up in most courts of law.

Beyond this Bill is the behaviour of this House. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out quite rightly that we shall move into a period when the behaviour of this House will be scrutinised and debated very closely. I say very clearly, because although I may be a new boy in this Chamber, I have been around this Palace in one guise or another for more than 40 years and I am very proud of the role of Parliament, that, if the Executive continues to use this House to demean Parliament and parliamentary procedures, in the long term it is this House which will pay the penalty. I intend to divide the Committee this evening to indicate how deeply we on these Benches feel that this Government are overriding the proper parliamentary procedures in dealing with this Bill.

Earl Howe

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may say that I do not believe that the Government have overridden any parliamentary procedures. We have agreed through the usual parliamentary channels to take the Committee stage this evening. The noble Lord may have found that inconvenient but that is the case.

We have referred to the possibility of my noble friend moving the Third Reading Motion tomorrow. That is yet to come. I suggest that the Committee is now looking at the amendment. The noble Lord has not argued in any substantive way against the principle in the Bill that there should be retrospective adjustment to cover a clear loophole in the law.

I have not heard such an argument. I do not believe that the noble Lord has addressed any of the points which I raised. Therefore, before going down that road, I urge Members of the Committee to pay close attention to what I said. Even at this late stage, I ask the noble Lord to think again about dividing the Committee.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

The fact is that the Government have made a Business Statement in the course of the debate which is frankly of a truly disgraceful character. We propose to vote for the amendment to demonstrate our total disapproval of what the Government are doing.

Lord McNally

I commend the amendment to the Committee.

7.24 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 28; Not-Contents, 101.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Berkeley, L. Jeger, B.
Borrie, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Judd,L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Kilbracken, L.
David. B. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. McNally, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Peston, L.
Gladwin of Clee,L. Redesdale, L.
Glenamara, L. Richard, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L [Teller.] Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hayman, B. Williams of Elvel.L.
Hollis of Heigham,B. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E
Abinger, L. Henley, L.
Annaly, L. Howe, E.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Inglewood, L.
Beloff,L. Keyes, L.
Belstead, L. Kimball, L.
Blaker, L. Leigh, L.
Blatch, B. Liverpool, E.
Boardman, L. Lucas, L.
Bowness, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Brigstocke, B. Lyell, L.
Brookeborough, V. McConnell, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L
Bruntisfield, L. Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Burnham,L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Butterfield, L. Mersey, V.
Butterworth, L. Miller of Hendon,B.
Carnarvon, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mountevans, L.
Chalfont, L. Munster, E.
Chalker of Wallasey.B. Newall, L.
Chelmsford, V. Northesk, E.
Chesham, L. [Teller.] O'Cathain, B.
Clark of Kempston, L. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Colwyn. L. Orkney, E.
Courtown, E. Oxfuird, V.
Cox, B. Palmer, L.
Cranbome, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Park of Monmouth, B.
Cross, V. Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Dean of Harptree, L. Platt of Writtle,B.
Denham,L. Rankeillour, L.
Dilhome, V. Reay, L.
Dixon-Smith, L. Seccombe, B.
Downshire, M. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Elibank, L. Shrewsbury, E.
Elton, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Ferrers, E. Somerset, D.
Finsberg, L. Stewartby, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Stockton, E.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Stodart of Leaston, L.
Gisborough, L. Strange, B.
Glenarthur, L. Strathcarron, L.
Gray, L. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Gray of Contin, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Greenway, L. Trumpington, B.
Hacking, L. Tugendhat, L.
Halsbury, E. Ullswater, V.
Hanson, L. Vivian, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Wade of Chorlton,L.
Harmsworth, L. Waverley, V.
Hayhoe, L. Wilcox, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7.31 p.m.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, perhaps I may simply use this as an opportunity to demonstrate that it was within the gift of the Opposition to resist the Motion that the Report be received. In the context in which discussions took place this afternoon, in order to keep it clean and leave the Third Reading stage for October, both those on the Liberal Democrat Benches and we on these Benches acknowledged that the Standing Orders allow the Government to proceed as they have; but that process could have been resisted.

Earl Howe

My Lords, I have not as yet moved that the Report be now received. However, with the leave of the House, I shall do so now. I beg to move that this Report be now received, and, in doing so, I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, for what he has just said.

Moved, That this Report be now received.—(Earl Howe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty six minutes before eight o'clock.