HL Deb 27 March 1996 vol 570 cc1705-16
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should perhaps say something in explanation.

On Item 1, the committee recommends that the Government should be invited to lay before the House an annual report listing all the Acts which have not been repealed or brought into force, giving reasons for any delay in each case; and that the first report should be laid early in 1997 and should be limited to Acts enacted before 31st December 1992. For future years, the committee favours an annual published report; but, as the committee's report indicates, it will be for consideration whether the information accessible from the Statute Law Database, which we understand will come on line in the course of 1997, will meet the need. The committee considered this matter at the request of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee and hopes the House will find it useful to be able to monitor the extent to which legislation has not been brought into force.

On Item 2, the committee recommends that speeches by Lords whose names are not on the speakers' list and who therefore speak in the gap before the winding-up speeches should be limited to four minutes. As noble Lords will see, the committee recommends an appropriate amendment to the guidance contained in the Companion to the Standing Orders.

On Items 4, 5 and 6, the committee draws attention to three well-established conventions which have not always been followed recently. These are, first, the expectation that a Lord who takes part in a debate should attend the greater part of that debate, including the opening speeches and particularly the winding-up speeches; next, the convention that Lords should not leave the Chamber until a maiden speaker has been congratulated by the next following speaker; and then the custom that no Lord may pass between the Woolsack and any Lord who is speaking, nor between the Woolsack and the Table. I invite the House to take note again of these conventions, and the committee hopes that they will be observed fully.

Moved, That the Third Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 50) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

1. BRINGING ACTS OF PARLIAMENT INTO FORCE The Committee has considered the recommendation of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee "that the House seeks a mechanism to ensure that Acts passed by Parliament are brought into operation" (12th Report, Session 1993–94, HL Paper 90, paragraph 38). The recommendation was made in the light of instances, such as the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 relating to criminal injuries compensation which were not brought into force. Such instances can only arise because of the commencement provisions of the Act concerned, giving Ministers power to bring the Act, or parts of it, into operation. No recommendation by this Committee could override such provisions. It must be for the House in each case to decide whether commencement provisions in a bill are acceptable. In some cases it might be appropriate for a bill to lay down that the Act will come into force on a stated date if not brought into force earlier by means of a commencement order or orders. In others, it could be provided that the provisions of an Act would cease to have effect on a stated date if not previously brought into force. While no formula is likely to be suitable in all cases, the Committee considers that it would be useful for the House to be able to monitor the extent to which legislation has not been brought into force. The Committee recommends, therefore, that the Government should lay before the House (perhaps as a Command paper) an annual report listing all the Acts and provisions within Acts which had been neither repealed nor brought into force, giving reasons for the delay in each case. Initially, such a report might be limited to Acts which had been enacted before a certain date. The Committee understands that the Statute Law Database, a version of the statute book on computer, is expected to come on line in the course of 1997 and that the Database, to which Lords and members of the public will have access, may facilitate the preparation of such a list. The Committee recommends that the Government should be invited to lay the first report early in 1997 whether or not the Database is by then available and that the report should be limited to Acts enacted before 31st December 1992. So far as future years are concerned, the Committee favours an annual published report laid before Parliament. It will be for consideration, however, whether the information accessible from the Database will meet the need.

2. SPEAKING IN THE GAP The Committee has considered whether a time-limit should be imposed on speeches made by Lords whose names are not on speakers' lists and who rise to speak before the winding-up speeches. The Committee concludes that such speeches should be limited to four minutes and that the guidance in the Companion to Standing Orders should be amended to read "Any such speaker is expected to be brief (not longer than four minutes).

3. APPLICATION OF ROTATION RULE TO THE LIAISON COMMITTEE The Committee recommends that the rotation rule, which is applied to most select committees of the House in order to secure a regular turnover of membership, should be applied to the Liaison Committee so as to require the retirement of one member per session.

4. ATTENDANCE AT DEBATES The Committee again draws attention to the guidance in the Companion (at page 67): A Lord who is taking part in a debate is expected to attend the greater part of that debate. It is considered discourteous for him not to be present for the opening speeches, for at least the speech before and that following his own, and for the winding-up speeches. Lords who become aware in advance that they are unlikely to be able to stay until the end should normally remove their names from the list.

5. MAIDEN SPEECHES The Committee reminds the House that since maiden speakers are normally congratulated by the following speaker only, it is desirable that Lords should not leave the Chamber during such congratulations.

6. PASSING BETWEEN THE LORD SPEAKING AND THE WOOLSACK The Committee reminds the House of the custom (set out in the Companion at page 64) that "No Lord may pass between the Woolsack (or the chair) and any Lord who is speaking, nor between the Woolsack and the Table".

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, it is proposed that speeches in the gap should be restricted to four minutes but I have not seen in the report or anywhere else any particular argument in favour of that. A speech may be made in the gap because the noble Lord concerned was away the previous day and was not able to give notice; it may be on a matter of great importance and delicacy; it may be on quite a trivial matter. But we have not been told by the Procedure Committee which of these arguments caused it to put forward what is undoubtedly a penalisation of the noble Lord who speaks at that time. He will be anyhow penalised by coming in at the end of the debate after all the speeches other than the winding-up speeches. Why he should be penalised in advance, without any indication as to what are the grounds for penalisation, I do not know, and the Procedure Committee has not been good enough to tell us.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, perhaps I may draw your Lordships' attention to a matter that is not in the report but was before the Procedure Committee. I understand that the committee did not report on it because it considered that it was more a matter for government business than of procedure.

It is a matter of the very greatest importance because it affects your Lordships' legislative role and indeed your role in the constitution. The matter that was raised was the inconvenience—the undesirability—of taking controversial and important business in the supper adjournment. I drew three cases to the attention of the committee. One concerned a matter which had been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who said that it had been raised by him on a number of other occasions.

The first example in my recollection occurred in July 1978 when no fewer than eight items were listed for the supper adjournment. Several of those items were of great importance. Two of them were Northern Ireland appropriation measures which were liable to take the whole of the time and, in fact, left only seven minutes for the remaining four or five items. One of those remaining items was the Matrimonial Causes (Northern Ireland) Order which in effect extended to Northern Ireland the provisions of the Divorce Reform Act 1969. I need not remind your Lordships, in view of the recent discussions on the Family Law Bill, how intensely controversial that was. Needless to say, it ran over the seven minutes, to the great inconvenience of those who were waiting for the main business, which was not concluded until nearly one o'clock in the morning.

The second occasion was in 1989 when the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, referred to the impropriety of taking the business that was then listed for the supper adjournment and said he had protested on many occasions against that practice. That protest seems to have been effective because the practice was not revived until very recently—until in fact last summer—when a deplorable incident took place on the Criminal Appeal Bill. My noble and learned friend Lord Ackner had moved an amendment to provide for mandatory sentences for murder to be assimilated into the practice of discretionary life sentences, thus making them much more open to the public. That amendment was supported by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice, by his predecessor my noble and learned friend Lord Lane and by the former Chief Justice of Northern Ireland my noble and learned friend Lord Lowry, so its importance could hardly be exaggerated. The amendment was opposed by the Home Office Minister, although it was supported by the Opposition parties. All parties, though not of course the Cross-Bench Peers, had sent out Whips. It was very controversial as well as important. It was carried by a substantial majority in your Lordships' House—and that only happens when a great number of government supporters either vote against the Government or abstain, which is what happened on that occasion.

Evidently that was by no means congenial to the Government and arrangements were made to reverse your Lordships' decision in a whipped vote in the other place. That came on a Friday and indeed the majority in the other place naturally overturned your Lordships' decision. That fell for discussion on the following Monday only and on that occasion the business was listed in the supper adjournment. The Government had sent out a Whip, but of course none of the other parties had had time, even if they had had the inclination, to whip their supporters. With the result foregone, your Lordships' decision was reversed.

It is clear from that—is it not?—that your Lordships were effectively denied your proper legislative role. Your Lordships were given no real opportunity of adhering to your former decision nor even to adapt the misleading cliché of asking the other place to think again because it had only considered the matter once. It is because of the constitutional importance that I venture to bring this matter before your Lordships.

The Chairman of Committees, with his usual courtesy and helpfulness, notified me of what had happened because I could not attend the Procedure Committee meeting. I gather that the committee was generally sympathetic to the case put forward in the memorandum. There were three reasons why it declined to act. First, it was difficult to define what was important and controversial. There might be borderline cases, but in none of those I have mentioned would there have been the smallest difficulty in saying that the issues were important and controversial.

The second reason was that it is sometimes necessary or desirable to take important and controversial business in the supper adjournment. That was allowed for. I venture to suggest that the rule should apply only in ordinary circumstances, so that in exceptional circumstances such business can be taken in the adjournment after discussion with all concerned. The third was the real reason; namely, that it was considered more a matter of business management than procedure. I imagine that your Lordships will be quite content if the matter is taken care of under the aegis of business management so that in future noble Lords will not be frustrated in performing their constitutional role.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, following the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the Committee must have examined the matter of speaking in the gap in some detail to arrive at the figure of four minutes. I ask the Chairman of Committees this question: what was the average length of the speeches in the gap which they examined?

As regards maiden speeches, the report states, The Committee reminds the House that since maiden speakers are normally congratulated by the following speaker only". That is the theory. Twice in my short time in the House it has reaffirmed that only the following speaker should congratulate, but that is constantly ignored. Practically every speaker throughout the remainder of the debate, particularly the Front Bench speakers, are fulsome in their congratulations. No doubt they are well-earned, but that is very distracting in getting on with the debate. Does the Committee really believe that that is the normal procedure or has it given up the ghost and given up trying?

Lord Elton

My Lords, as a member of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee which asked the Procedure Committee to find a means of ensuring that Acts passed by Parliament shall be brought into effect, perhaps I may commend the first item in the report to your Lordships. It introduces a means by which your Lordships can see for yourselves the extent to which Ministers do or do not use the important powers delegated to them of bringing legislation into effect.

As regards the intervention of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, I regard it as anything but a penalty to speak in the gap. That is when everyone is pouring back into the Chamber to hear the really important speeches from the Front Benches. It is perfectly possible to get one's name on the list by telephoning if one is not in the House and in person on the morning of the debate. It is a great privilege to speak in the gap and it should not be regarded as being as of right.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, as regards the recommendation that the speaker in the gap should be allowed four minutes, if people constantly take those four minutes, does not that in fact mean the end of the timed debate? If a speaker takes four minutes in a timed debate, that can only be at the expense of the winding-up speakers.

Lord Nathan

My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as concerns the first part of the report, to which the Chairman of Committees referred. The report now under consideration states that the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee recommended in its 1993–94 report, That the House seeks a mechanism to ensure that Acts passed by Parliament are brought into operation". My concern is that this report does not do that. I shall come to what I believe it does, but I do not believe that it does that. The matter is very important. Failure to provide such a mechanism brings Parliament into disrepute. Further, time spent laboriously working on the Bill is wasted unless that legislation is brought into effect.

The Procedure Committee report refers to certain provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which were not brought into force because the Government rejected certain central provisions of the Act after it had become law; and they were able to do that because of the commencement provisions. These prescribed that provisions of the Act should be brought into force, by order, without limit of time within which any order must be made. It is a striking instance but far from unique.

Such an open-ended provision is objectionable and should only be enacted exceptionally when the Government have satisfied the House that there are the most cogent reasons for doing so, for such Acts are permissive and not mandatory on government: they amount to optional legislation.

The recommendation of the Procedure Committee that an annual report should be laid before the House listing provisions neither repealed nor brought into force, though welcome, does not address the problem. I wonder therefore whether the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee should be invited to report on open-ended commencement provisions, giving its opinion as to whether exceptional circumstances exist to justify acceptance.

Commencement provisions appear at the very end of Bills. At Committee stages they often fall to be considered at a late hour and tend not to receive the consideration that they should. I recall moving an amendment to one such clause and, although I was able truthfully to say that I received support from all quarters of the House, I confess there was only one of your Lordships in each quarter!

I cannot refrain from referring to the very sad death of Lord Airedale, of which we learnt only the other day. It was he who annually at this time of the year referred to the Easter Act passed in the 1920s, which is still not in force. He would, I am sure, have supported my plea for action.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I join my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter in querying the wisdom of limiting speeches in the gap to four minutes. I believe that that very much depends on the length of the gap, which can be quite long. Sometimes the gap is long enough to cause surprise and inconvenience to speakers in the following debate because the current debate ended so early.

In addition to the points made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, there is the point that a noble Lord may have been unsure whether he was able to attend a debate that morning so had not put down his name. He may then attend the whole debate and feel that he has something important to add. I agree that four minutes is probably enough, but it may not be and therefore I believe it unwise to impose that limit.

Finally, when I joined your Lordships' House some six years ago, I got quite a lecture from the then Clerk of the Parliaments, Sir John Sainty, who felt that our debates were becoming rather stereotyped. He asked me to do what I could to encourage genuine and open debate. I would have thought that speeches in the gap fall within that category. It is that admonition which emboldens me to query the wisdom of limiting speeches in the gap to four minutes.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in his remarks about speeches during the interval. I have had the honour of being a Member of your Lordships' House for 20 years but have not once spoken in the gap. Personally, I am not interested in the matter. But I can conceive of circumstances where a Member of your Lordships' House has something to contribute to a debate covering a field in which he or she has specialist knowledge, which fact he or she may not have been able to communicate to the usual office in time. I believe that to fix a time for these interventions is arbitrary. In my experience, the House has its own way of expressing disapproval of those who intervene without any justification and who, in many cases, may have come into the Chamber just prior to delivering their speeches. I suggest that the Procedure Committee takes this back again without imposing any time limit. The House can enforce its own disciplines, more particularly under the leadership of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, as a member of the Procedure Committee I should like to deal with speeches in the gap and the practice of noble Lords walking out of the Chamber after maiden speeches. If one has only just come into the House one has no business to speak in the gap. One should be there for the whole of the debate. It is amazing how much can be said in four minutes if one puts one's mind to it. A limit of four minutes will concentrate the mind.

I believe that the practice of walking out immediately after a maiden speaker has sat down is deplorable. It is right that Members should wait for the congratulations to the maiden speaker. But the committee was referring to the congratulations from the speaker following the maiden speaker, not any congratulations from other Peers later on. I am aware that other noble Lords have been asked not to congratulate the maiden speaker, but if in a time limited debate a subsequent speaker chooses to sacrifice some of his slender ration of time to congratulate an old friend perhaps we should not be too hard on him.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, I speak as someone who has noted the wish of the House to limit the length of his speech. I hope that the House accepts that sometimes I can appreciate the feeling of the House. I shall deal with the first section of the report, admirably introduced by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. The Procedure Committee has found an ingenious mechanism that ensures the House is made aware of any problems that may exist but does not constrain the House in the way it deals with those problems.

The cut-off date chosen for the first report is a little curious. The report will be for the edification not only of Members of your Lordships' House but will be available to Parliament as a whole and the country at large. It is suggested that the first report will be published early in 1997 and should include only those Acts passed up to December 1992. Effectively, there will be almost a five-year gap. Although it does not directly affect us, we should note that in the next year there will be a general election. It is only right that in a general election the people of this country make a judgment of the performance of the Government that has been in office in the previous Parliament.

If we put before the British people a report that gives information about Acts of Parliament passed up to 1992, they will have no information about principal Acts passed by this Parliament since the last general election. I am sure that that is not the intention of the Procedure Committee. I hope that the committee will reconsider the cut-off date in the interests not only of this House but of Parliament as a whole and the British people.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord the Lord Chairman can give the House an indication of the Government's intentions in regard to paragraph 1. If so, how and when will the Government indicate whether or not they agree with this recommendation?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I should like to turn first to the particular point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and other noble Lords. Arguments were not put forward in the report because it is not customary to do so. For the convenience of the House, the committee seeks to keep those reports as brief as possible. This is a matter which is not unfamiliar to your Lordships. For long there has been guidance on this matter in the Companion to the Standing Orders. I quote briefly from the bottom of page 65, where reference is made to speeches made at that time: Any such speech should be brief". The Procedure Committee decided to give additional guidance to your Lordships. Some discussion took place about the amount of time that should be suggested to your Lordships as a reasonable limit. The noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, asked about the average. Statistics were presented to the committee by the Clerk. The average worked out at between three and four minutes. That was of assistance in recommending to your Lordships that the maximum should be four minutes. The Procedure Committee very much hoped that noble Lords who chose to speak in the gap would not necessarily go up to the limit of four minutes but might take a shorter period. There were a number of exceptions in the length of speeches in the gap. In one particular case the length of speech was 14 minutes. However, there had been a dispute as to whether or not the speaker concerned had made an effort to give notice that she wished to take part in the debate.

I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I do not mention all those who have spoken on this report. I trust that what I have said will give an indication. As always, in procedural matters we feel our way when new proposals are put forward. The matter is always in the hands of your Lordships. This is your Lordships' House and it is your Lordships' committee. It is always possible to consider matters if evidence emerges that changes need to be made at any time. That was the firm recommendation of the committee.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, as several noble Lords have indicated that a rigid limit of four minutes is inappropriate, will the Procedure Committee give further consideration to this matter at its next or future meetings? If the average is four minutes, there may be a very important matter that may take eight or 10 minutes, which may be offset by matters that may take a minute and a half or two minutes, and so four minutes will probably be excessive. Can we be told that the Procedure Committee will have another look at it?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, no. My remarks were not intended to convey that impression. It is a firm recommendation by the Procedure Committee to your Lordships on the basis of the thorough discussion that we had. If your Lordships agree the Motion today, your Lordships will be adopting that recommendation, among the other recommendations before you. Of course, at a subsequent time, if evidence emerged—as I was seeking to say just now—that changes were desirable, then the matter can always be returned to by your Lordships in the familiar way.

Perhaps I may now turn to the matter raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I am grateful to him for having mentioned beforehand that he proposed to intervene in this discussion. It is true that that matter, although considered in thorough detail by the Procedure Committee, is not in the report. There is a simple reason for that: it is customary, as your Lordships will, I hope, be aware, not to report things upon which the Procedure Committee, or indeed other committees, do not make recommendations, and to leave things as they are. Were we to embark upon a change in that custom, your Lordships would find that we would have an endless series of proposals of a negative character only ending up in a report with a series of negative recommendations which would probably not be too helpful to your Lordships. As I said on another matter just now, it is sought to keep reports to a minimum size, if possible.

There is also a distinction to be drawn between this matter and, for example, the Consolidated Fund Bill which was reported upon in a recent report by the Procedure Committee. That was the subject of discussion on a number of occasions within the Chamber itself.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, so, in fact, were the three instances to which I referred. Evidently, in addition, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, had raised the matter on a number of other occasions.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, had the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, waited for a moment or two, he would have found that I was going on to deal with those matters. The distinction which I was seeking to draw was that the matter had been raised a number of times on the Floor of the House. It had also been referred recently three times to the Procedure Committee. On that particular matter, the Procedure Committee in one of its recent reports made a positive recommendation, which was that it felt that the matter had been aired sufficiently. It recommended to your Lordships—and your Lordships accepted the recommendation when you accepted the report—that the matter should not be raised again. There is a distinction. That is why that matter is not reported upon in the report itself.

As I hope the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, will know from what I had an opportunity to say to him before the debate, his case was presented thoroughly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. We had the benefit of a detailed memorandum from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the advocacy of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. Perhaps I may say as an aside that this is the first time that I, as a mere silk, have had the opportunity to congratulate a judge, and a senior judge at that, on his advocacy. I hope that he will not consider it presumptuous or impertinent of me to have done so. After all, one of the blessings of this place is that we do not just have the benefit of the judicial participation of our—if I may call them this—noble and learned friends; we have the benefit of their advocacy on legislative matters. It is partly as a result of their supreme advocacy that they have reached the pinnacle of the judicial system.

I say all that merely to reassure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that his proposals were considered thoroughly. Although it is true to say that his worries were carefully listened to and discussed by the Procedure Committee, where there was some sympathy for the points he was making, the Procedure Committee was in no doubt whatsoever that it was in fact a matter for the business management of the House. Perhaps I may add to that that the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, so ably—if I may say so—put by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, was taken and well understood. I feel sure that it will be dealt with sensitively. I do not believe that there is any cause for qualms upon that score.

Perhaps I may turn now to item one which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. I shall deal first with the short point made by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. The Government will of course be studying the report and will be making their views known about it at some point in the future. I would just say this, because I believe that it is important to have some flavour of the discussions which took place in your Lordships' Select Committee: it was on the initiative of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, supported most constructively by the other leaders in your Lordships' House and the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, who suggested about a year ago now, that the database mentioned might provide a vehicle for providing your Lordships with facilities for that aspect of scrutiny. He and others have since been pursuing that matter. It is also thanks to the noble Viscount's suggestion that, whether or not the database is on line at the beginning of or in the early part of next year, a report will in fact be produced. So that time limit will be met.

On the substantive matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, I would say that that is a significant step forward. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for what he said on behalf of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. I know of course that the proposal made in the report of the Procedure Committee does not go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, would have wished, although I understand—I am grateful for this—that he supports the measures even though he feels that they should go rather further.

As with other matters—I believe that this is a significant step—we are again feeling our way. It would he possible to look at this after it has been in operation for a short period to see whether there is any other way in which we might improve it. We will also have the benefit of the Government's clear advice on these matters and no doubt an opportunity to reconsider them then. I suggest that we try this scheme.

The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, mentioned 1992. We did have some discussion about the date. There is nothing inviolate about a particular date. I do not believe that there will be any point in the Procedure Committee returning to that matter at a very early date, because it has just had an opportunity to discuss the matter thoroughly. However, we can keep that in mind. The question of a time limit has not escaped attention, but the substantive point which the Procedure Committee had in mind was its concern about Acts that were seemingly passed a long time ago and have not been enforced as opposed to more recent Acts, some of which, for obvious reasons, should be allowed a little time.

The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, made a specific suggestion. I hope that he will forgive me if I say, first, that it is not within my power to commit the Procedure Committee to anything, still less your Lordships. I certainly should not wish to trespass in the province of the chairman and members of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. However, it is clearly within the right of the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, and any noble Lord to seek guidance from that committee, as it would he in this case, to see whether it would be prepared to consider the matter. Perhaps the best way forward might be to leave the matter in that way to be followed up as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, chooses.

I turn to commencement provisions in principle, which are matters fundamentally for your Lordships when legislation is going forward. If a battle is to be fought on whether commencement provisions are needed or are adequate, it must be fought when the Bill is going through your Lordships' House. That is when your Lordships' minds need to be settled on the matter, whatever else is done. If we can further improve the scrutiny functions of your Lordships' House, its reputation will be enhanced by their operation, as has been the case in respect of other matters.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I am sorry to intervene at this late stage but the Chairman of Committees took almost 10 minutes to reply to a 10-minute speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I briefly raised a point relating to the four-minute limit for speaking in the gap, which has not been answered. If we are to continue with time limited debates, will not those additional four-minute speeches wreck the programme and curtail the speaking time of noble Lords in winding up the debate?

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, I was conscious that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, had intervened on that matter. I venture to suggest that he is right in saying that the programme could be wrecked. Indeed, difficulties can arise if noble Lords on the list of speakers take longer than the time limit expressed. Although the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is always at pains to emphasise the point about time limits, I venture to suggest that his words need to be taken yet more seriously than they appear to be by some Members of your Lordships' House. Damage is caused to subsequent speakers if earlier speakers go over the time limit prescribed. I hope that that will provide some comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Dean, as regards his valid point. I commend the Motion to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.