HL Deb 24 July 1997 vol 581 cc1514-6
Lord Carter

My Lords, it may also be for the convenience of the House if I remind your Lordships that, subject to the progress of Business, the House will rise for the Summer Recess on Thursday 31st July. The House will sit at 11 a.m. on that day.

I am now in a position to announce for the convenience of the House and of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition that the House will return on Tuesday 14th October.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, perhaps I may say how grateful I am and this side of the House is for the statement that the Government Chief Whip has just made. That is particularly so regarding the date of the return of the House of Lords on 14th October. It has perhaps not been the best kept secret, since I am aware that the Refreshment Department has known of the date for some weeks and it has filtered out.

However, it would be helpful for all Members of the House if in future we have notification of the dates rather earlier than has been the case this year. I understand the difficulties in which the noble Lord found himself. Furthermore, I understand that another place is not due to return until 29th October, over two weeks after our return. That is not unwelcome because I assume that it means that there will be a number of important Bills for the House of Lords to deal with right at the start of the Session. There is a good reason for that, following the point made by my noble friend Lord Cranborne last week.

It is important for the Government to provide a balance for the legislative programme. My colleagues and I would regard it as an unhappy event if we were to find ourselves dealing with big, controversial and detailed Bills, including some that may contain items of constitutional importance, in the final months of the summer. I hope that the Government do not plan for Royal Assents to be required at the end of July or even the beginning of August when at this stage there seems to be no pressing need for it. That is particularly so since the House of Commons will return long after we do.

I hope that the noble Lord will take this in the spirit of co-operation and helpfulness with which it is intended, as has always been our direction here in Opposition.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words in the same spirit of co-operation and helpfulness as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. Is the Government Chief Whip aware that on a number of occasions during the period of the Conservative Government the House of Lords was recalled before the House of Commons? There is nothing unusual in the situation.

Is the Chief Whip also aware that I very much welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said about the need to avoid a large amount of constitutional legislation coming to this House in May and June? I join implicitly with the noble Lord in the desire to avoid during Committee and Report stages of a Bill wearisome, repetitive speeches, Second Reading speeches being made in any part of the House.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, perhaps I may suggest to the Government Chief Whip that once the Bills start rolling he makes every attempt to get your Lordships' House to bed before two o'clock in the morning. That became the accepted practice by the present Opposition when they were in government.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all those who have spoken. I believe that the Opposition Chief Whip is aware that the usual channels have to flow across this House and also down the corridors. I have done my best through the usual channels to make possible dates available. Any Member of the House who did not know that we were likely to come back on 14th October was misinformed.

The reason the Commons are returning after us is a matter for them. However, I should remind the House that we have a number of important items of business to be getting on with such as the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, the Local Government Finance (Supplementary Credit Approvals) Bill and, of course, we should not forget the Plant Varieties Bill.

I understand entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said about the balance between the two Houses. He knows that when we are able to inform him and the House of the way in which the balance will be achieved—of which we are entirely aware—he will be told as soon as possible. We understand the point that he makes about the weight of the legislation between the two Houses.

Regarding the Summer Recess next year, it is a long way off and we shall do our best to ensure that we rise in good time. However, I can only repeat the point made by my noble friend the Leader of the House last week. I see the noble Lord, Lord Denham, in his place and he told me that one year he kept the House sitting until 12th August.

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