HL Deb 24 July 2000 vol 616 cc12-3
Lord Carter

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 49 (Commons Bills, if not taken up in twelve sitting days, to be dropped and not to be further proceeded with except after eight days' notice) be dispensed with to allow the Second Reading of the Disqualifications Bill to be taken on Thursday next.—(Lord Carter.)

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am grateful to the Government Chief Whip for moving this Motion standing in the name of his noble friend the Leader of the House. I saw that she was present in the Chamber a moment ago. Perhaps she slipped away to do something more important.

The Opposition have given their approval to taking the Disqualifications Bill on Thursday afternoon. However, can the Chief Whip explain why this Motion is necessary and why eight days' warning was not given to the House? After all, this is a piece of legislation which since January has been languishing in the black hole of the legislative dustbin in this House.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I believe that the Leader of the Opposition knows that a Standing Order of this kind has not been used since 1980. Indeed, I had the privilege of serving with the group charged to revise the Companion. The members wondered whether this Standing Order was still required, but apparently that is the case.

It was last used on 1st August 1980, a year when the House finally rose for the Summer Recess on 8th August 1980. The Standing Order is required because we received notice about it only at the end of the last week. I am sure noble Lords will appreciate that the timing of Bills relating to Northern Ireland is always sensitive. The Government have sought to take this Bill forward at a time when it was felt that it would be most helpful to the process taking place in Northern Ireland. It was agreed that it would be best to take the Second Reading before the Summer Recess. The only way in which that could be done was to table the Motion before the House today.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, I am not sure that I understand the Government Chief Whip correctly. Did he mean to say that the last time that this Standing Order was set aside was in 1980? I suppose that he takes some comfort from that; but I do not. It is extraordinary that we should be setting aside the order purely for the convenience of Her Majesty's Government, who have made a mess of their legislative programme. If they do so, that is their problem, but we should not alter the Standing Orders of the House to make it easier for an incompetent administration to shove through more legislation.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I welcome the words of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the Conservative Party was prepared to agree to this Motion being passed. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I do not think it is a question of incompetence. What the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has said is manifestly sensible. It is desirable to have this matter dealt with on Thursday at a time when we shall be dealing with Northern Ireland business.

Lord Carter

My Lords, that is exactly the position. We are merely suspending the Standing Order; we are not exactly doing away with it. It was the intention to take the Second Reading of the Bill in the overspill. It became apparent towards the end of last week that, as part of the sensitivity of the Northern Ireland process, it would be helpful if the Second Reading were taken before the Summer Recess. I am extremely grateful to the Official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats for their assistance.

On Question, Motion agreed to.