HL Deb 28 March 2000 vol 611 cc642-3

3.4 p.m.

Lord Weatherill

rose to move, That the proceedings of Tuesday 14th March be vacated.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion is required to vacate the proceedings on Third Reading of my Bill on 14th March. Those proceedings were entirely formal, as the single line recording them in Hansard attests. Unfortunately, they are now thought to have been defective because I did not at that time invite the House to agree to the privilege amendment. That is because at that stage it was not thought that the Bill would have any financial implications. However, on further inquiry it appears that the Bill may result in some additional costs which will need to be sanctioned by the other place. This means that a privilege amendment is required in order not to offend the financial privilege of the Commons. Accordingly, the Bill has been returned from the Commons for that to happen.

If your Lordships agree to my Motion, I shall invite your Lordships to give the Bill another Third Reading and to agree the privilege amendment before the Bill is finally sent back to the Commons. I beg to move.

Moved, That the proceedings of Tuesday 14th March be vacated.—(Lord Weatherill.)

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I cannot allow this moment to pass without some comment. I make it plain that I ascribe no specific blame to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. But this is a most unusual procedure. I am sure it is not without some precedent, but it is unusual for a Bill to be vacated.

It is my understanding that this Bill is in fact a government hand-out Bill and it is doubly a reason why the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is not to blame. But I wonder when the last occasion was that this happened to a Bill drafted by parliamentary counsel. Also, does the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, know what Minister was responsible for this? Would it not have been better, rather than having to ask this question in the House, to have put this on the Minute of the House last Thursday and an explanation be given and recorded in Hansard? Would not that have been more convenient to Members of your Lordships' House rather than having this small debate this afternoon?

Lord Weatherill

My Lords, I can enlighten the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. The last time a privilege amendment was omitted was in 1992, when your Lordships agreed to a Motion to vacate proceedings on the Third Reading of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. There are other examples in 1984 and 1980.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, this is a Private Member's Bill and not a government Bill. But it is only right that I should intervene as the Minister representing the Treasury in this House to say that no blame whatever attaches to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. This Bill was introduced by the noble Lord and it was only at a later stage that the Treasury, which is the controlling department for the Office for National Statistics, realised that there may be some financial implications. If this has caused difficulty to the House, I apologise on behalf of the department. But it should be clear that the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is entirely without fault.

On Question, Motion agreed to.