HL Deb 04 December 2001 vol 629 cc705-6

3 p.m.

Earl Ferrers asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Statement on House of Lords reform, which was made in the House of Lords on Wednesday 7th November (HL Deb, col. 205), was different from that which was made in the House of Commons.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, with a Statement of such direct interest to both Houses in their capacities as Houses of Parliament, it was not appropriate to make a Statement in one House repeated verbatim in the other. The two Statements covered generally the same ground but drew particular attention in one House to matters that might have been of less concern in the other. Our proposals are, of course, set out in the White Paper.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his, as always, courteous reply. Does he not think that, where matters of constitutional importance are concerned, it is desirable that Statements should be the same in both Houses? It would at least stop people ferreting around and trying to find out what are the differences and why. For instance, does the noble and learned Lord realise that when the Statement was made by the Lord President of the Council in another place, he praised for the part that he has played in the reform of the House of Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor? Such eulogy was missing in the Statement given to your Lordships. Was that omission by mistake or on purpose?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Ferret—Lord Ferrers. As he and your Lordships know, I always try to pitch my answers to the intellectual calibre of the audience. In this serene House, self-evidently, no eulogy to the Lord Chancellor would be, or could be, required.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, given the reaction with which the Statement was greeted in another place—namely, that some 130 Labour MPs immediately rushed off to sign an Early Day Motion voicing their protest at the White Paper—does the noble and learned Lord now consider, perhaps with his colleague, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, that it might have been better to resolve the differences within the Labour Party by sending the issue to a Joint Committee of both Houses?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, looking back on it, it might have been better if my Statement had been given to the Commons. Then there would riot have been any difficulty or misunderstanding which might have led MPs to sign the EDM.

Lord Goodhart

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord accept that the real drawback is that there are no inconsistencies between the Statements made in the two Houses? If there had been, that might have given rise to the possibility that there were still some open minds in the Government and that these terrible proposals might have been changed before they arrived in your Lordships' House.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, the White Paper is very green. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said in terms that we wished to have consultations. Any offering by way of improvement—if such could be imagined—to the Government's present thinking will be gratefully received.

Lord Palmer

My Lords, when will the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House be in a position to announce a timetable so that those of us facing expulsion from Parliament can plan for the future?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I cannot give a timetable in the context of the euthanasia to which the noble Lord is looking forward. However, responding to a number of requests from your Lordships, we hope to have a two-day debate on the White Paper very soon after our return from the Christmas Recess. I know that it is galling for the noble Lord—he has courteously written to me in the past about these matters—but I am very much in your Lordships' hands. I do not know when the ultimate stage of stage 2 will be arrived at.

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