HL Deb 08 May 2001 vol 625 cc934-8

5.50 p.m.

Lord Carter

My Lords, after the announcement earlier today, I am now in a position to announce that the order of business has been agreed between the usual channels for the remainder of this Session.

Tomorrow the House will meet at 2.30 p.m. as usual for Starred Questions. My noble friend the Leader of the House will move a business Motion to suspend Standing Orders necessary to enable us to finish a number of Bills in the next three days. Assuming that the business Motion is agreed to, we will then take the remaining stages of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill; which will be followed by the remaining stages of the Children's Commissioner for Wales Bill; and finally the remaining stages of the House of Commons (Removal of Clergy Disqualification) Bill.

On Thursday 10th May the House will meet at 11.30 a.m. for Prayers and Starred Questions. We will then take the remaining stages of the Armed Forces Bill and the Social Security Contributions (Share Options) Bill.

Assuming that the Bills have been received from another place, we will then take all stages of the Rating (Former Agricultural Premises and Rural Shops) Bill, the Finance Bill and the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. Finally, if any amendments are received from the other place in relation to the Health and Social Care Bill, they will also be considered on Thursday.

On Friday, the House will meet at 9.30 a.m. for prayers. There will be no Starred Questions. We will then deal with any amendments which may have returned from another place. Finally, Royal Assent will be given to a number of Bills and the House will then adjourn.

Parliament will be dissolved on Monday 14th May but that will be done by proclamation and will not involve any proceedings here.

I should also inform the House that it has been agreed that the business which had been tabled for Wednesday and Thursday this week will not now be taken. The Motion standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, and the Committee stage of the Culture and Recreation Bill will be removed from Wednesday's and Thursday's Order Papers respectively.

Your Lordships may be wondering what the arrangements will be for the tabling of amendments and for speakers' lists. In relation to the rating Bill and the Finance Bill, speakers' lists will be put up in the Government. Whips' Office and will remain open until 6 p.m. tomorrow. The Clerk of the Parliaments has agreed that the Public Bill Office will accept amendments to any Bill in advance of Second Reading and will also relax the deadlines for late tabling of amendments as much as possible.

It may also help if I list the Bills which are currently before this House or in another place which will not be proceeded with this Session. There will be no further proceedings on the Homes Bill; the International Development Bill; the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill; the Hunting Bill; the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Bill; the Culture and Recreation Bill and the Adoption and Children Bill.

It may also be helpful if I tell your Lordships that an informal copy of the order of business for the next three clays, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, is available in the Printed Paper Office.

Lord Henley

My Lords, first, I offer my commiseration to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, and many others who have been denied making their speeches in tomorrow's great debate. Perhaps I may offer my thanks to the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip for his useful statement and for the fact that he is making available to all noble Lords a copy of the draft Order Paper. I trust that it will be available in the Government Whips Office tonight.

We had most useful and constructive discussions within the usual channels and I am grateful for all the assistance which the Government Chief Whip gave to us. We on this side of the House were keen to be as co-operative as possible, as I made clear earlier. However, we wanted to be co-operative on the basis that the Government got the basis of their programme but only as regards those Bills which have received adequate and proper scrutiny within this House. We must always remember that this House is a revising Chamber and it is important that we give adequate scrutiny to all Bills which come before us.

The noble Lord the Government Chief Whip listed a number of Bills which have not reached the statute book and with which the Government will not proceed further. I ought to remind the noble Lord that we had a late start to this Session and that a number of those Bills came before this House at an early stage of it. Some had their First Reading in this House as early as last February but were not proceeded with further because the Government decided that they had to give greater priority to Bills which they knew perfectly well had no chance whatever of getting on to the statute book. The Government also felt it important to allow the House of Commons a full week off in February for half-term and some two extra days holiday then for this House when they could have pursued the Bills. The Government are also bringing this Parliament to a premature end.

Some of those Bills might in due course proceed to the statute book when the new Conservative government return to office after 7th June. We will pursue them as appropriate. However, as I made clear, we did not think it right that we should give time to Bills which have not received proper scrutiny in this House.

I conclude by thanking the noble Lord for his co-operation in these matters and I hope that we can continue with the same degree of co-operation during the remaining days of this Parliament.

Lord Roper

My Lords, I am grateful to the Government Chief Whip for the consultation he has carried out during the past few days, in particular today, in preparing the order of business for the next three days. In general, we on these Benches welcome what is now put forward. As a newcomer to the usual channels, I was grateful to see the degree of consultation which takes place in your Lordships' House on these matters. I am also particularly grateful to the Clerk of the Parliaments for agreeing to relax the normal arrangements for the tabling of amendments to Public Bills. We will be able, for example, to table amendments for the Report stage of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill until noon tomorrow and consequentially for the other legislation coming forward.

As the Opposition Chief Whip said, there are a number of Bills with which we are not proceeding and the Government Chief Whip has listed them. We on these Benches would have liked to see three of those Bills go forward. We would have liked to see going forward the Homes Bill, in particular its provisions relating to the homeless. We are sorry that it was not possible to reach a consensus through the usual channels on that measure.

Similarly, we would have liked to see go forward the International Development Bill, for which there was a good deal of support in another place and which could have reached the statute book in the time remaining. Finally, we would have liked to see the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill, in respect of which there was a strong feeling that it ought to reach the statute book. We on these Benches regret that we have not been able to find a way to do so before the end of the Session.

In conclusion, I believe that with those exceptions the method we have proceeded with has been useful and I hope it augurs well for the remainder of our business of this Session.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Henley and Lord Roper. The draft Order Paper will be available in the Printed Paper Office.

I do not want to get into a debate on the Bills with which we are not proceeding. As I am sure the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Chief Whip know, there are plenty of precedents of the then Labour oppositions—in 1983, 1987, 1992 and 1997, and I researched all the relevant copies of Hansard to find them—co-operating with the government to get certain Bills through. The country will have to decide on the priorities of the party opposite when they consider that it was not able to reach agreement in respect of Bills to help home buyers and the homeless, to help the third world and to stop tobacco advertising. But there we are.

We have now agreed the business and I hope that we can proceed with expedition. I hope that the House will not have to sit late on Wednesday or Thursday, and I am pleased that we have been able to reach agreement on the programme. I look forward to Friday.

Lord Renton

My Lords, can the noble Lord clarify the position with regard to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill? It is a far-reaching Bill and we have not discussed it thoroughly in Committee. A Bill which extends the powers of the courts and the police, and indeed extends the powers of individuals which may not always be well motivated, is one which we should consider carefully and not in a hurry. Can the noble Lord say whether the Government intend to get it on to the statute book in this Parliament?

Lord Carter

My Lords, having discussed the matter with the usual channels, the Bill should complete Committee stage today. We hope that, with the tabling of Report stage tomorrow, we can reach agreement on the Bill. Noble Lords will understand that, as the matter is in play at the moment, I must be careful about how I phrase my words. We hope that the Bill will reach the statute book this Session.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, a little earlier when the noble Lord explained that the Government did not intend to proceed with Part 2 of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, it was clear that there were various other clauses over which a question mark hung. We hope that the Government will not proceed with some other matters, but in the circumstances we are prepared to allow other parts of the Bill to proceed because we believe that those measures should be put in place, even if we have detailed comments upon them.

Lord McNally

My Lords, I ask the Chief Whip to listen. We have heard from two most distinguished lawyers on the Back Benches, latterly, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, about the haste with which the Bill is passing through the House. The noble Lord must not count his chickens in any way. We have many misgivings about dealing with a Bill of this magnitude at such speed.

Lord Carter

My Lords, sometimes it is hard enough to count my colleagues instead of chickens. All I can say is that we should complete the Committee stage today. I believe that the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord McNally, understand the position. We shall explore their problems with the Bill as we proceed with the Committee stage today. We have agreed to finish the Committee stage today and then review the position. We hope to reach agreement so that this Bill, which deals with important matters to do with criminal justice and police powers, can reach the statute book. That is why we have tabled Report and remaining stages for tomorrow.