HL Deb 24 June 2002 vol 636 cc1060-73

3.8 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Tordoff)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Perhaps I may give some background. Your Lordships will remember that the issue relates to the Convention on the Future of Europe, which was established to prepare the way for the next intergovernmental conference. It contains representatives from all the national parliaments of Europe. We have two alternates from this House—the noble Lords, Lord Tomlinson and Lord Maclennan of Rogart—in addition to the two representatives appointed by the Commons.

Thought has been given to how the four Members of the two Houses can best report back to Parliament. A message was received from the Commons on 13th June. The House of Commons has ordered the establishment of a Standing Committee on the convention. Its object is the consideration of reports from the United Kingdom parliamentary representatives to the convention. It has no other function and it has no decision-making powers. This is a Commons committee and it was the decision of the Commons, on their own initiative, to set it up. I know that many of your Lordships may regret that it is not a Joint Committee, but that is what the Commons decided and we were only told about it once they had decided.

However, the report of the Procedure Committee sets out a new procedure whereby Members of this House will be able to contribute fully to the work of the committee. Any noble Lord who wishes to attend will be able to take part in all the debates in the committee with the limited provisos that they may not move Motions, that they may not vote and that they will not count towards a quorum. They will be able to question the Commons representatives, which they would not necessarily be able to do were they also to set up their own committee. In addition, the Lords alternate representatives will be permitted to appear before the Standing Committee, make statements and answer questions in the same way as the Commons representatives.

Noble Lords will also be aware that the European Union Committee of this House is already keeping the work of the convention under review. It has already taken evidence from the four representatives and the Minister for Europe, Mr Peter Hain. That work will continue in parallel with the formal process of reporting back, which is described in the Procedure Committee report.

Starting with a blank sheet, we might well have preferred a Joint Committee but we are where we are and it is important that we should make the best of it. I emphasise that this approach in no way precludes noble Lords from debating issues that arise from the convention as it develops or from tabling Motions on that subject from time to time. The only procedural limitations on Members of this House, as I said, will be that they will not be entitled to vote, move any Motion or count towards a quorum. I can think of very few occasions on which votes will be called for in that Standing Committee.

A number of questions were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, in a Written Question, and were answered last week by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. If anyone has not yet read them, I commend them because they answer a number of outstanding questions.

Moved, That the 2nd Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 130) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:

Convention on the future of Europe On 28 January 2002 the House appointed two Alternate Representatives to the Convention on the future of Europe. At the same time the House of Commons appointed two Representatives. Consideration has been given as to how these four members of the two Houses can report back to their colleagues at Westminster on their work in the Convention and respond to questions. The House of Commons has now appointed a Standing Committee on the Convention on the future of Europe but in which the Lords Alternate Representatives and any other member of this House may participate. Procedurally, this is a new departure. The Standing Committee is not a conventional joint committee of the two Houses, and members of this House would not appearing before it as witnesses before a Commons committee, which is a procedure provided for in Standing Order 24 (Lords' attendance at Commons select committees). What is proposed in the new Commons Standing Committee is an entirely new procedure, whereby members of the House of Lords can participate in a Commons-appointed committee. There will be some procedural limitations on members of this House (they will not be entitled to vote, move and motion or count towards the quorum), but these limitations would not prevent either the Alternates from reporting on, or other Members of this House from debating, the issues considered at the Convention. Details as to when and where the new Standing Committee will meet are not yet settled. But members of this House will be kept informed about meetings in the same way as for Lords Committees, by means of the Committee sheet appended to the Minutes of Proceedings, by the Committee Office's Weekly Agenda (available from the PPO) and by other means such as the parliamentary website. The Procedure Committee recommends that members of the House of Lords should be able to participate in the work of the Commons Standing Committee, as provided for in the Commons Message received on Thursday 13 June. If this recommendation is agreed to, the Leader of the House will move a resolution giving leave to members of the House of Lords to do so. The Procedure Committee recognises that the European Union Committee will itself wish to ensure that the work of the Convention is fully and properly monitored, but welcomes the creation of an additional forum in which the Parliamentary Representatives and Alternates can report back to members of both Houses on the work of the convention.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, we are extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for setting out the background to the report of the Procedure Committee.

I want to ask one further brief question in addition to those to which the noble Lord kindly alluded. As he rightly said and as the report states, this is an entirely new procedure—it is a novelty. A committee of this kind has not in living memory or in parliamentary records ever previously been set up. As he said, the arrangement places on noble Lords certain procedural limitations, although it obviously provides an opportunity for those noble Lords who are interested in such matters to attend and participate.

If noble Lords are not going to be full members and attend as individuals, will it be possible for them, in effect, to sign on and therefore ensure that they receive detailed minutes, proposals of Motions, the timing of meetings, the location of meetings, the subjects to be addressed and so on? That would allow them to participate effectively and not simply scan the committee procedure papers and hope to be able to turn up at the right time. There is a danger that unless the information is provided effectively—unless it is the same as that provided to Members of another place—we will fluid ourselves in a second-class status. I seek an assurance on that matter.

The report goes much wider but the fundamental issue is about the role of your Lordships' House in relation to the work of the European convention. Such matters go a little beyond the bailiwick of the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal might respond when he moves the next Motion on the Order Paper; I leave it for him to decide how to deal with the wider issues.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Roper

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for having presented the matter so clearly to the House. The convention is clearly an important development in the work of the European Union; it represents an opportunity for national parliaments to be involved in considerations in advance of the intergovernmental conference. It is therefore extremely important that both parts of this Parliament, and Parliament together, work out how we handle these matters.

As the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, will know, my noble friend Lord Maclennan of Rogart and the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, are in Brussels today; there is a meeting of the convention as we speak. My noble friend told me that he very much welcomes this interesting innovation and the fact that there will be an opportunity for himself and the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, to appear before the Commons committee.

As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, and as the Procedure Committee determined last week, this is an entirely new procedure. It is perhaps unfortunate that there was not more consultation between the two Houses before such an innovation was introduced, or even suggested to us. It does not appear to be a particularly good example of joined-up Parliament. I hope that in the work of the Joint Committee on the reform of this House and elsewhere, we try to ensure that, in future, when such decisions are taken, there is fuller consultation.

None the less, in the light of what has been said and of the assurances given to the Procedure Committee, this arrangement will be a useful part of the process by which Parliament will be able to discuss such matters. However, it will be only part of that process. As the Procedure Committee report makes clear, it is important that our European Union Committee continues its work considering such matters and that your Lordships' House has an opportunity to discuss them. That debate need not necessarily take place between now and the Summer Recess, given the programme that we know is ahead of us, but I hope that we have a report from the European Union Committee before then and a debate at an early stage when we return in the autumn.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, I am not sure that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Roper; I do not like this at all. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I am not sure whether I should address my question to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, or to my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House, who will move the next Motion on the Order Paper, which is also about the convention.

Apparently, the other place is doing us a favour; it is allowing us, very kindly, to be represented on its committee but not to be members of it. I do not want to be represented on its committee. I would much rather have our own Select Committees, which generally do a much better job than the other place. They are much more objective—the European Union Committee is a supreme example.

To be honest, I am reluctant to agree to this Motion because I am very unhappy about it. I do not like it at all. I should much prefer that it was not before us. I do not blame the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff; this Motion is about the second report of the Procedure Committee. I hope that the House does not like that procedure; I do not. The idea that we should be done a favour, as it were, and allowed to attend a Standing Committee of another place is not something that appeals to me. Those sitting on Select Commit tees in another place, as I have said previously, invariably are not at all objective and usually finish up with very great differences of opinion. That is perfectly right, but we do not get a truly objective report of the kind that our Select Committees provide.

I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, wishes to stand down his Motion, as it were, and leave it to my noble and learned friend Lord Williams to tell us his view. It is a bit crazy. We have on the Order Paper a Motion on the procedure of the House relating to the convention and we have another Motion relating to the convention itself, which will be moved by my noble and learned friend. I should be glad for an explanation. Where on earth are we going?

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I warmly agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said. I do not like this idea at all. However, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, on the restrained way in which he told noble Lords the bad news. When he said, with a clarity that I can only envy, that we are where we are, he was introducing us to a new situation and a very uncomfortable one. Will someone explain whether the House of Commons has behaved rather carelessly or with deliberate bad manners? Personally, I believe that it is probably the latter. I hope that we can reopen this matter in some way. I also hope that the Leader of the House will restrain his natural modesty and carefulness and will play a part in the matter by speaking out clearly for your Lordships to explain their very strong distaste.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords—

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, perhaps we could hear from the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Chairman of Committees has already referred to the work of the European Union Committee in this matter. It is true to say that we have already taken one session of evidence on the convention from the four parliamentary representatives. We intend to take further evidence in 10 days' time from Mr Peter Hain, the Minister for Europe, specifically on the issue of the convention. He mentioned it in passing during an earlier session.

As I believe the noble Lord, Lord Roper, wanted us to do, we intend to publish a report on the matter and hope to do so before the commencement of the Summer Recess. That report could of course be the subject of a debate. But I believe, as I know do many members of my committee, that at some point a debate should be held in government time led by a Minister so that we can hear the Government's view on the convention rather than simply that of the European Union Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked about receiving notice of meetings, and so on. All members of the European Union Committee will receive notices of meetings from our committee Clerk. If other noble Lords would like to be added to that list, they have only to let us know and we shall do our best to accommodate them.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, may we be told whether we are discussing the item on the Order Paper under the heading "Procedure of the House" or whether we are discussing that together with the following item on the Convention on the Future of Europe? In that way we shall know whether to make substantive points on the first Motion or whether to leave them until we reach debate on the second Motion.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, perhaps I may assist the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. We are discussing the first Motion. The second Motion is an enabling Motion and will follow this one. This is the one on which I suspect the substantive discussion will take place.

Lord Campbell-Savours

My Lords, as an apprentice in proceedings in this House, having entered the House only last year, perhaps I may intervene briefly to put an alternative view. Looking at the report, I see some longer-term implications in its wording. It says that procedurally this is a new departure. I want to know whether that means that the rules on order in the other place will now be amended so that a new Standing Order will allow for a committee of this nature to sit and involve Members of this House. That would be a departure from historic procedure.

If that were to be the case, I can imagine circumstances in the future in which it might be of great benefit to this House for such an arrangement to be available. That would particularly be so over coming years when we consider aspects of procedural reform which affect not only this place but also the operations of the other place. In those circumstances, the committee which might make recommendations to the House of Commons would do well to have in mind the views of those who were able to sit on that committee, if this were a precedent. It should make its views known and have them considered by Members of the House of Commons.

Therefore, I say to my noble friend: let us consider carefully what the committee says. If it is simply the fact that we have not been consulted fully, that disturbs us. Let us look in this tangled undergrowth to find something which may be of benefit to us in the longer run.

Earl Russell

My Lords, the terms so accurately described by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, have an uncanny resemblance to the terms under which we first allowed the Commons to attend Parliament over 700 years ago. Perhaps I may express the hope that we shall use our opportunity as skilfully as they have done.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I listened very carefully to what my noble friend Lord Barnett said. I partially agree with him and partially disagree. The essential feature of the work of the committee is that it will consider the future of Europe. Of course, in that respect I believe it is imperative that as many views as possible are taken from the Houses of Parliament. What is being contemplated here falls far short of that. I am not saying that this House should have exactly the same representation as another place, but our views should be heard. It is no good coming to the Chamber today and saying, "Well, our views will be heard but only just." There is absolutely no reason why the members of the committee should not participate on an equal basis. Frankly, that is not the case here, and I cannot agree with the new procedure.

A number of debates have taken place in this House on this issue. No one in their right mind would come to the conclusion that the views expressed have been meaningless. For that reason, I believe that, when it comes to scrutinising what Europe will look like in the future, no one should come to the conclusion that this House has no part to play whatever. In my view, the report presumes something about which we have not yet reached a conclusion. But it also presumes that we have no right to any views at all except by permission of the House of Commons, and that is entirely wrong.

Therefore, I believe that we should carefully put forward representations as expressed by a number of noble Lords today to those who really matter. What was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, is by the way. In my view, the fact that the committee has considered some evidence is neither here nor there. If the House comes to the conclusion that the committee is wrongly comprised, it should say so.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, it seems that this is the time to speak if one has anything to say on this matter. I was not entirely enlightened by the reply given to me by the Chairman of Committees. Therefore, in case I miss the boat, I might as well say the few words that I want to say at this stage.

First, I welcome any proposal to have a wider and informed discussion about the European convention. That is extremely important since the convention is being used to take forward further integration through the imposition of a European constitution, a legal personality and further powers to the Commission and Parliament in areas of defence, foreign affairs, economic policy and taxation.

In my view it is a useful innovation that Members of your Lordships' House should be able to participate in questions to representatives and in discussions, together with Members of another place. All too often, both Houses operate in isolation. In this House we do not take as much note as perhaps we should of the House of Commons, and certainly the House of Commons does not take as much note as it should of this House. It may well be that this innovation will help to achieve understanding between both Houses. They should be directly informed of each other's views. That is important when we discuss matters European, which have a vital effect on the constitution of our nation.

I accept that noble Lords cannot move Motions, vote or be counted as part of a quorum. However, I should like assurance either from the Chairman of Committees or the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House that Members of this House will be given every opportunity to participate equally with Members of the House of Commons and not be treated as second-class participants. Will their views, for example, be recorded in Hansard? Will they be able to raise points of order or participate in discussions on points of order?

This is a novel procedure, and all noble Lords cannot possibly be expected to read every Order Paper, minute and Hansard report every day. Therefore—again I emphasise that this is an innovative procedure—could all noble Lords be sent an individual letter about the new Standing Committee informing them of its establishment, the access to it which noble Lords will have, the restrictions on their actions and, indeed, the date of its inaugural meeting? Unless we do that and all Members of the House understand what is happening and how they can participate, this will be a flop. Having said that, I hope that we can proceed with the experiment.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I confess that I came into the Chamber today with, I hope, a totally open and neutral mind. Frankly, the longer I have heard the debate continue, the less enthusiastic I appear to be about the Motion before the House. Surely, the danger is that if Members of this House can go down to the other end and participate in a Select Committee with no rights to vote—

A noble Lord


Lord Richard

My Lords, they would be participating, would they not, in the proceedings of the committee?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. It is not a Select Committee but a Standing Committee, which is different.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I do not think that that undermines the point I am about to make. The danger is that this House will be seen to be committed to whatever the Standing Committee in the House of Commons produces. The Committee will be able to say, "We do not need to take any further account of the House of Lords because the noble Lord, Lord So and So, and the noble Baroness, Lady So and So, turned up and participated in a meeting".

The other difficulty is the question of who noble Lords represent. There is a danger that they will be seen as representing this Chamber, whereas they represent no one but themselves. If every Member of this House is entitled to participate in a House of Commons Standing Committee, frankly, the mind boggles. The Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee are carefully chosen. Presumably no one will choose our representatives to go down to the other end and participate in the affairs of the Standing Committee. We shall all be entitled to do that. What a thought.

It seems to me that the first part of the Motion to be moved by my noble and learned friend the Lord Privy Seal makes sense. Our representatives to the convention should be entitled to appear before the Standing Committee of another place. However, I find difficulty with the second part of the Motion, which is that somehow this Chamber should become involved in what is happening in that Chamber.

It seems to me that the proper way to determine Parliament's view on the convention is either to set up a Joint Committee, which clearly will not now be possible, or for each House to produce its view. The Commons will produce its view on the convention; this Chamber will produce its view and then no doubt one will be able to see to what extent they coincide.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I shall try to tie up one or two of the problems raised. While it is fresh in my mind, perhaps I may reply to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. The Motion by Mr Robin Cook states: There shall be a standing committee, called the Standing Committee on the Convention, for the consideration of reports from the United Kingdom Parliamentary Representatives to the Convention on the future of Europe". That is the beginning and end of this Standing Committee. The Motion continues: Provided that no proceedings under this paragraph may continue after the expiry of a period of one and a half hours from their commencement, except with the leave of the chairman". The next point is important: At the conclusion of proceedings under the preceding paragraph, the committee shall consider only a motion proposed from the chair, 'That the committee has considered the report of [date] from the United Kingdom Representatives to the Convention on the future of Europe' and the chairman shall put any Questions necessary to dispose of the proceedings on such a motion, if not previously concluded". It is clear from that that the object is to hear and receive the reports on behalf of the House of Commons. They will be debated and Members of your Lordships' House will be entitled to attend and participate in that debate. However, the conclusions of that debate will in no way bind this House. We shall undoubtedly have our own debates from time to time as this proceeds.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, raised the question of notice of meetings, as did several other noble Lords. The noble Lord set out the question clearly but it may be of help to other noble Lords if I repeat the Written Answer given to the noble Lord by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons: Members of the House of Lords will receive notice of the meetings of this Committee as they do of other House committees—i.e. in the minutes of proceedings; in the Committee Office Weekly Agenda (available from the PPO); by way of daily committee broadsheets posted around the House", which noble Lords will have seen on the noticeboards, and which state which committees are sitting, and on the screen in the Central Lobby; and on the website. Then, as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, Members of the European Union Committee will also receive notice directly … Any other Member wishing to receive information about the meetings of this committee directly … is invited to contact the Clerk of the European Union Committee on extension 6083".—[Official Report, 21/6/02; col. WA 111.] The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the question of whether there should be more joint discussion on the setting up of the Standing Committee. I believe that the general view of the House is that there should have been. However, unfortunately there was not. As I have said, the noble Lord, Lord Peyton pointed out that we are where we are, regrettable though that may be. However, this is only part of the proceedings of finding out what is going on in the convention and what this House wants to say about it.

I hope that I have explained to the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, why there are two Motions. The second one, which the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House will move shortly, is a facilitating Motion to allow Members of your Lordships' House to go down to the other place. It would be generous of the House to allow them to do that.

I do not dare cross swords with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, on the history of how the Commons came into being. He is almost certainly right, as usual.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, said that opportunities had to be provided to hear the views of noble Lords. Well, there will be. The views of this House will not go unheard. First, I would not want that to happen and, secondly, I would not have any way of stopping it.

If one takes the whole package, it will be a useful experiment. It may not be perfect. It may have been better to have a Joint Committee. But this is a Standing Committee and we do not have Standing Committees in your Lordships' House for good and sufficient reasons. But it is an opportunity for Members of your Lordships' House to make their views known at the other end of the corridor, which does not happen often. That is quite valuable.

Lord Campbell-Savours

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Can he explain to us whether it will require changes in the Standing Orders of the other House? What is the advice from the Clerk?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, the Commons resolution which I quoted gives that right. So there is no need for a change to Standing Orders. It states: Notwithstanding Standing Order No. 86, the standing committee shall consist of those Members of the House nominated for the time being to the European Scrutiny Committee … and to the Foreign Affairs Committee … together with the Parliamentary Representatives". It therefore relates to a Standing Order which already exists and which has been extended. It states specifically that Members of the House of Lords may attend.

I hope that that deals with most of the queries raised.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, I am not clear—I do not think many noble Lords are—whether we are debating what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, described as "part" of the arrangements for monitoring and looking into the convention, or whether we will debate that on the next Motion. Can he clarify which it is? Like others, we would like to develop the important wider points which arise from the initial Motion.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, as the Chairman of Committees indicated at the outset, the substantive question is presently being discussed. Thereafter I shall move a purely formal, consequential Motion.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, that is extremely helpful. Many noble Lords raised fundamental issues, rightly so, about the broader way, of which this is only part, by which your Lordships' House, with all its vast accumulated experience and expertise on European affairs, can contribute in an ongoing and interactive way—this is not supposed to be a one-way hand-me-down to us from the convention—to the issues being shaped by the convention.

We are left in no doubt that huge issues of fundamental importance to our democratic future are being discussed. Apparently a new basic treaty is being drawn up along with new human rights legislation to replace the European Convention on Human Rights. A working group on the role of Parliament has been set up. I do not know what that is looking at or whether we have been asked to make contributions. A new President of the Council of Ministers has been proposed. The Commission has produced 50 ideas about what to do. All that is rolling past us at this moment.

We have the excellent European Union Committee which has had one hearing with the four delegates—they are called representatives but that is incorrect; they are, if anything, delegates. That was an extremely interesting hearing. At that hearing the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, acutely observed that national parliaments believe themselves to be underweighted and under-represented in the convention. He went on to say that he felt they were being given the status of "visiting gypsies". That is not an encouraging start to what is supposed to be the involvement of our national parliaments, including this House, in the work of the convention.

The European Union Committee had that excellent hearing. It is to have a hearing with the Minister shortly, as my noble friend Lord Brabazon said. It will produce a report at the end of the summer. I suppose that means we may have a chance of debating this topic, if the Government can find time, in October. But meanwhile a massive number of major issues will have begun to form, be set and be discussed elsewhere, but not here. Is the Lord Privy Seal really satisfied that that is an adequate opportunity for your Lordships' House as a whole to contribute to this enormously important work, where decisions are to be made for which, in years to come, we shall be blamed if we have not raised our voices at the right time?

3.45 p.m.

Lord Barnett

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his intervention. It is clear that if we approve the second report, the Leader of the House will move a resolution which will then allow Members of your Lordships' House to attend a Standing Committee of another place. I am not happy with what has been described as a "useful experiment". I do not believe it will be useful at all.

We should at least think again about this, if we do not reject it altogether, to consider whether we need this "favour" or whether we should leave it to our excellent European Union Select Committee and, if necessary, an additional sub-committee, to look at the whole issue. We do not need to be minority players. Noble Lords who have had experience of the other place and its Standing Committees will know that any Members of your Lordships' House slipping down there to say hello but with no power to vote or anything else will not be listened to. I should like my noble and learned friend to speak in the ear of the Chairman of Committees and suggest that he withdraw this Motion for the time being.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe

My Lords, as a member of the European Union Select Committee, perhaps I may make a brief intervention and ask whether our committee asked the Minister for Europe whether we could have joint reporting arrangements, provided those did not undermine our already existing arrangements.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, the answer is probably yes. I look upon this whole matter as being an addition to the process which would normally take place. Clearly I am not part of the usual channels and I am not part of the Government's programme. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, will understand that.

I hope that the Government will provide time for proper discussion on what the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, rightly said is a vital issue. From my experience on the European Select Committee I saw this in the beginning. My views on it do not need to be recorded here and now. I have views which are on the record from the past. There is no doubt that this is something this House must take seriously.

I am sure that our Select Committee will do a first-class job in sifting the evidence which is coming forward. We must bear in mind that the purpose of the Standing Committee is to take reports. It will not make any decisions on those reports. It will still be up to us to consider the matter in as much detail as we possibly can in the period between now and later in the year. Again, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, is correct in saying that things can be set in concrete while we are watching them dry if we are not careful. It is important therefore that the House uses its facilities through our admirable Select Committee to ensure that the matter is debated as widely as possible.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, will the noble Lord apply his mind to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett? Will he consider withdrawing this Motion now—he may come back to it tomorrow if that is the right way to go—in order to discuss the views expressed today before pressing the House to accept it? I would not be of a mind to do so today.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. I asked specifically whether, because this was an innovation, all noble Lords should he written to individually with an explanation of what the Motion is all about; what they can and cannot do; how long the committee will last and whether all of us—I take it that that is the proposition—can go along and attend those meetings. This debate has been rather confusing. I believe that individual Members should be informed of exactly what it is about.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I am sorry if the noble Lord is confused by the debate. The short answer to whether noble Lords should receive a letter on the subject is no. Members of your Lordships' House have plenty of opportunities to become informed: by reading Hansard, by looking at the forthcoming business, by reading notices on noticeboards, or by reading the reports of our Select Committee. To write letters to every Member of your Lordships' House would be over-egging the pudding.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, I do not see what variant there could be on the Motion that is before the House. This is the position; this is the decision of the Procedure Committee. It may be right or it may be wrong, but I would be sorry if we turned down the opportunity to participate in the procedures at the other end of the building where Members of your Lordships' House—this answers the other question put by the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart—can see matters evolve. I hope that noble Lords will not resist the Motion. I commend the Motion to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.