HL Deb 18 November 2002 vol 641 cc143-4

3.6 p.m.

Lord Grocott

My Lords, with permission, I should like to make three brief announcements. The first concerns today's Statement. At a convenient time after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Hollis of Heigham will repeat a Statement which is being made in another place on Welfare to Work and benefit uprating. Secondly, on today's debate, Members of the House will remember that, following a decision made in July, we have a target rising time for this evening of 10 p.m. If I may say so, the system of an advisory time worked well on Thursday. If Back-Benchers were to restrict their speeches during today's debate to 10 minutes, the target time of 10 p.m. would not be exceeded.

Finally, on my favourite subject, which is recess dates, your Lordships will be aware that an announcement about recess dates was made in the Commons on 31st October by my right honourable friend Robin Cook well in advance—right up to next autumn, which is quite a precedent. I cannot go as far as that, much as I should like to. Many people naturally want as much as advice of recess dates as possible. Before I announce them, perhaps I may say that there is no need to make notes, because I shall ensure that the dates are placed in the Library, where I am sure that they will be popular reading matter. I strongly stress that, as everyone will appreciate, they are provisional and dependent on the progress of business. That is especially true because I have tried to give such good notice.

The dates are as follows: at the Christmas recess, we aim to rise after business on Thursday 19th December and return on Tuesday 7th January—or possibly the previous day. That is always the proviso. At Easter, we rise after business on Thursday 10th April and return on Monday 28th April. At Whitsun, we rise after business on Thursday 22nd May and return on Tuesday 3rd June or the previous day.

The eagle-eyed among your Lordships will have noticed that those dates pretty well match those for the other place, with the exception of their February break, to which they have become accustomed. Sadly, I cannot make any promises about a February break but, if business were to move speedily, it may be possible to arrange for a day or two during the week beginning 17th February.

I think that I said that the dates would be available in the Library. They will not; they will be in the Printed Paper Office. I am sure that wherever I had put them, your Lordships would have found them. As for the summer, which is the area to which I cannot progress at this stage, my view is that the two Houses of Parliament work best when the sitting patterns of the two Houses run roughly in parallel—as has been the case in the past. That now means that, if we were to follow precisely the pattern in the Commons, this House would rise two weeks earlier in July and sit for two weeks in September. That would, of course, be a major change, and the House will, naturally, wish to express an opinion on it. Therefore, my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House will table an appropriate Motion on an agreed date. The usual channels have agreed to that, and it will now take place on Monday 25th November, as first business after Questions.