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Short Title, Commencement And Extent

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 22 May 1990

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I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 57, leave out lines 41 to 44.

This amendment would remove the privilege amendment that was necessary to prevent the Bill from being a money Bill in another place.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 94, as amended, agreed to.

Schedules 1 to 4 agreed to.

Bill reported, with amendments; as amended, considered. Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.— [Mr. Garel-Jones.]

9.4 pm

Can the Solicitor-General explain why it is necessary to insert the provision that makes the Bill a money Bill before it goes from this House to another place? Why is it then necessary for us to remove that clause? This is a serious question: the more that people see of our procedures, the more questions they ask about them. To hon. Members, what is going on this evening may be wholly explicable—although I am not sure that that can be said for all of us. However, we should bear in mind that, now that the television cameras have been introduced and our procedures have become more accessible, those who may stumble across this incident on their television screens would appreciate a further explanation from the Solicitor-General. Perhaps he will use his well-trained and expensive legal brain to provide a few words of elucidation.

9.6 pm

There is a well-known saying that legal advice is worth exactly what one pays for it. The hon. Gentleman has raised a point of some constitutional importance. As he will know, the other place can play only a limited part in a money Bill. If it is to play a full and valuable part in such legislation, it is necessary for the Bill not to be a money Bill. Therefore, to achieve that theoretical position, it is customary in another place to put in an amendment that says that nothing in an Act should impose any charge on the people or on public funds, thereby preventing it from being a money Bill. However, as the Bill may have that effect, when it returns to this House the clause is taken out. That is a constitutional device that enables the other place to play its important role as a revising Chamber that scrutinises legislation—something of which Conservative Members strongly approve.

Given that the Labour policy review is now under consideration, it is timely to note that the Labour party proposes to abolish the other place as we know it, and to put in its place a limited elected assembly with greatly truncated powers. Whether those constitutional arrangements would find favour in the country is uncertain, but at present the other place has an important constitutional role, and that is why the clause has been inserted; however, we take it out so that the constitutional proprieties are not infringed.

9.8 pm

That is an interesting reply. As I understood it, the Solicitor-General was saying that the Parliament Act 1911, which was passed after the people's Budget had been knocked back by the House of Lords—even though the powers of the House of Lords had been reduced following the 1910 election—is in effect circumvented by this device. It seems that one minute it is a money Bill, and the next minute it is not. We are saying that there may be an unqualified charge on public funds through this legislation, although the House of Lords was told that there would be no charge. That is the only way that the other place could have discussed it.

I should be grateful if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would consider the propriety of that device. I realise that it is a device that is regularly used by the Government, but it seriously undermines the principle of legislation enshrined in the Parliament Act 1911.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.