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Procedure Of The House

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 10 November 1977

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3.27 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move the third Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. Perhaps I may say a brief word about this report in case any noble Lord has not read it; although I hope that that is not the case. In the first place, the Committee considered some recommendations made by the Select Committee on Practice and Procedure, among them that the clocks in this Chamber which time your Lordships' speeches should be used during, the Report stages of Public Bills; that your Lordships' attention should be specifically drawn to the fact that Standing Order No. 27, which restricts the right to speak more than once in debate, applies to speeches on Report; and that arguments fully deployed in Committee should not be repeated at length on Report.

The only other point that I should like specifically to draw to the attention of your Lordships is that the Committee strongly deprecates the practice of late tabling of Amendments. It points out that Amendments which are tabled late are, by the time they are printed and circulated, almost as inconvenient to the House as Manuscript Amendments. It hopes that your Lordships will do your best to table Amendments as early as possible at the appropriate stage of a Bill.

Moved, That the Second Report of the Select Committee of last Session (HL 274) be agreed to.—( Lord Aberdare.)

My Lords, may I make one observation on the strictures of the Procedure Committee about the late tabling of Amendments? The Committee may have been aiming some of its barbs at me—and properly. I tabled Amendments rather late at the end of last Session; but the difficulty was caused by the fact that the Government on that occasion chose to take the stages of the Bill almost on consecutive days. I am thinking of the Price Commission Bill which my noble friend Lord Mansfield and I dealt with from this Dispatch Box. I believe I recall that the Report stage was on the next Sitting Day but one to the Committee stage; and we had no alternative but to table our Amendments on the day prior to the Report stage. I hope that the Procedure Committee was appraised of those difficulties, and I hope that the Government will appreciate the problems which we on this side of the House face when the procedure for major Public Bills is telescoped in that way.

My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that the Procedure Committee was deprecating just as much the late tabling of Government Amendments as those from anybody else. It was simply that, in general, this was a situation that was undesirable.

My Lords, may I make one point in relation to the statement which the noble Lord has made? It is that in this House, as there is no Speaker, it is most important that the Leader of the House or his Deputy, or the Leader of the Opposition or his Deputy on certain occasions, should draw it to the attention of Members when they go against the suggestions, proposals and wishes of the Procedure Committee and the Standing Orders of the House.

It is somewhat difficult when one is in the Chair and knows that the Orders of the House are not being carried out; and there is nothing that the Deputy Speaker can do about it. One hopes that this difficulty may be resolved by action from either Front Bench.

My Lords, is it not the case that responsibility does not rest only with the Front Benches? I remember that when I first came to this House there were numerous Back-Benchers who would be very alert to discern breaches of order. Lord Saltoun was one; and I sometimes wish that he were here and more active.

On Question, Motion agreed to.