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Opening Of Parliament: Postponement

Volume 413: debated on Thursday 16 October 1980

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3.24 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall make a short statement on business. The Government have given careful consideration to the legislative programme, both in this House and in another place, for the remainder of the current Session of Parliament. They have taken note of the need for full consideration of the Bills which are currently before this House. I am sure that the House will wish to know that, in the light of this consideration, we have recommended to Her Majesty the Queen that the new Session of Parliament should be opened not on Thursday, 13th November, but on Thursday, 20th November. Her Majesty has graciously agreed to this request.

My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord for his Statement. As he knows, the last weeks have been a great strain on all sides of the House. We know how serious it is to postpone the opening of Parliament, and we understand what a difficult decision it must have been for the noble Lord. At this moment, speaking for the Opposition, I do not want to be ungenerous in any way. I believe all sides of the House have felt the need to discuss important Bills, and it is essential that we carry out our revising functions properly. This we shall now be able to do. May we ask the noble Lord to convey our thanks to Her Majesty the Queen for Her gracious agreement to the change of programme?

My Lords, we on these Benches are glad, too, that the Government have recognised the extent of the pressure on this House, which has been very considerable, and that they have taken this important step to relieve it. We remain of the opinion that too much legislation is going through Parliament under this Government, as under the last.

My Lords, I am grateful for the remarks of both the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and the noble Lord, Lord Banks. The Government were always aware that we were setting a rather ambitious timetable in trying to get our programme through in time. It was, of course, in the interests not just of getting the Government's business this Session, but also of next Session as well. The 20th November is late for the beginning of the new Session of Parliament. But we knew it was ambitious at the time and we always knew there was a possibility that, in order to have this very important local government measure properly considered in this House, together with the order measures—the Civil Aviation Bill and the Broadcasting Bill—which are also in the spill-over, it might be necessary to put back the State Opening of Parliament. I am grateful to noble Lords for what they have said and, of course, I will see that the message is conveyed.

My Lords, may I also say that it seems a very sensible decision to do this, despite the dislocation that it no doubt will cause in administrative arrangements, and that it indicates the proper seriousness with which the Government are treating the scrutiny activities of this House on Government legislation. For that reason, I welcome it a great deal.

My Lords, the noble Lord has given us the date on which the new Session will open. Can he tell us how long this Session will continue and when it will end?

My Lords, we are now talking about the next Session. The noble Lord is asking rather a lot. Does he mean this Session?

I am so sorry, my Lords. I thought the noble Lord was asking when the next Session would end.

No, my Lords. The new Session will begin on 20th November. When will this present Session, in which we are now living, coming to its close?

My Lords, that will depend. We cannot yet say exactly on what day Prorogation will take place. What we have done is to leave plenty of time, both for this House and for another place, to give proper scrutiny to the affairs before them.

My Lords, will the noble Lord ask Her Majesty to keep 27th November free, just in case?

My Lords, if we were not in this House, I would answer in unparliamentary language.