My Lords, while I am on my feet, perhaps I may take this opportunity to refer to a matter which was raised in your Lordships' House this time last week. A number of noble Lords expressed concern that the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Bill was provisionally scheduled for Thursday 25th June. I am pleased to say that, following discussions through the usual channels, the Second Reading of that Bill will, assuming that it arrives in good order from the Commons this week as anticipated, now take place on Monday 29th June. I should like to express my appreciation to all those who co-operated in arranging that change of business.
My Lords, I should like to express appreciation on behalf of the 12 or so Peers from Northern Ireland who would like to be present at their place of duty in Northern Ireland on that day. We are grateful to the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip and his colleagues for meeting our wishes. In return, I think that I can undertake that we, on our part, will abstain from the ancient Irish tradition of voting early and voting often.
My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, perhaps I may express our thanks for the appreciation which the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip has shown to the usual channels. It has come up with the correct result. Will the noble Lord confirm that the Opposition have agreed to reduce the normal time intervals on that Bill so that it can be passed successfully before the Summer Recess? In view of that fact—and because most Members of the House who take an interest in the matter will be expecting the normal intervals to be observed—could the noble Lord possibly give us some advance notice of the dates for the Committee, Report, and Third Reading stages? In view of the offer that we have made, will the noble Lord confirm that he will not seek to rush the House in its deliberations and that he will allow plenty of time, not only for the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, and his friends on the Cross-Benches, but also for Peers on all sides of the House to be able to express themselves fully on what is clearly a very important subject?
Yes, my Lords. I am glad to be able to say that, with the change of date, there will be the normal time interval between First Reading and Second Reading. I fully appreciate the co-operation that has been shown in reducing the normal time intervals. It might help your Lordships to know that the Committee day for that Bill is provisionally Monday 6th July. As always, we shall allow plenty of time for debate on that Bill, as on all the other Bills that we are considering.