My Lords, in view of the hour and the lengthy list of speakers who have indicated their interest in what is undoubtedly a very important report on the Barnett formula, I propose to your Lordships' House that we abandon the debate that is timetabled. I give an undertaking to the House that I will use my very best endeavours with my colleagues in the usual channels to ensure that we secure for the House the opportunity to provide a fulsome debate on the Barnett formula on another occasion. When we timetabled this business, we did not reasonably expect that it would take quite so long to complete the Report stage of the Bribery Bill, but unfortunately that has transpired. We will have to retreat and find another opportunity to debate the Barnett formula.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for that. Will he ensure that time for debate is found before the general election? All those who have laboured on the Select Committee and who have seen the Government’s response feel that they wish to debate it this side of the election.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, would not expect me to give an absolute assurance, but I will certainly use my best endeavours. I know how important the issue is and that there are expressions of great concern about this matter from all sides of the House. I shall use my best endeavours to secure that debate. I am sure that with the willing co-operation of the noble Baroness we will find a slot that is agreeable to all parties. I shall consult extensively to ensure that that happens.
I just want to point out to the noble Lord that there were 20 speakers down for the debate. It was obvious that some Members were speaking at length on the previous business. It might have been helpful for us to have been given some notice rather earlier than now; in fact, we were informed by the opposition Benches that the business had been pulled.
I also point out to the noble Lord that the committee was a high-powered committee—I exclude myself from that description—which worked very hard and was unanimous in its view. The report was published in July. We find ourselves once again with a debate on a Select Committee report being squeezed between other business in the afternoon and the close of business. Exactly the same thing happened on the Select Committee on Economic Affairs report on banking. That seems to indicate that the Executive do not value the work that is done by Select Committees. If Select Committees are treated in that way, Members will simply not do the work, and then what will be the purpose of this House? It is very disappointing indeed that we should have come to this.
I reject the proposition that the Executive do not take committee reports seriously; we always take those reports very seriously indeed and we endeavour to find time to ensure that they are properly and fully debated. Indeed, that was our objective from the outset with the report in question. I am sure that all of those who served on the Barnett formula committee will acknowledge that to be the case. I will ensure that we have the debate, because I realise how important it is. I will consult extensively on finding a time that is suitable to all. The House should listen carefully to the arguments that will be put forward in that debate, which I look forward to. It is important at all times that we work through the usual channels to secure co-operation from all sides and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, will help us in that endeavour as well.
House adjourned at 8.20 pm.