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Arrangement of Business

Volume 722: debated on Tuesday 23 November 2010


My Lords, immediately after the debate on the second group of amendments on the Public Bodies Bill, my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones will repeat a Statement on controlling migration.

My Lords, in connection with the business of the day announcement which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has just made on the Statement on immigration, I bring to the attention of the House what we believe to be a serious matter in relation to the Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill and the role of your Lordships’ House as a revising Chamber. We understand that an announcement is to be made shortly on this Bill, setting out that the Commons has passed the Bill and presenting it for its First Reading here in your Lordships’ House. The Companion makes clear that the First Reading of a Bill is agreed without dissent or debate, and I fully intend to stand by that provision if, as we expect, the Bill is presented for First Reading. However, we understand that the Speaker in another place has declared that the Bill is a money Bill and is therefore covered by Commons financial privilege. The net effect of this is that this House will be unable to consider and debate the Bill and propose any amendments to it in its normal role as a revising Chamber.

The three provisions that the Bill seeks to modify were fully and properly considered in primary legislation in both Houses of Parliament, and we consider it a constitutional outrage for this House to be so prevented from considering the subsequent Bill, which will cut these payments now. If such a Bill is declared a money Bill then any such legislation can be designated in this way, again thereby attacking the role of this House as a revising Chamber and an important part of the checks and balances of our constitutional arrangements. In seeking to bring this important matter to the attention of the House we give notice that we will oppose this Bill at Second Reading and its declaration as a money Bill. Again, I believe that the Government are not conducting legislation in an entirely proper way.

My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, will consider and reflect carefully on the latter part of his choice of words.

I remind the House of the guidance in the Companion. Paragraph 8.196 states:

“A money bill is a bill endorsed with a signed certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons that it is a money bill because in the Speaker’s opinion it contains only provisions dealing with national, but not local, taxation, public money or loans or their management. The certificate of the Speaker is conclusive for all purposes”.

In addition, the Companion is clear that criticism of rulings of the Commons Speaker is out of order. Paragraph 4.44 states:

“Criticism of proceedings in the House of Commons or of Commons Speaker’s rulings is out of order, but criticism may be made of the institutional structure of Parliament or the role and function of the House of Commons”.

That debate is better had at Second Reading within that context.

My Lords, I am sure that that is entirely right. We will of course abide by those provisions and raise these matters at Second Reading, but, I repeat, all three of these issues were properly and fully considered by this House at all stages of those pieces of legislation. That is a record of which we should be proud.