Order of Consideration Motion
My Lords, I raise one small point on this matter. So far on this Bill we have had Second Reading. We have also had the allocated dates for the first and second days of Committee. The date of Second Reading was 23 March and the dates for Committee will be 5 April and 26 April. The one thing that these dates have in common is that they are all Tuesdays and therefore clash with the meeting of the European Union Select Committee of this House. It strikes me as rather absurd that we should discuss the European Union Bill on all three days when it clashes with your Lordships’ European Union Select Committee. I raise no objection to this Motion, but I ask the Leader of the House whether he can look at this and make sure that we do not downgrade the work of the Select Committees in the way that these arrangements do.
My Lords, in view of what happened on the Second Reading of this Bill, will my noble friend take this opportunity to remind noble Lords of their obligation to treat with courtesy all noble Lords in this House? Will he express the hope that there will be no repeat of what happened on Second Reading, and that if the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, rises to speak, he will be listened to with patience and respect even when he expresses views that others find very unpalatable?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, raises a very pertinent matter. Naturally, when the scheduling of business is carried out in negotiation with Her Majesty’s Opposition, all matters are taken into account, including the availability of Front-Bench spokesmen and the interests of the House itself. The noble Lord has raised a matter of which, of course, the usual channels are aware, and they are taking urgent action to resolve it. As the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, has indicated, it is important that all those in this House who have an interest in the Bill and who have expertise in such matters should have a full opportunity to participate in it. I assure the noble Lord that we are taking urgent measures, in negotiation with the Deputy Chairman of Committees, to ensure that his concerns are addressed.
My noble friend Lord Waddington raised the matter of the behaviour of Members of the House. I have had representations from all quarters of the House. Noble Lords expressed concern about the asperity not of speech but perhaps of manner on the occasion of the Second Reading of the European Union Bill. This is a matter that all Members of the House will care about. Members have also expressed wider concerns about the normal behaviour in the House. Discussions will proceed, and I know that all Members have at the core of their being a devotion to the House of Lords and to its continuance as an important place within Parliament.
My Lords, is the government Chief Whip aware that in the Second Reading debate on the Bill, I was sitting where I stand now, and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, was immediately behind me. In the whole of the debate, I detected no sign of distress or concern on his part at the way in which he was treated. It seems to me that he took it in his usual good spirits. There was a fair amount of joshing and no harm was done. When the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, made his complaint, I did not understand it.
My Lords, I understand entirely the point made by my noble friend Lord Waddington. His concern is shared by Members across the House. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, draws attention to the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is a redoubtable person in this House who is well used to the slings and arrows of the political arena and who is able to give as good as he gets. However, the wider concern of the House is that there should be respect during proceedings, and that we came close to a difficult point that we wish not to approach again.
My Lords, I was in attendance at the debate and was concerned at the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, was treated. The fact that he was able to take it with his usual good nature should not detract from the fact that some remarks were made in a spiteful way. That is not in accordance with the traditions of the House, and nor should it be. I am sure that the little debate this afternoon will be taken note of, and that future debates on European Union matters will be a little less vicious.