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Fixed-term Parliaments Bill

Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2011

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House long, because the next business before the House—

I do not know whether the noble Lord is aware that paragraph 8.153 of the Companion states:

“The motion ‘That this bill do now pass’ is moved immediately after third reading has been agreed to or, if amendments had been tabled, as soon as the last amendment has been disposed of. The motion is usually moved formally. It may be opposed, and reasoned or delaying amendments may be moved to it, but in other circumstances it is not normally debated”.

Well, I will certainly be guided by the noble Baroness who sits on the Woolsack, but I was informed that it was entirely proper to make a brief speech at this point.

My Lords, perhaps I may assist the House. Of course the noble Countess is right, but it seems to me that the rule is honoured as much in the breach as in the observance.

In the first report from the Select Committee on Procedure of the House, which was agreed by the House, the recommendation was that:

“The motion ‘That this bill do now pass’ should be moved formally and should not normally be debated. Ministers should if necessary respond to points raised on the motion by other Lords. The motion should not be an occasion for thanking those involved in the passage of the bill”.

My Lords, perhaps I may draw the government Whip’s attention to the fact that the word “normally” is used here, and “normally” in your Lordships' House means that it might not always apply.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I want briefly to say two things. First, having taken part in all stages of this Bill, I thank the Minister for his unfailing courtesy, sensitivity and willingness to listen. Secondly, I express the hope that what was not a terribly good Bill but is now a slightly better Bill will come back from another place in the state in which it leaves this House. In other words, I hope that the Cross-Bench amendment passed a couple of weeks ago will remain in the Bill. It will give great encouragement and comfort to those of us who have had certain concerns about it.

Following the very brave intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, I follow him briefly to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, who has conducted his part in this Bill with great skill and understanding. I speak on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who led for the Opposition on this Bill, in saying that we hold him in the highest respect for the way in which he has dealt with this legislation. It does not stop us thinking that this is completely the wrong way of passing constitutional change in this country, and I believe that if there had been a free vote in this House—here I am looking particularly at Conservative Peers—there certainly would have been four years rather than five. My last hope is the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, expressed, which is that the Bill is accepted by the Commons as it leaves here today.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Lord, Lord Bach, for their kind words, which are appreciated. This is an important Bill. It is an important constitutional development. We made it clear at the time that we were not able to support the amendments that gave rise to a sunrise and possibly also a sunset clause. No doubt the other place will consider that constitutional novelty. That apart, this Chamber has engaged in its role of proper scrutiny, improvement and revision, and therefore, subject to what I said about one particular amendment, I think this Bill goes to another place in a better shape than that in which it came here. I thank all noble Lords on all sides of the House who have contributed to that. It has been work well done. Once again, I encourage noble Lords to pass the Bill.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.