My Lords, on a point of order on the coming business of the House, may I make a plea on behalf of the House for the Chief Whip to review the date of the Second Reading of the Health and Social Care Bill, which has now been scheduled to take place at the time of the Tory party conference, during a week when many Peers do not expect to be present?
My Lords, we do not have points of order in this House, but it may be helpful if I remind the House that the dates for such matters are agreed in the usual channels, and these were readily agreed by both the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and the opposition Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. Of course, as ever, I can improve that—as I see that there seems to be some unusual reaction opposite, including from the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. I suggest that these matters continue to be discussed in the usual channels.
My Lords, the Chief Whip has made the correct point in concluding her remarks that we should continue discussions in the usual channels. I rather confess to being the junior partner in these discussions but clearly we need to be flexible. I am more than prepared to be part of a flexible discussion when it comes to discussing days for parliamentary business to be conducted in your Lordships’ House.
My Lords, is it not reasonable that, for those of us who are anxious to take part in the business of the House, not least on this central and crucial Bill, we are entitled to express our views to the Chief Whip? We ask her to take into account the very substantial problems that many of us in this House are having with the rather late notice on the change of dates, which means that people who have a good deal to contribute will find it almost impossible to do so. It is not unreasonable that when the usual channels take their usual course, they take some notice of the position of other Members of this House.
My Lords, since I have been mentioned in this regard, perhaps I may say that I am only trying to be helpful. When asked if I would be available on 4 October, the truthful answer was that I would be—but I am also available on three days of the following week. I am prepared to be entirely flexible and put myself in the hands of the usual channels on this matter.
My Lords, I am loath to involve myself in this, but the House needs to get itself back into order. There are good ways of settling this. I should perhaps add that it is impossible to suit every Peer unless the Chief Whips have a copy of every Peer's diary for the course of the next few weeks. That is simply not practical. I hope now that we can continue with the business of the House.