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Arrangement of Business

Volume 732: debated on Friday 25 November 2011


My Lords, as noble Lords will be aware, it is a firm convention that the House rises at around 3 pm on Fridays. There are 42 speakers signed up to speak today. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to six minutes then all the Bills scheduled for today should be able to receive a Second Reading. I think that I ought to say just a little bit more. If those times are exceeded, it could prejudice the third Bill. Therefore it is important for all colleagues to stick to those times so that we can conclude by 3 pm and cope with the three Bills.

My Lords, would it not be wise for the noble Lord to intervene on the sixth minute to help the House?

My Lords, I am very happy for either myself or the duty Whip to intervene if we find that there is transgression, but in the end it is up to noble Lords to be self-regulating and I hope that they will be.

My Lords, the noble Lord may not be aware that when my Bill was put down for Second Reading I informed the Whips Office that it had never run for less than four hours and that I rather doubted that it would in the present circumstances. In those circumstances, perhaps the noble Lord would agree that his strictures should be addressed not so much to us as to those who table our business.

My Lords, initially a third Bill was not scheduled for today; it appeared rather late on the list. It has always been clear that the first Bill would attract a large number of speakers. I mean no disrespect to those proposing the second and third Bills today, but the first Bill deals with a matter of national importance and I do not believe that it would be right to restrict the speeches on it.

My Lords, I support the 3 pm finishing time, but why is the Deputy Chief Whip so ferocious about the finishing time today when we are on Back-Bench business when time and again during this Session on days that government business has been considered the agreed rising times have been exceeded with apparently relaxed views by the Government? There seem to be dual standards going on.

My Lords, perhaps we can deal with one thing at a time. Today is Friday and, as I understand it, there is a convention about rising at 3 pm. I think that the reason for that is that people want to know where they stand: they know what time their trains and aeroplanes leave and what time they hope to see the hills that the Bishop spoke about. Therefore I hope that we can stick to this time. People may well also have lined up evening engagements because they knew that the finishing time was 3 pm. I hope that we can proceed on this basis.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, mentioned another point. In organising the business there is a sense of taking account of the number of speakers lined up. If, ultimately, there is a late rush, these are the circumstances that we get into. I hope that we can proceed now with four hours and 50 minutes. That could diminish.

I know that we want to get on with it but I want to draw the noble Lord’s attention to the fact that the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, ran over by 20 minutes to accommodate him. Why can we not sit late to accommodate these Second Readings?

My Lords, in the interests of not making things any worse than they already are, would it not make sense if we made immediate progress on the business in hand?