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Business of the House

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 14 March 2013

Motion on Standing Order

Tabled by

That Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Thursday 21 March to allow the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill to be taken through all its remaining stages that day.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, I hope that the House will not approve this Motion. Standing Orders are there for a purpose. At the very least, the Leader of the House, or in this case the Chief Whip, should give us reasons for dispensing with this Standing Order. In my view there is plenty of time for this Motion to be discussed and for the proper procedures to be followed, or there would have been had the Government not extended the Easter Recess at short notice and without any prior consultation. This is causing great problems for Members, for the House and for Committees of this House.

Moreover, there is a constitutional problem, because the Commons will be sitting when we are having the third week of our Easter Recess. This is creating problems with Joint Committees that have already evidenced themselves and with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, whose executive were due to meet all-party groups that week. Statements will be made in the other place and will not be able to be repeated here, and we will not be able to take part in debating them.

This will create administrative problems. Already a number of banqueting events have had to be cancelled as a result of this decision. There are legislative problems. A whole raft of Private Members’ Bills is waiting to be discussed, yet we are being sent away for an extra week during the Easter Recess. There are five reports from Select Committees on the Order Paper. There is a long list of Members seeking debates on a wide range of subjects, and Select Committees have deadlines for submitting reports. These are just a few of the problems caused by the unilateral and precipitate decision to extend the Easter Recess.

I mean no disrespect to the noble Baroness, for whom I have great respect, but I am slightly disappointed and surprised that the Leader of the House is not here to explain why we have to take the stages of the Bill together on one day. We could have done it, we could be here and we could be sitting, but we have now been told that we are to have an extra week’s holiday.

I hope the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing this Motion and reconsider the announcement that was made last week.

My Lords, the noble Lord is being a little innovative in stretching his comments well beyond the matter on the Order Paper. However, because I am courteous, I will seek to address those in a moment.

First, I assure the House that the noble Lord is completely wrong in his allegation that even if the noble Lord, Lord Hill, were standing here instead of me, this Motion is in any way out of the ordinary. It is absolutely the normal procedure for these matters. The Motion itself simply states that Standing Order 46 should,

“allow the Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill to be taken through all its remaining stages that day”.

This always happens, regardless of who are in Government. The Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Bill is a supply Bill, and it has been certified as a money Bill. The noble Lord, of course, was in another place, and he knows as well as anyone what the rules are with regard to that. He has been in this House a little time, so he will know that this happens every time a money Bill comes forward.

In all processes, all stages are taken formally and there is no substantive Second Reading. Even if we sat from now until kingdom come, the stages would not be taken separately. If noble Lords would like to look at the Companion at some stage—I am not suggesting a mass rush for the Printed Paper Office—they will see that the appropriate entry is at paragraph 8.198.

As I have said, the noble Lord has been a little cheeky, but it is his nature. He has kind of extended this to, “Ey up, why have you decided that we shall have an extra week off?”. Well, it is not quite like that. The job of the Government is to ensure that the time of this House is used to best effect, and it will be so. This House is different from another place. Indeed, it decided that it did not wish to be elected or to ape another place; it wishes to retain its strong independent character. We are going to use time to best advantage, and that can be achieved even by having one extra week after Easter. However, over a calendar year, as noble Lords will know, matters even out.

Motion agreed.