Motion on Standing Orders
That, in the event of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill being brought from the House of Commons, Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Monday 24 February to allow that Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.
My Lords, in moving the Business of the House Motion on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, I want to make a short business statement. As announced in yesterday’s Forthcoming Business, this House will have its chance to debate and scrutinise the emergency Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill on Monday 24 February. We will take all the Bill’s stages that day. As always, and while we may not always agree on everything, I am grateful to my colleagues in the usual channels for their co-operation in scheduling this important Bill. The Bill was debated in the House of Commons yesterday for five hours and passed unamended. On the practical arrangements, a speakers’ list is already open for Second Reading and will close at 4 pm on Friday 21 February. If the House agrees to the Business of the House Motion, the Legislation Office is open and ready to receive amendments for Committee now that the Bill has been read a first time, and it will produce a Marshalled List on Friday 21 February after 4 pm. This will allow early discussions regarding the grouping of any amendments tabled by that point. On Monday 24 February, if necessary, a revised Marshalled List will be produced after 5 pm. Members will be able to table manuscript amendments until 30 minutes after the end of Second Reading. Further timings will be confirmed on the day. I beg to move.
My Lords, the House deserves a greater explanation. I am not against what is proposed, but the Chief Whip has not explained why the Bill has to get through in a day. I think there are important reasons, which as it happens I support, but it ought to be explained to the House and the public why we are taking this exceptional action—not just the technicalities of it but the principle behind it.
I am happy to do that. The critical date is Friday 28 February, when a particular prisoner may come up for release. That means that the Parole Board has to do its business with its new-found powers, if passed by this House, on the Thursday. That means that Royal Assent has to be on the Wednesday, which means that, if there were any amendment on the Monday, there would be ping-pong on the Tuesday. That is why the timetable is so critical.
Given that Monday 24 February is the first day back after a recess, has it been contemplated in the usual channels that it might be necessary to sit early that day? If so, when is that decision likely to be taken?
It was not felt necessary, although there was the possibility of doing that; I accept that point. The usual channels did not feel that it was necessary at that time. Of course, it makes it particularly difficult on the first day back from recess, when Members of this House have to travel, some of them many miles—including by rail and air travel—to get here.