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Arrangement of Business

Volume 811: debated on Wednesday 28 April 2021


My Lords, before we go any further I thought that it would be helpful if I were to make another short business statement, as I promised this morning.

As I made clear in my earlier statement, because there is still no agreement between the two Houses on the Fire Safety Bill and the National Security and Investment Bill we will continue sitting tonight to consider further Commons messages. Our consideration of the Fire Safety Bill will be at a convenient point after 8 pm, and our consideration of the National Security and Investment Bill will not begin before 9 pm, with the start time confirmed via the annunciator.

The House of Commons has been clear about where it stands on the three Bills that are left before us. This House has now asked the Commons to think again more than once on each of the Bills, and has each time been provided with reasons why this House’s amendments cannot be accepted. It is time to accept the settled view of the elected House. Noble Lords have made their views clear, and the elected House has made its position equally clear. It would not be right for it to appear that this House does not accept the primacy of the House of Commons.

Once again, I encourage noble Lords with an interest in the National Security and Investment Bill to keep a close eye on the annunciator.

My Lords, I thank the Chief Whip for his statement, which was helpful to the House. I will just add that he sounded a bit waspish at times. I am sure that he did not mean to. Parliament and legislation benefit from the kind of dialogue and debate that we have had around this legislation, and I hope that the Government found that helpful. I do not think that this House has ever not accepted the primacy of the Commons. We do, however, sometimes suggest that perhaps we have better ideas and the Commons might not always get it right first time. We play our part in legislation, therefore, in the normal way, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for the time he has given us this evening.

My Lords, as one who believes very strongly in both Houses and has now done nearly 51 years in Westminster, I strongly support my noble friend’s position, much as I admire what the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition said. It is right that we should ask the Commons to think again, and again—and sometimes again. There comes a point, however, and the eve of Prorogation certainly is one, when we have to decide whether we wish the Bills to go forward or not. I have many criticisms of all of them, but at the end of the day the primacy of the House of Commons should prevail, and I very much hope that there will not be any more Divisions this evening.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their views. I think that ultimately we are all agreed that, although we accept the primacy of the Commons, in many of these Bills the Government have made concessions, which is just as it should be: many Bills, if not all Bills, are improved in this House. I hope that that will be the case here. I agree with my noble friend that we should finish it tonight.