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Business of the House

Volume 831: debated on Monday 17 July 2023


Before we move on to the main business, I think it will be helpful, while as many noble Lords as possible are in the Chamber, to provide an update on how today’s proceedings will run. After consideration of the Senior Deputy Speaker’s Motions and other brief business, we will further consider the Online Safety Bill on Report. We will break for dinner at a convenient point after 7.30 pm as per usual, continue with that Bill after dinner and conclude proceedings on it by 10 pm.

As noble Lords know, we will also consider a further message from the House of Commons on the Illegal Migration Bill this evening. The precise start time will depend on a variety of factors. We expect the other House to conclude its consideration of the Bill no earlier than 8 pm and to send its message as soon as possible thereafter. The deadline for noble Lords to table amendments will be one hour after the message arrives in this House. The precise time will be communicated by email to Peers through the usual channels and will be placed on the annunciator. Members must contact the Public Bill Office in that window, preferably in person, to table their amendments. Once amendments have been received, the Public Bill Office will produce a Marshalled List and briefings for the Peers and Deputy Speakers involved. The Government Whips’ Office will also reissue today’s list with the groupings for debate. We will commence the debate as soon as possible, but we expect that it could be later in the evening.

If we have finished the debate on the Online Safety Bill, the House will be adjourned until proceedings on the Illegal Migration Bill commence. I hope that is clear to all noble Lords. The Whips’ offices and House authorities are on hand to help, and all details will be communicated on the annunciator as soon as they are available.

I take this opportunity to thank all staff across the House and the usual channels for their work to support late sittings this week, particularly the Public Bill Office for its dedicated work and those who have made additional catering and services available to noble Lords, ensuring that we are well supported. Further detail on the arrangements for this evening and tomorrow has been circulated and is available on the intranet.

My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend for the excellent work that she and her colleagues in the Whips’ Office are doing but, just on that last point, are we really expected to have just the Long Room open later this evening—and I suspect it may be a long evening—when there are so many people on both sides of the House who will want refreshments? I know this is not my noble friend’s bailiwick, but could she use her good offices to ensure that those responsible are aware of the needs of Members?

It may not be my bailiwick but the well-being of my colleagues and, indeed, the whole House is of utmost importance, so I have asked that the extended opening hours of establishments all over the House, including the Terrace, until midnight be circulated.

My Lords, could I be reminded of what the Companion says about the normal finishing times for business in this House? Is it not the case that the way that this is being structured is almost a punishment beating for the House of Lords for daring to question a particular piece of legislation? The Commons is considering it earlier in the day and then we will have the usual four or five hours while a message comes from one end of the building to the other. It will then be digested before we start our business so that the message can go back—if there is a message—and the Commons can consider it tomorrow, early in the day, and then presumably it will be sent back to us for us to consider right at the end of the day. Would it not be better for us to agree that we finish at the normal time tonight, then consider it at a sensible hour tomorrow and, if the Commons needs to consider again, it can do it either very late at night tomorrow or wait until the following day?

My Lords, I think the House will agree that there is nothing unusual about this ping-pong process. One thing that has led to a slight delay today is that there was a Statement in the House of Commons. The Statement is coming first, followed by the consideration, then the Bill is coming back to us. That is not unusual. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied.

My Lords, when the House sits as late as it may tonight and tomorrow morning, expenses are provided to certain House staff. I understand that, following a recent late sitting, after 6 am—when it is not impossible we will be sitting at again—some staff were not allowed to claim expenses for travel. Can my noble friend please have a look at that?

My Lords, before my noble friend gets up, bearing in mind the interview that the Minister of State gave on Saturday morning on the “Today” programme, could we not save some time by telling those noble Lords who want to put down amendments that the Bill is not going to change? It will come back in the state in which that the Minister of State says it will come back. That would save quite a lot of time and we could just get on with the debate.

On my noble friend Lord McLoughlin’s point, he knows that that is not the way of politics. On my noble friend Lord Brownlow’s point, I will certainly take that back. I did not realise that it was the case.