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Arrangement of Business

Volume 838: debated on Friday 24 May 2024


My Lords, I will update the House on the latest plan for business today. I am most grateful in advance for noble Lords’ patience, flexibility, good humour and support, as we work together to finalise everything ahead of Prorogation.

We will now consider five Private Members’ Bills, followed by debates on statutory instruments. There are two other Bills for consideration today: the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill and the Victims and Prisoners Bill. The deadline for tabling amendments to the leasehold Bill has passed, and we are now waiting for the Marshalled List and other paperwork before commencing proceedings. Once the Victims and Prisoners Bill has returned from the Commons, there will be time to table amendments and Motions. Once the Marshalled List and paperwork are ready, we will commence proceedings. I expect this to be after the conclusion of the SI debates. I expect that we will commence Report on the leasehold Bill after the conclusion of the victims Bill. This allows time to prepare the Marshalled List and groupings. We will announce the precise timings and any changes on the annunciator and through the usual channels.

My Lords, I want to make a modest and no doubt futile protest about the insertion of the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill into our programme at this very late stage. When my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal made his business statement yesterday, there was no mention of this Bill. Even when the House was approaching the time for rising, it was difficult to establish whether or not this Bill was, after all, being brought forward today.

The deadline for submitting amendments was 10 am. A Marshalled List has not been seen. Government amendments have apparently been tabled. Back-Bench Members have not had a chance, as yet, even to read them. For a complex and difficult piece of legislation, about which many serious questions were raised in Committee, this seems a most reckless way of proceeding.

It has so taken even the Government by surprise that my noble friend the Minister cannot be present today to bring the Bill forward in the House. The Labour Front-Bench spokesman on the matter is not present today. I am sure that their alternatives will do a very good job—I am not making personal comments about this—but I am simply saying that this is being rushed through in the most reckless fashion.

The Government have to consider seriously whether this is defensible, especially since, as has been made clear, it is very likely that parts of this Bill will be engaged in actions brought under the Human Rights Act in the courts. The fact there has been so little opportunity for scrutiny is a factor that will potentially be brought forward. I say that, as I have so often said before, not being a lawyer myself.

I would urge my noble friend to consider one of two perfectly attractive options: either to drop the Bill for the moment or to postpone Prorogation so the House can sit on Tuesday to give proper consideration to this legislation, both in the Government’s interests and in the interests of the nation.

My Lords, I utterly appreciate noble Lords’ frustrations about Bills that are either going to be included or not going be included. As with every Bill in wash-up, it was agreed in the usual channels in both Houses following negotiations yesterday.

On the point about my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal not mentioning this yesterday, the Lord Privy Seal was very clear, as I have been, that a certain amount of fluidity and flexibility is involved with wash-up. We were always clear that discussions were ongoing. These are the final two Bills. As I say, the usual channels have agreed that the Bill will be done as part of wash-up. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, the House will be delighted to know, will be taking the leasehold Bill from the Opposition Benches.

I very much appreciate what my noble friend the Chief Whip has said, but the fact is that it is still a disgrace. It is not washing up—it is letting all the water out. You have a major piece of legislation that creates certain precedents, and it is being rushed through here without a moment’s notice. It was not even known yesterday morning, or my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal would have mentioned it at that stage. Does the Chief Whip think this is appropriate?

As I say again, I appreciate the frustrations of Bills either being included or not being included. Such is the nature of wash-up; these things often happen—it is nothing unusual, and I hope that noble Lords will go through the Bills we have today with the customary respect and good humour.