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Volume 620: debated on Friday 19 January 2001

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My Lords, before the start of the debate, I should like to complain about the fact that the order of business today, although it is the same as in the Minute, is different from that published yesterday in the list of forthcoming business, on which most Members of this House rely.

So far as I am aware, all speakers in the first debate are present. However, I was only notified of the change by a telephone call at 9.59 and 52 seconds this morning. I could well, in reliance on the list of forthcoming business, have arranged not to arrive until after 11 o'clock. It is also seriously inconvenient for those taking part in the debate on the Psychotherapy Bill, most of whom, I believe, will have assumed that that Bill would come first and may have made arrangements accordingly for the business of the afternoon.

My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in his complaint. I was slightly confused when it was brought to my attention this morning that a change was taking place. It suited me, and I understood that all speakers had been notified. However, if some Members of this House have been inconvenienced, it might be helpful if the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General could throw some light on why the change has taken place.

Also, I understand that the list of forthcoming business published yesterday does not make it clear that, on Tuesday afternoon, before we take the main business, there will be a discussion on the Procedure Committee report which includes the potentially valuable proposal to swap the business on Wednesdays and Thursdays, although that is stated in the Minute. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord the Deputy Leader of the House might examine this matter to make sure that such confusion does not occur again.

My Lords, I am sure that is right. Apparently, the order of business as we presently have it has been set out on paper since 21st December. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I received notification at about the same time as he did.

I am not able to cast any further light on the matter. I shall inquire with the Chief Whip, particularly bearing in mind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, which I, too, had noted. Obviously, quite a number of noble Lords will be interested in the discussion on that particular matter. I hope that no inconvenience has been caused. Certainly, no discourtesy was intended. I shall make further inquiries.

My Lords, perhaps the Minister will include a further point in his inquiries. Because of the confusion, I went yesterday to the Government Whips' Office to ask specifically about this matter and was told that the order of business would be the reverse of what is now happening. Will the Minister please inquire about ghat as well?

My Lords, I shall certainly make that inquiry. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, who is introducing the Second Reading of the Psychotherapy Bill, is not present. I do not know whether there is any connection between those two matters. It is possible.

My Lords, the noble Lord was upstairs. He is present in the building.