That the Commons message of 20 February be considered and that a Committee of six Lords be appointed to join with the Committee appointed by the Commons to consider and report on the draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill presented to both Houses on 23 July 2018 (Cm 9635) and that the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 10 May 2019;
That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members be appointed to the Committee:
Barker, B. Faulkner of Worcester, L. Faulks, L. Garnier, L. Haworth, L. St John of Bletso, L.;
That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman;
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records;
That the Committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;
That the Committee have leave to report from time to time;
That the Committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;
That the reports of the Committee from time to time shall be printed, regardless of any adjournment of the House;
That the evidence taken by the Committee shall, if the Committee so wishes, be published; and
That the quorum of the Committee shall be two.
My Lords, I want to ask the Senior Deputy Speaker a couple of questions, of which I have not given him any notice whatever—for which I apologise, but I have only just realised that this was on the Order Paper today.
The first question is this. Was this matter considered by the Liaison Committee, of which I am a member? I should know if it was, and I cannot remember it being considered by that committee. I understood that the setting up of all committees and Joint Committees of this House came through the Liaison Committee. It would be useful to know that.
The second question is rather more important. The Motion states that,
“the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 10 May 2019”.
This is the second year of a Parliament which was extended to two years in order to consider Brexit and its implications. By 10 May, we will have been sitting for two years, and there is no sign or intimation of the Prorogation of Parliament and a date for the next Queen’s Speech. No Motion has been tabled to extend Parliament for another year—which would be unprecedented. I tabled a question about prorogation, which the Leader of the House was unable to answer, last week. I do not blame her—it is beyond her control—but it would be helpful to know.
This Parliament is getting into a mess because of Brexit. We do not know what is happening—we do not even know whether there will be a vote in the other place this week that is meaningful, deliberative and decisive—and this could go on and on. To ask this committee to report by 10 May 2019 begs the question as to whether Parliament will be prorogued, how long this Parliament will last and how long this Brexit debacle will continue. I do not blame the Senior Deputy Speaker for any of the trouble—absolutely not—but, sadly, he is the poor man who has got to answer this. If he cannot answer it I will find another opportunity to raise it.
I want to raise a small technical point. I do not oppose this Motion but I notice that a quorum for this committee is only two. Is it considered that just two noble Lords, or one noble Lord and one honourable or right honourable Member of another place, is sufficient for the committee to function?
I am mightily relieved by the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, that it is not my responsibility.
On the first question, yes, the Liaison Committee wrote to us and it was approved. On the noble Lord’s second question—he is taking me out of my comfort zone on this issue—the May date is the reporting date and if the committee has not finished its business by then, it can be reappointed and go into the next Session.
On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, the quorum of sub-committees of the European Committee is two. Other Joint Committees, such as the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, also have a quorum of two from each House. The quorum of a recent pre-legislative scrutiny committee of the Joint Committee on the Draft Health Service Safety Investigations Bill was also two from each House. Therefore, it is consistent.