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Lord Shepherd: My Lords, since the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, does not seem to want to pursue that point, perhaps I may address one or two matters briefly to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. I do not think that my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition was being critical of the scrutiny committee when he said that he understood that the objective was that a report from that committee should be available to this House prior to the Committee stage of the Jobseekers Bill. That has always been our objective. Unfortunately, because of the Easter Recess, there was a slight delay in receiving the memorandum from the department explaining the purposes of the Bill and, without it, we could not proceed. That became available to members of the committee on the Monday of the week when we rose for Easter on the Thursday, so there was no time to do anything other than make an interim report. It is only since then that we have been able to consider the whole issue and produce our report which, of course, meant that the Committee was unable to take into account the views of your Lordships' Select Committee to which the Leader of the House himself attached importance.
I can see the Government's difficulty in having the whole Bill recommitted. Clause 6 of the Bill was specially mentioned in the report because it seemed to us to be perhaps the most important issue. However, the report also refers to Clause 4 and to a number of other difficulties that arise in the Bill. I know that the Leader of the House has gone a long way in recognising the need for recommittal of Clause 6. However, will he recognise that other parts of the Bill can be identified as causing concerns? If the Government allowed more time for their consideration, I believe that the wishes of the whole House could be met. I do not think that we should spoil what has been an effort on the part of the Government by not doing a little bit more so that all can be satisfied.
In my view, the Bill is unique. I do not think that there is a precedent for it or that there has ever been a Bill of this nature before. It would be unforgiveable of the House to allow the Bill simply to go through late at night. This is not a party matter. It is not a matter of seeking delay. This is a matter for the House, and I think that the House should at least recognise the nature of the Bill and the way in which it is constructed. We should remember the people who will be affected by it and ensure that the Bill receives much more careful consideration. Perhaps the recommittal could relate to something more narrow than the whole Bill, but that is
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I really do think that I should say just a tiny word. First, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on getting us back to the Motion and away from what I can only describe as Second Reading speeches on the Jobseekers Bill.
I should like to comment on what will happen if we do not pass the Motion. As I understood the speech of my noble friend the Leader of the Housereading between the words, if one can do thatthe Government are offering to do something which has been demanded in both Houses for a number of weeks; namely, to put into the Bill a definition of "available for employment" and "actively seeking work". If I am wrong, perhaps my noble friend will tell me. However, on the basis that I am right, I am absolutely convinced that the right way to do this is to have a recommittal of Clause 6, which is where those words appear; otherwise, we shall go straight into Report and have only limited debating time in which to consider the matter.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, were it not for the solemnity of the occasion, I would have been tempted to congratulate the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, in particular on managing to manufacture a great deal more time on this Bill than even I had hoped to be able to concede. However, I hope that the House will forgive me if I am not tempted down the path of discussing the individual merits or otherwise of the Bill. Naturally enough, I can do nothing but disagree with the way in which the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition characterised the Bill and its contents. Its desirability seems to me to be self-evident. I am sorry that he disagrees.
On the substance of the noble Lord's complaintand, indeed, that of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of HillheadI am sorry that both noble Lords felt that it was appropriate to discuss the merits or otherwise of the Bill on a purely procedural Motion. Nevertheless, I hope that they will recogniseI do not think that they were trying to imply otherwisethat both I and the Government mean what we say when we say that we take seriously the reports of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee.
We have done the very best that we can to meet the substantive point about Clause 6. I must point out that we have already spent six hours discussing Clause 6 in Committee. We have already had three days in Committee on the Bill. That is a substantial amount of time during a crowded summer's legislative programme.
As a number of noble Lords have said, the reports of the Select Committee were originally intended to be produced in time for the Committee stage of the Bill. The fact that the Easter Recess intervened was an unfortunate occurrence, and I take seriously the strictures that various noble Lords have made on that point. We shall try to ensure, as best we can, that my noble friend is able to publish the reports of his committee in time for consideration of them at the
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was anxious that, as he put it, the Report stage should not be squeezed. I have already offered conversations through the usual channels to try to provide additional time above the day and a half that remains to us. I am sorry if that was not clear in my original remarks. I tried to make it clear that during the original representations about recommittal made to me by a number of your Lordships in the wake of the devolved powers scrutiny committee's report that the question of extra time was not raised.
Nevertheless, I have heard subsequently that in a number of parts of the House it was thought sensible that more time should be given. I should be happy for the usual channels to discuss the question of additional time over and above the day and a half that has already been given. I wish to point out to your Lordships that the half day is already additional time over and above what was discussed through the usual channels in the first place. I am glad to see the Opposition Chief Whip nodding his head. This would be a second tranche of additional time that we would be discussing, and I hope that the usual channels will take serious note of the request made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, to try to ensure that the Committee stage is not squeezed by the demands of time on Report.
I could go on for even longer, and further delay the start of my noble friend Lord Whitelaw's debate. I hope that I have demonstrated that I think it undesirable that we should discuss the merits of the Bill in this forum. Equally, I understand clearly that there are number of noble Lords who are concerned by the contents of the report and have strong views on the subject. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me repeating this, but if the business of the House is to be conducted in the civilised manner which is in the best traditions of your Lordships' House, I believe it right that the Government's business managers do their best to meet concerns.
I hope that noble Lords will appreciate that my noble friend the Chief Whip and I have done the best we can in the short time (24 hours) following the original representations made to us to meet a substantial number of concerns and that therefore noble Lords will not seek further to impede the passing of the Motion.
Lord Richard: My Lords, before the Leader of the House sits down, will he say something about the other two pointsthe affirmative/negative procedural point on the regulations themselves, and ministerial undertakings as opposed to statements of intent?
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me betraying a confidence in public, but he raised both points with me in earlier private conversations. I hope that he will agree that I took note of his concerns and undertook to raise them with my right honourable and honourable friends. Since we will have considerably more time on the Bill than was originally budgeted for, I hope that both those concerns will be able to be addressed by my noble