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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the matter should not be prolonged because there is no Motion before the House. But unless there is a change of heart there will be a Motion before the House on Monday.
Earl Russell: My Lords, the question at issue is not of courtesy but of practicality. Will the noble Viscount think again about his assertion that there is no new matter involved? I would agree that the withdrawal of benefits is not a new matter. However, the view of the Court of Appeal that the withdrawal of benefits conflicts with the right to seek asylum is new. That matter needs the most careful consideration. I must express my regret that the noble Viscount has taken the line that he has.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I apologise for entering the House only a moment or two ago. I came immediately I saw the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. The statement was difficult to anticipate. There are grave matters concerning our acceptance of some of the international conventions and treaties which we have signed. The noble Lord shakes his head but without consultation he can know no more than the rest of us whether that is the case. As Members of this House who are most concerned about British respect for international law, we need time to consult and discover whether that is so. That is another reason why we believe the matter to be exceptionally accelerated.
On Monday, we shall not be concerned with the complexity of that issue. I have not seen the draft of the amendment but I know that other noble Lords have done so. However, it will not be complex in that form; it will be, as my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish said, to put into the statute in primary legislation the intention of the Government. That may take drafting and it may raise difficulties. I accept what was said by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I, too, would have liked to have seen the document and have a little more time. However, surely one must balance that against whether the issue is so important that one should upset the working schedule of your Lordships' House.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Leader of the House said that he agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that the interests of Back-Benchers must be looked after as well as those of noble Lords on the Front Benches. How would anyone on the Back Benches have known that those documents had been placed in the Library of your Lordships' House at half-past eleven this morning? If they take away documents and draft amendments tomorrow, how will they be able to lodge them in time to appear on the Marshalled List when there is a notice on the collection box in the Lobby which says that nothing that is posted by first-class post, even today, will reach its destination until Saturday morning? That means that if noble Lords draft amendments in the course of the remainder of today and post them even as early as half-past five this afternoon, they will not reach the Public Bill Office or the Clerks until Monday morning. Therefore, they cannot appear on the Marshalled List.
Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, I believe that I detect a sense of deviousness here. Surely if a Motion or amendments were placed before your Lordships which met with the general approval of the majority of noble Lords, I suspect that we should not have all these rather emotional arguments used, although they are understandable, about the apparent shortness of time.
It seems to me that there is a way in which those who are diametrically opposed to the principle of these matters may be trying to appeal to the emotions of this House by using the vehicle of shortness of time and being unable to be prepared.
Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, I entirely withdraw any suggestion that any person or party is being devious. If I gave that impression, I apologise and withdraw it unreservedly. It seems to me that there is
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Leader of the House whether he will enable the whole House to settle this matter on completely non-partisan lines. From time to time both the role and the composition of your Lordships' House are widely discussed not only in Parliament but outside. In order to emphasise the important role which this House occupies in the whole of the United Kingdom Parliament it is repeatedly and very justifiably emphasised that one of our functions is that of revising legislation which comes from another place. Surely in those circumstances, where responsible representations have been made to him and without creating any precedent whatever for the matter to be raised frivolously, and on the basis of what has already been said, not only by my own Front Bench but more seriously perhaps by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, the noble Viscount should follow his own precepts, regardless of his own party position, and say that in these circumstances it is necessary for the House to perform its revising function correctly and with due time. In that hope, perhaps the noble Viscount will accede to the request made to him by my noble friend on the Front Bench.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, of course I am distressed that I should find my own judgment at variance with that of so many respected Members of your Lordships' House. I shall certainly undertake to reflect on the matters that have been raised in a spirit of co-operation and in the best traditions of your Lordships' House.
But I must reiterate--bearing in mind that I have undertaken most seriously to reflect on what noble Lords have said--that the point made by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway really is worthy of consideration by noble Lords who have voiced their objections. I must reiterate also that the substance of the point has been rehearsed time and time again in your Lordships' House.
Of course, I undertake to reflect further on this matter and I shall endeavour to do so dispassionately, as I know your Lordships would expect me to do. But I hope also that your Lordships will accept that I find arguments on the other side persuasive. If that is the judgment of my noble friends and I, then the promise made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is something that we shall have to face in due course, but I hope that we shall be able to avoid that eventuality.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. It would be churlish not to express gratitude to the honourable Member in another place, the Member for Sutton and Cheam, for all the work and initiative which he put in to getting the Bill going in the first place and for piloting its passage through another place. Before formally moving that the Bill do now pass, I express my thanks to my noble friend Lady Blatch for her help, for her department's help and for all the ready assistance which has been given to me by officials of her department in preparing to carry this Bill through your Lordships' House. I commend the Bill to the House.
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie) rose to move, That the regulations laid before the House on 5th June be approved [22nd Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble and learned Lord said: The main aims of these regulations are, first, to reduce prices overall for a range of Companies House services, and, secondly, within the overall reduction to increase certain charges where higher unit costs have become unavoidable.
Companies House Executive Agency, in undertaking the functions of the Registrar of Companies, has succeeded in meeting its targets to reduce unit costs, thus creating a surplus of revenue over costs. The general reduction in prices is intended to eliminate this surplus.
The regulations, however, provide for limited increases, notably in the charge for a standard fee search, from the level of £3 set in 1991 to £3.50 to reflect the costs of meeting a diminishing requirement for this particular service and to avoid cross-subsidisation by others. I commend the regulations to the House. I beg to move.