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House of Lords

Friday, 28th June 1996.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Ripon.

Business of the House, 2nd and 3rd July

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, I beg to move the Motion standing in his name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 38 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with to enable the Motion standing in the name of the Earl Russell to be taken before the Child Benefit, Child Support and Social Security (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1996 on Tuesday next and to allow the Third Readings of the Trading Schemes Bill and the Noise Bill to be taken before the Motion standing in the name of the Lord Chancellor on Wednesday next.--(Earl Ferrers.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Asylum and Immigration Bill

11.6 a.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

It may be of assistance to the House if I say a few words by way of explanation. When my noble friend the Leader of the House responded yesterday to the complaints of noble Lords opposite about the timing of proceedings on the Asylum and Immigration Bill, he indicated that it was already intended that the Bill should be recommitted in order that the Government's amendments on benefits for asylum seekers could be debated by noble Lords in Committee. The Motion before the House today gives effect to that agreement.

My noble friend also undertook yesterday to reflect on whether any arrangement could be made to accommodate the wish of certain noble Lords for more time in which to consider the Bill, and I am happy to say that such an arrangement has been possible. It is now proposed that the Committee on recommitment on Clauses 9 to 12 should take place on Monday. After that, Third Reading will follow, with consideration of any amendments which have been tabled to Clauses 1 to 8 of the Bill. At that point it is proposed that proceedings after Third Reading should be adjourned, and that they should be resumed at the beginning of business on Tuesday, in the expectation that they might be completed in about two hours.

I am glad to say that this course of action has full usual channels agreement, and I believe that it has significant advantages which will, I hope, commend

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themselves to the House. It combines a second opportunity, on an additional day, for debating the Government's new amendments, with the minimum of inconvenience to those involved in other business to be taken on Tuesday. As such, I hope that it will meet with the approval of the House.

While I am on my feet, there is one other matter to which I should like briefly to refer. During yesterday's proceedings on the Security Service Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested that my noble friend the Leader of the House had, albeit inadvertently, misled the House in stating that certain draft amendments had been placed in the Library, when in fact they had not yet been lodged there. That was the result of an administrative error of which my noble friend was entirely unaware. He was not present in the House when this matter was raised by the noble Lord, and, regrettably, he is not able to be present in the House today. But he does not wish the point to be left at issue and has therefore asked me to convey his unreserved apologies for having, entirely inadvertently, misled your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next in respect of Clauses 9 to 12 and the schedules to the Bill and that Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to enable further stages of the Bill to be taken on the same day.--(Lord Strathclyde.)

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Chief Whip is quite right in saying that the arrangements that he has just outlined have been agreed by the usual channels. I can confirm that on behalf of my noble friend the Opposition Chief Whip. There are two periods in which noble Lords who wish to address the government amendments have difficulty. The first is the period between now and Monday afternoon when we consider the government amendments in Committee, and the second is after that has been done and a final decision has to be taken on Third Reading.

The Chief Whip will recognise that the agreement which has been reached tackles the second of those problems, but not the first. We still have difficulty in mounting a fully coherent and prepared attack as we would wish on what we consider to be thoroughly objectionable amendments. The only other point is that the Chief Whip, referring to Tuesday's business, used the phrase "in the expectation" that the business will be concluded in about two hours. Anyone who knows this House knows that expectations about the timings for any business are likely to go awry. I believe that the noble Lord should use the word "hope" in preference to "expectation".

Lord Renton: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend the Chief Whip will amplify what he said on one point. He said that Third Reading would be taken at the end of business on Monday and that the rest of the proceedings will take place early on Tuesday. Therefore, does he mean that any further amendments--I hope that there will not be any--will be taken on Tuesday and

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that then we shall have the usual general debate--I hope that we can keep it short--that normally follows before the Question that the Bill do now pass is put?

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, has introduced an interesting question as regards the Third Reading of this Bill. Can the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, confirm that it will be possible to put down amendments within the normal time-frame for the section of the Bill which will be considered at Third Reading on Tuesday as though it were a Third Reading itself and not within the time-frame of the Third Reading before the beginning of the Third Reading of the Bill? I believe that the noble Lord understands the point I am making and I hope that he can answer it.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, for recognising that this has usual channels agreement. I am sure that he and his noble friend Lady Hollis will make full use of the extra time for dealing with the amendment. I also recognise that although we have dealt with the second problem of Third Reading and the time between now and then, there is still the difficulty of tabling amendments in time for the recommitment on Monday afternoon. However, I hope that as the noble Lord has now received the full amendment, he will not have too much difficulty making sure that his amendments are tabled for a very full debate on Monday afternoon.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, before the Question is put, I have just one tiny technical point. At Committee stage one may assume that it is possible that government amendments will be agreed to and therefore that the Bill will be in a different form for Third Reading. At what stage will the revised Bill be printed?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords--

Lord Graham of Edmonton: Take your time!

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, as the House knows from the Motion I have tabled, it is anticipated that we shall start Third Reading immediately after the Committee on recommitment. I shall have to take advice as to what happens about the reprinting between recommitment and Third Reading. However, I suspect that the House authorities will be entirely pragmatic in their approach and that we shall use the copy of the Bill that was printed after the Report stage and that the government amendments, which, of course, I hope the House will approve on Monday, will be accepted as part of the Bill.

As for the point made by my noble friend Lord Renton, yes, there will be a full opportunity to have a debate on the Motion that the Bill do now pass which will take place at the end of the Third Reading on Tuesday afternoon. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, about those two hours being an aspirational target--a hope rather than an

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expectation--but I do trust that noble Lords will stick to it because we have other business to deal with on that day.

On the point about the placing of amendments, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, the House will be sitting late on Monday evening to deal with the first part of the Third Reading. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to table his amendments to the later clauses which will be taken on Tuesday afternoon in good time on Monday evening so that they can be printed for Tuesday morning. I commend the Motion to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Community Postal Services: ECC Report

11.15 a.m.

Lord Geddes rose to move, That this House take note of the Report of the European Communities Committee on Community Postal Services (10th Report, HL Paper 81).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I move this Motion on behalf of my noble friend Lord Elibank, and I must begin by conveying to the House my noble friend's regret that ill health prevents his being here. I know that he is particularly sorry to have missed this occasion as it was likely to have been the last report he would present to the House as chairman of Sub-committee B of the European Communities Committee. I spoke with Lady Elibank about half an hour ago and got the good news that my noble friend is recovering well and is leaving hospital today. I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

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