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Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, over 50 speakers have put down their names to speak in the debate and, obviously, they cannot be accommodated within the day or day-and-a-half proposed. It is a matter of vital importance constitutionally. But bearing in mind that many of the speakers will presumably travel from Scotland, with all the cost of overnight expenses, is it constitutionally possible to hold the Second Reading debate--there will be no vote anyway--in Scotland?
Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I understand that this may be the last major Second Reading debate on Scotland. It is quite intolerable to think that so many Peers on both sides of the House, and former Scottish Ministers, will not have an opportunity to express their views within
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, on the question of timetabling generally, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord the Chief Whip to reconsider the apparent intention to set down on Thursday 25th June the Bill for the premature release of terrorists, which happens to be the day provided for, in legislation passed by this House, the all-important elections to the new Northern Ireland assembly.
Lord Carter: My Lords, it is a little unusual to have a usual channels discussion on the Floor of the House. The one thing that I have learnt in this job is never to be surprised by the frailty of human nature. It is a little early to start the usual discussions about the date of the Summer Recess. In the usual way, we shall discuss that a little nearer the date.
I am grateful to the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip for his kind remarks about the Government of Wales Bill. Perhaps he will remember that there was first an unexpectedly long debate on the report from the Select Committee on Procedure. In my usual kindly way, I managed to find some more time, so everybody was happy.
On the point about this House not starting its fair ration of Bills, I remind your Lordships that we started the Crime and Disorder Bill and the Teaching and Higher Education Bill, together with other important Bills. In fact, we receive what we are entitled to. On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, the date of the Second Reading of that Northern Ireland Bill was agreed through the usual channels.
I turn now to Scotland. I am grateful to the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip for his remarks and I give him full marks for a good try. It had been the clear intention that the debate on the Second Reading of the Scotland Bill would be concluded in one day. However, when we saw the length of the list of speakers, we took our decision. When the number of speakers became clear this morning, after discussion through the usual channels, it was decided that the list of speakers had grown too long to allow the debate to be confined to a single day unless the House sat extremely late into the night. Therefore, time has been provided to allow that debate to spill over into a second day. It is hoped that it will be possible to do that without deleting the other business set down for Thursday 18th June although that business would then start later in the day. I shall certainly bear the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Barnett very much in mind.
All noble Lords who have already set down their names to speak will be assumed to be available on Wednesday, as that was the day for which the business was announced and, accordingly, it is the day for which they put down their names to speak. If any noble Lord whose name is already down will also be available on the Thursday, it would be helpful if that fact could be communicated to the Government Whips' Office to assist in the construction of the Speakers' List. I should stress that the procedure will be to have a single debate spread over two days rather than
I hope that your Lordships will be satisfied. As always, we have tried to be accommodating. We had to see how many names were put down to speak. When we saw the list, we realised that it was too long for one day so we have allowed a spill-over into the second day.
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, before the Chief Whip sits down, may I ask him to reconsider the point made by my noble friend Lord Molyneaux about the debate on 25th June? This matter was not discussed with the Cross Benches and as two former Northern Ireland Members of Parliament sit on our Benches, it would have been courteous to discuss with us whether that was a convenient day. Northern Ireland Members will naturally wish to be in the Province at the time of the election.
Lord Carter: My Lords, all I can say is that there was the usual discussion through the usual channels. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, if he was excluded, but because of the very tight timetable, of which all your Lordships are aware, regarding the enactment of that legislation and relating to the agreement in Northern Ireland, it was agreed that that was the right day for that business. We discussed this through the usual channels and the business was agreed for that day.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, before the noble Lord comes to a final decision on this matter, may I urge the importance of the arguments put by my noble friend Lord Barnett concerning a debate on the European Central Bank? The debate on the European Central Bank, and in particular the comprehensive and authoritative contents of the report from Sub-committee A, make it indispensable that this House treats the matter very seriously. The events that may happen would have a profound effect, not only on the economy of the United Kingdom, but also on its political relationships with other countries.
I am sure the noble Lord agrees that it would be intolerable if such an important document did not have a full day allotted to it. It is inconceivable that the report could properly be discussed at the fag end of business--although I agree that that business is of considerable importance. Therefore, I implore the noble Lord, in both the short-term and the long-term interests of the country, to give a full and adequate opportunity to the whole House to discuss that report on the European Central Bank. I hope that wise and more considered counsels may ultimately prevail.
Lord Carter: My Lords, perhaps I may deal first with a point raised by my noble friend Lord Bruce. We are, of course, aware of the importance of that debate. The decision was taken only this morning that, because of the length of the list of speakers for the Second Reading of the Scotland Bill, we had to adjust the business. These are early days. I suggest that we wait until next week when we shall take a final decision on the shape of the day.
I return to the point about the Northern Ireland Bill. I repeat that the timetabling was agreed between the usual channels--between myself, the Opposition Chief Whip and the Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrat Party. The Belfast agreement states that we shall seek to enact the legislation by the end of June. If your Lordships will consider the timing of that Bill in the Commons, you will see that it is important that we now get on with the Bill. The usual channels decided not to put down the Bill for consideration before the election on 25th June, but on that day. On the point about voting in that election, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, will be able to vote in the morning and to take part in our debate in the afternoon.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am thankful that some aspects of this debate can return to the mystery of the usual channels. I am sure that that is where such discussions should be held. Perhaps I may clarify two points. First, there is no reason why this Session should necessarily end at the end of October. It could easily go into November. I refer to the point about there being plenty of time to complete the business when we return after the Summer Recess.
Secondly, and more specifically, I am still confused about how noble Lords who have put down their names to speak on the Scotland Bill on Wednesday will know whether they have been moved and are to speak on Thursday. I do not expect an answer to this now from the noble Lord the Chief Whip. It is important that not only my noble friends, but all Peers around the House, can adjust their diaries to deal with this. Will the Government Whips' Office telephone all those who have put down their names to speak to ask them on which day they wish to speak so that we can have a clear view of who will be speaking when?
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