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I have in mind that a semi-formal group of that kind might be a useful receptacle for ideas which could be tested and, if considered suitable, passed on to the Procedure Committee. I do not envisage that such a small, informal group need sit more than once during a Session. Perhaps the Lord Chairman of Committees may care to comment on that matter.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I begin by clarifying two points. First, the change in the Division time will take effect after the Easter Recess. As far as concerns Starred Questions, in particular the proposal for the second topical Question each week, the changes will be introduced gradually, as soon as there is a Wednesday with fewer than four Starred Questions tabled. At the moment, that is 21st April. Perhaps I may reassure noble Lords that no noble Lord with two Starred Questions tabled now will be required to remove one of them.
As I indicated at the outset of the debate, I put forward no view about the proposed change in the debate day. Therefore, if your Lordships will forgive me, I do not propose to reply to that part of the debate, which was the substantial part.
Perhaps I could attempt to reply to some of the other specific points. The noble Baronesses, Lady Hilton of Eggardon and Lady Carnegy of Lour, referred to training matters. That will come up for further consideration. The Procedure Committee thought that the usual channels would be asked to give further consideration to the matter. I do not anticipate that there will be anything to put forward on the matters before your Lordships at least until the autumn, if then. However, I sound one warning note to your Lordships. If those matters are pursued--and some seem to be desirable--then there will be not inconsiderable resource implications for them.
On the amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, my reference at the outset of the debate to being able to cope with the mechanics of any change which your Lordships might make was intended to refer to the means of timing the two parts of the Division. So there is no difficulty about being able, if it is agreed, to implement what I hope will be acceptable mechanical means.
I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, or any other noble Lord needs to become too worked up about the nomenclature as concerns the historic timing device that we have used so far. We can avoid using the inappropriate hour-glass or even the egg-timer. Anyway, I have nearly always heard it referred to as a "sand-glass".
The noble Lord, Lord Denham, asked me about the proposed next meeting of the Procedure Committee. I am conscious of the difficulties. As he indicated, it is timed for one of the days on which your Lordships will be considering the House of Lords reform Bill. As your Lordships will know, the Procedure Committee is very large. I can see that a number of noble Lords who would wish to be present in the Chamber are likely to be incommoded, whether or not they are speaking on such an occasion. For the moment, perhaps I may try to satisfy the noble Lord by saying that consideration is being given to the matter, and leave it at that.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, dealt with some of the courtesies of the House. With respect, he is one of the most qualified of your Lordships to talk about them because he is one of our most courteous Members. I wholeheartedly support his endorsement of the proposal that we should continue to observe the correct form of nomenclature for Ministers. As he and the committee said, they should not be referred to as the "noble Minister", but as, for example, the "noble Lord the Minister". As your Lordships all know and acknowledge, that is simply because their nobility does not stem from their ministerial position; it stems from their personal capacity. Of course, all Ministers, from whatever side of your Lordships' House they have ever come, act in a noble way, but, as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, rightly said, they are not noble Ministers.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, raised a point about the possible need for an informal standing group. I am grateful to him for characteristically letting me know beforehand that he proposed to raise the point. Your Lordships will appreciate that no view was taken about the matter in paragraph 79 of the report by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton. If there were to be such a proposal, it would need to go before the Procedure Committee. It has already been possible for informal discussions to take place before matters have been referred to the Procedure Committee. Very often, Chief Whips of the various parties and the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers are consulted about them. It was as a result of a suggestion originally referred informally to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that the working group of the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, was set up in the first place. So there are mechanisms and procedures in which this kind of informal consultation can be carried out. However, I shall consider further what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, said to ascertain whether any additional way of proceeding might be necessary. I am grateful to him for his suggestions.
Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Hilton of Eggardon for her support for my minute amendment. No one in your Lordships' House has thought more deeply or more recently on these matters than she has. I am grateful to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, for her support and also for the eloquent support of the noble Lord, Lord Burnham. On the matter of the egg-timer, he and I are clearly "yolked" indivisibly together. As I feel a general sense of acceptance for the three-minutes plus five-minutes amendment, I hope it may be possible for your Lordships to agree to it without a Division.
Baroness Young: I beg to move, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end insert ("save that, notwithstanding paragraph 2 ("The General Debate Day"), Wednesday shall remain the general debate day").
Moved, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end insert ("save that, notwithstanding paragraph 2 ("The General Debate Day"), Wednesday shall remain the general debate day".--(Baroness Young.)
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.