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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I rise briefly to support what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has said and indeed the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. I am aware, as the Chief Whip said, that we have not yet reached the substantive business for this afternoon. Indeed, the debate has continued longer than the one on the National Health Service Plan. As the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, the proposal has been approved by those committees, of which we are both members. We have been taken through the matter on two occasions and we have both been convinced, as were other members of the committee, as noble Lords have said, that that is an entirely meritorious proposal.
The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, and other noble Lords have raised points which are of general interest and which sit comfortably within the framework of the debate raised by my noble friend Lord Peston. As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, has said, those of us who listened to the presentation of the proposal by those who came from the subsidiary committee to the main committee believed that it was a continuation of the discussion on some of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Peston, so usefully raised in his debate, and to which other noble Lords spoke. But this comes back to the basic point, which many noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have re-emphasised, as did my noble friend Lord Barnett, that these matters will always ultimately rest with the decision of your Lordships' House. None the less, I am
So far as concerns the point that Mr Braithwaite may be dominated by House of Commons concerns, I say simply that I am sure that he is very well aware of the many important differences between the Houses. He has a working knowledge of the services which are shared between the Houses, without being dominated by a House of Commons perspective. Therefore, he is uniquely qualified to help us with this particular task. For those reasons--very briefly put because both the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, have explained the position arrived at by the committee very clearly already--I advise your Lordships to accept the Motion and, as the noble Lords, Lord Rodgers and Lord Gilbert, have said from slightly different positions--get on with the proposal.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I am reluctant to stand up after my noble friend, but too many noble Lords have so far participated in the debate in private. Some Back-Benchers want to say something in public, because this is the only time that we shall have the opportunity to give any expression of view.
First, I refer to paragraph 8 on accommodation. I do not want to go into detail because it has been extremely well explained, but one begins to get some measure of the irritation being felt by Back-Bench Members. We had a debate in May, much of it about accommodation, in which we expressed our concern about the lack of accommodation. We received a report back from the people who are supposed to address that concern. They told us that they are concerned about the lack of progress. So we have had a reciprocal expression of concern about lack of progress, but no progress. We need better channels of communication between those in the committees who purport to represent us and those who feel that at the present time our views are not being represented.
Secondly, so far as concerns smoking policy at Millbank House--a point which has not been mentioned thus far--I should like someone to explain to me the precise logic of having a smoking policy in the public areas of Millbank House which is a different policy from the smoking policy of public areas in the Palace. They are both places of work and I should like someone to explain the logic of having different policies in two places of work.
Secondly, I support the point made about the 43 offices. I waited 12 years to get a desk in a room with eight other noble Lords. It is scandalous to have to manage one's work in the House on that basis.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I should like to ask a brief question about paragraph 9 of the report entitled "Smoking policy in Millbank House". Is it contemplated that there will be some kind of smoking room for the use of poor, wretched, smoking Peers who are not allowed to smoke in the common areas and whose stablemates in their office object to smoking; or will they be forced out into the street? I do not smoke myself but I did for 40 years of my life. I have great fellow feeling for them.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I do intend to speak. I am becoming extremely angry. Perhaps I may say--I can say it to my noble friend Lord Carter as we are very old friends--that I object very strongly to being told that we must get a move on because there is other business of importance to be discussed. I intend to speak for the length of time I wish to speak.
When I raised this matter some weeks ago, I said that one of the problems of debating these matters is that we are always told that we must get a move on because there are much more important things that need to be done. I was assured by the Chairman of Committees that there was no such pressure on us and that we could speak and debate these matters as fully as we wished.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I must intervene because I think my noble friend may have forgotten that he had an extensive five-hour debate on precisely these subjects in May. That is one of the reasons why those of us who have supported the Motion before the House today feel that that is a way of taking forward those matters, which we agree are important and were so very well discussed.
I feel that I have a moral obligation to speak because I am a devoted Member of your Lordships' House and this is a chance to begin to get your Lordships' House right. However, I believe that I am completely wasting
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, was most kind about the debate that I introduced. But that debate was not on anything of this kind. That debate was about this House improving its role in scrutinising and criticising legislation. The other reason why I am completely wasting my time today, as I now realise I did when I introduced that debate, is that nothing has happened as a result of what I had to say then--absolutely nothing. I now believe that nothing will happen. Perhaps I may add that I do not single out anyone for that. I blame all those who lead the House on all sides for the fact that nothing has happened. But I do believe that I have wasted my time. We have not moved forward and I see no sign of us remotely moving forward on that matter. I do not believe that the debate I introduced in May has anything to do with what we are doing today.
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