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Lord Renton: My Lords, I, too, feel obliged to support the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, as my noble friend has done and as the noble Viscount, who has just spoken, has done. I am sorry to have to say that it seems to me that the Government have failed to apply a well established practice of the constitution. We in your Lordships' House have the right to ask the Members of another place to think again and to change any amendments we have passed. Surely, in doing so, it is not sufficient to deal with the matter in the way that it has been dealt with in this case.
I refer to House of Commons Hansard of 18th July at col. 530 which concerns Lords Amendment No. 110. That was the paving amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord at Third Reading. It is merely stated at col. 530 of Commons Hansard:
Of course, Members of the House of Commons have the last word but we have the right to ask them to think againalthough not again and againso long as they give their reasons. On this occasion no such reason has been given. That applies to both the paving amendment and the amendment of substance put forward by the noble and learned Lord. Therefore, I most earnestly support the plea made by him and by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. Instead of asking your Lordships merely to endorse what the Government have doneMembers of another place have not been asked to consider the reasonslet the matter go back to the Members of another place to see what they decide.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, like my noble friend, I was struck by the repetition by the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General of the second half of the Commons reason. He was sitting next to his noble and learned friend Lord Falconer when he said earlier that of course we pay regard to what noble Lords say. I emphasise the word "say". By extension, one assumes that this Government listen to what Members of another place say. Again, I stress the word "say".
In this House, when discussing reasons for disagreeing to an amendment from another place, the main protagonists get into a little huddle, usually in the Prince's Chamber, and thrash out such a reason. It beggars belief that that procedure was followed in this case in another place. I cannot think of any little huddle coming up with such a crazy reason.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, what I find objectionable is that reason 110A is not true. The other place had plenty of time for debate. It simply chose not to take advantage of that. Members of another place could
I was interested to hear the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General give his reasons why we should not stand by the amendment we had made. It was very interesting. But those were not the reasons which impressed another place because Members did not hear them. The issue was not debated. Indeed, it might just as well have been said that this was agreed to by another place because it did not have the opportunity for debate. We do not know what Members of another place would have done had they listened to a debate. This place has a tradition that it listens to debate. It was because the debate was listened to in this Chamber that the Government lost in the proceedings. Perhaps the same would have happened in another place. We should not think so badly of themthat they always simply accept what the Whips tell them. Just occasionally, Members might rebel. Let us give them the chance.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the danger of the reason given is that it sets a precedent. It introduces the guillotine into this House. It means that if ever anything is left undebated in another place, that is a sufficient reason for disregarding any consideration that this House may give. Whatever may happen in relation to the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, this is a disgraceful procedure which should never be repeated.
The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, many years ago, when I was quite new to the Chamber, I remember towards the end of the Session that Whips on both sides colluded to get through a clearly defective clause in a Bill. They considered that it was not that important; it did not matter; and they would let it through.
With pressure of timeanother place is about to risethere is a danger that we shall allow through potentially defective legislation. We say that Members of another place are democratically elected. But when the executive control another place, is there any democratic control? The situation is dangerous. I have experienced such a situation once before.
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, after some hesitation in Committee, the Opposition supported strongly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on Report and at Third Reading. After the noble and learned Lord's victory in your Lordships' House, I assumed that, when the amendment returned to another place, it would be duly reversed and return again to your Lordships' Houseas indeed has been the case.
However, as so many noble Lords and noble and learned Lords have said during the past 10 minutes, another place has not thought again. Indeed, another place has not thought at all. Another place has not fulfilled its constitutional duty. That is particularly grave when the matter before it was not a party political matter; it was a constitutional matter raised by a noble and learned Lord from your Lordships' Cross Benches.
With great respect to the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General, I think he owes noble Lords a very convincing explanation as to why another place was not prepared to think about this matter and return it after careful consideration.
A programme Motion was agreed with the Opposition in another place before the debate took place. It was an agreed programme Motion, not Government insisting on or forcing it. The programme Motion allowed three hours, if I correctly understand, to consider Lords amendments. That time was taken up with those matters which Members of another place wished to debate. Your Lordships have considered some of those other amendments today. When the guillotine Motion was put, it was not voted against so that matters of timing proceeded by way of agreement in another place. As it happens, which is plain from the reasons, this particular amendment was not debated. What happened thereafter, as those of your Lordships who have been in the other place will know, such as the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Tebbit, the Reasons Committee will have been charged with the job of assigning a reason as best it understood it as to why the amendment had not been accepted.
That is the first half of the reason given. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, will agree that that was submitted on behalf of the Government when I dealt with the matter at length both on Report and at Third Reading. There is nothing surprising or wrong about the proposition that the reason why the amendment is not acceptable is:
It is right to say, too, that the other place debated Part 5 of the Bill at some length prior to the proceedings in your Lordships' House. Its view on the provisions was formed at that time and the provisions did not include any exceptions.
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