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Lord Campbell of Alloway: I support the amendment not only for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell but because it is a key amendment. If it were to be agreed, it would give time for consideration of the merits of the other amendments to which my noble friend referredI shall not refer to them, and I shall limit my speech to this amendment. I agree with the amendments that he mentioned, to which I shall come later.
Acceptance of the amendment would be an effective resolution of our difficulties. Our difficulties are complex. On any showing, it will be difficult to achieve a wholly intelligible and comprehensive result today. Further time is needed, and the amendment would provide it.
Lord Geddes: I shall reinforce the comments just made by my noble friend Lord Elton. We are talking of resources, and, like the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, I should like to have seen a budget. However, we are not talking only of resources financial; we are talking also of resources human. That involves a large number of people, including Members of your Lordships' House, Clerks, Hansard writers and Doorkeepers. There are tremendous human resource implications.
There is another thing that bothers me, about which I must ask the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House. Lines 14 to 16 of the fifth report, which the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne would change, read as follows:
I do not want to get to my feet any more than I need, so I must also say now that I am concerned about this afternoon's procedure. I want to raise a short point regarding paragraph 12 of the report. However, as we are restricted to talking about amendments and as no amendments to paragraph 12 have been tabled, I am not sure when I can bring the matter up. Can the noble and learned Lord help me on that?
Lord Monson: The noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Geddes, have reminded us that it not just a question of resources but of human resources. There is a third element, to which the amendment draws our attention: accommodation resources. That is an important factor, and no amount of money from the Treasury will remedy the accommodation deficit in the short term.
The Earl of Caithness: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Geddes. He raised again the point that my noble friend Lord Mancroft and I raised about the first amendment and to which we did not get a reply.
I put my name to the amendment for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Crickhowell mentioned. It is a matter of principle whether we should allow the report to go through when we have no idea of the resource implications. That is a major defect in our proceedings. As other noble Lords said, there are also questions of human and financial resources, but we have no idea what will be needed fully to implement the report.
Like my noble friend, I have served on a pre-legislative committee. It was on the Freedom of Information Bill. The committee was hurried; we were short of time in which to do the job properly. If we want proper pre-legislative scrutiny, we must be properly staffed, and we must be given adequate time. That is not happening at the moment, and we have no idea of what is needed to remedy that defect.
Lord Dubs: I do not have a particularly suspicious mind, but, having listened to most of the contributions this afternoon, I wonder how many were intended to be constructive and how many were intended to delay things. I would like to live long enough to see the recommendations implemented.
There is undoubtedly a general mood abroad that we should drag our practices out of the 19th century and into the 21st. Some Members, to judge by their practice, upbringing and general demeanour, would prefer, for legitimate reasons, to make as little change as possible. I understand that. I have no quibble with those who hold that view. However, when the Leader's Group was set up, we charged the best people available, on the basis of experience, with investigating the changes that could be made. They did so and made their recommendations.
I supported the Leader's Group out of respect, first, for my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House and, secondly, for those in the group. Then, we had an interesting debate here, in which my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, played a major part. He confronted the House with the consequences of accepting that report. At the end of that debate, we decided that the Procedure Committeea committee of experienced people from all parts of the Houseshould examine the matter. After debateand some divisionthe committee put before the House what my noble and learned friend described as a package, a description that I accept.
Some aspects of the report meet my concerns, and some do not. However, ultimately, I must decide whether I support the democratic process in which I have been involveddelegated democracyand whether I agree, in general, with the report. Some Members want to make changes: where the report says "six", they want "five" and where it says "may", they want "shall". They want to know how long the changes will take and when the process will start. To them, those may be important matters; to me, the issue is whether we want to see the House do something about its procedures, regardless of whether the amendments are pressed.
Having been here for 19 years, I have some experience. I have served at various levels. At times, Members who believe that they are doing the House and the country good are, in fact, being selfish. I sat here many nights, well past midnight, and found that Members on both sides of the House were dead beat. They were still here simply because the procedure said that any amendments that were put down would be dealt with, unless they were withdrawn. We crucify ourselves by sticking to established procedures. Of course, we can discuss the amendments relating to times; people will have a view about working on Thursday mornings and finishing at 7 p.m. Some of the things may not be to my liking. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and others have said that the point of the changes was to aid the Government. We should wait and see. My noble and learned friend the Leader of the House and my noble friend the Chief Whip may feel that they have got an easement of their burden, but "It ain't necessarily so". We do not know how it will pan out.
I am prepared to trust my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House and his committee, which includes the usual channels. They are made of flesh and blood. They are not automatons, sent here simply to do somebody else's bidding. They have families and personal priorities too. Above all, however, as Members of the House, we ought to try to do things in such a way as is to the aid and comfort of all of us.
I very much hope that this amendment will not be accepted; and that the other amendments, which, undoubtedly, are designed to be helpful, will be withdrawn at the appropriate time. The Housewhich means the Leader, the usual channels, and the Procedure Committeeshould proceed as best it can.
Reference has been made to the fact that we need to be careful about money. I merely reflect upon the experience in the other place. They have not just spent hundreds of thousands of pounds; they have spent millions of pounds in efforts to make their task as legislators easier. The noble Lords, Lord Sheldon and Lord Barnett, and others, can tell us that there are checks and balances involved and that you do not always get what you want, but you could have fooled me. One has but to compare the easement of conditions in the other place with the purgatory that has arisen here just because some of us wish to make our lot just a little easier.
We must recognise that thousands, perhaps millions, of people outside this Chamber will not readily understand the reaction to this opportunity, which has been provided by the Leader, the other party leaders, as well as the usual channels. It is an opportunity for us to do something to make our job as parliamentarians a little easier. Therefore, I do not think that we ought to look this gift horse in the mouth. I very much hope that that will also prove to be the attitude of all noble Lords.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: Perhaps I may make a very simple observation at this point. If the Procedure Committee had been able to tell us what the costs of such changes would be as regards both human resources and money, there probably would not be a problem. However, the problem is that the committee has not been able to do so. I cannot imagine any situation in private life in which one would embark upon a course of action, which clearly will be expensive in many ways, without having an idea of the eventual cost. It seems to me to be practical common sense that we ought to have that information before we make any final decision.
I am not disputing the recommendations of the Procedure Committee, or the fact that we need change. However, it seems to me to be quite extraordinarily irresponsible for this Chamber to be prepared to make such a move when we have been told by members of the Procedure Committee that they do not yet know
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