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Lord Skelmersdale: My Amendment No. 23 has been grouped with this amendment. I do not entirely understand why because it does not cover quite the same point that I wish to address.

So far as concerns the amendment of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne, I am afraid that the horse has already bolted. Paragraph 9.28 of the Companion states:

I am sure that that is what the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House was about to say.

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My Amendment No. 23 seeks to replace paragraph 28 of the report. For the reasons given in paragraph 29, this matter needs a little further thought. I do not object in principle to a Grand Committee sitting in September—or at any other time when the House is not sitting—but, as noble Lords who have been in the building during the Summer Recess will know, in September the place looks like a builder's yard. There are carpets up all over the place, wires hanging out of ceilings and pipes dripping or certainly not connected. It looks like a building site.

The effect of sitting in September would either restrict the Grand Committee to a tiny part of the building which is otherwise not being built over, or it would be totally impracticable because of the length of time that builders need when working on the Parliamentary Estate. So my suggestion is that the Clerk of the Parliaments should consider not only the points that the Procedure Committee has already suggested—he should consider paragraph 29 before paragraph 28 becomes operable—but also the other point about the House being a builder's yard.

There is yet another reason. It will be just a little more difficult to find noble Lords to chair such Grand Committees during a period when the House is not otherwise sitting. I see the Chairman of Committees nodding at me. We have had private discussions on this matter and on the problems of finding a suitable number of Deputy Chairmen and Deputy Speakers at moments during periods when the House is currently sitting, especially when a Grand Committee is sitting at the same time. That, too, is a valid point.

The Earl of Caithness: I am grateful for the remarks of my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, which have reinforced the proposal in Amendment No. 21 in the name of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, which we shall debate shortly.

My question to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House is this. If a Grand Committee sits when the main House is not sitting, will it have all the rights and privileges of a Grand Committee that takes place when the House is sitting; or are there rules and regulations that would make it difficult for that Grand Committee to operate in the most effective manner, and in the manner in which it could have operated had the House been sitting?

Lord Elton: A further point needs to be addressed. What distinguishes a Grand Committee from Select Committees is that it is a Committee of the Whole House meeting outside the Chamber. Therefore, it draws on the expertise of the whole House. But if the House knows that it is not sitting in September, most Members will have made arrangements to be elsewhere at that time. If it is then announced towards the end of July that a Grand Committee will be meeting in September, the resources of the rest of the House in terms of personnel will not be available to the committee. So it will be a bit of a lame duck. For a

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Grand Committee to sit in what is normally a holiday period when the House as a whole is not sitting and normally does not sit is a thoroughly bad idea.

Lord Mancroft: The point I want to make is not necessarily restricted to this amendment but relates generally to the concept of Grand Committees. The report suggests that we also set up two other Select Committees.

The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House remarked earlier on the lack of volunteers to sit on committees. We have talked about resources and we shall refer to the subject again later. One of the resources which in my view will be stretched—and particularly by the use of Grand Committees—is the number of Peers who will be able to sit on the committees: Grand Committees, pre-legislative scrutiny committees, two more Select Committees and Committees on the Floor of the House, some sitting at the same time. Undoubtedly we are stretched today in terms of manning our committees and, as we have heard, to chair our committees. We shall be further stretched by putting in two additional committees.

There is a further factor. Historically—there is no reason why it should not change—this House has sat as a House, in this Chamber, to do most of its work. That is quite unusual in legislatures. The United States Senate, for example, spends more time on committee work than on the floor of the chamber. That is not to say that either of those is better or worse than the other. But there is no doubt that, if we are to have more Grand Committees, more Select Committees and more pre-legislative scrutiny committees, there will be less emphasis on the work that is done in this Chamber.

Therefore, the mood, the tone and the way in which this House operates will change. That is not a reason not to do it; perhaps it is a very good direction in which we should go in future. However, there is no doubt that this report does not consider that, and there is no doubt that your Lordships should consider it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Some of the troubles that your Lordships have expressed are specifically dealt with in the last sentence of paragraph 28 of the Procedure Committee report, which I shall not read as your Lordships will have it before you.

The answer to the question asked by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, is yes. The answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is that the Director of Parliamentary Works and Services is well aware that both Houses are at least considering altering the parliamentary timetable. He knows about the possibility of proceedings in September and will, of course, make the necessary arrangements.

The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, asked a number of questions. Staff will be here as necessary. Do we need Prayers? No. Do we need the Mace? No. He says, "Members of the Grand Committee". By definition, as he himself said a moment or two ago, every Member

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of this House is entitled to attend as a Member of the Grand Committee, and accordingly can claim expenses.

Lord Trefgarne: Can the noble and learned Lord say whether the Sittings of the Grand Committee, if it sits when the House is not sitting, count in the 40 days' praying time allowed in respect of statutory instruments?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is the point set out in paragraph 29 of the report.

Lord Elton: The noble and learned Lord referred to the last sentence of paragraph 28, which says:

    "it is essential that the Government business managers give reasonable notice when Grand Committees will be meeting in September".

I rise merely to say that I made an inquiry the other day about the possibility of renting a smallish house in Cornwall this summer. Nine months ahead, all of the smallish houses—and there were a large number of them—at the disposal of the agency to which I spoke had already been booked. "Reasonable notice" when one is arranging family holidays can be 13 months.

Lord Crickhowell: I have one question which arises from the comments of the Leader of the House. He referred to the need for the managers of the maintenance work and so on to be told in advance and given adequate notice. In the Procedure Committee, we were told—as he will recall; I referred to this earlier—that if the House were to sit in September, at least six months' notice would have to be given so that the contractual arrangements for maintenance could be altered. Will that apply also to the Sittings of Grand Committees? Will it be necessary to give six months' notice so that the contractual arrangements for maintenance can be altered?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: It is not possible to give a categoric answer to that question because it would depend on the particular room being used by the particular Grand Committee. However, I remind your Lordships that what was said in the Procedure Committee was that the intention is to proceed with law reform Bills, for which type of legislation there is not an overwhelming appetite. I would not expect any Grand Committee room to be filled to overflowing.

Lord Carter: It may help the Committee to know that, in all the building and maintenance arrangements, there is a proviso, I believe, that the contractors must be prepared to clear the House within two days to allow the recall of Parliament.

Lord Trefgarne: I am obliged to all noble Lords for those contributions. I do not think that I need to pursue this matter, although I might have been tempted to do so in other circumstances. I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord for his replies. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 14:

    Page 6, line 46, at end insert-

"except those bills originating in the House of Commons in which one or more clauses have not been considered in committee in that House. Preventing divisions on amendments to such clauses in committee removes a necessary means of establishing and refining the views of this House on matters of substance, and leads to extended debate on Report stage. The debate on Report is conducted under rules of procedure unsuited to the search for an accommodation of conflicting views which should precede the resort to a division. In practice the result is numerous and sometimes tortuous exchanges 'before the minister sits down'. If the result is misunderstanding, divisions may be called unnecessarily; if in doubt, they may be further deferred for consultation, adding to the number of divisions on third reading. Accordingly, we recommend that when a bill that has been sent to this House by the House of Commons has been considered by a Grand Committee, any clauses that have not been discussed in a committee of the Commons should be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House of this House."

The noble Lord said: I hope that we can attend briefly to this matter, particularly because of the frequency with which clauses that have not been discussed at all in the House of Commons are put before your Lordships. My intention is clearly set out in the preamble of the amendment itself. Following the Leader of the House, I shall assume that your Lordships have it before you and have read it.

That is the reason for seeking to recommit clauses in a Bill which has been through the Grand Committee to a Committee of the Whole House when that Committee reports. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: This amendment seeks to amend paragraph 20 of the report. I am most grateful to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees for having taken on board at least part of the point that I made in the debate in May. However, I am not sure that the paragraph does full justice to the point that I sought to make.

I referred to the practice of dividing the Finance Bill in the House of Commons as that was where the process in another place started. Others who took part in the debate in May recollected with great clarity the long arguments that were held before the sensible arrangement was reached that a Bill could be committed—mostly in the other place to a Standing Committee—because opposition parties could be invited to suggest particular clauses that might be debated on the Floor of the House.

The point that I made in May was that that was not now in another place confined to Finance Bills. Without wanting to repeat what I said then, I remind the Committee that other Bills have been split with the Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House and then the remaining clauses to a Standing Committee. The examples I gave were: the Criminal Justice Bill, 1989–90; the Human Fertilisation and

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Embryology Bill, 1989–90; the Sunday Trading Bill, 1993–94; the Family Law Bill, 1995–96 and the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, 1996–97.

The procedure of splitting a Bill in another place is by no means confined to Finance Bills. Indeed, there may well be Bills with one or two controversial clauses which could be voted upon if those clauses were taken on the Floor of the House in a Committee of the Whole House. That would get round the endless business at prolonged Report stages of going back over the same ground that has been covered in a Grand Committee with the inevitable remark, "Before the Minister sits down, will he deal with the following"? We are all familiar with such remarks which are great time wasters. I put that proposal before the House in May as a serious suggestion that might ease the process of sending more Bills to Grand Committee.

As I understand the report, there is no procedural reason why a Motion to commit a Bill should not do,

    "as Lord Jenkin has proposed".

If that could be confirmed, it would be helpful. We may be able to identify a suitable Bill in the next Session of Parliament. I might move an amendment to the committal Motion. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to give us words of comfort on the matter.

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