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Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. On the same point, is the Chairman of Committees saying that the dinner hour Unstarred Question and the one-and-a-half hour limit are trials and will not be enforced rigidly at this stage?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the one-hour limit for Unstarred Questions in the dinner hour is a matter which has been accepted by your Lordships. The new proposal is for a one-and-a-half hour limitation. That experiment is recommended in the Procedure Committee's report. I suggest that the experiment should be tried to see how it works.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, suppose there are seven names down, which would mean a one-and-a-half hour debate, and the last speaker rises after one hour and 28 minutes, will someone call him to order?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, no one would be able to call that speaker to order. What the noble Lord implies by his question is right. If the final speaker in such an Unstarred Question is the Minister, it has been thought that at least for the trial period an informal indication can be given by the Clerk of the Parliaments or the Clerk at the Table to the Minister that the time is running out. The matter can be brought to a satisfactory and civilised conclusion in that way.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, with his customary perspicacity, the noble Lord has raised the very point upon which my index finger rests in my rough notes. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, made the point about no Starred Questions on Fridays.
There is another consideration which I feel free to mention and which neither the noble Viscount the Leader of the House nor the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, would feel so free to raiseit is a significant point, if I may say soand it is that Ministers have other duties. If they are to do their job properly it is essential for them to get around the country to do other things in their departments and elsewhere and also to go outside the country. I may offend some noble Lords when I say that it is a consideration that to some extent Ministers need to be protected to that extent by us as a House.
I appreciate the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord Stoddart, on the subject of Starred Questions. This too is something that I suggest should be tried out. It is something to which we can return if your Lordships are restive about the way the matter is going. If that is so, I shall have no hesitation in recommending that the Procedure Committee has another look at the matter. Again, it is an experiment. This is a package of experiments. I invite your Lordships to accept it in that spirit and in that way.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I should be trespassing hazardously were I to venture an answer about procedure in the other place. Nowadays, if not in earlier years, there are no Oral QuestionsI recall they call them that in another place on Fridays.
I believe and hope that I have dealt with all the various matters, except on the sub judice rule, that noble Lords have raised. If not, they will of course approach me elsewhere, and I shall try to find an answer for them. It is in that spirit that I say that this is a series of recommendations which, although modest, is significant, and I invite your Lordships to accept it.
Lord Airedale: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I have only one short point to make. I refrained from taking part in the general discussion on the Question that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, be agreed to because I thought that a later opportunity would arise when the Question was whether the report itself should be agreed to. It is a very short point. It is simply on paragraph 3 and relates to maiden speeches. The noble Lord referred to the short sentence that says simply that only the next speaker shall
If the words in the report are transferred into the new Companion to the Standing Orders, in future Ministers winding up will feel inhibited in adding their congratulations to the maiden speaker. That would be a pity. I understand that the new Companion goes to the printers in a week's time. I hope that even at this late hour some means can be found of making it clear that the Minister winding up the debate is free to add his congratulations to the maiden speaker, if he feels inclined to do so.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has raised a significant point. As regards his pessimism about the amount of time, I have no information that the new Companion is to go to the printers next week. I understand that there will be a little more time. Perhaps I may consider his suggestion and see whether the wording needs to be incorporated into the new edition. It would have to be done under the editorial discretion reservation. However, it might not be necessary to go so far as that because the recommended insertion reads:
I suggest that that amply accommodates any congratulations offered by the Minister in winding up. I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, and the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenteralthough not uttered from a standing positionthat this is a desirable practice to be retained.
Earl Russell: My Lords, having been under the same misapprehension as my noble friend Lord Airedale, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord one question. It relates to Front Bench time being limited to 20 minutes as regards Statements. I sympathise with the objective of that recommendation but I can recall cases in which Statements have lasted beyond 20 minutes. Will the principle be applied in conjunction with the principle of equal time?
I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for his contribution. It clarified the exercise of this new function of his office. It is important to note that he said specifically that he would not consult through the usual channels but would take legal advice and advice on procedure. That is most significant and I welcome it. It means that the usual channels will not be compromised by the decision.
I was also grateful to the Chairman of Committees not only for his clear explanation and reply to the debate but for the assurances that he has given to the House that the proposal for the operation of the sub judice rule is for a trial period. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.