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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.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, before my noble friend concludes, will he deal with recommendation No. (7)—no Starred Questions on Fridays? Why should there not be Starred Questions?

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.

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That too is a problem. I have to confess that the Procedure Committee grappled with a great many things. It saw both sides of the argument clearly. It was difficult to come to a conclusion. The main point of the proposal that there should be additional Friday sittings was that it would save noble Lords from sitting late on other days of the week. That was the prime purpose. Starred Questions come into that argument because they would take up a certain amount of time and so jeopardise some of the time that we are trying to save. That is one consideration.

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 raise—it is a significant point, if I may say so—and 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.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will allow me to intervene again. What he said about Ministers' time apparently does not apply in the Commons.

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 Questions—I 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

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congratulate the maiden speaker. However, the custom seems to have grown up for the Minister replying to the debate to add his congratulations to the maiden speaker.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: Hear, hear!

Lord Airedale: My Lords, no doubt that is of great satisfaction to the maiden speaker and the custom finds favour in the House.

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:

    "Maiden speakers should normally be congratulated by the following speaker only".

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-Carpenter—although not uttered from a standing position—that this is a desirable practice to be retained.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, it is imperative that the Minister has ample time to answer an Unstarred Question, otherwise why have the Question in the first place?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I agree that that is a consideration and, if your Lordships agree to the Motion today, a matter that we must look at closely in the course of the experiment.

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?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for raising that point because it gives me an opportunity to clarify the matter. The Statement is excluded from the time limit.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate on my amendment.

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There was support from all sides of the House. I do not intend to refer to all the speakers who took part—I am sure noble Lords will understand why—but I wish to refer to one or two points that were raised. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, asked whom the Leader of the House would consult in reaching a decision. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that someone must take a decision but, my Lords, in this House we collectively take decisions. There is no Member who must take decisions on our current Standing Orders and rules of debate. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, suggested that an alternative person might be the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that the only Member of this House who is a servant of the House as opposed to a government Minister or Leader of the Opposition is the Chairman of Committees. It might be that in the further deliberations of the Procedure Committee the use of his position will be considered.

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.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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