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Lord Boyd-Carpenter: I should be most grateful if my noble friend the Minister would inform the Committee as to the position on this and subsequent amendments which are, after all, amendments to what has been certified by Madam Speaker as a money Bill. As I understand it—and I am subject of course to correction in such matters—if this Chamber carries this or any other amendment it would have absolutely no effect because the Bill would proceed with Royal Assent in a few days' time in its present form; in other words, in the form that it left the other place.

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Before Members of the Committee spend a great deal of time and care—as, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, has obviously done—on detailed discussion of what would be good to put in the Bill, I believe that we should know whether that work will serve any useful purpose. In the Committee stage, or during any other stage of the Bill, we can express opinions which we hope will command attention outside—for example, in the media—and influence public opinion in the long term. Let us hope that that proves to be so. However, actually to carry an amendment to the Bill seems not only to be a waste of time but is also, if I may put it this way, asking this Chamber to make a fool of itself.

Lord Henley: It may be useful to my noble friend and to Members of the Committee if I repeat some of what I said on the subject yesterday when I confirmed, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter put it, that Madam Speaker in another place had certified the legislation as being a money Bill. As my noble friend quite rightly said, it means that after Thursday of this week, the Bill may be presented for Royal Assent under the terms of the Parliament Act with or without agreement of this Chamber. There is no need for the Bill to be considered further in another place, whether or not this place amends it.

As I also stressed yesterday, because considerable interest had been expressed in the Bill, we felt it right to have a full debate on Second Reading. It was agreed by the usual channels—most unusually for a money Bill—that there would be a separate Committee stage which would allow noble Lords further to air their views on particular subjects. At the time, I said that amendments had already been tabled.

During yesterday's debate, I said that I felt there was no practical purpose to be served by amending the Bill and further prolonging the proceedings. I believe I said that I therefore trusted that noble Lords would not seek further to obstruct the passage of the Bill. I hope that we can have further useful discussion on those points this afternoon. However, for the very reasons given by my noble friend, I believe that it would be very ill-advised for this Chamber to seek to amend the Bill.

I turn now to the noble Lord's amendment. I see that my noble friend wishes to intervene. I give way.

The Earl of Onslow: I am much obliged. Am I right in saying that if, peradventure, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, which seems to be a very sensible amendment, were to be carried, the other place would not even bother to discuss it and would pay no attention to it at all? If that is the case, then however sensible we may be, the idiocies in other places—I use the word in the plural rather than the singular—cannot be coped with.

However, if the other place would actually discuss the matter again there is some point in continuing. But if the other place will not pay a blind bit of notice to what

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we say, however sensible, intelligent, wise or omniscient we may be, it seems slightly pointless for us even to attempt to be omniscient.

Lord Richard: I am not sure whether I am interrupting the Minister or saying something on my own account. However, whichever it is, I should like to make it perfectly clear. I should like the Minister to consider the following in his reply. As I understand the position, once the legislation is certified as a money Bill, then the Act applies and, so far as we are concerned, any amendment that we pass would have absolutely no effect whatever. Indeed, not only would it have no effect but also the other place would not need to discuss it.

It is not a question of saying to the other place, "Look, reconsider it: we think you ought to think again". None of that applies. In effect, we are indulging ourselves by discussing amendments and, should we pass them, the Bill would be changed so far as concerns this Chamber; but it would not have a scrap of effect. I am bound to say that I very much agree with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. If we continue, I believe that we shall be making fools of ourselves.

Perhaps I may just say one other thing. I agreed that there should be two days' discussion on this Bill. Various representations were made to me, and on behalf of the Labour Party I thought it was right that we should have a full discussion on it. We therefore had a full discussion on Second Reading yesterday. I am bound to say that when I agreed to two days I did not think we were going to go through this charade of having a Committee stage which has no effect whatsoever. I had thought that what we would do was to have the Second Reading yesterday and today we would have had a Third Reading debate, in which no doubt those who spoke yesterday could have repeated on Third Reading what they had said on Second Reading. Perhaps indeed some extra people would have come in in order to support what they did not say yesterday but what they would have said had they been there yesterday. At the end of the day that would have been the Third Reading of the Bill and that would have been the end of it.

It still is my view that if the Chamber wishes to air opinions on this piece of legislation, and if it wishes to express its views—individually Members of the Committee have views to express—the way to do it is to have a Third Reading debate, and the way not to do it is to consider in detail amendments as if this were a Bill that we could amend with any kind of sense at all and send it back to the other place to reconsider.

Lord Henley: I do not—

Lord Hamilton of Dalzell: I feel that with this money Bill issue we put our finger on an important point as regards our relationship with Europe. The fact of the matter is that here we are unable to speak because this is a money Bill but it affects the constitutional position. Money is the key to the whole thing. The Committee might like to consider what my noble friend Lord Cockfield said in the Second Reading debate:

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    "it is a great pity that the Community did not proceed to a successful conclusion with economic integration before it embarked upon political union".—[Official Report, 9/1/95; col. 25.]

He then explained how the economic integration would automatically lead on to the political issue he mentioned. I think the Committee ought to have a view on the political side of this matter. To be gagged, as we always are in the case of a money Bill, greatly inhibits us. I think the people—

5.15 p.m.

Lord Henley: With all due respect, if I could interrupt my noble friend, he is in no way being gagged at all and nor is this Chamber being gagged. My noble friend had every opportunity yesterday to make a speech at Second Reading; nor am I suggesting that he should be gagged at Committee stage or Third Reading. If I can depress the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, he has an opportunity for further debate at Third Reading and Bill do now pass, all stages of which we shall be taking today. In no way are we trying to gag my noble friend. He did have his opportunity to speak at Second Reading yesterday.

Lord Hamilton of Dalzell: I apologise to my noble friend; I accept his point on that. However, we are inhibited in that we cannot pass an amendment.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: It seems that we have now got away from interventions and are back discussing the matter in Committee, and we shall await what the Minister has to say when he gets to his feet a second time. I did not intend to intervene on this until my noble friend did so. We have to be perfectly clear that it is the right of this Chamber to discuss—indeed, I believe it also has a duty to do so—these matters. It is perfectly possible for the Committee to discuss, and indeed to pass, amendments if it so wishes. There is absolutely nothing in the rules of this Chamber, nor in the Parliament Act, which precludes this Chamber from discussing and agreeing to amendments. What happens to them afterwards, of course, is a different matter. The House of Commons need not even consider them, that is true, but of course the House of Lords has the power to consider them as well. That is why it can be valuable for this House to be entitled to —and it often does have—a Committee stage. It may well be that some sensible amendment is moved here and passed here and the House of Commons suddenly says, "By God, that is not a bad amendment after all. We shall take it on board and we shall pass it".

The idea that the House of Lords Committee stage means absolutely nothing at all is completely erroneous. I repeat that we are entitled to have a Committee stage on a money Bill. The fact that we have not had them is neither here nor there. This Chamber is entitled to have such a stage. On this occasion we have had it. The House of Lords is perfectly entitled this afternoon to discuss amendments and, if necessary, to pass the amendments, and after that the House of Commons is perfectly entitled to look at those amendments and, if necessary, take them on board, pass them themselves and incorporate them in this Bill. That is the position. I am glad that the House of Lords has had this debate. I

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am also glad that it is having this debate this afternoon on a Committee stage which enables us to probe matters relating to the Bill and to probe them in the same way as we would probe them on any other Bill before us.

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow: I hope I may interrupt yet again. I feel quite strongly on this. I am emotionally on the side of the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Stoddart, on this matter. I find the Bill personally offensive. The Government have done silly things. They have provided money which was unnecessary. But if we are going to argue that we have to act constitutionally and rightly and we want Europe to behave in the same way as us we should not, I think, as a Chamber behave in what could be regarded as a silly fashion. We are in danger of being silly over this. I do not quite know whether what I am suggesting is in order, but I wish to suggest that we adjourn the Committee stage now and we discuss the amendments as a whole, without attempting to do any voting or anything like that, in a Third Reading debate. I think that would be a more civilised and more sensible way to proceed and one that is more in tune with the spirit of the constitution. I am an old-fashioned high Tory and I like the spirits of constitutions rather than their nitty or their gritty.


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