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The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I shall bring the views of the noble Lord to the attention of my noble friend Lady Blatch in due course.

We shall consider the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, about all-party agreement to an experiment, as we shall consider all suggestions. But it is not immediately evident that this is a party political matter suited to such an agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, asked whether major banks have not moved to Frankfurt because of the present differences in time zones. I am not in a position to answer for the commercial decisions of individual banks. I imagine that such moves may have had to do not with time zones but with the fact that Frankfurt could be the home of a Central European Bank.

As to the suggestion of the noble Lord that there might be a referendum possibly following an experiment, your Lordships will know that successive governments have seen serious difficulties in reconciling the character of referendums with the proper functioning and authority of Parliament. That point was made with persuasive force, if I may say so, by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret.

As I said at the outset, no material change has occurred since your Lordships last debated the matter in January this year. I note that the Opposition have not altered their stance either, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey.

My noble friend Lady Trumpington remarked on that occasion that the Government do not look for an easy answer. I say to your Lordships now that the Government look for the right answer for the country as a whole. At that point I shall ensure that my noble friend Lady Trumpington receives a copy of Hansard to be able to note the kind words of her noble friend.

We continue to listen to representations. I have been listening carefully this evening and the Government will take note of all the arguments presented by your

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Lordships during the proceedings of this Bill. The Government have not shut the door on change. It remains our position that we do not believe that now is the time to bring our deliberations to an end.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, I must first thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate. It has been extremely interesting and much more wide ranging than I expected. A number of different views have been expressed. I find myself with the great temptation to wish to continue the argument with the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, whose knowledge of geography is somewhat eccentric, if not deplorable. But owing to the lateness of the hour, I shall not do so. That would extend matters. Anyway, some of the arguments that he produced were refuted very effectively by the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Mountevans. I look forward to continuing the debate with my good friend, if he is not my noble friend, outside in another environment. That will be a great pleasure.

As I count the score, until we came to the Government it was 10 speeches in favour and three against. That is quite encouraging. But I must admit that the reply from my noble friend on the Front Bench was disappointing to say the least. I had hoped that in the intervening period we might have moved this cause forward and the Government would be prepared to take some kind of decision.

What was slightly surprising in one of the comments made by my noble friend was the mention of the number of letters that Ministers receive on this subject. It would be quite easy to organise "Rent-a-letter"--it has happened before--and then he could have as many letters as he liked on these subjects. But that is not the point. We are trying to achieve a quality argument, and that is what was displayed in this evening's debate. A number of ideas were suggested and I believe that the matter has been moved forward because this Bill has found more favour than that so cogently argued by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret earlier in the year.

I feel that we must continue with this Bill because, if it is passed in this House, it will go to another place and there will be an opportunity to discuss two Bills. As I said earlier, there is to be a twin-track approach, with this Bill as it is presently couched and another Bill couched in any way that the Member for Bournemouth decides. As my noble friend on the Front Bench said, that is not yet known. How it will be dealt with by the Government in another place remains to be seen. But at least we shall have a shot at the bird with both barrels, and that may be better than hitherto.

I hope therefore to conclude this matter today. I thank all noble Lords for their participation. I commend the Bill to the House and ask your Lordships to approve its Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

        House adjourned at nine minutes before eleven o'clock.


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