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Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, I am in broad agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Richard. The Government seem perversely determined to make everything concerned with the long-delayed publication of the Scott Report as awkward as possible. As the noble Lord indicated, it is in many ways a report without precedent. The length of the
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, 1,800 pages! The noble Lord gave one or two comparable examples. The only equally eagerly awaited report I can recall was that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in 1963. That was 128 pages, barely one-fifteenth of the length of the Scott Report. What is also without precedent is the barrage of semi-official denigration to which the learned judge, who undertook this heavy task at the request of the Government and was specially chosen by them, has been subjected. All this, together with the other signs of an attempt at a massive news management campaign, point to extreme nervousness on the part of the Government.
In the circumstances I would have thought that the Government might have been wise not to provoke the Opposition parties. But nervousness often does not produce wisdom. It seems to me that the Government have done the reverse. Whereas the Ministers concerned have been given eight days to study the report at their leisure and in their libraries--they have libraries--Opposition spokesmen are offered three hours-- 600 pages an hour--to which the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has rightly drawn considerable attention, and in what the President of the Board of Trade was pleased to describe as "a controlled environment". I take it that it is the President of the Board of Trade and not the present Home Secretary who is in charge of these arrangements.
I acquit the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal of any personal discourtesy. I gather that he has not seen the report himself. He is one of the lucky ones. He is not involved and therefore not informed. I believe that he has been eager to ensure that Opposition spokesman in your Lordships' House are not treated worse than Opposition spokesmen in the Commons, but that is an equality of suspicion and contempt.
What is this "controlled environment" of the Department of Trade and Industry in which we are to be incarcerated for three hours? Is it a padded cell or a sealed capsule? It is an intolerable offer. To be honest, it would have been better to have done nothing. The only tolerable, courteous and civilised procedure, in my view, would have been to let Opposition spokesmen have the report on Privy Counsellor terms and not in a padded cell from the previous afternoon or early evening. Instead the Government have chosen to produce the maximum irritation.
There is a crowning irony. The Scott Report is unprecedented in yet another way. It is the most leaked report in history, often from official sources. It is from the security of a sieve that they are producing all this trouble.
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, if both noble Lords will forgive me, I believe that perhaps the muddle in which noble Lords may be finding themselves over which Motion we are at present
It is only fair to point out for the elucidation of your Lordships' House that we are considering the Business of the House Motion. If carried, that Motion will enable us to consider the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, which moves to resolve,
As regards the Business of the House Motion, which I believe was not addressed by either the noble Lord, Lord Richard, or the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, I should perhaps draw to your Lordships' attention how very unusual it is for such a Motion to be tabled in a name other than that of the Leader of your Lordships' House. I should perhaps also point out that although both noble Lords, with their usual courtesy, advised me yesterday that it was perfectly possible that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, would put down a Business of the House Motion today, neither he nor the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, suggested that I might like to do it according to the custom of your Lordships' House. Because of that I was unable to do what I would always try to do, that is, follow the convention of your Lordships' House and accede to the request of the Leader of the Opposition that I should do so.
The Business of the House Motion is the means by which the House determines the way in which its proceedings should be ordered. As I said, such a Motion is customarily moved by the Leader of the House. Therefore, I merely note the events of the past 24 hours. While I would not seek to oppose the Motion on the Order Paper today, in the interests of the expeditious and effective dispatch of business in your Lordships' House--if it is the wish of your Lordships that that Motion shall be agreed to--I suggest to your Lordships with the greatest respect that, given the events of the past five to 10 minutes, it would be unwise not to try to dispatch this particular piece of business as efficiently and effectively as possible. Nevertheless, I trust that that will not be regarded as a desirable precedent.
If your Lordships will allow me, I shall now proceed, perhaps in anticipation of the second Motion which my noble and learned friend will no doubt put before us shortly. I hope that I need not detain the House long on this matter. But in all fairness I think there are a number of points which I should draw to the attention of your Lordships. First, the status of the report. The report has been made by Sir Richard Scott to my right honourable
Perhaps I should also say in view of the--dare I say it?--somewhat tendentious remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, that I too would greatly deplore any attempt by my colleagues in the Government or indeed myself to denigrate the efforts of Sir Richard Scott. The judge was asked by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to conduct the inquiry. As the noble Lord pointed out, the inquiry has been the subject of considerable interest, but it has also taken up some three years of the time of Sir Richard and his team. It would be extremely perverse of the Government to suggest that they did not take either Sir Richard or his efforts seriously or, indeed, in anticipation of an official reaction from the Government to the report to try "to rubbish"--I think that I quote accurately the words used by the noble Lord--what Sir Richard said. I should like to take this opportunity to say--
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, this is not tremendously important, but I thought the noble Viscount was referring to me and suggesting that I used the phrase "to rubbish". I used no such phrase. I hope that he will be more accurate.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, forgive me. I am well aware that I am more capable of vulgarity of language than the noble Lord. Let it be enough for me to say that my colleagues and I will treat whatever Sir Richard Scott says with due seriousness. Indeed, I have no doubt at all that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister feels strongly that the report should be treated seriously and that my right honourable friend is under no misapprehension, since he asked Sir Richard Scott to chair the inquiry and to make the report, that he should not take it seriously and will in no way try to anticipate his official reaction or that of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade.
Perhaps I may add a couple of other points. The Statement which will be made on Thursday will simply give the Government's initial reaction on the publication of what is, as I understand it and as I think both noble Lords made clear, a very lengthy and complex report. Noble Lords opposite are clearly already aware that on Monday 26th February there will be an opportunity for a full debate of Sir Richard Scott's findings on a Motion to be moved by my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie. There will therefore be a full 10 days, including two weekends, which I know are sacred to many Members of your Lordships' House and which will therefore provide an opportunity for ratiocination of an appropriate kind, when your Lordships will be able to peruse the report thoroughly and prepare comments.
Many of your Lordships may feel, as I do, that it is only reasonable to expect that another place will always take a lead in resolving matters to do with the release and handling of a report of this kind. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will forgive me when I say that it might perhaps be regarded as opportunistic of the noble Lord to seek to pursue this matter here when it has been the subject of discussion between the Government and Opposition in another place, as he himself acknowledged.
As Leader of your Lordships' House--the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, freely acknowledged that and I am grateful to him--I have tried to ensure that Opposition spokesmen in this House are accorded exactly equivalent treatment to those in another place. I hope that your Lordships will feel that in doing so I have done everything which your Lordships would expect of me on the matter. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, for his acknowledgement of that, which was made with his usual grace and courtesy.
Perhaps I may also point out that, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, acknowledged, in having the opportunity to read the report in advance on Thursday the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Jenkins, will have the advantage of me. Since I am not one of those Ministers, and I quote,
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