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Lord Shepherd: My Lords, perhaps I may say to the Leader of the House that I agree entirely that my noble friend has taken an unusual step. Perhaps I may also agree with the noble Viscount that in practice it is undesirable. On the other hand, there are times and circumstances in which unusual and perhaps undesirable steps have to be taken. This is a matter for this House because a Statement will be repeated here. It is not for us to say what should be done or what should be agreed in another place. The noble Viscount has a duty to the House. As I have said on a number of occasions, so, too, the Leader of the Opposition has a duty and an obligation to the House as a whole, but the Leader of the Opposition has no more rights than any of us sitting in the Chamber this afternoon. However, our parliamentary assembly has a formalised procedure whereby, when the Government, through their Minister, make a Statement, it is expected in every quarter of this House that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party will be in a position to give a measured and considered response.
My argument is not about time; although it is an extraordinarily short period in which to consider a paper which, like the noble Viscount, I have not read other than through leaks in the press. It is clearly a report of
My anxiety is about what is called the "controlled environment". I never thought that I would hear those words used of the British Parliament and I hope that this House will take the view, perhaps this afternoon, that we are not part of the controlled environment. Parliament should be the complete opposite of that. As I understand my noble friend, what is being said is that he and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins--I forget those who are down in another place because they are not material to us--will go into a controlled environment, such as the Cabinet Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Home Office or wherever, and will sit there under surveillance to read what could well be a report of infinite significance with the object of coming to this House to give a considered view.
Having been a Leader of this House, I have to say to the noble Viscount that I cannot imagine--I am putting this point directly to noble Lords opposite--what would have happened if I had gone to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, then the Leader of the Opposition, and said, "I can't trust you. You cannot be trusted to have these papers in your room in the House of Lords". I have been here so many years that I can even remember the great Leader of the Opposition, Lord Salisbury. If I had gone, from my side of the Chamber to Lord Salisbury and said, "I cannot trust you to read this report in your room in the House of Lords", we would have been murdered, and quite rightly so.
If we have reached a point when we say that the noble Lord the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and member of the Privy Council, and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and member of the Privy Council, cannot be trusted to guard a paper in their own offices, then we are in a parlous situation. A price will be paid--a price which I do not believe the noble Viscount would wish to recognise let alone to pay.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, from these Back Benches, I understand fully the reservations about the controlled environment. I cannot help but feel that that phrase was not just unfortunate, but may well have been misunderstood.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, if noble Lords will bear with me, I cannot conceive that it can have meant anything that has been attributed to it today in your Lordships' House. At least I have lived some of my life in what was a controlled environment. This is a Business of the House Motion. This is a wholly unprecedented occasion. Is this the occasion to depart from precedent? It is said that it is because of the second Motion. On that Motion, surely Her Majesty's Government ought to be in a position to confirm, as they always have done. Who is to advise them whether they are to make a Statement and when they are to make a Statement? Whether it be the Opposition or the
If they give their initial reaction to the report, it would surely be--this a matter of fact--to affirm that that application was a serious deception which inevitably warranted the institution of proceedings, because that machine tool was computer programmed for the manufacture of shell cases. It would be confirmed that there had been no relaxation of those guidelines.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, the noble Lord says, "Order". There is another Motion on the Order Paper to which noble Lords opposite have spoken, to which my noble friend the Leader of the House has spoken, and to which, with the leave of the House--to which I always defer--I intend to speak. I have one more thing to say.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I am not. Perhaps my noble friend will allow me--we are not friends in a political sense, but we are friends in another sense--to say that I am not. He misunderstands me. What I am saying is that any government have the right to make a Statement if they wish, and to make a Statement when they choose. That is the constitutional position.
I have given two examples in relation to the next Motion to which noble Lords opposite have spoken--the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, has spoken--and to which surely I am entitled to speak. That is all I am seeking to do. I have just one more thing to say. These PII certificates, as will be explained, were issued in total conformity with the decisions of the Appellate Committee of your Lordships' House.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, the decision was that there was no irregularity. The Government are entitled to say that in their initial reaction to the report. I thank noble Lords for their patience.
Lord Richard rose to move to resolve, That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to allow reasonable time and facilities to Opposition spokesmen prior to the Statement in Parliament on the Scott Report.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not propose to weary the House with a second speech. I was a little surprised at the procedural petulance of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. Surely he would have realised--
Lord Richard: My Lords, surely the noble Viscount the Leader of the House would have realised, and indeed should have realised, that the usual channels have not been clogged for the past 24 hours. If there had been any suggestion that he would have accepted this Motion, naturally we would have considered it; but none came.
I want to make just two points, and then I shall leave it. The issue now before the House is not the merits of the report; it is the facilities being offered to Opposition parties before the Statement is made on Thursday. I do not propose to repeat what I said before. What is on offer is basically unreasonable. I beg to move.
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.