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Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, what happens next year is not academic. It is extremely important for the British people. It is interesting that I have heard the noble Lord say three times before

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that he thought this might be the outcome after the next election. He has been wrong three times; I hope he will be wrong a fourth time. He asked about the influence of any sponsor on questions of policy. I made it quite clear to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that there will be no such influence, but sponsorship would help to defray the costs, certainly of feeding people.

Starred Questions: Friday Sittings

2.47 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Why Starred Questions are not permitted at Sittings of the House on Fridays.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, on 10th January 1995 the House agreed to a recommendation of the Procedure Committee that no Starred Questions should be taken on Fridays. That recommendation was in line with a recommendation of the Group on Sittings of the House chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, is not the real reason that Ministers do not wish to be cajoled into returning here on a Friday in order to answer Questions? Will he assure the House that Ministers are willing to turn up on Friday to answer Questions put by noble Lords?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, as I have had occasion to say to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on a previous occasion, it is not my duty to defend either Ministers or aspiring Ministers, but I have no doubt whatsoever that our present Ministers will do whatever the House requires of them as regards the proceedings of this House. To go back to the original part of the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, it is not the case that this proposal was intended to have that effect for either Ministers, aspiring Ministers or indeed Front-Benchers in any other part of the House. It was part of a package of proposals which were put forward by the Group on Sittings of the House chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, aimed at saving the time of your Lordships' House, especially late at night, so that we could rise at a more civilised hour.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, is not the real reason behind the real reason not that Ministers are unwilling to appear before the House but that their civil servants wish to send them off on visits around the country to keep them out of mischief?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, if I am not answerable for Ministers, I am even less answerable for their civil servants. As I have also had occasion to suggest to your Lordships before, I feel that not only Ministers but other Front Bench Members of your Lordships' House have other duties

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to the nation than appearing here. They have a duty to get round the country, and indeed abroad, to further the interests of the nation.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, can it possibly be the case that certain noble Lords who like to ask a lot of Questions would wish to ask many more?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, that may well be the case. However, if that were so there would be many more Answers too.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, under the present arrangements the House is able to put down some 15 or 16 Questions a week. Those Questions are usually to the point and are answered with a remarkable degree of clarity which is not always available in another place. Is it not in the interests of the House that on a sitting day Members can ask specific Questions, in particular in regard to EEC matters which occupy a large amount of reading time of all Members of your Lordships' House? On balance it might be advantageous, if only for clarity, to have Questions on Friday as well.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, on a previous occasion before an intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, I was rash enough to note that he had not intervened on that Question on a European matter. He has now intervened even without my provocation.

The noble Lord raises a serious point. There is great substance in what he says about the tabling and answering of Questions. However, Friday Sittings are a different matter. After a great deal of consideration by the Group on the Sittings of the House, the proposal was specifically recommended as a means of saving additional time. Coupled with that recommendation was the group's expectation that the House would not sit beyond 2.30 in the afternoon on those additional Fridays. That would leave only three and half hours. If we were to have Starred Questions on a Friday as well it would diminish by half an hour the sitting time for a normal Friday Sitting.

The aim is to save time and to enable your Lordships to rise earlier. I suggest that we would not wish to prejudice that time saving.

Lord Desai: My Lords, following the point made by my noble friend Lord Bruce, would it not be a good idea to have EEC Questions only on a Friday? Then one would have no Friday Sittings!

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, tempts me. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, said on a previous occasion, I am apt to resist temptation sometimes.

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Bull-bars: EC Directive

2.52 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to ensure that the European Commission introduces an amendment to Directive 74/483/EEC so as to prohibit the use of bull-bars on road vehicles.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the Commission has recently proposed an amendment to the External Projections Directive which would control the fitment of aggressive bull-bars. A working group has been set up to develop the proposals further and the department is actively involved in this work.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging reply. What is the timing of the next stage of the Commission's progress? How soon is a European directive expected?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my noble friend is right to say that there has been progress. A specific working group has been set up to discuss the issue. There is a meeting on 16th July. We hope that there will be some progress. We have commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory to inform our thinking on this matter. It is clear that there are still significant difficulties in reaching an agreement, but we are working hard towards one.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, the House will have been interested in the Minister's initial reply, in particular the reference to "aggressive" bull-bars. Will he explain the difference between aggressive bull-bars and any other bull-bars?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, yes, aggressive bull-bars are those that would do the most damage to pedestrians. There are other types of bull-bars which are not necessarily thick, steel, sharp-edged bars. There are those made out of deformable plastic.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is it well known in Europe that "bull-bars" is the British term? "Roo-bars" is what the term is in the country where they originated; and they were designed to protect the driver because a vehicle radiator is rapidly smashed by a large kangaroo colliding with it, and dusk is the most dangerous time. As a member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety, perhaps I may say that it is important that we do everything we can to press for the prohibition of these bars, which are not appropriate in Europe.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. We rely on her for marsupial advice on these matters. But she is right. It is an important issue, on which we are working hard to bring about a solution.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the noble Viscount confirm to the House that the Government

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have received the permission of the European Commission for a proposal to be introduced for the amendment of the legislation? If they have received permission, it must be counted considerably to their credit, because under the treaty only the Commission can originate a proposal.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I understand that the Commission has recently proposed an amendment to the directive. We welcome the Commission's involvement. My honourable friend the Minister for Road Safety, Steven Norris, had a meeting with the European Commissioner, Mr. Kinnock, at which it was agreed that a European approach was the best way forward.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, would it have been possible for the British Government to have made these bull-bars illegal without the involvement of the European Commission, if that is what we had wished to do?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, there are powers under the Road Traffic Act, but there are difficulties. A vehicle with the optional equipment of bull-bars could be type approved, in which case we would be bound to accept it. That is why we do not believe that national action is appropriate without having first overcome the European problem.

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