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Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, those of your Lordships who were present at Report stage when my noble friend Lord Ferrers gave the Government's reason for not accepting a somewhat similar amendment will, I am sure, agree that he gave one of the best and indeed most amusing performances that I have ever heard from him. He has quite a record of doing that and of getting the Government out of difficulty by using his charming manner. Unfortunately the answer he gave lacked a certain logic. Indeed, in relation to the previous amendment regarding the Scotland legislation to which he replied at that stage, he was completely caught out. I tried to tell him about that before he came into the Chamber, but unfortunately I did not see him.
Some less charitable than I might say that on the previous occasion when we discussed this matter my noble friend was struggling through a nonsensical government brief. He intimated, for instance, that there was no difference between an affirmative resolution and a negative resolution because they could both be debated. I do not think that is quite the case as regards the House of Commons. Here, it is a question of persuading the Whips to give time for that. Sometimes the Whips are not always keen to do that and can be awkward. My noble friend also said that more parliamentary time would be taken up--as the noble Lord, Lord Carter, said--by an affirmative order than by a negative order. I do not follow that argument. Either it implies a refusal by the Whips to give time to pray against a negative order, or it goes against what my noble friend Lord Mackay said in Committee; namely, that such an order would be rare indeed.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, my noble friend commenced his remarks with deep flattery when he said that he thought I had made such an amusing speech that I had dug the Government out of a hole. All I can say, with equal flattery, is that I have never heard such rubbish in all my life from my noble friend, and that is saying quite a lot.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, my noble friend talks a lot of good sense too, but the important thing is to make sure that good sense overtakes what is not good sense. On this occasion my noble friend has slipped below his normal standard. I wondered whether the noble Lord, Lord Carter, had spoken to his noble friend Lord Williams. Perhaps he has not done so. Perhaps he was not present when his noble friend Lord Williams said this afternoon that we should not discuss again that which has already been discussed. We are doing precisely that. At the instigation of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, we discussed this matter on a previous occasion. However, he has tabled a virtually identical amendment today.
The noble Lord, Lord Carter, does not want me to say that there will be no parliamentary time to discuss the measure. He is saying that he does not want me to use that argument as regards an affirmative resolution procedure. I return to the same argument as I used on the previous occasion when we discussed this matter. There are many occasions when there are affirmative resolutions and many occasions when there are negative resolutions. Almost certainly, on every occasion when these measures arise, someone pops up--it does not matter what Bill it is--and says, "Oh, this is subject to a negative resolution but it ought to be subject to an affirmative resolution; otherwise people will not have the time to discuss things".
If I may say so, that is an old chestnut. There are some matters which are of considerable concern and which should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. However, there are some matters which are subject to the negative resolution procedure. What that means is that the order has to be laid and one has to wait for 40 days, within which time a person can pray against it. This is exactly the kind of occasion where I would suggest that the negative resolution procedure is the best way to proceed.
If we did not have the negative resolution procedure, we would find that your Lordships' time and that of another place was taken up in considering and talking about a whole lot of orders which were subject to the affirmative rather than to the negative resolution procedure. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, may say, "Do not give me that line today". However, that is exactly the line that I am giving him. Certain matters ought to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and others ought to be subject to the negative resolution procedure.
My noble friend said that he wanted to know what was meant by hybridity. I do not know whether he asked the Clerk of the Parliaments about that or whether it was the staff in the Parliament Office. I believe he said that he could not understand a word of the explanation. I am not surprised. Sometimes these matters are difficult to absorb. If my noble friend cannot understand an explanation given on hybridity by officials of the House, I do not think I am the right person to try to lecture him about it. I suggest that he has another go. Hybridity arises on affirmative orders but not on negative orders. Both the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and my noble friend tried to make that a cause of ribaldry. However, the risk of hybridity can arise on rural orders because they remove a rural exemption. That could be seen as affecting adversely individual interests rather than only classes of interest. For example, one might remove a rural exclusion for a parish and that might be seen adversely to affect the individual interests of the one or two landlord associations working in that area. That is how the element of hybridity arises.
I believe that the amendment is unnecessary and undesirable. There is a perfectly good negative resolution procedure. My noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley was correct to say that the provision will not arise all that often. If he keeps his eyes open--I am not suggesting that he is falling asleep; I mean he should keep his eyes open with regard to what is on the Order Paper--and if those who advise him do that, he will know in plenty of time whether there is anything which Parliament ought to discuss. Frankly, I do not think there will be many matters which Parliament ought to discuss as regards these orders. However, if there is anything to discuss, there will be an opportunity to discuss it.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Earl for those comments. Those of us who have lived and worked in the countryside for a long time have seen a number of examples of rural hybridity. I am not attempting to deny the possibility of hybridity. However, it is interesting that the noble Earl did not attempt to deal with the point that I made. I am told that since 1983 the Government have been continually dehybridising affirmative resolution procedure orders. Apparently it is an acknowledged technique. All I am suggesting is that if they are concerned about hybridity--they are entitled to be concerned--there is an easy way to deal with it which is standard procedure; namely to introduce an amendment in the other place which would remove the risk of hybridity.
We hear the argument about parliamentary time on every Bill. We hear the arguments about the affirmative and the negative procedures. In the Government's own words this procedure will be used only rarely. If one is to change a designation, as well as consultation with all the interested parties, which the Government have accepted--they introduced their own amendment on that, although they did not accept the point about having regard to certain views--we feel it is important that the orders should be discussed by both Houses. I am afraid that the noble Earl has not really answered the point that I made. Therefore I should like to take the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.