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I assume that sub-paragraph (c) amounts essentially to a view that if they can agree, it will happen; if they cannot agree, in practice, it will not happen. We are discussing technical Bills of the type with which I had to deal on the Front Bench, of the most boring, tedious kind, which most noble Lords do not turn up to debate. On the whole, we get them through anyway. If, for example, the Trade Marks Bill had not got through in time, it would have been sensible with no constitutional--I regard as preposterous the suggestion that we are involved in the most fundamental constitution-making here--aspects, to have said, "We have got this far, but no further. Let us get it cleared off when we come back, without starting it again".
Someone, at least, should congratulate the Commons--if I dare use the words--on the slight possibility that they might modernise themselves. They usually set their face totally against modernisation in any form. I should have thought that that was a good thing. Speaking entirely for myself, I hope that one day your Lordships might also consider this and one or two other modernisations. If I may put it in the vernacular, it is no big deal.
Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, item 2--the carry-over of Bills--with great respect to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, was discussed in the Procedure Committee. It appeared in the report of the Procedure Committee, which we are now debating. It has not been sneaked into the House in any underhand manner. It is up to all noble Lords, as I am sure they are all aware, and noticeably aware, judging by how full the Chamber is, to debate all reports of the Procedure Committee. This has not been sneaked in in any manner. That is not to say that I do not have grave reservations about the carry-over of Bills. I think that I share the reservations of a number of noble Lords, because I have a nasty feeling that this could be the thin edge of a wedge.
I should turn to the question of Peers speaking with hands in their pockets. This is an example more than a reality. All of us in the Procedure Committee, and outside it, are concerned that the guidance given in the Companion to the Standing Orders should be read, understood and obeyed by Members on all sides of the House. That is what we are concerned about.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I support the points put by my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree. My main intervention concerns item 5 of the report which relates to our conduct in the Chamber. There are two areas which do not appear to have been mentioned in the report which may be significant, about which I could perhaps ask the noble Lord the Chairman of
The second may be a little more controversial. It is whether the noble Lord's committee has considered the dilemma of noble Lords appearing to slumber in the Chamber. We all know that noble Lords do not slumber in the Chamber. The lights are strong, some of us are hard of hearing and getting harder of hearing, and we put our heads back to the loud speakers to hear what is going on. It appears to me to be a sensible time to raise this issue, because the public is not generally aware of the enormous service which your Lordships' House gives to the nation. In view of the scrutiny which, one way or another, your Lordships' House is undergoing at the moment, I should have thought that that is an area which, if not on this occasion perhaps on the next occasion, the noble Lord's committee might care to look into, to the profit of us all.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I have listened with patience. I have the assurance of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that I am not behaving arrogantly. I am not full of hubris. My hands are not in my pockets. Perhaps I may now say something on the carry-over point.
Perhaps I may give the assurance that the noble Lord, Lord Dean, wants. It is not the Government's intention, for one instant, that carry-over should apply to--if I may use the phrase--the bulk of the Government's programme. That is not the object of the exercise. The Leader of the House of Commons wrote to me indicating the sort of circumstances in which the Government might wish to carry over a Bill. The analysis of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, seemed to me to be absolutely apposite, and frankly a strong argument in favour of the proposal.
The circumstances that the Government have in mind are, first, a programme Bill which was announced in the Queen's speech, which is introduced late because of some external event, such as a court decision or prolonged consultation, which could only complete its passage in the Session of its introduction if it were rushed through. A second possibility would be a programme Bill which is on target to complete its passage shortly before the end of the Session but which is displaced by an urgent Bill introduced on another matter. Another example might be a programme Bill
In all those circumstances, it would not be unreasonable for the Government to consider the possibility of carrying over the Bill, provided that it was still down in the other place. One final possible case for carry-over might be of a government Bill which is intended to be introduced in the following Session, but which has been drafted in advance which is ready for introduction in the previous Session. Introducing it in the previous Session would allow for much fuller parliamentary consideration than if it were held over into the following Session.
I wish to make two further points. The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said that the matter had been sneaked in by the back door. With great respect to the noble Earl, the House has debated this previously on a Procedure Committee report. I have forgotten the exact date, but I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was concerned, as the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, pointed out. The House has had an opportunity on at least two occasions--on the Floor of the House and in Procedure Committee twice--to express a view.
Finally, it is perfectly clear that the eligibility for Bills to be carried over should be settled by informal discussion through the usual channels. If the usual channels cannot agree, prima facie there will be no carry-over. I should have thought that there were sufficient protections built into that procedure at least for this House to agree that the other House be allowed to conduct the experiment that it has proposed to the modernisation committee.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, in view of the discussions we have had, and the business to follow, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not refer to all those who have taken part in the debate. Indeed, most noble Lords spoke on the question of carry-over. Those matters have been dealt with in the remarks made by the noble Lord the Leader of the House.
I mention two points on paragraph 1 of the report regarding the use of the Queen's name. First, it is necessary to place this on the record. The Procedure Committee's debate on the matter was thorough and lengthy. I was grateful for the substantial contributions made to that debate by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers, the Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and the Chief Whips. From that alone your Lordships may feel satisfied about the weight of the discussion. Apart from the useful contributions from the Back-Benchers of the Procedure Committee, perhaps I may mention the helpful contribution by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. On behalf of your Lordships, perhaps I may express our best wishes to Lady Mackay of Clashfern for a speedy recovery from her accident in Scotland.
I refer to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. In the light of what has been said in your Lordships' House, and by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, I hope that noble Lords will feel able to accept the amendment to the Procedure Committee's report.
One point arising from the debate is whether or not Erskine May is binding, or applies in this House as it applies in another place. The committee was firmly of the clear view that Erskine May applies in this House just as in another place. It is not binding. While Erskine May is a powerful authority, it represents a statement of the decisions which your Lordships have made on procedural matters. If any amendment is to be made in your Lordships' procedures, no doubt this would be duly recorded in Erskine May in a subsequent edition. Noble Lords may agree that it would not be appropriate for the suggestion made in some quarters that an amendment to Erskine May be put forward by your Lordships' House to be followed. It is not within our power to do that. It is a commercial undertaking. It simply records what we have decided, and another place has decided. I am sure that any changes made by your Lordships will be recorded in future in precisely that manner.
I need say nothing on carry-over, because those matters have been dealt with by the noble Lord the Leader of the House. However, I should mention the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, on the question of hands in pockets. I am grateful for the indication the noble Lord has given that he does not propose to move the amendment. However, what has been said has been noted and will be taken into account. As noble Lords will know, there is nothing to stop matters being raised again in the Procedure Committee, if it is appropriate to do so.
I can answer the noble Lord on one point. I hesitate to do so because it concerns another place. Another place regards it as undesirable for honourable and right honourable Members to speak with their hands in their pockets. I well remember one occasion during the speakership of the late and very much loved Sir Harry Hylton-Foster. As noble Lords know, as in this House, remarks have to be made through the chair in another place. We are not allowed to address noble Lords as "you". Matters were becoming heated and the Scottish Member on the Labour side was driven to say at one stage, "Stand up straight, man. Take your hands out of your pockets", whereupon Sir Harry rose rather meekly from the chair and said, "But I didn't have my hands in my pockets". That is one salutary lesson that we in your Lordships' House might learn from another place.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, and the contributions made on that matter will be taken into account. I hope that I have not left out any vital matters. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, will indicate what he will do about his amendment.
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