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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the noble Baroness is gracious to give way, but she still has not answered the question why, at Report stage, Amendment No. 11 was prima facie hybrid when at the previous Committee stage exactly the same amendment, Amendment No. 110E, was not considered to be hybrid.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do not seek in any way to be unhelpful, but I believe that the matters raised by my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General, which I rehearsed, cover the point. If the noble Lord is still unhappy about it, perhaps it is better to deal with it in a forum other than this debate. But I assure him that the points then made in response by my noble and learned friend were adequate.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and other noble Lords that I have decided it is appropriate in this instance to quote from the advice given by the House authorities. The advice is not
I have gone into some detail--I suspect rather more than the patience of the House would prefer--in order to put on record precisely the points that my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General made in reply to debate. Without impugning the motives of some noble Lords who have taken part in the debate this afternoon, I suspect that we are spending time on matters that have already been discussed at great length and we would better spend our time on the important legislation which is set down for debate for the remainder of today. The questions raised by the noble Lords have already been carefully considered both in debate and by the appropriate House authorities.
Although the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, seeks to patronise me on the question of manners and grace, I am bound to tell the House that on this Bill I represent and lead for the Government. The Government feel very strongly, as do my Back-Benchers, that we have wasted a great deal of time.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do. However, I am also a government Minister, and in this instance my government ministerial responsibilities are paramount. I hope that the noble Earl will take my remarks as a reflection of the degree of feeling on this side of the House about the way in which some of these matters have been conducted. In the United States an American commentator some time ago coined the phrase clinging to the furniture". In that instance he was describing the attempts by President Nixon to hold on to office in the White House in the face of overwhelming political and legal opinion. That is not a phrase that is much used in this country. But there are some noble Lords on this side of the House whose patience is becoming stretched on some of these Motions. As the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said,
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, first I thank the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition for his kind words. However, I take issue with the Leader of the House. The question of hybridity has arisen in this House on a number of occasions, but it has never been fully discussed until today. I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate and expressed their views.
When I first became involved in this Bill--the accusation has been thrown at me, as I knew it would, that this is rather a late stage at which to bring the matter up--I did not seek to raise the issue of hybridity. However, I find myself in the same position as the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. When I tabled an amendment I received a letter from the Clerk of Public Bills which said that if my amendment were accepted it would make the Bill hybrid. According to my first understanding of the Bill, I believed that my amendment would make it less hybrid. I then began to gain an understanding as to what parliamentarians regarded as hybridity. To some extent, that is my excuse for bringing up this matter rather late in the day.
Reference was made to the time remaining. Noble Lords will be aware that there are three weeks left of the present Session. One of the difficulties in moving this Motion is that, according to the Clerks, there is a lack of precedence as to how a referral for hybridity should be considered. My understanding is that it should be fairly easy to wrap it up in a couple of weeks, if not less.
Another question was raised about our interest in private rights. Any private rights that I may have here are not matters that feature largely in my life. However, I refer back to the letter from the Examiners which speaks of the danger of hybridity. From that, I take it that the Examiners have ruled that there are private rights. It is not a question of whether I or anybody else wants those private rights, but a whole class of people is being deprived of them.
I accept that this is very much a political Bill and that it has been the subject of much debate in many political circles. It is, however, also a constitutional Bill which directly affects Parliament, and it is as parliamentarians taking part in the constitution of this country that we consider this measure today. It is entirely right that the procedures of the House should be adhered to and that potential legislation, particularly that affecting the constitution, should be rigorously examined to ensure that any flaws are removed and that that which passes on to the statute book is well considered and constructed legislation. I intend to press my Motion and seek the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.
Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I thank all those who spoke in response to my particular presentation as regards the hybrid measures. I would like to make one or two brief comments. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, simply does not comprehend sufficiently that a constitution is private. A number of noble Lords quite rightly said--the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, has raised this already--that the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, was quite correct in agreeing with me when I presented various questions about certain of the parts of the Bill which, as I have argued, make it hybrid. None the less, having had the opinion of the House on the Motion moved by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, it would be unwise of me to press further. I shall not move my Motion to refer the Bill to the Examiners in respect of Clause 2(2).
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