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The Earl of Northesk: It is with both delight and regret that I find myself responding on behalf of the Conservatives to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Longford. The noble Earl's proposition appears to be that nothing in the Bill should reduce or limit the existing powers of your Lordships' House. It is a real pleasure to have that perspective advanced and maintained by such a senior and respected Member of the Government Back Benches. I take this opportunity to ask the Attorney-General whether he is prepared to endorse that view on behalf of the Government.

We agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. Furthermore, we do not believe that anything in Clause 1 as drafted would have the effect that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, fears. To that extent, while we welcome the underlying principles and sentiments of the amendment, we do not believe that it is necessary.

The Attorney-General (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I understand the motive that the two noble Earls have addressed. It may be useful if I spell out the Government's position. We maintain the view that the Parliament Act 1949, the Salisbury/Addison convention and the convention that, after discussion and consideration of the views expressed in this House, the Government will get their business through, provide a proper and satisfactory working basis for the

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relationship between the Houses. I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington, that nothing in the Bill as drafted would have any effect on this House's suspensory veto.

Perhaps I may give a crumb or two of further comfort to both noble Earls by indicating the unanimous view of the report of the Royal Commission, chaired so well by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. I shall give the quotation, which is from Recommendation 3, paragraph 4.12 of the report:

    "The second Chamber should continue to have a suspensory veto of the present length in respect of most primary legislation".

I believe that that is the point which my noble friend Lord Longford made. The qualification refers primarily, of course, to the two special cases. The first relates to extending the life of Parliament, and the second--I am very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, in his place--concerns money Bills. Therefore, I respectfully agree that this provision is not needed. However, if the opportunity were there to be taken, I hope that I have clarified the position so far as concerns the Government.

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8.30 p.m.

The Earl of Longford: I do not find the answers given so far very convincing, although I welcome all the kind things said from the Opposition Bench. Why were those words included in the Explanatory Notes when, at the very least, they were liable to mislead? Certainly they misled me. Nevertheless, I am glad to have raised the matter because it is set out in black and white. On the face of it, anyone would conclude that the Bill would weaken the delaying power of this House. For that reason, I am glad that I raised the matter. No doubt we shall hear more on other issues. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, commands such enormous respect that I timidly suggest to him that the Explanatory Notes should be revised before they are published again. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.

        House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes before nine o'clock.

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