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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I join the dinosaur group in opposing the Motion before us. I do so on the basis that, were it not for the fact that another place wants to alter its arrangements, we would not be discussing the proposal today. The proposal is not for the benefit of Members of this House but for the benefit of Members of the House of Commons, who want to get away early. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that that would be inconvenient to many of your Lordships who want to go away in September to avoid the crowds of children who by September would normally be back in school. That is an important point.
The noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House said that perhaps it would not be right and would be misunderstood by the electorate if we did not sit while the House of Commons sat. That must have been a joke. There have been many occasions, indeed in the last Session, when this House sat on many days when the House of Commons did not. Therefore, presumably people would take the same view of the House of Commons not sitting while the House of Lords sat. That argument does not wash. As has been observed, we have sat without the Commons on many occasions over a number of years.
I would also make the point that it is only when we sit alone that we get a fair crack of the whip from the press and the BBC. Indeed, "Yesterday in Parliament" and "Today in Parliament" come alive because of the marvellous discussions we have in this House, which are given greater prominence and time than would otherwise be the case. That is perhaps a good reason for sitting more often without the House of Commons.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in a measured speech, suggested that this is not the time to decide this matter; and that perhaps we should have more time to consider it. Does that mean that the matter will be pressed to a vote by the Opposition? I hope it does. Indeed, if so, I should have to support them.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, first, I apologise to the noble and learned Lord for not having been present when he moved the Motion. I had what I thought was an extremely good excuse. I opened my party Whipa document which I read every week with intense interest and excitementwhen I first arrived in London this afternoon. I saw four questions tabled on the Order Paper and had no doubt that if I arrived soon after three o'clock I would be in good time. Unfortunately, I missed what I am sure was a most illuminating speech and am sorry for myself as well as for the noble and learned Lord.
I echo those who said that merely because another place does something, that is not a good reason for us to do the same. I am inclined to a different view. If another place does something without good reason, which it often does, I would rather see us make a point of differing. That is what I should like to see us do on this occasion.
I listened with great respect, as I always do, to the noble Lord, Lord Boston. I was impressed by the way in which, despite his disagreement with his noble and learned friend, he massaged him as near as he could into a good mood before he put the knife in and said that he would not be able to vote for the Motion. Disguised in all that complimentary and extremely civil language was a solid point which, I feel confident at guessing, has not even been thought of by another place.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, suggested, it is probable that another place has been thinking solely of its own convenience, as is its habit. It is always nudged into thinking of its own convenience by the diabolical mephistophelean cleverness of an Administration which does not always display cleverness. On this kind of matter, the Administration is cunning indeed. Clearly, once again it has persuaded Members of another place how much more convenient it would be for them and has not mentioned the convenience or otherwise to the Government.
I shall not continue. The rather short, informal way in which we are being slipped into another change is something about which I am wary and do not welcome. Perhaps I may attempt to copy the example given by the noble Lord, Lord Boston, by saying that I hope that nothing I have said today will disturb the happy and friendly relationship I enjoy with the noble and learned Lord.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I was interested to hear my noble friend Lord Peyton graciously apologise to the noble and learned Lord for not having been in his place. I make the same apology because I was not in my place when the noble and learned Lord made his speech. For that I deeply apologise and grovel in sackcloth and ashes before him. I went round like a whirling dervish this morning trying to get things done in order to be here in time to listen to the noble and learned Lord. However, the whirling dervish did not move as quickly as it should, and I apologise. I hope that that will not preclude my adding a few views.
Like my noble friend Lord Peyton, I regret the idea of making this change. I cannot see that it will do much good for anyone, other than for thoseand I can understand thiswho wish to go on holiday at the end of July. Of course people have had children for years and years and they somehow manage to go on holiday. I do not know that that is a very good reason, particularly when Members of the House of Commons and indeed your Lordships receive greater emoluments now. My fear is that we will pay everyone, including ourselves, more and more and alter the processes for our own convenience. I do not know that that is a good idea.
I also think that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, is very true. The Palace of Westminster is a huge place. It has to be repaired. Repairs are programmed five years ahead. Everyone knows that one can get a good slice of time in the Summer Recess. If one leaves in July, comes back in September for two weeks and then goes away and comes back again, it really is not the most efficient way to do things.
Perhaps I may give the noble and learned Lord one small lesson in dynamics. He will know, I am sure, that with two four-inch pipes one does not get nearly so much water out as one does with an eight-inch pipe. In other words, if one goes from Julythe noble and learned Lord is worried already; I know that it is not a legal argumentto October there is a good slice of
I am deeply apprehensive when the noble and learned Lord comes along with a very simple idea that is really just a little modernising of Parliament. I do not think that it is modernising of Parliament; it is unpicking much of what has been done. What we do at the moment in your Lordships' House is to great effect. I do not see that it is necessary for us to alter our times of sitting just because another place has decided to alter its times. I hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Boston, and my noble friend Lord Peyton, said, that the noble and learned Lord will think again, heavily and carefully, about this matter; and that he will conclude that on the whole it is better to leave things as they are and to not make an alteration which momentarily, for some extraordinary reason, he seems to think is a good idea.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I had not intended to take part. I have been listening to the debate with increased disbelief. This is the second Chamber of Parliament. We hear a great deal about the need for Parliament to call the executive to account, with which I entirely agree. Yet we have to consider apparently the convenience of the public works department and of your Lordships' taking holidays in September in order to avoid the children being under their feet as they have gone back to school. It also appears now we should consider the chance of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, appearing on "Today in Parliament".
The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, says that today is too early to consider this matter. As Chief Whip, I used to get asked questions about the Summer Recess about Christmas-time. Noble Lords would come in and say, "We should like to book our holiday. Can you give us any idea when we might rise for the summer?" I used to say, "Well, I will try to get up by the end of July, but we might have to sit in August" and so on. So the idea that this is too early does not run.
I think that it would be sensible to have a six-week breakwhich is what it would befrom the middle of July to the end of August and then to come back to complete the business. I know your Lordships will agree that it is a long haul in this House from Easter until the summer. There is the spring break. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is nodding. It is a long, hard haul for your Lordships. I hope that my noble and learned friend and the Chief Whip will be able to give us a defined date for the break in the summer, which would be in the middle of July. We shall have a six-week break and then come back for two weeks.
Many important things happen in the Summer Recess. If international and domestic issues ariseperhaps a strike or whateverand the Commons is sitting and we are not, I wonder what the effect will be on those who observe this House from the outside.
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