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Lord Rooker: What I said was not taken in good faith, from the noises I heard to my right. The minute I said, "I will ask parliamentary counsel to look at it just in case, because he hasn't done it at the moment", all of a sudden suspicion that I am not speaking the truth or that I am not operating in good faith came from the noises from my noble friend. So, I am not qualifying that.

When I arrived for work this morning, Amendments Nos. 10 to 13, 33 and 45 were in one group. At quarter past twelve today, they were all separated. So, do not start telling me about changes in the rules of this place. I am new here. My noble friend has been here for donkey's years. If he wants to work in a situation of anarchy, that is up to him. My noble friend was quite in order to speak to Amendment No. 33. When Amendment No. 33 is reached I do not intend to say anything else about it. I have indicated that I will recommend that it be accepted into the Bill. I have said everything I am going to say about it because anything else needs to wait until Report.

So, I am not going to repeat what I have said when we come to Amendment No. 33. My noble friend can simply beg to move formally and I shall recommend that it is accepted.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My noble friend suggests that the groupings of amendments, which as I understand it were made by his own department, were there when he first saw the proposed groupings. What was changed, according to the rules and conventions of groupings, which are well set out in the Companion, was that the amendments in the name of myself and my noble friends were rearranged into the new list of groupings. There is not only nothing improper in that and something about which he can complain; it was done according to the normal rules—with the complete co-operation of my noble friend the Chief Whip and more particularly his staff who were most helpful—between 11 a.m. and 12.5 p.m. today.

So, I hope that he will take away his complaint about the way that groupings are done and reconsider them in the light of the enormous effort which the staff put in on these very complex matters which yet have to be debated on the Bill.

Lord Lea of Crondall: In the light of what has been said, I want to make a point of clarification. Noble Lords may wish to know that it is true that Amendments Nos. 10 and 33 were in the same group. Obviously, I had nothing to do with that; no one had anything to do with that apart from the normal processes. Then, at a very late stage there was this big change. All other people could have objected, made a counter-objection or another objection until the cows came home; there was no room for that sort of debate.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: I am sorry, but my noble friend really must understand that he could have gone to the officials in charge of groupings by

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12 o'clock, which we did. He could have gone to say what he wanted done with his amendment. What we did was to say that we did not want our amendments debated in the same group as his amendments; that is all.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: I was not going to intervene in this part of the proceedings but I want to make two comments. I do not think that wrangling between my noble friends—they are my noble friends—is helpful either during the debate or particularly at this time of night. I want to make one further comment. When my noble friend Lord Lea moved his amendment, I happened to listen carefully and I think that it will add something to the Bill.

Knowing my noble friend Lord Lea as I do, I cannot believe that he would move an amendment that would not be agreed by the union involved, or about which the union involved would not be happy.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: Oh!

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: Therefore, I merely say that at this stage I cannot see that this debate should go on in the wrangling way that it is.

Lord McCarthy: I want to pour a little oil, if I can, but I have to say before I start that I have been in this House since 1968—1978 rather; it seems like 1968. When I was the spokesman for the party in opposition, the government arranged the amendments in the order that they suggested, but anybody who wanted to—even then it all stopped at twelve o'clock—could go along and see the appropriate officials and put down their amendments in the groupings that they wanted. As regards the sovereignty of the individuals who write amendments to say how they want to debate them, I do not know when it started in this House but it has been there a very, very, very long time. And, of course, it is all right because the Chairman does not choose which amendments to take. Any tom fool can write an amendment in this House and it goes on the Marshalled List. That is the way it has always been done. Of course, not everybody knows about it because not everybody moves amendments. Some people move only one amendment and it does not matter much to them where it goes in, but it matters to us. It has always mattered to us. We have always taken—I did when I was the spokesman for the party when in opposition—advantage of the principle of the sovereignty of the order and grouping of amendments. That is a fact.

I want to be placatory. I want to be helpful. I am very, very pleased that the Minister has made this concession. It is the first one we have had. I hope that it encourages him to make a lot more. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Lea, tabled the measure because if it had not been tabled we would not have got it.

But, on the other hand, I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Lea, said and I hope this heralds a change. I refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Lea, said about the attitude of this Government towards third-party

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dispute resolution. Indeed, the Prime Minister with his commendable candour has said on several occasions that he does not believe in arbitration. I do not think that he has quite explained why. Perhaps he is changing; I do not know. But the Government, although they have used ACAS—you cannot live in this world without using ACAS—do not encourage that and they did not encourage it in the dispute we are discussing. As the Minister says, there is a provision in the existing procedures in the Fire Service which allows for conciliation, mediation and arbitration binding provisions. It comes from the report of the inquiry into the machinery for determining fire-fighters' conditions of service. They are subject to review. They are being renegotiated now.

I have not asked the parties why they did not invoke that procedure. I think that the union probably did not invoke it because it preferred a strike as it thought that it could get further with the industrial dispute, which it is perfectly entitled to do. It has a perfect right to take industrial action and not to use arbitration. But it is ex parte. The employers could have done that if they had wanted to. But that is not what employers tend to do these days. Third party dispute resolution is at a discount. It is going to be more at a discount if, frankly, it is given a certain name, and its name is applied to what we have in this Bill, because, as I said at Second Reading, this Bill uses the sacred name of arbitration to do something which is an imposed settlement. It would have been better if the Government had thought of another name, but they did not.

I hope that we shall be glad that we have this advance. I thank the Minister for the advance. I hope that it will be one of many more to come. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: We finish at eight o'clock and we are now looking at Amendments Nos. 11 and 13. We will start these and if we finish before eight o'clock, fine. If not, we must break off at eight.

Lord McCarthy: Is the noble Lord asking me a question or is he telling me what he is going to do? I would like to stop now because, frankly, we shall not finish the group. But if the noble Lord wants to insist that we go on, of course we shall go on.

Baroness Turner of Camden: I thought we used to finish at half past seven.

Lord McCarthy: Yes, I thought we finished at half past seven—or I thought that we finished our business at half past seven. I am sure I am right in saying that if were following previous precedent, we would finish now.

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Lord Rooker: With respect, we have the agreement of the Hansard writers. We have the workers to consider. We are going to eight o'clock. At eight o'clock we will finish wherever we are.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: We have the approval of the usual channels to go to eight o'clock. In the rules and regulations of the Grand Committee, there is provision to go beyond 7.30.

Baroness Hanham: I have been reluctant all afternoon to cause any further grief to the proceedings—not a vicarious pleasure in watching them. My only observation is that it seems to be late to start another grouping. It is almost ten minutes to eight. With your Lordships' agreement, I suggest that we ought to stop now and start again another day.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: With all due respect, we have an agreement with the usual channels to finish at eight. If we are part way through an amendment, so be it. If we start Amendment No. 11, we will finish exactly at eight o'clock.

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