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(iii) Any proposal for a common strategy, a joint action or a common position under Title V (provisions on a common foreign and security policy) of the Treaty on European Union which is prepared for submission to the Council or to the European Council;
(iv) Any proposal for a common position, framework decision, decision or a convention under Title VI (provisions on police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters) of the Treaty on European Union which is prepared for submission to the Council;
(v) Any document (not falling within (ii), (iii) or (iv) above) which is published by one Union institution for or with a view to submission to another Union institution and which does not relate exclusively to consideration of any proposal for legislation;
That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees and to refer to such sub-committees any of the matters within the terms of reference of the committee; that the committee have power to appoint the chairmen of sub-committees, but that such sub-committees have power to appoint their own chairman for the purpose of particular inquiries; that two be the quorum of such sub-committees;
Moved, pursuant to Standing Order 74 and the resolution of the House of 16th December 1997, That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed to join with a Committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments:
Baroness Amos rose to move to resolve, That it is the opinion of this House that, subject to the requirements of business, the House should rise for the Summer Recess not later than Thursday 22nd July 2004, should sit during two weeks in September 2004, and should sit again no sooner than Monday 11th October 2004.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Group on Working Practices, chaired last year by my predecessor, noted that the other place was to start sitting in September and recommended that this House should do the same. The Procedure Committee said that it supported the group's aim of a more balanced parliamentary year and recommended that the House should decide. Accordingly, the late Lord Williams of Mostyn moved a Motion similar to this one on 25th November last year. That Motion was explicitly limited to 2003. I now invite the House to agree to experiment with this new sitting pattern for a further year.
At the end of this Session the House will have to decide which aspects of the working practices package, if any, to keep, vary or abandon, including this one. Following that decision, there should be no further need for an annual Motion.
The other place will sit next September and I invite the House to do the same. The same arguments apply as for the previous Session. The September sitting pattern is rational in its own right. It is more balanced over the year; it is more family friendly; it is less open to criticism of excessive summer holidays; and it reduces the risk of emergency recall. I cannot imagine that we would have got through this summer without a recall if we had not been due to sit in September.
In a bicameral Parliament the two Houses should march broadly in step. If the Motion is not agreed to it will be impossible to do anything on a bicameral basis between 22nd July and 11th Octoberno ping-pong; no Royal Assent; no approval of affirmative instruments; no creating or convening of a Joint Committeeunless one House or the other is recalled specifically.
Let me be clear. If the Motion is agreed to then, as my noble friend the Chief Whip told the House on 30th October, subject to progress of business, it is expected that the House will rise on 22nd July and resume on 7th September; rise on 16th September for the party conferences and resume on 11th October. If it is disagreed to then, subject to progress of business, it is expected that the House will rise on 28th July and resume on 4th October. It is a straight swap; seven
Moved to resolve, That it is the opinion of this House that, subject to the requirements of business, the House should rise for the Summer Recess not later than Thursday 22nd July 2004, should sit during two weeks in September 2004, and should sit again no sooner than Monday 11th October 2004.(Baroness Amos.)
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, so far as we are concerned, this is a free vote, and I hope that that is so on all sides of the House. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House has just given us further assurance that, whether the Motion is won or lost, it will make no difference to the total number of sitting days. I accept that that is determined by the time that we take to consider the business before us. I am grateful to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for giving the whole House the chance to vote on the issue.
I shall vote against the Motion, as I prefer the traditional pattern of sittings. So does my wifethat is an influential matter, at least for me. I wish to make clear that the proposal is not the same as the one that we had a year ago following the report on working practices by Lord Williams of Mostyn. He suggested, and noble Lords agreed, that in the previous Session we should rise in mid-July and sit for two weeks in early September. This Motion is different. Assuming the exigencies of business do not interfere, we would rise three-quarters of the way through July, as the noble Baroness made clear, and definitely not sit during the Conservative Party conference at the end of the recess.
The main argument advanced previously, and again today, is that it is desirable for this House to sit at the same time as another place. I see no logic or merit in that argument. Conventionally, the Houses have not sat on the same days, and our annual pattern of business varies from that of another place. Furthermore, I understand that sitting in September tends to increase the running costs of this House. We pride ourselvesat least, sometimeson making a relatively modest call on public funds for the expense of running this House. I do not know how much the increase will be, or whether the noble Baroness the Leader of the House can tell us how much more it would cost to accept the Motion, but I have been unable to come across a figure yet.
I accept the argument that sometimes Parliament has been recalled during the long recess because of war or another large matter. However, although we sat earlier this year for two weeks in September while the crisis in Iraq was pressing, we had a Statement and some Questions but the Government did not find time for us to debate Iraq because of the weight, and the late introduction, of government Bills. We did not debate Iraq or any such matter in September. I question whether it would have been necessary to recall
Lord Roper: My Lords, we welcome the opportunity for the House to consider the matter. It is a fulfilment of the pledge given by the previous Leader of the House, Lord Williams of Mostyn. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House suggested that it was to the advantage of a bicameral House to meet at identical times and gave three reasons why that was convenient. There is not much ping-pong in September, and we do not often set up new Joint Committees at that time of year. Although I accept the point about Royal Assent, the other two points do not seem fundamental.
It can be arguedalthough it is not too strong a point either waythat if the Houses sit at slightly different times, there are more days in the year in which one House is in session to hold the Government to account and to ask Questions on issues of topical interest. There are arguments running both ways on the efficacy of Parliament.
On this matter there is a free vote in all parts of the House. I suspect that most noble Lords will take into account their personal interests, although it is important that we consider the other parliamentary issues raised.
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