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Lord Joffe: My Lords, noble Lords will be very interested in one of them. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, at one of the earlier formal hearings that the discussion that he wanted on the Bill should not be abused by parliamentary tactics but should be a robust discussion. It seems to me that what we have here is designed to prevent robust debate on a number of issues that can be looked at in proper depth only in Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and I have a clear disagreement on whether the committee's recommendations have been addressed in my Bill. We can tease out which one of us is correct only by going through it in the detail that is required in Committee. My final point
Lord Joffe: My Lords, I think that noble Lords will be very interested in my final point. The purpose of the Bill is to bring an end to the debate. I am afraid that, should the amendment succeed, it will actually sustain the debate because, in the next Session, I will reintroduce the Bill, and I will continue to do so until a full debate through all the usual stages has been held, in accordance with the traditions that have almost always been followed in this House.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, at 12 and a half minutes past five on a Friday afternoon, I am sure that your Lordships will forgive me if I do not do what I would otherwise have wished to do. I would very much have enjoyed addressing your Lordships in reply to every speech in this debate, but that would not be appropriate.
I was taught when I was at school never to be intimidated by what was described at the time as an argumentum ad baculum. The stick of the threatthe baculus of the threatthat this provision will be brought back if it is defeated today intimidates neither me nor anyone of my view one jot. I urge the House to ignore it.
I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, who has given us the opportunity with his usual preparedness and eloquence to have a wonderful debate today, has to an extent misrepresented the views of the Clerk of
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the Parliaments. I want to set that record straight. I would not have referred to the views of the Clerk of the ParliamentsI would not have considered it properhad it not been done by someone else. I shall read your Lordships the extract, which is brief, verbatim:
"Could I make it clear that there is no long established convention that the House does not divide on the Second Reading of Private Members Bills. As I stated in a letter to Lord Williamson of Horton on 17 March: 'There has been a noticeable shift of practice in recent years and divisions on Second Reading, which used to be "not uncommon", are now distinctly unusual.' That remains the position. It is unusual, but not improper, to vote against the Second Reading provided notice has been given on the order paper".
I want make one or two comments before I close. No one who has been in this House today will, I suspect, ever forget the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean. However, required reading for anyone considering this subject should be the unemotional, measured and informed speech by the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, a nurse. It informed us all enormously and, when it was made, well into the debate, it took forward the argument by several steps.
I would counsel your Lordships to beware of public opinion. I was brought up in Burnley, Lancashire. Nelson, a fine place, was pejoratively known in those days as "little Moscow". Sidney Silverman died. He had been the main proponent of the abolition of capital punishment. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, was elected as Member of Parliament for Nelson and Colnehe later represented another constituency with great distinction and became Home Secretaryas a result of public opinion in Nelson against the abolition of capital punishment in the aftermath of the moors murders. That opinion might not be quite as extreme today, butwith enormous respect to the noble Lord, Lord MoserI have a strong suspicion that capital punishment is but one of several examples of public opinion which we in this House and Members of another place would never follow, because, as I said at the beginning, they are pillars, not weathercocks, when it comes to dealing with public opinion.
The essence of this debate has been demonstrated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who chaired the committee whose deliberations have been referred to extensively this afternoon. Surely the question is: is this Bill fit for legislation? Can it be amended to make it a suitable piece of legislation for the laws of this land? I and a number of other people who have spoken in this debate say not. I say to your Lordships that we have reached the point where we should vote on the principle. I sense that this House wishes to vote on the principle, so I respectfully ask this House to agree to my amendment.
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