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In that respect, I find paragraph 1 of the report a fair recommendation of the conclusions reached. It represents the balance of the discussion and of the decision. I dissent from the view of the noble Viscount in so far as he feels that it might be expressed differently. I would not dissent if the advice of the Leader of the House were accepted and we deleted those words, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. Having said that, I believe the report to be a fair minute of our discussions under the chairmanship of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees.
On the final subject of the report--conduct in the Chamber--and the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, it is fair to say that we reached that item late in the afternoon after discussing other matters, and that such were the persuasive powers of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that none of us felt able to dispute what he was proposing. Therefore, given that I was silent on the matter at that time, I cannot now argue for any amendment to the report.
Nevertheless, returning to what I said at the beginning, I think that we can often be too pompous. If a noble Lord finds it more comfortable to speak in your Lordships' House with his hands in his pockets, I do not think that we should unreasonably object, any more than we should unreasonably object if a noble Lord turns up wearing trainers from time to time--
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: --as, indeed, at least one noble Lord occasionally does. We are a working Chamber of Parliament and we will be better respected outside the more we keep these matters in perspective.
Lord Henderson of Brompton: My Lords, perhaps I may put in some very brief words. First, as other noble Lords will agree, I must record the fact that the noble Lord who has just sat down spoke with his hands in his pockets. I have no objection. Having heard what various noble Lords have said on this matter, I believe that perhaps it should be referred back to the Select Committee. The draft of the recommendation is incomplete. It states:
But which pockets? I suppose that it means "trouser pockets", but, like the noble Lord from the Liberal Democrat Benches, quite a number of noble Lords speak with their hands in their jacket pockets. Why should
I have no idea whether Members of the House of Commons are allowed to speak with their hands in their pockets, but nervous Members of another place will quite often speak with their hands in their trouser pockets. That gives rise to the opportunity for others to disrupt that Member's train of thought by shouting, "Hands in pocket!" or something like that. I do not think that we want to follow that in this House.
One Peer whom I particularly admire, who is one of the wittiest among us and whose words I would never miss if I could possibly avoid it, spoke the other day with both hands in his trouser pockets--and he spoke most eloquently. I would regard it as a criminal act to interrupt his flow of speech by telling him to take his hands out of his pockets. It would be an insolent thing to do to a man of great distinction. I say no more on that, other than to ask that we do not say "yes" or "no" today, but send the matter back to the Select Committee and ask it to make its recommendation a little more precise.
Perhaps I may make one other point. I refer to the carry-over. I am very pleased that the Select Committee has made the recommendation that it has, following the House of Commons. For years, the Whips have unanimously vetoed any change in that regard. One small area of our legislative work is very important but hardly gains any recognition in the House. I refer to the work of the committee--its name escapes me--which is always chaired by a Law Lord--
Lord Henderson of Brompton: My Lords, thank you. I refer to the work of the Select Committee on Consolidation Bills. The programme of consolidation is artificially squeezed because every Bill that is introduced as a consolidation Bill or a statute law revision Bill must be completed within that Session. That wretched committee has to consider perhaps five or six Bills in the first part of a Session while in the second part of the Session, when it could consider another five or six Bills, it is not allowed to do so because those Bills cannot be carried over. I recommend that Bills which start in this House and which deal with consolidation or statute law revision should be allowed to be carried over. I believe that that most important recommendation would be well received by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor if he were present on the Woolsack.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I came prepared to speak in support of the amendment which has been called and, if the House was divided, to vote in favour of it. I am very glad that that now appears to be unnecessary. The noble Lord the Leader of the House has been very wise and generous to accept the amendment without a Division. It leaves the substances of the report of the Procedure Committee unimpaired
If this problem arose again it would be useful to apply two criteria. The first is whether the measure is controversial. Undoubtedly the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Archer, was controversial. Fifty-six noble Lords took the quite unusual--to my knowledge, unprecedented--course of voting against the Motion of an Address to the Sovereign to allow the matter to be discussed in Parliament. In considering whether there should be an exception to the general rule, it will always be relevant to apply that criterion. Is the measure a matter of controversy?
As to the second criterion, it is useful to look at the mirror image of what is done. Would it have been acceptable if the Minister--I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that he should not be thought to be in any way blameworthy in the matter--had said that Her Majesty had indicated that she disagreed with the Government's view? Obviously that would have been quite unacceptable and inconceivable, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, put it in a letter to me when I took up the matter with him. That being so, I believe that the House has been very well advised to accept the report without the words that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has moved to expunge.
Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for accepting the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Marlesford. I direct your Lordships' attention to the suggestion relating to the carry-over of Bills. I was somewhat reassured by the comments of my noble friend Lord Cranborne but have some anxiety about where this proposal may lead. Admittedly, the proposal has safeguards. It is said that it should be applied to some government Bills in certain circumstances. It is also said that the eligibility of Bills for carry-over should be settled by informal discussions through the usual channels. While that is to some degree reassuring, the House is being asked to endorse the principle of carry-over. I find that worrying. This could easily be the thin edge of the wedge. One of the most powerful checks that Parliament has over any government is that, if the government are unable to persuade Parliament to accept a Bill by the end of the Session that Bill falls; it is dead. If the government wish to pursue the matter they must table a completely new Bill in the following Session.
It would be a dangerous move for Parliament to surrender that very important power. Reforms such as this--noble Lords have seen many over the years--invariably make life easier for the Government of the day and more difficult for Parliament to act as an effective check on the Executive. I hope that noble Lords can have an assurance on this matter. I address my remarks much more to the Leader of the House than to the Lord Chairman of Committees. I seek an
Earl Russell: My Lords, I believe that after this lapse of time it would be an abuse of the time of the House to engage the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in discussion of his precedents from the reign of Charles I. However, I hope that it is not a waste of the time of the House to say that I am in full agreement not only with what is said in the report but also with the remarks of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal.
It has never been in issue that the rule in Erskine May stands. When the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, refers to the overturning of Erskine May I am not aware of any noble Lord in the House who believes that that should be done. The point at issue has always been simply whether that rule is capable of exception. To borrow a phrase used by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, there is no suggestion that the Queen's name should at any stage be drawn into the warp and woof of political debate. I believe that noble Lords would unite in deploring such a notion.
The noble Viscount said that I had endeavoured-- I believe that was his word--to draw a distinction between the Queen's personal and public capacity. I shall not bore the noble Viscount with a list of the literature on that distinction, to which I am only one of the most recent contributors. He is undoubtedly right that it is a difficult distinction to apply. Good sense is always difficult, but that is no reason for giving up trying to have it. Finally, Erskine May is only 2,000 pages long. It is very dangerous to rest an argument solely on the silence of Erskine May.
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