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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall cause great difficulty in the ranks of Government Back-Bench supporters if I take sides as between manufacturing industry and academics. Both have a role to play and the Chancellor is conscious of the importance of manufacturing industry when he makes appointments to the Monetary Policy Committee, just as he is when he insists that the Monetary Policy Committee should have proper information about developments in manufacturing industry.
Lord Carter: My Lords, after consideration of the Commons Reason on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill today, my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on economic and fiscal strategy. I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement following the end of the Minister's initial reply to the Opposition spokesmen should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of others.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I hope that the Government Chief Whip will not see it as a discourtesy if I rise to ask for clarification, first, on some general points of business management and, secondly and more importantly, on the Second Reading of the Scotland Bill which is due to take place next week.
The House will remember that my noble friend Lord Cranborne and I both gave warnings last summer of the potential consequences in terms of pressure of business in this House if the government programme were too full and there was not a proper balance between the weight of legislation introduced in this House and in another place.
We said that this House could not and would not be held to account if, as a result of the way in which the Government packed and arranged the programme, we were forced into a very prolonged Session. Since then, and in many cases for good reasons, further government legislation has been added to the programme. However, most of the Government's main programme Bills were introduced in another place and the most far-reaching and complex of all its Bills, the Scotland Bill, is yet to receive a Second Reading.
In such a crowded programme it behoves the Government to assist us in scrutinising legislation. From the first, we have not always received that to which the House is entitled. I will not go through the sorry saga of the past 12 months--that will be well known throughout the Chamber--but we are seeing signs of increasing pressure and haste on the part of the Government at a time when the legislative programme is still growing. There is a risk of this House being pushed too far when there is plenty of time in the spillover to complete the programme with full and proper scrutiny.
The Government Chief Whip and the usual channels have not been entirely unsuccessful. I wish to put on record how grateful are the Opposition for the extra half-day that we received on the Wales Bill. But it should never have been envisaged that such a major constitutional Bill could have been settled in less time.
My specific point is on the Scotland Bill. It has been announced that that Bill will have its Second Reading next week. But in the first edition of Forthcoming Business it is believed by the Government that it can be completed within a single day. Over 60 speakers have put down their names to speak at Second Reading. Since then the Government have accepted that there should be a second day. They have simply put on the Forthcoming Business,
However, I wish to have clarification as to how that will work in practice. When will Peers know whether they have been selected to speak on Wednesday or Thursday? Might it not be wiser to decide now to split the subjects for debate on the Scotland Bill? Having seen the list of speakers so far, might it not be appropriate to spend the first day dealing with the political issues of devolution and on the second to look more at the legal aspects? A number of speakers have already put their names down to speak on this matter.
I want to avoid any accusation that the Government wish to confuse this House in their approach to this important Second Reading and that they would like the debate to take place in the small hours of Thursday
The last time this subject was debated was 20 years ago. On that occasion the House was given two full days. There were some 60 to 65 speakers. Moreover, next Thursday is the day on which the Government have decided to have the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, the chairman of the European Union Committee, on the European central bank. I hope that the noble Lord will not accept having his debate pushed further into the night and that he will ask the Government for the debate to be rescheduled.
I fully understand the need to expedite business, particularly at this time of the year, but I believe that there is no need to hurry. There is plenty of time for this House to give full and effective scrutiny to this legislation. I very much hope that the Chief Whip will take this opportunity to clarify the situation.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, perhaps I may say a word before my noble friend replies. I have little or no sympathy for the Opposition Chief Whip, but I have sympathy for those who wish to participate in a major debate on the European central bank, including members of my committee. I would find it quite intolerable were the Chief Whip to tell us that that debate will take place after the second day of the debate on the Scotland Bill. That would be outrageous. Many noble Lords on all sides of the House wish to participate in the important debate on the European central bank. I hope that my noble friend is able to assure me and others in this House, regardless of what the Opposition Chief Whip wants, that we shall have a full day's debate early on another day rather than have it late at night on the day suggested.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I understand the point made by the Opposition Chief Whip. But I recall that when the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was Government Chief Whip in the last Parliament his attitude was remarkably different from the position he has set out this afternoon. I remember with great clarity the refusal of the then government to provide adequate time for a major Bill involving policy on criminal justice. But I do not propose to go down that particular avenue save to comment on the particular point made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, as regards the Scotland Bill.
Given the number of speakers, the Government have, as I understand it, agreed that part of the debate should spill over into Thursday. That is acceptable. I found it a little puzzling to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, suggest that the Government were embarked on a policy of attempting to confuse the House. I suspect that his complaint would have been the intolerable arrogance of Ministers if the Government had not agreed to provide additional time for the Second Reading of the Scotland Bill. The noble Lord cannot have it both ways.
The position is quite clear. I do not think we can separate the debate on the Scotland Bill into two sections relating to different parts of the Bill. It would lead to a most confusing and unsatisfactory debate. That
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I support what my noble friend Lord Strathclyde has said. In this Parliament there has been only one debate in this House on the Government's proposals in relation to Scotland and that was 10 months ago. That debate was on what had been described as a White Paper. It was published only five days before the debate. It was a very sketchy brochure containing meagre proposals and a scant outline of what they were. The debate took place on the day before the Recess, if my memory serves me correctly. It was time-limited and the speakers had only 10 minutes to speak on proposed major constitutional changes.
There is now a substantial Bill before us and the Government apparently intend to time-limit that debate. It is no surprise that so many speakers have put down their names because the constitutional effects go far wider than Scotland; they affect the whole of the United Kingdom. Therefore, I support what my noble friend has proposed.
The Earl of Perth: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, on this matter. At the Cross-Bench meeting this afternoon I raised the matter that only one day was to be given to the issue. General support was given to the view that that was not enough. It is a vital issue not only for Scotland but also for England. The fact that there are no fewer than 60 speakers strongly supports the view that this measure is critical for all of us. If we are to prevail on the Act of Union we should have a proper debate on it, but not at two o'clock, three o'clock or four o'clock in the morning. I very much support urging the Government to divide the debate into two days.
Lord Renton: My Lords, there is one fundamental point that I wish to raise. On the Opposition Benches in another place there are scarcely any Scottish Members. Indeed, there are no Conservative Scottish Members although there are still quite a lot of Conservatives in Scotland. In your Lordships' House we have a formidable array of Scottish Peers with wide experience. That is one of the main reasons why so many noble Lords wish to speak in the debate. Will the Government Chief Whip kindly bear that in mind?
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