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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I can give the noble Lord an assurance that I shall bring back that proposal to the Offices Committee. I do not believe that it is for me to commit your Lordships' committees to something until they have had an opportunity to consider it. I am sure that the point made strongly by my noble friend, not only this afternoon but elsewhere, will not be overlooked.
I deal with one other point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, and the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy. Some kind of smoking room is proposed for Millbank House and 7 Little College Street which would be usable by both staff and Members. The reason why Millbank House, which encompasses 7 Little College Street, has been considered separately in this way is because that is new accommodation which is becoming available. It was thought appropriate to deal with it straight away as one proposal. The other matters relating to the Palace of Westminster are to be returned to later. That was the reason why it was thought to be a good opportunity to deal with the matter in one go.
I am conscious that noble Lords who have raised other points that I have not dealt with this afternoon will be disappointed. I hope that I shall be forgiven if, following this quite lengthy debate, I leave the matter there. Together with other noble Lords who have made this recommendation, I very much hope that, in the light of the significant changes which have been made since 21st June, your Lordships will pass the Motion this afternoon.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I apologise for taking up a little more time before the Question on the Motion is put. It was not I or any other Member of your Lordships' House but the usual channels who decided that the matter should be debated today before the two major Bills. We could have had this debate a few days ago. The report from the Offices Committee was published on 19th July. The last time that we had this degree of confusion, if I may put it as mildly as that without being provocative--as my noble friend Lord Peston always is--the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and I simply asked whether the appointment of this consultant could be made by the steering group. I believe that there was general agreement that that should be so. Incidentally, contrary to what has been suggested, that steering group should not be composed of some, but all, Back-Benchers. That was what I asked for, and that is what I hope will happen.
The last time this matter was debated and there was a degree of confusion, at my suggestion the Chairman of Committees withdrew the report. We are now told that if we approve the report we shall approve the appointment of Mr Braithwaite as consultant. That is not confusing but quite simple. Mr Braithwaite may be a lovely man--like me--but that is not the issue. We are being asked to appoint him now on a simple
It is clear that the mood of the House is that, once again, noble Lords today are not willing to support the appointment of Mr Braithwaite. Perhaps the Chairman of Committees will consult the usual channels. We can adjourn during pleasure, which is the normal procedure, and deal with the two major Bills tomorrow morning.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I see no reason why the proposal for the proposed management consultant should not be put before the steering group when it is set up, if your Lordships pass this Motion this afternoon. For obvious reasons, the steering group cannot be set up until the spill-over. There would, therefore, be delay. But if it is the view of noble Lords that that delay is worth while so that the steering group can consider the matter, I take it upon myself to give that assurance.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps as a simple Back-Bencher I may ask the Chairman of Committees for a degree of elucidation on this matter. Does the noble Lord propose that we should pass the Motion before us to approve the existing report, which includes provision for the appointment of the consultant but that that consultant should not be appointed, or that we should reword the resolution in order to accept every part of the report except for the appointment of the consultant which should be left to the steering group? If it is the latter, I am with the noble Lord; if it is the former, I am not.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, as I hoped I had made clear when I responded to the point earlier, if the Motion is passed this afternoon, it will be put to the steering group and it will be for the steering group to make the appointment.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, of course it would if the matter was referred to it in the way that I suggested. But if your Lordships pass the Motion this afternoon, it will be for the steering group to settle the matter. I do not suggest that the matter should again come back to the House before we can proceed. The
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I have succeeded only in becoming more confused. We have a report which, it is proposed by the noble Lord, should be accepted in its entirety with the verbal reservation that that report does not apply in its entirety. Is it open to this House to pass a Motion which does not represent what we intend?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, it is not without precedent. Assurances have been given. They are given on a variety of matters when your Lordships are considering proposals. I should have thought that such an assurance from this Dispatch Box would have meant something and would have been acceptable to your Lordships. Surely we can proceed in the way I have suggested and leave it for the steering group to deal with this point.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, is he quite sure about this? If the House passes a Motion which appoints Mr Braithwaite and subsequently a sub-committee of a committee of the House decides not to appoint him, is it not likely that Mr Braithwaite would have a good case to sue for breach of contract? It is proposed today that we make a contract to appoint Mr Braithwaite. Surely we are not saying that a sub-committee of a committee of the House can then reverse that decision.
Lord Peston: My Lords, perhaps I may introduce a note of conciliation. I understood the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees to say precisely that there would be a steering committee. He heard our views on its composition. He has given us--it is acceptable to me--his personal assurance that that steering group would have the final say. He has said that twice and placed it before this House. He says that that is what passing the resolution means. If he says that as Chairman of Committees--he has so declared and no one has said that he cannot do so--I can live with it. I have heard what he said and he is an honourable man. The Chairman of Committees has stated that the steering committee will decide. If that is what he says, that is good enough for me.
In order to place the matter beyond peradventure--some noble Lords have qualms despite the helpful intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Peston--I propose that if your Lordships agree to pass the Motion today the report will be minuted to exclude the words in the final sub-paragraph of paragraph 5,
Lord Carter: My Lords, a Motion has been put before the House that the report of the Offices Committee shall be accepted with the deletion of the words that refer to the appointment of Mr Braithwaite. There has also been a clear assurance from the Chairman of Committees that the steering group will be responsible for the appointment of the consultant. There is no contract with Mr Braithwaite. This will delay the work that needs to be done. There is a clear Motion before the House which removes from the report the appointment of Mr Braithwaite.
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