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Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, perhaps I may intervene as counsel for the defence for the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and as someone who has a close interest in the Bill that is the subject of the Motion. I oppose the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, for these reasons. The Government gave a promise that this House would have the three options that the Commons faced on the Hunting Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, spent a considerable time--on one occasion over an hour and a half--together with me and with Clerks of the House, trying to find a procedure that would enable that to happen. The Clerks have now come up with such a procedure. The noble Lord has apologised for the way in which the Motion was tabled.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, I take the view from all that I have heard that Members of this House want to vote on those options. Noble Lords of all parties--I hope that this crosses party boundaries--who care about the countryside want an opportunity to vote on the Hunting Bill before an election. If, for party-political purposes, anyone tries to frustrate such a vote taking place, I suspect that the countryside will not forgive them. I also say to my own Front Bench that if, at a later stage, any attempt is made to suggest that this House has deliberately frustrated the Bill, when in reality it has been given insufficient time for proper scrutiny before a general election is called, I anticipate that people in the countryside will not forget that either. Therefore, I shall oppose the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Denham.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms was kind enough to refer to me and to the passage of the Sunday Trading Act, saying that the two situations are not dissimilar. My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to me and that same Bill and did me the flattery of quoting my words. I am bound to say that one's own words regurgitated always make one cringe with embarrassment. I say to the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms that the only difference so far as I can see is that when I had the privilege of moving that amendment, it went through swimmingly; when the noble Lord moves it, there is a row.
Lord Elton: My Lords, one important point has not been fully drawn out. Will the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms tell the House this: was the decision regarding discussion in Committee in the first instance being limited to one day taken by the usual channels, or was it announced at Second Reading on behalf of the Government? Without question, the most valuable commodity that Members of this House have at our disposal is time. The word "guillotine" should send a shiver through our ranks, not because we are Peers and not because of references to tumbrels, but because we cannot discuss matters properly if we do not have sufficient time to do so.
The Motion in the name of the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms--may I call him the Government Chief Whip; it is so much quicker?--suggests to me that a very important decision on the whole course of the Bill will possibly be taken in the early hours of the morning. That is not a proper thing to do on such an important issue. I hope that the usual channels will consider the question of the timing, whatever the result of our debate on this Motion, and ensure that it is such that we can do our job properly.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, I confess to being somewhat confused by some of the remarks that I have heard. I do not pretend to be as humble as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in these matters. At the end of the Motion moved by my noble friend are the words,
As I understand my noble friend, his main point is that we all wanted to have the right to vote on the three options. That is what we shall have. We do not need to discuss thousands of amendments. I cannot understand why anyone finds that so misleading.
Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, the original Motion tabled by the Government on Monday allowed for no amendments except those tabled by the Government. I believe that that is unprecedented. The amended Motion tabled today does provide for recommital, but it does not remove the objections that apply to this procedure. I suggest that it is for your Lordships to decide what amendments to table to a Bill rather than for the Government. This House prides itself on its revising role. That means that all amendments tabled by your Lordships can be considered. All noble Lords can take part in the debates.
I suggest that this Motion rides roughshod over that essential element in our procedure. It deprives the House of its right to decide how best to hold the Government to account. I hope that the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip will recognise the very strong feeling that exists on this matter and that he will be prepared to withdraw his Motion. I believe that it is dangerous and sinister, and I hope that the House will have none of it.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, it seems to me that, given the opportunity, this House makes heavy weather of many simple matters. Without claiming to be experts on the issue, many of us who have followed the manner in which it has been dealt with in another place have either deluded ourselves or have been convinced that the procedure that was adopted in the Commons--which is substantially the procedure that we are invited to adopt here--was simple and clear. It provided the vast majority of Members of this House with an opportunity regarding what they wanted to do. Noble Lords were denied that opportunity yesterday because it was Second Reading. But the stalls were laid out, the arguments have been going on for a long time, and now we are debating how we in this House shall dispose of a very important
It is possible that my noble friend the Government Chief Whip was derelict in the manner in which he set about to secure the maximum collaboration. But anyone who has listened to someone apologising publicly and humbly--and, indeed, without reservation--will know that that was what my noble friend did 10 or 15 minutes ago.
Unless there are hidden agendas, this House wishes to proceed to let the world know that it favours option one, option two or option three. I do not believe that we are riding roughshod over our procedures. Similarly, I do not believe that this process ought to take a very long time. Of course, yesterday's debate served the House well. When, as I see it, someone will need to approve and submit what is in the Bill--namely, what was option three in the other place for the ban on hunting with dogs--it will take a full debate. But that will substantially deal with some of the other arguments. As I envisage it, the House will be packed. It will already have formed a view, but it will listen to the arguments. It will then wish to let the world know whether noble Lords are in favour of option one, two or three.
I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Denham has done. In his view, there has been a dereliction of duty by the Government Chief Whip. But he has apologised: he did so not in private; he did so in public. We all know that our Chief Whip is a man of the utmost integrity. He has made a mistake, and has apologised for it. I am not prepared to say whether or not the apology was justified. However, he made it. I believe that we should serve the House well if we listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Denham, has to say in response. In the light of this discussion, I very much hope that he will save the House further delay by withdrawing his Motion, thereby allowing us to get on to the important business of the day. If the noble Lord seeks to press his Motion, I believe that Members on this side of the Chamber, and indeed throughout the House, will have no option but to reject his advice and to support the Government Chief Whip.
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