– in the House of Lords at 10:57 pm on 19th November 2003.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 10:57 pm, 19th November 2003

My Lords, it is with some regret that I report to the House that the Commons message is slightly delayed. Accordingly, I beg to move that the House do adjourn during pleasure until 11.45 p.m. to receive the Commons message on the Criminal Justice Bill.

Moved, That the House do adjourn until 11.45 p.m.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, leave out from "House" to end and insert, "do now adjourn".

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

My Lords, if we wait for that message until 11.45 p.m. it means that we shall not be able to start discussion of the Criminal Justice Bill until one o'clock or, probably, later. By the time that we have completed discussion of it and it has gone back it will obviously be three o'clock—or something like that—in the morning. That is particularly late—especially by the standards of the House of Commons these days. We should of course think about the wellbeing of our colleagues at the other end of the Corridor, as well as our own.

More seriously, as far as I can detect, the various parties seem to have moved close to one another on the Bill on the various outstanding issues. We should, as a House, attempt to facilitate the ability of the Government, Opposition and other parties to come to an agreement about the future and settle it on a Bill about which there has been much controversy.

I therefore think that it is much better if we adjourn the House today at this point and resume our discussion in the morning. The message is now due between now and 11.45, but it can perfectly well be received if the House is not sitting—it does not require the House to be sitting for the Clerks to do their necessary work on it—so that when we return tomorrow morning at eleven o'clock for Questions, we could then proceed to discuss it in a proper manner.

Meanwhile, the parties will have had a better opportunity to discuss and reach agreement on the outstanding issues. If not, they could, in my view, be settled quickly by votes tomorrow and the Bill would proceed, or not, by virtue of the decisions of both Houses. So I think that it is better if the House adjourns until tomorrow—in the interests of the Commons, good government and arriving at sensible legislation; which we all want. I am not sure whether I need to move an amendment that we should adjourn now for the evening, as opposed to adjourning until 11.45 p.m.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, leave out from "House" to end and insert, "do now adjourn".—(Lord Cope of Berkeley.)

Photo of Lord Graham of Edmonton Lord Graham of Edmonton Labour

My Lords, I very much hope that the House will not now adjourn. Everything has a precedent and I hope that the current situation has occurred during the past 100 years or so. I have not been here for all that time, but I am somewhat puzzled that the noble Lord, Lord Cope, with his troops here and with his troops in the other place who all predicted tonight going well into the night and into the morning, should find what I can only believe is a political reason for choosing not to proceed as we have before. The puzzle is that Members on the Opposition Benches and these Benches were told, not only that it would be a very late night, but that the sitting would run well into the morning, so we are here to do our business. We know the score and the arithmetic of what would happen: the wholly unelected House, the House of Lords, would be dictating to the elected House. We do not intend that that should last much longer, but it is the current situation.

Noble Lords:


Photo of Lord Graham of Edmonton Lord Graham of Edmonton Labour

My Lords, I very much hope that that was taken as a threat, as it is the reality. It is a nonsense that the elected House, in trying to do its business, should find that its will is thwarted time and again by a wholly unelected House. I am here to transact the business that the House was told would be dealt with. I see no reason why we should not proceed along the lines that the Government Deputy Chief Whip has suggested.

Photo of Lord Roper Lord Roper Liberal Democrat Lords Chief Whip

My Lords, it would not be useful to prolong the debate, but, in view of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, I must make two points. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, and I have made it clear to the Government Chief Whip throughout the week that it would not be sensible to continue serious business of this House after midnight tonight. We have secured on the Order Paper provision for the House to meet tomorrow, as has the House of Commons. Given that we will have no further business until 1 a.m., it would be appropriate for us to adjourn now.

The late Leader of the House Lord Williams of Mostyn repeatedly said how foolish it was for this House to carry out business after midnight. At such a time, when we are trying to resolve very difficult political issues, we will get better and more sensible answers if we have time to sleep, to discuss and come back tomorrow with sensible decisions. I hope, therefore, that we can proceed to a vote on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Cope.

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Labour

My Lords, we should be clear what we are doing. As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, knows well, it is a longstanding convention that the Government adjourn the House. In my five years as Chief Whip, there has been one exception: during the debate on House of Lords reform, which was a special case. That is certainly not the case tonight. During 10 years on the Opposition Front Bench, I cannot remember trying to adjourn the House against the wishes of the Government. Clearly, the Opposition will win tonight, as they have their troops and the Liberal Democrats. But we are pushing our conventions to the limit. It is a clear convention that it is the Government who adjourn the House; they should not be forced to do so by the Opposition.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, the debate is so important that I wish that the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, the Chief Whip, were present. Unfortunately, he cannot be here, as he is at Buckingham Palace, at the command of Her Majesty. I wish that he were here, and I might even say that I wish that I were there at this moment. During this short debate, I have had the supreme advantage of hearing contributions from two former Chief Whips on this side of the House, who have spoken with great authority and sense.

It would be unprecedented if the House adjourned at this stage. We sometimes devalue the issues that occur at this time of the year between this House and the other place by referring to the process as "ping-pong", as if it were a game. By analogy, ping-pong requires two players, and one player at the other end continues to play. Are we, as the unelected House, taking our bat and going home, when the House that represents the people of this country is waiting on our deliberations and decisions?

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for drawing attention to the sitting hours of the House of Commons. However, I wish that he had drawn attention to their elected base rather than the conditions under which they work, because it is their elected position that counts at this time. We are the revising body. They are the body required to pass legislation on which they have a mandate. Therefore, let me put it to the House again: if we adjourn, we will be carrying out an unprecedented act. We will have ended ping-pong unilaterally for the first time. It is an unprecedented situation. If the House can act unilaterally in this way, it will cause great concern outside this House and set a most unfortunate precedent for the way in which this House considers its important role of revising legislation. I suggest that we reject the amendment.

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

My Lords, the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard drew attention to the absence of the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, but I made absolutely no complaint about the absence of the Government Chief Whip. On the contrary, if the state banquet were not proceeding, perhaps the Leader of my party would be standing at this Dispatch Box rather than myself because he is at the same function. I make no complaint about that, but it draws attention to the difficulties of conducting negotiations on this legislation.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Graham, did not take me at my word when I said earlier that my desire was to facilitate negotiations between the various parties to try to get the best legislation. I do not think that we would achieve that by dragging things on between the Houses until two, three or four o'clock in the morning. As the Deputy Chief Whip said, we sometimes devalue this process by calling it ping-pong. However, it is a very serious process and it concerns serious issues. The issues on the Criminal Justice Bill are, after all, to do with liberties, such as a fair trial and so forth. Those issues deserve consideration and I hope that we can make more progress before we finally decide the matter.

I do not think that it is such a great thing to postpone further deliberations until tomorrow. As the noble Lord, Lord Roper, said, all sides have always envisaged that. Business was predicated on the basis that we might sit tomorrow and that we might have business to deal with tomorrow. That is a sensible time to do it. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Davies of Coity Lord Davies of Coity Labour

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I have listened to the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Graham, who said that this situation is unprecedented. I also heard it said that only the Government have the opportunity to adjourn. Do the Opposition have the constitutional right to move an adjournment in the circumstances?

Photo of Lord Cope of Berkeley Lord Cope of Berkeley Conservative

My Lords, we have the absolute right under the rules of the House to move the adjournment. We do not decide the adjournment. The Government do not decide the adjournment. The House decides the adjournment. That is how things work every day. Of course, on most days I am glad to say that we succeed in reaching agreement through the usual channels and I am grateful for the co-operation. Occasionally however, that is not possible. This situation is not unprecedented as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, suggested, and it is certainly within the rules. The House will decide as it ordinarily does. I am sorry that it has not been possible to reach agreement between the usual channels on these matters, but when great issues are at stake and we are in a difficult situation—which is not an everyday situation as far as your Lordships are concerned—the House must decide what to do.

On Question, Whether the amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 148; Not-Contents, 99.

Division number 7 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Adjournment

Aye: 146 Members of the House of Lords

No: 97 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-one minutes before midnight.