Procedure of the House: Select Committee Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:25 pm on 17th December 2003.

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Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Labour 3:25 pm, 17th December 2003

My Lords, I shall be extremely brief as there are some important debates to follow. Perhaps I may respond to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. As he correctly says, the debate that has continued for many years about Thursday mornings is over. In fact, we have all agreed that we should start at 11 a.m. with Question Time.

The noble Lord referred to the "usual channels". Of course they were strongly represented on the Procedure Committee which produced the report. Modesty forbids me saying that the usual channels are not what they used to be.

The point about Statements is very simple. If we have a lunch break with an Unstarred Question tabled and there is a Statement, we will have a Statement and a lunch break, so the Front Benches will get two breaks and not none. After 10 years on the Front Bench in opposition and five years on the Front Bench in government, I know how it is possible for Ministers and other Front-Benchers to slip out to get some refreshment.

The noble Lord, Lord Roper, said that the package should be considered as a whole. I can only quote what the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, said when I asked my Starred Question about this matter in June. He said:

"is the Chairman of Committees aware that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carter, that this matter is separate from the other aspect of the changes introduced last year and could be considered separately by the Procedure Committee".—[Official Report, 4/6/03; col. 1323.]

The only thing to do is to seek the opinion of the House. We need to make a clear decision on this matter once and for all.