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Business of the House — Timing of Debates

– in the House of Lords at 11:30 am on 16th February 2012.

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Moved By Lord McNally

That the debate on the Motion in the name of Baroness Verma set down for Thursday 1 March shall be limited to five hours.

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

My Lords, before we turn to the instruments, which I am sure are very important, perhaps I could ask the noble Lord about an Urgent Question that I raised some weeks ago on car park access for Members of the House. I was promised then that there would be a review on 7 February. I gather that the committee met on that day but we still have not seen exactly what happened. Can the Minister tell us why it is being kept secret?

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, I think that the term "secret" is rather emotive. As I understand it, the Chairman of Committees, who is a paragon of open government, held a meeting and the minutes will be published in the usual way.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Labour

My Lords, perhaps I can raise an issue with the Deputy Leader. I have put down a Written Question on this but this is the first opportunity I have had to put an Oral Question to him about the Business of the House.

For a fortnight, we shall be in the rather bizarre situation of having our bicameral Houses of Parliament effectively sitting as a unicameral system as there are separate recess dates for the Commons and the Lords. I find that inexplicable, partly on the grounds that we are at the stage of business when a lot of ping-pong takes place, which is inevitably delayed because of this, and partly because there are occasions when we cannot get Royal Assent to Bills because the two Houses are not sitting. There is also a cost involved and a lot of inconvenience to people who have not been able to arrange the normal cross-party and cross-House meetings during this period. Can the Deputy Leader give us an explanation for what, on the face of it, seems to me to be a rather bizarre decision to have made?

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

The noble Lord is right that it is usually good to synchronise the dates. However, I am informed that they were announced last October and that there were no objections in either House. As the noble Lord put down a Written Question, I am sure that a considered Written Answer from a higher grade than mine will give him the explanation.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

Was the director of facilities not consulted before the decision was taken? Surely he works to a budget and should know-and should have been asked-whether this was an efficient use of resources.

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

I have an explanation here. The Lord Chairman has already made it clear that no extra costs are involved; the two Houses can sit independently. Clearly, the matter will be best dealt with by hearing the Answer to the Written Question of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, rather than by lobbing a verbal question at me on a Thursday morning.

Motion agreed.