My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill be postponed until after the debate on the Motion of my noble friend Lady Tonge.
As my noble friend Lord Gardiner of Kimble has just said in response to the Question of the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, this is when I hope to set out the procedure for the rest of today. In doing so, I make it clear that what I am about to say is against the background of very productive and constructive talks among the party leaders, but also, as is usual in this House, constructive talks with Her Majesty's Opposition. The Chief Whip of the Opposition has not only seen what I am about to say, but has been involved in agreement on that matter. Clearly, this House has a prime interest in knowing how it may contribute to the debate on the deal which is coming to fruition and has been long in negotiation over the past weeks but certainly into the early hours of this morning.
There is also a procedural background, which as a business manager I must operate within. I think my English grammar is going a bit awry here, but I will explain to the House where we are in terms of what is happening elsewhere and here, and I will then explain what it means for us today. The House is of course fully aware that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, together with the leaders of the other main parties, has asked the Speaker of another place for an emergency debate this afternoon on the matter of the party leaders' response to the report from Lord Justice Leveson on the culture, practices and ethics of the press. Until that debate has started, we will not know absolutely for certain what has been agreed between the party leaders. That is not saying that there is no agreement, it is saying that as a matter of practice we will give them the courtesy of being able to set out what they believe may be contained within that agreement. Until then, we simply have nothing on which we can proceed effectively.
On the timing, we expect the House of Commons to start that debate at about 4.30 pm. In procedural terms, I have moved that our further consideration on Report of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill be postponed until after the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lady Tonge. To do so will of course enable the House to hear what the party leaders have to say on the matter of the press before we then turn to it ourselves. As noble Lords will know, we have core amendments on the matter of Leveson in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill today.
I have spoken to my noble friend Lady Tonge. She is aware that we will deal with her Motion first so that she has the first debate. It is my expectation, as it is hers, that the debate on her Motion may not take the full time until 4.30 pm or 5.30 pm. In order to give noble Lords certainty about when this House will be able not only to listen to the leaders in the Commons but also to have its own debate here, I propose that the debate on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will start at 5.30 pm. In other words, we will go from this to the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge. If that does not take us to 5.30 pm, a Whip will adjourn the House further to 5.30 pm. This House will have full opportunity to debate the amendments on Leveson, of which there are many, at 5.30 pm. As I have said, I have discussed this with the Opposition Chief Whip, who is in agreement. Therefore, at this stage I formally beg to move that further consideration on Report be postponed until after the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lady Tonge.
My Lords, without in any sense disagreeing with what the noble Baroness has said, is it not the case that in the other place today there will be a Statement on Cyprus and that that Statement is not being taken in this House? The decision on Cyprus is possibly the most calamitous decision that has ever been taken for Europe, for the finances of this country and for the European zone. Is it not inconceivable that the Statement is not being taken here, especially, as the noble Baroness has said, when we have plenty of time?
My Lords, that is, of course, a very proper question. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, asks about things that are on the point. It is the case that whenever a Statement is to be made by the Government in another place, it is offered to the Opposition, but against the background of all the proceedings that are taking place today, I understand that the Opposition decided not to take the Statement. If there is another opportunity when it may be properly taken, we will certainly look at a way of facilitating a debate. I may be sending shivers down the spines of the business managers here who have to schedule these matters, but I understand the strength of feeling. There may indeed be other opportunities when we are able to deal with the issue, but for the moment the Opposition decided that perhaps this is not the time. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, is keen to contribute and I am happy for her to do so.
My Lords, I am a little unhappy about the procedure set out by the noble Baroness, which is to postpone consideration of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill until the other place has had its debate. It is always open to noble Lords in moving amendments to withdraw them in the light of any decisions reached in the other place, but that is no real reason for fiddling around with the order that has been established. It is not a sufficient reason to do that.
My Lords, perhaps I had better respond before the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, rises to speak. It is merely a matter of timing. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, has ownership of most of the amendments in the first group. The reason it is convenient to do it in this way is that the House would not have a chance to listen to the leaders by the time that any mover of those amendments decided whether to withdraw or even to press them. Again, it is simply a matter of timing so that we all have an opportunity to listen to what the leaders set out. Just the opening remarks alone will make it too late for us to get into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. I think it would be difficult for this House to proceed with a fair consideration of the amendments today.
My Lords, the committee will meet at 5.30 pm as previously agreed.
My Lords, I have given as much information as I am able to at the moment. Clearly what the Government are keen to do is ensure that every opportunity is given to the House to discuss the agreement. I know that we are working closely with the Opposition, and particularly with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, because his name is attached to Amendment 84KA.
My Lords, we cannot all go to the gallery of another place to listen to what the leaders say, nor can we all crowd around television sets. Will there be a Statement before we begin the debate on the substantive amendments so that we know the background against which we will be debating them?
My Lords, in this House it is possible within the proper proceedings of Report stage that, when a Peer moves an amendment, the Minister can get up very shortly afterwards. It is completely within the procedure of Report to be able to set out the Government's response. I hope that that will be the case. I do not think I have ever heard anyone complain before about a lack of television monitors in this place.
My Lords, perhaps I may comment further on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, about the Statement being made in the House of Commons on what has happened in Cyprus. People's savings are apparently going to be raided by the Government. That is a very important matter which has implications not only for the eurozone but perhaps throughout the EU and the world. Bearing in mind what the noble Baroness has said about the timing of the debate, I know the House of Commons well and I know that when it gets hold of the Statement on the press, there could be a very long debate indeed. There is no guarantee that we will get the timetable that the noble Baroness and the Government would like us to have. I have to say that I am disappointed that the usual channels on both sides of the House have agreed that such an important Statement should not have been put before this House today.
My Lords, perhaps I may say two things. First, it would be an excellent idea if the Minister, at the beginning of the proceedings on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, could inform the House by means of a Statement or whatever exactly what has been happening in the Commons. That would be extremely useful. On the Statement on Cyprus, as is usual, the Government informed Her Majesty's Opposition that there would be a Statement on Cyprus and we were asked whether we wished to take it. Notwithstanding the importance of the situation in Cyprus, and not underestimating the importance of the Statement, it was offered to us before we knew of the changes to the procedures today, and the Statement would not have come until much later on. We deemed it important for the House to discuss and debate the issues pertaining to Leveson on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. That is why we did not ask for the Statement to be repeated. It does not undermine the importance of that issue at all and I will support the noble Baroness the Chief Whip in ensuring that we have a debate on this issue in the very near future.
My Lords, in this place we work on a procedure whereby we at least have the courtesy of giving notice of such matters as Statements. We offer Statements to the Opposition as soon as they are known and we wait for a response. That response was given against the background of what was known at the time today. Negotiations were clearly in play both in this place and in another place. We cannot at this stage simply turn things on their head. However, I do understand the view of probably the majority of this House that at some stage there should be a debate on the matter. It is clearly something that is not going to be easily resolved, so it is not something that has to be done today, but I will actively look into the matter. In doing so I know that this House is keen to devote itself today to the matter in hand, which is that of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, in which this House will play a significant part in achieving a resolution.
I do not propose to answer any other questions. We have a Motion in front of us. I have given the answers as far as I can. I feel I cannot give any more information. If other noble Lords wish to ask questions I suspect that I will not be able to help them even though I will do my best to do so.
My Lords, I would like to ask a practical question which the noble Baroness may be able to answer. It is quite often the practice, in this House at any rate, that when Statements are made copies are made available in the Printed Paper Office at the same time. A very important Statement is to be made in the House of Commons. Could it not be arranged that it is in the Printed Paper Office before we start the debate at 5.30 pm?
My Lords, that is the normal procedure. As a former Leader of the House, the noble Lord raises a perfectly valid point. It will indeed be in the Printed Paper Office.
My Lords, I can go only as far as I have already explained. I have answered that question already by evasion, one of the few occasions when I evade, because clearly until an amendment may have been tabled, cleared and published, it would be wrong of me to try and second-guess what is about to happen. As I explained earlier, the Opposition have been in negotiation with the Government, and we hope to proceed. I am optimistic about proceeding, in a way later this afternoon in which the whole House is able properly to play a significant part in the resolution of the debate on the Leveson proposals.
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask one question. Can she give an assurance that the debate on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will start at 5.30 pm?
My Lords, yes. The only reason I said "as close to 5.30pm" is simply in case it starts a matter of a minute or two earlier, but the House will be adjourned to 5.30 pm and I expect that the House will start on Leveson at 5.30 pm. As I explained earlier, if the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lady Tonge were to take us to 5.30 pm-I do not think she hopes it will-then we will go seamlessly into it. However, what I expect to happen is that the Motion of my noble friend Lady Tonge will take a shortish amount of time. She may find some supporters she did not expect, but after that we will adjourn. It will be on the monitors, but the House can be assured that they will not be debating Leveson until 5.30 pm.