Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (HM Household) (Chief Whip, House of Lords), Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:45 pm, 21st January 2019

All I said was that what the noble Lord reported was an untruth; he himself was not, perhaps, being untruthful. Those newspapers are not in my reading.

The House has heard the arguments made by the noble Baroness and subsequent speakers, and it will have to take the amendment she proposed at face value. However, it is difficult to understand why the House should agree to it. After all, we are shortly going to go into Committee, when all the arguments which have been expressed this afternoon will, no doubt, appear again in the form of amendments and in the debates that surround them. I can only agree with the comments about the Bill by my noble friend Lord Lansley.

The effect of the amendment is to prevent Report stage proceeding until a subjective condition has been fulfilled. I note that in recent weeks many noble Lords opposite have expressed their desire to continue with the Bill, apparently frustrated that the Committee was not scheduled to start earlier. Yet here is an amendment to delay the passage of the Bill. The oddest thing of all is that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, who is leading for the Opposition on the Bill, has tabled amendments covering the issues listed in the noble Baroness’s Motion. It seems pre-emptive of her to ask the House to reach such a conclusion now, before the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, has even started to make his case.

The noble Baroness has exercised considerable restraint and judgment as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords in not using the arithmetic of this House to obstruct government business. By doing so, she has ensured that the House has made life difficult for the Government but not broken the conventions between the Houses, despite temptations to do so, I have no doubt. I think that the whole House has been fortunate in the part that she has played. I continue to hold the noble Baroness in the highest regard, so I gently ask her, when she replies, to explain why she is not prepared to allow the House to continue to scrutinise this important legislation, sent to us by the House of Commons, in the normal way. Working in that way, the House will be listening to arguments and considering and deciding on amendments. This is what is meant by holding the Government to account.

It will not be an easy ride for the Government. The Government cannot expect the passage of the Bill to be an easy one. I expect the House’s scrutiny to be challenging. Knowing the noble Baroness as I do, I know that normally she believes in scrutiny and not obstruction, but at face value the only conclusion I have been able to come to is that this is a tactic of obstruction. That is why I hope she will reflect very carefully on whether it is in the interests of the Official Opposition, or indeed the House as a whole, to endorse such an approach. I hope she decides not to test the opinion of the House. If she does, I ask noble Lords on all sides to reflect equally carefully on the precedent, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, pointed out, that we could be setting for future government Bills.