My Lords, I listened carefully to the Government Chief Whip. Perhaps the most encouraging comment he made was that he does not read the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail. However, I challenge him on some of the things he said. It is not our intention to delay the Bill. If that were my intention, I would have proposed not to proceed with Committee, but I think it would be wrong for this House to take that move. The noble Lord could have resolved this. It would not, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde said, bring a full stop to the Bill. I find it extraordinary that the Government did not come forward today and say, “Of course you should have that information before Report”. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for the Government to say that it would ensure that this House, in order to fulfil its responsibilities and duties—the issue of process that my noble friend Lady Taylor raised, about being able to function properly and fulfil our obligations—will have the information we need to do so.
As for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I have said before that I think that there are two Lord Strathclydes. There is the Lord Strathclyde who was Leader of the Opposition—but that Lord Strathclyde seems to have disappeared into a puff of smoke. I was alerted to the fact that when he was Leader of the Opposition his party backed a Motion that referred the Constitutional Reform Bill to a Select Committee and defeated the then Labour Government. That was approved by your Lordships’ House and it was the first time in 30 years that the Lords had backed a delaying move, and it practically delayed the Bill until the next Session.
I have no intention of taking such an extreme measure as that. All I am asking your Lordships to do is to ensure—I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech—that we can fulfil our constitutional procedures and objectives. We want to have Committee and Report, but in an informed way. It would be ridiculous for this House to consider the Bill in its entirety, given the comments made by the Constitution Committee about the gaps, the comments made by the noble Baroness at Second Reading and the commitments made that further legislation would come forward. For us to continue with Report after Committee without that information would be irresponsible.
The noble Lord the Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and others, said, “We don’t want to delay the Bill”. They are absolutely right. We have not wanted to delay the Bill; we have not delayed it for 132 days since Second Reading. All we are saying is—it is so reasonable that I am stunned that the noble Lord does not agree with me—“Please let us have information: the framework of government policy and the context in which we should proceed to Report”. I cannot see why the Government do not accept that. We want to proceed with the Bill in a responsible, measured and informed way. Our only condition before Report is, “Please give us more information”.
I listened to what the noble Lord the Chief Whip had to say and to the comments from around the House. We will be moving to debate some of those comments in detail in Committee, but as regards Report, we need a lot more. I beg to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 243, Noes 208.