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My Lords, at this stage it is the job of the proposer of the Bill to move that it be committed to a Committee of the whole House, and I do indeed wish to do so. But, in fairness to the House and in the tradition of openness and transparency, I will say that the last two Bills were filibustered and destroyed in Committee, in a way that was embarrassing and out of any kind of tradition of the norms of behaviour in Parliament. The result was that after the previous Bill’s second full day in Committee on the precious Floor of the House, we had not got through even the amendments to Clause 1 of a two-clause Bill, whereupon even my tolerance ran out and I put down a Motion that further consideration of the Bill should not be on the Floor of the House but in Grand Committee. That Motion carried without dissent because no one could argue seriously against it. It went into Grand Committee, and went through in a smooth and orderly way.
I say, not as a threat but a promise, that if Committee on the Bill is announced, when we go into Committee that if the Bill does not complete that stage—it has had four days in Committee already, over two years—in ample time on a Friday for a two-clause Bill, then at the earliest opportunity thereafter, in prime time in the House, will put down a Motion to ensure that it is completed in Grand Committee. With that proviso and explanation, I beg to move.
A Motion has been put forward by the noble Lord. I would like some clarification on the rather odd statement that he made.
This is a constitutional Bill; I do not think that anybody can disagree with that. It is a convention in both Houses that such Bills go to the Floor of the House for Committee stage unless there is agreement that they should not. The noble Lord, Lord Grocott, explained that, last time, there was agreement across the House that this Bill should go to a Grand Committee, having had one or two days on the Floor of the House. After that, I was slightly confused as to what the noble Lord said. Did he say that he would insist and ask the House for it to go to a Grand Committee, even though it is a constitutional Bill and even if there is not a consensus for it so to do? If that is what he said, does he not feel that that would create a dangerous precedent for constitutional Bills? If I am right in understanding what he said, does he then accept that other constitutional Bills that the Government may or may not bring forward during this Parliament should also go to a Grand Committee?
My concern is with my Bill, not with any Bills that may or may not be introduced by the Government. This House is the master of its own procedure. If the noble Lord wishes to continue filibustering in Committee, which he was openly involved in last time, he has the perfect right to do so. But the decision on whether—
I must object in the strongest possible terms. If the noble Lord looks at the number of times that I have spoken on this Bill over the past few years, he will see that it is considerably less than he has, if I may say so. At no point have I chosen to filibuster or even be part of a filibuster; I have moved only one amendment on a statutory and independent appointments commission, which I note the noble Lord did not mention at all in his winding-up speech.