HL Deb 28 June 1961 vol 232 cc1058-61

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, it was my intention, with your Lordships' permission, to make a short statement on the Weights and Measures Bill similar to a Written Answer given by my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade in another place, which will have been given at half-past four this afternoon, and it may be convenient to do it now.

It is now clearly impracticable to pass the Weights and Measures Bill through all its stages in another place in the present Session. The Bill has been fully discussed in this House and many useful Amendments have been made or suggested. Public discussion has also brought out additional matters of interest to particular trades, consumers and local authorities. All these suggestions have received careful consideration, and it is clear that numerous Amendments would have been required in Committee in another place if time could have been found.

In the circumstances, my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade has decided to present in the near future a Weights and Measures (No. 2) Bill. This will include the Amendments which he would have moved in Committee, and will show that the discussion of the present Bill in this House and by the public has not been abortive. My right honourable friend hopes that its publication at this stage will facilitate further Parliamentary consideration of the measure by giving Members of Parliament and the public an early opportunity to study the Bill with the proposed Government Amendments incorporated in it.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Viscount the leader of the House will expect me to say that this creates profound disappointment in the minds of many people. Looking at it from the point of view of Parliamentary management, it gives us cause to think. We cannot see right into the minds of the members of the Government, but exactly what priorities are being followed in arranging Parliamentary business? For example, on Tuesday next we shall be starting another Bill which has been through the other place. It is a highly controversial Bill and one which has given great offence to the conscience of many members of the House who, although they were divided in their own Party, are nevertheless extremely upset. Moreover, the Bill seems to have upset the majority of the principality of Wales.

It is highly controversial, and will create a danger to the people on the roads, with the extension of licensing hours, and the proposal to have cafeteria service, possibly without powers to magistrates to stop it, serving alcoholic drink and so on. This highly controversial Bill is being pushed through, but the Weights and Measures Bill, which has been through your Lordships' House and was discussed for months in great detail, and which has been in the other place for months, is dropped. There is nothing that we can do about it, but I must let the noble Viscount know exactly what we feel. We hope that in the next Session we shall have perhaps a little more study of what business ought to have priority.


My Lords, I think that in many quarters of the House much sympathy will be felt with what the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has just said. On the other hand, I feel that we should extend sympathy also to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. He has not appeared in any fibre of sack-cloth or smut of an ash, but I cannot help feeling that he in his turn feels some sorrow that after the great time and trouble given to this Bill by this House all our work should be, apparently, thrown away, and we are to be presented with a No. 2 Bill. Perhaps the noble Viscount can let us know if there is to be a No. 3 Bill, and we can then reserve our energies on the No. 2.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for his expression of sympathy to me, and I think we all feel sorrow that our work on the Weights and Measures Bill in this House will not bear immediate fruit. But, again, I must emphasise that work of this kind is not lost. It will undoubtedly save Parliamentary time if it becomes practicable to propose the Bill in a new form. I think the noble Lord, Lord Rea, should be aware that the statement which I have made indicates that my right honourable friend is proposing his No. 2 Bill in another place. The noble Lord will have inferred from what is said that it is not expected that it will reach here in the ordinary course, but it is a new version of the Bill in order to attract public discussion. I am absolutely certain that the work we have done here has been worthwhile, although I share Lord Rea's sorrow that it has not, as I say, borne immediate fruit this Session.

As regards what was said by the noble Viscount the leader of the Opposition, I cannot follow him in his reference to what I imagine was the Licensing Bill. It is natural that if he thinks that Bill is a bad Bill he will be sorry to see it on the Statute Book at all. But what we are discussing in this case is the fate of the Weights and Measures Bill, about which I am glad to think he shares our view, that it is a good Bill or may be made into a good Bill after the other place has fully discussed it.

I am not prepared, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, to wear sack-cloth and ashes in this matter. We all know that the Parliamentary situation in another place is the subject of controversy between the Parties. No doubt the noble Viscount opposite would be prepared with his usual vigour to defend his own Party: but if it was wise at all to canvass the state of affairs in another place—which I personally would deprecate, and it would not be in accordance with the dignity of this House—I should equally be prepared to defend my Party.


My Lords, I have said at all stages of discussion about the order of business that I attach no blame to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House As regards the other state of affairs and the progress of business, we can discuss them on some other measure.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House a question on the point he has just raised. I spent eleven days and possibly twice as many nights on this Bill. Did I understand him to say that the No. 2 Bill will, in effect, be the Bill that left this House, plus Amendments which were undertaken to be made by Ministers here, and some new thoughts that will come in time? And will the Bill come from the other place to this House?


My Lords, I think the answer to the first part of the supplementary is that it will, but the noble Lord will be able to compare it with the original statement, and I have no further information than I gave in the original statement. As regards the second part, I do not think it would be right to anticipate Business in another place, but we shall handle whatever Business we are given with our customary despatch.