HL Deb 24 February 1976 vol 368 cc626-42

2.51 p.m.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[Viscount HOOD in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Repeals of the principal Act]:

Lord HAILSHAM of SAINT MARYLEBONE moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 21, at end insert: (" (2) In paragraph 6(5) of Schedule 1 to the principal Act there shall be inserted after the word "objects" the following words: on grounds of sincerely held personal conscientious conviction not motivated by hope of financial gain of material advantage or".").

The noble and learned Lord said: I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name. In doing so, I apologise to this Chamber, and, if necessary, to another place if matters should go that way, for taking up the time of your Lordships once more upon this Bill which has already been so frequently discussed and of which no doubt others besides myself are really heartily tired. But the question of conscience which I now seek to isolate and to which I now seek to revert is of such paramount importance to all of us in both Houses that it is not an imposition on my part to ask your Lordships and, if my Amendment should meet with approval in this Committee, another place to give it consideration for an hour or two in the context of this Bill.

May I remind your Lordships of the state of play on this issue and say why I think another look at it is desirable. My first reason is that, even as recently as the Second Reading this time round, two of the most respected Members of the Labour Party, whom I am happy to see sitting below the gangway, forming a sort of cave of Adullam among the Cross-Benches, showed a misunderstanding of what this issue was about. There are further reasons, and I shall develop those as I go along.

The Amendment refers to Schedule I to the Act of 1974, and paragraph 6(5) of Schedule 1, which this Amendment seeks to amend, deals with the situation which arises if, particularly in a closed shop context, a man is dismissed because he will not join a particular trade union. The Schedule at present provides that unless he has a religious objection—the phrase used is "grounds of religious belief"—forming grounds for his action, he is not to be considered as being unfairly dismissed. It makes no similar provision for somebody who, either because he has no religious belief but still has conscientious objections or, if he has religious belief, has conscientious objections which do not relate to the religious belief which he has. In that event, under the general provisions of the paragraph, he is not to be considered to have been unfairly dismissed if, on those grounds and no other, he neglects or refuses to join a trade union. The question we have to consider is whether that is fair.

I said that only as recently as the Second Reading this time round two of the most respected Members of this Chamber, Members of the Party opposite, misunderstood the position, because it will be within the recollection of your Lordships that the argument was pre- sented at length that one could not confront the unions, one could not contemplate again the possibility of unions or union members suffering from a failure to obey orders of a court. Indeed, only a little earlier (just before Christmas) we heard a speech from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, which I thought fell into the same error; because the noble and learned Lord said rightly during the course of a lengthy speech that one could not—and he used "lawyers' language" as one would expect from him —specifically enforce a contract of employment. I hope to show that none of that has the smallest reference in this context because, as was pointed out by the noble and learned Lord during that speech and as was illustrated (but no more than illustrated) by the decision of the industrial tribunal in the case of the "Ferrybridge Six", there could be in this context no confrontation with the unions, no failure either by the unions or the union members to obey any decision of any court, and there could indeed be, if I am right and if the noble and learned Lord is right, no possibility of the person so affected regaining his job.

If an employer—and it matters nothing from this point of view whether the employer is a public corporation like the Central Electricity Generating Board or a private employer operating for profit—chooses for his own reasons to conclude and operate a closed shop agreement with the union, the only question for decision is whether, if by refusing to join a union somebody loses his job as a result, he is to be entitled to compensation or not. That compensation, under the unfair dismissal proposals which were re-enacted by Schedule 1, is payable by the employer and enforceable against the employer only; so the question of the specific enforcement of the contract of employment does not arise, contrary to what I believe the noble and learned Lord then thought. The question of any confrontation between a union or union members with the court does not arise either.

The sole question is whether we protect a Plymouth Brother by giving him a right to compensation against his employer but not a respectable Agnostic, or whether, if they are acting sincerely and on conscientious grounds, we put the two on the same footing. To my mind no case has been made either in this House or in another place for not putting them on the same footing. When we have dealt with this question before, perhaps naïvely I inserted, or sought to insert, in the Act—as did the Liberal Party below the gangway, in slightly different words but to the same effect—conscientious grounds or grounds of conscience as well as grounds of religious belief. Twice during the course of the 1974 Bill, which we now have here again, and once during the Protection of Employment Act 1975 the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said in terms that if we had only drafted it a little differently he would have supported us. He made the suggestion that in our draftsmanship, instead of using the word "conscience" or "conscientious grounds", we should seek to borrow the words from the Parliamentary Labour Party'sStanding Orders, and that is what I have now sought to do. I do not want to argue as to whether I have got it exactly right because I have not bespoken a copy of theStanding Orders myself and I have not thought it right to acquire one by surreptitious means, but if I have not got it right we can put it right on the Report stage.

I have sought to constrict the matter still further by insisting that the grounds of conscience as defined by the Parliamentary Labour Party'sStanding Orders should not include people who are motivated by hope of material gain or personal advantage. In other words I was seeking to exclude—although I never thought they were affected one way or the other—the so-called free-riders. That is a further refinement tying it even more strictly to disinterested conduct on sincere grounds of deeply held personal conviction, which I understand is the phrase used in the Parliamentary Labour Party'sStanding Orders. Hitherto, as distinct from the Back-Benchers who, like the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, have put forward a variety of arguments, the Government have adopted one ground only for resisting a conscience clause at this point in our legislation. That is—if I may paraphrase what the noble and learned Lord said on previous occasions, and he will correct me if I am being unfair to him, though I do not think I am—you cannot operate a conscience clause apart from religious belief because it it is too indefinite, and difficult to define conscience. I never accepted that and I do not accept it now. I pointed out that the word was used in the European Convention of Human Rights which is enforceable against this country and to which this country is an adherent, and I could not help noticing in passing that the Labour Party has now issued a pamphlet seeking to make the Convention on Human Rights, conscience clause and all, part of the law of England. No doubt it will be interesting to hear the speech of the noble and learned Lord—assuming him still to be Lord Chancellor —when that pamphlet is sought to be introduced as a Bill into your Lordships' House. He may have a certain amount of words to eat when that time comes.

Apart from that, we have the experience of the conscientious objectors' tribunal during the war and the fact that the Labour Party has operated a conscience clause in one form or another from time immemorial. Although, no doubt, like all conscientious questions, it gives rise to difficulty it has not proved so impracticable that it has been removed from theirStanding Orders. I do not think Parliament ought to accept, and I am sure public opinion will not accept, that what the Parliamentary Labour Party can operate an industrial tribunal, which usually has a trade unionist on it, can not operate because it is too difficult.

I do not accept that the Lord Chancellor's argument is right, although for the purposes of this Amendment I will assume that it is right. I have taken the hint from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, when he said that if we adopted this particular form of words he would support us both on the Protection of Employment Act and on this Bill when it came before us again. All I am asking is that Parliament should look at this question again in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, has said about his attitude to the matter and in the light of what I have tried to show about the context in which it is proposed; namely, that all we are discussing is the question of financial compensation payable not by a union or its members but by an employer who chooses to make a bargain excluding non-members of a particular union.

There are two other matters to which I think I am entitled to refer here as mak- think about this again. The first is the Ferrybridge Six. I am prepared to assume in favour of the Government, and in favour of the attitude they have hitherto adopted—and I am prepared to assume for the purposes of this argument, without asserting, because I have not been into that case except to read the judgment of the industrial tribunal—that the Ferrybridge Six were pursuing an unreasonable course. Many people who are motivated by conscientious grounds do pursue unreasonable courses, but the experience of humanity is that they should none the less be respected. I saw with considerable surprise that it was even doubtful whether they should be entitled to unemployment benefit after they had been dismissed, still less compensation. I do not think it should be so doubtful. The sight of the Secretary of State, Mr. Foot, doing poojah in front of the doctrine ofsub judice, genuflecting in front of the judiciary in the shape of the National Commissioners was edifying, uplifting and a little surprising. So much so that I do not think it should pass altogether without comment. All the same, I do not think it should be a matter of argument as to whether such people should receive compensation from their employer, though I fully concede it is quite impossible to give them back their jobs.

The other reason I wanted to give was this. As I explained on Second Reading, I am reluctant to the point of determination not to do so, to send back to the Commons our old Amendments relating to the enforceability of the Press charter. I think we were right to select this issue last time round, owing to the overriding importance of the freedom of the Press in the Constitution of this country. But I do not think it would be fair, for the reasons I gave on Second Reading, to do it again; the matter has been fully ventilated. But I must, of course, point out that this Amendment, if passed in the form in which I proposed it, would benefit the Press no less than the other workers in this country.

It would not give to the editor who refused on conscientious grounds to join a union the right to get his job back if he lost it; but it would give him compensation, which is something. The same would be true of any journalist, as it would be of any other worker who was sincerely moved by conscientious grounds. So we are now in a position to examine in isolation what seems to me to be a matter of overwhelming importance for the good name of Parliament and of our Parliamentary democracy; namely, whether we are going to protect an employer against paying compensation to a conscientious worker who does not happen to be actuated solely by religious belief.

I want to say here and now to the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who is a reasonable man, that I have not the slightest desire to stand in the way of the Government's getting their way about the Bill, after proper discussion. I do not want to delay the matter. The last thing I want to see is a kind of game of pat-ball between the two Houses. Quite apart from the Parliament Act, it would do infinite harm to the relations of comity which ought to exist in Parliament. Nor do I want to score off the Government in any way. I think that on this issue I have been right and they have been wrong. But I would rejoice, like the Company of Heaven over the one sinner that repenteth, if I could only persuade them that they were wrong; and I should be delighted to lose, so that I could never utter again the point of Party controversy which, if they stand fast upon their previous decision, one will have to make. I do not want to score off them, nor do I want in any way to score a political triumph. I am sincerely concerned solely with this question of conscience, and the right to compensation where people act conscientiously.

Having said that, I do not think I ought to detain the Committee any longer. I hope there is nothing that I have left unsaid. I only ask the Government to accept that this Amendment is not moved in a spirit of vindictiveness, in a spirit of dilatoriness, or in a spirit of defiance. It is simply that, if I may use the phrase for the first and last time of myself, for reasons of deeply held personal convictions, on conscientious grounds not connected with my religious views, I think that this is something which Parliament in its own interests ought to look at again. I beg to move.

3.13 p.m.


Whatever our feelings may be about the Amendment, I am sure your Lordships would in no way criticise the way in which the noble and learned Lord has moved it this afternoon. May I start by saying to the noble and learned Lord that I am advised that his Amendment would in no way deal with the Ferrybridge episode. Nor can I leave unchallenged the question whether these men had unemployment benefit withheld from them. That had nothing whatsoever to do with the Secretary of State for Employment or any other Minister. It was an insurance officer pursuing his statutory duty to ensure, before payment was made, that those who claimed it were entitled to it. So, if I may, I will brush Ferrybridge well out of the debate this afternoon.

I should like to suggest that there are two issues: first, the merits of the Amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord; and, secondly, the question of what your Lordships' House sitting in Committee should do, and of our relations with another place. Both are important issues, and that is why I have risen very early in this debate to put not only the position of the Government, but also my own feelings as Leader of the House in regard to our relations with another place.

I have been involved in these Bills concerning industrial relations since the first one was introduced to repeal the Industrial Relations Act. I agree with the noble and learned Lord that, in all our discussions, nothing has given greater concern on both sides than what one might call individual liberty, and the position of a person who is in a union and who is seeking or retaining employment in a closed shop situation. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will be the first to admit that his Amendment goes well beyond the Industrial Relations Act—an Act in which he played a very prominent role indeed. That Act provided that there should be an exception in cases of dismissal, where a person sincerely has a conscience about joining a union. At the time we had a good deal of debate about the matter.

The noble and learned Lord referred to the tribunal's decision. A considerable amount of case law has now been built up since the passing of the Industrial Relations Act, defining "conscience" in industrial matters as religious belief. The case which the noble and learned Lord had in mind was considered, if I remember correctly, by Lord Thomson, and wasHinds v.Spillers French Baking Limited and Anr. It was argued for the workmen who were claiming unfair dismissal that political beliefs were matters of conscience. I could well believe that this might be argued, but the decision of the court was: In our opinion, grounds of conscience necessarily point to and involve a belief or conviction based on religion in its broadest sense, as contrasted with personal freedoms however strongly held, or intellectual creed. We find it difficult to envisage a case in which a worker could object on grounds of conscience, as we understand that expression, to being a member of a particular trade union, without at the same time objecting on grounds of conscience to being a member of any trade union. The case history has now been built up and, because it is identifiable, religious belief is something on which conscience—according to the interpretation in the Industrial Relations Act—should be sustained. We put "religious belief" into our legislation, because we believe that when one is dealing with industrial relations affairs the law should be as clean-cut and explicit as possible. So we put in religious belief because it can be identified, based upon Scripture. Perhaps it is not solely a reluctance to join a trade union, but is also a reluctance to join any other form of association. It is not the union itself; it is the association which those objectors appear to have in mind. So I would make the case for the Government's insistence on the words "religious belief" in the Bill on the basis that they are clear and specific.

Next we turn to the Amendment before the Committee. This is about the twentieth time that an Amendment on the question of conscience has been moved, either in this House or in another place. All have been seeking to identify, as the noble and learned Lord has tried to do this afternoon, the statutory grounds upon which a person who objects to trade union membership should receive special treatment. This question has been debated many more than the 20 times I have just mentioned and I think now we should take a little stock of where we are heading. The noble and learned Lord has moved his Amendment on grounds of conscience. There were many Amendments which (shall I say?) were disguised as "grounds of conscience" but which were quite clear and specific. They were seeking to nullify the consequences and the effect of a closed shop into which the employers and the trade unions themselves had voluntarily entered.

Let us be clear, since there may be misunderstanding on the Benches opposite, that the legislation proposed by this Government does not enforce a closed shop agreement upon any employer or employee. It is for both sides voluntarily not only to agree to a closed shop but also to take into account the terms and conditions. I will say to the noble and learned Lord, and I am sure that he will be the first to confirm it on behalf of this House, that very many, if not all, of the closed shop agreements governing our major industries include clauses dealing with conscience. The record is that the trade unions and employers have all taken a very tolerant view of those who genuinely believe that they could not and should not belong to a union. In fact, I would say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, that much of the difficulty that surrounded the Ferrybridge decision, and the reason why the decision was taken by the tribunal that there had been unfair dismissal, was not that these men had been unfairly dismissed. It was because the employers, the Electricity Board, had not taken similar proceedings against a very large number of men within the industry who were not members of the union; and this was because the unions themselves were taking a tolerant and relaxed view of their non-membership. It was only because these six men were taking a much more abrasive attitude and acting like grit within the trade union machinery and the relationship of trade unions with employers that action was taken.

If your Lordships look at the Amendment which has been moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylehone, you may wonder what a tribunal or court would make of those words. The courts have already been severe about certain drafting which your Lordships' House insisted upon putting into previous legislation. I do not know what the courts would make of these words. However, we are dealing with a matter which one always hopes would not have to go to the courts, because this concerns a relationship between employers and employees. If, therefore, there is doubt about what a learned tribunal would make of these words, what would an employer make of them? It is the employer upon whom the penalty would fall; it would be the employer who would have to make up his mind what these particular words mean. Would they mean that a man who holds strong Conservative political views and finds that the whole system of the trade union movement is so alien and disruptive could say, "I have conscientous convictions about not joining a union"? I can think of a number of other political organisations who might well claim the same, and I have not the slightest doubt that the noble and learned Lord would not wish these people to be able to use those particular convictions for not being members of trade unions. These words could be construed so widely that I have to say to the Committee that if they were put into the Bill they would nullify the lawful closed shop; and yet your Lordships have agreed that closed shops should no longer be unlawful.

I have to say that if these words were put into the Bill and were to be construed as I believe they could be construed, then one would have a very grave situation indeed. I believe, and I have said this many times on the Floor of the House, that our legislation should be aimed at keeping men at work and that we should look to the unions to find ways and means of overcoming difficulties with the object of keeping men at work. I believe that these words could be so interpreted that men might well lose their jobs by believing that these words gave them a certain position which the tribunals or the courts might find that they did not hold, and that instead of being able to be retained in work their jobs would be lost. I must say frankly, too, that as an employer I would not know what to do about taking on an applicant for a job if these words were included in the Bill. I might well have to say to myself, "What is this man's political opinion likely to be? What views may he have, other than religious views, which might mean that I find myself in a position where, in order to fulfil my contractual obligations to the unions with whom I have entered into an agreement, I take on this man, only to find that I have to dismiss him and will perhaps have to pay him compensation?"

I come back to a view in which I passionately believe: that, if you are dealing with legislation which is for the purpose of improving industrial relations, the drafting of the law should be as free from ambiguity as possible. Not once, except when he mentioned the position of editors, did the noble and learned Lord suggest who might be within the ambit of this clause and who might be excluded from it. As the noble and learned Lord himself has said, this matter has been considered on many occasions. There was an Amendment moved in another place to provide for personal convictions as a ground for objection to trade union membership. It is true that the wording of that Amendment, which was discussed both in Committee and in Report in another place and defeated by substantial majority, was not word for word identical with the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, but its import and intention are the same. Therefore, I do not believe that the noble and learned Lord can really say that his Amendment raises a new issue. I believe that on its merits this Amendment should not be accepted. I believe it would he highly dangerous to the health and stability of the refreshing developments that we have seen over the last twelve months in the field of industrial relations in terms of the activities and co-operation of employers and employees.

I come now to the question of what your Lordships' House should do. I said at Second Reading that the contents of this Bill have been considered exhaustively and that I doubted very much whether anything fresh can be produced. May I first say how pleased we all are that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is back in his place. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, suggested that we should send the Goodman Amendments back to give the Commons yet another chance to consider them. The noble and learned Lord did not agree, and here I find myself in full agreement with him. In fact his words were very close to those that I delivered in his absence, because he was sitting judicially when I was speaking; but both of us referred to the deep sense of frustration that there must be in another place if this House keeps sending back to them matters which they have considered, not once, not twice, but three and four times. If this Amendment were to go back to another place it would occupy at least two and a half to three hours, and as the noble and learned Lord knows, two and a half to three hours is of great value in another place, both to the Government and to the Opposition.

So the noble and learned Lord agrees with me that the Goodman Amendments should not be sent back. I suggest to him that the issue which he has put forward so reasonably today has already been considered two, three, if not four times in the House of Commons. But when a vote is taken in the House of Commons it is not just to oppose the Amendment that has been moved; it is to approve the inclusion in the Bill of words that the Commons themselves wish to see in the Bill. So every occasion on which this matter has been decided by the House of Commons has been concerned not only with the rejection of proposed Amendments, but with the insistence of the majority of the House of Commons that the words that are in the Bill, and which I hope your Lordships will agree, should remain in the Bill.

How would it be seen in the House of Commons if this House were to send this Amendment back, rejecting that which was in the Bill and to which your Lordships agreed, perhaps reluctantly, last Session; and, if that is not bad enough, seeking to reject the words that your Lordships agreed to and which are now in the Employment Protection Act? Is it conceivable, is it really being suggested by the noble and learned Lord, that in regard to this matter we should have different words in one Act of Parliament from those in another Act which this House approved during the last Session? I believe that if we have any respect for ourselves as a Parliamentary assembly we should not do that sort of thing.

If this matter goes back to another place, I personally have no doubt what the decision will be, and I suspect that the noble and learned Lord himself knows because he needs only to look at the record of the views expressed by a substantial vote in the House of Commons. The noble and learned Lord said, "Send it down, let it be rejected, then it comes back and we will acquiesce". If I really thought that what the noble and learned Lord was proposing had the remotest chance of being accepted by another place, I would not speak in this way. I am as much concerned about the status of this House in respect of another place as any noble Lord. That is why I am asking your Lordships to act sensibly here; to act as you did last Session in relation to this Bill and in relation to the Act that is now on the Statute Book.

I do not believe that any accusations will be made to the noble and learned Lord and to the noble Lords behind him that they, as a Party, acted with cowardice in allowing the Bill to go through. They have made their views abundantly clear on more than one occasion, and no one really believes that because the House of Lords, with a Conservative built-in majority, overturns the views of a Labour Government, that is anything more than representative of the Conservative majority in your Lordships' House. But as a House we have a great deal more to do in the future in a constructive role. I believe our voice will have far greater weight with another place if today we take the view that we have done everything possible in relation to this legislation; that we have given another place a full opportunity to consider the matters that we considered important, but we recognise that the other place has the popular mandate and that sooner or later their views must prevail. I suggest to the Committee that if its Amendment were to be withdrawn no harm would be done, and a great deal might well be achieved in the sense that, in my view, and in the view of many, this House will have acted responsibly. We have used our Parliamentary procedures to the full; we have not abused them.

3.36 p.m.


I rise to advance the somewhat startling proposition that on these Benches we agree with much of what has been said both by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, and by the noble Lord the Leader of the House. If this Amendment were to be considered in a vacuum —simply on its own merits—it would meet with the enthusiastic support of my noble friends on these Benches. We have always felt and contended that it is quite wrong to restrict to a claim on religous grounds only the right of an. employee, who does not wish to join a union and who loses his job as a result, to bring an action for wrongful dismissal. We are aware, of course, that grounds of conscience have worked perfectly satisfactorily as a means of determining whether or not a person is entitled to object to military service. As the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said, we accept that in many cases both unions and employers have been able to operate a conscience test. We know that the Donovan Commission in paragraphs 603 to 617 recommended the adoption of the conscience test rather than the narrower religious one; we believe it is an affront to many people who may not have specific religious convictions to suggest that, for that reason, they do not have consciences.

For all those reasons we believe that, on its merits, this is a thoroughly desirable and thoroughly commendable Amendment. We believe that the Government's alternative proposal, restricting the right to a purely religious belief, might cause real hardship to individuals and quite unnecessarily restrict their freedom. But we are not considering this Amendment in a vacuum. We are considering it in the light of a particular political situation; in the light of the development of the relationship between two Houses of Parliament. One of those Houses is elected, and for this purpose it matters not by whatever ludicrous system it may be elected. We have the procedure of amendment and counter amendment which we have gone through exhaustively on this Bill as between the two Houses over the last year or so.

At one stage your Lordships will remember an Amendment was carried in this House which substituted for the religious test the words, "or reasonable grounds of conscience". When that Amendment was sent to the other place it was rejected by them and they reinserted their religious test. That came back to your Lordships' House and, on 20th October last year, your Lordships, perhaps unwillingly, accepted that they wished it to remain in the Bill. But the fact is that those words would now be enacted in this Bill, and they would be part of an Act of Parliament were it not for the incidental fact that there happened to have been a disagreement between the two Houses on the issue of the Press charter. As the noble Lord the Leader of the House reminded us, in this House we have always accepted, however unwillingly, the religious test rather than the conscience test in the Protection of Employment Act.

In all these circumstances I would venture to suggest that where that situation has arisen we can justify now reverting to something which contradicts that which we have already agreed only in the light of possible developments. First, it might be said there have been wholly new developments since October of last year which warrant taking another look at this question; but I would suggest to your Lordships that that is not so. We know of the Ferrybridge Six and the difficulties in Barnsley with the National Union of Journalists, but I venture to doubt that those are matters wholly unanticipated, or that they are not precisely the sort of matters liable to arise where the closed shop legislation of the present Government takes effect.

The only other way of justifying reverting to this issue at this stage is if it could be argued that on a previous occasion it was not possible to find a satisfactory wording for the conscience test, and that that has now been done. Again, if I may say so, I find that difficult to accept. I cannot believe we ought to regard the Standing Orders of the Labour Party as being necessarily monuments of legislative clarity!

In those circumstances, my noble friends on these Benches would suggest that the House perhaps finds itself in something of a dilemma today, an Amendment being put forward which on its merits is entirely commendable, but being put forward, we would suggest, at a time wholly inappropriate. For that reason, I began by saying that there is much in what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, said on the merits; there is much in what the noble Lord the Leader of the House said as to the desirability of bringing this matter forward at this time. We on these Benches have considered this matter as best we can. Somewhat reluctantly we come to the unhappy conclusion that if there is a Division on this Amendment today, it would not be possible for us to support either side for the reasons I have given.


My Lords, there is to be a Statement. I think it would be in the interests of the House if we were to resume the Sitting of the House in order that the Statement can be made. I hope that we do not spend too long on it, because we have an important debate, and it would be a pity to interrupt the flow of argument. I beg to move the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Forward to