§ 2.59 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ Moved, that Standing Order 34 and paragraphs 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Rules for the Conduct of Short Debates set out in Appendix D to the Companion to the Standing Orders apply to the Motions in the names of the Lord Vaizey and the Lord Mottistone set down for debate on Wednesday 23rd June.—(Baroness Young.)
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, as this matter refers to the conduct of short debates, it occurs to me that this might be the appropriate occasion to make some reference to the subject. I am not certain whether I am in order, or even whether this is the appropriate occasion, but I am unaware of any other occasion when I can raise the matter. It sometimes happens that when there are short debates—for example, there is to be one this afternoon—there are a great many speakers, and time has to be allotted accordingly in order to suit the occasion.
The decision as to the time allotted is left to the House itself, but somebody intervenes and seeks to supervise the arrangements. This is usually left to a member of the Government. It may happen—it has happened quite recently—that the decision of the member of the Government as to the amount of time to be allotted to each speaker in the course of a short debate arouses some dissatisfaction, because the person who decides on behalf of the Government may not be watching the clock carefully enough, or his own watch may be out of time. Or he might even be—I shall he very careful about this; I am not making any charge—prejudiced against a particular speaker who he thinks is inclined to take more time than he is entitled to. Prejudice does sometimes enter this House. We try to avoid it but, somehow, it creeps in, and occasionally it creeps in on the occasion of short debates.
I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether she will be kind enough—I do not ask for her answer now—to refer this matter either to the Procedure Committee or to whatever is the appropriate committee to consider whether or not it would be more appropriate, instead of a member of the Government intervening and seeking to allot the time, to ask one of the Deputy Speakers, or a succession of Deputy Speakers, to take the chair during short debates and allot time in a fashion which would seem to be much more satisfactory.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, first, may I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that the debate which is to take place this afternoon is not a short debate?
197 There is therefore no question of the time limit which applies in the case of debates which it is agreed will last for only two and a half hours. I think the House will recognise that the point which the noble Lord is raising arises from the fact that recently there were two short debates and one noble Lord was unable to speak because time ran out. I have taken the opportunity to read Hansard. Therefore I know fully what happened on that occasion. In this case, the appropriate course of action is for me to ask the Chief Whip through the usual channels to look at the matter before the next occasion, which I believe is 23rd June, when there will be two short debates, so that agreement is arrived at before the debates begin and thereby we can avoid any such occurrence.
Finally, may I clear up a procedural point which the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, made. He suggested that rather than the usual channels or the Leader of the House being responsible, it should be a matter for people whom the noble Lord described as "Deputy Speakers". There is nobody in this House who goes under that name. The whole House will, I think, agree that it would be inappropriate for the Deputy Chairman to intervene and that it is very much a matter for the usual channels. I am replying to this point because one of the tasks of the Leader of the House is to deal with business questions of this kind. I hope the noble Lord is satisfied that through the usual channels we shall be looking at the matter before we have the next two short debates on 23rd June.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.