§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, at 3 p.m. my noble friend Lord Rooker will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement which is being made in another place on the fire dispute.
I take this opportunity to remind Members that today the House will adjourn during pleasure between 1.30 and 3 p.m. and that we should aim to conclude our business by 7.30 p.m. In order to rise by 7.30 p.m., Back-Bench speeches should last for no more than nine minutes, as indicated at the foot of the speakers' list.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, perhaps I may raise a question. I am, of course, fully aware that we moved to a different timetable for business. However, I had not personally taken it on board—perhaps it was my foolishness—that, in effect, that will mean that all debates on days where the aim is to end at 7.30 p.m. will be time-limited. Therefore, in practice, if Statements are made and if many noble Lords wish to speak, very short periods will be available for speeches. I know that that has been the practice in other forms of debate in your Lordships' House, but this seems to me to be a big extension of that principle. If I am right, it is one at which I express some unhappiness.
§ Lord Cope of Berkeley
My Lords, I listened carefully to the Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard and he did not say that it is a time-limited debate. Indeed, it is not a time-limited debate, as my noble friend makes clear. That was not part of the agreement and it was not part of the arrangements which your Lordships' House carried in the summer. It was agreed that we should use our best endeavours to finish by the various times stated.
However, in the discussions that we had—off the top of my head I cannot remember whether it was stated specifically in the House; it was rather a long debate—it was also understood that when, for example, we had a Statement, the time targets would be regarded as flexible. Obviously a Statement takes a huge chunk out of the time.
Clearly today, when we have a Statement, we are less likely to conclude by 7.30 p.m. than would be the case if there were not a Statement. In any case, the suggestion of the number of minutes for which noble Lords should speak is just that—a suggestion. No doubt some noble Lords will speak more briefly than the time suggested, but it is possible that some will overrun that time, having valuable things to share with your Lordships' House. All that is entirely in order, within the agreement and within the Motion passed by your Lordships in the summer. It was very deliberately not a Motion to time-limit debates.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, has just said. Last 30 summer a decision of the whole House was made that we should take action to seek to conclude our business by 7.30 p.m. on some days and by 10 p.m. on others. I cannot think that it was not clear to anyone that seeking to achieve that might lead to some self-discipline among Members. The usual channels are trying to implement the decision that the House took in July this year. As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, rightly says, this is not a time-limited debate. No government Whips will stand up at the conclusion of nine minutes to say that the speaker must sit down. But, of course, the House has the objective of rising and that will call for self-discipline by all Members of the House.
The question of whether there is a Statement and the effect that that has on the length of speeches has also been anticipated. At the foot of the speakers' list is a proposed time limit for when there is a Statement and one for when there is not. The nine minutes that I suggested today takes into account the fact that there will be a Statement.