HC Deb 25 March 1958 vol 585 cc300-89

6.57 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "person", to insert: not being a person born in or domiciled in Scotland".

The Chairman

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we discuss the new Clause.

Mr. Hughes

The Bill has certain implications for Scotland, which I want to put before the Committee. I do not know whether hon. Members realise that the position of peers who come from Scotland is rather different from that of peers who come from England and Wales. We already have two classes of peers. We have what I may call the "Old Contemptibles", that is, the old rank and file of hereditary peers, and then we have elected peers who are elected in a mysterious way by peers—peers elected by peers. It is on that model that some of the Soviet ideas of representative democracy were founded.

That process is to be further complicated by adding to the "Old Contemptibles" and the elected peers two more classes of peers. We are to have women peers and we are to have peers who will be known as life peers, so that there will be four classes of peers from Scotland in the House of Lords. This is confusing the issue far too much.

We would like to know from the Secretary of State for Scotland what demand there is for the Bill in Scotland. Many issues were discussed at a recent by-election in Scotland and I read them carefully—about the H-bomb, the Rent Act and other domestic issues—but I have seen no reference whatever to life peers and women peers in the House of Lords figuring in the programme of the Conservative Party. It may have been that the Conservative Party has forgotten about it, but I suggest that there is no demand in Scotland for the Bill, especially in the peculiar situation in which Scotland finds itself.

I would further point out that as a result of the recent by-election, there is a majority of Members of Parliament from Scotland against the Government. The Government have no mandate to legislate now for Scotland, or especially to muck up the whole conception of the different collection of peers from Scotland.

Now that you have taken over the Chair, Sir Charles, may I say that the Amendment is justified purely on compassionate grounds? The last thing we want for you when you have earned your rest after your labours in this place is to be condemned to be a "lifer" in another place. We all know that you are looking forward to time and leisure to play golf on Prestwick golf links, and when you are hoping to do the fourth hole in about three strokes we do not want you to be called by wire because the Government are in difficulties with the Maintenance Orders Bill in the House of Lords. We do not want to see life peers. That is the last thing that we believe you deserve, Sir Charles.

I object to the House of Lords entirely. I remember moving an Amendment to this effect when my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) was a Minister, which would have solved this problem altogether. My right hon. Friend then called it "Bolshevism gone mad", but if we had adopted the Bolshevism gone mad in 1950 we would have avoided this latest piece of madness concerning Scotland.

What is the House of Lords? The Secretary of State for Scotland is no doubt aware of a piece of classical history written about Scotland and its institutions called "Our Noble Families", written by the greatest living historian in Scotland, the right hon. Tom Johnston. If hon. Members wish to know the truth about Scottish nobility, let them read "Our Noble Families", which, by now, is out of print but of which I have a copy which I hand round for circulation. The former Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston, gave it as his opinion that Our present House of Lords is composed largely of descendants of successful pirates and rogues. Is that the sort of place to which to send tender women?

In case it may be thought that the right hon. Tom Johnston is not an impartial historian, I would turn to perhaps the most famous of Scottish historians, Thomas Carlyle, who described the House of Lords in his time—and it has got worse as the years have gone by—by saying: It is noteworthy that the nobles of Scotland have maintained a quite despicable behaviour from the days of Wallace downwards—a selfish, ferocious, famishing, unprincipled set of hyenas from whom at no time and in no way has the country derived any benefit whatsoever. Now, in 1958, we are presented with a Bill to strengthen the House of Lords. I suggest that to send women from Scotland to the House of Lords, for which there is no mandate from the country, is unfair to the ladies who will be sent there and is quite unjustified from any point of view.

I know that I am not expressing the point of view of the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore)—

Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)

That is a quite improper suggestion. I spoke against the Bill on Second Reading and only with the greatest reluctance voted for it.

Mr. Hughes

The trouble with the hon. Member is that he did not carry his indignation to the Division Lobby. He may not support me when I point out that the Bill may be his last hope. We do not want to see the hon. Member for Ayr, once he has left this place, firmly entrenched in another place. We know that the present check upon the hon. Member is the Election. When he has no Elections to think about, we never know what he will propose in the House of Lords. He might even come forward with a proposal to flog the property owners of his constituency for charging increased rents.

I give it to hon. Members opposite that the House of Lords has its place in our national life—not at Westminster, but in Madame Tussaud's. Next year, we are celebrating the bicentenary of Robert Burns, who wrote about the Lords of his time:

  • "Ye se yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
  • Wha struts, and stares, and a' that;
  • Tho' hundreds worship at his word
  • He's but a coof for a' that:
  • For a' that, and a' that,
  • His riband, star, and a' that,
  • The man of independent mind,
  • He looks and laughs at a' that."

Mr. John Mackie (Galloway)

That is true, but two of Burns' greatest friends were Members of the House of Lords. One was Lord Glencairn and the other was Lord Daer, the eldest son of the Earl of Selkirk. Burns was quite indiscriminate about men if he liked them.

Mr. Hughes

It is true that Burns was indiscriminate about men, but I can hardly think that Robert Burns would have been in favour of sending ladies to the House of Lords. I do not, however, want to follow the hon. Member in these devious paths, which would be out of order.

I suggest that there is no demand for the Bill from Scotland, that it is an irrelevancy concerning Scotland and that by contracting Scotland out of the Bill we would be representing democratic sentiment in Scotland. I know that the right hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) has a grievance, because the new Clause would exclude people born in Scotland who are now resident in the South. That is the penalty that the right hon. and learned Baronet must pay for desertion.

By excluding persons born in Scotland and persons normally resident in Scotland from the Bill, we are trying to find the formula that will exclude Scotland entirely from the Bill until the time when, we hope, ultimately the House of Lords will be abolished.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

As usual, when the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) puts down an Amendment to a Bill in this House, every possible aspect of the Amendment and its implications has been given the most serious and careful consideration. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]I am very serious in this matter, and I pay great attention to what the hon. Gentleman says, but it is true that he does say some odd things.

In opening his speech, he asked what demand there is in Scotland for this Bill.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)


Mr. Maclay

He then attempted to answer his own question by saying "None", but I would ask him if he knows what aspirations may be lurking in the most unexpected bosoms in Scotland. I feel that even in some of his more surprising moments, the hon. Member himself might just wonder if he would not be an adornment in another place.

A great deal of poetry was quoted on the Second Reading of the Bill, and now the hon. Member for South Ayrshire has made his contribution. We had Milton on two occasions on Second Reading, and I would remind those who are interested and who feel that the matter is relevant that Milton also said: In our proper sphere we ascend. There are other surprising results that might come from the Amendment which we are now debating, and from the new Clause which I understand we are discussing at the same time. One is that it would raise in a rather acute form the interesting question of domicile. I think I can dismiss that very briefly by saying that when we get down to the question of domicile, one finds that one might well have to go to the courts to discover where one is domiciled. That is one interesting problem that would arise.

Another matter which arises out of the new Clause is that it would have a very surprising result which I am not certain even the ingenious mind of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire had envisaged. If we accept the proposal that the Bill should not apply to Scotland, what would happen to the votes of any life peers created under the Bill? I am informed that it is very reasonable to expect that, as the House of Lords, as a legislative Chamber, acts for Scotland as well as for England, if the new Clause were inserted in the Bill it could have the effect that it would be construed as making null the votes of any life peer on any legislative proposal affecting Scotland. That means, of course, almost everything that comes up in another place. I think that the hon. Member, without realising it, has stumbled on an ingenious way of nullifying the votes of any life peers created under the Bill, wherever they are domiciled or wherever they live.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

What is wrong with that?

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Maclay

I do not think that is a very good idea. I could not, even after the most careful study of the merits of the proposal, recommend that the Committee should accept the Amendment. Those of us who have moved at all about the world know that one of the great things about Scots is that they have managed to get themselves into the most astonishing positions in the most astonishing places—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—that is really confirmatory evidence of what I said; I quite agree, and I make no quarrel about it.

It seems to me most remarkable that the hon. Member had really intended that Scotsmen and Scotswomen should he excluded from the House of Lords, when I think there is general agreement that it should include among its members distinguished, able people of wide knowledge, the kind of people most estimable in our national life. Having said that, I must answer the hon. Member for South Ayrshire by saying that, ingenious as his case may be, I do not think I can recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I am very disappointed that the Secretary of State for Scotland has treated the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) with such scorn, pretending indeed to have given it a great deal of thought and consideration. He even produced an argument that my hon. Friend had overlooked the fact that, by virtue of the new Clause later to be voted upon, I hope, it would mean that life peers from England and Wales would not be able to vote on any matters relating to Scotland. This was in the mind of my hon. Friend from the start. It was one of the reasons why he put down the Amendment. We are concerned in Scotland to maintain as far as possible the doctrine of democracy, which is much nearer to the hearts of the people of Scotland than the House of Lords.

The right hon. Gentleman might have told the Committee that, in relation to the Scottish Parliament, there is no history at all of two Houses. There was only one House of Parliament in Scotland, and that was the Convention of the three estates. The Parliament of Scotland consisted of one House in which the three estates—the Church, the barons and the freeholders and burgesses—all met together as one. We in Scotland have an entirely different tradition in respect of the House of Lords or of the treatment of our people.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked how my hen. Friend knows whether the people of Scotland do or do not want this Amendment. Surely, it is a matter of mandate on which the Government should act, but they never told the people of Scotland that they proposed to do this kind of thing. They never asked the people of Scotland whether it was right to do it, and if we take the last election held in Scotland, we see that the Government are completely discredited.

I am sure that it appears to the Secretary of State that what will happen if the Amendment is passed is that the only life peers he will be able to get from Scotland will be defeated Conservative candidates at elections, and there will be plenty of them after the next General Election.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Perhaps the defeated Conservative candidate at Kelvin-grove may be the first life peer for Scotland.

Mr. Ross

What self-respecting Scotsman will accept one of these peerages? The premise of the right hon. Gentleman in relation to Scotland is that there is a whole list of men—and I presume women as well—in Scotland who are not prepared to become peers of the realm, for some reasons that are unstated, but who are dying to become life peers. We have been given no justification at all for this point of view. Who are these people who are prepared to accept these baser baronies, but who will not accept the position as at present? There must be a principle behind it. Who are these people? We are told that they are distinguished, experienced people from the professions, commerce and everything else, but this also begs the question that they have to be given, in some strange way, experience of legislation and politics.

How are they to be selected, and who will select them? Who will nominate them? What guarantee have we that there are people who are active and willing to do this, who are prepared to leave the jobs in which they are experienced in Scotland and come down here to another place and give of their time so freely? I do not believe that these people exist, as opposed to the people who would take an ordinary peerage. If we are to have this thing continuing with these second-rate baronies, I believe that no self-respecting Scotsman will accept them.

Let us remember that every member of the old Scottish Parliament was a lord by virtue of being a Member of Parliament, and the old Statutes of Scotland prove this adequately. They were called "Lords of Parliament".

Mr. Mackie

Not the burgesses. Only the county members.

Mr. Ross

Including the burgesses. I am not talking only of the Commissioners of the Shires but equally the burgesses. They were all treated as Lords of Parliament. Even the hereditary peers have never been called Lords of Parliament by virtue of their patents of nobility, but by virtue of their acceptance into Parliament itself.

We should be given a little more information about this. We have been told nothing by the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend asked pertinent questions to which no answers have been given. In Scotland we have a body of peers who are disfranchised from membership of another place. If there is a shortage of peers, why not give these true-born nobility access to this London establishment? We are not all anxious to see the Scottish peers in another place. In Scotland we have not the same respect for peers as there is in England and Wales.

Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)

Not in Wales.

Mr. Ross

I am glad of that assurance from my fellow Celt.

There has never been any outcry in Scotland because a certain number of peers are disfranchised and not allowed into the House of Lords. We see no reason why we should create a new body of peers. They have given us enough trouble in relation to certain things they do which I am sure will be coming into some of our discussions on agriculture, fisheries and the rest of it. The common people in Scotland do not want this provision. I do not think it right that it should be foisted on Scotland.

If not the Secretary of State, then the Lord Advocate, who is learned not only in the law but in the history of Scotland, should be able to give us more information about this, which is another of the string of things which have been tagged on to Scotland. I do not wish the Government to think that this is a whimsical Amendment from my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire. It is something which we have discussed and talked about and we are determined to display our complete opposition to this new proposal to give rights to people not elected to rule over the destiny of the ordinary people of Scotland.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:

The Committee divided: Ayes 128, Noes 277.

Division No. 77.] AYES [7.25 p.m.
Alnsley, J. W. Dodds, N. N. King, Dr. H. M.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Lawson, G. M.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Awbery, S. S. Evans, Edward (Lowestof[...]) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Baird, J. Finch, H. J. Lewis, Arthur
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Fletcher, Eric Lipton, Marcus
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Foot, D. M. McAlister, Mrs. Mary
Beswick, Frank George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then) MacColl, J. E.
Blenkinsop, A. Greenwood, Anthony MacDermot, Niall
Bowles, F. G. Griffiths, William (Exchange) McGhee, H. G.
Brockway, A. F. Hale, Leslie McInnes, J.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Burke, W. A. Hannan, W. Mahon, Simon
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hastings, S. Mainwaring, W. H.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hayman, F. H. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Callaghan, L. J. Hewitson, Capt. M. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)
Carmichael, J. Holman, P. Mason, Roy
Chetwynd, G. R. Hoy, J. H. Mellish, R. J.
Clunle, J. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mikardo, Ian
Collins, V.J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Moody, A. S.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hunter, A. E. Morris, Peroy (Swansea, W.)
Cronin, J. D. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Moss, R.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Moyle, A.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Johnson, James (Rugby) Oliver, G. H.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Oswald, T.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Owen, W. J.
Delargy, H. J. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Diamond, John Key, Rt. Hon. C. W, Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Parker, J. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Weitzman, D.
Parkin, B. T. Skeffington, A. M. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Paton, John Sorensen, R. W. West, D. G.
Peart, T. F. Sparks, J. A. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. F[...]nt)
Prentice, R. E. Stonehouse, John Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Probert, A. R. Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.) Willey, Frederick
Proctor, W. T. Swingler, S. T. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Reid, William Sylvester, G. O. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Woof, R. E.
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Thomas, George (Cardiff) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Zilliacus, K.
Ross, William Thornton, E. TELLERS FOR THE AVES:
Royle, C. Timmons, J. Mr. Emrys Hughes and Mr. Willis.
Shurmer, P. L. E. Viant, S. P.
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Watkins, T. E.
Agnew, Sir Peter Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry
Aitken, W. T. Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Iremonger, T. L.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Errington, Sir Eric Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Alport, C. J. M. Erroll, F. J. Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Farey-Jones, F. W. Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Fell, A. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Fisher, Nigel Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Arbuthnot, John Fletcher-Cooke, C. Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Armstrong, C. W. Forrest, G. Joseph, Sir Keith
Ashton, H. Fort, R. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot
Atkins, H. E. Foster, John Kaberry, D.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Baldwin, A. E. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Balniel, Lord Freeth, Denzil Kimball, M.
Barber, Anthony Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Kirk, P. M.
Barlow, Sir John Gammans, Lady Lagden, G. W.
Barter, John Garner-Evans, E. H. Langford-Holt, J. A.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) George, J. C. (Pollok) Leather, E. H. C.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Gibson-Watt, D. Leburn, W. G.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Glover, D. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Godber, J. B. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Bidgood, J. C. Goodhart, Philip Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Gough, C. F. H. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Bingham, R. M. Gower, H. R. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Graham, Sir Fergus Llewellyn, D. T.
Bishop, F. P. Grant, W. (Woodside) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Black, C. W. Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby
Body, R. F. Green, A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Boothby, Sir Robert Gresham Cooke, R. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Bossom, Sir Alfred Grimond, J. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) McAdden, S. J.
Boyle, Sir Edward Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Macdonald, Sir Peter
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.Col. W. H. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. McKibbin, Alan
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Hall, John (Wyoombe) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Butler, Rt. Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Campbell, Sir David Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Carr, Robert Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Channon, Sir Henry Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Chichester-Clark, R. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley)
Clarke, Brig, Terenoe (Portsmth, W.) Harvey, John (Walthams[...]ow, E.) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Cole, Norman Harvie-Watt, Sir George Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Heald, Rt. Hon, Sir Lionel Maddan, Martin
Cooke, Robert Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Cooper, A. E. Hesketh, R. F. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (La[...]ark)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Markham, Major Sir Frank
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Marshall, Douglas
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hirst, Geoffrey Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Mawby, R. L.
Crowder, Petre (Ruisllp—Northwood) Holland-Martin, C. J. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Cunningham, Knox Hornby, R. P. Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Davidson, Viscountess Horobin, Sir Ian Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Moore, Sir Thomas
Deedes, W. F. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Howard, John (Test) Nabarro, G. D. N.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Nairn, D. L. S.
Drayson, G. B. Hulbert, Sir Norman Neave, Airey
du Cann, E. D. L. Hurd, A. R. Nicholls, Harmar
Duncan, Sir James Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)
Duthie, W. S. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hyde, Montgomery Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan
Nugent, G. R. H. Roper, Sir Harold Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Russell, R. S. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Osborne, C. Sharples, R. C. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Page, R. G. Shepherd, William Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Partridge, E. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Peel, W. J. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Peyton, J. w. W. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Vane, W. M. F.
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Pike, Miss Mervyn Spearman, Sir Alexander Vickers, Miss Joan
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Speir, R. M. Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Pitman, I. J. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Pitt, Miss E. M. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Price, David (Eastleigh) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Stevens, Geoffrey Wall, Patrick
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Wotcester)
Profumo, J. D. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Ramsden, J. E. Storey, S. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Rawlinson, Peter Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Redmayne, M. Studholme, Sir Henry Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Rees-Davies, W. R. Summers, Sir Spencer Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Remnant, Hon. P. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Renton, D. L. M. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Ridsdale, J. E. Teeling, W. Wood, Hon. R.
Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Temple, John M. Woollam, John Victor
Robson Brown, Sir William Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway) Mr. Brooman-White and Mr. Bryan.
Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, at the end to insert: Provided that the number of such peerages for life shall at any time not exceed one hundred in total. We on this side of the Committee have made our attitude to the Bill clear. Our Amendments, of which I am moving the first, are not wrecking Amendments, nor are they designed to prejudge or prejudice the outcome of the debate that is going on all the time about what more we should do with the House of Lords. We are not trying to import into the Bill any significant change.

We are leaving the Government's view on the one hand that the position should continue as it is, with life peerages. Then there is the middle view of people like myself that the Second Chamber, without any delaying powers, should be reformed in its composition for a transitional period, after which we could make up our minds whether it was doing a useful job and should be continued. Finally—I would say this particularly to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee)—my Amendments still leave the House of Lords as it is, irrational, an anachronism, and indefensible before the bar of public opinion. My Amendment does not affect her outlook or prejudge the outcome of the debate on the broader issue of the future of the House of Lords.

I hope that I start with sympathy from the Government, since I am not trying to wreck the Bill, and that I will not get the hostility of the hon. Lady, who might say that I am trying to make the Lords less indefensible than they are.

This first Amendment proposes to limit the number of life peers to 100 and is moved because we want more information about the Government's intentions. If we are to make up our minds about the right number to allow Her Majesty to create on the advice of the Prime Minister, the first thing to know is what is in the mind of the Government and of the Prime Minister. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) asked this sort of question time and again during the Second Reading—"How many peers have the Government in mind? What sort of use do they intend to make of the power to create life peerages?"—but although he asked in his own speech and then at the end of the speech of the Minister of Education, who spoke on behalf of the Government, we have had no reply whatsoever.

One of our problems in probing the Government's mind on this matter is that we have had conflicting views from Government spokesmen about the purpose of the Bill. In the House of Lords on 3rd December, 1957, the Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Home, said that the purpose of the Bill was to aid the Opposition. He said, speaking of the creation of life peerages: For this the arguments are strictly and severely practical. There is, as all your Lordships know, a small number of noble Lords opposite who enable us to present to the world a picture of a House which is efficient and informed and which maintains a high level of debate. But, equally, we know that this is a brave façade and that on a small number of noble Lords opposite there is falling a strain which they cannot and should not be asked to carry much longer, and that this House is perilously near a breakdown in its machinery."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 3rd December, 1557; Vol. 206, c. 610.] When the Bill was introduced into the Lords it was given the severely practical purpose of bolstering up the decaying Labour Opposition in the House of Lords. When the Bill came here, we heard an absolutely conflicting view as justification for the Bill. On 13th February, the Minister of Education said: I would therefore like to make our position plain. We have not brought forward this Bill to assist the Opposition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 608.] One Government spokesman says, "We brought this forward to assist the Opposition", while the other Government spokesman says the reverse.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Does my hon. Friend think that the apparently contradictory statements are reconcilable on the view that the Government intended to assist the Opposition but failed to do it?

Mr. Chapman

Yes, I think what really happened was that the noble Earl thought this would be received with joy by the Opposition Peers. When they turned it down and said, "We do not want it; we have not been consulted", the Government had to turn tail and come here with a quite different justification.

The Minister of Education went even further. Having contradicted his noble Friend, he went on to explain at great length what he called the classes of increasing importance in our society who might now start to enter the House of Lords. He finished by saying that this opened the doors to a great reform. It was by no means a temporary thing just to assist the Opposition, but a great reform by which people of all ranks would be able to flood the House of Lords and alter its nature.

We ask the Home Secretary who is right, the Minister or his noble Friend. On that hinges the question of the right number of peers. If it is to be a temporary matter of assisting the Opposition in the House of Lords, the Government could accept my limitation of 100. The Earl of Home said: I hope and believe that, before very long, compromise will prevail … and agreement will come."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 3rd December, 1957; Vol. 206. c. 616.] If it is to be one step now, why cannot the Government accept the proposition that about 100 would be enough? As this is to put enormous powers of patronage into the hands of the Prime Minister, would it not be a good idea to put some limitation on the number? I am not afraid of this kind of patronage in our Constitution within the right sort of limits, but we ought to settle it when the prospects of our Constitution are very severely influenced by the Prime Minister's creations.

If the Minister of Education was right and this is to be a more permanent solution to the House of Lords, is not 100 about the right number? If we are to have the Lords increased by these life peerages, do we not want to say what is the right size for the House of Lords? We would all agree that there are far too many peers now. There were about 150 in 1800 and only 498 in 1885, but now we have more than 850. If the Minister of Education was right and this is to be a more permanent reform, we must have a rough idea of the size we want the House of Lords to be.

My opinion is that it should be something like 50 peers who mainly do the work now, plus 100 creations specially appointed for the job of keeping the thing going until we have made up our minds, by a round table conference if that is desired, of what the total number should be. On both these grounds, I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that we are due for some explanation of the numbers the Government have in mind. They should say whether the number is right as the limitation on either of the grounds I have posed, and that either it is a temporary help for the Opposition or something more permanent in our Constitution.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East

I propose to oppose this Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) has put the Committee in some difficulty by moving it He invited us to support it because it is likely to recommend itself to the Leader of the House and also to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). I cannot think of an Amendment which is likely to recommend itself to both those hon. Members recommending itself to anyone else. I hope that for that reason the Committee will not accept the Amendment.

Secondly, my hon. Friend advanced support of the Amendment as a means of probing the mind of the Government. I am a regular watcher of cowboy films and I admire the Red Indians who are able to stir up apparently dead ashes to see whether any red ashes are amongst them. I doubt whether any great good could come from that operation in this case. We must look at this Amendment from a practical point of view, painful though that may be.

There is no evidence whatever that those distinguished people who have accepted hereditary peerages, other than' those who have served in this House, have ever done any work at all in the House of Lords. A recent book was published by Mr. P. A. Bromhead, "The House of Lords and Contemporary Politics", in which the author made an interesting analysis of the peers who actually work in the House of Lords. He was able to study only a recent period, from 1951 to 1954, and showed that there were 40 active Conservatives and 22 active Labour Peers. I am afraid that, so far as voting is concerned, he found no active Liberal. That, no doubt, is because Liberals are interested only in destroying the party system where they find it in evidence. Where it is not in evidence they have no interest in a legislative Chamber of that kind.

It is laughable to suggest that these life peers are intended to work in the House of Lords. There is no evidence of that. The only people who work there are superannuated members of the House of Commons who do so out of nostalgia. They record their votes in much the same way as they have done during a long period of service in the House of Commons. Let us dispense with the idea that this Amendment is to provide a working membership of the House of Lords.

The second difficulty at which my hon. Friend arrives is to run against one of the most ancient principles in the peerage, which is that there is no merit in it at all. The idea that we should set a limit upon it destroys the great value of the peerage that anyone can get into it. If we put a limit on we shall have a situation in which for some chance reason a man cannot receive a life peerage. If 99 had been appointed, think of the anxiety of the Prime Minister and of the hundredth man about to be ennobled. Think of the difficulty of going back to choice by methods of the stud farm which we have in the hereditary principle. The Amendment falls on that count as well.

I oppose the Amendment for another reason. This Bill offers a Labour Government the one opportunity, without a General Election or legislation, of finishing off the House of Lords, the right of swamping it by life peerages. If a maximum of 100 is set it will be very difficult for my right hon. Friend to swamp the House of Lords without granting hereditary peerages as well, so that we shall be knocked down by the embarrassment of the hereditary tail of those peers for many years to come. If flotsam and jetsam were to be left as a result of such a mass creation it would be very damaging to the life of this country and it would make it difficult for those who, in the "New Yorker" and other foreign magazines, recommend Britain for its quaint old customs.

Mr. Chapman

It is not necessary to swamp the House of Lords, but merely to use the threat. Therefore, a Labour Prime Minister would merely use the threat to create x number of peerages.

Mr. Benn

My hon. Friend tempts me to be serious and to enter on the delicate ground of relations between the Prime Minister and the Sovereign, which is very difficult in this House, particularly as this House is without the consent of the Queen to enable us to discuss the matter. But there is a principle established, whether we like it or not, that a Sovereign will not consent to the creation of peers of the hereditary kind without the Prime Minister going to the country in an Election.

I think it arguable that a Labour Prime Minister, or, indeed, any Prime Minister, who was faced with a piece of obstruction by the House of Lords which he could not circumvent should submit to the Sovereign that it was proper for him to create life peerages to deal with the situation. He could then satisfy the Sovereign that it would not leave this great tale of hereditary embarrassment throughout the centuries. Therefore, I should be very sorry if the Amendment were accepted.

I think that in moving the Amendment my hon. Friend has unwittingly allied himself with those elements in the House of Lords who already possess hereditary peerages and who would not like to see great numbers of life peers created because they might find themselves unenviably shown up by comparison. The question of putting a limit on life peerages has been discussed in another place. The Government, in their wisdom, rejected it, and I think that it would be a very great pity if, on the initiative of the Labour benches, we imposed that limit, which might remove from a Labour Prime Minister the weapon which this Bill, happily, gives us.

Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is so irrepressible that I sometimes feel that the only solution to the problem of his family is for him to be kicked upstairs at once so that he and his father can fight it out in another place. [An HON. MEMBER: "They always agree."] If they always agree, then it is hardly noticeable in this place.

I feel that the Amendment has been put down as the result of a certain amount of confusion of thought. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East that the Amendment ought to be resisted, but not for the reasons he gave. I feel that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment is perhaps suffering from a confusion of which some others of us might justifiably also complain, which is that we are really tackling the whole of this problem from the wrong end.

When we last discussed Members' salaries in this Chamber, I made the only intervention on that subject that I have ever made. It was on 9th July last year. I said that in supporting the proposal I did so on two understandings. One was that the Government would seriously consider constitutional reform, and the other was that they would daily, hourly and every minute consider what had been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) about inflation. The question of inflation would be out of place in this debate, and I do not propose to pursue that matter except to compliment the Government on the energy which they have shown in tackling the problem.

On the question of constitutional reform, I suppose it would be ungracious if I did not say "Thank you" for small mercies, though this mercy is a mighty small one. I cannot help feeling that we cannot possibly decide—and that is why I think that the Amendment is somewhat absurd—how many life peers ought to be created until we decide what they ought to do and whether the House of Lords is going to be a way of putting into effect a variation of the words of Old Father William—"Be off or I'll kick you upstairs."

I feel that for too long another place has been treated as a receptacle for people whom we would have gladly kicked downstairs, if there had been a downstairs to which to kick them, but whom we kicked upstairs instead. That is a great pity. I certainly hope that the life peerage now proposed would be something in the nature of a reward or in the nature of a selection of those best fitted to sit in another place. I think it would be rash to try to set a limit on the number of those people. It depends a great deal on the circumstances of the time whether or not what has been done by certain people is worthy of their promotion to another place. Therefore, I think that the total number is almost an irrelevant consideration.

The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East poured scorn on the fact that so few of their lordships turn up in another place.

Mr. Benn

With very great respect, the point I made was that those who turn up are the politicians and not the so-called distinguished men from outside politics.

Major Legge-Bourke

If that is the point the hon. Gentleman wished to make, all right, but nevertheless I think he would agree that he made some comment on the smallness of the numbers of those who did turn up. All I would say is that on the whole that shows a great sense of discretion. Many of us who complain of the party system, even if only expressing it by way of looking for another hon. Member with whom to pair, really ought to be rather shy about criticising their lordships for turning up in small numbers.

I find it very hard to believe that the most important thing going on from day to day is necessarily that which is happening in the Palace of Westminster, in either Chamber. I think many of us would feel that there are days when most of us could probably be doing something much more useful, and, perhaps, more profitable. Nevertheless, because we have a certain party system in this place we turn up every day that we are requested to do so by the party machine. We try to pull our weight, or whatever expression one cares to use, and, as a result, life sometimes becomes somewhat tedious.

I have always believed that the reason why debates in this Chamber are so badly attended compared with the past is because so many people have to be here day in and day out whether the topic being debated interests them or not. I believe that if this life peerage system were introduced into another place there would be a far greater interest in the debates, always provided of course, that the right people were made life peers.

It is quite ridiculous to suppose that without knowing the answer to any of these things we can possibly try to fix a limit on the number of life peerages to be created. We have had examples in the past of attempts to flood another place with a new influx of Members. Personally, I believe that to be a deplorable step by whichever party it might be taken. I should hate to feel that the hon. Member opposite was serious when he said that the system of life peerages might enable the Labour Party to do that in the future. I feel that the sooner we can encourage the electorate to believe that it is an honourable and a noble thing to be asked to go to another place the better.

All parties have been to blame over the years for the present position. I think it deplorable that for so long people have tried to use the House of Lords as a means of getting rid of those who are no longer of any value from a Parliamentary point of view anywhere else. I am hoping that a small result of the present Bill will be that those who are created life peers will be people whom everybody knows are going to be able to contribute something better than others could do to the Parliamentary life of another place. It is for that reason that I feel I must resist the Amendment, and I hope that the Government will also resist it.

Finally, I believe that we are tackling the matter from the wrong end. The way in which I would approach the problem is this. I would consider the job that had to be done, the power of peers necessary in order to enable it to be done properly, and then who should be given the peerages. We are told, unfortunately, that another place is going to die on its feet unless we make it possible for an influx of new Members to enter it, and that, therefore, this is the shot in the arm to enable another place to survive. If all we do is to give the shot in the arm and do not get down to considering—all parties in both Houses—how we are going to make the Parliamentary machine work more efficiently than it is at the moment, bearing in mind the vast complexity of State activity, we are missing an opportunity which this Bill offers us.

I regard this simply as an emergency injection. I hope that we shall get down to a real study and diagnosis of what is wrong with the patient and make sure that the proper cure is adopted.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)

I oppose the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) for a number of reasons. I imagine that some of them will sound a little peculiar to some hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

Before I mention the rather peculiar points of view, I should like to say that I find myself in agreement with some of the brilliant things which have been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) but that there are others with which I do not agree at all, particularly those relating to fact. As is often the case, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East brings in a large number of books from which he quotes, and it appears that out of one tome he has produced the information that only superannuated commoners who are sent to the Upper House do any work at all. As I understand it, apparently nobody else does.

First, I have to ask myself what is the definition of work—useful work, or just hot air? Is the number of words spoken the measure of work done? If it is the latter—and it very often is thought to he the latter, except by the Whips, who only count the votes—I am reminded of the fact that one rather desolate peer complained to me the other day that for all the difference it would make the Upper House might just as well go to Abingdon because the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, did all the work in the Upper House. Yet he was never in the Commons at all. Quite a number of other peers think that way. Lord Shepherd, who was a Whip, never graced the Lower House. I do not think that there is any great substance in the fact that only superannuated commoners do any work in the Upper House.

I oppose this Amendment because I do not think it matters at all how many life peerages are created. Indeed, the only reason that I should want to know how many are created would be purely financial. I am sure that the Committee agrees that there is no point in this Bill at all; there is no point in producing life peers to try to save the Upper House unless they are to be paid. Otherwise, nobody is likely to take the job. That is the unspoken conviction of us all. Therefore, if they are going to be paid, I should like to know how many will receive payment.

Mr. S. Silverman

And how much.

Mr. Usborne

Apart from that, I could not care how many there are.

My hon. Friend the Member for Northfield, from his interjections and his massive speech on Second Reading, evidently wants to strengthen the Upper House, but he votes against the Bill. I voted for the Bill or, rather, I did not vote against it, for I want to make the Upper House completely powerless. I argued that we ought to make certain that the Upper House is a place of influence and not a place of power. Influence can be exerted without reference to numbers. Therefore, it really does not matter how many Lords of Parliament or peers we add to the Upper House if it only exercises influence, because the only concern of Members of the other place is to keep the debate going and to make it interesting. If everybody goes on saying the same thing, after the fourth time it has been said everybody leaves and the debate falls flat.

The reason that the Upper House is dying is not that the Conservatives always out-vote the Opposition; it is that they repeat one another. I do not think that the Upper House should have power, and, therefore, a vote should not matter a bit. But it must be excruciatingly difficult to maintain an intelligent and interesting debate when nearly everybody approaches the problem from the same point of view. Therefore, what we have to do is, as it were, like a producer at the B.B.C. or I.T.V., try to get enough interesting people with all kinds of points of view so that when any subject is to be debated one can be sure that all points of the argument are adequately ventilated.

When that is done, as I have said before, I really do not see any point whatever in their Lordships going into the Lobby and voting—unless somebody desperately wants to say the same thing as his noble Friend has already said, then he could save himself a lot of trouble and HANSARD a lot of print if he could go into the Lobby and, by walking through it, would be understood to be saying, "I agree with my noble Friend."

It is absolutely essential that we should understand that the other place has influence, but no power at all. I have, therefore, been moved by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who are determined that the Upper House should not be reformed because if it were reformed it would have more power. I remember that when my party were in office we had time to take all the power from the Upper House if we had wanted so to do.

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)

The hon. Member is going far from the Amendment which deals with limitation of numbers only.

Mr. Usborne

I gladly accept your Ruling, Sir Gordon, and I will confine myself to insisting that numbers should have no importance. if we become interested in limiting the numbers, it seems clear from what my hon. Friend has said that he is envisaging an Upper House in which the numbers count in the Lobby in the process of taking a decision or exercising power—

Mr. Chapman

That just is not so. I did not say anything of the sort and I did not imply it.

Mr. Usborne

If my hon. Friend did not say it and did not imply it I beg his pardon, but, having written down his Amendment, that is what it looks like.

If we were to limit the number of new life peers to go to the Upper House, who, in my view, should be the only peers who get paid—only the new creations should be paid—without abolishing the voting power which the existing hereditary peers have, if both of them were on a basis of equality in the Upper House, then by limiting the new ones we would increase proportionately the power of the hereditary element in the Upper House; whereas it is my belief that when we have a certain number—I would not know how many, but just enough to make sure that the debates were well balanced and that all the people who need to speak get there to do so—when we have enough of those who will be paid, those who do not get paid will, after a time, decide that it is not worth attending. They have all been saying that they cannot continue going there if they are not paid.

We should take them at their word and if they were not paid perhaps they would stay away. Then, in due course, the Upper House, exercising only influence and no power, can be composed of people who take life peerages, for only these Lords of Parliament would get paid. Then, subtly but without reference to number at all—because number has only to do with the exercise of power—this Bill would make a very great reform. Therefore, if my hon. Friend takes this Amendment to a Division I shall be obliged to vote against him.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I must say that the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne) lived up to his promise. He said he would advance rather queer arguments, and in my view he did. It seems to me that the people in the Upper House who come nearest to his ideal are the Liberal peers. Lord Samuel cannot be accused of not speaking, and apparently according to the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), Liberal peers do not often vote. This may be the ideal situation, and I would agree with the hon. Member that votes are not of prime importance except in a democracy, but I do not agree with him that it is worth setting up a Parliamentary body which cannot and does not exercise power of some sort. To my mind, politics is about power, and the influencing of people who can exert power, and if we were to want a debating assembly merely it is difficult to see the need for tying it to the business of Parliament.

I do not believe we need have a second Chamber merely to revise Bills out in detail, because that can be done by a committee of experts upon the subject matter of the Bills, and we need not make peers, life peers or hereditary peers, to do it. I can imagine few more unsuitable bodies.

I would say a word in defence of the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), not in favour of his rather forlorn Amendment, but of the speech in which he moved it. I do not believe the Government have in mind that the purpose of the Bill is to enable life peers to swamp hereditary peers, though one could not deduce that from any reasons which we have so far been given for the Bill. We have heard nothing from the Government about what exactly the purpose of the Bill is, or who are to be the people to be made peers, or how many of them are to be created.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) said that this Bill was a shot in the arm for the House of Lords. It is rather a shot in the dark—

Mr. Emrys Hughes

A shot in the back.

Mr. Grimond

—for no one has the faintest idea of what its effect will be

If we must pay people to go to the House of Lords to do all the work there we shall be putting in the hands of the Government immense powers of patronage, and I think that the hon. Member for Northfield was quite right in asking the Government to tell this Committee of the House of Commons, which is now responsible for this Bill, how many or at least what sort of number of life peers they have in mind shall be created under the Bill and how much patronage they will have under the Bill. What is to be the proportion between the number of life peers and the number of hereditary peers? The difficulty about the present situation is that if we create an immense number of life peers we shall be giving an immense power of patronage into someone's hands. On the other hand, if we do not create many, then the Bill is not to do anything very satisfactory for the reform of the House of Lords.

I sympathise with the hon. Member for Northfield, and I agree with him that we should discuss this matter, and I would reinforce what he said, that we ought to be told more about this Bill and more of what the Government think its effect will be; we ought to be told at least approximately the number which the Government have in mind of the life peerages to be created, and what sort of people they have in mind should be made life peers.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

I am sure we all admire the private enterprise and single-handed endeavour of the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman). Clearly, he believes in a second Chamber. I hope that the Opposition Front Bench will benefit from his enlightenment. Although his endeavours are single-handed they are not single-minded, because he achieved the double purpose of making his Amendment a probing Amendment and one which be intended should be operative as well. I am going to treat it in both those senses.

In so far as it was a probing Amendment, he was asking what were the Government's intentions respecting the number of peers to be created and when they would be, and so on. That question reveals a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to aid recruitment to the House of Lords, but not to make a fundamental readjustment in its numerical composition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah".] I wish to make this clear. It is, therefore. not the intention of the Government that the Bill should be used immediately or within any given time to effect a radical change in the composition of the House of Lords, for example by creating a particularly large number of life peers over a short time. That is not the purpose of the Bill or the intention of the Government.

So far as the hon. Member was suggesting that the Amendment should be taken as an operative Amendment to the Bill to limit the number of life peerages to 100, we have to consider that sugges- tion in the light of two important fundamental facts. The first is that the numbers of the House of Lords have always been unlimited. There has never been a statutory or conventional maximum. I believe that the hon. Member for Northfield is connected with the hotel industry, and so perhaps it would he appropriate to say that it is no good thinking of the House of Lords in terms of an hotel with a limited number of rooms.

Mr. Chapman

When one is building an hotel it is useful to know how many rooms it will have.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Renton

But we are not building afresh. This is a limited operation, as has been explained on a number of occasions during the proceedings on the Bill. It is a limited operation, the purpose of which it is to enable distinguished people to become peers without their having to become hereditary peers.

The number of hereditary peers exceeds 800, and that is a very vital number for us to consider in the light of the hon. Member's suggestion that the number of life peers should be 100. For reasons both of principle and convenience, we regret we could not accept his Amendment. So far as the number is concerned, I suggest that it would be illogical as well as anomalous to limit the number of life peers while there is no limit on the number of hereditary peers.

I stated the purpose of the Bill. It will incidentally have the effect of reversing the decision in the Wensleydale case and of restoring the Crown's ancient right to create life peers and to give them seats in Parliament. There is no clear or obvious reason why, when we are restoring the right of the Crown in that way, we should qualify it by putting a limitation on the numbers appointed peers.

Let us consider what would be the actual effect if we were to limit the numbers, because it is really rather interesting. If we assume that normally all the hereditary peers may turn up and vote from time to time, all 800 of them, the effect of the Amendment would be that for some generations at any rate hereditary peers would be a huge majority. I cannot believe that that would be the will of either House, that for many generations to come we should tie the position in that way.

Now let us assume that the hereditary peers whom we have to consider are those who turn up more or less regularly. I would remind the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) that the average daily attendance in the last Session was 112, and that on many occasions there was a greater number than 112 there, rising to about 200. Therefore let us assume that the number of hereditary peers which we have to relate to the number of life peers, to be limited to 100 as the hon. Member suggests, is somewhere between 100 and 200. On that assumption what we should find is that hereditary peers would for some years at any rate be likely to have a small majority over the 100 life peers, so the same result would be achieved, but with a difference in degree.

Of course, it may be that the hon. Member for Northfield does not intend that that should be the result, and if he does not intend it he will, presumably, withdraw his Amendment; but if he does intend that that should be the result we cannot agree with him as a matter of principle that life peers should indefinitely hold the minority position in another place.

Mr. S. Silverman

If the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that the two things which he has described would be, as he said, illogical, anomalous and undesirable, are we to infer from what he is now saying that it is the Government's intention to create more than 100 peers? If so, how many more?

Mr. Renton

No. I thought that I had made it abundantly clear that the Government have no intention whatever of binding themselves to the creation of any particular number in any particular time. The number to be created must depend upon the circumstances of the time, and upon various factors which will be familiar to the House of Commons, as they are indeed familiar already in the creation of hereditary peers.

Mr. Silverman

I understood that the hon. and learned Gentleman said that earlier in his speech, and he is now repeating it, but in view of that—that t is the declared intention of the Government not to tie themselves to any number—does it not destroy the validity of the argument which he has deployed against the Amendment?

Mr. Renton

I could not accept that it destroys the validity of the argument at all. If the hon. Member will reflect on the matter he will see that the two propositions I have put forward are consistent with one another.

Mr. Silverman

They could not possibly be.

Mr. Benn

Could the hon. and learned Gentleman deal with another point?

Mr. Renton

We have had a long discussion and I am anxious to reply to it, including the substantial point made by the hon. Member about swamping.

Apart from the arguments of principle which I have been trying to advance, there have been various practical considerations—considerations of convenience of which we should not lose sight. The object of the Bill being, as I say, to widen the field of recruitment, we consider that it is inadvisable to tie a Prime Minister's hand in any way. Suppose that we fixed a limit of 100, and suppose that enough life peers were created to reach that limit. The Prime Minister of the day might very well find that the limit having been reached, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East he might want to appoint two more life peers.

I would not accept the reasons given by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East why the Prime Minister might want to appoint two more, but he might have very valid reasons, such as the need to ensure that the Government were adequately represented in the House of Lords and that the House of Lords was adequately served by Ministers. But if there were a limit, and the limit had been reached, the Prime Minister's hands would have been fettered.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

May I be allowed one sentence?

Mr. Renton

That would be—

Mr. Hale

On a point of order. We are in Committee and the Minister refuses to give way. I was about to refer to the fact that there are three Estates of this Realm and that only one appoints peers, which is not the Prime Minister.

Mr. Renton rose

Mr. Hale

Further to that point of order. Surely, you as the occupier of the Chair, Sir Gordon, are under an obligation in connection with a matter of the privileges of the Crown to call to order anyone who makes a statement which limits or purports to limit the powers of the Crown. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department talks about the Prime Minister appointing peers. He has nothing to do with the appointment of peers. He might make recommendations, which might or might not be accepted.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am not responsible for the constitutional accuracy of remarks made by hon. Members.

Mr. Hale

I am glad to hear it. Sir Gordon.

Mr. Renton

In the course of what I have had to say I referred to the Prime Minister as making recommendations to Her Majesty. If also I inadvertently referred to the Prime Minister as appointing peers, with all humility I correct myself. I am most grateful to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) for the opportunity of doing so.

Mr. Hale

But the hon. and learned Member would not give way.

Mr. Renton

I hope that I have now put myself constitutionally right.

If a limit were accepted and the lower the limit the greater might be the difficulty, the Prime Minister would find his hands tied—

Mr. Benn

As I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, one of the reasons why he will not accept the Amendment is that it might prevent life peers from overtaking the hereditary peers, but statistics show that in the last six years a new hereditary peer has been created every six weeks—an average of nine a year. Therefore, there must be some intention on the Government's part to cut down the number of hereditary peers, to give life peers a chance of reaching a position of the importance which, to my great surprise, the hon. and learned Gentleman attaches to them in the work of the House of Lords.

Mr. Renton

There is nothing in the Amendment about cutting down the number of hereditary peers.

I come to the point made by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East about swamping. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) also referred to it. Reference was made to the immense powers of patronage which would be created by the opportunity of recommending to Her Majesty that an unlimited number, or a very large number, of life peers might be created. I suggest that that is not a real danger.

Historically it was contemplated on only one occasion in the past, and one would hope that the circumstances would not arise in the future. Judging by the attitude of another place in the years since the last war, I would have thought that we could take it that there was very little danger of swamping. At any rate, the answer to the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East is that. there is as great a danger, if there is one, from swamping by hereditary peers as by life peers.

I certainly would not accept the Amendment to limit life peers to 100 merely in order to guard against a very remote and quite unreal danger of swamping in the way which has been suggested. For these reasons, my duty is to advise the Committee that we should not accept the Amendment, but I would say sincerely to the hon. Member for Northfield, who himself is very sincere about this matter, that we admire the lone fight which he has put up in bringing this subject forward. I certainly do not wish to appear in any way to have discouraged him from taking an initiative which has led to this interesting discussion.

Mr. Hale

I rise more in sorrow than in anger and with a feeling that what has been said demands some comment in the Commons of England. The Joint Under-Secretary has made some very surprising observations on the Amendment.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

In the Commons of Britain.

Mr. Hale

Very well, in the Commons of Britain.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Surely in the Commons of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is not in Britain.

Mr. Hale

I am aware of that, but we are entitled to our own views about the existence of pocket boroughs in the House of Commons. Some of us take quite a strong view about it—and my hon. Friends from Scotland have tried to exclude themselves from the provisions of the Bill.

8.30 p.m.

I should like to remind hon. Members that we are discussing a high constitutional question. I find myself rather reactionary in this matter. I like peers like [...]ort—old, mature and fruity. I was brought up to have a considerable respect for the peerage as such. I do not always like these radical arguments about the peerage. I cannot accept that peers are not different from other men. If one considers our dukes, for instance, historically one finds that the first duke of the line nearly always had the advantage of possessing a very beautiful and accommodating mother. There are always differences of one sort and another.

Therefore, in the friendliest way, I must say that I did not like to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major H. Legge-Bourke) refer to the possible action of Her Majesty, in calling upon her trusted and well-beloved counsellor, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), ennobling him, and having him to advise her in another place, as "kicking him upstairs". It seemed to me that we were reaching a deplorable level in our discussions. You, Sir Gordon, on whom Her Majesty has conveyed a signal mark of her recognition, must have felt hurt. Although it has been said, wittily, that a baronet has ceased to be a gentleman and has not yet become a nobleman, you can hardly have been left undisturbed.

These are grave constitutional matters which we are discussing. The Under-Secretary of State says that, by the Bill, the Government are proposing to restore to the Crown the constitutional right of appointment of life peers which the Crown always possessed. There never was a more impossible constitutional argument than that. I have put it in the precise words. I heard them, I recollect them, and I believe that they are within the recollection of my hon. Friends. The Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords cannot deprive the Crown of any of its powers. If the Crown possessed the right to create life peers, nothing that the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords could do or say could prevent the Crown from going on creating life peers.

Although the committee on the Wensleydale case was somewhat perfunctory, it is a fact that about 30 have been created in the last 200 years or so, without any particular comment or fuss. Some of them, indeed, have been people of very great distinction. I hope to discuss the question of life peers on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Sir Gordon. For the moment, I will limit myself to a consideration of the Amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman).

I regret to tell my hon. Friend that I do not regard his Amendment with great pleasure. I am bound to say that the arguments he put forward for it were more convincing than the arguments advanced by the Under-Secretary of State, but that, unfortunately, does not deal with the whole question under debate. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, first, that my hon. Friend was suggesting too many, and we should not interfere with the balance of the other place. Then, I thought he followed that by saying that the Government were not really going to do anything at all at the moment. That is just as well, because we have been rather prolific in our production of peers, not only just over the last six years but—let us be frank—over the last twelve years. About 100, I think, were ennobled by Her Majesty during the period of office of the Labour Government, no doubt on the recommendation of Labour leaders. One would have thought that, probably, one of the reasons was that they would attend the House of Lords and vote, but very few of them do, and, when they do, about half of them vote the wrong way. Also, we have the careful calculations of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East, who tells us that there have been about nine a year created during the last six years. Her Majesty should have many facts put before her before ennobling Members, because some of them promoted from this House I have not heard of.

The Under-Secretary said then that he would not pursue that argument any further. If we did not like the first, he would come to his second point, which was that we really could not victimise life peers by saying that we would limit their number to 100. There are 800 hereditary peers, and, the hon. and learned Gentleman said, we should provide an adequate balance. Imagination boggles at the prospect of the creation by Her Majesty, on the advice of a Tory Government, or even at the contemplation by a Tory Government of recommendations for the creation, of about 800 peers. When, in the days of George II, a batch of 12 were created to carry the Treaty of Utrecht, they were asked whether they spoke by their foreman. Eight hundred seems to put it very high indeed.

Important financial questions arise, and I wonder whether there is a Money Resolution for the Bill. One of the important objections to my hon. Friend's proposal is that it would deprive these unfortunate people of the right to strike. Clearly, that would be so, if there are to be only 100 life peers and 800 hereditary peers. We should have the hereditary peers doing what they did in the general lock-out and volunteering for emergency duty in place of the life peers, who would be marching up and down Whitehall with banners saying, "Six quid a week ain't enough". Important financial implications, therefore arise.

There is the further matter of the serious financial implications which will arise because, if there is to be that large number accommodated in this building, the facilities must be extended. We have hardly enough room in the building now to accommodate the operations of the Kitchen Committee. Then, of course, as you know, Sir Gordon, they are paid by the day. They receive no extra money for Saturdays or Sunday, but they do not normally sit on those days. If another 800 people are to come in, it is possible that the place will be going on continuously. Instead of having 100 days' sitting, we may reach about 300 or 320 days' sitting.

What is the Governments' attitude to this expenditure—because the busmen would like to know? This is relevant. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) has made the effective point that, if we are to endure having life peers, there need not be any limit upon their numbers, because the only reason for appointing them would be to put an end to the second Chamber as soon as possible. Indeed, it seems to me that one thing that might commend the proposal is that there are hopes that that would be done.

I would like to ask the Under-Secretary—because he has not told us anything—what are these chaps and chapesses to do? What privilege do they get? Do they have all the rights of a baron if they are appointed barons? I take it that they may be appointed to any of the various ranks of the peerage—dukes, marquesses, earls or viscounts.

The Deputy-Chairman

We are concerned only with the number.

Mr. Hale

But I am in the difficulty, Sir Gordon, of whether I shall vote for a limitation on the numbers, and the question of limitation is involved in the duties. I want to get this as limited as possible. I do not want to detain the Committee, but we are entitled to know, before deciding how many to have, what they will do.

The Deputy-Chairman

That question does not arise on this Amendment. This Amendment is concerned with the number.

Mr. Hale

I am obliged. I kept very closely to the question of numbers, course—but numbers of what? One cannot argue about the figure of 100 without going further and asking what sort of 100 they will be. Will they have any powers, and, if so, on what basis will they be selected? What are the qualifications needed to perform these duties? When one gets to that stage, one wants to know what the duties are. Apparently, apart from dropping in once or twice a week there are no obligatory duties. We are put in the difficult position that we have never been told whether they have a title. We have never been told how they are presented. We have never been told how they are separated or hived off from the other more legitimate forms of peers who sit on varied and serried benches exercising varied and somewhat serried powers.

The hereditary baron has a right of access to the Crown. Will a life baron have that same right for life? I believe that it is still the privilege of a peer who is condemned to death to be hanged by a silken rope—and Earl Ferrers was allowed to go in his own landau.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the Amendment is confined to numbers only.

Mr. Hale

That was, in fact, in parenthesis, Sir Gordon. I accept the fact. I do not suggest that there would be so many executions that the point would arise under my hon. Friend's Amendment, and I will not pursue that matter, although there has been a lot of crime in the Lords, as everyone knows.

If the Joint Under-Secretary of State would "come clean" and say, "Look here, someone brought this up in another place. We have had to mother it, and we do not like it very much now", it would be a good thing.

Finally, when the Under-Secretary of State opened his speech and said that we shall not do anything now, I thought that he had in mind the dissolution of the Honours List. This is a very serious point, because, according to modern Gallup polls, if every unsuccessful Tory candidate is to be made a peer, more than 100 will be wanted. In the circumstances, unless somebody puts forward fuller and more cogent arguments, I am by no means sure that I could support my hon. Friend in his attempt to impose these limitations.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Chapman

I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, after "shall", to insert: be of the rank of baron only, and shall ".

The Deputy-Chairman

I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss at the same time the hon. Member's following Amendment, in page 1, leave out lines 12 and 13.

Mr. Chapman

I am glad, Sir Gordon, that we may discuss the two Amendments at the same time. This is an occasion when I hope that for once I shall have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). The effect of the Amendments is twofold. First, the life peers created by Her Majesty would be barons only. There would be no power for the Crown to create viscounts, earls, dukes, and so on, for life with power to sit and vote in the House of Lords. In other words, we would be taking away from the Bill the power, which undoubtedly exists—it was discussed at considerable length in the House of Lords—of Her Majesty to give promotion to these barons when they get to the other place.

The second Amendment, by deleting lines 12 and 13, would ensure that these men and women who are created peers would not have the social style of baron and would not in that sense suffer a change of name to Lord So-and-so. They would be peers of the House of Lords without any accompanying social style. The Amendments, therefore, would have this twofold effect.

The first reason why that is desirable is because I do not think many of my hon. Friends realise that under the Bill in its present form there would remain with Her Majesty power to create these life peerages of the rank of viscount, earl, marquis and all the rest. The wording of the Clause, by the use of the word "baron" in line 12, gives the impression that these life peers would be of the rank of baron only, but that is not so, as was fully discussed in the House of Lords. It would be quite wrong to have life peerages of other than the rank of baron. We should stick to that for a start and we should not try to import all the rest.

In the House of Lords, when the matter was discussed in Committee on 17th December, the Lord Chancellor said: It would be a matter of policy whether any Prime Minister would ever choose to recommend to the Sovereign to make Life Peers of a higher rank than Baron. … Whether promotion would take place would be a matter of policy. … We want to know the Government's policy on this matter. Do they intend to stick broadly to the rank of baron or do they intend to create viscounts, earls and all the rest for life? If we have to stand the House of Lords for a further period, from a radical viewpoint the best thing we can do is to put into it barons only and try to make the place a little more reasonable in that sense.

8.45 p.m.

I am glad to see the Attorney-General because I want to ask him why lines 12 and 13 are in the Bill anyway. We have only to look at the Wensleydale decision to realise that the Crown always had the power to create life peers but was denied the right to create them and make them sit in the House of Lords; so the only doubt about the position until this Bill was whether any life peers would have the right to sit in the House of Lords.

If the Government take the view that the Crown has always had, and still possesses, the right to create life peerages, why are these lines in the Bill? Surely any such creation by the Crown would automatically carry the right to rank of baron and to the style appointed by the letters patent? I should have thought that the Royal Prerogative already covers what is in lines 12 and 13.

The Lord Chancellor also said in the House of Lords: I certainly take the view, from my study of the matter, that the right of the Crown to create a life peerage of any degree remains untouched by the Wensleydale decision and still exists."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 17th December, 1957; Vol. 206, c. 1242.] If this is so, I cannot understand why lines 12 and 13 are in the Bill. However, the Attorney-General may answer that point.

May I go back to what I said originally and say this finally to the right hon. and learned Gentleman? I think that only barons, not those of any higher rank, and without the style and title, should have the right to sit in the House of Lords. That would be a commonsense way of meeting the point of view of many of us who object to the title and to the social snobbery which goes with it. The purpose of the Bill, as I understand it, is to send people to the House of Lords to do some work there. Why not limit them simply to being peers of Parliament, instead of adding all the style and title stuff that is increasingly becoming outmoded?

The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I reply at once to what the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) has said. With great respect to him, and although he has obviously given this matter considerable study, I would point out that he is under a misapprehension about what the Bill does.

The Bill provides that life peers shall be able to sit in the House of Lords. We are not concerned here with the interesting question whether a power remains in the Crown of creating life peerages without the right to sit. This Bill is limited in its application, and that must be borne in mind. It is to enable life peers to sit in the House of Lords. As the Bill stands, without this Amendment, it is limited to enabling life peers with the rank of baron, and with that rank only, to sit in the House of Lords. Therefore the first point raised in this Amendment is met. It has that meaning only. It is true that, on one view, the Crown might create a life peerage of a higher rank, but this Bill would not bite on that higher degree of peerage; it would not enable the possessor of that higher degree of peerage to sit in the House of Lords, because of the wording of subsection (2). Subsection (1) gives the power to confer on any person a peerage for life having the incidents specified in subsection (2) … So it is closely linked. What are those incidents? The incidents must be that the: … peerage conferred under this section shall, during the life of the person on whom it is conferred, entitle him—(a) to rank as a baron … no other rank— under such style as may be appointed by the letters patent; and (b) subject to subsection (4) … to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lards and to sit and vote therein accordingly. I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Gentleman but he is under a misapprehension. This Bill only gives power to create life peers to rank as barons and to give those peers the power of sitting and voting in the House of Lords.

Mr. Chapman

What puzzles me and what led to my putting down the Amendment was what the Lord Chancellor said in the House of Lords. What he seemed to be saying was that once Her Majesty had created them barons, it would be a matter of policy for Her Majesty to decide on the advice of the Prime Minister, whether they could be ennobled to higher ranks.

The Attorney-General

In one sense, that is right, but the mere ennoblement to higher rank would not of itself give a right to a seat in the House of Lords. They could be ennobled to higher ranks now. The effect of the Wensleydale decision is that there is power to create life peerages now, but certainly the Wensleydale decision established that there was no power for a life peer to sit in the House of Lords.

If the hon. Member will reconsider the matter, he will see that the point which my noble Friend made was that, although there might be cases where a life peer was raised to a higher degree of peerage, that did not mean that such a person would sit in the House of Lords by virtue of the degree. He would be sitting as a life peer and as a baron under this Bill. I think that I have made that clear.

Mr. Chapman

The purpose of my first Amendment is to limit Her Majesty in the sense that she would not be able to make these promotions. Therefore, from my point of view, my Amendment is still necessary.

The Attorney-General

That may be the hon. Member's purpose, but his Amendment completely fails to achieve it, because the words of his Amendment have precisely the same effect as the words in paragraph (a). The hon. Gentleman cannot limit Her Majesty's prerogative of creating peerages of a higher rank by an Amendment of this sort in a Bill of this kind. That would be quite ineffective. What he is proposing is the provision of a general limitation on the power to create peerages of a higher rank. I hope that he will follow me to this extent, that any one created a life peer by this Bill, can be created only as a baron, if he or she is to sit in the House of Lords. If any alteration is made subsequently, they will still sit in that capacity.

The hon. Gentleman said that he wanted to secure that life peers shall not have the social style of baron and not be known as the lord of anything. That is not our view. Our view is that the distinction between life peers and hereditary peers is simply that one will be hereditary and the other will be life. Otherwise, we see no valid reason for drawing distinctions of the sort which the hon. Member suggests.

Mr. Chapman

Why are those lines in the Bill? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain that?

The Attorney-General

I thought that I had explained to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Benn

I do not rise to support my hon. Friend's first Amendment, which falls for the reason which the Attorney-General gave, but to support his second Amendment. As I understood the Wensleydale case—and this is what the Attorney-General said and so it must be right—there has been nothing from then up to now to prevent Her Majesty appointing a duke for life. That would remove a man from this House and kick him in an upward direction, but if he were to arrive in the other place as a duke he would be kicked down, because the other place would not sit him in the House of Lords. That, I understand, is the legal position.

What the Bill does is to give such a man the right to sit in the Lords by virtue of being a life baron, but there is nothing to prevent him, as is customary in the House of Lords, from being known by his superior title although that was not the title which gave him a seat in the Upper Chamber. Lord Winterton is known as Lord Winterton, although he sits as Baron Tumour, the peerage granted to him when he left this House. My hon. Friend has missed the bus.

The point I wish to make it that, if we take the second Amendment, an interesting and serious possibility is opened out that if we want to send more people to the House of Lords there is no need to go all through the mumbo-jumbo of ennobling them. Indeed, if one looks at the history of barons one finds that originally they were people who occupied a special position in the feudal system. It was very questionable whether they were entitled to be called at all. The greater barons went to the other place and the lesser barons came to this House—although at that time the division between the two Houses had no meaning, because they sat as one Parliament under the Sovereign. That was the day of the united assembly, which we celebrate every year at the opening of Parliament when the Commons stand at the Bar of the House of Lords.

To revive the idea and the symbol of feudal land ownership in order to put a few distinguished people in the other place is absolutely absurd, and contrary to the traditions of the evolving Constitution. There are far simpler ways of putting useful people at the other end of this Palace. Commoners could very easily be translated to the other place, with very minor modifications in the law.

An example of a commoner who is in fact already a Member of the other place, in a sense, is the Attorney-General, who, on assuming office, receives a summons from the Crown Office—a Writ of Attendance—inviting him to attend the House of Lords. The Attorney-General, like all his predecessors—

The Attorney-General

I must correct the hon. Member in one respect. The procedure mentioned by him does not make me a Member of the other place.

Mr. Kenn

That is the point that I wanted to get at; it is a very interesting one. There is nothing to prevent the right hon. and learned Gentleman from going there. He need not be a Member of the other place, but he is summoned in exactly the same words as is a peer—except for one word. He is asked to give his advice and the peers are asked to give their counsel, but the difference between "counsel" and "advice" is such a narrow one that with a little disregard for the finer points of law, which characterises all sensible constitutional changes, it would be possible for us to send the right hon. and learned Gentleman upstairs without ennobling him. Far be it from me to suggest that removing him from this House would be acceptable to it; still less to suggest that it would be acceptable to the other House. At the same time, it is a practical possibility that commoners could go to the House of Lords.

My second point—which can be dealt with by the House of Lords itself—is that it is a well known practice for Privy Councillors to sit on the steps of the Throne. Anybody who goes to the House of Lords when a big debate is proceeding and stands at the Bar, as we do, will from time to time see senior Members of this House sitting on the steps of the Throne and making use of their advantage as Privy Councillors. Many hon. Members must have seen the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) sitting on the steps of the Throne and listening to a debate.

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is getting rather wide of the terms of the Amendment.

Mr. Benn

With respect, Sir Gordon, my argument is that there is no need for a man to be a baron in order that he should go to the House of Lords, and I cannot see that the submission that a Privy Councillor might be enabled to go there can be held not to be a case for abolishing life baronies or not introducing them.

I do not wish to prolong the proceedings, because many more Amendments are to be debated. I would merely submit quite seriously that it is very stupid, simply in order to meet an argument—which I do not accept—that we want to have heard in the other House the voices of wise men who are not willing to accept life peerages or for some reason are not suitable persons to receive them, to go through all the business of letters patent and the creation of this special device to prevent them from benefiting from what has always previously gone with a barony, as a hereditary right.

We are creating a special form of sterile peer, and it is a very unnecessary action. The answer is quite simple; it is to recommend to the other House that it should, by Standing Order, confer upon a Privy Councillor the right to be heard in that place. There is no reason why that House should not do so; indeed the people that we are sending to the other place are really councillors. We are suggesting that a certain number of people should be sent there to give their counsel—that and no more—and to go through all this funny business to achieve that end is an absurdity.

9.0 p.m.

Although I do not for a moment agree with my hon. Friend when he says that he wants them only to be barons, I do agree with him when he says that if we strike out lines 12 and 13 we are left with a perfectly workable alternative to the hereditary system without, in fact, creating an entirely new order of nobility, which as he said finds no parallel in history, and which I do not think will find much response in the hearts of the people here, or which is really in line with our constitutional development.

Mr. S. Silverman

Would my hon. Friend like to consider this point? If he is right in his argument that Privy Councillors can attend in the House of Lords now and give counsel, does he not think that they might be encouraged to do so, and would it not perhaps solve one of our difficulties in the House of Commons?

Mr. Benn

I would, of course, support my hon. Friend if I did not think that the consequences of doing that, as things are at the moment, would be that Privy Councillors would be entitled to speak in both Houses, which is a punishment that even in my most violent moments I would not wish on them.

Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)

Having regard to the number of occasions upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) intervenes in our discussions on one pretext or another, is it not far more necessary that he should go and be heard in another place?

Mr. Benn

If we were to give a lot of life peerages to our colleagues here, this House would soon be reduced to a very small number.

Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)

I wish to put a point of view which has not been expressed in the debate; it is, in fact, the exact opposite of every point of view expressed so far. I feel some disappointment at the reply which my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has given on the Amendment. I do not agree with the Amendment, but never-the less I was disappointed by his reply to it.

I see no reason why a life Peer should not be promoted in the peerage if that is thought appropriate by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. I would go further and say that I see no reason why life peers should not, even in the first instance, be made earls or viscounts. I agree that this is completely different from the point of view expressed so far, but in recent years, we have had the convention that an ex-Prime Minister if he is ennobled goes to the other place as an earl and an ex-Cabinet Minister goes as a viscount. I cannot see why we should, by this Bill, expressly preclude the possibility of that practice continuing, if it is thought to be desirable and if the individual concerned so wishes, in the form of a life peerage, if the occasion arises. I cannot see why an ex-Prime Minister, going to another place as a life peer, should not go as a life earl, instead of only as a life baron, if that is the wish of the Sovereign and himself.

I think that there are no advantages and some disadvantages in making a distinction between life peers and hereditary peers. My concern is that we should not make any invidious distinction at all between the two, because if we do we shall run the risk of creating first-class peerages and second-class peerages and I think that would be a mistake. I think that any member of another place should be there on equal terms with any other member, and I do not want anybody, either inside the House of Peers or outside it, to think that a life peer is in some way inferior, through economic circumstances or for some other reason to an hereditary peer. I do not want them to be thought of as "poor relations".

For that reason, I not only oppose the Amendment, but also the underlying purpose behind it, and I express my disappointment with the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend.

The Attorney-General

My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) cannot have followed what I said. I said that there was nothing to stop a higher degree being conferred if Her Majesty so wished, but I said that any conferment of a higher degree on a life peer would not entitle him to sit in the House of Lords. If my hon. Friend did not follow what I said earlier, perhaps he will now agree that what I said was correct.

Mr. Fisher

I am sorry if I misunderstood my right hon. and learned Friend. What I said was that they should go to the other House on the same basis and on the same terms, without any invidious distinction, as hereditary peers now go. I feel that they ought to be allowed to go as earls and viscounts as hereditary peers do now, and if that is the point of what my right hon. and learned Friend said, I withdraw my remarks on that aspect of the matter.

Mr. Hale

I am impressed by the little bit I have heard of what was said by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher). I did not hear the private conversation between the hon. Member and the Attorney-General at all. We shall have to have circulating microphones when these conversations take place.

I do not feel that this is very fair. I think that these chaps have had a raw deal. They have to go to this place, which is not very exciting—[HON. MEMBERS: We cannot hear."] I am sorry, but hon. Members opposite never seem to want to hear me. But I will speak louder with pleasure.

I am in favour of the ancient peerage and rather impressed by these various gradations. There seems to me a curious sort of feeling that barons have a monopoly under this Bill. The Leader of the House, referring to the Wensleydale case, mentioned Sir James Park as a former Baron of the Exchequer, as if that had some esoteric significance. In fact, Barons of the Exchequer had less to do with the peerage than barons of beef; and they were very much blown on even at that time. Lord Campbell who was Lord Chancellor of Ireland and of Britain, or rather of England and Wales, and Lord Chief Justice of England, complained that an Attorney-General had once accepted a puisne judgeship and another had descended to become a Baron of the Exchequer, so that it was not regarded as a good rank.

The history of the Wensleydale peerage is that Lord Chancellor Cranwell found himself sitting often as a supreme tribunal of the Lords with Lord St. Leonard and they hated the sight of one another. Whatever Lord Cranwell said was the law Lord St. Leonard said was not, with the result that no appeal could be resolved. Lord Cranwell said to Lord Palmerston, "Something ought to be done about this. Can you appoint a reliable judge who is likely to agree with me?" There was some difficulty about that, because there were two Parks on the Bench at that time. One had an additional letter to his name and the other possessed a squint. They were known to the Bar as the "Parke with an 'e'" and" Park with an 'eye'". It was in fact Parke with an 'e'" who was appointed and, as the whole House knows, every constitutional lawyer has said that the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords was wrong in refusing this; and not only every constitutional lawyer but the Under-Secretary for the Home Office said a few minutes ago that he was going to restore to the Crown the old privilege of which a committee of the House of Lords by some obscure means deprived the Crown.

It is fair to see who were the life peers created before. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be impressed by this. Of the 29 recorded in the Table of the Peers as having been appointed as life peers before the appointment of Lord Parke quite a number were appointed dukes or duchesses in their own right. There was no limitation whatever on barons. In point of fact, two of the most notable appointments were created in the reign of George I. Emmengarde Melusina Baroness Schuldberg was appointed Duchess of Munster in Ireland for life and later Duchess of Kendall in the United Kingdom, and finally by the Emperor, Princess of Eborstein. She was one of the King's most trusted and intimate counsellors, as history records and took her duties so seriously that she was on duty day and night. There was the Countess Von Plaren. She was also the second most trusted counsellor and she became Countess of Leinster for life and Countess of Darlington. Sir Philip Francis, an authority on constitutional reform, said that the peerages were given to reward their merits in their respective departments, and to encourage the surrender of prudery in the younger and more handsome subjects.

But the question of dissolution honours remains important. There can be no intention to limit the degree of honour that might be made. In making his recommendations to Her Majesty, the Prime Minister would wish to differentiate between the man who was beaten by ten and the man beaten by 10,000. In the giving of honours, that is the only way it can be done. The Prime Minister can say, "After all, he did not oppose the Government. He did not join the Hinchingbrooke Party or anything like that. He played the game, played it well and rang his bell to the end, and something ought to be done about it".

The great constitutional point about this is that it is an infringement of the Royal Prerogative. We are not entitled to say that Her Majesty shall not reward her trusty and well beloved counsellors as she would think fit. In the Wensleydale case, when the whole question of the right to appoint baronesses and the appointment of life peers was considered, they looked up the appointments. There was the famous appointment of Lord Hay, who was appointed a life peer without the right to sit in Parliament. We are now proposing to give them the right to sit in Parliament but apparently no particular right otherwise. The grant for Lord Hay says: Know ye that whereas it is truly a royal quality to further with condign honors, merited at our hands, men excelling in probity and virtue who are anxiously striving to show their devotion to us, and on them to confer benefits and rewards. We therefore, considering the long continued loyalty and faithful service which our well beloved James Hay, and so on. No one disputed the constitutional nature of that award. After that, James Hay did a bit of work and kept the royal wardrobe, and therefore he was made a hereditary peer. In this case the record says: We deem it greatly to illustrate the dignity of our crown and the beneficence of our nature, that whenever roused by the true power of virtues and deserts, with equal hand and with well selected honors, we impart rank and splendor to persons of excellence, who are able and capable of sustaining both the name and the burthen of honors, for since it is the concern of all that the deserving should be promoted, so it happens that the rays of the royal favor shed upon one man light up many others. They lit them up in different degrees. The man who displays splendour and pure effulgence ought not to be limited to being a mere baron. The record goes on: … it truly is a royal act to heap fresh honors and accessions of favor upon those whom favor and munificence have once infolded and adorned, and whom experience has shown to be grateful for former fortune, and animated to better deeds. I would ask hon. Members to pause here and to remember that when the Prime Minister is making his recommendations, and a chap who has been made a life baron votes regularly on the right side, what can the Prime Minister do about it? That is pretty well the problem that confronted my right hon. Friend in his Criminal Justice Bill. If you get a life baron voting and turning up every time, being there regularly, the least we can do is to make him a viscount. In that way, we may weaken the Constitution as it exists. I would personally say, with this record: We, therefore, bearing in memory as well the many and choice services of James Hay of Beaulieu, Knight, late our councillor within our kingdom of Scotland, father of James Lord Hay, gentleman of our bed chamber and master of our great wardrobe, as also the continued loyalty and deserving acts which the aforesaid James Lord Hay during many years now elapsed hath done and shown to us, and weighing with mature deliberation the truly noble and courteous manners of the same James Lord Hay, and his great prudence with prowess, and that he possesses a mind no less excellent in intimate affection and fidelity towards us than adorned with great endowments of nature and the cultivation of letters, and fitted by his assiduous and customary attendance upon our person to treat on all great affairs. I am privileged to have been able to pay that tribute—not my own, of course, but the tribute of the Crown of the day—to this gentleman, because, as far as I know, he has never been heard of either before or since. Therefore, his merits should be recognised.

9.15 p.m.

There must come a point at which we have to have our relations and I personally am not in favour of setting it. My hon. Friend seemed to anticipate a wide measure of support on these benches for the Amendment but even after listening with an open mind and a cheerful heart to the arguments which followed I doubt whether I could support the Amendment if it were pressed to a Division.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I find myself much influenced by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). I rather think that he was opposing the first Amendment, but possibly supporting the second. At any rate, the substance of the matter is that my hon. Friend wants inequality among peers. I have never understood, and I hope that at some stage during the evening someone will explain, the historical significance of the word "peers". So far as I understand, for years and years they have called themselves peers but insisted that they differed from one another in glory, and it is my hon. Friend's view that the difference in glory among them should be preserved. If I followed the advice given to the Committee by the Attorney-General, this difference in glory will be preserved by the Bill.

As I understand the matter it is as follows. Let us suppose that after the next Election it is designed to honour Mr. Smith, or it may be Mr. Parkinson or Mr. Royal or others who are qualified for support. In the first instance under this Bill he would be made a life peer. As the Bill stands, he would then be known as Baron Parkinson or Baron Royal. He might subsequently be created a viscount or an earl. If he were so created it could be a life earldom, which would not entitle him to sit in the House of Lords, but, as he still possessed the life peerage, he would be able to sit in the House of Lords by virtue of that. Everyone would still call him earl while he was there, and I cannot see that it would make much difference to him.

Alternatively, there might be conferred on him an hereditary earldom. In that case he would certainly be enabled by virtue of the hereditary earldom to sit and vote in the House of Lords, but I presume he would not at the same time continue to hold a life peerage and the hereditary earldom. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Possibly that is a matter on which we may have further advice.

Mr. Chapman

I think my hon. Friend is wrong there. Her Majesty's prerogative to create peers with no power to sit in the House of Lords has always existed, and it would continue.

Mr. Stewart

So, if a man is created a life peer under this Measure and subsequently is given an hereditary earldom, he has two claims to a seat in the House of Lords?

Mr. Hale

The life peerage would merge in the hereditary earldom. The real danger is if he becomes a life earl and an hereditary baron and marries a countess in her own right. The question then becomes extremely complex. It would mean that in the West End of London every major domo must read for the Bar. There would arise for the Minister of Agriculture fascinating problems about sex linkage.

Mr. Stewart

If such a man has two claims to a seat in the Lords—one, that he has been made a life peer under this Measure and, two, that subsequently he has been made an hereditary earl—it does not seem quite fair that he has only one vote there. That brings me to my private, but in my judgment compelling, reason for liking the second Amendment and not the first. If we have these life peers but in fact they can have conferred on them higher ranks of peerage than barons by which they will be called although it is not by virtue of them that they sit in the Lords, that opens the way in future to an important reform.

It may well happen that a party finds itself with an overwhelming majority in this House but with a serious minority in the other House, and that, in order to remedy that position, it does not want to create peerages, either hereditary or life, on a very large scale. My view of how one could get round that is to arrange that the number of votes cast by Members of another place should vary with the rank they hold, that barons should cast one vote, viscounts two votes, earls three votes, and so on. It would then be possible for the Government of the day to increase their majority in the Lords simply by raising the rank in the peerage of a limited number of their own sup porters. This would combine the democratic principle of final authority in the hands of the party that had the majority in this House without making the other place unreasonably large.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

Would my hon. Friend compel the said nobleman to vote on each occasion in the same Lobby or allow him to change his vote?

Mr. Stewart

That is a very interesting point. It would enable Members of another place to express various degrees of qualified approval for the policies that might be put before them.

I am bound to say, with great respect to those of my hon. Friends who have taken part in the debate, that unless we are to give the different ranks of the peerage some solid value like that, I find it difficult to imagine a more important question than the question of by what rank or title these life peers are called.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

Does not my hon. Friend think that the giving of five votes to a duke, especially a Liberal duke, would get over the curious dichotomy which affects Liberals when they really do not know in which Lobby to vote?

Mr. Stewart

I am immensely obliged to my hon. Friend. I am very gratified to find that no sooner do I make a proposal than I immediately have support for my arguments, which I never previously imagined, from several of my hon. Friends. I think, therefore, that it would be a good thing to make sure that these life peers can be of different ranks, and we can keep this proposal in mind for adoption should the need arise on a subsequent occasion.

Amendment negatived.

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 18, to leave out subsection (3).

The purpose of this Amendment is to reject the proposition that life peeresses should be sent to the other place. I am glad of this opportunity to ask the Government spokesmen to be kind enough to enlighten us a little more about their motives and their intentions in regard to women in this matter. For instance, it is quite plain that if the Government wished to do so they could create hereditary peeresses who would sit in the other House. No one has yet explained to us why that proposal has not been brought forward.

The representatives of the Government ask us to believe that in sending peeresses to the House of Lords they are honouring my sex, that such peeresses would have to be women of distinction, that this is a step towards sex equality and that there is something very strange about those of us sitting on this side of the Committee who are not impressed by and who do not agree with that suggestion. If it is an honour for women to be sent to the other place, why do hon. Members, particularly noble Lords, not start with the women in their own families? Do not they think any of them are worthy of being honoured? Why are peeresses in their own right excluded? Do they lack the intelligence or the personality, or are the Lords insistent that they are only going to put up with strange women? It is an extraordinary proposition that should come to us from the Lords, that they are willing to countenance the women they do not know but are not going to have anything to do with women whom they do know.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

Would not the hon. Lady agree that there are sometimes disadvantages in a husband and wife serving in the same House?

Miss Lee

The hon. Gentleman must speak for himself. I think we had better confine our attention to the other place. Let us get one point cleared up at a time.

Hon. Members opposite have enough votes to allow hereditary peeresses to take their place in the Upper House. As is well known, I do not believe in the other place. I have enjoyed myself very much this afternoon. I am a great fan of the Crazy Gang, and I should like to compliment many of my colleagues on their ability as amateur entertainers, for they have almost been up to the standard of the Crazy Gang, which is precisely how this whole issue of the House of Lords ought to be treated. It is nonsense. We were entitled to have a bit of fun this afternoon, but it is nonsense which the Government have put before us, though presumably the Government want it to be treated as sense. Therefore, will the Government spokesman give us a little help and not dodge the issue?

If we are seeking to honour women, why not begin by introducing the hereditary peeresses into the other House? Throughout the whole debate there has been an argument with which I do not agree. It applies to this Amendment, but it applies also to men who are to be made life peers. All the time we hear that if distinguished men or women are going to be sent to the other place, the likelihood is that they will be appointed only as life peers or peeresses.

Is it intended to make all the undistinguished people hereditary peers and the distinguished people life peers? If that is the case, it seems to me that many hon. Members opposite have lost their sense of social survival. Historically the Lords have maintained their position by allowing new blood to refresh them. The vulgar tradesmen's blood in the 19th century was accepted when there was enough money attached to them. But in terms of survival do not the Government think that the hereditary peers could do with a little distinguished blood? Why should the children of distinguished men and women be excluded, while there is presumably a special corner for the undistinguished hereditary peers?

I totally fail to understand what the Government are trying to do. Or do I understand? This is not a new idea that hereditary peers or even peeresses should be created. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) enlightened us a great deal about the seventeenth century life peeresses who were not asked to serve in another House. This is not a new idea. But at the bottom of it—and this argument applies to women as well as to men—there is a great deal of snobbery. The old idea is that to be a hereditary peer one has to have broad acres to sustain the position. Many people have been greatly distressed because in recent times there have been hereditary peers who lacked those broad acres.

Mr. Hale

My hon. Friend said that I referred to the creation of life peeresses in the seventeenth century. In fact, I referred to the eighteenth century, but it was out of a sense of decency and decorum that I made no reference to Louise de la Kerouaille.

9.30 p.m.

Miss Lee

I accept that correction, but not the explanation.

We are asked to believe that the Government are seriously honouring women by extending the Bill to them, but we know what the situation really is. We know that the Government are anxious to maintain a permanent Tory majority in the other Chamber, and they know that the other Chamber is deadly dull, so deadly dull that something has to be done to give it a little more news interest and a little more brightness. I am opposed to members of my own sex being given these peerages because I think they could improve the other place. I am putting a feminist, not an anti-feminist, argument. If I thought that the presence of women would make the second Chamber duller, more stupid, more reactionary than it is, I would reconsider my Amendment.

As it is, I think it has been made absolutely clear today that this is a shoddy, little smart Alec of a Bill. Certain noble Lords have taken a look at Members on these benches and they have made a cold calculation and have wondered, "Just how much can we give away to those simpletons on the Labour benches?" No doubt they thought that the women amongst us were the simplest of the lot. Their attitude shows the contempt in which they hold women. Otherwise they would have had their own womenfolk in their House long ago. They thought we should be taken in by this superficial argument and that we should think this a step in the right direction. They would not have done so if they were really concerned with the dignity of the status of women. But they thought we should be taken in by this life peerage proposition. If we are to have a House of Lords I prefer the hereditary principle to this bastard, hybrid proposition. For a hundred years attempts have been made to introduce life peers for all kinds of reasons. Those attempts have been rejected, and I hope that this Committee will see the reality behind this argument put forward by the Government.

After enjoying itself today I hope the Committee will teach the Government that we are in earnest about this matter. One thing I have not liked in the debate has been the assumption now and again that we are going to implement this Bill, that we are really going to allow all this to happen. I hope that it will be clearly stated from this side that we are not. If the Tories use their majority to foist this foolish, deceiving Measure through they can nominate their Tory life peers and peeresses. We cannot stop them from doing that. They can call the peeresses duchesses, countesses, ladies, whatever they like. We do not know what they intend to call them. I do not see why we should be kept in an agony of suspense about that, and we ought to be given that much information. However, let them do what they want, but let it be clearly understood that this is a party Measure, a partisan Measure, and that every argument used to sustain it has been made by Government spokesmen in that sense.

The Leader of the Opposition made perfectly clear during the debate on Second Reading that we had not been consulted and that we did not want this Bill and that we were not taken in by the kind uncle act being put on by hon. and right hon. Members opposite. If their intention was to give the children on this side a treat, now that we have made it perfectly clear, by voting against the Second Reading, as we shall vote against the Third Reading, that we do not want it, why go on piling absurdity upon absurdity? Let us face the truth of the situation, which is that the Tories are at their wits' end to know how to support an institution which is insupportable. The sooner it is replaced by a sensible and reformed House the sooner we can get a decent improved constitutional arrangement. If we cannot do that, if we have to have a second Chamber, let it be a sensible Chamber and, for goodness' sake, let us not try to drag in a number of women to camouflage it.

Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)

I find this a most fascinating Amendment. To think that the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), with all her protestations of feminist hopes, should move an Amendment which seeks to exclude women from one of the last two professions or callings denied to them in this country! When I think of the numerous women's organisations with which the hon. Lady has been associated, I feel that she is quite out of touch with public opinion today.

When I listened to some of the debates in another place, I did not think that certain noble Lords, who were against the inclusion of women in another place, would get such unusual support. If there is to be a protest march on the subject, I can hardly wait to see it reaching Parliament Square, past the statue of Mrs. Pankhurst, led by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock and flanked by Lord Airlie and Lord Glasgow.

Miss Lee

Would the noble Lady please help right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite on this problem of what is to be done about the poor hereditary peeresses?

Lady Tweedsmuir

I shall indeed say something shortly about the position of hereditary peeresses, but I should like to comment first on a remark made by the hon. Lady. She seemed to think, illogically, that the Upper House would be much strengthened if women were included. Surely, she does not claim that the addition of a few women to the Upper House will make all that difference. The real fact, and the hon. Lady says it quite candidly, is that she wants to abolish the Upper House altogether. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Judging by the support given to that view, it really makes one feel, unless a member of the Opposition Front Bench rises to deny it now, that that really is the view of the official Opposition as well. I think that the Committee will judge by the silence of right hon. Gentlemen opposite that their secret policy is to abolish the House of Lords, that they know it quite well but they dare not say it in public.

People in this country have an extraordinary political sense, a kind of sixth sense, and a profound political instinct that would make them suspect the motives of any who were afraid of the restraint which the Upper House brings into the Constitution. Those who are afraid of a Measure like this Bill to strengthen the Upper House really oppose it because they are afraid of the restraint on the Constitution, despite the fact that it was under a Labour Government in 1949 that the present powers of the Upper House were agreed upon. One must ask, therefore, why it is that hon. Members opposite are afraid that those powers should be used.

I want to turn once again to the main part of the Amendment, which deals with the question whether women should or should not be included in the House of Lords. When the country has agreed since 1918 that women have some contribution to make to the House of Commons, I see no logical reason why they should not make a contribution in another place. Whether women have been any good in the House of Commons is, of course, a 64,000-dollar question which it is not for me to answer.

Strangely enough, I support the view of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock about hereditary peeresses. It is extraordinarily illogical that the Government should admit women life peers and yet deny to women hereditary peers in their own right what is called seat, voice and place in the Upper House. I think I am right in saying that they are the only citizens of the country who are denied basic political rights. There are only twenty-four of them. Seven are Scottish representative peeresses and would, therefore, presumably, come under our system of the election of Scottish representative peers. It is quite likely that these peeresses might not wish to take their place and vote and speak in another place. The Government have said that they would be eligible for consideration as life peers while keeping the hereditary title. Surely, that does not get over the fact that they are still denied basic political rights.

It is said also of the twenty-four women concerned that their inclusion cannot be considered now because it would extend the hereditary system. The Government have not mentioned that they do not intend to make any more hereditary peers. Therefore, while there is still a possibility of creating more hereditary peers, there is no justification for denying these particular women the rights which have for so long been withheld from them. While few will support their claim, because they are few in number, I trust, nevertheless, that, when they are elected for a further term of office in the near future, the Government will make this reform as part of a far wider reform of the House of Lords.

I hope that the Committee will reject the Amendment. It would, thereby, give a chance for many women who have served the country well outside the House to take their part in public affairs, women who for personal or family reasons, or even for health reasons, perhaps, cannot represent a constituency. I think that the Upper House would be enriched by their presence in suitable numbers. Lastly, the Amendment should be rejected because it conceals an ill design under an antifeminist approach.

Mr. H. Morrison

I hope the Home Secretary will not give the undertaking requested by the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) at a later date to bring in still wider reforms of the House of Lords. This is a modest and limited Bill. If we begin to talk about wider and more sweeping reforms, we should run the risk of having to go into the whole range of the powers of their Lordships' House; any contemplation of those powers being increased would be wrong and, I think, bad.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) and with the noble Lady in one respect. I cannot understand why the concession as regards women is limited to what I may call life peerage women. I am not sure whether the name "hereditary peeresses" is the right name for the others; I am never quite sure what they are, but, since that name has been used, I had better use it. I cannot follow why recognition of the principle of political sex equality should not be extended to hereditary peeresses. It seems to me that, so long as we have hereditary peers, the women have an equal right. I should have thought that that was a reasonable request to make to the Government. For all I know, there may be very serious technical, or, perhaps, legal difficulties, and if that be so we ought to have the matter explained. If not, I agree with the two hon. Ladies who have spoken in regretting that the concession has not been made.

On the main issue which my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock has raised, with great respect, I just cannot agree with her. In discussing this limited Bill, one is bound to have views coloured by strong feelings, perhaps, which I understand, about the House of Lords as an institution.

Surely we have to consider the proposals in the Bill on the merits of the case. I have consistently thought that the Labour Party has always been in favour of equality of political rights as between men and women. We supported the suffrage campaign at a time when even a Liberal Government were against making the concession of the vote to women. We supported it with great vigour, and we believed in it in days when the claim of the vote for women was not popular.

9.45 p.m.

We on this side have supported the rights of women in other respects on a number of occasions. It would be out of place, having regard to our traditions on political sex equality, for us now to reverse our decision and say that it can obtain anywhere but not in one of the Houses of Parliament, namely, the House of Lords. Their Lordships' House is the only public authority left, as far as I know, in which women are denied equal rights. I think that that is an insult to women. I know that there are certain reactionary and rather stuffy Lords who do not want women in their Chamber. Whether they are afraid, with my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock, that they will make the place more respectable, or whether they are afraid that they will make the place less respectable, I do not know. But it is true that certain backward noble Lords in the other place rather shiver at the idea of women being in their Chamber and taking part in their discussions.

I have met this trouble before. It so happens that I have a remarkable record about the rights of women. I was instrumental in getting the first woman member of the Metropolitan Water Board appointed. The extraordinary thing is that it had never occurred to anybody before that women were interested in the water supply of London. When the proposal went forward, some of the old gentlemen on the Water Board shivered and said that this had never been done before and did not welcome the proposal. They were terribly worried about the lavatory accommodation, which I thought was a simple matter to put right. The same thing happened when the L.C.C. put the first woman on the London and Home Counties Joint Electricity Authority.

It was we as a Labour Party who appointed the first woman chairman of the L.C.C., the late Mrs. Lowe. As Home Secretary, I appointed the first woman stipendiary magistrate. I also appointed the first woman prison governor. After a splendid record like that with regard to the rights of women, how can I go into the Lobby and get mixed up with my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock in denying the right of women to sit in one of the Houses of Parliament? With respect, I think that it would be wrong for me to do so.

Therefore, in view of the traditions of the Labour Party and, with respect to my hon. Friend, the elementary principle of political equality as between men and women, I trust that, if the Amendment is pressed, the Committee will reject it.

Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)

I confess that when I heard, through one of these leakages, that the audacious suggestion would be made that women should not be on an equality with men in the House of Lords, I determined to act as a St. George and slay the dragons who suggested it, even if they were my dearest colleagues. Hon. Members will imagine my horror when I found, if I may use the poetical expression, that the enslaved maidens had already embraced the dragon, for there are six of them on the Order Paper who are determined not to seek equality with men in the House of Lords.

I hope there are some, poetically speaking, enslaved maidens who are prepared to be rescued, who are prepared to ask for equality if the Bill is carried through. But why, I wondered, had these six enslaved maidens insisted upon this sex disqualification? It could not be—

Miss Lee

There are many more than six involved. These are just the first six.

Mr. Bell

I wondered why the six and the others, poetically speaking, enslaved maidens wanted to cling to this sex disqualification. In the debate, we have heard a lot about the general principle of the House of Lords but little about why, if we do have life peers, women should not be there. Nobody has given the reason. It cannot be intellectual modesty. Even we men could not believe that. I wondered whether the women felt that their kind hearts might not match the coronets in the other place.

Mr. Benn

Is it not because, in the words of Gray's Elegy, my hon. Friend feels that The lowing herd"— might wind slowly o'er the lea"?

Mr. Bell

The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) made her views quite clear on Second Reading. She was against women going to the other place because she does not like the other place. That, however, has little to do with the Amendment. I should have thought that once the principle of life peerages was accepted one might as well, as has been done in other circles, infiltrate and Jo what one likes when one gets there. Yet there should be some reasons why the six and the other unknown people want to dissociate themselves—

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

As one of the six, may I prevent the hon. and learned Member from wasting a good deal of time wondering why we rejected what he calls exact equality? It is nothing of the kind. The House of Lords is a hereditary Chamber and it is proposed to give the women, not equality, but something that is considered by many to be much inferior: namely, life peerage.

Mr. Bell

I understand that point of view, although it has nothing to do with the Amendment. On the assumption that there are to be life peers—whether one likes that or not does not matter—the Amendment concerns solely the question of whether women should be life peers. It is as simple as that.

What I am trying to find out and suggesting that the House might consider is why the women do not want it. There may be one or two reasons. For instance, Lord Silkin in another place said, perhaps rather ominously, that he had heard that names, particularly of women, were already being canvassed for the other place. Perhaps that is why some hon. Members opposite are a little nervous about it. In addition, the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne) said that he approved of the House of Lords as somewhere to which we could send old warhorses out to grass. I am not, I assure her, thinking of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock with her agricultural connections. At least, it is possible that some of the women Members opposite are getting a little nervous of being put out to grass.

Lord Ferrers, in the debate in the other place, gloomily prophesied that the other Chamber might be found a convenient parking place for the more rumbustious female elements of this House. It is a matter of opinion where we are to find the rumbustious female elements of this House. Lord Ferrers also was afraid that the other place might be made a repository for exuberant female politicians. I wonder whether this is the explanation? Is it that some women Members—the rumbustious and the exuberant—fear that the Whips on either side might get their own back and might be able to enforce even sterner discipline by threatening to translate the ladies to another place? Whereas, if they are not mentioned in this Bill, and if they cannot be put there, they will be a little more independent.

I do not know what are their reasons, because they have given us no reasons as to why they should be kept out. We take the view that once political equality is accepted, whether we like it or not, it must be part of our whole system. I do not see why the House of Lords should not have the benefit and the advantages of the counsel of women as we have it here, and I do not see why, by and large, they should not also have the fun.

Lady Megan Lloyd George

The Committee will hardly suspect hon. Members who support this Amendment—or as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) called them "dragons", among whom is the Welsh dragon—of being anti-feminist. Of course, we are in favour of doing away with sex discrimination, of course we are in favour of equality, and of course we deplore the fact that there is this institution whose doors are still closed to women.

I agreed with the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen. South (Lady Tweedsmuir), when she spoke about the contribution women have made to public life. I also agreed with her when she said that it is not for us to assess the contribution which women Members have made to the House of Commons. Yet, without undue immodesty, we can recall at any rate some of the women Members of the past. We can recall the dialectical skill of Susan Lawrence and the redoubtable courage of Eleanor Rathbone, who was the pioneer of children's allowances in this country. Looking back at some of the women who have been in this House in the past, we have no cause to regret that they were called here.

At the same time, the noble Lady cannot present the Government to us as the champion of women's rights. If they were anxious to do away with sex discrimination, if they were anxious to give women equality, why did not they widen the scope of the Bill to include hereditary peeresses? Even the noble Lady asked that very question. I do not like hereditary peers or hereditary peeresses, but hon. Gentlemen opposite do. I thoroughly disapprove of the hereditary principle, except occasionally in the House of Commons. What I do say is that the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite is completely and entirely illogical. What they are saying is that hereditary peers are all right but hereditary peeresses are not. That is not sex equality. That is in fact still sex discrimination. There is no getting away from it.

At any rate, some of the noble Lords who opposed this proposal said what they meant. For instance, there was Lord Glasgow who said that if women were allowed in the House of Lords, they would give up the one asset of the other place, namely, that it has been a place for men alone. He went on to say, speaking obviously with some considerable emotional stress: This is about the only place left in the kingdom where men can meet without women. For heaven's sake, let us keep it like that"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 17th December, 1957; Vol. 206, c. 1216.] He should take Hamlet's advice in reverse and get him to a monastery where he might be safe.

10.0 p.m.

That point of view is logical, although I cannot and do not agree with it. I am sorry to have to say that I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who said that this issue should be considered apart from the Bill and on its own merits. We cannot do that. This is an essential and integral part of the Bill.

We are opposed to it, because it is in keeping with the whole purpose of the Bill, which is merely an attempt to make the House of Lords less of an anachronism than it is. That is the whole purpose. We believe that the creation of life peers and life peeresses is an attempt to give the other place a modern look, without in any way altering its essential character. To us that is the objectionable feature. The essential features remain absolutely unaltered—the fact that there will still be, whatever face may be put upon it, an overwhelming Conservative majority in the Chamber and that the membership will still be based on the hereditary principle, which is entirely and completely unacceptable to us on this side of the Committee.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

We still have a certain amount of business to do, but I realised that this would be an important Amendment, and I thought that it might be convenient if I intervened at this stage. I remind the Committee that we have one more substantive Amendment after this, and then a general discussion, and it would be very convenient if we could come to a conclusion on this Amendment within a reasonable time—provided that anybody who has a contribution to make has an opportunity to make it. I do not want to keep the Committee sitting too late, but I want to make progress with the Bill.

The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) has put her case with characteristic vigour, but she met her match in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) who informed her in no uncertain terms that he could not support the Amendment. The Committee must be aware that there is complete split among hon. Members opposite on this matter.

Mr. Ede indicated dissent.

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) shakes his head, but I remind him of what the Leader of the Opposition said on this very matter of women being represented in the Upper House. He said that there were two principles— … life peerages compared with hereditary peerages, and no discrimination between men and women in the membership of the House of Lords, there is obviously much to commend them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 12th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 414.] That shows that the hon. Lady is at variance, as is not uncommon with her family, with the leader of her own party.

Miss Lee

The discrimination does exist. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer the points which have been raised.

Mr. Butler

I shall deal in the latter part of my speech with the very learned arguments on which I have had a full briefing, aided by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, and on the subject of hereditary peeresses I may have something to say which will be of interest to the Committee—perhaps I should have said my own researches aided by the advice of my right hon. and learned Friend.

In view of her approach to the hereditary element as a whole, I cannot regard the hon. Lady's approach to this matter of hereditary peeresses as being very sincere, but I will deal with it faithfully when I come to it. I want to deal with the proposal in this simple Bill, which has only one objective, which is to introduce the life element into the House of Lords, to allow women to have equality with men in this matter.

I have already quoted the Leader of the Opposition who disagrees with the hon. Lady. Now I come to the proposals of the 1948 conference of the Labour Party leaders. Although no agreement was reached, one of the principles adopted in the Report, which I have before me, was as follows: Women should be capable of being appointed Lords of Parliament in like manner as men. I then proceed to the Opposition in the House of Lords and find that Lord Alexander of Hillsborough said: I would say … from my own experience, that women performing such duties in another place have fully justified the decision. …"—[OFFICAL REPORT, House of Lords, 17th December 1957; Vol. 206, c. 1228.] He is in favour of it. I then come to Lord Attlee, who said: The second merit of the Bill is the assertion of sex equality. I think that is quite right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 5th December, 1957; Vol. 206, c. 861.] The hon. Lady will see that however far we look among the ranks of her own leaders we find that they are in favour of sex equality and the principle enshrined in the Bill.

I now come to her real companions-in-arms, to whom reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), namely, Lord Airlie and Lord Glasgow. Lord Airlie said—and since he is not a Member of the Government I am entitled to quote him—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]: I am not going to give an analogy at the moment but if you put a cat in the bag and it does not want to come out, it is not an easy matter to deal with. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords. 3rd December. 1957: Vol. 206, c. 662.]

Hon. Members


Mr. Butler

If that is the argument upon which the hon. Lady relies, namely, that once we have put a cat in a bag we cannot get it out and therefore we cannot do this, she is relying upon an argument which does not do her justice, and when she relies further upon the argument of every noble Lord who spoke against the introduction of women in another place she will find that one of them said, in particular—and I have the details of his speech—that the objection of noble Lords to ladies sitting in another place was that they did not want to have them sitting opposite them.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

On a point of order. May I take it, Sir Gordon, that we are in order in referring to debates in the other place upon this matter?

The Deputy-Chairman

It is in order to refer to the debates, but it is not in order to quote noble Lords. It is possible to summarise their remarks.

Mr. Chapman

Erskine May makes it clear that one can quote from Committee proceedings in the House of Lords, and the matter being referred to by the right hon. Gentleman was in fact debated in Committee there.

The Deputy-Chairman

It can be referred to, but not quoted.

Mr. Chapman

Erskine May appears to give contrary advice. Perhaps the point can be looked into.

Mr. Butler

As the remarks that I have been making are completely consonant with your Ruling, Sir Gordon, and with the observations of Erskine May—and, in fact, with the findings of the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman)—I think that I can proceed. I did not quote in person the noble Earl to whom I was referring latterly, but I paraphrased his remarks, which it is perfectly in order for me to do. I must submit to the Ruling of the Chair, but I claim that it is in order to quote detailed proceedings when they are not Government pronouncements.

Mr. H. Morrison

Has not the right hon. Gentleman got it upside down? Is not it the case that we can quote a Minister's speech in the current Session of Parliament but we cannot quote the speeches of other peers? Whether it is possible to give some sort of impression of what they said I do not know; to some extent it depends upon the Chair.

The Deputy-Chairman

The position is correctly stated by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Herbert Morrison).

Mr. Butler

I am glad to be able to adjust my expression to suit the right hon. Member. As a matter of fact, I put it the wrong way round. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I do withdraw. I put it the wrong way round. It is possible to quote a Government statement, but not the details of the speech of a noble Lord in person. The right hon. Gentleman is quite correct; but that does not detract from the importance of what I am saying, namely, that the expression of opinion by a noble Lord that it is very difficult to sit with ladies in another place strikes me as a complete anachronism and absolutely wrong. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, is quite right in saying that it is quite out of date that any Chamber or institution today should not practise the doctrine of sex equality, and that women should not have an absolute right to go to the other place on the same basis as men.

I am surprised that the hon. Lady herself. together with the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George), should have espoused such a cause. I am surprised that the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill), who sits on the Front Opposition Bench, has not herself signed this Amendment, and I can only presume that her chairmanship of a variety of women's societies has caused her to refrain on this occasion from espousing the cause put by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock herself.

I want to deal with the problem of the hereditary peeresses. It is a very difficult problem. The hereditary peeresses, as the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South said, number about 24. There are, I think, 15 or 16 for England and Wales, and seven or so peeresses for Scotland. About six of these are baronies by grant and the rest are baronies by writ, and what is important to get hold of first is that the baronies by grant were meticulously worded so as not to confer upon the family holder of any dignity the right of a seat, place and voice in the House of Lords. It was never intended in the case of holders of baronies by grant.

In the case of the others, the matter was decided, as hon. Members will remember, in the claim for Viscountess Rhondda in 1922. It was there made clear that a peerage held by a peeress in her own right was one to which, in law, the incident of exercising the right to receive a writ is not and never was attached. So we find the position that it was never intended that either peeresses by right or peeresses by baronies by grant should have the right to sit in the House of Lords. Therefore, there is no change in the position by the introduction of this Bill.

This Bill was not designed to enlarge this matter or to deal with it at all. The Bill was designed to deal with a particular matter, and that was to confer life seats upon men and women by equality. It was never designed to extend a hereditary peerage to women with a right of succession in another place.

I think that perhaps the best contribution on this matter was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South. She asked if we were to have a broader and better or bigger Bill to deal with this. That may well have to come. We may well be able to do so in a future incarnation, as my hon. Friend said, when we are in power in the next Parliament: but I should like to answer the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South by saying that there is no intention whatever in the mind of the Government as at present constituted to promote any alternative proposal for the House of Lords than the one we have before us this evening.

The proposal for the House of Lords is, in the mind of the Government, a simple one. It is confined to this Bill, and, as confined to this Bill, it is simply the purpose of conferring a life peerage on men, and—not omitting women—conferring life peerages on women. We do not intend to enlarge upon that. If ever there is to be an enlargement of it, it must be in another Bill. There is no intention or plan at the present moment in our minds for any other Bill. That is the most clear answer I can give to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South in reply to his question to me on this subject. What I am quite certain about is that to deal with the question of peeresses in their own right would be unsuitable in this Bill. This Bill is confined to one point.

In answer to the various Amendments of the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), we have deliberately not enlarged this Bill. This Bill is not designed to confer any successive peerages as recommended by the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock. It is not designed as a kind of douceur for the Opposition or in a patronizing way. It is designed to try to enlarge the membership of the House of Lords in order to bring in further talent, and it is designed to make another place work more effectively. If the objective is to make another place work more effectively, it would be quite wrong to eliminate women from the right of being made peeresses for life.

Therefore, I commend the simplicity of this Measure to the Committee; namely, the conferment of life peerages and peerages for women on terms of equality with men. The other issues do not immediately arise, and we should deal with the Bill on its merits and in its present simplicity.

10.15 p.m.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

I should not have intervened in this debate but for the remarks of the Leader of the House and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). It is remarkable that so many women Members should object to this provision which at first glance one might suppose they would welcome. But we who object are agreed that it is because we feel that the Government are not sincere in this matter. We believe that we are being used as a "front organisation" as it might be called—[Laughter.] Those who are politically educated will understand that there are certain organisations which are ostensibly respectable and even progressive, but are used for nefarious purposes.

We believe that the inclusion of women in a Bill to which many of us take the strongest possible exception is, partly at any rate, in order to make the proposals of the Government appear much more respectable than they are. I hope my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South will sympathise with those of us who feel that in these circumstances women are being exploited; that we are being used to give an air of progressiveness and democracy to a Bill which is fundamentally neither progressive nor democratic.

It appears to me that had the Government been in earnest in their desire to confer complete equality on women, they would not have burked the issue of life peeresses. That could have been included in this Bill without in any way prejudging the more controversial matters of payment for peers, the powers of the other place, or even the composition of the other place. It seems to us quite illogical not to proceed with the matter of life peeresses, if one of the primary aims of the Government was to redress injustices committed against women.

It is true as was said by the Leader of the House that at the time when arrangements were made for certain peeresses in their own right, whether by grant or by writ, there was no intention at that time that they should sit in another place. Of course not, because the point of principle was not conceded. But that is no reason for not doing it now.

There is a great deal to be said for a matrilinear society. One finds in many primitive countries that a matriarchy gives one a much more stable community. I think there are strong arguments in favour of it. If one wishes to carry this out logically, there is no reason why one should not have descent through the female line and to the eldest child, not necessarily the eldest son. But I do not wish to detain the House unnecessarily, I wish merely to make it perfectly clear that those of us supporting this Amendment do so because we feel that women are being used as an excuse, and it is not consonant with our self respect as women in public life that we should be included in this Bill in this way to give an air of respectability to something which we do not believe is a sincere attempt on the part of the Government to deal with this matter in a democratic way.

Mr. S. Silverman

So far the debate has proceeded on the basis that the effect of the Clause and of this subsection, if unamended, would be to enable life peeresses to sit and vote in the House of Lords. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) has attempted to delete subsection (3) because she believes it would have that effect. I know it is perfectly obvious that the Government believe that to apply that subsection would have the effect of enabling life peeresses to sit and vote in the House of Lords. Therefore, I advance my argument with very great diffidence, only because, with the best will in the world, I do not know the answer to it; yet, if my answer is right, subsection (3) is totally ineffective to produce the result which my hon. Friend would like to oppose.

In order to explain what I have in mind, it is necessary to look very shortly at the Bill, in the first place at any rate, and then to look at a number of other things. Subsection (3) says: A life peerage may be conferred under this section on a woman. So far so good. But that is not completely effective to confer a life peerage upon a woman. In order to give her the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords she must have something other than a patent of nobility. She must be not only a peer, as the right hon. Gentleman referred to in one part of his speech, but her entitlement must also include the right to receive a writ of summons to the House of Lords. If she has not got it, whether she is a peeress or not, she cannot go. It is precisely for that reason that Lady Rhondda's petition to the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords in 1922 failed.

In another part of the same Clause we read subsection (2), of which paragraph (b) says: subject to subsection (4) of this section, to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords and sit and vote therein accordingly. Subsection (3) enables the life peerage to be conferred on a woman who would therefore, subject to subsection (4) be entitled to receive the writ of summons. Subsection (4) says: Nothing in this section shall enable any person to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords, or to sit and vote in that House, at any time when disqualified therefor by law. That is expressly preserved. If I am right in supposing, as I do suppose, that the reason why Lady Rhondda failed in her petition was that under common law a woman is not entitled to appear in or to sit in the House of Lords, or to receive a writ of summons, then it will be conceded that I have established my case. Where Lady Rhondda failed in her application was because she was not entitled by law because, and only because, she was a woman.

This is not one of the cases to which the right hon. Gentleman referred a few minutes ago where the letters patent which created the peerage themself excluded the right to receive a writ of summons. Lady Rhondda's father was the first created peer, and he received, and was entitled to receive, a writ of summons to the House of Lords. That writ would also extend to Lady Rhondda's heirs, but the right to receive the writ of summons was in abeyance during the period when Lady Rhondda held the peerage, because she was a woman. So much is clear.

Lady Rhondda claimed that Parliament had recently passed a Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, in her submission to the House of Lords, and it was supported by a minority of four of the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords. They included Lord Haldane and Lord Cave. Their argument was that while there had been, up to the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, a common law prohibition of women being summoned to the House of Lords, that prohibition had been removed by the Act. That was the submission she made, and on that her case rested. The House of Lords, however, decided that was not so. It decided it was not so because it said that while the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act removed an inhibition it did not create a right. That was because the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act said nobody should be prevented from exercising a public function by reason only of her sex. Now, says the House of Lords, this is not the exercise of a public function at all, therefore, the removal of that disqualification by Parliament does not confirm on Lady Rhondda the right that she had not got before.

The case of the Government and their supporters is that we are making a very important constitutional change. Therefore, I make no apologies even at this time of night for inquiring whether the change the Government are inviting us to make will in fact be made by the Bill before us. With many apologies, I intend to examine the matter as it was seen by the House of Lords and see how far it helps us to come to a conclusion here. It can all be summed up in one important judgment by Viscount Cave. One paragraph contains the whole matter, and I content myself with quoting it, although there is very much more in the judgment of the majority. Viscount Cave said: My Lords, I think that this petition should fail, and on grounds which can be stated in a few sentences. In my opinion the common law gave no right or title to a peeress to sit in this House, or to receive a summons for that purpose. It was not the case of her having a right which she could not exercise. I think she had no right; for I agree with my noble and learned Friend, the Lord Chancellor … that was Lord Birkenhead— that a common law right to do something which the common law forbids to be done is a contradiction in terms. If that is so, then the patent certainly gave the petitioner no right to sit; and the Act of 1919, while removed all disqualifications, did not purport to confer any right. If the right to sit in this House is to be conferred on peeresses it must be by express words. I think, therefore, that the Committee are right in advising against the prayer of the petition. I repeat the words: If the right to sit in this House is to be conferred on peeresses it must be by express words. That is because as the rest of the judgment showed, and Lord Cave himself showed, there is a common law principle which disentitles a woman to receive a writ of summons in the House of Lords, which disentitlement has been decided by the House of Lords not to have been removed by the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, 1919. If that is right, I am sure there must be some answer to this question. I have tried to find what the answer is and I have not succeeded. Nevertheless, I dare say there must be an answer and I think it should be given. If what I have said is right as to hereditary peeresses in their own right there is nothing to show that it does not apply to peeresses who are life peeresses. A disqualification in law remains and it is expressly preserved by subsection (4).

10.30 p.m.

Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

I am most interested in my hon. Friend's argument, and I appreciate that what he is saying is designed to be helpful, but when he asks where are to be found the express words that overcome this common law provision, is not the answer that he finds them in Clause 1 (2)?

Mr. Silverman

I do not think so. Paragraph (b) begins by saying: subject to subsection (4) of this section … Subsection (4) preserves the common law disentitlement. I am sure that must be so. Subsection (4) says: Nothing in this section shall enable any person to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords and sit and vote therein when disqualified by law.

The House of Lords decided that peeresses were disqualified by law from receiving such writs. That disqualification is expressly preserved by subsection (4). It seems to me, therefore, that subsection (3) does not carry out the purpose which the Government intended and which my hon. Friend feared. It seems that my hon. Friend is giving herself a great deal of unnecessary anxiety. I shall vote for her Amendment in order to be quite sure, but I think that if the Amendment is defeated life peeresses can be created just as life peers can be created, with the difference that the privilege which a life peer will have by statutory right of receiving his writ of summons will not apply to a life peeress.

Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

Not being a signatory to this Amendment and not agreeing with it, I feel that I must make some comment in order to give some backing to some of my women colleagues on this side of the Committee who do not agree with it either. For the life of me I cannot see why when there is a suggestion, even though it does not fulfil the whole of the requirements of the point of view of certain hon. Members, we should not take advantage of the very small amendments that are being made as far as the House of Lords is concerned.

I quite agree that this is, perhaps, a sop in order that the major section of reform should not be carried out, but I find it very difficult indeed to explain to ordinary women who do not understand the peculiar legal finesse of debate in this Chamber how when there is a possibility of women being allowed to enter for the first time the only place from which they have been excluded up to date there should be any opposition from this side of the Committee.

The ordinary woman takes the view that the House of Commons exists for the purpose of making progress. For a long time now many women on this side of the Committee, as well as on the benches opposite, have been agitating for equal rights in every aspect of life. Therefore, when the last barrier is being broken down, even though it is being only half broken down, I cannot understand the opposition to the suggestion.

If I were making any selection, having listened for so long to the legal profession deciding which is the right point of view, I might say that there should be some exclusions of women from the House of Lords, that perhaps it would be advisable not to put any legal women in the House of Lords. It might be that if they went to the House of Lords there would be more disagreement than ever because they might not be able to agree with their male legal colleagues there just as members of the legal profession on either side of the House cannot agree with one another.

I know that there are several women outside the House of Commons who cannot aspire to come to here as elected representatives, but who could give some of their valuable knowledge to the House of Lords if they were sent there as life peeresses. Why should we be deprived of their knowledge and ability in all spheres of life because the Bill does not go the whole way to meet the objections of certain hon. Members on this side of the Committee? It does not seem logical. I believe that women should have the right of entry into every section of the community, and if this is the last place, as it obviously is, where they have been unable up to now to fight their own way in, I am surprised that there should be any opposition, particularly from women, to women being allowed to take some of the responsibility and opportunities available.

Having heard the debate and having heard the points of view expressed, those hon. Ladies who have signed this Amendment should now recognise that the case in favour of the Amendment has been stated, and they should not complicate the explanation of this matter to the ordinary people outside the House. We in this Committee understand one another. We are able to participate in arguments as to why this or that should

or should not be done, but it is very difficult to explain to an ordinary woman outside the House why women, who have been agitating for so long for equal rights for women, should now, on an occasion of this sort, take exception to the granting of this privilege.

I have heard numerous Members speak about women being sent to the House of Lords. Speaking for myself, there will be no possibility of grabbing me for the House of Lords; nevertheless, this Amendment ought to be accepted so that those women who wish to play their part in the community should have the opportunity of being life peeresses.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 302, Noes 59.

Division No. 78] AYES [10.39 p.m
Agnew, Sir Peter Corbet, Mrs. Freda Green, A.
Aitken, W. T. Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Gresham Cooke, R.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Corfield, Capt. F. V. Grimond, J.
Alport, C. J. M. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.
Arbuthnot, John Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Hall, John (Wycombe)
Armstrong, C. W. Cunningham, Knox Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Ashton, H. Davidson, viscountess Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Harris, Reader (Heston)
Atkins, H. E. D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)
Bacon, Miss Alice Deedes, w. F. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Digby, Simon Wingfield Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)
Baldwin, A. E. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
Balniel, Lord Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M[...]A. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Barber, Anthony Drayson, G. B. Harvie-Watt, Sir George
Barter, John du Cann, E. D. L. Hastings, S.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Duncan, Sir James Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Duthie, W. S. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Beswick, Frank Edelman, M. Hesketh, R. F.
Bevins, J. B. (Toxteth) Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Bidgood, J.C. Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.) Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Biggs-Davison, J.A. Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hirst, Geoffrey
Bingham, R. M, Errington, Sir Eric Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Erroll, F. J. Holland-Martin, C. J.
Bishop, F. P. Farey-Jones, F. W. Holman, P.
Black, C. W. Finlay, Graeme Hope, Lord John
Body, R. F. Fisher, Nigel Hornby, R. P.
Boothby, Sir Robert Fletcher, Eric Horobin, Sir Ian
Bossom, Sir Alfred Fletcher-Cooke, C. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Forrest, G. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Boyle, Sir Edward Fort, R. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Foster, John Howard, John (Test)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.Col. W. H. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Howell, Denis (All Saints)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Freeth, Denzil Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
Bryan, P. Gammans, Lady Hulbert, Sir Norman
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Garner-Evans, E. H. Hurd, A. R.
Butler, Rt. Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) George, J. C. (Pollok) Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.)
Carr, Robert Gibson-Watt, D. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh W.)
Channon, Sir Henry Glover, D. Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)
Chichester-Clark, R. Godber, J. B. Hyde, Montgomery
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Goodhart, Philip Hy[...]on-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry
Cole, Norman Gough, C. F. H. Iremonger, T. L.
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Gower, H. R. Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Cooke, Robert Graham, Sir Fergus Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Cooper, A. E. Grant, W. (Woodside) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Mayhew, C. P. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Medlicott, Sir Frank Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Jones, Fit. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Spearman, Sir Alexander
Joseph, Sir Keith Moore, Sir Thomas Speir, R. M.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, w.)
Kaberry, D. Morrison, John (Salisbury) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir p. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Kerby, Capt. H. B. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Nabarro, G. D. N. Stevens, Geoffrey
Kimball, M. Nairn, D. L. S. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Kirk, p. M. Neave, Airey Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Lagden, G. W. Nicholls, Harmar Storey, S.
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Langford-Holt, J. A. Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Studholme, Sir Henry
Leather E. H. C. Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Summers, Sir Spencer
Leburn, W. G. Nugent, G. R. H. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Oakshott, H. D. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Teeling, W.
Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Temple, John M.
Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Osborne, C. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Llewellyn, D. T. Page, R. G. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Palmer, A. M. F. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)
Longden, Gilbert Partridge, E. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Peel, W. J. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Peyton, J. W. W. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Pickthorn, K. W. M. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Pike, Miss Mervyn Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
McAdden, S. J. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Tweedsmuir, Lady
MacColl, J. E. Pitman, I. J. Usborne, H. C.
Macdonald, Sir Peter Pitt, Miss E. M. Vane, W. M. F.
McKibbin, Alan Price, David (Eastieigh) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Vickers, Miss Joan
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire W.)
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Profumo, J. D. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.) Ramsden, J. E. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Rawlinson, Peter Wall, Patrick
Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Redmayne, M. Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Rees-Davies, W. R. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Remnant, Hon. P. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Maddan, Martin Renton, D. L. M. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Horncastle) Ridsdale, J. E. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Roper, Sir Harold Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Markham, Major Sir Frank Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Marlowe, A. A. H. Russell, R. S. Wood, Hon. R.
Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Sharples, R. C. Woollam, John Victor
Marshall, Douglas Shepherd, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Shurmer, P. L. E. Mr. Wills and
Mawby, R. L. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Mr. Brooman-White
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Skeffington, A. M.
Awbery, S. S. Hale, Leslie Owen, W. J.
Baird, J. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Paget, R. T.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Parkin, B. T.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rankin, John
Bowles, F. G. Jeger, George (Goole) Redhead, E. C.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jenkins, Roy (S[...]echford) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Collins, V.J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Ross, William
Craddock, George-(Bradford, S.) King, Dr. H. M. Short, E. W.
Crossman, R. H. S, Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lewis, Arthur Sorensen, R. W.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Logan, D. G. Stonehouse, John
Delargy, H. J. McAlister, Mrs. Mary Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Diamond, John McInnes, J. Swingler, S. T.
Donnelly, D. L. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Timmons, J.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mahon, Simon Wigg, George
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mikardo, Ian Zilliacus, K.
Foot, D. M. Monslow, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then) Moody, A. S. Mrs. White and Mr. Snow
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Moyle, A.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) O'Brien, Sir Thomas
Mr. R. A. Butler

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

10.49 p.m.

I move the Motion formally in order to explain the situation and because I should like to say that, on examining our work this evening, I think it would be most satisfactory from the point of view of the Committee as a whole that we should finish the Committee stage of the Bill tonight, in which case I would not ask the Committee to insist upon having the Third Reading taken tonight and resuming as a House.

This course would leave an opportunity for any general discussion when we take the Third Reading. It would also mean that we would deal with one more Amendment tonight, and with the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill immediately afterwards. If, as I believe, that is a sensible proposal at this late hour, it would allow us to complete detailed discussion tonight and to have the general discussion on Third Reading.

Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)

Speaking for myself, I think that what the right hon. Gentleman has said would assist the conduct of our discussion. As I understand his proposal, we should deal with the next Amendment to be called and then when the Question that Clause 2 stand part of the Bill, is put, although we could vote upon it, we should not discuss it, this being on the understanding that we should have an opportunity at a later date of having a full discussion on Third Reading so that those of my hon. Friends who have strong objections would have an ample opportunity of emphasising and restating them, as they think necessary.

On that understanding, I would recommend my hon. Friends, if they think the proposal agreeable, to accept it.

Mr. Butler

The only difference between the right hon. and learned Gentleman and myself is that it is actually Clause 1, the substantive Clause, which is now before us. The only other possible re-definition I would suggest relates to the word "ample". I would prefer to use the word "discussion", because I think that we have ventilated this subject. All we want is a reasonable time for Third Reading, which we can discuss through the usual channels. I think that that is a perfectly reasonable request, and I should like reasonable time for that. We could then finish our work tonight.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The right hon. Gentleman expects to get the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill, decided tonight, without discussion, on the assumption—which, I think, is fairly safe—that the discussion of that Question and the Third Reading of the Bill are really one and the same thing in the peculiar circumstances of this case.

Mr. Butler

Yes, Sir. Those of us who studied the Bill thought that the case was exactly as the right hon. Gentleman expressed it, namely, that there would be one general discussion, whether it took place on the Question that the Clause stand part of the Bill, or on Third Reading. I suggest postponing the general discussion until Third Reading and taking the Question tonight formally.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)

The next Amendment selected is the last one in the name of the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), in page 1, line 23, omitting the words after "therein".

Mr. Chapman

I beg to move, in page 1, line 23, at the end to add: (6) Her Majesty shall have power, on receipt of an Address, in such form as may be prescribed, from a person on whom a life peerage has been conferred under this section, to revoke the letters patent relating to his peerage, and he shall thereafter no longer be entitled to rank as a baron or to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords and sit and vote therein. I am greatly obliged to you, Sir Gordon, and to your predecessor in the Chair for allowing me to move the Amendment in an altered form, because it would have been out of order, I understand, if those words had been left in.

The Amendments which I have moved earlier today have led to some entertainment in the Committee. I hope that the Government realise that what is providing the entertainment arises from their refusal to do a thoroughgoing reform of the House of Lords. It has been an objectionable Bill, and objections to one part or another of it have been expressed on all sides. If the Government had the courage to introduce something more thoroughgoing, they would not have had the ridicule which has been heaped on the Bill.

This Amendment is the most serious of all. If the Government are so misguided as to resist it, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will support me in the Division Lobby in favour of it. This is a most serious Amendment, and I should have thought that in many ways it was a most acceptable Amendment to everybody, including the Government themselves. Its purpose is very simple. It is to allow a life peer to resign from the job, if he so wishes. In a form which is prescribed, he can submit an address to Her Majesty asking her to revoke the letters patent relating to his peerage and, if Her Majesty agrees, he will thereupon cease to be a life peer.

This is the simple proposition of the right of resignation. Why should this power of resignation be given to those ladies and gentlemen who take life peerages in the near future? The first and most obvious reason is that we hope, and everybody expects, that it will not be very long—a matter of a decade or so—before we have a thorough-going reform of the House of Lords and the substitution of a second chamber of some different design on a more courageous pattern of reform.

It should appeal to right hon. and hon. Members opposite that, ready for that eventuality, the members of the Lords as at present constituted should be able to resign in the event of the advent of a more thorough-going scheme of reform. The most honest purpose of the Bill has been that it is to help the Lords out of a difficult situation for the time being. Once that situation has passed and there is a better reform of the Lords generally, the men and women who take on the job of being life peers should have the opportunity, if they so wish, of being able to resign their life peerages, instead of having to hang on to them.

The second reason why this is an eminently reasonable Amendment is that there may be men to take on the job of a life peerage who find, as time progresses, that they are unsuited to the work of the Lords. In the words of the Government, the whole idea behind the Bill is to make some innovations in the kind of people who are members of the House of Lords, to draw from a wider circle and to find new and different kinds of people. In this experimentation, it may be that the people who undertake the work of life peers, which carries with it, at least by implication, the duty to work in the House of Lords, will find as time goes on that they are more unsuited than suited to that work and would prefer an opportunity to resign.

A third eminently suitable reason is that if we are to make these innovations in the kind of people who are to be members of the House of Lords, it should be possible for some of these life peers who prove to be successful in the work and who prove to be good leaders in the House of Lords to get into at any rate junior posts in the Government. Those who ought to be leaders in a Government ought to be able to resign their seat in the Lords and, if need be, stand for the House of Commons.

I have never understood the argument that once a man is in the House of Lords he should be there permanently—especially when he is only a life peer—and unable at some time which may be convenient to the whole community to sit in the House of Commons. In resisting this sort of Amendment in another place, the Lord Chancellor said that they would have made their bed and must lie on it and that if they accepted the job of life peers they should continue in it. I do not see that argument, because that is precisely what we do not do in reverse. We never say that anyone who has got into the Commons must stay here and never go to the House of Lords. Indeed, it often happens that people in the Commons eventually end up in the Lords. I cannot see why the argument should apply the other way round here, when it is never applied in that way regarding translation from the Commons to the Lords.

I consider this Amendment eminently reasonable. I do not think that we are suggesting anything outrageous, or anything that harms the main purpose of the Bill and its limited nature as expounded by the Government.

11.0 p.m.

If my Amendment is accepted, there still remains the question to be decided about what is to happen to a peer who resigns his life peerage. Does he become a commoner, and is he entitled to sit and vote in the House of Commons? As originally drafted, my Amendment would have taken care of that matter. I am given to understand that, because of the limited nature of the Bill, the Amendment in that form would have been out of order. But I say to the Attorney-General that, if the Committee accept this Amendment as it has been moved, I think it will be implicit that the Committee desires that this legal disqualification should be removed and that the peer who resigns his life peerage should be allowed to vote in Parliamentary elections and sit in the House of Commons.

Whether that would call for legislation or whether the Long Title of this Bill could be altered to achieve that, I do not know. But, if the spirit of my Amendment is accepted, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that the final words should be regularised at some convenient point to allow a peer who resigns his life peerage to come to the House of Commons. In that spirit of eminent reasonableness, I commend this Amendment. I believe it is not unacceptable to many hon. Members opposite, and I hope that, for the first time this evening, the Government will accept an Amendment from me.

The Attorney-General

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I reply straight away to the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman). As the time is getting on, I hope he will not think it discourteous if I reply shortly and deal with the three propositions he has advanced. I shall disappoint him by saying that I must advise the Committee not to accept this Amendment. In my opinion, it would be unreasonable to accept it and make a radical change in the character of the House of Lords going far beyond what is contemplated in this Bill. Indeed, it would be a change in our Constitution if, by this Measure, we provided that people going to the House of Lords as life peers could come back to this House and perhaps go back again to the House of Lords and so on ad infinitum.

The hon. Gentleman's Amendment is not limited to the cases he illustrated in his argument. This is a general proposition, and I think it is an objectionable one. This is not a case where anyone is compelled by inheritance to become a peer; it is a case where a life peerage is voluntarily accepted. If any man or woman accepts a life peerage, surely it is right that it should be on the basis that they will remain a member of the House of Lords and renounce all desire to join our most attractive assembly here. That is one reason—and in my submission it is a very strong one—why the Amendment should not be accepted.

The hon. Member mentioned three reasons for moving it. He said that life peers should be able to resign if, on further reform of the House of Lords, that appeared desirable. That question could be left until further proposals for reform came before both Houses.

Mr. Chapman

Many people who might accept the job for the time being would like to be assured of that in advance. I am not thinking of particular individuals, but that question might obviously weigh with them.

The Attorney-General

It might, and it might not. I would have thought that those who were offered life peerages would understand from the very use of language that they were being offered peerages for life which they could either accept to reject. That is the answer to the second proposition of the hon. Member.

He put forward the argument—with which I have already dealt—that if the Amendment were accepted it would be possible for life peers to hold junior administrative posts in the House of Lords and then, if they wanted promotion, to stand for election to the House of Commons. I doubt whether that would be a good thing, particularly for life peers. Certainly such a proposal goes far beyond the intention of the Bill.

Enough has been said today about what the Bill is intended to do, and perhaps enough has been said in criticism, but in conclusion I would say that I do not think that the Bill can be improved by the acceptance of the hon. Member's Amendment. I therefore hope that he will not think that I am guilty of any discourtesy in not prolonging my advice to the Committee that it should reject the Amendment.

Mr. Usborne

I have heard that it is possible that this matter will be regarded by my Front Bench as one which the party is expected to support. If this is so, it is necessary for me to say a few words about it. I am not at all happy about it. At first sight it would seem reasonable to suppose that if a man were elevated as a life peer to sit in the other place and, as the years went by, became incompetent and unfit to carry out his duties, there should be some way by which he could relinquish his post, resign his writ of summons, and in particular give up the remuneration which, although we do not often say so, we all know will have to be paid to working peers.

At first sight it seems reasonable that if a man cannot do his job and earn his pay it should be possible for him to ask not to be summoned and not to take his pay. But it is never impossible for him to refuse his pay—and even if he receives the Writ I suppose that he does not have to turn up at the House of Lords.

My second objection is to the tone in which my hon. Friend moved his Amendment. He seemed to believe that it should be a democratic privilege of a man who had become a Parliamentary alderman, working without being elected to another part of the building, virtually to resign his aldermanic seat and seek election, as an ordinary, democratic individual, to the lower House. One of the things that are said about the upper House is that it consists of gentlemen who are free to say exactly what they believe, without fear or favour, because they are in no way beholden to the electorate.

This may be a double-edged sword. I can imagine the possibility of a charlatan making great use of the publicity he obtains in the other House by resigning his seat there and seeking a seat in this House. If a life peer is unable to do his job and earn his money, I do not think that he should lose his title and be able to seek a seat in this House.

The Chairman (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I only selected the Amendment on the ground that the last two lines were left out. The last two lines are not before the Committee.

Mr. Usborne

I am sorry if I went a little too far. In that case, in view of the lateness of the hour, I will not continue my speech.

Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)

I will be brief. I hope that the Attorney-General will have another look at this Amendment, which I regard as useful. Many of us want to see the House of Lords a much more efficient body, and one way of making it so is to give a life peer an opportunity of resigning when he feels no longer capable of carrying out his duties. It is said that this would be a constitutional change of some magnitude, yet we have only recently faced up to this very question. I see no reason why we should not do the same for life peers. Members of the House of Lords should have the right to apply for the equivalent of the Chiltern Hundreds.

Mr. Chapman

I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham). If the Government are to do a proper reform of the House of Lords, they will have to accept the right of peers to resign. The power of resignation in legislative bodies is well established. I hope that the Government will see that it has to come.

Tht Attorney-General said that we did not want chopping and changing. There is a very simple answer: no Prime Minister is likely to recommend anybody for a second peerage, in those circumstances. He put up this objection as an Aunt Sally, knowing that no Prime Minister would do something so stupid as conniving at making a mockery of the whole situation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument bordered on the ridiculous.

I am very disappointed. This is an eminently reasonable proposition, which will have to come one day. Owing to the poor support given to it, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 268, Noes 199.

Division No. 79.] AYES [11.15 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Baldwin, A. E. Bishop, F. P.
Aitken, W. T. Balniel, Lord Black, C. W.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Barber, Anthony Body, R. F.
Alport, C. J. M. Barter, John Bossom, Sir Alfred
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Boyle, Sir Edward
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Arbuthnot, John Bennett, Dr. Reginald Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry
Armstrong, C. W. Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Brooman-White, R. C.
Ashton, H. Bidgood, J. C. Bryan, P.
Astor, Hon. J. J. Biggs-Davison, J. A. Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.
Atkins, H. E. Bingham, R. M. Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)>
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Carr, Robert
Channon, Sir Henry Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Chichester-Clark, R. Howard, John (Test) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian(Hendon, N.)
Cole, Norman Hughes, Haliett, Vice-Admiral J. Osborne, C.
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hulbert, Sir Norman Page, R. G.
Cooke, Robert Hurd, A. R. Partridge, E.
Cooper, A. E. Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.) Peel, W. J.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Hyde, Mon[...]gomery Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Pitman, I. J.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Iremonger, T. L. Pitt, Miss E. M.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cunningham, Knox Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Gurrie, G. B. H. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Davidson, Viscountess Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Profumo, J. D.
D'Avigdor-Goldsmld, Sir Henry Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Rawlinson, Peter
Deedes, W. F. Joseph, Sir Keith Redmayne, M.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Remnant, Hon. P.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Kaberry, D. Renton, D. L. M.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Kerby, Capt, H. B. Ridsdale, J. E.
Drayson, G. B. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
du Cann, E. D. L. Kimball, M. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Duncan, Sir James Kirk, P. M. Roper, Sir Harold
Duthie, W. S. Lagden, G. W. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Russell, R. S.
Elliot[...],R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.) Langford-Holt, J. A. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Leather, E. H. C. Sharples, R. C.
Errington, Sir Eric Leburn, W. G. Shepherd, William
Erroll, F. J. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Finlay, Graeme Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Fisher, Nigel Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Forrest, G. Llewellyn, D. T. Speir, R. M.
Fort, R. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Foster, John Longden, Gilbert Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdals) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Stevens, Geoffrey
Freeth, Denzil Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Gammans, Lady Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Garner-Evans, E. H. McAdden, S. J. Storey, S.
George, J. C. (Pollok) Macdonald, Sir peter Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Glover, D. McKibbin, Alan Studholme, Sir Henry
Godber, J. B. Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Summers, Sir Spencer
Goodhart, Philip Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Summer, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Gough, C. F. H. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Gower, H. R. McLean, Neil (Inverness) Teeling, W.
Graham, Sir Fergus Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Temple, John M.
Grant, W. (Woodside) Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.(Nantwich) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Green, A. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Gresham Cooke, R. Maddan, Mar[...]in Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Thornton-Kemsley, sir Colin
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Markham, Major Sir Frank Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Marlowe, A. A. H. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Harris, Reader (Heston) Marshall, Douglas Vane, W. M. F.
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Mawby, R. L. Vickers, Miss Joan
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere(Macclesf'd) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Medlicott, Sir Frank Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Wall, Patrick
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Moore, Sir Thomas Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Morrison, John (Salisbury) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Hesketh, R. F. Nabarro, G. D. N. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Nairn, D. L. S. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Neave, Airey Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Nicholls, Harmar Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Hirst, Geoffrey Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hobson,John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Wood, Hon. R.
Holland-Martin, C. J. Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Woollam, John Victor
Hope, Lord John Nugent, G. R. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hornby, R. P. Oakshott, H. D. Mr Edward Wakefield and
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Mr Gibson-Watt.
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Ainsley, J. W. Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Balfour, A.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E Awbery, S. S. Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Baird, J. Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)
Beswick, Frank Hewitson, Capt. M. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Pargiter, G. A.
Blackburn, F. Holman, P. Parker, J.
Blenkinsop, A. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Parkin, B. T.
Boardman, H. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Peart, T. F.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hoy, J. H. Pentland, N.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Prentice, R. E.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bowles, F. G. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Boyd, T. C. Hunter, A. E. Probert, A. R.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Proctor, W. T.
Brockway, A. F. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Randall, H. E.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Redhead, E. C.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Be[...]per) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Reeves, J.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jeger, George (Goole) Rhodes, H.
Burke, W. A. Jeger, Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs,S.) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Callaghan, L. J. Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Carmichael, J. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Champion, A. J. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Ross, William
Chapman, W. D. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Short, E. W.
Chetwynd, G. R. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Coldrick, W. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) King, Dr. H. M. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) Lawson, G. M. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Lee, Frederick (Newton) Skeffington, A. M.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Cronin, J. D. Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Snow, J. W.
Crossman, R. H. S. Lewis, Arthur Sorensen, R. W.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lindgren, G. S. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Logan, D. G. Sparks, J. A.
Davies, Harold (Leek) McAlister, Mrs. Mary Steele, T.
Delargy, H. J. McCann, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Diamond, John MacColl, J. E. Storehouse, John
Dodds, N. N. MacDermot, Niall Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Donnelly, D. L. McGhee, H. G. Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John(W. Brmwch) McInnes, J. Swingler, S. T.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McKay, John (Wal[...]send) Sylvester, G. O.
Edelman, M. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Edwards, Rt. Hon, John (Brighouse) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mahon, Simon Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mann, Mrs. Jean Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mason, Roy Thornton, E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mayhew, C. P. Tomney, F.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mellish, R. J. Watkins, T. E.
Finch, H. J. Messer, Sir F. Weitzman, D,
Fletcher, Eric Mikardo, Ian Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Foot, D. M. Mitchison, G. R. West, D. G.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Monslow, W Wheeldon, W. E.
George, Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then) Moody, A. S. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Gibson, C. W. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Wigg, George
Greenwood, Anthony Moss, R. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Grey, C. F. Moyle, A. Willey, Frederick
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mulley, F. W. Williams, David (Neath)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Grimond, J. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hale, Leslie O'Brien, Sir Thomas Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Oliver, G. H. Woof, R. E.
Hannan, W. Oram, A. E. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Oswald, T. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hayman, F. H. Paget, R. T. Zilliacus, K.
Healey, Denis Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Palmer, A. M. F. Mr. Pearson and Mr. Deer.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time Tomorrow.