Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [19th November]:
That this House takes note of the Command Paper (No. 3799) on House of Lords Reform:—
§ Which Amendment was, to leave out "takes note of" and insert "rejects" instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I remind the House that many hon. Members wish to take part in today's debate? Yesterday, I was able to call more than 20 speakers. If we are to get the opinion of a cross-section of the House, it will help if hon. and right hon. Members make their speeches reasonably brief.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
Something tells me that the House would prefer to hear my elders and betters rather than that I should expatiate once again on the misgivings that I expressed last night, just before the debate was adjourned, about the patronage provisions in the White Paper. I hope that the House will bear with me for two minutes while I discuss not the composition of the proposed second Chamber, but its powers in one small respect, and that is on the question of delegated legislation.
As the House knows, the present position is that the Upper Chamber may throw out an Order and that the provisions of the Parliament Act do not apply to it. That, I submit, is wrong. However, it is equally wrong that the Upper House, as reorganised, should have no power over delegated legislation. That goes too far in the opposite direction.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
I am aware of that, Mr. Speaker, and, as I said at the 1306 outset, I intend to delay the House for only two minutes.
The Attorney-General will no doubt agree that it would not be beyond the wit of a ill-disposed Government—not necessarily the present one, but one of their successors—so to frame their legislation to avoid the Upper Chamber, as reorganised, altogether. That might occur if the procedures as proposed continue—which I hope, for other reasons also, they will not—but, if they are to continue, then another look should be given to the proposal that the powers of a reformed second Chamber over delegated legislation should be removed altogether.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) for having concluded last night's proceedings so decorously and for having raised a point this afternoon which I shall deal with in due course in my speech.
The terms of the Motion that we are debating—to take note of the White Paper—were chosen deliberately to make discussion of many issues which are raised in the White Paper as wide as possible. That result, at least, was achieved in yesterday's debate. Out of the rough set of conflicting views which were expressed on both sides of the House in yesterday's debate, two main issues seem to have emerged: first, should we broadly accept the proposals in the White Paper; and secondly, if so, should they be brought into effect during the course of the present Parliament or only after the next dissolution?
The proposals themselves are based on the assumption that in the framework of a modern Parliamentary system a second Chamber has an essential rôle to play, complementary to but subordinate to that of the House of Commons. Some of my hon. Friends who spoke, but who, I think, were in a minority, reject that basic assumption. Others on this side of the House, and, I believe, all who spoke from the other side, accept the need for a second Chamber. One hon. Member opposite, indeed, thought that a third Chamber would be a good idea.
In my view, and that of the Government, a second Chamber is valuable and 1307 necessary. Time and again, since I have been in the House, I and the House of Commons have seen the value of Lords Amendments to Public Bills which have been through this House and of the work that is done in another place on Bills that are introduced there. For us here to do their work as well as our own would not contribute to the better functioning of Parliament in which we are all concerned.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) said yesterday—and with this part of his speech at any rate, delightful as it was, I am able to agree—we in this House are slaves of our time-table and the pressure on our Parliamentary time, so far from diminishing, seems to be increasing.
Looking at the matter generally, and at experience of other countries, it is significant to find that no other Western democracy of substance has functioned or is functioning without a second Chamber. The question then arises: is the present other place, with its present composition and powers, a satisfactory second Chamber for a 1968 Parliamentary system?
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The statement has been made a number of times that no other democratic assembly is operating without a second Chamber. Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that none of those Chambers is a nominated second Chamber or in any way resembles the House of Lords, and that all of them have a democratically elected basis?
§ The Attorney-General
I cannot confirm that no other second Chambers have nominated elements in them. Some, it is true, have an elected basis.
But the point I was making is that perhaps with the exception of Denmark, no other European Western democracy operates without a second Chamber at all. Some of my hon. Friends thought that we should have a unicameral Parliamentary system in this country. I was turning to the question whether it is agreed, and it seems broadly agreed in in the House, that there is a need for a second Chamber. Is the present second 1308 Chamber, with its present composition and powers, satisfactory for our present day Parliamentary system?
I do not think that anyone on this side of the House thinks that the other place is satisfactory and I doubt whether there is more than a handful of hon. Members opposite who think so, either. It has two main features which, I submit, are inappropriate to present conditions. First, the right to vote there, that is to say, in political terms the right to exercise political powers as a legislator, can still be derived from the accident of succession to an hereditary peerage. Secondly, the House still contains a permanent majority for one party, the Conservative Party. Although it may be that one or two Bourbons here and in another place may defend a largely hereditary Chamber, there is a general view that it must go. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] I said a general view; I have excluded the occasional Bourbon.
The case for a second Chamber with a large built-in permanent majority for one particular party is not decently arguable, just as it is unacceptable that another place should be in the position to kill any subordinate legislation, save financial legislation, which this elected Chamber may have passed. Although its final powers of delay over public legislation and of rejecting subordinate legislation have been largely unused, the extent of those powers cannot be disregarded and the possibility that another place might use its powers remains a political fact which every non-Conservative Government must reckon with, particularly after their third year of office. It is a system, an arrangement, which is unfair and which is undemocratic, but it is a political fact of life of which I hope my hon. Friends will not be unmindful tonight.
How, then, is the present House of Lords to be reformed? It is a daunting question which has remained unanswered by Parliament for over half a century. I submit that the answer given in the proposals in the White Paper is ingenious and constructive and, in the context of our Parliamentary system, both radical and democratic. Few of our institutions reflect constitutional tidiness—from the nature and duties of my office as Attorney-General up to the composition 1309 and functions of the House of Lords itself. They are the product of our history more than of doctrine, and a reflection of our talent for compromise, of which this very White Paper is, of course, an example.
Our institutions have worked because the men and women who have worked them have been able to make them work, but also because they have been susceptible to change. Some of those constitutional changes have been gradual, but there have been moments, like the Reform Bill of 1832, when major leaps forward have been made. In the Government's view, this is one of those moments when the opportunity of achieving a major constitutional reform, and achieving it by agreement, should be grasped. I submit that it should be grasped now.
I have said that proposals in the White Paper are democratic. I say this above all, because, first, they establish unequivocally and unchallengeably the supremacy of this House as an elected Chamber, and, secondly, because the will of the electorate will be reflected if the proposals take effect in the composition of another place as a whole, since the party which has a majority in this House and forms the Government will have a majority over the other parties in another place as well. This will be something new in the experience of a Labour Government—the knowledge that the powers of delay will rest, not in politically hostile hands but in the hands of the well-disposed and, to a small but very occasional extent, in the hands of the cross-benchers.
The cross-benchers, in any event—this was a matter of much discussion yesterday—do not vote much on public business. When they do, as the record shows, they vote and act as individuals. They are almost invariably divided in their views. They have no corporate views or corporate organisation and, as a matter of political interest, since the present Government have been in office, being men and women of good judgment, normally they have voted more with the Government than against it.
The Government accept that it will be important to ensure that the cross-benchers do not as a group become identified with any one party, and the proposed Review Committee would be 1310 expected to satisfy itself about that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Lord Shawcross."] My right hon. and learned predecessor is not the only cross-bencher in another place. I was submitting to the House that it is accepted that it would be important to ensure that the cross-benchers do not as a group become identified with any one party, and the proposed committee would be expected to satisfy itself that the cross-bench element was constituted in a way which fully maintained the independent and non-aligned spirit of its present membership.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
My right hon. and learned Friend may be correct in saying that they will not necessarily be aligned with any party, but will they not necessarily be aligned with a party as independent Socialists or independent capitalists?
§ The Attorney-General
Most of them, I think, will be just independent in a political sense. Dedicated party man as I am, I am sure that there is room for independence in another place. [Laughter.] This House is not outstanding at the moment for unqualified loyalty to any Government decisions.
It has been suggested that reliance on cross-benchers would be avoided by providing that the Government of the day should have a majority over the membership of the Upper Chamber as a whole and not merely over the combined strength of the Opposition parties, which is what is proposed in the White Paper. But that would mean that at every change of Government a large number of new peers would have to be created to provide a necessary majority for the Government. Under the proposed scheme, the number of peers to be created on a change of Government need merely be sufficient to secure a 10 per cent. majority over the Opposition parties. I think that there was some misunderstanding in the House yesterday as to the way in which the 30 voting cross-benchers are to be selected. It seemed to be the impression that they would be bound to be either stooges of the Government or stooges of the Opposition Front Bench.
§ The Attorney-General
Perhaps my hon. Friend will restrain his customary impetuosity and bear with me.
1311 It was also not realised, I think, why the Government have proposed the figure of 30 when there are over 100 cross benchers in another place at present. The answer is that many of the present cross-benchers are occupied outside the House with their own activities. They tend to be men and women who have been nominated to peerages for a variety of reasons, but especially for their eminence in the service of the Crown as diplomats, civil servants and colonial administrators or—and this has been particularly the case since the Life Peerages Act, 1958—for eminence in a wide variety of activities, in business, in medicine, in the universities, in law, in technology, in science, in farming, in economics, and in other spheres of our social life.
It is intended that all created peers would have a choice whether to undertake the duties of a voting peer, with the one-third attendance requirement, or whether freely to opt for a non-voting rôle. After careful consideration of the present voting and speaking habits of all cross-benchers, it has been estimated that about 30 would, in fact, be willing and able to undertake voting rights. They would qualify themselves to do so by making, in effect, a declaration of intent or a voting declaration, and nobody would have any control over whether they would do so or not.
§ Sir Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the cross-benchers would be independent. May I respectfully ask him this question: supposing that some of them did not remain independent, how would they be dealt with?
§ The Attorney-General
They would be dealt with very courteously, I am sure. If party political loyalties were suddenly manifested by a sufficiently large number of cross-benchers at any moment to defeat the broad intention that the Government of the day should have a majority in another place, the Review Committee would no doubt so advise, and appropriate steps could be taken.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the Attorney-General does not give way, hon. Members must keep their seats. I understand that he has given way.
§ The Attorney-General
I was giving way only to a certain amount of clamour, not to an hon. Member, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Speaker
Then if the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not given way, hon. Members must resume their seats.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I think that "Hapsburg" would perhaps be a more appropriate word.
Is it not the whole intention of the scheme that the cross-benchers are to be able to defeat the Government in certain circumstances? What sense does it make of the scheme if the right hon. and learned Gentleman tells the House that if they exercise the functions for which they are created they will then be eliminated?
§ The Attorney-General
In a moment I will deal with the exercise of powers, and if the hon. Member bears with me I hope that what I say will give him satisfaction.
My submission about the proposals as a whole is that they are constructive, because they would allow another place to make a distinctive contribution of its own, and the two-tier structure and the cross-bench element will achieve that. It will also allow a review of functions and procedure from which both Houses should benefit by eliminating a mass of mere duplication of effort and waste of scarce resources.
The proposals, I submit, also achieve substantially the five objectives of reform which are set out in paragraph 5 of the White Paper, of which I should like to remind the House and, in particular, my hon. Friends who are not all happy about these proposals. Let us look at them. The first is that the hereditary basis of membership should be eliminated. The proposals will achieve that. The second is that no one party should possess a permanent majority. The proposals will achieve that. The third is that in normal circumstances the Government of the day should be able to secure a reasonable working majority. The proposals will achieve that; it will be a new experience for a Labour Government. The fourth 1313 is that the powers of the House of Lords to delay public legislation should be restricted. The proposals will achieve that. The last is that the Lords' absolute power to withhold consent to subordinate legislation against the will of the House of Commons should be abolished. The proposals will achieve that.
For a Labour majority in this House, with the Government's legislative programme Still incomplete and in the latter half of a Parliament, to throw away the opportunity to achieve these objectives would be the height of folly, and for Parliament as a whole not to grasp this opportunity of sensible and constructive reform would also be a mistake of the first order.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
Will my right hon. and learned Friend address himself to the point that caused controversy and disagreement between the two Front Benches yesterday? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services claimed that the check on the Commons would be less and the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) claimed that it would be more effective.
§ The Attorney-General
I shall deal with that point a little later.
First, I want to deal with the objections raised to the scheme, particularly one that obtruded considerably yesterday—namely, that this scheme represents too great an extension of the Prime Minister's patronage. To some extent, this objection reflects a misunderstanding of the way in which members of political parties are selected for peerages. The convention is for the Prime Minister of the day to consult the leaders of the other parties before putting forward names from those parties for peerages, so the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) and the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) are closely involved in deciding which members of their parties should be recommended. The so-called patronage, therefore, is not the Prime Minister's alone.
Quite apart from this, there will be two new features in the proposed arrangements which do not exist at the moment and which may mitigate some of the faults that the patronage system may hold. These two new features are, 1314 first, the committee which has been proposed to review the composition of the reformed House and, secondly, the convention on numbers.
About 80 new creations will probably be needed at first, but most of these would be conversions from peers by succession. Thereafter, 50 or 60 might be needed at each change of Government. In 1964, the year of the last change of Government, there were 55 new creations, including those made by the outgoing Administration, and there has been a total of 146 since the beginning of that year.
I emphasise that the proposals secure the right of the life peer to vote whatever his speaking or voting record in a party political sense may be. This security does give him a measure of freedom and independence which would be difficult to achieve under any other arrangement—appointing him, for instance, for a term of years. Even through a peer may have been nominated by his party, he will, as experience has often shown to the discomfiture perhaps of the party political leaders, not necessarily support his party or his leader indefinitely; and it must be remembered, in considering the whole working of patronage today, that the party leaders themselves are answerable directly to the electorate and are objects of the watchful eye of the Press. They would soon incur odium if, in these days, they abused the power of patronage.
It can be said of the exercise of the power of patronage in recent decades that at least it has been free of the taint of corruption. That was not the case when the Bryce Commission reported in 1918 and it is not surprising that against the background of operations of gentlemen like Maundy Gregory and others, who touted honours about, the Bryce Commission thought the nomination of peers by the Prime Minister to be unacceptable.
Not all of a Prime Minister's recommendations for the peerage concern members of his own party. The names which the Prime Minister recommends to Her Majesty in the half-yearly honours lists include men and women of high distinction from many other different activities. Through their wide knowledge and experience, they are particularly well qualified to assist in the deliberations of the 1315 upper Chamber. Many of them have sat on the cross-benches and no doubt will continue to do so. The question where they should sit and how they should vote is entirely a matter for them.
Concern in this context has been expressed about the suggestion of payment of salary to Members of the other place. In my view—and I suspect that this view might well be shared by some of my hon. Friends—it would be intolerable if, because of inadequate means, men and women otherwise admirably suited to serve in another place were prevented by poverty and lack of means from doing so. But I wish to emphasise that the whole question of remuneration will, if the proposals are accepted, be referred to an independent committee like the Lawrence Committee, which reported upon salaries of Members of this House.
As yet, the method of payment is undetermined, as is the amount. The committee may recommend—I know not—a sliding scale depending on attendance; it may recommend—I know not—that there should be no payment at all save to those who have a substantial record of attendance. We shall see and we shall consider, if the proposals are implemented, the recommendations of that independent body in due course. I have little doubt that it will take all these factors into account.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it would be intolerable if former Members of this House who sit as cross-benchers and are also in receipt of patronage of expensive political appointments were also to receive House of Lords salaries?
§ The Attorney-General
Again, these are matters which the committee would consider and I feel that, in this respect, if these proposals are to be implemented, the less by way of guidance or instruction this House or another place gives to such a committee the better.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Granted that the nominations come, in effect, from the parties, does that mean that this House can play no part whatever in the nominations? After all, we have Select Committees here, the members of which are nominated by the 1316 Whips, but at least the House has to approve. Is there no kind of way in which the House could be brought in on this?
§ The Attorney-General
I know of no direct way in which this can be done, but I imagine that a Prime Minister who abused the power of patronage or exercised it in a way that was intolerable, for whatever reason, would be the subject of considerable attack on the Floor of the House, which is not reluctant to move into the attack if there is any abuse of powers of this kind.
I come now to the powers of the reformed House of Lords. It has been said that the new powers on Public Bills are very similar to those possessed now and that there would be no significant reduction in the delaying powers of another place. In my submission, that criticism is misconceived. The philosophy behind the new powers is that the second Chamber should not be able to say, "No" but only, "This needs looking at again".
At present, the Lords can say "No", and that is the end of the Bill for that Session. The Government can reintroduce it in the next Session and another place cannot say "No" again, but the Bill must go through all its stages in the Commons and if another place does not pass it or formally rejects it it can become law only at the end of that Session, which would have to be closed early if the Bill was urgent and if the delay was to be kept to a minimum. The result of this procedure is likely to be serious dislocation of the Parliamentary timetable, a considerable waste of Parliamentary time, and possibly the sacrifice of other important items of legislation.
These difficulties will be substantially removed under the new scheme. After the period of delay following disagreement, a Bill could be presented for Royal Assent on a simple Resolution of this House, and that Resolution could be passed either in the Session in which the Bill was introduced, or in the next Session, or even in the next Parliament. The Resolution and the carry-over procedure will make a real difference in terms of flexibility generally, and will be much more appropriate than the present powers of a non-elected Chamber. This 1317 new arrangement will formally establish the supremacy of the elected House of Commons and will remove the special threat which there has always been to the legislative programme of a Labour Government in the last two years of a Parliament.
In this context, I will now refer to certain exchanges which took place in the House yesterday on the way in which a reformed House could be expected to use the powers which it is proposed to give it under the White Paper proposals. Given the fact which is recognised in the White Paper that under our system of government a Government are responsible to, and should be responsible to, the elected House of Commons, it seems extremely unlikely that a reformed upper House based on nomination would seek to exercise its remaining delaying powers to frustrate any major legislative proposal which has been carried in this House. If this did happen, I can well envisage that whatever Government were in power might indeed take a hard look at the working of the new arrangements.
§ Mr. Mendelson
My right hon. and learned Friend has just said that he thinks that it is extremely unlikely that a reformed Upper House would seek to frustrate a major legislative proposal carried in this House. On what authority does he base that statement? Lord Mancroft, a leading peer, has already said on television that up till now the Lords were not credible to the country and could not use their powers; now they can use them and will effectively and frequently use them. What authority does my right hon. and learned Friend have to speak against that?
§ The Attorney-General
I make my estimate of what is likely to happen. I think that in the situation that I have envisaged, in which the reformed upper House will be a nominated Chamber and where the party with the majority in that Chamber will be supporters of the Government of the day, it is unlikely that the situation I have spoken of will arise. If it does arise, I would deem it unlikely in that situation, where a major Bill has gone through the House of Commons, that the reformed Chamber would seek to turn it out.
§ The Attorney-General
Just a moment.
This is not an easy matter. If it did happen, I imagine that it would be an extremely rare event. If it happened too frequently, I think that we would have to look again at the proposals which have been made.
§ Sir Douglas Glover
Is the House to understand that the Government's policy on this reformed Chamber is that the Upper House will have delaying powers, but that if it uses them the powers will be taken away?
§ The Attorney-General
I have not said that at all. It is the expectation and policy of the Government that the powers should be given. They are powers—
§ The Attorney-General
Just one moment. Let me answer one question at a time.
If the situation arose that I have envisaged of a reformed, nominated House coming into being, the powers it has in its possession will be limited and, as I have said, my expectation would be that those powers would, in respect of a major Measure of the Government, be used very exceptionally indeed. At present, this Labour Government face the risk, during their last two years, of these powers being used extensively, deliberately, to destroy the legislative programme of the Government.
§ Mr. Heffer
My right hon. and learned Friend is arguing that the powers which will be granted are not likely to be used. Surely the logic of that is: why give the Lords any powers at all?
§ The Attorney-General
I think that it is appropriate that they should have the powers. In matters other than major legislative proposals, of course the power of another place will exist. In regard to legislation affecting the rights of individuals in the sphere of planning or civil liberty, or whatever it may be, I can think of a whole range of legislative proposals or matters for debate where they 1319 should have these limited delaying powers.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)
I am sorry to press the Attorney-General on this, but it is rather important. I had thought that the whole point of these changes was to get rid of unreal powers which the Lords had and which could not be used without the accusation being made of their being unconstitutional, in favour of much lesser powers which could be so used. The Attorney-General has, to put it mildly, now cast some doubt on whether even the new powers will be used by a reformed House. Admittedly, he has drawn a distinction between major measures and minor legislative proposals, but it is only his definition. How can the Attorney-General argue that we are making any progress if we are halving the powers and saying that, if they are used, retribution will still follow?
§ The Attorney-General
I think that we are making real progress. I have indicated the nature of the new delaying proposals, which are of a character which will cause the Government of the day to think again if the delaying machinery is invoked; but will avoid circumstances where the legislative programme can be wrecked by a series of such interventions and where even in a given individual case the working of the delaying procedure in regard to an important Bill can dislocate the work of this House for many months by reason of requiring the whole process of a Bill's being reintroduced through all its stages to take place.
Yesterday, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) asked me to say whether Scottish peers could be excluded from the proposals without breaching the Treaty of Union. This provision has not been overlooked. Paragraph 50 of the White Paper states:There are strong constitutional arguments, based on the presence of Scottish peers in the House of Lords ever since 1707, and practical arguments arising from the existence of separate Scottish Law which make it particularly important that the reformed House should include a suitable number of Scottish peers.As the White Paper says, it is the Government's intention to ensure that there shall continue to be a considerable number of peers who can speak with authority 1320 on the needs of the different parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
This is a point which we have an opportunity of putting to the Attorney-General only at this stage. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that under Article 22 of the Act of Union there was a guarantee that there were to be 16 Scottish peers for the first and any subsequent Parliament of Great Britain. Does not the Attorney-General agree that any figure less than 16 would be in breach of the spirit of the Act of Union?
§ The Attorney-General
The right hon. Gentleman overlooks the fact that the reference to the 16 peers in the Act of Union has been repealed, by Section 4 of the Peerage Act, 1963. That provision abolishes the arrangements for the election of representative Scottish peers, and provides that all members of the peerage of Scotland may sit in another place, so that the principle of elected hereditary peers has thus already disappeared from the Statute Book. As I say, the Government have this matter of representation for Scottish peers very much in mind.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to me, and I raised this question with him. There is this element, this difficulty about voting. The existing hereditary peers, or the hereditary peers who were there before the recent changes, have voting rights without necessarily having to attend. It could be extremely awkward for Scottish peers to have to attend a whole lot of business in which they are not interested. What I was wanting to get from the right hon. and learned Gentleman was whether these voting Scottish peers will have to attend as much as other United Kingdom Members.
§ The Attorney-General
I think that a requirement for voting rights of one-third attendance ought not to be excessive, either in another place or in this House. We shall have to look at the practical working of this matter.
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) expressed some concern yesterday on the question whether the proposals on subordinate legislation give the other place as much opportunity as should be given, and, like the hon. and 1321 learned Member for Darwen at the beginning of today's debate, he asked for more information about the Government's proposals. I can assure the House that the Government in proposing any future Measures which may involve the delegation of legislative powers will not take advantage of the relaxation of control by the other House over subordinate legislation. I imagine that this House would give them a rough time if they sought to do so.
We have suggested in the White Paper that the possibility of rationalising Parliamentary control over subordinate legislation might be a subject for consideration by a Joint Select Committee of both Houses. There is a great deal of duplication here, a great deal of wasted resources, and this is the sort of sphere in which a reformed upper House could make so much easier collaboration of this kind.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
Is it not wrong to bring forward a Bill, as presumably the Government are doing, excluding the power of the Upper Chamber on delegated legislation until these other reforms have been worked out, because if such a Bill is brought forward in the present parboiled state, such matters as the Rhodesian Order, whatever one may think of it, would not be within the competence of the Upper Chamber?
§ The Attorney-General
I do not think that I can add anything to the matter at the moment. The Government have undertaken, and I certainly undertake on their behalf, to review the rationalising of Parliamentary control over subordinate legislation as soon as these proposals are brought into effect.
The right hon. Member for Barnet attached the greatest importance to one point, upon which unhappily he and his Party disagree with the Government. This was the matter of timing as he called it. As I apprehend, right hon. Gentlemen opposite consider that it would be improper, and they contended that it would be without precedent to reform the composition of another place in a way which would diminish the rights of any of those Members, except at the beginning of a new Parliament. They argued that to do so would be contrary to the spirit of the Writ of Summons 1322 which all present Members of another place have received.
They also argued that it would be wrong to base the composition of the reformed House on the present representation of the political parties, since that reflects the political situation at the time of the 1966 General Election. Previous reforms of the composition of another place have generally added to its membership, leaving intact the rights of existing Members.
On the rare occasions when Members have lost their right to sit, the Measures concerned have taken effect during the course of a Parliament. Many peers have, in practice, for many years disregarded the terms of the Writ of Summons, and the existing arrangements for leave of absence, in effect, overrule the Writ of Summons. In any event, no existing Members would lose their right to sit in the House, although, admittedly, some would lose their right to vote there.
I submit that there are strong practical arguments for introducing the proposed reforms as soon as possible. It is highly desirable that the reform should be evolutionary in approach, with no abrupt break with previous traditions, and it would be an advantage for the reform to come into effect during a Parliament, so that the working conventions upon which so much of the scheme will depend, and which have been established between the parties, could be adapted and applied to the new situation without the need for the parties to adapt themselves simultaneously to a new Parliament and to the new circumstances of a reformed House.
The Upper Chamber would be in a very invidious situation in any period between Parliament's agreement to the scheme for the reform and its implementation. From the point of view of the Government, it would be less subject to control than at any time since 1911. Furthermore, the development and closer integration of the functions and procedures of the two Houses would also have to be unnecessarily delayed. Accordingly, it is the view of the Government that the White Paper proposals should be brought into effect during the course of this Parliament, and I accordingly commend the White Paper to the House in those terms.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, would he answer—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has resumed his seat.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod (Enfield, West)
When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition invited me to take part in this debate, I welcomed it as I thought of it as a sort of calm oasis in the acrimony of economic discussions. It has not turned out like that. The truth is that in five days' debate, three days in another place and two here, no one will even secure the full support of his own side of the House. Normally, if one makes a speech which irritates the other side of the House, one has the comfort of warm approval from one's own side. The odds in this case are that one is irritating one's own side as well.
With my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), I was a member of the all-party committee. I started with more doubts about reform than any other Member of the 10 or so Members of the two Houses who spent many months together on these issues. I would like to pay my tribute to the spirit in which the talks took place. I want to put to the House that this White Paper, with all our reservations—and I have the most serious reservations, particularly about the timing—is something of an achievement, and not something which we should lightly discard. I saw in the papers that it was said that the Home Secretary was not very enthusiastic when he held a discussion at his party meeting.
I am sure that exactly the same comment could be, and will be, made about my speech today. I do not find that surprising in the least. After all, we seek all-party agreement on one of the historical points of difference between all parties. It is not an easy quest, but it is not one that we should readily or lightly abandon.
§ Mr. Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman consider it equally as important as having all-party agreement between the two Front Benches that there 1324 should be agreement between all hon. Members?
§ Mr. Macleod
Yes, of course I do. I am coming to that point. I do not know whether I will carry the hon. Gentleman with me—it is most unlikely—but I will do my best.
Yesterday, the first three speeches after the Front Bench speeches were made by the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). They have about 65 years' experience of the House of Commons between them. I thought that they made first-class House of Commons speeches, and, with a good deal of wit, warmth and venom, they turned their not inconsiderable fire power upon this White Paper and blew some holes in it.
But we must also take into account not just that they attacked the White Paper's solution, but that each of them produced mutually contradictory answers. The right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich said, "Away with the White Paper. What we want is an elected second Chamber." My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said, "Away with the White Paper. Let us leave things as they are, warts and all". The hon. Member for Fife, West said, "Away with the White Paper and, for good measure, away with the House of Lords as well."
If there is an unholy alliance, not just between the Front Benches, or some members of them, but between the three parties—because I have the feeling that the Liberals are keener than anybody else on this reform for reasons to which I will come—we might at least glance at the alliance that there will be in the other Lobby on these proposals. I do not hope to compete in sanctity with them. I merely say that, in logic, we shall have a slightly better case to put forward.
There are two fundamentalist approaches still lingering over these debates. One sees the House of Lords as carrying the last torch of freedom against a revolting, presumably Left-wing Government in the Commons. The other sees it as a sort of sinister cabal bent on destroying the Labour Government's last 1325 year. I think that both points of view parted with reality years ago, and I do not think that they represent the thinking of this House.
There are three choices: abolition; leave well alone; and reform. Reform has many variants, as probably the first two choices have.
I regard abolition as a slogan rather than a policy. I found the speech of the former Leader of the House convincing on the point of the extra work which will fall upon the House of Commons if there is not a second Chamber. It is of no light importance that every country of comparable size and importance with this country has a second Chamber, and it would be odd indeed if the Mother of Parliaments, after 750 years, declared that all her children were bastards and we had to start again on an entirely different system.
The question of the load of work which would fall upon this House is clearly formidable, but I do not think that we have considered what would happen if there were not another place, however one defines that term, which could also look, not just in the revising sense but sometimes in the initiating sense, at some of the work done here. Let me take one example. It is necessary for the conduct of business—and this is always done by Governments with great regret—to introduce a Guillotine from time to time. The Opposition invariably protest, which, again, is quite right. But the majority must have its way and, therefore, the Guillotine has been accepted for very many years as part of the procedure of the House of Commons. It has meant that large chunks of many Bills have been un-discussed in this House.
How do we get over this difficulty if there is not some other place which can consider some of the Clauses and Schedules which are passed under the Guillotine without a murmur in this House? We already have, if anything, too much legislation, and it is too indigested. It would be appalling if some of that legislation were passed without a single word or comment in either House. Therefore, I do not believe that abolition is anything more than a slogan. I do not believe that it is a policy.
1326 Secondly, there is the suggestion that we should leave well alone. Naturally, as a Tory, this has considerable attraction to me. Twice yesterday Belloc was quoted—Always keep a hold of nurse,For fear of finding something worse.It seems to me a somewhat uninspiring approach to one of the great constitutional problems of our time. Surely this point was conceded long ago. It is not a victory which the Secretary of State for Social Services has won in the last month or two.
Here, I should like to quote from page 3 of the agreed statement published as a White Paper in 1948:(2) The revised constitution of the House of Lords should be such as to secure as far as practicable that a permanent majority is not assured for any one political party;(3) The present right to attend and vote based solely on heredity should not by itself constitute a qualification for admission to a reformed second Chamber.That was the view of the leaders of all parties, including the Conservative Party, 20 years ago. We know very well—
§ Mr. Macleod
The White Paper was agreed. What was not agreed was a different proposal which comes under the heading of "delay". It is all explained in the White Paper. These principles were agreed and were part of an agreed White Paper no less than 20 years ago. It is unquestionably a fact that there is a very strong feeling for reform among the Members of another place, and not least among the Conservative and younger Members.
If, in the end, there is to be reform, surely it is best done by agreement. No course of action commands a majority of support in this House. If there were no Whips on, I think it quite likely that the Motion, if it were a Motion to approve the White Paper, would be rejected. But if there were a Motion before the House that we should leave things untouched and as they are, I am pretty certain that it would be rejected by a larger majority. If there were a majority simply to abolish against the possibility of an agreed reform, I believe that that would be rejected by a still larger majority.
1327 We therefore not only have to consider the fact that we shall not all get our own way—which is not uncommon in Parliament—but also to consider whether it is worth seeking for—and I believe that it is. That is why I speak as I do this afternoon. I believe that it is still worth seeking the highest common factor of agreement. I therefore say to hon. Members, with respect as someone who was formerly Leader of the House, that I hope that they will study these proposals with greater care than I feel they have yet received.
That is all that I ask. If the House then rejects our work, I shall regret it, but I shall accept it. But let us remember that if we tear up what we have done, we shall leave the retentionists and the abolitionists glaring at each other and we shall have lost the best chance in 50 years of reform by agreement.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
May I put to my right hon. Friend the point which I would have put to the Attorney-General had he not sat down so quickly? Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) made the very important point that since these negotiations took place last Session the Government have decided to set up a Commission on the Constitution. Will my right hon. Friend deal with the possibility of putting this White Paper in a pigeon-hole until that Commission has done its work?
§ Mr. Macleod
I will deal with that when I discuss timing, although that is not my major objection in relation to timing.
I wish to speak in detail on two points only, but they are the most difficult: first, the question of the cross-benchers and, secondly, the question of timing—and I will not forget the point made by my hon. Friend.
Let us look at the question of the cross-benchers, remembering, if the House will, that I am a fiercely party political animal. Let us see them as they are now and as they will be if the White Paper comes into operation, and then let us see whether the measure of influence which they might acquire is or is not suitable. I thought that some of the things said about the cross-benchers yesterday were, to put it mildly, unhappy. 1328 I think it unfortunate that they should be called stooges, which was a phrase used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser).
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West went a good deal further. They are to be appointed on the basis that they have no strong views of principle on the way in which the country ought to be governed, and upon the premise that they will fluctuate from case to case, from question to question, and will not seek to decide in the light of such general principles as bind us respectively together in this lower House.
I must say to my right hon. Friend that not all wisdom is party political wisdom. There are Members of Parliament in another place who do not have party political ties, but who, nevertheless, may feel very strongly indeed upon such matters as the rights of man and our obligations to our fellow citizens. There are some who are cross-benchers at the moment because of the accident of office. Lord Wigg's name has been mentioned. He is Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. He is one of the hundred.
But it stands to reason, I should have thought—and I am sure that Lord Wigg would sue anybody who suggested otherwise—that Lord Wigg would not qualify under the heading of being "independent and non-aligned", which is the wording of the White Paper. Therefore, when we consider the 30, we are not, with deep respect, considering Lord Wigg. There are other illustrations which I could give.
What sort of people have we in mind? Unquestionably, the largest section are those who have given great service to the State and often to different Governments. Let us think of one or two names. There is Lord Bridges, who was the senior civil adviser both to Churchill and to Attlee. There are people of a new generation, like Lord Caccia, or people outside the Civil Service, like Lady Reading, who gives enormous service to our country. Some of them—they are getting very old—are the great captains of the last war. There are some governors or governors-general of important ex-colonial or present Commonwealth States. There are presidents of some of our great Royal Colleges. These men are 1329 not weathercocks. If we study carefully—as the inter-party conference did—the voting of those we call cross-benchers, we find that it does not, in fact, conform to any preconceived pattern; and I am certain that this can be secured for the future as, in fact, it already exists. These people are there.
The selection, of course, is extremely difficult, and I do not particularly like the method put forward in the White Paper. But unless there is only to be a party majority, with all that that implies—arid then, indeed, the upper House would be lackeys of this House—then some solution such as the cross-bencher must be brought into our thinking, and nobody has yet put forward a better idea.
I come to the question raised by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) and others about the use which they will make of their powers. This can only be a matter of opinion. With respect I agree with the Attorney-General, rather than with the Secretary of State. I think that these powers will be used very, very rarely indeed and—this is a point of answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Sir F. Bennett)—they will be used on the merits of the case and without the overwhelming consideration, "Will this action or will it not precipitate a constitutional crisis between the two Houses?"
I have two reasons for saying that the powers will rarely be used. The first arises from the sheer mathematics, which I do not think have been studied closely enough, certainly as it appeared from any speech which I have heard in the debate. The second arises from the nature of the people concerned, some of whose names I have given. Let us take the figures: 105, 80, 15 and 30 cross-benchers. Let us assume a Conservative Government. That Government, under the new system, could be defeated in the House of Lords only if every Labour peer, every Liberal peer, every peer of any other party—nationalist or any other which might exist—and 80 per cent. of the cross-benchers all voted together against that Government.
I think that hon. Members have not yet addressed their minds to the likelihood of that. And even if it happened, what then? There would be the imposition of 1330 a six months' delay—no more—and that six months would include any carry-over. If hon. Members work out the percentage which is needed of cross-benchers, in addition to carrying all the other parties which may exist, it will be clear to them that the threat to Government business is relatively small.
Secondly—and this is a matter of opinion—I believe that the powers will very rarely be used because of the people whom we have been discussing, who are men and women of the highest authority in our public life. One must remember that the overwhelming number of those who need to be so revolted by the action which a future Government might take that they would nearly all come together and make common cause with all the minority political parties. In that case—and in that case only—a minor degree of delay could be imposed.
Both from a study of the mathematics and from a study of the House as it will be, I believe that these powers will be used very rarely and that when they are used it will be on a true case in which it is right for a Government to be asked not to back track, but just to think twice.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
The right hon. Gentleman assumes an absolutely monolithic vote on the Government side, whoever may be the Government of the day. Is this not a very sweeping assumption?
§ Mr. Macleod
One can use that argument about other parties as well, and it is an argument which can be used in relation to this House.
I turn to the only other point I wish to put, which is on the question of timing. With great respect, I would say to the Attorney-General that he answered points with which I am not deeply concerned. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) also drew attention to the point, which was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition yesterday, in relation to paragraph 23, with its concluding sentence:It would be wrong to establish a second chamber on a regional basis until the outcome of these studies is known.I take that point. It is a strong point, but it is not a point that I wish to put to the House tonight.
1331 Driving away from here after 10 o'clock last night I had the privilege of listening to the Secretary of State on the 10 o'clock news, and he said that the only difference—it is not the only difference, but it is the main difference—between the parties was on the question of timing, and that he thought that the right interpretation of the Tory point of view was—I think I quote his words aright—"If old Bee had one last sting in her she should be allowed it." That was very naughty of him, because he knows very well that it is not the point which I had raised and which I had quite specifically put in the memorandum I sent him a month ago and from which I will paraphrase the part excluding that particular point.
What he is dealing with is the question of powers. Let me make it clear that it is not constitutionally in dispute that the powers of the House of Lords can be properly diminished during the lifetime of a Parliament. Of course they can. The Act of 1911 and the Act of 1949 are clear evidence of this. I do not, therefore, from the constitutional point of view, criticise the proposals put forward. I may criticise them on other grounds, but not from the constitutional point of view. It is relevant in this context to notice that the Labour Party's General Election manifesto of 1966 referred only to powers.
No, my objection is a much deeper and a much more fundamental one than this. It is not even on the point about the writ of summons. I think it wrong to take away from Members of Parliament rights which they have been granted for that Parliament. It is one thing to add to those rights, as has been done. It is one thing to add to the choices—of renunciation, or whatever it may be—which are open. But that is not what is suggested here. I think it is a pity, to put it no higher, to take away from Members of Parliament—in this case, members of another place—rights which the Writ of Summons gives them for that Parliament. My main point is quite simply this: it would be utterly wrong for the Prime Minister in the declining months of this Parliament to seek to exercise unprecedented powers of patronage 1332 by nomination on the basis of a General Election held in March, 1966. That is the point which I wish to put before the House.
It is not relevant who will win the next General Election. I am not suggesting that the Prime Minister will abuse his powers of nomination. I am relying on the phrase, the famous line people will remember from Tennyson:Authority forgets a dying king.It is for this reason that Churchill took Attlee to Potsdam; it is for this reason that now President Johnson and President-elect Nixon agree as far as they can on almost every point—of foreign policy, in particular.
Let us be quite clear what may happen if we move on composition in late 1969, or in 1970, before we have the view of the people at the next General Election. I look at the provision made for the other parties. I look at the 15 seats which the Secretary of State said were for the Liberals. On an intervention by me he accepted my correction that they were for all parties other than the main Opposition party. Let us consider the position of the Liberal Party as it is. It has 12 Members in this House out of 630. If the proposal in the White Paper is unaltered that party will have 15 Members out of 230. Quite clearly, that is grossly excessive, even taking into account that this House is, and is rightly, over-generous, if anything, towards the claims of minorities. But the point is that that is in terms of 1966.
What will happen in 1970 or in 1971? I hold no brief for the Liberal Party, nor for the Scottish Nationalists, nor for the Welsh Nationalists. It may well be that the verdict of the by-elections so far is wrong. It may be that the Nationalist challenge will disappear at the polls. Personally, I hope it does, but we must not anticipate in this matter the will of the people, and we must not preempt their verdict as, unquestionably, we would do if we filled this part of the composition before the next election takes place. Suppose that the by-elections are right. Suppose that the General Election confirms that verdict. Suppose that the Liberal Party is greatly reduced, almost extinguished, in the Commons. Are we to say that for all time it is to have a platform in the other House?
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Before the right hon. Gentleman is so incautious as to make predictions about the Liberal Party in 1970, would he care to recall that before the 1966 and 1964 elections he predicted that I was going to lose my seat?
§ Mr. Macleod
I think it is almost certain that I shall be making the same prediction again. I am an extremely consistent man.
It may be, of course, that, as the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has suggested, his party will do better than the by-elections show, even than the 1966 election showed. Anything is possible, even that. What I do say is that that party of all parties ought to wait to see, that that party of all parties ought to be ready to take the verdict of the people before these matters are settled and established.
Therefore, this is my argument, and I hope that the Home Secretary is clear now on what is to me the main point. It is not on the Constitutional Commission, it is not on the Writ of Summons, it is not on precedents: it is merely the question of the use of the nominating power overwhelmingly in the last Session of a Parliament.
There are many ways round these problems and I would be grateful, not perhaps tonight but on some other occasion, if the Home Secretary would put forward the views of the Government. It might be possible, for example, for a number of the conversions, which will be large in any case, to take place irrespective of the date on which legislation takes effect. It might be possible for the part of the Bill which refers to powers to come in, if this is the real anxiety of the party opposite, before the part of the Bill which refers to composition.
Whatever it may be, my view is clear, that in the sensitive areas, particularly in the areas which I have mentioned, those nominations can only be made by a Prime Minister with a fresh mandate from the people and on the latest evidence of what the people of the United Kingdom think.
I turn, lastly, to the vote tonight. I very much regret that the Government have thought it right to issue a three-line Whip on this matter, but that is domestic to them. It is also a matter of some 1334 importance to the House of Commons. I have made it clear that on this side of the House there will be a free vote. I do not know on what criteria hon. Members will make up their minds. The hon. Member for Fife, West said yesterday that, if the Secretary of State thought that it was a good bargain, it was not possible for my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) also to think it a good bargain. I cannot follow that line of reasoning. If it is a good bargain, it can well be a good bargain for both sides of the House of Commons.
I beg the House to keep in mind the point which I stressed at the beginning of my speech. Of course, it is possible, with brilliant and witty speeches, to shoot holes in the White Paper. No one knows this more clearly than those of us who were members of the inter-party talks, but no other solution commands more support than the one that has been put before the House. The free vote leaves me free to vote as I wish and, although the fact that the Government terminated the talks frees me of any obligation to the inter-party talks, yet I shall vote against the Amendment because the Amendment seeks to reject the White Paper, and, for me, that cannot be the right course. I have made it clear that if, at a later stage, the Government are not more flexible on timing, on which I have laid such stress, I will oppose the Bill, if one is produced, with all my strength.
The last thought that I wish to leave with the House is this. In 1948, we came very near to agreement. Looking back on it, I think that it was the fault of the Conservatives that we did not. I very much hope that my party will not make the same mistake twice.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) has told the House his intentions if the vote is taken tonight. He could do no other. He is a party to the agreement, and to have voted for the Amendment would have been dishonest, which is the last thing I would expect of him.
He is a superb debater, but he has begged the question almost entirely. I do not intend to enter into a detailed argument with him on what I regard as 1335 the trivialities of the White Paper; they were brought out yesterday in their many variations. I direct attention to the final passage of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Although he is a party to the agreement, and, presumably, to the philosophy underlying the White Paper, he has so many reservations that when the Bill comes before the House the agreement already entered into will be no more than a facade. The fact is, and it is not merely an assumption, that if the Bill is not amended in line with the observations of the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who addressed the House yesterday and the expressions of opinion made by hon. Members on the Opposition benches, there will be even more tribulation for the Government, more argument against the Government's legislation, and even more derision than was manifest in the course of the debate yesterday. The Opposition do not really mean business.
For example, the right hon. Gentleman made observations about timing. If the Government refuse to give way, what will the right hon. Gentleman do, and what will he advise his hon. Friends on the back benches to do? The Opposition will not accept legislation unless it provides for the kind of timing to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. If he or any of his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition benches cares to refute my assumption, by all means let him do so.
This is the substance of the problem. An agreement was reached, but unless the Opposition get what they want when the legislation is produced, they will oppose it; so what do the Government gain? The situation, then, would be remarkable. Not only would there be a majority of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who would vote against the Government's legislation, in view of the reservations they have made, but a substantial number of my right hon. and hon. Friends will also vote against the Government because they dislike the whole concept.
During the course of this debate it has become clear that this scheme has not been carefully thought out. For example, there is the cross-bencher difficulty, 1336 although I agree 100 per cent. with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the quality of cross-benchers in the other place. Yesterday some derogatory remarks were made about the hereditary peers, and no doubt those remarks were intended to apply to some of the life peers. I do not hold that view. I know something about the old nobility, going back many years, having read the constitutional history of England. I have also read about the noble families of Scotland.
I know how the peerage came about. I know how James I of England, previously James VI of Scotland—that rascal, if ever there was one—created in one fell swoop 54 peers. He did so because he was hard up. He persuaded them to hand over their wealth and, in return, he sent them to the other place. The same applies to the four Stuart Kings, who created 200 peers in their reigns. Then there was George III, who created 128 peers in his reign. We know something about their exploits and their land owning. Nevertheless, I do not indulge in any derogatory terms about their successors. After all, they are not to blame for what their ancestors did.
Mention has been made of the quality of the cross-benchers. However, it is not a matter of their quality but of their function. Can we be sure that they will retain that independent quality of mind so essential to form judgments, irrespective of party considerations? If they were capable of doing that, they would be a remarkable set of characters. It is impossible to be in any assembly for a period without being converted to some idea or other and adopting partisan attitudes to it. I sometimes agree with the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), though I do not expect that he ever agrees with me.
This has been a most remarkable event. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not in the Chamber at the moment. He never cares to listen to me, anyhow, but no doubt he will read what I say. He gave us a short autobiography yesterday when he spoke about his early days as a student and a don at university and how he was in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords lock, stock and barrel. He said that he had changed his mind since, as if he required to tell 1337 us. We are familiar with his changes of mind. They are commonplace. When I see a reference in the White Paper to the need that will emerge in the consideration of functions for some amendment to the proposed legislation, I realise that my right hon. Friend is preparing himself for another change.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My right hon. Friend is a person of high intellectual stature. No one doubts his brilliance. What he lacks is wisdom, and it is a troublesome defect. It is embarrassing to have such fertility of ideas. Of course, there can be no finality. That is why I do not pay very much attention to what the Government propose now. What is important is what they will propose next time and the time after that, though whether they will be here to undertake the task, I am not prepared to say.
Yesterday, both Front Benches seemed to be in agreement, apart from certain fundamental reservations, as I think the right hon. Member for Enfield, West will agree, because he has expressed them. Hon. Members on the back benches, with a few exceptions, were completely in revolt against both Front Benches. What conclusion should we draw from that? If I had the authority, I would say, "Sack the lot". However, we must always be ready with constructive suggestions, so I suggest that they be seconded to the other place, and I will offer no objection to their receiving reasonable salaries.
What troubles me about this affair is what happened yesterday, and I do not mean the debate. I want to present the matter as I see it. I do not know whether hon. Members will agree with me but, as I see it, the Government presented a White Paper to the House asking us to take note of it, presumably to ascertain the views of right hon. and hon. Members. In the course of yesterday's debate, they learned those views. If the Government had decided before the debate to put down a three-line Whip, I could have understood it. It would not have made much impact on me, because my mind has been made up for some weeks. But what happened was that they decided suddenly to put down a three-line Whip. By that action, 1338 this Government stand condemned. In all my experience of this House, going back a long way, I have never known of any Government responsible for such an action. In effect, they are saying, "We ask for your opinions. We would like to know what you think about the White Paper and its philosophy." We express our views honestly in this democratic assembly, and the Government say, "We do not care a tinker's curse what your views are. We intend to go on with this legislation." It is not good enough.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is a matter of confidence, and one has to have confidence in one's friends. One does not expect to have confidence in one's enemies. That does not matter. Mistakes and errors of judgment occur. Having been in Government myself, I can understand that. But in a matter of this sort, the Government have to be fair and honest with us. They ask for our views and we give them. In return, they put on a three-line Whip, and that means the withdrawal of the Whip if we do not support the Government in the Lobby. I, for one, will not be ordered into the Lobby. The Government's action is most distasteful and disturbing. I regret that they felt it necessary to take this step.
I want now to touch upon some of the points which have been raised in the debate. For the purposes of accuracy, I have jotted down one or two of the proposals contained in the White Paper, and I will deal with them briefly.
I cannot recall any occasion in this House when the Government's policy has been treated with such derision and contempt. There have been occasions when it has been rejected, argued against, lambasted, and the rest of it, but never has it been treated with the derision which we heard yesterday. I do not agree with those who want our proceedings televised. If it had been televised yesterday, with all the humour, sarcasm and jibes which we heard, what a feast it would have been for independent television, or even the B.B.C. It was a shocking display quite inconsistent with Parliamentary decorum. However, it should be said that right hon. and hon. Members on the back benches are not responsible.
Before the proposed Bill comes before the House, my advice to the Government 1339 is to think again and provide the necessary emendations to deal with the objections raised by hon. Members on both sides. If there is to be agreement let it be a fair agreement, honestly reached, and then we can go ahead.
I come now to what the right hon. Member for Enfield, West said about the second Chamber. When I was associated with the Labour movement at the beginning of this century we wanted to abolish the House of Lords because it was regarded as a place whose members indulged in exploitation and disliked the idea of a Labour Party, or even the Liberal Party. When the Liberals came into power in 1906 and 1910, which led to the Parliament Act in 1911—I was engaged in public life at the time—a change came about. The House of Lords has always been regarded as a reactionary assembly because of the hereditary principle.
The right hon. Member for Enfield, West said that we must have a second Chamber. I accept that, but not because of its powers, authority and its privileges. I do not worry because of its reactionary disposition. I accept it as a symbol. Why bother about it? My view about the White Paper is abandon it and allow matters to remain as they are. After all, when it comes to what the House of Lords has done vis-à-vis Government policy, the Government have very little to complain about. Those in the other place could have been far more harsh than they have been. They could have given us much more trouble, but they have not. Perhaps they were afraid or thought it unwise. I cannot say. However, the House of Lords has not given the Government much trouble.
Why introduce this legislation? Why proceed with this policy? Have we not got other difficulties and problems? The right hon. Gentleman begged the question. He tried to distract attention from the main issue by talking about congestion in this House and too much legislation. Here is an example. A Committee stage and all the hullabaloo, furore and the other place sitting up until 1 o'clock in the morning. God knows what it will do tonight, and for many days afterwards. Of course there is too much legislation. But there is a way of dealing with 1340 an abundance of legislation. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) may not agree, because we have debated this matter before. He prefers that the House should sit every day. I have held the view for a long time, in the sphere of Parliamentary reform, that the House might sit on two or three days a week and use the other days for Committees.
I come back to an idea that was ventilated many years ago about have a group of 50, 60 or possibly 100 capable, intelligent people: trade unionists—there are many intelligent people among them—bankers, financiers, businessmen, economists—although we have probably too many of those—and lawyers, a body of men and women who would meet occasionally as a kind of economic council to advise the Government. What do the Government do at present? They consult with the C.B.I. and innumerable organisations outside. I wish that they would consult with us a little more often. On this occasion they have consulted us, but they will not listen to what we have to say. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman wants to diminish the amount of legislation, there are ways of doing it. If we are busy we must tackle the job. That is all there is to it.
I come now to the point about parliamentary reform. This, after all, is what we are considering. We have had a great deal of so-called reform in the past two or three years. To translate the French proverb—my French is execrable, so I will not try—the more things change the more they remain the same. Parliamentary reform, in the opinion of some of my hon. Friends, is having a room, a secretary and a couch. I have always wondered what they want a couch for! We have been setting up Specialist Committees—then we hamstring them—we do not give them authority. What is the good of that? That is not Parliamentary reform.
We brag about Parliamentary democracy. I believe at one time it was possible; now it is a masquerade. We cannot have Parliamentary democracy in a situation like this when there is consultation and no notice is taken of those with whom we consult. That is not democracy. Democracy is not so much a matter of mechanics; it is a matter of form, of quality, of attitudes, 1341 of atmosphere—a collaboration of those qualities. That is what democracy means.
We talk about participation. The word "participation" is on the lips of every one of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, and I give them credit for it. But how is it implemented? We have party meetings. One idea that I have about Parliamentary reform is that we ought to have the Press present at our party meetings. We should have no more leaks, no more hand-outs. The more publicity we have the better the participation.
Yesterday my right hon. Friend spoke about trying to avoid a constitutional crisis. I know that the right hon. Member for Enfield, West will not agree with me, but the Labour movement will get nothing of value without a constitutional crisis. The Labour movement will get nothing by agreement. That is in the very nature of things. We get something for the trade union movement like 3½ per cent. or 5 per cent., depending on circumstances, and so on. We may get a measure of agreement among hon. Members in this House on an all-party matter, but on a fundamental issue we will not get agreement. And we will not get complete agreement on this issue, as will be seen when the Bill is introduced. So why talk about avoiding a constitutional crisis? It is not a bad thing to have a constitutional crisis occasionally. There would have been precious little reform, political, social or industrial, without a crisis. The whole history of this country over the past 150 years at any rate, and going even further back, indicates crisis after crisis, and as a result something useful has emerged. That applies not only to the Labour movement, but to the Conservative Party, which has had its crises. The Liberal Party had a crisis in 1922 leading to the situation we have on the benches opposite. So let us have no more nonsense about that. I will not trouble the House by going over the details, because it was all thrashed out yesterday.
I come now to what I regard as the crux of the problem. We could furnish constructive ideas about the other place. One idea is to abolish the hereditary principle. I am in favour of that, although we are to permit a number of hereditary peers to be injected into the life peerage 1342 set-up. They are men with experience and judgment—business and professional people, and so on. The successors of hereditary peers will not be allowed to vote in the Lords, but they will be there. They will be able to speak and use their influence. It is sometimes possible, without having a vote, to use influence, and it will be used as long as the hereditary peers remain in that Assembly.
I come, now, to the cross-benches. Reference was made to my old friend Lord Wigg as a cross-bencher. Can anyone imagine George Wigg being impartial on a matter concerning the Labour Party? Of course not. If he is discovered by the Prime Minister to be impartial, he may be told to clear out. He will become a non-voter, with no salary. What sort of set up do the Government expect in the other place? Is this a circus they are promoting? It is bad enough already—voting peers, non-voting peers, hereditary peers, all sorts of peers and cross-benchers with the function of determining whether there should be delaying powers or not. In fact, cross-benchers will be the bosses. What a business this is.
I advise my right hon. Friends to abandon this idea immediately. They ought to think again. Insufficient thought has been given to this very intricate problem. We are dealing with a constitutional matter, and it is bound to be intricate. We have to take into account the political history of the country, and other aspects of public life. We are dealing with the quality of those individuals who may be entrusted with the function of government. I suggest that my right hon. Friends should forget this idea. Instead of doing that, they intend to press the matter to a Division, with a three-line Whip. There will be trouble in the party again. Some of us will be forced to go into the Lobby with some hon. Gentlemen opposite, something which we have been trying to avoid for many years.
The right hon. Member for Enfield, West was embarrassed when he rose to his feet this afternoon because there were no cheers from the other side, no enthusiasm. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, at our party meeting, inspired no enthusiasm. A man cannot inspire enthusiasm in others unless he has enthusiasm within himself. How can we be enthusiastic about this proposal when 1343 there are so many other important things to do?
I prefer the other place to go on as it is. It was a grievance to us when we were young. It has remained a grievance with us. When we had difficulties in arguing our case we could always point to the other place, and I am the last person in the world to abolish a grievance. I hope that my right hon. Friends will take my advice.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
In one respect the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has made a good, classic, Conservative speech for leaving things as they are. On the other hand, he had some doubts about the characteristics of cross-benchers. One thing that can be said about the right hon. Gentleman is that he is not a cross-bencher. He is an ardent member of the Labour Party, and will always come to its support unswervingly and unhesitatingly when it is in trouble.
I hope that I shall not embarrass the right hon. Member for Enfield West, (Mr. Ian Macleod) if I say that, with one exception, he made the most notable contribution to the defence of the Government's White Paper. I found his arguments in their defence very much more convincing than the Government's own arguments as advanced by their Front Bench.
The exception I make is, hardly surprisingly, the right hon. Gentleman's reference to minorities in general, and to the Liberal Party in particular. The right hon. Gentleman has always been somewhat paranoiac about the Liberal Party. I think possibly the reason is that he is always referred to in the Press as having a liberal conscience, and therefore he has always found the Liberal Party to be a standing reproach to him, not only from the days when we used to battle with him over the constitution for Northern Rhodesia, but in many other matters, when he talked like a Liberal, and voted like a Tory.
But the right hon. Gentleman is at least consistent in the contempt that he has for minorities in general, and the Liberal Party in particular. He manifested this most clearly in reference to another place during the 13 years the 1344 Tory Party was in power. I shall have a word to say about that in a moment, because if there is any need to see that we have a convention whereby not only majorities and major parties, but minorities, are adequately represented, and that there are established conventions and constitutional agreements, the need is made pre-eminently necessary by the contempt with which minorities were treated during the 13 years when the Tory Party was in charge of patronage.
As the right hon. Member for Easington rightly said—and he has perhaps a greater knowledge of the span of the battle between the two Houses than almost any other right hon. or hon. Member—in this House, no party has been returned to power by the electorate and has had to suffer greater obstruction at the hands of a hereditary and unrepresentative House than my own. Indeed, the House knows well that a radical programme of social reform was, at its best, delayed and, at its worst, totally frustrated. I believe that we have probably underestimated the traumatic effect which that had upon the pattern of politics, particularly on the Left in this country. I therefore applaud the fact, without for the moment expressing an opinion on the White Paper, that we are going into the questions of composition and powers of the other House.
I was a member of the all-party conference, and I regret that we did not have wider powers of reference, because, as I shall seek to show, I should like a root and branch reform of the other House. There are, however, certain matters which I welcome. Obviously I agree with the elimination of the hereditary principle. It has always been totally indefensible. As Mr. Lloyd George said, not even with a pair of spaniels was the first pup necessarily the best of the litter.
Secondly, it is a tremendous advance to have ended, or to be in sight of ending, the permanent Conservative domination of the other place. I believe that the members of the other place themselves, apart from a few backwoodsmen, welcome that as much as anybody. One has recent painful memories of the Rhodesia Order. The fact that we are abolishing completely the power of veto over subordinate legislation is again an advance. The fact that any Government 1345 is assured of a reasonable working majority is an advance, and under this system it looks as though we could remove the threat that in the latter stages of a Government's life their legislative programme would be blocked.
I believe that this is an advance, and I am amazed that so much agreement came out of the Conference. Speaking as a Liberal, all I can say is that if Mr. Lloyd George or Mr. Asquith had put one-tenth of these proposals to the Tory Party 50 years ago they would have been in danger of their lives.
I believe, first, in the principle of bicameral Government—
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Should not the right hon. Gentleman refer to former leaders of the Liberal Party by their correct titles?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I do not have the same love of hereditary peerages as the hon. Gentleman has. I prefer to refer to them by the names by which they made their reputations, and by which they were honoured in this House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not taking longer over what I believe is a rather peripheral point.
I believe in a bicameral system of government. I am as dedicated as any to this House of Commons, and we can take some pride that our authority at least rests on popular vote, however distorted the electoral system may be which gives this result. Clearly, in financial matters we are sovereign, but the question which, it is surely our responsibility to ask is what is the best form of government that can be evolved, and not whether our amour propre is going to be offended. I am not so arrogant as to think that this House could never benefit through having a second Chamber which could say to it on an issue, "Think again," particularly in the light of the experience of the guillotine and the pressure of Government business.
One of our main criticisms, also, is that there is inadequate time for debate, and I will not say that there will not be benefit at times in having an alternative forum in which matters can be aired again, a place in which non controversial legislation—the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Bill was mentioned in the White Paper—could be initiated. I 1346 would go so far as to say that those who are advocating a unicameral system of government are claiming the infallibility of this House and refusing to accept that there could be any occasion upon which it could be preferable or beneficial for us to be told to think again or for ideas to be canvassed in that Chamber which might be of some persuasive authority in this. That is why I believe in a bicameral system of government.
I have one major qualification over this White Paper, and that is that I regard it as purely temporary and transitional. Indeed, if I felt that it was anything else, I should not be prepared to vote for it. I can in fairness say that I made it plain, as did my other Liberal colleague—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West thought that we were over-represented, since there were two Liberals at the conference, one from each House—that what we wanted was a root and branch reform, in which the House of Commons would be an assembly which was elected, wholly or in part, and was representative of the nations and the regions of this country.
When the 1911 Act was introduced, the Preamble, to which I need not refer, made it plain that this was to be purely a temporary Measure in so far as it was of limited application; that they were dealing merely with certain specific powers and that it was certainly without prejudice to subsequent reform, which would be general and sweeping. It will be very interesting, if a Bill is published, which is perhaps hypothetical—
§ Mr. Heffer
I am very interested in this point and was going to mention the Preamble to the 1911 Act, which made it clear that that was to be a temporary step towards a second Chamber on an elected basis. Why then, 40 years after, is the Liberal Party accepting a White Paper which cannot possibly, if it is carried through, be a temporary Measure but is likely to be with us for another 40 or 50 years?
§ Mr. Thorpe
This is the point to which I was coming—why I think that there are grounds for believing that this can be a temporary matter and why I intend to cite certain parts of the White Paper to which the Government must commit themselves and on which I hope to bind them.
1347 The hon. Gentleman is correct. The Preamble to that Act wanted a second Chamber constituted on an elected instead of a hereditary basis. There is certain authority in the White Paper for the proposition that we can tie this Government down to accepting that these are temporary and transitional measures. If I am wrong in that, I will find it very difficult, when the Bill is published, to give it my support, but I believe that it is possible for that deduction to be made. I should like at least to examine it and see whether the hon. Gentleman agrees.
Paragraph 23 refers to the fact that two Royal Commissions are at present sitting and dealing with local government matters. This is in reply to the argument that it should be an elected House, perhaps by local authorities, and certainly representative of the regions. The Government say:It would be wrong to establish a second chamber on a regional basis until the outcome of these studies is known.In other words, it is not excluded as a possible outcome of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Government go further in paragraph 50 when they say, referring to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:If the proposed Commission on the Constitution leads to changes which would make practicable or desirable new methods of securing the presence of members with knowledge of the various parts and regions of the United Kingdom these methods could be introduced at a later date.They also, in paragraph 65, refer to the fact that, when the Church Commission has reported, it will probably be necessary to amend the position of the bishops as well.
In paragraph 23, they rightly say that the sort of second chamber which I should like to see is only the sort of chamber which one finds in what is largely a federal system of government, and they refer to Australia and the United States of America. Even the Secretary of State for Social Services, when he was making clear yesterday what he had sought to say at the Labour Party meeting, said:What I actually said was something very different: that this reform when it becomes law will not exclude the possibility of introducing any new methods of self-government and regional representation at a later stage."— 1348 [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 1141.]For my part, I want to see a federal system of government in this country. I see the day when this House, which I think has too little power, because it has too much responsibility—it has to deal with too many matters—has greater power over fewer matters. For that reason, I want a federal system of government.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The answer is that the Royal Commission will not report in under four or five years. The Prime Minister himself made it plain in the debate on the Address that, notwithstanding that, the Government would not feel precluded from introducing legislation or amendments if they thought fit.
So I believe that the possibility of eradicating the hereditary system, of getting rid of the veto, of reducing the delaying powers, of doing away with the permanent Tory majority, represent a good temporary measure and step in the right direction. Therefore, I support this proposal, but only on the firm understanding that it is temporary and nothing more.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I was wondering why the right hon. Gentleman was digging so deep to put a meaning on obviously unclear words, when he has a spokesman on the Government Front Bench who could answer a clear question if it were put to him. Could he not ask the Attorney-General, are the Government suggesting that their proposals are temporary or transitional? They have used no words to give that impression. One would have to accept, indeed, that this is their considered view of a situation which will last for some time.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Far be it from me to speak on behalf of this Government, but I would have thought that the hon. Baronet must concede that a Government who set up a Commission to consider the relationship between the nations and the regions of this Island are likely to have it in mind that some form of constitutional change will be recommended. Therefore, I say, not for 30 or 40 years have we had a climate in which there is a more real possibility of constitutional change. That 1349 is why the second Chamber will obviously have a part to play in any reform and why it is neither illogical nor unreasonable to draw that deduction.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for answering the question which I put to my right hon. Friend. Could he now say what he visualises as being the terms of reference of the Commission on the Constitution, since that is vital?
§ Mr. Thorpe
A suggestion was contained in the Prime Minister's speech on the Address concerning this matter, and I believe that I do not breach any confidence when I say that the Home Secretary has invited opinions about whether the terms of reference are wide enough or whether there are matters which should be introduced by way of amendment. This is a matter for discussion; indeed, the Prime Minister made it a matter for discussion.
I know the outcome I want to see, which is domestic Parliaments in this country organised in the way in which it operates in Australia and many other politically advanced countries. It is that this House should be a federal chamber. I aired this view at length when, unfortunately, the Conservative Party left the battlefield on the Queen's Speech, so I will not repeat my arguments.
I hope that the Home Secretary will remember that a series of helpful background papers were placed before the Conference. They gave strength and argument to many of the propositions contained in the White Paper. It would be for the convenience of the House if it were possible for agreement to be reached that these papers should be made publicly available. An enormous amount of work went into their preparation and the arguments in them played a great part in changing my attitude during the course of the Conference.
An argument adduced by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West today—and by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) yesterday—is that this reform should not be introduced during the present Parliament. I do not agree. The right hon. Member for Barnet said that there was no urgency and that other matters should be given greater priority. I suggest that if it is possible to reach agreement on a reform which it is generally 1350 conceded will improve the efficiency of government in Britain, then the sooner it is introduced the better.
The next Conservative argument is that the reform should not be based on the 1966 voting figures but should wait until the next General Election. Again, it is the very formula that has been outlined in the White Paper—the 10 per cent. majority in the Lords for the Government of the day over the other political parties, excluding cross-benchers, coupled with the committee which has been mentioned—that makes it possible to fix the number of seats in the other place at this stage without our having to await the outcome of the next election. If the principle is accepted that the Government of the day should have a majority over the opposition parties, then why need we wait until after the next General Election.
I am slightly cynical about a wish for delay in this matter on the part of the Conservative Party. I am led to wonder, should a Conservative Government come to power, whether they might feel that some minor amendments should be made, on inspecting the matter more closely. Nor does the suggestion that the position of minority parties might be changed do much credit to the right hon. Member for Enfield, West. I therefore cannot agree that this form of reform should be postponed.
The Conservative Party is really saying that hereditary peers should not be expected to give up their political rights until the matter has been put to the electorate and the electorate has had a chance to pronounce on it. This is a most extraordinary doctrine for Conservatives. It must be the first time that Conservative hereditary peers have felt that their future should be subjected to the views of the electorate.
§ Sir D. Glover
The right hon. Gentleman is misquoting my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who did not say anything of the sort. He said that if the Government introduced a Bill he would not mind if its powers were implemented straight away, but that he did not think that the constitutional question—the number of peers in the House of Lords—should be settled until later.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Gentleman's hearing of his right hon. Friend's remarks was similar to mine. The logical corollary of the Tory argument is that hereditary peers should not be expected to give up any of their political rights until the electorate has been consulted. That is what a General Election is for. That is the logic of the Conservative case and it is a strange case coming from that quarter, particularly the hereditary section of it.
The two-tier system has been criticised, perhaps more in another place than here. I was not attracted to the idea initially, but I believe that it is a humane way of phasing out those who, either through age or inability to attend, do not qualify to be voting peers. It will also enable people of experience to attend the other place and make a contribution.
The next great argument laid against this form of reform is the patronage of the Prime Minister. The patronage of any Prime Minister is very great, and it always will be. However, Prime Ministers are perhaps not given to the wickedness which it has been suggested by those who have attacked patronage—
§ Mr. Thorpe
He was never Prime Minister. Even Conservative Prime Ministers have appointed Labour hon. Members of this House to be ambassadors or high commissioners. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"] Sir Geoffrey de Freitas in Ghana was a good example. Likewise, Labour Prime Ministers have appointed former Conservative Front Benchers to be ambassadors. There are many appointments where Prime Ministers must act, and it has been established that they can sometimes think above the ordinary battle of party politics.
Nevertheless, I welcome the proposal in paragraph 31, which would limit the discretion of the Prime Minister. It has been suggested that it is appalling for the three political leaders to be able to nominate people for the House of Lords. I agree. I would infinitely rather have a method of selection based on the principle of election; again, if part of the House of Lords must be appointed, we in this House would have consideration in 1352 filling those appointments. As a Guardian leader indicated, I would far prefer, however, if there are to be such appointments, that they were made by people who are living today, who are answerable to their supporters and who have a certain reputation to maintain for making good appointments. That would be preferable to relying on the descendants of the appointees of dead kings or even deader Prime Ministers.
While an advance on the present system would be made by the adoption of the paragraph 31 proposal—and I do not believe that that is necessarily something which we need immediately—I speak as a member of a minority. In another place there are 19 of my colleagues who regularly attend, who are expected to man committees and share in the chairmanship of them, and play a not inconsiderable part in the House. It is interesting to note that under the Life Peerage Act—although cross-benchers, Conservative and Labour peers were appointed, the Conservative Prime Ministers of the day, two in number, were careful to see that no Liberal creations were made.
Had there been in existence a committee of the kind suggested in paragraph 31, a party which felt that there was an imbalance, particularly if it was being criticised—as occurred under that legal luminary and intellectual giant. Lord Dilhorne, when, on almost every occasion, he chided us if a Liberal spokesman had not given his views—could make representations to ensure that such a criticism was not the end of the matter. But that was far from the end of the matter. The names of those likely to be submitted were, I think, not unknown to the Conservative Party.
It was also not unknown that one Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, had determined that whatever else he would do, at all costs that one person in particular would be excluded from sitting in the House of Lords. Fortunately, that person now does sit in the House of Lords. It is possible that there may have been another person in that category. That is the sort of patronage I dislike and against which one has to guard. Therefore, when people talk about patronage and when the right hon. Member for Enfield, West talks about 1353 over-representation of minorities, I suggest that they should look at the behaviour of his own party in regard to minorities.
With regard to the conventions, it is quite obvious that there will have to be a certain code of honour laid down and adopted. I do not agree with the suggested allocation, either in logic or in justice, to my party. It is not without significance that the only matter which sparked the right hon. Member for Enfield, West into action yesterday was to correct the Secretary of State by saying that the 15 did not refer to the Liberal Party but to minor opposition parties.
§ Mr. Thorpe
It is an important thing. The right hon. Gentleman has been too used to being in a party with a majority for many years. I say one thing for this Government; they recognise the existence of minorities, and for that I pay them full credit.
Suppose that 15 or 20 Nationalists were elected in the next Election. Obviously they would have the right to representation in another place. The same would go if a number of Communists were elected, or a number from any other recognised political group. Suppose there were 20 Nationalists and 18 of their seats were won from Labour Members of Parliament and two from Conservatives. What would then be the position? Would they automatically take their share from the 15 of the minor opposition parties, leaving unscathed the political representation of those parties who by losing seats in the Commons had caused this accession of 20 M.P.s in the Commons. Of course that would be wholly unfair.
This is the sort of thing that we have to discuss in order to get justice in the working of this scheme. There are dangers in patronage, and there always will be. But the suggested committee will be some safeguard because the matter will be above board. I think this a useful method of breaking down some of the failures and shortcomings of the past, provided it is regarded as temporary and transitional
My colleagues and I on this bench will operate a free vote tonight. [Laughter.] 1354 The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) laughs, but I wish that his party had followed the same course. No doubt he wishes that as much as I do. There were times when the hon. Member's party felt differently, and they may well find that that occurs again. I hope that the Government will go out of their way to indicate that these are temporary measures. It is amazing that agreement has been reached on what are pretty drastic reforms of another place, whether we agree with them all in detail or not.
On that basis I support the White Paper, but I hope that it will not be many years before we in this House are asked to shed our powers as Parliament becomes a federal Parliament, to shed many of our responsibilities to domestic Parliaments and to see the second Chamber as a forum in which opinions of the nations and regions of this country can be properly represented.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I listened with interest to the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), Leader of the Liberal Party. I congratulate him on the assembly on his bench. It was almost 100 per cent., a degree of loyalty which I found really touching; but I regret that he spent so much time dealing with what I call the small change arguments.
The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) made the most powerful speech in favour of the White Paper proposals which I have heard. When merely in a parenthesis he referred to the Liberal Party, saying that he thought it was rather over-represented in the Lords, as it is, or will be, and was rather over-represented at the all-party talks, as it was, it seemed rather ungracious for the right hon. Member for Devon, North to harp on those points. I gathered that at the end of the day the right hon. Gentleman will lead his flock into the Lobby in favour of the White Paper.
§ Mr. Pannell
The right hon. Gentleman said there would be a free vote, but they all turned up to hear him and came as the faithful to be fed.
1355 I am in favour of a bicameral legislature. I recognise that the House of Lords is a great repository of past public service. I suppose that if they had a motto inscribed on a coat of arms it would be of a backward-looking assembly—"Fing's a'int what they used to be". One of the things which has been creeping through the speeches which I find more than I can take, even from this side of the House, is the suggestion that as the Lords get better we get worse. There is a general suggestion that this House counts for rather less than it used to; that we are lesser men than our fathers were. I entirely reject that. Of course the Lords must get better, whatever happens.
I looked up Henry Herbert Asquith's letters and read the diary for 26th March, 1925. It said:We had a rather scrambling debate in the Lords yesterday about a Second Chamber, in the course of which I gave tongue for a few minutes. The standard of speaking there is deplorably low: men like…and…would hardly be listened to in an average county council. They mumble away a lot of spineless and disconnected platitudes.That was the House of Lords in those days. I must not refer to what happens in another place in this Session, except—to keep within the rules of order—to say that they are better than that. I do not intend to denigrate personalities in the House of Lords, because one recognises that many great men are there.
I even detected in the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) that he thought Parliament was slipping. If we take any of the authorities and any of the great literary figures, Pepys, Hazlitt, Dickens, Stevenson or Carlyle, we find they have all spoken with utter contempt about this place in their generation. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was the last generation."] That was always the last generation and it was the high place from which they have fallen. We find Hartley Shawcross was writing letters to The Times in 1953 saying that no one of any worth had come to the House of Commons since 1945, which was the year when he entered this House, and by that time the House had changed by over 300 Members.
I need refer to only one great advocate, my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport. 1356 He was a national football referee. More people hung on his decisions every weekend than on anything said by Sir Hartley. We have had an Education Act since 1870 and now more people want to sit in this House. There are no Latin tags nowadays, thank goodness, but more common sense, and the quality of those who want to come to either side of the House is as high as it ever was. Anyone can see that from the applicants for selection. Some have decided when they got here that it was not for them, they had not sufficient "fire in their bellies", but one is moved by the number of worth-while people to whom membership of this House is still a considerable honour. We are not the judges of our cause in this. But we are not to be judged either by the protestations of disappointed applicants. We are not to be misjudged or judged by those T.V. personalities who are simple-minded persons and want simple answers to every complex question.
Turning to the White Paper, I believe that if we take the test of the Labour Party election address it has to be an imposed settlement and not an agreed one. That is where the mistake started. The Labour Party at the last election called for the curtailing of the delaying power of the Lords. It did not postulate agreement with the Lords. That was the starting point. If we took away the delaying powers altogether, we should get a new mutual respect between the two Chambers. Their Lordships would amend and ask the House of Commons to consider again, and, with no delaying power between us, we should probably be more content to look at such things on their merits. Away from the threat of delays, Lords' Amendments could be considered as they deserve to be. In my view six months' delay is an absolutely major mistake.
The starting point in all this is to say to their Lordships, "You are not the sort of people to overturn the will of the House of Commons which is reflected by legislation." This is the crux of the matter. Everything comes from it. The White Paper is an invitation to their Lordships to be awkward and to use their powers so many times a Session to justify their salaries. Lord Mancroft has been mentioned in parenthesis. He 1357 is rather a brash person to those who have heard him speak on television and after dinner. But he speaks out loud what other people think. It is no use saying he speaks out loud what other people think. It is no use saying that their Lordships will not do this. It is no good the right hon. Member for Enfield, West working out statistics about what numbers will require them to do this. The statistic that he left out is that if one-third of them do not turn up or if they turn up at the rate of one in three as they are expected to do, that will defy any statistical analysis.
This is what the legislation is for. This is why we are reconstituting the House of Lords. The House of Lords is invited to be awkward. It was an example of that curious contradiction when, in an outstanding speech by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) yesterday, he pointed out that we put one construction to ensure that the Government do not get power and then another construction to ensure that they get their way. This is a curious matter. I think that their Lordships are paid to put in an appearance in order to be pugnacious.
There is another mistake that the negotiators made. It is a profound one. I am in a better position to speak about this than most people because I have had some experience of it. The mistakes that the negotiators made was in thinking that the set-up in the House of Lords is a party political one. It is not. It is an Establishment set-up. Our negotiators went in presumably believing that they were dealing with party political colleagues. They were not. The Lords are the Establishment who always come together in defence of their own. The one thing that one detects in all these curious negotiations is what one finds in all negotations where the parties are locked in for a long time. I have found it in the trade union world. They come to fall in love with what they are doing. I think that the Secretary of State for Social Services has fallen in love with the White Paper.
I would refer to my own experience. I was charged by the Prime Minister to try to take the Palace of Westminster into public ownership in 1964. It took 1358 five or six weeks to clear all the hurdles out of the way up to the very summit. But we got a settlement only the following March, and it was an emasculated settlement, not the sort of thing I should have wanted, though I think most of my colleagues would agree that it was a great advance on what we had. Why was that? It was because the Longfords, the Gardiners, the Dilhornes and the Carringtons all muscled in together and would have died in the last ditch for the Lord Great Chamberlain. They all came together. This is what has happened here. If one thinks of the members of the Labour movement rallying together, they should take a lesson from what their Lordships did.
Their Lordships could not tolerate the prospect of the over-lordship of the Minister of Public Building and Works, which was what it meant. Yet the whole sense of the Parliamentary party was behind me, because at that time we were only guests here at the caprice of Her Majesty. Anybody who has been here as long as I have knows full well the conditions under which we worked in those years. This was the only place to which I had ever been elected where the officials counted more than the officially elected. We ought to think very deeply about this. We are running into another Establishment rally in defence of the Lords.
I stress that, because it is the background to all the conversations. We want to understand what we are doing. This should have been the sticking point for doing away with the delaying period altogether. But their Lordships have great charm and great persuasive powers. This was an aristocratic embrace.
I am not in favour of elected peers. That would be a challenge to the paramountcy of this place. It was the first sticking point of the late Hugh Gaitskell, whose prescience in this matter I always admired. I believe that there should be a different sort of assembly altogether. There should be no form of election. If we have a form of election, those elected will draw their power not from the House of Lords but from the people whom they represent. We shall then have company directors and representatives of the livery companies, representing people who will claim to be of a greater quality for their vote than the electors of Leeds, West or 1359 Ebbw Vale. We should be challenging the sovereign will of the people. "One man, one vote; one woman, one vote; and all votes of one value" was not won in this country until 1950 with the abolition of the university franchise. We must not depart from that now. We had better have nomination and all the patronage that it brings. One can talk about patronage for a Prime Minister and patronage for a Leader of the Opposition. That is not exactly what we are objecting to. What we are objecting to is patronage plus patrimony.
It is linked to a salary. If we go on with the idea of giving peers the status of a salary there will soon come the next step of pensions for impecunious peers. The figure of £2,000 a year has been mentioned. I realise that this will have to go to be considered by a Committee. But one should remember the opposition of the Establishment, the quality newspapers and leaders in The Times every time Members of the House of Commons have tried to raise their salary from the £600 a year that it was in 1945. I happen to believe an expense allowance would meet the needs of the Peers. The argument against it is that it would benefit the rather more wealthy. I do not accept that. The £2,000 a year would have Income Tax and other expenses set off against it. I think that we would get over that difficulty.
How do we deal with the peers? The right hon. Member for Enfield, West posed a dilemma. He said that this was a package scheme which had the merit of support by both Front Benches and of the Liberal Party—bless it—and even the Law Lords. He said that the alternative was a split. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) says, "Do away with the place". The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, says, "Leave well alone".
One is, therefore, called upon to say what one would do. I would abolish hereditary titles. There would be no more of them. I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services when he suggests that the creation of titles is apart from the White Paper, that it is a matter for the Royal Prerogative. I believe that we had better deal with titles while we have 1360 this opportunity. We should take this chance of doing away with all the sycophancy which surrounds the Court and the Throne. If we must have peers, let them be life peers, created on their own merit.
Having done that, I would have a steady build-up of the life peerage as the hereditary peers died out. I would give the life peers a suitable expenses allowance. Then I think that I would allow the House of Lords to reform itself, as it has already started to do by asking people to say whether they will attend. The other place could bring down its numbers to any it liked. If we allowed the Lords to do this in conjunction with the removal of their delaying power, we might then leave well alone.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will ponder on another question. What will be the position under the Peerage Act, 1963? That mainly arose out of the situation in which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology found himself. There is, however, much confusion. For example, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) wants to know about the Scottish peers. The idea of the Act was to stop people from hopping from one House to another and then back. It laid down that, if a man renounced his peerage, he could not return to the Lords later. What would the position be in relation to the Act under these proposals?
I have tried to keep my speech short. If I did not address the House yesterday it was because that I apprehended that at least two other Privy Councillors wanted to speak and I know the sensitivity of my colleagues on matters such as that. I always have a self-denying ordinance about it.
My speech if I had made it yesterday would have indicated that I am generally in favour of the Amendment. Yet I would have found in my postbag this morning a three-line Whip. What sort of people do they think they are to issue a three-line Whip in the middle of a debate? I am not that sort of craven person. I feel insulted that I should have been so misjudged. I must say something to the "powers that be" in my party. It will go for many of my right hon. and hon. Friends as well, and I am choosing my words very carefully.
1361 In 19 years in this House, although I had some part in drawing up the "conscience" clause, I have never used it to abstain from voting for my party. On economic policy, I will always support the Government because I believe, particularly after having been a Minister, that they have access to information not available to me and that their judgment is often reinforced by things that I cannot know. But not on this subject. I have given this subject rather more study than the Government have.
Some West Point cadets were once being lectured by a general. Looking around the hall, he said: "Probably half a dozen people in the United States know this subject rather better than I do. I do not see them in front of me." Perhaps my right hon. Friends take an interest in this subject, but there is no particular inside information on the esoteric mysteries of the peerage which I do not know better from my experience than those who wish to lecture me today.
In this House in 1914 there was a terrible row on the Tory benches and Mr. Speaker could not get order. There was a hullaballoo for over an hour. Mr. Speaker Lowther impatiently turned to the Leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. Bonar Law, and said:Hon. Members seem determined not to hear their Leader."—that was the Leader of the House—I would ask the Leader of the Opposition whether that is with his assent and approval—Mr. Bonar Law answered:I would not presume to criticise what you consider your duty, Sir, but I know mine, and that is not to answer any such question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st May, 1914; Vol. LXII, c. 2214.]I know my duty tonight. It is not to accede to that Whip.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I hope to be brief, because I know what a privilege it is to speak in this debate and that many right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak. It is also a responsibility that one should discharge in the circumstances that have arisen. It is a debate of great importance—perhaps as important as any we have had in the last 20 years. Why? Because it affects back benchers to a very great extent, and the position of 1362 back benchers is of vital importance to the House.
Between us on this White Paper there are sharp differences of opinion on party lines. There has been Front Bench agreement upon several aspects. But almost everyone who has spoken has referred to Parliament as a whole and not simply to this House. He has directed himself to the effect of the White Paper on Parliament as a whole, on Parliament as one of our great British institutions, which every one of us has a duty to our constituents to maintain and improve.
I believe that almost everyone who has spoken has adopted this attitude. There is strong feeling in the House at this moment that the Government have had, in considering these proposals, far too much in mind the strengthening of the hold of the Executive in this House. Member after Member has spoken of it. I have heard all the speeches except one and I have been immensely struck by the seriousness with which that view has been expressed, quite outside party lines. Let us test that. In the last resort, under this White Paper, it will be the Government's nominees, whatever party is in power, who will decide whether the country is to be given more time to be fully acquainted with some issue of great importance but which has not been fully canvassed and public opinion, as a result, to crystallise.
I came here yesterday with an open mind, but after hearing the speech of the Minister for Social Services I came to the conclusion that I could not support the White Paper. He as good as admitted that he is still a single chamberite, just as he told us he was in the glorious days of the New Statesman, and he hinted—this is very important in relation to what the Leader of the Liberal Party said—that this is only the first step on the road. I think that it is the first step on the slippery slope to the abolition of the second Chamber.
It is fair to say that even those who have strong feelings about the hereditary principle agree that it must be a matter of serious consideration before we abolish the second Chamber, because we have something which is admired all over the world, an unwritten constitution, which makes it even more essential 1363 that there should be safeguards against the possibility—and in certain circumstances it may be much more than a possibility—of a simple Bill being introduced, bringing about vast changes.
I wish to put on record one statement on the delaying aspect which is of vital importance because not much has been said on this subject. These are the words of Sir Anthony Eden as reported in the Agreed Statement of 1948:It is an essential constitutional safeguard to ensure that, in the event of serious controversy between the two Houses of Parliament, on a measure on which the view of the electorate is doubtful, such a measure shall not pass into law until sufficient time has elapsed to enable the electorate to be properly informed of the issues involved, and for public opinion to crystallise and express itself.Later he said that,in a country like Great Britain where there is an unwritten Constitution and fundamental changes can easily be made",it is vital that safeguards should be provided.
What is the safeguard proposed in the White Paper? The only real safeguard which has been suggested is the remarkable invention of the cross bench peers. I will not go into detail on this matter because a lot has been said about it, but I would not for a moment agree with some of the derogatory things which have been said, although I do not think that they were said very seriously, because we all know some of the people involved. But this puts them in an impossible position. We were told that it was probable that perhaps only ten of them would be available when the crisis arose. Who will they be? This is like the famous Philosopher Kings of Plato—although in this case it may be a question of Queens—as his ideal of the people who should rule the State. I do not believe that this is a safeguard which will operate. It is a fanciful thing. It is almost a bit of "Crossmania".
There is what I consider to be another very serious flaw and danger, namely, the preventing of the second Chamber from considering any matter relating to subordinate legislation—delegated legislation. I hope that hon. Members opposite will follow this point because we are talking about a state of affairs in which there may be any kind of Government. 1364 It may be an extreme Government of the Left or of the Right. The present tendency in this House is to make the effective matter a Minister's order and not the Act which gives the Minister the power. The result of this White Paper will be that there will be no opportunity of challenging an order made by a Minister on a most vital subject. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) got no answer, and I have no answer, because there is none. Hon. Members should realise that that may not be an accident. We had the remarkable statement from the Leader of the Liberal Party—I do not know what ground he had for making it—that he thought that it was only a preliminary. It is a very dangerous preliminary.
We are now told that this matter is to be passed into law this Session, despite the fact that this sentence appears in the Gracious Speech:My Government will begin consultations on the appointment of a Commission on the constitution".The word "constitution" has a small "c", which shows what some people think of the importance of the Constitution. It was not a misprint. No newspaper published the word with a small "c", but the Government did. If there is to be consultation on the appointment of a Commission on the Constitution, is it not remarkable that it will not be dealing with Parliament itself, which we in this House think is the most important part of the Constitution? This is strange, and it is one of the most serious objections of all.
I say no more about the position of back benchers, which has been clearly stated. But I do say with all sense of responsibility and without any desire to be anything but completely courteous that we must bear in mind that those personages who agreed this draft are not back benchers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) has not been a back bencher for 20 years. He was a Minister for many years, and since then—but for a brief interval—he has been a shadow Minister. Sometimes I do not think that people in that position quite appreciate what back bench Members feel about these matters.
1365 It happens, not altogether by coincidence, that an event has taken place today about which we have heard from several hon. Members opposite which perhaps reinforces the belief that the Government's view of back benchers is not all that we would wish it to be. I remind the House of a famous remark made by Sir Winston Churchill when he was told that a right hon. Member of great eminence, who I believe has been mentioned in this debate, had said, "We are the masters now." Sir Winston replied, "If I am again entrusted with power, I shall tell the country, 'Ladies and gentlemen, we are your servants' ".
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) was very much afraid that this would be only a temporary measure, if the House gave its approval, or if the Government were sufficiently ill-advised to introduce a Bill. My fear is from the opposite direction. My fear is that once these proposals are enacted no government for many years will want to go through all this again in a hurry and we shall be saddled with these absurd proposals for more years than the right hon. and learned Gentleman envisaged. It is precisely on those grounds that I am opposed to this White Paper. In the end, I think, this will turn out to be an historic debate, because many of the assumptions and prejudices concerning the other place have been brought into focus for the first time in many years. It will also turn out to be a very important day for the House of Commons.
I have listened over many years, not only in this House but in the other place, and sometimes at university seminars, to the mythology about the quality of debate in the House of Lords being so much more superior to the quality of debate in the House of Commons. I have always believed this to be nonsense. Anyone who listened to the first two and a half hours of the debate here yesterday—the quality, the sparkle, the seriousness, the information, the knowledge—would have realised, if he had gone over to the other place later in the evening as I did to listen for some hours to the debate there, how much nonsense these statements and assessments are. The sixth form essays, the rehearsing of 1366 leading articles written between 1914 and 1954, which take the place of debate in the other place show that these assumptions are mistaken.
There was one dangerous element in this mythology, which is directly relevant to these proposals, because when one presses well-meaning people to say why they have this absurd assumption that the quality of debate is much higher in the other place they often say, "It is because they are independent, because they do not have a constituency, because they do not have to deal in the small change of democracy and democratic politics". That is the most dangerous reasoning underlying this absurd assumption. It is the continuation of this underlying reasoning into the new Chamber to which I am so much opposed.
We had it from a man of such high and established intelligence as the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who gave us his absurd analysis of cross-benchers today. Of course, he was a member of the team that worked out the proposals. I was amazed to hear him in all seriousness say in the House of Commons of all places—after all these years of establishing the right of democratically elected Members of this place to decide at all times, including time and delay, what ought to happen in our public affairs—that it was right for us to hand over to these cross-benchers the power of decision because they include people as eminent and high-minded as former field marshals, colonial governors, eminent retired civil servants, and what-have-you. What an absurd argument for a man of the right hon. Gentleman's democratic conscience and high intelligence! He was driven to it because he was presenting a case that cannot be supported or defended.
At this stage, the main thing is not to continue to try to shoot holes into the proposals, because that has been done sufficiently already. Hon. Members on the Front Bench who have to deal with this matter, and my right hon. Friend who is to reply to the debate, probably envisaged some of them before the debate ever started. What matters much more is to concentrate on the new position which has arisen during the 1367 debate and the new information and attitudes that have emerged.
I turn, therefore, to what I consider to be the overriding danger in these proposals. That is not the increase in patronage, which I think will be inevitable. That is important, but not the most important for me. The most important concerns the powers of the other place, after the reform has been accepted and carried through. Here we have a remarkable contrast in what the House has been told by two senior members of the Government who have spoken from the Front Bench so far. I am not original in pointing this out. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West did so a few hours ago. I spotted this yesterday, hence my frequent interruptions when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services was speaking, and when the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was speaking.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services had an overriding responsibility in his previous capacity in the negotiations and is not a man who does not state his opinions. I do not agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), that the characteristic he attributed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social services did justice to him. I have, over the same number of years, greatly respected my right hon. Friend. I believe that he has made great contributions to our constitutional and political thinking, and I believe that his determination to think of new ideas, to argue with people forcibly and accept some of their arguments, perhaps the next day, is a virtue rather than anything else. He, not being afraid to state his opinions, said this in the House yesterday, replying to an intervention I had made on the subject of powers:This is exactly what I said. If we institute a reformed House it is ridiculous not to recognise that it will use the powers given to it, and have the authority to do so, and therefore, it should be given no power which it is not prepared to use."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 1134.]That is a clear, determined statement. But what did we have from my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General today? The exact opposite. He was at great pains to persuade the House 1368 that it should not vote for the Amendment but should go into the other Lobby; at great pains to tell us that in his judgment the other place would not use these powers or they would use them so rarely as made no difference to the House of Commons and to the course of democratic politics. Both cannot be right. It is of great interest that the right hon. Member for Enfield, West immediately perceived the weakness of this position and said that he was siding with my right hon. and learned Friend.
I therefore turn to the one member of the Lords we have so far heard. I do not brush aside Lord Mancroft. I feel that I have no right to do so. I do not know him personally, I do not know whether he speaks for very many. What I do know is that he has spoken publicly on this matter and that he is an active Member of the other place, who frequently takes part in debates and in the councils of his party. He is therefore not to be regarded a priori as unreoresentative in what he said. He said that the great weakness of the other Chamber, whatever powers they nominally have—and he returned to the point three times in 25 minutes—the great weakness had always been that they have all these powers but could never use them. He did not say they could never use them because of what the House of Commons could subsequently do to them, but he said they could never use them because they were not credible, as an assembly, to the country at large, to the British people. That is the key point.
It is common ground that the powers that rest in this House are always as large as the backing of the British people. They are never larger, and they are never less. That is why I take with considerable resistance all this talk about the decline of the power and standing of Parliament. One has only to read Punch in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s to know what real contempt and real derision mean. There is none of that today. A reading of our history enables one to say with humility that the British people are quite capable of being severely critical of their Parliamentary assembly, because it is their own and they have a right to criticise it, and at the same time to regard it both as a residuum of power and as a residuum of freedom. That is the attitude of a democratic people.
1369 All these Ph.Ds and other academic friends of mine who seem to discover every 50 years or so that the House of Commons is going downhill and that the Constitution gives a strong position to the Executive should tell the public and their publishers that all that was said as long ago as by Montesquieu and that they are merely rehashing it.
That being so, what Lord Man croft said is significant. The inner secret of the impotence of the other place has always been the fact that they are not credible to the public. That is why I have concentrated so much on this point. That is now to be changed, if these proposals are accepted. There is no question about that. It was the buying price.
Why did the right hon. Member for Enfield, West make the best speech of the debate so far? I do not want to say anything about my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has yet to speak. Of his capacity we all know. In the debate so far the best case for these proposals was undoubtedly made by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West. He gave us part of the reason. He said, "Many of my friends in the House of Lords want these changes". Of course they do. That is the reason—the right hon. Gentleman has a direct interest in wanting to bring this about. As regards Conservative Members in the Lords, he has a representative interest. He is prepared to lose the support of some of the others who do not play a very active part in the other place, anyway, but he is supporting those who have done and who will. A Member makes the best speeches when he is convinced of what he is saying, not when he is putting forward a wooden analysis.
That being so, ipso facto, as it was the buying price, it is a price that our side should never have accepted in these negotiations. There was hope of better things, because when the Rhodesia Order was introduced into the other place and was defeated there, it was reported by reputable journalists whose word I have no reason to doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was determined to bring in a short Bill and to abolish the remaining delaying powers of the other place.
I only wish to heaven that he had done so, because that is all that was required. 1370 That is all that we had been campaigning for. However, I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and a gentleman who has not so far been mentioned today but who is very influential in these matters—the noble Lord, the Lord Chancellor—prevailed upon the Prime Minister in long arguments not to proceed with that proposal and convinced him in the end that he had over-persuaded himself of the case for that.
I am not surprised that this was so, because I have firmly believed, and I believe today, that underneath all the thick layers of pragmatism that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has accumulated in recent years there lives a real radical who at times still wants to come out. This was one of those occasions.
Those who have been involved in these negotiations—the fixers, to use a not too respectable term—were so enamoured with their own product and thought that they had such clever political reasons, to one of which I will come later, that they prevailed upon my right hon. Friend not to bring in that short Measure, which would not have been an agreed Measure; it would have been fiercely opposed by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West, but it would have been carried through in the usual manner by the democratic majority of the House of Commons, reducing further the powers of the House of Lords. It would have been a worth-while reform.
That is no reason as to why there should not be a revising Chamber. This is my answer to the right hon. Member for Enfield, West, who maintained that those of us who are opposed to these proposals must show that we have thought about the matter and that we can conceive of a kind of second/first Chamber relationship which does not involve these proposals.
There is no reason why there should not be a revising Chamber which does a number of the useful jobs that the revising Chamber should do, without having the power to delay the wishes of the first Chamber. There is no reason in logic. There is no reason in democratic political doctrine. There is no reason whatsoever. Only those who wish to have a built-in anti-democratic power 1371 in the other place as a continued check on the "unreason" of the democratically elected representatives of the House of Commons can wish for any such delaying powers.
I do not accuse my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services or my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General of sharing this view. I felt that they wanted agreement and were prepared to accept this residum of anti-democratic doctrine, which is wholly unnecessary and for no good reason. In doing so they refused to listen to the voices in their own party. This is a classic example of some of our leaders, having started upon a course of trying to find an agreed "coalition government" solution with the leading members of the Opposition Front Bench, holding agreement with them to be much more important than agreement and unity within their own ranks.
As there is to be a vote tonight, let me put this on the record. There has been no real consultation with the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Last night a senior colleague in the Parliamentary Party said to me, "When we had the meeting in the Parliamentary Party the White Paper was already ready. There is no question of our influencing policy in the debate held there. It was a matter of form, something to be gone through, something to put on the record. " Regardless of the fact that at that meeting of the Parliamentary Party only one speaker from the floor supported these proposals, the Government proceeded to publish the White Paper within a few days. This is an example of anti-democratic politics in support of an anti-democratic set of proposals.
The only remaining two points that I wish to make concern the question of patronage, which, although it is not the main reason for my objection, must not be left unmentioned by anybody who takes part in this debate. I am sorry that the Leader of the Liberal Party is not in his place. He left rather abruptly. Having entertained us for as long as 40 minutes, I think that he should have spent a longer time listening to some of the other contributions.
I thought that the Leader of the Liberal Party showed himself to be extremely touchy at the references made 1372 by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West. At first I could not understand the touchiness of the right hon. Gentleman. After all, we have all at times been criticised by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West. Speaking for myself, I would much rather be criticised by a man of intellectual substance such as the right hon. Member for Enfield, West than by many other people.
Yet the Leader of the Liberal Party was very touchy. Then I saw how obvious it was. This is the beginning of the danger of increasing patronage, which is what is being done here. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West touched on a neuralgic point of the Leader of the Liberal Party, who is under these proposals to be elevated as one of the three who are to make the nominations. If it were proved in this House that the number of elevations that are to be given to the Leader of the Liberal Party and his political friends is far too high, that is a matter that he does not wish to be discussed. Hence his exaggerated reaction to what I thought were perfectly normal and legitimate political comments made by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West. In fact, in economic debates the right hon. Member for Enfield, West is much sharper in attacking us than he was in anything he said this afternoon.
We began to see the danger. It is no use my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services talking in terms of numbers. That has nothing to do with it. It does not matter whether the number is 80 or 46 or 88. Leaving the salary question aside for a moment, until now people have had to weigh whether they wished to join another place which, in the words of Lord Man croft, was not credible to the British people; or did they wish to stay there without being able to exercise proper political power? If these proposals are accepted, that will change and much more importance will be attached to being translated to another place. In the years to come, and with the mythology which I have described about the quality of debates in another place, with the exercise of a certain amount of power there will be many people only too eager to go to another place.
It does not matter what is said about £2,000. If the Committee is to make an 1373 assessment of requirements, the figure will not stay at £2,000. As the years go by, the figure will go well beyond that. We shall have set up an altogether different assembly, which is to oppose the Government at times—and according to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, it will be perfectly entitled to use its powers and should not be given these powers unless it will use them. It will be altogether a different chamber which in time will become credible to the people of this country. That will mean the introduction of an altogether new concept compared with that of the last 80 or 90 years. Many of the reforms which have been talked of in the past will be put into reserve.
I turn to the occasion on which the power of delay might be used. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services was very keen about the limited effect of these powers, but in years gone by he was one of those who pointed out that if the House of Lords, as composed at present, used its delaying power, then, depending upon the timetable of the Government, it did not matter that the period was only six months for the whole of the legislative plans and political purposes of the Government might be destroyed for two years or two-and-a-half years. It is therefore wholly academic to consider only the period of six months. It matters what are the subjects under debate, what is the political position and what is the kind of legislation which another place might destroy or delay, or destroy by delaying.
Let us take the recent Transport Bill, which links with the final argument used by my right hon. Friend in recent weeks, according to The Times—an argument not so far mentioned in the debate. It is clear that in the matter of transport there are involved the drivers who want to drive at more than 70 m.p.h. and the people who have an exaggerated view about their prowess under drink—large numbers of people who are not particularly involved in party political warfare. Who knows what the consensus would be in a matter of transport and what some of the appointees whom the Prime Minister sent there would say? Nobody knows on such a subject. All that is an unknown quantity and an unknown coalition.
1374 It is well known that if the House had wrecked that Transport Bill it would have created very serious concerns in the minds of Ministers. That could be repeated by a delay of six months. What prevented the Lords from doing that was the fact that in Lord Man croft's words, they are not a credible assembly to the people of this country.
I come to a point which, according to The Times, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is reported to have made as to why he believes that he ought to support and commend these proposals. He is reported to have said that if these agreed proposals are not now introduced and passed, the Government's legislative programme for the remainder of this Parliament would be in jeopardy because the Members of another place might move against it in order to wreck it. That is strange reasoning—that we should agree to a reform which is indefensible and absurd in many other respects on the ground that if we do not now have the agreed solution, the other place, which we are to reform, might wreck the Government's legislation in the last two years of this Parliament.
If the proposals are good in themselves, they ought to stand by themselves. The House is asked to legislate for a long time. My right hon. Friend's argument is faulty, because if the other place is in fact threatening to exercise this power in the remaining two years—if there is evidence to that effect, and I know of none—then the way to deal with it would be the way in which the Prime Minister wanted to deal with it after the rejection of the Order concerning Rhodesia—to bring in a short Bill and to remove all the delaying powers from another place.
That is the proper course which my right hon. Friends ought to adopt. They ought to listen to the debate and to recognise that there is no support for these absurd proposals. After what has happened tonight, they ought to leave well alone. They ought not to introduce the Bill. But if there is danger of serious wrecking trouble from the other place, they ought then to introduce a short Bill taking away their power altogether.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I hope that the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) will forgive me if I do not comment on his argument. I would disagree with him in detail, but as he is on our side in being against the proposals, I do not want to muddy the waters.
I have listened to every minute of this debate with the exception of one or two minutes when I lapsed into total unconciousness—at a time which it would be uncharitable to identify too closely. I have found it one of the most splendid and most terrible debates to which I have listened. I have never been more proud of being a Member of the House of Commons and I have never been more ashamed of it. I was proud to be a Member when I listened to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer)—if he will not take it too hardly that I say so—the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) and other hon. Members. They spoke as hon. Members of the House should speak.
When the arguments on the merits of the White Paper have been so exhaustively canvassed, the point which remains to be made is that which was made by the two right hon. Gentlemen. It is shameful that on such a constitutional issue such a Whip has been imposed. The House is being asked merely to take note of a matter about which we may legislate for future generations. Because of views, unpartisan and expressed with the profoundest emotion, from different motives, but which threaten the attitude which Ministers want their hon. Friends to take—because those views do not suit the Government—then, in the middle of it all, a degrading order is sent out—and I hope that there are enough men in the House to defy that order.
The gravamen of the charge against the proposal is seen in its most terrifying aspect in the light of what the hon. Member for Walton said, for, if the other place were created as it would be under these proposals, with all the temptations for the future, which could be held out to hon. Members, then, if that Whip were then sent out, it would be a great deal harder to defy than will be the case 1376 tonight. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) made the point very well when he said succinctly that, whether or not these proposals would create a good House of Lords, they would create a poor House of Commons. I hope, therefore, that when it comes to the vote there will not be lacking hon. Members from both sides of the House to chuck this out; because I think, personally, though hon. Member have different views, and perfectly legitimately differing views on this and different reasons for holding them, that these proposals are bad.
They have been piercingly dissected and brilliantly illumined in a series of powerful speeches against the White Paper, but nothing that has been said in this debate against the White Paper has turned me up and turned me against it so much as what has been said in favour of it by the Front Benchers opposite—and, with all respect, I was not entirely persuaded by my two right hon. Friends.
I think it was my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) who made the point that these proposals were not made by Members of Parliament, so much as by members of Governments past and present. This is not a Parliamentary proposal at all. This is an anti-Parliamentary proposal. I ventured, I hope not too presumptously, to put on the Paper what I thought was the prime objection to these proposals, that they tend to increase the power of the Executive.
It would be otiose for me at this stage in the debate to explain exactly why, but they tend to conform to the whole tenor of what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Social Services, whose brilliant intellect we all admire, really means, I think, when he talks about "Parliamentary reform". What he means is turning this place into an elected bureaucracy. What he means is turning this place into an instrument of Government. Which it has never been and never should be. It is not what it is for. Its constitutional purpose is the opposite.
I am in favour of Parliament; I am in favour of this place, an elected Chamber; I am also in favour of a second Chamber. I have never been absolutely convinced 1377 that democracy, whatever it may mean, means that counting noses is the only way of establishing what is right and what is wise. It may be that hon. Members will differ from me on this. But I want a second Chamber and I want a powerful second Chamber and I want a second Chamber which will be able to vindicate the use of its powers, and therefore, as Lord Man croft said and notwithstanding what the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) said, for perfectly genuine reasons I want it to be constituted in a way which will command the confidence of the country.
It has been said by right hon. and hon. Members that it is not incumbent upon us who reject this White Paper to present an alternative. I agree. I think we weaken our case by trying to do so, because every alternative can be objected to. I am concerned mainly to object to this White Paper. But, if anyone wants to know why, let me explain: I think the principles of selection or appointment of a second Chamber should be examined. Briefly, there are three sources from which the second Chamber can come. One is the Almighty, and that is the Instrument we are using at the moment, apart from slight assistance by the Front Benches from time to time. On the whole, I would say that He had, over the four or five centuries of exercising His power, got a fair pass mark on it. I would say that the most appropriate comment upon the workings of the hereditary principle is what the Somerset farm labourers said about the cider given to them by the fanner at harvest time. They said, "It is just all right". When asked what they meant by "just all right", they said, "If it had been any worse we would not have drunk it; and if it had been any better we would not have got it. " That, I think, is just about what we have got from the Almighty in the House of Lords.
Another way, of course, is to select by lottery. That is not without historic precedent. Hon. Members will know Xenophon was elected by lottery and led the Greek Army back from Persia very successfully—much more successfully than Napoleon led his from Moscow, and he was not elected by lottery. After all, I am not so sure that heredity is not a lottery anyway, because, if it is to be arranged on any more scientific basis than a lottery, it has got to bring 1378 into play the benign operation of incest which, I think, on the whole, would be regarded as slightly unorthodox in the peerage.
Another way, of course, of getting a second Chamber is by the patronage of the Front Benches. That is what is proposed. Everyone has assumed that this means the patronage of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. It is not just them. It is the Patronage Secretaries on both sides. They have enormous power which is, perhaps, acceptable, to some degree, but I am not so sure that this House wants to have all that much more of it for ever.
The final way is some form of election. I would opt for some form of election, indirect, by interests rather than by geographical constituencies, but, for heaven's sake, may I suggest that we do not spoil our case against the White Paper by getting involved in intra-opposition arguments about the merits of one scheme or another. I am sure we could do better than this. And I am sure we could not do worse. And if we are to do no worse, we might put up with what we have got now, incredible as it is.
I am anxious not to detain the House and so I should like, finally, just to identify two phrases which appear in the White Paper and which seem to me so perfectly to illustrate the fundamental, underlying, constitutionally odious heresy which inspires the whole thinking behind this proposal. On page 1, in paragraph 4 (d) comes the phrase,once the reform has been completed the work of the two Houses should become more closely co-ordinated and integrated".That is a constitutional indecency. The function of the second House, if it is to have any function at all, is not to be co-ordinated with this one. It is the very opposite. I believe in this House—one side of it, at any rate—but I am not prepared to say, even when my side of the House is in "power", as we so offensively call it, that it will necessarily be always absolutely right in the last year of a Parliament. And I do not want to "co-ordinate", and compound error, by having a lot of stooges up there in the other House saying, "Hear, hear! Quite right!". I want there to be a balance, and for them to be able to say, "No: you are quite wrong". The 1379 worst they can do, if the Government do not like it, is to precipitate a General Election. If the Government will not tolerate the delaying powers being used they have the perfectly simple recourse of going to the country and renewing their mandate from the electorate and getting their Bill in the quickest possible time.
The second offensive phrase which so perfectly illustrates the heresy which is the main objection to this White Paper is in page 33, in Appendix II, where it commends the general idea as beingA substantial contribution towards improving the legislative process".There is one other beauty which occurs in paragraph 70 on page 27:improving the efficiency of Parliament…This is the heresy. This place is not meant to be "efficient", in the concept of Government. This place has been established from time immemorial to be a confounded nuisance to Governments. I am ashamed at the timidity with which we accept the idea that we must have "efficiency', and trot upstairs with bulging briefcases and empty minds, helping the Government in dirty little committees, doing their dirty little work. That is not my idea of Parliament. The White Paper is obsessed with the "efficiency" of Parliament, but it really means the efficiency of Government and if anyone commends to me that we should take note of a White Paper to improve the efficiency of Government then I want to have no part of it. The House is entitled to its own view of its function and should have no part in that. The function of this House is to proclaim its opinion, having decided what are the choices between the evils that beset the nation in its historic pilgrimage onwards. We cannot do that if we are to be subordinated to the requirements of day-to-day administration and the expediencies of office—the difficulties of which we may understand.
We should not shrink from change, but I hope that when we make a change we will make it with a proper awareness of the dignity, duty, nature, function and purpose of this House, which are not reflected in the White Paper. I honour the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have stood firm on this. 1380 I am sure that they will take no notice of the impertinence of the "guidance", if that is the word, that they have been given by their right hon. Friends. I hope that there will be enough hon. Members on both sides of the House to chuck this out. I am sure that, if we have regard to the interests of the country, of Parliament in general and of this House in particular, this is wrong.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
It is a sad reflection on the House of Commons that we should spend two days debating the retention or the reform of an institution which for 300 years has been completely discredited and is an anomaly in our Parliamentary system, when the newspapers today are full of the European crisis, in which the well-being and material, and perhaps spiritual and moral, standards of the people of Europe are being threatened by our failure to manage internationally the currencies of the nations of the world. We are spending two days in debating whether we shall sustain an institution which everyone has admitted dares not use the little power it has.
I was amazed to read in the White Paper the assumptions of the present Labour Government. I was reminded that the late Lord Baldwin in 1934 or 1935, when he was Prime Minister, made the claim in a speech in, I think, Newport, South Wales, that "We are all Socialists now". On reading the White Paper I felt that the new cry from our Front Bench was that "We are all Conservatives now".
After an election of candidates sponsored by the Labour Party and the trade unions, when within a few months there were revolts by 30 or 40 hon. Members, I am surprised that the Secretary of State for Social Services imagines that he can, on a declaration of intent, nominate someone to go to the other place not on licence but until he is 72, and expect the loyalty and probity to the Executive which cannot be obtained in this House although we are here on a five-year or perhaps a three-year licence.
The presentation of the White Paper is untimely and the proposals do nothing to reform many of the powers of the other place. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, in 1381 opening his speech, spoke of being a don and a lecturer, and he used the phrase, "that other place" which was coined by Cromwell at the beginning of the Long Parliament. But as my right hon. Friend went on to speak about his reforms he did not refer to it as that other place but as the Upper House. If that is to be an Upper House, I presume this is the Lower House. There is a common expression that when an hon. Member is created a peer he is sent upstairs. I refuse to believe that morality and probity upstairs is higher than it is below stairs; in fact, it may not be as high. I have a natural resentment, coming as I do from a Puritan family, against the concept of an Upper House being wiser or having greater probity than the Lower House, and I am suspicious of granting powers to that House if in future it is to be not "that other place" but the "Upper House". There is an Act in the Library in that other place abolishing the House of Lords, and I think the best thing to do is to let it be abolished.
The Queen's Commissioners in that other place have many powers which they have not used for a long time. The Commissioners were created by Henry VIII, as he did not wish to come to the House to say that he wanted Catharine Howard arraigned for treason for committing adultery with Culpepper. He therefore created the Commissioners. They were introduced again by George I, for the reason that he could not speak English. The Commissioners in 1675 refused to accept the duly elected Speaker of the House of Commons. The Queen's Commissioners are empowered to act in all things in the name of Her Majesty, but there is no suggestion in the White Paper that they should be abolished. The Commissioners are appointed by the Crown Office in consultation with the Lord Chancellor, and there are now five of them. I want to get rid of them. No one should have the power to refuse to accept the duly elected Speaker of the House of Commons. I am not suggesting that the power will be used, but it is there, and there is no suggestion that it should be removed.
We on this side of the House have been chided for not having an alternative proposal. A Commission has been established to inquire into our present Constitution and to see how it can be evolved 1382 in order that Wales, Scotland and perhaps other regions may feel they are part of the political institution. Several Parliaments are envisaged. I do not see why we need several Chambers; one seems adequate to me. If the Commission reports on the desirability of a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Parliament, or even a Yorkshire Parliament, the work of this Parliament will be reduced.
What is there implicit in this document, especially in view of the rumours circulating about the salary? There are a hundred or more right hon. and hon. Members of this House who form the Executive, plus a few in the other place. Many appointments to the Government are made for all sorts of reasons. It may be to balance the forces. It may be that there are difficult people involved and one has to placate sections. Both Front Benches have to do it. A large percentage of hon. Members of this House are part time. Only about 300 of us are full-time Members. The rest are here for only part of the time, although they receive full pay. Because so many of our Members are part time, we have too much work to do. To solve the problem, is it seriously proposed that we should create another part-time institution in the other place?
They work for about 135 days a year there. It is suggested that voting peers would be required to attend a third of the sittings, or 45, for which they should receive £2,000 a year. That is £50 a day, and they will be part-time. Imagine trying to run a business on the principle that, because half the staff works part time, double the staff is required. That is what is proposed. It is said that this House cannot cope with all its work. When the Commission reports, assuming that it recommends and we agree that another two Parliaments should be created, it is to be hoped that the three will be adequate.
Frequently, we are accused of introducing too much legislation and that a great deal of work involving social justice and reform could be done by administrative action. It was said by Tom Johnston 40 years ago. He was right. We could do much more now.
Since 1964, I have never voted against the Government, nor have I abstained, because I am not an abstainer. I believe in voting for or against them. Tonight, 1383 I am sorry to say, will be the first time, but it may not be the last. However, I cannot abstain and certainly I cannot support a Motion to take note of the White Paper. I must vote against it. I cannot agree to action being taken which is temporary. We are told that it is transitional. My right hon. Friend said that it is probable that it will have to be altered again in a few years' time when the result of the inquiry of the Commission on the Constitution is known. In my view, we should wait for that result and see what it is. Let us have a proposition then which can stand for a very long time.
It has been said many times that the 1911 Act was to be a temporary one. That was 57 years ago. Is this to be another temporary Measure? We were returned in 1964 and again in 1966 to modernise Britain, yet we spend two days trying to shore up an ancient monument.
The people of this country and the rest of the world think it a fine spectacle when Parliament is opened. It is a wonderful circus, but it is irrelevant to the economic and social problems of the country and of the world at large. Tourists may admire it, but in Zurich, Bonn and in the councils of the world, it is an irrelevant institution. What is more relevant is the efficiency of our industries.
Let us be careful about what we do. Parliament is not discredited. It is admired all over the world, but do not let us perpetuate the illusion that the wealth and prosperity of the country depends on this institution or that one, or on the co-ordination of the activities of the two. The way in which the country will restore its wealth and influence in the world is by the work and endeavour of the people in our offices, factories, workshops, banks and other institutions. They are the people who create the wealth. This is the institution which sees that it is fairly distributed. We should try and create the conditions in which our people feel that their efforts earn adequate rewards. Do not let us kid ourselves and the people that a two-day debate on what we should do with this ancient monument has any relevance to today's conditions.
Over the past hundred years, because of our laws of succession, probably we have avoided many of the pitfalls experienced by other countries in Europe, 1384 but I must not go into that now. The proposition is that the eldest son of a peer can renounce his title—though his son can apply for it on the death of his father—but he can apply for a life peerage and so take his seat in the other place. However, he has the same blood and the same views and interests to protect. I am amazed that this Government should make such a proposition, trying to sustain an institution which will become a merry-go-round for all sorts of so-called meritocracy and inherited circles.
Peerages are not being abolished. Peers will still be privileged in their ability to get into the other place, which will be far more respectable and perhaps have more influence under these proposals. I say that it should be left as it is, an absurd anachronism with little influence. Some of its debates are very interesting. Let their Lordships sit there and debate.
I believe that we should wait until the Commission on the Constitution reports. Then we can discuss it and perhaps we can do something to improve the efficiency of our political system, possibly with three Parliaments, and this institution can go the way that it should have gone in 1648.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)
The Government's proposals have been hammered severely throughout our two days of debate, and rightly so, though I have some sympathy with the Government, because the problem basically is insoluble.
I do not think that a second Chamber has ever carried out successfully its allegedly classical function of interposing delay so that the Lower House and the people have a chance to think again. The Senate in the French Third Republic went against the tide of popular favour, but that is about the only second Chamber to do so and, even in that case, the end result was not very good.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) thought that these proposals were a betrayal of Socialism. I cannot say that, but it is odd that our hereditary peers should be detached from the House of Lords in this way. The most probable result will be that they will flood into this House. For example, those noble Lords who have stately 1385 homes may think that it would be a splendid advertisement to come here, especially if this Chamber is to be televised.
I would welcome that, because it would brighten up the place, but it would be an odd achievement for the Labour Party, which, historically, has always been intent on abolishing the House of Lords, if it ends up instead by abolishing the House of Commons, leaving us with two Houses of Lords, with the hereditary peers in this one and life peers in the other place. There are many objections to these proposals, but they have already been stated so I will not add to them.
I pick on one fundamental point. The most remarkable feature of these proposals is that it is taken for granted in them that an elected second Chamber is not feasible. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), speaking from very different points of view, both ruled out an elected House. And the White Paper, in paragraph 22, says:But whatever the system of election and whatever its powers, a directly elected second chamber would inevitably become a rival to the House of Commons.This is simply not true. The Government, in their proposals, continually cite the experience of other countries as an argument against a single Chamber, but totally ignore the experience of other countries when they consider what form the second Chamber should take. There is no other hereditary House in the world. There is only one other wholly nominated House in the world. That is in Canada, and nobody in Canada or elsewhere pretends or suggests that the Senate there works well.
In every other country in the world the second Chamber is an elected body. The idea that because both Chambers are elected they must always vie for supremacy is not borne out by experience. The key fact is whether there is Cabinet Government. If there is no Cabinet Government there may well be a quarrel between the two Houses, but with Cabinet Government the Cabinet has to be responsible to one House or the other. It cannot be responsible to both. This is so everywhere except Sweden, but the 1386 situation there is different because both Houses are very closely joined together. Wherever else there is Cabinet Government it is plain to which House the Cabinet is responsible. This principle has prevailed even in federations, such as Australia, where there is Cabinet Government.
If we had an elected second Chamber there is no doubt the Cabinet would still be responsible to the House of Commons. Therefore, it is not good enough to take without argument the proposition that an elected second Chamber must be ruled out. Nor is there any difficulty in logic, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South West said, about which House is representative of the electorate. It is plain that this House will be chiefly representative of the electorate. The reformed Constitution would merely be saying that every now and then the second Chamber, which had also been elected, was pointing out that the first Chamber was not infallible and was asking it to think again. These proposals err fundamentally, both on the ground of the experience of other countries and on logic, in totally ruling out an elected second Chamber.
But a second Chamber does not have to be hereditary or nominated or elected. With a reformed national and regional Government structure, the leaders of the regions could automatically be Members of another House. That is what happens in Germany. It is not a spectacular success there, but equally it is not a spectacular failure, and it might be the right way to organise the second Chamber in this country. But that question, and the question of a wholly elected second Chamber, cannot be considered until we have had the report of the Royal Commission on the Reform of Local Government. There is, therefore, an overwhelming case for waiting for the report and not rushing on.
I understand that the Secretary of State for Social Services told his party that this reform had to go through to safeguard the Government's last year in office. If he really said that he must have a low opinion of his audience, because everybody knows full well that the House of Lords, as at present constituted, would never for one moment dare to destroy the Government's programme under any circumstances. The only time that it might 1387 do anything would be if there was a Measure which was universally unpopular. It is just conceivable that it might then pluck up courage to do something about such a Measure, but it is highly unlikely. If it did, it would not hurt the Government. It would help them, because it would remove an unpopular Measure from their programme and also give the Government an issue of Lords against the people. There seems therefore to be no case for the Government pressing forward their so-called reform on those grounds.
The fundamental objection to doing this now is that there has been too much tinkering with the Constitution. There is too much going on. We have had the gerrymandering of the London Government Bill. We now have the Representation of the People Bill coming on. The Government, as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) pointed out, would be far better occupied in dealing with other matters and getting on with governing the country. Because the whole issue seems to be fundamentally irrelevant I will vote against the proposals tonight.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member for Norfolk Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the intracacies of which House is taking over which. He has more experience than I of take-overs.
It is not unusual for voices raised here to be more against the proposals that come before us than for them. Those who tend to say that it is not perhaps so bad, in the main to find themselves busy outside, where they are probably more usefully occupied. But I have never, in a one or two days' debate, heard so much universal condemnation from every part of the House of any proposal which has come before it. I had thought on a two days debate, "How will they keep it going?". The Government are probably wondering now how on earth they can stop it. The issue of a three-line Whip, with respect to whoever thought of it, will not make the slightest difference. If I was going into any Lobby than the one I intend going into, a three-line Whip would make no difference to me. However, I would hope that those on the Opposition benches who might offer sympathy 1388 will leave us to sort out that problem amongst ourselves. My hon. Friends and I, above and below the gangway, are quite capable of making our point of view known to those responsible on our side. Let us have a private fight on this matter.
There is a rumour going around the corridors that if any backbench Member from either side is prepared to come into this Chamber and speak in favour of the Motion, or even offer qualified support, he may collect his Letters Patent and coronet as he goes through the Government Lobbies tonight. I offer qualified support and I intend to go into the Government Lobbies tonight. After all, the temptation is almost irresistible. A life tenancy of a legislature, £2,000 per annum, no constituency problems, a title of one's own choosing, and all that that means in perks of one kind or another. Not only the licence to be erratic, irresponsible and difficult, but almost a demand that a lord should be eccentric. Compared with our lot in this place it is almost an irresistible temptation. I hope to be able to resist it.
§ Mr. Ogden
I will not give way even this once to my hon. Friend. I will make my speech in the hope that I may leave time for others to make theirs.
I was saying that I hope to resist the temptation to reject this coronet, even though it has not been offered, because I fought hard to win my place in this Chamber and I intend to fight even harder to remain.
It may be a waste of time to explain my reason for voting as I shall vote, because it seems that this temporary alliance between the minority Members of both Front Benches, supported by odd bods in the Liberal Party, was shattered in the closing remarks of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who said that it would last until after the 10 o'clock vote tonight. The price of any further alliance is that this side of the House must make concessions to the other. Any concession 1389 that the Opposition may have in mind would be completely unacceptable even to those on this side who will probably go into the Government Lobbies with them tonight.
I think that the White Paper as a White Paper was killed stone dead at about 4.0 or 4.45 p.m. today, but those who are able to offer even qualified support for these proposals should say why they are prepared to go into the Lobby tonight, and I propose to do so. The White Paper on House of Lords Reform—and I am grateful that we can refer to the other place in that way because it means that we have made some progress—can be judged only if we consider it in the context of the Gracious Speech which outlined a programme of useful and necessary legislation which, if carried through in this Parliament, will improve the standard of living, the working conditions, and the quality of life of many of our people. Above all, the strategy seems to be that it is a programme of sweetness and light, wherein agreement and reasonableness are valued much more highly than perfection and controversy. Equally, it is an optimistic programme, and this White Paper is part of that strategy.
The dangers of such a strategy have been plain to see for a long time. They should be even more plain to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Social Services. I watched him from time to time yesterday and I noticed a look of amazement come over his benign features as he suddenly discovered that it was possible for people on these benches to disagree with his proposals in the White Paper. There was a look almost of incredulity when my right hon. Friend realised that someone could disagree with him. My right hon. Friend has not spent as much time in the Chamber today as he did yesterday. If he has not already been convinced of the fact that we can disagree with him, I hope to convince him before I conclude my speech. Everyone on these benches disagrees profoundly with my right hon. Friend about something. Most of us disagree with him on the proposals in this White Paper. We hope that he will take a sabbatical from constant exhortation and advice. Most of us hope and expect that my right hon. Friend will listen to and learn from what has been said in the debate, particularly from these benches.
1390 My first piece of advice is that this should be not only the first, but the last, attempt at consensus legislation based on agreement between two minorities on the two Front Benches. Had I been sent here to legislate as a Conservative-Socialist, or a Socialist-Conservative, or any other permutation, that would have been in my election address. I know that some of my hon. Friends think I am a little too moderate at times, but they never go as far as that, and I hope that they never will. I was sent here as a Labour Member. A Labour Party, a Labour majority, and a Labour Government should introduce, support, and carry through Labour legislation. Let us have no more of the idea of minority consensus legislation from the two Front Benches.
The only basis on which one can support the Government is that we are asked, not to approve the White Paper, but to note it. As has been emphasised time and again, a White Paper contains a draft of proposals, and can be amended. In this case it should be. In view of the procedures that are available, we hope that the Government will accept great changes in the White Paper. We are being forced to discuss the composition of the second Chamber before we have decided what we want the second Chamber to be, or what we want it to do. I accept that merely to defer this, or pass it to the Constitutional Commission, would put the matter out of sight for too long.
I believe in two-Chamber Parliamentary democracy. I want to see the second Chamber composed of people who can best represent all walks of life, all skills and achievements, and some people perhaps of no special skill or achievement save that they can represent the views of different parts of our society. I want a second Chamber which has the time to improve the quality of legislation which goes from this place. I want a second Chamber which has physical time to look not only at the immediate day-to-day issues which too often confront us, but at the long term issues which we in this place are prevented from discussing because of the sheer pressure on our time. I want to see a second Chamber which can itself, or at 1391 times perhaps jointly with this House, inquire into matters and make recommendations such as are sometimes made by Royal Commissions or other outside bodies.
Inevitably, that second Chamber will be a part-time Chamber, or perhaps more of a part-time Chamber than this one. There is no doubt that while some of us here have to be housekeepers—and there is no shame in that; on the contrary, one can take considerable pride in it—there is a place for part-timers either here or in the other place. I do not believe in either first- or second-class citizens. I do not believe in first- or second-class Members of any assembly, so I cannot agree with the idea that there should be voting and non-voting peers. They should all come through the same door, through the same machinery of selection, or allocation, or nomination, into one assembly. I hope that the right of the hereditary peer to speak or to vote will be ended on the death of the present holder of the Writ. Because I believe that all members should come through the same door, I cannot agree with a part nominated by patronage, and part elected from the regions or by some form of electoral college. It is claimed that those who come from the regions could speak with authority on and represent their regions. So can we. Equally, those from the regions could speak for the nation. So can we.
The claim is sometimes made for the "Lords by patronage" that they can speak more freely than Members of the House of Commons can because they do not have to look over their shoulders at the electors, for they have no electors. But it would be a poor Member of Parliament who voted, or acted, or spoke, against his judgment and conscience simply because he believed that to do so would please his electors. Certainly such a person would not deserve to be in this place.
I have tried hard to think of a new name for this other place. It is a new assembly. A variety of names has been suggested, some less polite than others. Mention has been made of "Senate" "Second Assembly" "Council of State" and that kind of thing. It has also been asked whether it should be "Lord X" 1392 or "X.L.P." but L.P. has a certain connotation which may not be popular. It means a long-playing record.
I must, reluctantly, accept that part of the bait to lure people to the House of Lords is a title, and this might as well be said. I recall that in the last Session my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) introduced a Bill to abolish all titles. I made the point then that simply to abolish titles by law would not prevent their continued use. There have been republics on the Continent and elsewhere where the monarchy—and I do not advocate this—and titles have been abolished by law, but it has still been the Marchesa of this, the Duke of that, the Count of something else, and people with a courtesy title.
I am concerned about power and the use of patronage. There is concern in parts of our party, and of the country, about the apparent misuse of patronage itself. Certainly the appointments to the reformed House must be separated from the natural or normal peerage, and certainly separated from the Honours List. I think it desirable, indeed essential, that when the Prime Minister, or the Leader of the Opposition, or the Leader of the Liberal Party, nominate or advise Her Majesty to create new peers, the reasons for such nominations should be given, and clearly known to everyone. There is no shame—indeed there is pride—in it being known that Lord X has been nominated a life peer of Parliament because of his services to industry, to the trade unions, to the arts, to the skills, or whatever it is. Why should there be any secrecy about it? Let it be made known, and be clear to everyone.
A hereditary peer can dispense with his title or put it into cold storage. Why should not a life peer be allowed to dispense with his title when he no longer requires it?
On my next point, I will tread carefully, since it concerns an omission in the proposals relating to the Lords Spiritual. There is a proper place in the Utopian House which I would like for representatives of the faiths and creeds of this land. Already, the Anglican Church, because of its historial Establishment links, has a place for senior members of its hierarchy, as has the Church of Scotland, by accident. The Methodist Church, whether by accident 1393 or design, has members there who can at times, speak for the Methodist Church. I am a member of a Protestant Church, a Methodist, even a Primitive Methodist, and one cannot get much more nonconformist than that. But it is possible that someone from "outside" can speak more easily on such matters than an "insider".
I put it to the Front Bench that we are entitled to know why the reforms do not include a proposal for the representation of the British hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, in the new, reformed House of Lords. I make it clear that I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, nor have I been asked to speak or put this suggestion forward on behalf of anyone in or from that Church. Indeed, I think that, if either the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool or the Archbishop of Westminster were offered a seat, he would gracefully decline—[Interruption.] I spoke of only two Archbishops and the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) would not claim that distinction. This point should have been raised and we should know whether it has been considered.
§ Mr. Ogden
I must leave that matter to Her Majesty. And Fid Def was awarded to Henry VIII for defending the Roman Church.
I am less concerned about the powers of Members of the House of Lords in the House of Lords, than I am about the powers of the Members of that House outside. That is where a royal battle will be fought now and later.
This White Paper has been killed stone dead by those who seem to have made an agreement with the Government Front Bench earlier today. But the price of the continued alliance between the mini-Front Benches will be further and further concessions from this side. I can support the Government tonight because this is a White Paper, a draft, because it is to be noted, because I hope and expect that the Government will be wise 1394 enough to listen to what has been said from these benches and will take this advice—after having won their victory in the Lobbies—for what it is worth, and will then bring forward proposals for the reform of the House of Lords based on what we on this side believe, and let it be a straight fight between this side and the other.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I must first congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) on a series of intellectual and moral gyrations which would earn him an honoured place in the ranks of the schoolmen, were that school of philosophy still extant. To paraphrase his position, without, I hope, misrepresenting it, he is going to support the Government in the Lobby because he disapproves of everything in the White Paper.
However, I welcome his generous and ecumenical suggestion that dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church should be invited to sit in the upper House. I assure him that, far from graciously declining any such invitation, they are much more likely graciously to accept. If the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) is afraid on the grounds of any difficulty which might be caused by the Royal title of "Defender of the Faith", may I set his mind at rest? This title was conferred upon the monarch Henry VIII first by the Pope, and then, for reasons which I need not go into, it was taken away and was re-conferred by Parliament. So there are two titles here, for two faiths. Any difficulty could, correspondingly, be satisfactorily resolved and the hon. Member's conscience, like that of the hon. Member for West Derby, set at rest.
I must confess that, as I address, to borrow a phrase from the learned Attorney-General, what I am pleased to call my mind to this subject, it is not the moral dilemmas of either of the two hon. Gentlemen who are uppermost in it. But there are two thoughts, one of which I owe to the late Lord Melbourne and the other to the far from late and very quick hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I think of Lord Melbourne's civilised 18th century piece of scepticism, "Why cannot you leave it 1395 alone?" I think also of the hon. Member's wise piece of practical advice that, when the two Front Benches of this House are in agreement, that is a sign for the House of Commons to beware. That warning has been adequately heeded in this debate.
When I think of the arguments that we have heard today, of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who defended the White Paper skilfully by hardly mentioning its proposals, or of the performance of the Leader of the Liberal Party, who addressed us for 40 minutes and has now evaporated somewhere into the stratosphere, who defended it on the grounds that its proposals would not last very long, or the speech of the Attorney-General, so full of contradictions, which I pass over in charitable silence, except to say that only he could have got away with such a speech in the manner in which he did—that is a tribute to him personally and not to the White Paper—I must conclude that this White Paper has precipitated a synthetic constitutional crisis.
I represent Chelmsford, a constituency which, if not typical in its Member is at least typical in its composition. When I was in Western Canada recently, I found a research student who was thesisistically interested in my constituency and had flatteringly chosen it for the subject of a doctoral dissertation. He had discovered that the distribution of population in Chelmsford was within 0.1 per cent. of the national average, so it is a good test case. I can assure the House that they are not clamouring in Chelmsford for the abolition or even the reform of the House of Lords and I doubt whether they are doing so anywhere else.
It is said that the House of Lords is theoretically indefensible. Since when have the British electorate been obsessed with niceties of constitutional theory? Do the Government seriously suggest that the topic of conversation in every public house tonight centres on the lineage of Lord Salisbury? Why, then, has this White Paper been introduced? There is a simple reason. It is another, I am afraid, of the Prime Minister's miscalculations. It was intended to 1396 appease the egalitarian sentiment of his supporters, but this has been sadly misjudged, judging from the universal condemnation it has received from the benches opposite in this debate.
The case for the House of Lords is not theoretical because politics is not an exercise in logic but in life. The case for the Lords is an eminently practical one. First, it is an assembly which works—it is not perfect—tolerably well and, secondly, any second Chamber that is thought up a priori is likely to be much worse. If one required proof of that general proposition, the White Paper provides it.
No nation has been able to construct in theory a satisfactory second Chamber. Nations which have attempted to do so have produced either assemblies which are impotent or which have caused political paralysis. We, by accident of history, have the good fortune to have inherited a special second Chamber, based partly on the principle of heredity and partly on the principle of life peerages, and it works reasonably satisfactorily.
I appeal to the Government once again, in the words of Lord Melbourne, to accept that the case has been overwhelmingly made out for the situation to be left as it is. If a further reform is needed, it could be a simple one; namely, the election by the House of Lords of a representative group of hereditary voting peers. That would demolish even the theoretical objections which are valid against the second Chamber.
I know, however, that that is unacceptable to the Government—simply because it is unacceptable to the Labour Party. They believe that there should not be further legislative recognition of the hereditary principle. But that is the Government's problem and not a difficulty for the Opposition.
With the greatest deference and respect, I urge the Opposition Front Bench to accept that it is not their function to help to promote Socialist principles but to defend Conservative ones. There is nothing contrary to Conservative principles in preserving, in part, the hereditary principle in the public life of the country. After all, it is part of Conservative philosophy to regard society not as the 1397 work of one generation, but of many; and we regard a unit of society not as the individual nor as the collectivity of the State, but as the family.
This being so, why should we, the Conservative Party, co-operate to promote a reform which is based on a philosophy which we do not accept? The only argument I have heard is that if we do not support this reform we shall be faced with a situation in which the House of Lords is likely to be abolished altogether. It is a curious moral principle that we should do something wrong for fear of getting something worse.
In fact, this would be highly unlikely to happen and, if we ceased to co-operate with the Government in this ill-judged venture, I believe that we would hear of it no more. I doubt whether we would hear very much about the reform of the House of Lords in this Parliament. The whole project would probably be laid to rest with mute obsequies, which is all that it deserves.
I urge the Opposition Front Bench not to put its faith in such an evanescent quality as the intellectual convictions of the Secretary of State for Social Services. This is not necessarily his final view on the whole subject. We had his apologia pro vita sua yesterday. He described to us his move from the outer darkness of the editorial desks of the New Statesman to the inner light of the Cabinet. But his thoughts on this subject may not be at an end. Who knows—his third thoughts may be an improvement on his first and his second.
This scheme can only be described as a Constitutional monstrosity. It is the worst possible of all the solutions which could have been thought of. A totally nominated House is undoubtedly the worst solution, as has been pointed out in two well-argued leading articles in The Times. It imports a difference not of degree but of kind, since an upper House in which a nominated element is balanced by an hereditary element becomes an entirely different House in character when dominated by the nominated principle operating without any modification.
Of course, the patronage of the Prime Minister in the long run, not in the short, will be immeasurably increased, and the nub of the argument here concerns the 1398 payment of these nominated peers. Some people are dazzled by a potential M.B.E. Others are likely to be blinded by the thought of a title plus a pension, for £2,000 a year, for life, awardable long before pensionable age is even in sight. Naturally, the effects must be to increase party domination in the House, and that is no doubt why the leaders of the two parties are in favour of the scheme.
As Belloc has been quoted, I will add a small passage from Belloc applicable to this unholy alliance. He was talking about General Elections, but it is relevant to our present debate:The accursed power which stands on privilege(and goes with women and champagne and bridge)Broke and democracy resumed its reign(which goes with bridge and women and champagne.")That is all that needs to be said about Front Bench alliance which has brought about such a remarkable counter-alliance on the back benches.
The second deformity which the White Paper has produced is the suggestion that a group of peers should be created who will be able to speak but not vote. That is a separation at unnatural as it is contemptible. It creates a class of persons who, in the strictest sense of the word, are irresponsible; they can say what they please but are prevented or protected from doing anything about it.
The third mutation produced by the Secretary of State for Social Services, in which he bids us place our trust, is this new category of cross-bench peers. The whole working of the Upper House is to depend on this intellectual abstraction which, apparently, is incapable of definition, but which the Prime Minister, acting on some means of intuitive osmosis denied to the rest of us, will immediately recognise for what it is, and act accordingly. As Mrs. Beeton once advised in her celebrated cookbook, "First catch your hare". First, Mr. Attorney-General, catch your cross-bench peers, but the Attorney-General himself has warned this animal that if it dares to differentiate itself from the leopard and change its spots it will immediately be put down, thus vitiating the whole intent of the scheme which was to give these new creatures a balance of power in the Upper House.
1399 The details of this scheme are equally absurd. I cannot go into all of them but I want to deal with one or two as they are revealed in this White Paper. First the bishops and the law Lords. They are to be a privileged class within a privileged class. Not for them the attendance register, not for them even the passage of time. They are to hold their places free of any attendance requirement and free of any age limit. Yet if one looks at the history of the House of Lords—I regret to have to say this but it is an historical fact that the most reactionary elements in the House of Lords, the worst elements, those most opposed to progress and change, have been the ecclesiastics and lawyers. Yet they are to be selected by a Labour Government for a privileged position. Could absurdity go further?
Finally, the White Paper provides a committee to preside over this constitutional mish-mash and to keep it under constitutional review. It is a committee which is to be appointed and presided over by someone with no party affiliations—a political eunuch. This Committee has terms of reference so vague that continued study of the White Paper does not reveal any clear principles on which it is to act. It is set up for the purpose of advising a Prime Minister who is not under any vestige of legal or constitutional duty to pay the slightest attention to what it suggests. What a sad conclusion to the years of effort to produce a viable constitutional settlement for an intractable problem!
What then are we to do? The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) expressed some dismay at the prospect of going into the Lobby with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I hope that he will not take it amiss if I say for somewhat different reasons that I have some hesitations in going into the Lobby with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife, West, because I know that he wants to sweep away the whole lot—the House of Lords—the peers, titles, everything. He thinks that the present system greatly increases snobbery. May I say to him that snobbery is not the result of the House of Lords but of something he does not believe in, original sin. 1400 There is only one class of people free from snobbery. That is the saints and they are a minority group in our legislative assembly. There are worse things than the snobbery of rank. There is the snobbery of wealth which is found in the United States and the snobbery which one finds in France of the petit founctionnaire. I suggest that the hon. Member may get rid of the least ignoble form of snobbery and enthrone in its place something which is much worse.
§ The Attorney-General
Is it not a fact that the only saint to become a member of the House of Commons was beheaded? Is that not a rather unattractive augury.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Perhaps that is why other saints have been so notably reluctant to come forward and offer themselves for election. He was also the only Speaker of the House of Commons who was beheaded. That sets in train an interesting association of ideas.
What are we to do? Let us take a piece of advice from that very wise woman Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth I. She said that it was not her business to make windows into men's souls. It is not our business to examine the motives which are driving people into the anti-Government Lobby tonight. We must accept the important part of their action which is that they are voting with their feet as well as with their speeches. I have no hope for members of the Government. I have hope for members of the Labour Party but not for members of the Government. The payroll vote will have its way. It is not without relevance to the subject of our discussions that that should be so. I do, however, have some vestigial hopes for the leaders of my party. I appeal to them to have nothing to do with this botched up scheme which is based on principles which are alien to the traditions and genius of the Conservative Party.
What is constitutionally wrong cannot be politically right. By basing ourselves this evening not on grounds of expediency but on grounds of principle we may lose the support of some but shall gain the support of others. I am sure that if we adopt an attitude of expediency we shall be certain to lose the respect of all, and we shall deserve so to do.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
There does not seem to be any universal enthusiasm in the House for the White Paper proposals. I have not been able to detect any consensus in their favour. For that reason, I think the Government would be wise to think again about some of the main aspects of those proposals. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, whom I have known for 40 years, is quite capable of thinking again.
After all, we are debating a White Paper and not a Bill. A White Paper is presumably put forward for discussion. If a Government put forward a White Paper for discussion and are not prepared to listen to the views of the House of Commons about it, there does not seem much point in a White Paper, or, indeed, the House of Commons itself.
After one and a half days' debate the arguments seem, putting it very briefly, to have reached this point. Most of us, if not all, agree that it is probably better to have a revising second Chamber rather than no second Chamber at all. Almost all the other advanced democracies have it. Almost all of us are agreed that heredity is an indefensible method of selecting the second Chamber. But there are only three ways of making this selection. One is the hereditary principle, another is election by somebody, and the third, it is assumed, is selection, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Most of us are agreed that direct election by the electorate is unacceptable because it would undermine the House of Commons and cause confusion and conflict. For this reason the Government propose selection by the Prime Minister of what would become mainly a salaried Chamber.
A great many inside and outside the House are seriously perturbed by the extent of the patronage to which this would lead. In my view, the danger of patronage is not one that can be lightly disregarded. There are so many pressures today both inside and outside the Government on independence of judgment that I very much doubt whether we can afford many more. Indeed, if a modern Government are to be able to rely on perhaps 120 Ministers, Whips and P.P.S.s 1402 and, in addition, perhaps another 50 Members of the House of Commons who would not mind being nominated for the upper Chamber, I think we should be going rather a long way back from the nineteenth century to the eighteenth.
But there is one other logical possibility which would minimise patronage and, possibly, corruption and at the same time would not exalt the Upper House into a rival of the House of Commons. That would be some form of election of the new peers by the House of Commons itself, or at the very least approval, as we do with Select Committees, of the selected Members by this House. This is one of the proposals which the Bryce Commission considered.
No doubt all sorts of difficulties would be involved in that. One could retail them easily, but I shall not do that tonight. For instance, how would candidates be selected? But I am far from convinced that these difficulties are insuperable or that the difficulties and evils involved in this alternative would be greater than giving this almost unlimited patronage to the Prime Minister of the day.
The White Paper did not examine these possibilities, so far as I can see, seriously or convincingly, but merely rejected selection on a regional basis on the grounds that the Royal Commissions proposed would consider that. But that is reason for delay and not for rejection of reasonable possible alternatives.
Although I accept a good deal in the White Paper, I urge the Government to consider the whole problem again, and, in particular, the possible alternative I have mentioned, which would get round some of the difficulties, although it might create others. If the Government undertook to do this tonight, I think that some of us would find it a good deal easier to decide how we are going to vote.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Any White Paper which includes proposals for reform as far reaching as this one deserves the cold and calculated scrutiny which the House has rightly given it. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). In my time here, I have never known a White Paper receive such a cold reception.
1403 If the Government intend to introduce legislation in this Parliament based on the proposals in the White Paper, their timing and idea of priorities is strange. The economy is shaky. Our defences leave us more naked than in 1938. Yet they bring forward proposals for reform of the House of Lords, which has nothing to do with the urgent needs of the country. We all know why they have put that reform so high on their strange list of priorities.
Yesterday, one or two hon. Members said that they wished to do away with a second Chamber. They were in favour of single-Chamber Government. I am opposed to that view. In this country which has no written constitution, it is essential to have not only a second Chamber but one with adequate delaying powers. This is all the more necessary when there is a big majority in the House of Commons—the Government party—which at times is clearly losing, if it has not lost, the confidence of the country. That is the situation we have now.
Those who wish to abolish the second Chamber, never mind how it is constituted, and want single-Chamber Government must ask themselves, "Would it not be a good thing to have a written constitution?" Single-Chamber Government without a written constitution is the worst road to dictatorship I can think of.
I come now to the proposed two-tier system. This introduces a new element in that Members of the other place could speak but not vote. Perhaps the Home Secretary will say whether this rather strange principle—I do not necessarily condemn it, but it is new—is applied in any other Chamber in any country in the world. It is certainly a new principle of constitutional or Parliamentary usage here. It would lead to strange anomalies. For example, a non-voting peer with unrivalled knowledge of a certain subject could make a first-class speech on that subject which might well sway the whole issue but he could not vote. Such a peer could presumably move a complicated and technical Amendment to a Bill but could not vote on it. This is a strange departure from the normal custom.
Paragraph 47 discusses the question of the size of the second Chamber and, in 1404 an attempt to allay any fears, states that various mathematical formulae have been gone into. I suppose computers have been used to prove that, no matter how majorities here change, the size of the newly constituted House of Lords will not vary greatly. I am not sure about this and I would like reassurance from the Home Secretary.
There is a large majority in the Commons at present. The White Paper says that if legislation was promulgated along the lines of the White Paper about 80 new voting peers would have to be created, the majority of whom would no doubt be chosen from existing hereditary peers. But the Prime Minister would have to create a certain number of Labour voting peers to give him the required 10 per cent. majority in the newly constituted second Chamber. If after the next General Election the majority is completely the other way round—I can think of more unlikely eventualities—a number of those newly created Labour voting peers would have to be relegated to the second tier: they could then speak but not vote.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
If they are voters as well as speakers, and if that majority changes, the Conservative Prime Minister would have to create a whole lot of new peers to reverse the majority. This is the snowball effect, unless the calculation has been made that death plus retirement at 72 will syphon off a sufficient number.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I hope that is right. I do not know whether the Home Secretary has picked up this point: I am not saying that 72 is wrong, but it would have excluded Lord Attlee from voting. This is one of the by-products of fixing an arbitrary age for retirement. I shall need much convincing that this will not be a snowball.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Gentleman has thought his way step by step to precisely the same conclusion as the Conference did. The analysis he has made is that analysis which was proved by the figures given to the Conference.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
Did the Conference, with the aid of the computer or whatever mathematical device it had to help it, do the calculation necessary to determine what would have been the position in the Labour Government of 1929, with a very narrow majority followed by the National Government of 1931 with a huge one?
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
—and I shall be surprised if this does not turn out to be a very large snowball.
The Cross benchers are to provide the let-out. The White Paper explains that, although the Government are to have a narrow majority, it will be the cross benchers who will put the brake on, if necessary, and force the Government of the day to have second thoughts. It is proposed that there should be about 30 cross benchers. We are entitled to speculate about whether 30 cross benchers knowing that they have power will behave in exactly the same manner as about 100 cross benchers now behave knowing that they do not have power.
This is a very interesting speculation. Cross-benchers, by their very nature, are not aligned to any political party. Why should they be? They do not have corporate views? Why should they? They take all sorts of different views on all sorts of different subjects. One or two of the cross-bench peers have great difficulty in taking any view about anything. One or two things could happen. Either the cross-benchers, if they stick together and have a corporate view, could behave, in miniature, as the Irish Members behaved in this Parliament in the old days. I am not saying they would, but they could. Alternatively, they could split three or four ways—or 30 ways—according to what the issue was, in which case there would be no effective brake at all.
1406 What will happen if a cross-bencher decides that he no longer wants to be a cross-bencher, but wants to join one or other of the parties, or, conversely, if one of the voting peers decides that he does not wish to be aligned to any particular party, but wants to go on the cross-benches? Then the mathematical balance is upset. Does that mean another life—voting—peer has to be created to get it right? We want the Home Secretary to tell us.
It is important that the newly constituted House of Lords, however it may be achieved, should contain reasonable numbers of peers of the 35–45 age group. If it does not, the second chamber will simply be a chamber of very old men, life peers, either speaking or voting, appointed at the end of a long and distinguished career of some form of service. I do not think that a very old second Chamber is an effective brake or an effective legislative machine such as we want. I do not see how one will get younger peers into the second chamber except through the hereditary principle.
I do not know how they will be found. That is why I for one regret that there is no element whatever in the proposals for amending the present hereditary principle. I do not see how one will get a reasonable number of young peers to do the work if it is not through their hereditary principle. How otherwise will the Home Secretary find younger men, maybe halfway up the ladder of their career and doing rather well, to chuck it all up to be appointed a voting peer for one Parliament only and afterwards run the risk of being only a speaking peer? I do not think that he will find them.
Then there is the question of payment. I know that this is a very controversial issue, whatever certain hon. Gentlemen opposite may say. I do not think that the voting peers, who have to do the work in the House of Lords, can be expected to do so unless they have reasonable remuneration. They cannot be expected to come up from perhaps the North of England, the Midlands or the West, and work two or three days a week, particularly on the Committee stage of a Bill, and be out of pocket. There must be adequate remuneration.
Equally, with the speaking peers, if they are expected to attend, as they ought 1407 to, to play some part in the life of the House of Lords and to make their contribution to the debates, they ought at least to have some form of travelling allowance. Whatever Government is in power, and whatever committee recommends the appointment of peers, unless the remuneration is reasonably adequate peers will have to be appointed by the size of their bank balance, or in more modern terms, of their overdraft. The House would regard that as a thoroughly undesirable principle.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod): the timing of this proposal is almost incredible. By any yardstick, a proposal of this kind raises very big constitutional issues. The White Paper mentions the setting-up of a Royal Commission on the Constitution. But, apart from that, it is absolutely wrong that we should embark upon a measure of this nature, with all its far-reaching repercussions, which, if put into operation, would be bound in its early stages to have all sorts of teething troubles. The only time when that could be, in logic, put into operation must be at the beginning of the life of a new Parliament and not three-quarters of the way through the life of an old one.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
If it were my job to reply to this debate, which God forbid, I might take refuge in the method of saying that the attacks on the White Paper have been so varied that there must be something right with it. I should say that it could not be as wrong as all that. It could not have the effect, as suggested on one side of the House, of diminishing the power of the Lords unfairly and, as suggested on the other side of the House, of extending the Lords and giving them greater power. That is the only line which would be left open to me, and that is what I would say.
Unfortunately, if that line should be adopted, it has been sunk in advance by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who, in his speech which has received much praise, said with surprising frankness that the consequence of the White Paper is to give the Prime Minister "unprecedented 1408 powers of patronage by nomination". The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say that he would vote for it. Why does he say that he will vote for a measure the consequence of which is to give the Prime Minister "unprecedented powers of patronage by nomination"? The answer is fairly simple. He hopes, as a consequence of the passage of time and changes of mind by the electorate, that he, or possibly one removed, will be the distributor of that patronage.
Therefore, as hon. Members on both sides have said, this is exposed as a joint decision by the two Front Benches—by the present Government and by the alternative Government—to obtain for themselves a position of greater authority than they enjoy now. This is the plan behind the White Paper.
I suppose that many hon. Members came to the debate yesterday with their minds made up. There is no great harm in that. No doubt they had read the White Paper, and many of them have been over the arguments many times. I have often been in that position, but yesterday I was not. I listened carefully to the debate and I was in the position, or so I thought, that we are supposed to be in theoretically, namely, of listening to the debate—as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Services is not doing now—and making up my mind on whether to vote or not as a result of weighing up all the arguments. That was yesterday.
This morning, with others on this side of the House, I received a communication which, in effect, says that I must vote in favour of approving the White Paper. It was a mistake to have issued that Whip. Constitutional questions are not fit subjects for the party Whip.
As far as I am concerned, the effect on me has been quite opposite to that which seems to have been suffered by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden). I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber. The effect on me is that I shall no longer even consider the possibility of supporting the Government, which was one of the possibilities which I was weighing in my mind yesterday. It is now excluded to me. I doubt whether I should have done so anyway.
But I am far from being in the position of finding no good in the White 1409 Paper. I am even further from being in the position of finding no good in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services who introduced the White Paper. I listened to his speech, although he has not given me much of his attention since I have been speaking.
With one exception, I thought that my right hon. Friend's speech was painfully honest. I listened to him openly confessing the manner in which his not inconsiderable mind travelled the road from unicameralism to advocacy of the White Paper. I did not know whether to be overcome by admiration of his frankness or aghast at his naivety. He left out of account, of course, the question of democracy. He forgot that any change in the relationship of the two Houses of Parliament is also a change in the relationship of the electorate to the elected.
I am never tired of quoting the only statement made by Disraeli with which I absolutely agree. He made it nearly 100 years ago in Manchester—on 3rd April, 1872, to be exact, although I forget the time. He said,I believe that without party Parliamentary government is impossible.In the context of the society in which we live, party is the instrument of democracy, and without it there is no democracy. But the Government have been trying to govern with the minimum of party interference, that is to say, with the minimum of democracy and the maximum of autocracy. Under the guise of diminishing the aristocracy of the Lords, the White Paper increases the autocracy of the Government and weakens the democracy of the party.
Some opponents of the White Paper, mostly hon. Members opposite, have commented on a decline in the authority of Parliament. Those critics have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Mr. Butt, a Conservative commentator, pointed out convincingly in an otherwise unconvincing book that the hold of Parliament on the Executive has always been rather tenuous. It is, as has been said today, one of those old-time myths.
What is real in our complex society is the growth of the power of the bureaucracy. The Treasury and the Foreign 1410 Office nearly always get their way, which is unfortunate, because they are invariably wrong. The danger of these proposals is that they weaken the counterbalance against the bureaucracy. They weaken the Parliamentary party and they seek to convert it into the Prime Minister's poodle. When the Prime Minister talked about dog licences, I pointed out that he does not license us—we license him. But when we have done that, he issues a special licence to about 100 people which they hold only as long as they support him.
Under the White Paper he would acquire a lot more poodles, who would be unable to turn the balance of the Parliamentary party, so that the process of forcing the Government to change their mind, already difficult enough, would become virtually impossible. This would change the relationship between the elector and the elected, for in his election address the candidate would have to write, "It is understood that when elected I shall hand over my power of judgment to whoever my party chooses as its leader and will have to accept his interpretation of what these proposals and promises mean rather than my own." This is where I disagree with my right hon. Friend, in whose speech I otherwise found much to admire. It is many years since he was on the receiving end of party discipline, and the sensation is probably unusual and distant to him. He says that the powers of the Prime Minister and of the Government will not be markedly increased by this Measure. But they should be decreased.
In the balance which must be held between Government and Opposition, the Opposition does not get a bad deal, but in the balance which must be held inside the umbrella party the back bencher does very badly when the party is in Government. Like most of us, I have argued for years that the two-party umbrella system we operate in this country is superior to the coalitions which exist in other democracies. In the last few months I have begun to doubt that proposition—certainly, any proposition contemplating the accretion of authority and patronage under one man as this White Paper proposes. We may have to get used to the idea of coalition Governments after the next General Election, so we had better be wary of making proposals 1411 which assume the continuation of the broad pattern of the distribution of party power which has existed in our democracy. Every fifty years or so there is a watershed, and one may be due about now. The last one began about 1918. Imagine if the Liberal Party had put forward this proposal then.
There is something in the White Paper with which I agree. It is a practical attempt to tackle a difficult problem. I see nothing particularly wrong in a two tier upper House, any more than I see anything intrinsically wrong in a two-tier postal service. I accept that, unfortunately, under our Parliamentary system gradualism is inevitable. My complaint against the Government is not that in this measure, they are moving forward gradually, but that they are moving backwards rapidly.
I agree with much of what has been said by the supporters of the Amendment, and I think I shall go into the Lobby with them, but I shall do so with some reluctance, for reasons which I will not bother to take up time to deal with now, because I promised to sit down by ten minutes past nine o'clock, and I should like to reassure the House that I have every intention of doing so, so it need not be too restive about that.
I certainly cannot support these proposals, and if a Bill were brought forward to implement them I should strenuously oppose it, as, I think, would most hon. Members on both sides of the House. In particular, I would oppose the proposal that peers should continue to be created on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. This duty could best be put into the hands of a Committee of this House. I do not accept the argument which has been put in the White Paper against this course. It seems to me that it would be better that the Committee should be subjected to the embarrassments and pressures which the White Paper speaks of, rather than that the Prime Minister should be so subjected to them. The Committee could recommend to the Prime Minister, who would be expected to pass the recommendation on to the Queen. The most I would give him would be a blackball.
Let me conclude by saying that what I have been arguing is not directed 1412 against the present Prime Minister. In spite of occasional little slips, he has withstood the pressures of office better than most, but that he has in fact slipped to some degree is shown by the fact that he is prepared to accept these powers which, if he were not himself Prime Minister, he would be among the first to see should not be entrusted to any single man, and which give to the Government an accretion of power which the present Government have not shown themselves ideologically responsible enough to enjoy.
For these reasons, I shall be among those who will not be going into the Government Lobby tonight, three-line Whip or no.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
The time has come for the virtual unanimity of the proceedings in the House, both today and yesterday, to be shattered once again by a speech from the Dispatch Box. Very few of the 41 speeches which have been made have been in favour of the White Paper. If there has been unanimity of criticism, certainly as many alternatives have been offered as there have been critics.
Unlike anyone else who has spoken from the Front Bench, with the exception of the Attorney-General, I was not a member of the conference which discussed this subject, and I am able to speak and to vote freely. I look at the proposals in the White Paper in the context of the following matters.
First, there was the announcement in the Queen's Speech of November, 1967, that the Government proposed to reduce the powers of the House of Lords and eliminate, the hereditary basis. Secondly, I recollected the statement which was agreed in 1948, some 20 years ago, between the then Labour Government and the Conservatives, led by Lord Salisbury, let it be remembered. In 1948 it had been agreed that no party should have a permanent majority in the House of Lords, and secondly that heredity itself could not constitute the sole qualification for admission. Thirdly, there were the discussions which had been entered into by the representatives of the various parties. Fourthly, there was the breaking off of the discussions in July, 1968, after a measure of agreement had been reached between the representatives.
1413 It is in that context and in the further context of what I personally wanted to do, which was to examine these proposals in the light of the functions of Parliament, that I have come to my decision about these proposals. Everybody in the House is interested in seeing that this Parliament as a whole should function, achieve its purposes and carry out its duties as we all want it to do. We consider the constitutional anomalies which always have existed in our system of parliamentary government. The supremacy of Parliament is a strange thing to some people. There is no check upon it from any outside power. The Ministers in our system have power under the Royal prerogative to legislate. Parliament takes upon itself judicial powers with regard to its own privileges. The judges can perform executive acts. All these matters are as much constitutional anomalies as the one referred to by the Attorney-General this afternoon when he spoke of his office; although he ignored that of the Lord Chancellor, who is head of the judiciary and also a member of the executive Cabinet.
The justification for this was that it worked, and that the system met the requirements of the situation. I believe that there is a feeling of disquiet as to whether Parliament as a whole completely fulfils its tasks and duties today. Does Parliament as a whole carry out its functions as it should? I think the House will agree that our Parliament, and our system whereby Ministers are inside the legislature, provide a legislature which is the seat of all government but which should also control the Government. How effective nowadays is that control of Government by Parliament is a matter of doubt for every person here.
Parliament has to provide a forum for debate. In the House of Commons opportunity is given for unrestricted debate, perhaps a little limited by the certainty that there will be a vote, although tonight will be a unique occasion when there is no certainty. The House of Lords provides a forum for debate of high quality, as has been acknowledged.
Thirdly, Parliament must be looked at as a law-making institution. When the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) talk about the decline 1414 in the reputation of Parliament, it is very much due to the fact that, where it should be our purpose to devise and enact clearly expressed laws setting out the rights and obligations of our citizens, we have failed. It is a failure which has grown over the past few years.
The changes made by the Secretary of State for Social Services have mainly been directed towards other rôles of Parliament and the more glamorous rôles of the Parliamentary Question, the statement and the speech. However, what we should be looking at in this context is Parliament's law-making rôle.
Coming within my own sphere of responsibility on this side of the House are many politically non-controversial measures. From the time of their introduction to their receiving the Royal Assent, scores of Amendments are made, many of them proposed by the Government themselves. In the passage of any enactment through both Houses of Parliament, a great deal of work has to be done, and everyone who has been in Government has had experience of having discussions on a proposal, putting it before the House of Commons and hearing an hon. Member say, "This will not do", and making common sense suggestions for improvements which those in Government have been unable to devise.
If we continue to have the quantity of legislation which we have recently seen put through Parliament, we must have more time to discuss and deal with it. It is the citizen who criticises Parliament when laws are bad, when their advisers are unable to say what Parliament intended and Her Majesty's judges cannot administer them. I have seen the considerable work that is done at present in the Upper House, and it could be done to a greater and better extent. Not enough time is spent on it and not enough attention is given to it by those who want to use Parliament as the forum for debate, and, as a result, do not devote sufficient time to concentrating on the fashioning of our laws.
It was in those circumstances that I looked at the Government's proposals, and I looked at them from my own experience. That led me to believe that the legislative process of Parliament needs strengthening and that there is an indisputable need for an Upper House which 1415 must play an increasing part in the law-making processes of Parliament. To that end, one must have in the Upper House unpartisan and expert knowledge and experience capable of taking on the increased burden involved in the examination of any proposed legislation.
How can that be effective—unless hon. Members are confident that Parliament is making good law, apart from policy? It must be effected by increasing the efficiency of Parliament. To do that, looking only at the Upper House in isolation, surely one can strengthen its capacity to deal with legislation without affecting the forum of debate which it represents. Although I criticise the Government for isolating the problem of the House of Lords, in the context of needing this improvement, in the context of the 1948 agreement between the parties and of the Gracious Speech of November, 1967, certainly I prefer these proposals to any others that I have heard canvassed during this debate.
How can these matters be examined in isolation? I heard the alternatives presented by the various critics of these proposals. They have to be examined, because if they are not accepted we are asked what our proposals are. My right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) said that we must look at the status quo and ask whether it is acceptable as being able efficiently to do its task in the House of Lords. Taking the suggestion of a split House, some 300 Members doing one task with their various Committees and another 300 doing another task, is that acceptable to this House of Commons? What is the alternative to the whole abolition of the House of Lords? I think it is essential, as most Members have suggested, that we should have a second Chamber.
Suggestions were made concerning what can be called the Bryce proposals—the elected body. Certainly they must produce a body which is a rival elected body to the House of Commons.
What is left? As Parliamentarians, with the interests and the purposes of Parliament at heart, we have to make up our minds about the alternative. It seems that there is no rational alternative, save the one proposed in the White Paper. Of course there are the objections, 1416 of which much has been made by some right hon. and hon. Members. With great wit, and sometimes with a considerable amount of hilarity, they have tried to present these proposals.
If we do not accept the other ways we are reduced to the principle of nomination and the patronage which therefore arises. It is right to compare that with the present patronage which is sustained and enjoyed. Of the peers set out in the White Paper, counting the law lords, over 300 have been appointed who can take and play a part in the upper House. Patronage has been greatly extended in recent years. The power to appoint to various boards and industries is much greater now than that which earlier Prime Ministers had. Nevertheless, on balance, would this not be a limitation of patronage; not the maintenance or extension of it? It will be a limitation on the Prime Minister of the day.
If this House and this Parliament prizes improvement in our legislative machinery, I am prepared to pay a price. If the alternative is the abolition of the House of Lords, again I am prepared to pay the price of the nominating system. With the two-tier system of the voting and non-voting peer, the non-voting peer remains and still has the forum with the opportunity to bring unrivalled expertise and advice to the nation. That is what the peers have done in the past and should do in future. The voting peers will be, as it were, the operatives. If the critics assume that only political pensioners will be appointed, it would be very foolish of any Prime Minister to limit the political pensioners to voting peers. They would stultify the whole of these proposals and there would be a necessity to amend.
On the quality of the 30 cross-bench peers, about whom there has been much discussion, every Member of this House will see and know their quality. It is reasonable to anticipate, as was indicated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West, that it will be only rare that the House of Lords will wish or be able to use its powers. It will certainly have the powers, but rarely will it use them, as my right hon. Friend indicated. It will remain in the decision of some 80 per cent. of the cross-bench voting peers to side with the Opposition parties to be able to reverse 1417 a Government decision. The important thing is to have the power so to do. If there is that power, and if there are those circumstances, there will be a second Chamber which will be initiating legislation, which will be revising legislation, and which will be able to use those reversing powers, though perhaps only rarely, when it is essential and necessary so to do. Because of the requirements of attendance, the other place would help Parliament to execute its task which I believe is so essential now.
I repeat what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West. Our view is that anybody looking at this scheme would say, "Surely you are not going to introduce this when you are awaiting the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government, and when you are going to set up a Commission on the Constitution?" As my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) said, this is tinkering with the problem. Anyone looking at these proposals would say, "Surely you should wait until such time as you can deal with this matter in its entirety?" But if that time is too far off, then surely my right hon. Friends are right to say that this change should be made to reflect the realities of the day, and not the situation back in 1966 when the Government were first elected?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I follow the point being made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but let us suppose that when the Government introduce the Bill based on the White Paper they refuse to alter their decision about the timing. What will the right hon. and learned Gentleman do then?
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
I shall not have it. I speak for myself, and I speak freely and vote freely. I should bring it in at the proper time, but if the Government prefer to introduce it when they think it right to do so, they will have to realise that this is a matter about which there has been no agreement, and that it will be wholly wrong for them to take such action.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that it might be right to introduce this after an election, and wrong to introduce it 1418 now. He will be aware that there is a formula suggested for the relationship between the parties. Surely he is not suggesting changing that after the election?
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. It would be made operative after the election and after the will of the people had been made known.
I welcome these proposals. I know that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, do not agree with me, but at least—[Interruption.]
§ Sir P. Rawlinson
I am only too well aware of the views of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, but at least we on this side of the House will be able to express our opinions, and make our decisions, without the application of the Whip.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
I fancy that that muted applause owed more to sympathy than to support—[Interruption.] I was referring to myself.
The House is now about to move to a conclusion and a decision on an issue which comes up at regular intervals, a matter of high constitutional importance. But I point out at the beginning that the House is about to move to a decision, but not at the instigation of the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come off it."] It is moving to a decision because of an Amendment to a conventional Motion "to take note".
The conventional Motion—I have seen this many times in my experience of the House—is the opportunity to deploy different views so that the Government may hear what the reactions will be and, at the end of the debate, may consider those views, but for there to be no vote. If it had been in the Government's power there would not have been a vote tonight, but a vote is being challenged because my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) wishes, without further consideration, to 1419 reject any prospect of altering the composition or the powers of the House of Lords—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]. That may not be his intention, but that will be the consequence.
There is only one alternative to the White Paper which he is seeking to reject, and that is a void. There is nothing else. Or is it suggested that we try again to find a better scheme? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] In that case, I would ask my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite, which scheme, among the many which we have heard over the last two days, are we asked to bring in?
Is it to be the resurrected Lord Bryce, brought to life by the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke)? Is it my hon. Friend's purpose to divide the House into two parts, in which those of us who are interested in economic affairs are not to take part in foreign affairs, as though there was not interaction between the two? Is it the other schemes which have been put forward for nominating certain people either from the House or outside, or the scheme put forward by the Leader of the Liberal Party for some regional representation?
The plain truth is—[Interruption.] The Front Benches have had a poor time over the past two days, but what every back-bencher knows is that all they united in on both sides is their disunity. Their agreement in disagreement firmly rooted stands—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Lady must keep her seat.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It would be agreed that the preponderance over the last two days has been wholly in favour of the back benches and against this scheme, so I would suggest that I be allowed to make the case as best I can in the circumstances in which I find myself. At the end, the House will, I think, find it extremely convincing.
The plain truth is—no one can evade this who tries to destroy this scheme, 1420 as my hon. Friend wants to do—that there is no agreement in the House or within the parties or among the parties on what alternative we have. So let us be quite clear; if the Government were to take this away and return with another scheme, there would still be as much disagreement. There might be different schemes and different facets and different fragments who would unite, but there would be no more agreement about any new scheme than there is about this one—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) is quite right. If he believes that the present scheme is not a good one, then of course he will vote against it, and in voting against it he will vote to preserve the hereditary principle—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Not only that. He will be voting to preserve a Conservative majority in the House of Lords. He will also be voting to ensure that a Labour Government's, but not a Conservative Government's, programme will be under challenge—[Interruption.]—in the last two years of their life. If that is the path of revolution, give me reaction. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Callaghan
I know that I am being provocative, but I have been provoked a lot in the last couple of days. No doubt this temporary shifting coalition which has been established in the last 48 hours will be rapidly dissolved after the Division, to the relief of all concerned.
One cannot evade the issue that the House of Commons must take a decision, at the instigation of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West. One cannot evade the responsibilities which hon. Members carry. If the "do-nothings", plus the "do-mores", have their way, there will be no reform, and that is the simple issue.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I cannot give way. I have a lot to say and not much time in which to say it. This is the simple issue on which the House must decide tonight.
1421 In trying to pick out the major issues which have been raised—I have heard nearly every speech in this debate and have listened to some in the other place—I suggest that there are three points with which I should deal, and I will comment on them in turn. The matters which have been raised more than any others are powers, patronage, and the question raised by the Opposition Front Bench today, timing.
On the matter of powers, there has been no agreement in the House among those who have spoken about whether the Lords' powers will be greater, will be less, or will remain the same, or whether the House of Lord will or will not use them. To some extent, this must be a matter of opinion.
As to whether the powers will be increased or diminished, I suggest that this is not a matter of opinion but of fact. I cannot go into the dates of the introduction of Bills and what the result will be because I do not have time to do that tonight. But I offer hon. Members my conclusion, having gone into the matter carefully. If one takes an extreme case, then I think it possible that the delaying powers of the Lords will be as long—indeed, might be a week or two longer—under the revised proposals than is the case today. That, in my view, will be the position if one takes an extreme case.
However, if one take a normal case and if the Government of the day know how to manage their business, be they Conservative or Labour—any Government who do not know how to manage their business do not deserve to succeed—then I offer this conclusion, although I speak subject to correction by other Members of the Conference. In the normal case the delaying power is bound to be much less, in some cases considerably less, and in almost every case less than it is now from the point of view of the Government of the day. For a Labour Government, therefore, this is a net gain. That is the position in regard to Bills.
As for subordinate legislation—a question which gave rise to the exchanges in the summer—the position for the Government of the day is visibly improved. There is no doubt that the power which the House of Lords has rarely used—indeed, until the Rhodesia Order I do not think that it was used before, but 1422 I speak subject to correction; their Lordships discovered that power and used it then—that power will now be almost obliterated. So, from the point of view of any of my hon. Friends who wish to destroy this scheme here and now without further consideration—without giving us a chance to think any more about it in any way—they will be throwing away something which will be of inestimable advantage to a future Labour Government, as well as to the existing one. I am in no doubt—I offer this as honestly as I can—that this scheme reduces the powers of the House of Lords on most Bills and on subordinate legislation.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I will not give way. I have a difficult job tonight [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I will do it best it I am not interrupted.
I come to the next question, will their Lordships use the powers? We have had two views expressed about this. That they can use the powers there is no doubt, but that is not the point. Will they use them? This is a matter of opinion on which my judgment is no better than that of anyone else in the House, but perhaps I may be allowed to offer it. If we take into account the circumstances which might arise and in which they might use them, my conclusion is that they will be very chary of doing so. First, unlike the situation in the existing Chamber, the majority party in the House of Lords will be comprised of Government supporters, whichever party is in power at the time. Therefore, the first thing one has to presuppose is disaffection among Government supporters and that there will not be an equal reaction among the Opposition. [Interruption.] But this afternoon the disaffection among some of the Government supporters will be counteracted by the support the Government of the day will get from the other side of the House.
So it does not necessarily mean constitutionally that the Government of the day will be defeated by the House of Lords using its powers. I am on the question of the likelihood of that being done. Because the majority party will be made up of Government supporters, there is a natural presumption that the House 1423 of Lords is not very likely to use its powers except in an extreme case.
The next point I come to on the question of likelihood is the cross-benchers. The Attorney-General produced some interesting statistics about the likelihood of the use of powers there. Like many others who have spoken, I think that the cross-benchers have had nearly as bad a drubbing as the Front Benches over the last couple of days. Whatever we feel about that, the simple arithmetic shows that the cross-benchers do not divide up either for or against a Government as a bloc. I cannot find such a case. They tend to break pretty evenly both ways. What we have to presuppose, as the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) pointed out in his admirable speech this afternoon—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It was an admirable speech. If there is to be this hands across the seas between the Labour and Tory back-benchers, I do not see why I should not get a little as well. [Interruption.]
I do not know why I should be subjected to all this noise; the right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) was not. The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) raised a point which deserves an answer. I do not think anyone's opinion on it is better than that of anyone else. He said that it is all right because at the moment the cross-benchers do not feel that they can influence the decision, but, he asked, what is to happen when they feel that they are in a position of responsibility and can decide it? I believe this is an essential weakness of the scheme.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I wish the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) would listen with some seriousness. I know that he is sometimes a serious man. I am sure that he has had an enjoyable evening. This is a point which has to be considered and watched very carefully by future Governments. Let me put the underlying point. The underlying essence of the scheme is that the Government of the day have a majority, so if there were a permanent combination of cross-benchers who by voting continuously one way 1424 were to destroy that underlying essence that situation would clearly have to be taken into account. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Callaghan
On those counts my conclusion would be that the powers would be used only rarely, because I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West that if they were used more than rarely that in itself would destroy the essence of the scheme which is to give the Government of the day a majority. The cross-benchers' position is one which clearly will need very careful and continuous review.
On the question of patronage in relation to numbers, I believe that there has been very substantial misunderstanding. I do not accept that there will be a vast extension of patronage in numbers under the scheme. This has been said by practically every speaker, and, with respect, I do not think that too many of them have studied the figures. It is simply not true. I shall come to the question of remuneration and its effect later.
In terms of numbers, I hazard the view, having looked up all the analyses made of the consequences of this if applied to every General Election since 1906, that the Prime Minister of the day will in future be creating no more peers than have been created every year since the beginning of the century. The average would be roughly the same. It is no good my hon. Friend shaking his head. The figures have been carefully gone into. Take, for example, the scheme if it came into operation now. The table is clearly set out on page 5 of the White Paper. There are at the moment some 95 Labour peers. The number of Labour peers that would be required under the proposals as laid down is 105. So the extension of patronage would amount to 10 peers in terms of numbers.
Even on the basis of the average number of peers made by the Prime Minister every year since 1964—this is not peculiar to him; I would say that he has used his powers of patronage less than they have been used by some previous Administrations—he will not be making more peers than have been made hitherto. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite not to 1425 adhere to the myth that there will be a substantial increase in the number of peers made in the future as against the number made in the past.
The real strength of the argument appears to lie on the question of remuneration. But what is said in that respect is pretty insulting to hon. Members of this House and to other people in public life. What is said—this is the argument that is deployed openly—is, "If there is a salary attached to these posts, then men who are in the House of Commons now will so conduct themselves as not to offend the Government." My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) told us that the hand was put on his shoulder and he was told that he was of Ministerial calibre. I agree that that remark may well be in order and appropriate, but what effect has it had on his conduct, and why should he assume that anybody else is of lesser calibre than he is? I simply do not accept that hon. Members elected to this House will behave any differently from those who have already either accepted or rejected office. Indeed, if one looks at previous Administrations, it is difficult to know whether it is the rebels or the loyalists who have been promoted most. I look round and see some of the rebels who have been promoted.
So my conclusion on this is that, in terms of numbers, there is no extension of patronage. In terms of remuneration, I do not believe that it will have the effect that some hon. Gentlemen imagine, unless the quality of men entering this House is much lower than it has ever been since I have been here, and I do not believe that that will be the position.
I turn to the question of timing. The right hon. Gentleman made the point that timing was the major difference between the two sides. In the Conference, he put in his paper and the matter was discussed fully. He commended the proposals but said that he was worried about the question because he felt that we should not establish a reformed House which would reflect the political situation as it was in 1966. As far as I could see, his main anxiety was possible over-representation of minority parties. He assumed that the House might contain more representatives of the 1426 nationalist parties and fewer of the Liberal Party and—this was the burden of his case—that it would be wrong to include voting Liberal peers in a reformed other place when the number of Liberals might be smaller in 1970–71.
I cannot see that any great issue of constitutional principle arises on that. Would it really matter very much—and I am not seeking to insult the Leader of the Liberal Party—if there were 15 Liberal peers in the Upper House instead of 12? That is really the point the right hon. Gentleman was making. If the nationalists were to secure a small representation, it could not possibly make more than two or three peers difference.
I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he would throw out the whole of the agreed scheme because we might have three more Liberal peers in the House of Lords than we would otherwise. That may not be what he meant, but it is what he said. He hinged the whole of his opposition on the position of the Liberal Party in relation to the rise of the nationalists.
If, indeed, something else lies behind this more than the position of the Liberal Party, if the fear is that perhaps the Prime Minister today might be creating a number of Labour peers and that if we only waited two or three years for perhaps the return of the Conservatives, when there might be more Tories—and that was the unspoken fear—I can say that it would make practically no difference to the situation.
One only has to examine the figures again to see that, because the upper limit in the House under this scheme is available. The net impact would be that the Prime Minister would not be making any more Labour peers under the reformation scheme than he would be likely to make, and a Conservative Prime Minister would only have to make a few more than he would otherwise make. I cannot believe that, on consideration, the right hon. Gentleman would want to throw out this reform and this change—which is a drastic change—if he agrees with us on other grounds, merely on this small point.
I have been criticised because I said this was a bargain. I did not say that it was a compromise. I said that it 1427 was a bargain and I adhere to that word. It is a bargain. The essence of a bargain, if is is to last and be successful, is that both sides should think that they are getting something out of it. I know of no other bargain which does not mean that. I think that the Liberal Party gets a lot out of this. The Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Enfield, West think that the Conservative Party is getting a lot out of it. That does not mean that the Government should object. This understanding, or agreement, has elements in it that appeal to all the parties in a number of different ways. I see no harm in saying that it is a bargain when that is what it is.
On the whole, I prefer to move forward in constitutional reforms by agreement if possible rather than by creating a constitutional crisis. [Hon. Members: "Why?"] I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that it frequently happens that we need a great constitutional crisis to precipitate this House into action on constitutonal reform, but I do not see anything logical in waiting for a crisis in order to do a sensible measure of constitutional reform. That is what the White Paper would achieve.
I was asked whether it was the Government's view that it would last and why we had introduced it at a time when the Constitutional Commission has been set up. The Government introduce this as a plan which will stand on its own for some time to come. Whether changes should be made as the result of the kind of change we spoke about earlier in relation to cross-benchers, whether in relation to recommendations by the Constitutional Commission that there should be other forms of entry to the Chamber, it is beyond my power to say.
The Government are not introducing this as an interim Measure in the expectation that there will be changes; but clearly, just as the Parliament Acts themselves have been changed and revised, so this one is open to change and revision if the good sense of the House of Commons decides that the time has come.
I think that there was some misunderstanding about the position of Ministers in the Lords. This was raised on a number of occasions.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The attitude of many of us depends upon whether this is an interim measure or whether it is a permanent measure. Did I hear the Home Secretary say that he thinks that a future reform is unlikely?
§ Mr. Callaghan
No, Sir. I do not think I could add anything to what I said. I think that it is permanent until the House of Commons decides to change it. [Laughter.] What else would the right hon. Gentlemen expect me to say—that it is permanent even if the House of Commons wants to change it? Is that the logical position?
§ Mr. Callaghan
No, I will not give way. I have one other point to make. Whatever else the Constitutional Commission decides to do, it certainly is hardly likely to recommend a hereditary membership or a permanent majority for one party. That is what this scheme gets rid of. That is what my hon. Friends and other hon. Gentlemen will be voting about in three minutes time.
I want to say a few words on the misconception which has arisen about the position of Cabinet Ministers. There is no agreement on what has gone into Appendix II of the paper in which this was put; but, as I understand it, the thought there was that it might be that some Ministers might in certain circumstances speak on their own legislation, perhaps in Committee in the other Chamber. That was the thought that lay behind it. [Interruption.] It is no use tut-tutting. That was not the criticism. The criticism which was made was that it was thought that there would be many Ministers transferred from here to the other place. That was not the idea behind it at all.
The House now has a clear decision to make. It can, if it likes, vote to continue the hereditary principle. It can, if it likes, vote to maintain a permanent Conservative majority. It can, if it likes, vote to leave the House of Lords with powers which could wreck a Labour Government's programme. It can vote for all these things, if it chooses to. That is our part of the bargain.
1429 If my hon. Friends vote for the Amendment tonight, they are in fact rejecting everything that is in the White Paper, knowing, as they do full well, that the prospects of any further scheme coming out to which they are likely to agree are negligible. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friends, as the right hon. Gentleman asked his hon. Friends, to vote for the White Paper and against the Amendment.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 159, Noes 270.1433
|Division No. 8.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Orme, Stanley|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Padley, Walter|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Gurden, Harold||Paget, R. T.|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Barnes, Michael||Hamling, William||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Barnett, Joel||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Pardoe, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Park, Trevor|
|Bell, Ronald||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S)|
|Bence, Cyril||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Peyton, John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Hay, John||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Biffen, John||Heffer, Eric S.||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hiley, Joseph||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hirst, Geoffrey||Ridley, Hn, Nicholas|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Hordern, Peter||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Body, Richard||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Booth, Albert||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Iremonger, T. L.||Roebuck, Roy|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Royle, Anthony|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n& St. P'cras, S.)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Ryan, John|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, w.)||Jopling, Michael||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Costain, A. P.||Kirk, Peter||Silvester, Frederick|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kitson, Timothy||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lee, John (Reading)||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Crouch, David||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Speed, Keith|
|Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Dickens, James||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||MacArthur, Ian||Swain, Thomas|
|Donnelly, Desmond||McGuire, Michael||Tapsell, Peter|
|Eden, Sir John||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross& Crom'ty)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Emery, Peter||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Macmillan, Maur'ce (Farnham)||Tomney, Frank|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Marquand, David||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Marten, Neil||Waddington, David|
|Farr, John||Maude, Angus||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mawby, Ray||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mendelson, John||Walters, Dennis|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Mikardo, Ian||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Foster, Sir John||Monro, Hector||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wright, Esmond|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Giles, Rear-Adm, Morgan||Neave, Airey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Newens, Stan||Mr. William Hamilton and|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Mr. Michael Foot.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Nott, John|
|Goodhew, Victor||Onslow, Cranley|
|Abse, Leo||Finch, Harold||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Anderson, Donald||Fisher, Nigel||Mallalieu,J. P. W.(Huddersfield,E.)|
|Archer, Peter||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Fletcher,Rt.Hn.SirEric(Islington,E.)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Ashley, Jack||Foley, Maurice||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Astor, John||Ford, Ben||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Forrester, John||Millan, Bruce|
|Awdry, Daniel||Fowler, Gerry||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Moonman, Eric|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Freeson, Reginald||More, Jasper|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gardner, Tony||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Baxter, William||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Beaney, Alan||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Benn, Bt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Murray, Albert|
|Binns, John||Gregory, Arnold||Neal, Harold|
|Bishop, E. S.||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Blaker, Peter||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Ogden, Eric|
|Boston, Terence||Hannan, William||O'Malley, Brian|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Harper, Joseph||Oram, Albert E.|
|Boyden, James||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Bradley, Tom||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Oswald, Thomas|
|Braine, Bernard||Haseldine, Norman||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hawkins, Paul||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hazell, Bert||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)|
|Buchan, Norman||Henig, Stanley||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hill, J. E. B.||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bultus, Sir Eric||Hilton, W. S.||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hobden, Dennis||Pentland, Norman|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hooley, Frank||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Price, Christopher (Perry Bar)|
|Cant, R. B.||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Huckfield, Leslie||Probert, Arthur|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pursey, Cmdr, Harry|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen N.)||Pym, Francis|
|Chapman, Donald||Hunter, Adam||Randall, Harry|
|Coe, Denis||Hynd, John||Rankin, John|
|Coleman, Donald||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Conlan, Bernard||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Janner, Sir Barnett||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Cronin, John||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire S.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Kelley, Richard||Rowlands, E.|
|Davies G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Kenyon, Clifford||Sharples, Richard|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Kershaw, Anthony||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lawson, George||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Leadbitter, Ted||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Julius|
|Dell, Edmund||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Dempsey, James||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Slater, Joseph|
|Dewar, Donald||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Small, William|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lomas, Kenneth||Snow, Julian|
|Doig, Peter||Loughlin, Charles||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt, Hn, Sir Alec||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Dunn, James A.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Dunnett, Jack||McBride, Neil||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||MacColl, James||Swingler, Stephen|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||MacDermot, Niall||Symonds, J. B.|
|Eadie, Alex||Macdonald, A. H.||Taverne, Dick|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Mackie, John||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Elliott,R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Mackintosh, John P.||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Ennals, David||Maclennan, Robert||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Ensor, David||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Thornton, Ernest|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Tilney, John|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Tinn, James|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|van Straubenzee, W. R.||Whitaker, Ben||Wilson. William (Coventry, S.)|
|Varley, Eric G.||White, Mrs. Eirene||Winnick, David|
|Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)||Whitlock, William||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Wilkins, W. A.||Woof, Robert|
|Wallace, George||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Watkins, David (Consett)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Weitzman, David||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)||Mr. Ernest G. Perry and|
|Wellbeloved, James||Willis, Rt. Hn. George||Mr. J. D. Concannon.|
|Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Main Question put and agreed to.|
|That this House takes note of the Command Paper (No. 3799) on House of Lords Reform.|