§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 14, leave out:Except as provided by subsection (2) below ".This Amendment seeks to ensure that the holders by succession of hereditary peerages, whether in the peerage of England, Scotland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom,shall not in right of that peerage receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in any Parliament summoned after the commencement of this Act.A number of us, notably on this side, but many on the other side also, regard it as almost self-evident that there should be no rights to those by virtue of their birth. Not long ago, we tried—and were largely successful—to remove the stain which arose from illegitimate birth, and we have long accepted that birth by itself should offer no privileges and that only what the man or woman does throughout his long life should be a token of the esteem or the importance that he or she should be accorded in our public life and elsewhere.
What I seek to do by this Amendment is to question why successionist peers should have any advantage over anyone else in the United Kingdom. It is not easy to see what these individuals have to offer the country either in the advice they give or in the way they act having some sort of bearing upon their contribution in the House of Lords.
The hierarchy of birth, which was once a dominant feature in our national life as it was in so many other countries, has been diminishing and should diminish still further. This hierarchy was rooted both in the mysticism and the false analogies of very primitive societies who understood very well how certain agricultural products owed a great deal to those which were planted to yield the kind of produce required. They perceived that this relationship existed and transferred it rather too readily to human beings, who are subject to much more complex laws and much more to the laws of environmental change rather than purely the laws of heredity.
1339 Therefore, over these long years, we have seen an excessive attachment to birth and the individual's background which slowly, as the ideas of democracy and equality grew throughout the country, became attached to the individual and the need to maintain the rights of the individual as stemming from his own personality and not that of those who produced him. But we know that it was not even as simple as that, that the laws and ideas of succession as well as the mythology of succession were not determined by one's parents or even one's grandparents. All too often, they were determined by what happened to one individual many hundreds of years before.
Although, in primitive societies, it might have been accepted that what happened several hundred years before to an ancestor had some contribution to make to that individual who came at the end of many generations, the most elementary reader of the popularised science books knows that a relationship as tenuous as this is something which we can for the most practical purposes entirely ignore, even if it were shown to be completely beneficial and had some ability to transmit these qualities throughout the generations. It has no such ability and even if it had, it would be too thin by the time it reached the present peers in the House of Lords.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
There is not only the transmission of qualities, but the question of the environment to which children are subject.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I agree that environment is now seen to be the most important determinant of our time. This is something to which we have started to pay, rather belatedly, more attention.
This mythology, which was responsible for the creation of the House of Lords and for so many other factors of medieval society, still finds its last roots in the Upper Chamber. It is this aspect with which the Amendment is concerned.
Leaving aside the question of advantage, it must be accepted that these people are well represented as a class or body. We recognise that Parliament should be a forum in which wide ranges of opinion may be expressed. We accept 1340 the need for that, even when the range of opinion in question may happen to be a very narrow one. Every shade of opinion should find some sort of representation in Parliament.
We know, however, that the extent of the representation with which we are concerned needs to be very small indeed because the numbers concerned are very small. Despite this, an entire House is dedicated to this type of representation; and the Bill will exclude only a small number of those who should be excluded.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Does the hon. Gentleman mean by that that he will support later Amendments designed to secure a limited representative body of hereditary peers in the Upper House?
§ Mr. Sheldon
I am thinking of the body of representation as a whole. The hon. Gentleman must bear that in mind when he uses the word "limited". It should be obvious that throughout the country—in industry, in the Upper Chamber as it will be reformed and in this Chamber—the representation of these people is already extraordinarily high. One might argue for that representation even in these other spheres to be reduced, but I will not go into that in detail now. We are not dealing with a problem of the under-representation of the aristocracy in Britain. This problem has never weighed heavily with me; not from the under-representation point of view.
The problem with which we are concerned is the direct opposite; the question of the over-representation of such people in all parts of our public life, and particularly in the so-called reformed House of Lords. I emphasise "reformed" in this context because such a reform is an insult to a word which I am proud to use on many occasions. I would call it a change, and a change for the worse. We are, therefore, dealing with a question of the over-representation of aristocracy in our public life, and, in particular, in the Upper Chamber.
An encouraging aspect of our economic life are the changes that are taking place in industry. The old succession of managers breeding sons and taking them into the business is altering. The whole 1341 question of an automatic right to take responsibility for a company because of the advantage of birth has been called into question in recent years. At first, it was questioned. Now, the old succession theory is in considerable decay.
As a result of these trends, we are now seeing an understanding, even in quite small family companies, of the fact that birth is not enough and that industry needs the right people to manage, run and control its affairs. The sons, and particularly the elder sons, of business owners are finding opportunities outside those businesses. They are realising—or perhaps boards of directors area realising—the limitations which are imposed by management selection in the old way. That method of recruitment is falling into disrepute.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that considerable benefit has accrued from even that method of selection? The onus of proof is on him to show that that method has not been effective. After all, most of our great industries have been built on the simple basis of son following father. There is nothing unreasonable about this method of selection, as long as the son is of the necessary quality. Even in this House we find sons following fathers, brothers following brothers and sometimes a selection being made by a Prime Minister based not necessarily on ability but on relationship.
§ Mr. Sheldon
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point which was certainly valid in the middle of the 19th century, when gifted sons followed their fathers. The next generation failed in this matter of succession. They failed so miserably that they left their industries to languish while they moved into the City to live more comfortable and lucrative lives. As long as the factory or mill owner lived near his industry, his establishment flourished. Living nearby, he had knowledge of the industry, as did his son. The next generation, however, did not live according to the same tradition. They moved to London and the City, away from the factory or mill, and were, therefore, responsible for so much that later proved to be wrong with the British industrial system.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the matter on a broader 1342 basis and considers, for example, agriculture, he will see that some of Britain's best large farms are run by the fifth and sixth generation of the same families and that these farms are run far better now than they were years ago, particularly as a result of the scientific training which farmers' sons now receive.
§ Mr. Sheldon
That, too, is an interesting point. I wish that I had time to deal with every aspect of the matter. I concede the importance of what the hon. Gentleman says in connection with agriculture, although there are no statistics in agriculture to reveal the true picture.
While I might be willing to accept that a number of farmers have raised their sons close to the soil and have given them an understanding of the land—have made them understand that it is necessary to put in as well as take out; this applies in all walks of life—I question whether that sort of relationship can be applied to large sections of industry generally.
While knowledge was passed from father to son in agriculture, that was not the case in industry. It was also not the case in connection with the House of Lords. We are, therefore, dealing with matters of a very different scale.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Would the hon. Gentleman consider the position in a country like Saudi Arabia, in which all the Ministers are sons or brothers of the King and where the balance of payments position is much healthier than ours?
§ Mr. Sheldon
The hon. Gentleman raises some interesting points relating to multi-filial relationships of the kind that are indulged in in Saudi Arabia. The connection between father and son there is a little more tenuous than that to which we in this House are accustomed. I appreciate the point of his intervent, however, and while there may be some validity in it, I do not have time to go into it.
We are here dealing with the value that is attached to the relationship between ancestors and descendants ranging over a period of very many years. We are dealing with the amount of representation that is accorded the aristocracy, not only in Parliamentary affairs but in industry, although I agree that some important changes and improvements have been 1343 made. Unfortunately, this representation is still not on the basis of merit; certainly not nearly to the extent that it should be. In other walks of life—the Church, the Army, and so on—nobody should argue that the kind of representation that exists is valid.
If the argument is that those who are in the House of Lords bring something to bear on the discussions which is not immediately available in the House of Commons, clearly we need there not those who happen to be able to look back many generations to our past glories, but more a cross-section and even people who do not come here to debate matters in this House.
I have on the list of Amendments a new Clause suggesting that the House of Lords might be empowered to invite up to three individuals from outside that House to take part in their debates even though they are not Members. Such outsiders coming in with certain expertise in particular narrow areas of experience could bring a widening of interests and direct practical experience to bear in a way which we in this House are not able to do as much as perhaps we should because of the demands on our time. Because peers served the country at some distant date very well, usually in military fields, it is felt that their dependants—
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
Would not the hon. Member agree that a great many of them were chosen for their political services? Many members of the House of Lords or their fathers were distinguished Members of this House.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I accept that. The contribution of the Cecils is an obvious case. I question, however, whether experience at an Elizabethan court, even if it were transmitted through 300 or 400 years and still survived could be of relevance to the House of Lords now. This kind of background is not particularly relevant and it is over-represented. What we have seen in the life peerages is a move—I do not think that it is much more—towards bringing in levels of ability more in keeping with those which we see in the country today.
§ Mr. Sheldon
The hon. Member will find that I am in total agreement with that, as I shall seek to show on other matters which, if I discussed them now, I should probably involve myself in questions of order. The point we are discussing now is not whether a House of Lords consisting of nominated peers is objectionable, but whether peers of succession should join with them. It is this which I find very bad and to which I strongly object.
During recent years we have seen a number of father-son relationships in the aristocracy which perhaps in the debate to follow may be referred to by hon. Members. The difficulty about all these things is that in the nature of such a discussion brilliance of this kind will tend to be more commonly known. The case of the father who did not have a brilliant son is all too common. We may not know whether the son has any particular brilliance or gifts. Those in a distinguished family impinge themselves on our consciousness in a way which I suspect hon. Members opposite might tend to recall with considerable affection, since they have this attitude towards the aristocracy. The only way to look at this objectively and dispassionately is by looking at the position of the members of families and the numbers of successes, but we have no such way of looking at families.
The point I wish to emphasise is that of the all-too-frequent case of a great man not being followed by particularly brilliant children. We recall all too well people who tried political careers because they had certain advantages. Certain great men with political advantages had children who wished to enjoy such advantages, but were not so successful. In all walks of life a parent knowledgeable in a profession or occupation or having a particular interest is in a very advantageous position to influence the future of his son.
No doubt we all in our limited, perhaps modest, ways try to assist in this situation. Yet we also know that given this sort of initial advantage the success which might attend the son, other things 1345 being equal, is greater than if that attention were not so given. If this is so it is not surprising that we see Members of the House of Lords being able to rear families whereby a certain level of ability is shown just because they have that kind of background.
Perhaps this is something of the background to which the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) drew attention in connection with agriculture and the relationship between parents and children in that industry. They enjoy these advantages and perhaps when we praise families all we are doing is praising this kind of connection which obviously exists and must exist, but as a statistical principle we are unable to gauge its extent. We have also seen the ability of those who were called "Born to rule".
This kind of ability was much praised before the war and especially in the 19th century when certain political families were said—although I do not believe it—very largely to control the destinies of the country. That was something which they used to arrogate to themselves, this power which I do not think they possessed. They used to arrogate the power because they had a great interest. It is only natural that out of this came certain individuals who made their mark both in this House and in the Upper Chamber.
The ability of certain individuals, fostered as it was from early years in contact with their parents, gave them a very great advantage compared with the individual whose life was spent in the back streets say of Manchester. He realised to the full extent the real problems of the world only in his twenties or thirties. Lacking the advantage of the possessor of great understanding enjoyed by the great families of those days, he suffered the disadvantages of birth and the struggle to earn a living and finally of coming to this House—as some did—rather late in life. They made their particular mark, it was grounded in the very experience which this House should have cherished and understood perhaps more on some occasions than it did. The advantage of the aristocracy was that it had young people with very great advantages in life. The trouble today is that without such advantages, to which everyone is prepared readily to defer, on many 1346 occasions one has to make one's mark entirely by one's own ability.
The kind of society that we are, in which we respect a man only when he reaches 40 or 50, makes it difficult for someone to achieve things which were more possible for the young aristocracy in the past and are so to a limited extent even today. Having the advantages of success, having the advantages of wealth, and, most important of all, in many cases having the advantages of responsibility at an early age, they were able to develop the great characteristics which are needed to produce a leader in society.
They had so much thrust upon them at an early age in a way that does not apply to people who do not have the advantages of birth. It is a feeling in all countries that we do not pick out some of the great talents and advance them as we should if we are to develop the kind of leadership that we need.
§ Mr. Ridley
To what extent does the hon. Gentleman think that this is a form of vocational training which has some use in the context in which he is talking?
§ Mr. Sheldon
I am not thinking in terms of vocational training in the House of Lords. I am thinking of bringing out people's latent abilities for the spheres, in particular, of industry and other aspects of national life. There can be no training for the House of Lords, unless it is life itself. One needs to have lived a life, to have lived it as fully as possible, and to have learned a number of important things about people and the world.
I believe that there are many present in the Chamber who consider that the advantages of aristocratic birth give the young an opportunity which is not easily attained in any other way. However, I believe that great progress has been made towards a conscious understanding of the need to select such individuals. A number of schemes have been initiated by enterprising firms. There have been projects like the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, which is even more modest, but which perhaps covers an even wider aspect of national fife. Such schemes can make people more aware of their latent possibilities than their modesty might allow them to entertain.
Such an approach is needed today if we are to employ what is, after all, our 1347 only valuable raw material, namely, the talents of our young people. The talents of the small number who sit in the House of Lords form only an infinitesimal part of the ocean of talent which the country has and which is not utilised to anything like the extent that it should be. If full use is to be made of our greatest natural resource, there must be a great extension of this type of approach to our young people.
The succession peers had certain qualities which marked themselves in the past. They had certain standards of behaviour which were emulated by others. We in Britain were perhaps rather more fortunate than people in many other countries, in that the standards which these people set, at least in some respects, were of some value and percolated through to the community at large.
As we approach the demise of the peers, let us spare one word of consolation for what they did. They were always realistic. One of their great characteristics was their astonishing realism and their ability to step back in the face of overpowering force which would otherwise have obliterated them, as it obliterated most of Europe's aristocracy.
Our aristocracy had the great advantage of having leaders who understood the way these forces worked; and, apart from disastrous errors of the kind which were perpetrated in 1910, they have always known at the crucial moment to what extent to yield, understanding that by so yielding they were holding on to far more ground than they could reasonably lay claim to.
This realism has enabled the peers to remain almost into the 1970s. This is astonishing, in view of the ending of aristocracies throughout the whole world. The aristocracy is now to be found only in remote places—in places such as Saudi Arabia and Britain. It is found in such places still because some of the places where it still exists are under-developed and because in Britain it has been rather intelligent in making the greatest use of its power and understanding the limitations of its power.
This very advantage which the peers had, and this understanding of the political 1348 system they developed, was, in its way, a disadvantage to the Lords. An important point to remember in any discussion on reform is that it is the successionist peers who set the style. It is those in possession at any one time that tend to set the pattern to which people who enter that society correspond. Some of it is highly anachronistic, but this is how it works.
We all know the case of the working-class son who becomes a doctor and begins to see himself as the descendant of the great medical authorities of the 17th and 18th centuries. He feels that he is not revered in the same way as they were—he has acquired their characteristics. Such a man complains about the problems of professional men, forgetting his past, though he should not forget it. This is found in all walks of life. People acquire the characteristics of the society they enter. It happens in the Lords even today.
§ Mr. Sheldon
It is easier to overcome such difficulties here, for reasons which perhaps I will discuss with my hon. Friend later.
In the Lords, the life peers, once they get the feel of ermine on their cheek, or wherever it touches them, become part of the mythology of the aristocracy and try to emulate it. Britain has a tradition of slight change—we are always changing, but never by much. There is always somebody there to tell what has gone before. As a moderate, I wholly accept this and think it of great value that there should be this kind of transition.
For example, we should not get rid of the Tories all at once; there should be a lingering remnant of them for a time. We have seen this lingering remnant in the Lords, but the gradual approach has fewer advantages in the Lords because new entrants have been influenced by successionist peers and have adopted their standards. This is not wholly desirable, in view of what might have been expected from a reformed House of Lords taking in people of ability.
Although the successionist peers may not be large in number, the greatest influence which they have is the influence 1349 of continuity whereby the new life peers and the nominated men are still expected to carry on—and very likely will in practice carry on—the traditions set by the successionist peers. Therefore, it is a question not just of numbers, but of the tone of the House of Lords largely set by the successionist peers.
Another aspect of the matter to which I draw attention is that at one time the peers felt that they as individuals really represented Britain. That belief persisted almost until the present century, the belief that this country was represented by the peers and that the working people, those who lived to make the whole thing work, were interested only in themselves. It was believed that there was a fundamental division between the peers who owned the land and felt that they had continuing interest in the country as a whole and the working classes who, so it was thought, had no such continuing interest but wished only to be fed, to be clothed and to look after themselves.
The task of the peers, as they themselves saw it, was to run the country and to manage the land, and also, if they were generous enough or far-seeing enough, to feed the masses and make sure that their interests were not wholly neglected. One had an interesting example of this in the attitude of Lord Raglan and Lord Lucan in the Crimean War. They regarded themselves as representatives of England, largely because of the Wellingtonian tradition that, if one wanted an absolutely safe Army, it had to be officered by those who really had something to lose.
It was reckoned in those patrician days that the people who had something to lose were those who held rights in land. One had to make certain that the person who just had a rag on his back, living from meal to meal and having nothing to lose, ought never to be responsible for any important part of this country's fortunes. It was held that only people who had a continuing interest in this country because of their continuing interest in land and wealth should have responsibilities of that sort.
Looking back to those days, without the advantages of foresight or of birth, one must admit that that attitude might have been acceptable to quite a number 1350 of people. But it did not take account of the nationalism which has since grown to be the most important factor in modern international politics. It was not understood that people who lived in and off the streets could fight for their country in as great a way or a greater way than, for example, Lord Raglan and Lord Lucan, not because they were protecting their own wealth, of which they had none, but because they were protecting their country, of which they were inordinantly proud.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The hon. Gentleman is not giving to these gentlemen even the credit to which they are entitled. Ninety years or so ago they could well have sought out a cosy corner in some equivalent of the Ministry of Supply. They did not. They went out and led their men into battle.
§ Mr. Sheldon
With disastrous results, as my hon. Friend says.
One must remember the background. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) has considered motives rather than results. In fact, the motives were not quite so altruistic, for that was the great road to glory. In those days, for a peer of the realm the road to glory was largely through military action, and action of a highly competitive sort, as anyone knows who has studied the Crimean War, the part of history of which I was thinking when I made those observations.
The disastrous results to which my hon. Friend referred are known to all. These people were not selected for their ability, but because they represented an interest. Even today, more than 100 years later, it is held that people should be selected for the House of Lords not on their ability, but according to succession, according to the accident of birth.
At the time of the 1964 Election, when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to the Prime Minister at that time as the 14th earl, he received the rebuttal that my right hon. Friend was the 14th Mr. Wilson. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The interesting fact now is that the 14th Mr. Wilsons, Mr. Smiths and Mr. Joneses have won. They are the majority, and the 14th earls have 1351 lost, because they represented only one aspect of our life. This is the big change which has come into our political life, and it will be represented more fully in the House of Lords if some of the excellent Amendments which I and my hon. Friends have put down are adopted.
I have spoken so far only about Amendment No. 1 and have not had an opportunity to discuss any of the others which are being taken at the same time.
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Gentleman has made a strong case against succession by heredity. Does the same apply to the monarchy?
§ Mr. Sheldon
The monarchy is not covered by the Amendment. Moreover, I do not entirely agree that the two are interdependent. The monarchy, in my view, does a job satisfactorily and economically well, and at a higher level of ability than one might be likely to find elsewhere. So long as that state of affairs remains, it will, obviously, be acceptable to the majority of right hon. and hon. Members. Since it is not under discussion now, I shall not take that aspect of the matter further.
I was saying that I have directed my remarks so far to Amendment No. 1. At a later stage, I shall hope to catch the eye of the Chair and, perhaps, mention some of the others.
§ [Mr. J. C. JENNINGS in the Chair]
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
In the course of his introductory speech to this part of our proceedings, the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), whose remarks I shall not at present attempt to emulate in respect of length, among much other highly mythical history founded his argument upon an entirely false assumption. That false assumption was that the so-called hereditary principle on which the House of Lords is at present constituted is the principle of heredity.
The hon. Member spent much of his time demolishing a structure which, in fact, did not exist—his assumed House of Lords founded on the principle of heredity. If the House of Lords were founded on the principle of heredity, a peerage would not descend to the eldest 1352 son. It would descend to all sons, since there can be no ground for selecting in respect of ability or other characteristics one rather than another of the offspring of a sire.
Secondly, the descent of peerages would universally be, as it is called, in tail general, that is, through the female as well as through the male, since there is equally no reason for supposing that whatever virtues may be transmissible hereditarily are not just as transmissible through the female as through the male.
But, of course, all this has nothing to do with the constitution, or the principles of the constitution, of the House of Lords. The House of Lords is a prescriptive House. It consists partly of members who are nominees in that they are peers of first creation; but it consists also and preponderantly of members by hereditary succession who are there by prescription, because prescriptive right to succeed in a certain way to a seat and to a writ of summons to the Upper Chamber has come down in the course of our history.
The fact that the elder son succeeds arises from the convention—an old convention, but still a convention, and an arbitrary convention—of primogeniture. The fact again that some peers and peeresses sit in the other place by descent through the female arises from a long and tangled story in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the Parliamentary barony was superseding the feudal barony and the old feudal baronies which still survived had to be interpreted in terms of those Parliamentary baronies by creation with which men were then predominantly familiar. These are matters of convention which, in the course of time, have come to be the prescriptive right on which the institution is founded.
The argument which the whole Bill raises is whether we shall be the gainers by replacing an Upper Chamber partly consisting of nominees and partly consisting of peers by succession but constituted on the principle of prescription, by a Chamber constituted by nomination in obedience to a formula which is not even written into the Bill. Here, in the very first debate on the very first Amendment, the Committee comes right up against the difficulty that the heart of the Bill, any sense there may be in it— and I think that there is not a great deal—is in the Preamble and what lies behind 1353 the Preamble. It is only if one accepts the scheme alluded to in the Preamble that the Bill becomes intelligible, and that it becomes possible to argue about it at all. It is in order to clear the way for the scheme there hinted at that the Clauses, on the first of which we are engaged, are drafted.
The first two Clauses represent three actions; they carry out three jobs. First, in Clause 1, they demolish the existing House of Lords; the House of Lords by prescription is abolished by Clause 1. It is then replaced in Clause 2 by a different second Chamber, a Chamber by nomination. Although the terminology partly conceals this, this is the reality. The existing House of Lords is done away with and an entirely new second Chamber, a nominated second Chamber, is invented and put in its place.
Then, thirdly, in Clause 1(2), as introduced by the words which the Committee is now considering, a transitional bridge is erected for the time being between the House of Lords destroyed and the Chamber of nominees created.
Therefore, in the debate which the hon. Member has inaugurated we are really considering three things at the same time. I suspect that our difficulty in doing so is setting a pattern which will be followed right the way through these debates. The desirability of the words, which are technically the subject of the Amendment, and which the Amendment proposes to leave out, must go back to the whole question of the desirability of what we are not allowed to debate at all—at any rate for a long time—the scheme referred to in the Preamble.
That is the first point. Second, we are invited to consider at one remove the new structure inaugurated by Clauses 1 and 2 taken together. Only then, but, by this queer inversion of order, first, can we come to consider whether there should be some transition from that which a majority of Members probably do not wish to be disturbed in this way to something which a majority of Members certainly do not want to have at all. That is really the scope of the debate on the Amendment.
It is in general monstrous that we should have to approach this fundamental constitutional question sideways-on, crablike. It is nonsense that we should have 1354 to debate it at all in this way, in this order and in this style. But if we must, then we should recognise, and I ask my hon. Friends to recognise, the value of the hereditary principle in a prescriptive House by insisting on the retention of these words and thus of the transitional provision in subsection (2).
The value of that prescriptive institution is that it provides a second Chamber constituted on a principle basically distinct from that of this House, a principle which does not enable it seriously to defy the wishes of this House, but which also enables it on many questions to take a different point of view from this House. It can often be a point of view which reflects just as well and importantly what is being felt and thought in the country, and deserves to be taken into account by the legislature.
So, as we are inevitably debating on the Amendment that hereditary principle which has come to give us the prescriptive second House of today, I suggest that the Committee should reject the Amendment and retain the words that the Amendment would leave out.
§ Mr. Heffer
I support the Amendment. If subsection (1) were amended as I would like, it would read:The holder of a hereditary peerage, whether in the peerage of England, Scotland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom, shall not in right of that peerage receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in any Parliament summoned after the commencement of this Act.That commends itself to me and, I am sure, to most of my hon. Friends, even those who are nevertheless falling for the idea of some sort of nominated Chamber rather than an elected Chamber or even those who believe in the elimination of a second Chamber. I can see no reason why most of my hon. Friends should not support this very moderate, sensible and intelligent Amendment.
We are being asked to bring ourselves into the 20th century in the Government and Parliamentary system of the country. In the other place we have a very strange organisation. In a very short statement in opening the debate, my hon. Friend made it clear that in the other place there are a large number of people whose right to be there derives only from the fact that they were born of certain 1355 parents in a certain bed at a certain time. It is true that others in another place were nominated for membership by successive Prime Ministers, but the overwhelming majority of the Members of another place are there because of birth rather than because of ability.
I am not suggesting that many of them have not immense ability. Of course they have. But if we are to have people in the House of Lords purely on the basis of ability deriving from birth, I suggest that we have in the House of Lords the dockers from the Port of London because of their ability deriving from their birth. We could have there the joiners who are employed in the building industry. They have as much right to be there, on the basis of birth and of their contribution to the country over the generations, as have those who presently frequent the House of Lords.
We could take this to its logical conclusion. We have all made a contribution to the country. I do not know whether I am the 14th Mr. Heffer. In fact, I can trace my ancestry back to a Sarah Heffer, in Cambridge Churchyard who died in 1647. My ancestry may go back long before that and I may be the 101st Mr. Heffer. But that did not give to my family—those who ploughed the fields and built the cities of this land, those who plodded behind the soldiers in chainmail in France when we were fighting those battles—the right at any time to sit in the House of Lords and to deliberate on the future laws of the country. Certain people were given the right to sit in the Lords because they were born in a different bed from that in which I was born.
This is a ridiculous situation. We are living in the 20th century. If people are to deliberate on the laws of this country, they must arrive either in this Chamber or in the other Chamber on the basis of their ability and their support in the country—and on the basis of the democratic principle of election. That is the only way in which anyone can acquire the right to determine the laws which govern the people. It cannot be done on the basis of his birth or succession. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said that this was a long and tangled story of the 15th century. 1356 That is the point. That is why we say that it is about time that we got out of the 15th century and into the 20th century.
It has been suggested that if we continue to have representatives of the aristocracy in another place, they will bring to it their understanding of agriculture and industry and the immense knowledge which they possess. Let us look at our agriculture and industry and see where we have reached following the efforts of the aristocracy. Let us then look across the Atlantic towards the United States and see what the throw-outs from this country have done, those who came from the working class, who did not get on here, who were persecuted and forced to cross the Atlantic Channel.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Channel? "]—It is now a channel. It was an ocean. These people built the greatest industrial complex in the world. They did not say, "My father was Lord So-and-So". They said, "I am John Smith" or "I am Bill Brown". Look what they have done, despite the fact that they have no aristocracy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They now have a new aristocracy, but that does not give that new aristocracy the prescriptive right to sit in the second Chamber in the United States. They may get there by finance, but they still have to fight their way to the second Chamber. They do not get there automatically and they have no prescriptive right to be there. Nor should the aristrocracy have that prescriptive right in this country.
All our Parliamentary and constitutional rights in this country have been gained by an immense struggle by the people below the aristocracy to get those rights. The House of Commons was not given to us. The House of Commons has a long history, but it has changed through history. In order to ensure that all the people were represented in the House of Commons, as they are, there had to be a great democratic struggle in this country. People fought for the rights which we have—and they fought against the representatives of those who presently sit in the House of Lords and against the monarchy, too. Hon. Members should never forget that we have our rights because of past struggles to eliminate the power and influence of the aristocracy.
1357 The aristocracy are no longer in that position. I feel a little sorry for them, poor pathetic creatures that they are. They welcome the Bill because they know that it is beneficial to them, but they will not welcome it if my hon. Friend's Amendment is accepted, because there will then be no benefit in it for them. The transitional bridge will have been destroyed—and a very good thing, too. I ask the House to support the Amendment.
In discussing the Bill we are talking in terms of advancing the whole concept of democracy. If we are not talking about that, what are we talking about? What is this debate about, if we are not here to advance the concept of democracy? Like the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, I am against the idea of a nominated Chamber. I do not like a nominated Chamber. It is, as the right hon. Gentleman said, unfortunate that we have to discuss these issues the wrong way round. If we get the first part of the proposal eliminated, the Bill will have gone, but we have to start at the back and work through to the front, which is very strange.
The Temporary Chairman (Mr. J, C. Jennings)
Order. The Committee must realise that this matter is under acute discussion in another place within the precincts of this part of the Palace. Hon. Members should not waste time in for ever going back to the question of the Preamble but should stick to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ridley
On a point of order. Will you tell me, Mr. Jennings, where the acute discussions are taking place, because I should like to take part in them? If there are to be acute discussions about the way in which the Bill is to be debated, surely that is a matter relevant to all hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate.
The Temporary Chairman
That is not a point of order. If the hon. Gentleman had been present during the discussion of points of order—
The Temporary Chairman
Good. The hon. Gertleman must therefore appreciate that the discussions are taking place within the Palace at the instigation of 1358 the Chairman of Ways and Means. With his knowledge of the geography of this House, the hon. Gentleman must know where to find the Chairman of Ways and Means if he wishes to make representations.
The Temporary Chairman
That is not a point of order. I do not know who is in the league at the moment.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
The Temporary Chairman
Order. I am prepared to hear points of order, but do not let us waste time. When I have given a ruling, let us not pursue it.
§ Mr. Ridley
On a point of order. I should like to know who has been asked to take part in these discussions. Can you tell me, Mr. Jennings, how I am to pursue my Parliamentary duties which seem to require my presence in two separate places at one and the same time?
The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Gentleman asks my advice. If he wishes to catch my eye, I advise him to pursue that course which will enable him so to do.
§ Mr. Heffer
I accept your Ruling completely, Mr. Jennings. It is a wise thing to have discussions going on elsewhere in the building on this subject of the Preamble.
The whole argument is about democracy and equality of opportunity. The Amendment is precisely along those lines and would extend democratic rights and give greater equality of opportunity. It is quite wrong in our society that all men should be equal, but that some, because they happen to be born peers, should be more equal than others. The Amendment would help to eliminate that from one aspect of our society—the legislature. I therefore ask hon. Members to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ridley
I am extremely glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) who put their case in a wider context than it required. The Amendment seeks to remove the right of existing peers of succession to attend the House 1359 of Lords when they are already precluded from voting in the House of Lords by other parts of the Bill. So the point we are discussing is narrow. It is whether they should be precluded from attending the House of Lords while still the holders of hereditary peerages.
The Amendment goes much further than is either necessary or desirable. Even granting the two hon. Members their case, which I do not for a moment, that all hereditary peers should be precluded from taking part in the affairs of the House of Lords, it seems wrong to say that they may not continue to attend and speak. The reason is that they have, as it were, a right, almost a contract, by virtue of the writ of summons which they have received and which, after all, is perfectly constitutional and proper, to attend and to vote, and the Bill proposes to take away the right to vote. That is going far enough. We cannot discuss at length whether they should have the right to vote, but to go as far as is suggested in the Amendment and say they cannot even attend in the House of Lords seems to be almost a breach of faith.
It is often said that one of the main reasons for justifying the present House of Lords is that the standard of debates, the standard of contribution of knowledge and experience to the affairs of the nation is much higher even than the standard of the contributions from some hon. Members on some occasions in this House.
§ Mr. Ridley
What authority has the hon. Gentleman for his opinion that the contributions which this House has made, especially in terms of dealing with our national difficulties and dangers, are all that excellent?
The need to have informed debate, often on minor, technical and rather narrow issues, is advanced as a reason for keeping the House of Lords in its present shape. Whatever may be said about voting, it would be wrong to exclude the hereditary peers, who have spent so much of their time and experience discussing matters to which, in the calmer atmosphere which prevails in another place, they have often been able to bring 1360 a greater degree of expertise than we have in the Commons.
§ Mr. Ridley
The burden of the case which the two hon. Gentlemen have put forward is that they are against the inheritance of political power by succession, and they argued cogently in favour of their view, but when I asked the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne whether he would like to abolish the hereditary monarchy he rather sidestepped the question. But it requires answering, because if the hon. Gentleman is against the inheritance of political power directly through the accident of one's birth, he cannot continue to support the hereditary monarchy.
§ Mr. English
The hon. Member will recollect that the monarchy was elected for rather more centuries than it has been hereditary. It has been hereditary only since 1215.
§ Mr. Ridley
That only strengthens my case that it is difficult to be selective about which forms of hereditary political power one is prepared to support. One can draw all sorts of conclusions about past dynasties of monarchs who have ruled this country, all of them hereditary, in the history which we learned at school. But, whether one thinks that they have been good or bad, the one thing that emerges from such a study, as it emerges from such a study of the present constitution of the House of Lords, is that they all became monarchs by accident, just as hereditary peers—
The Temporary Chairman
Order. We are not discussing the hereditary monarchy. While a passing reference may be made to previous struggles in history, we cannot discuss the merits or demerits as such.
§ Mr. Ridley
I come immediately to order and I will not mention the monarchy again. I wish only to say that there are many things in our lives which are hereditary, and the political power of the peers is one.
The skills which we inherit, money which some inherit, those who live in more prosperous parts of the country—all these are derived from accidents of 1361 birth. It would be extremely difficult and unwise to try to eliminate all those factors in our lives deriving from what are called accidents of birth. This is what hon. Gentlemen opposite are trying to do. It will not be possible. It is the fact that accidents of birth occur that has enabled the peers to carry out their functions over the centuries.
There are many political families in the country who do not have a peerage. They are examples of generation after generation who have attended in this House, families who have wielded great privilege and political powers. They have this, not through the right of succession to a peerage, but simply because they were families which, by nature, were inclined to be interested in politics and the future of the country.
The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne pointed out that it was not simply by right of a peerage that many families had played such a dominant and continuing part in the political history of the country; it was by accident, the fact that the families were landed, wealthy, interested and public-spirited. Over a period of years this had happened. Of itself it is no bad tiling. There are hon. Members opposite who have succeeded their fathers in this House, there are family traditions of representation here sometimes for three, four or five generations. One can say that the hereditary political principle has been established in the Labour Party too.
I do not criticise it, in a way I welcome it. There is an element of training, or environment, about the way this has sprung up and it is all to the good. One could say the same thing about plumbers or electricians. Son succeeds father and it is a good thing, because it imbues the whole of the family with an interest in the trade. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) talked a lot about the American situation. He said that the Americans had no aristocracy. After hoots of derision from this side of the Committee he admitted that they had, but that it was a very different one, one founded on wealth. Political power is founded on wealth and financial strength in America.
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. and learned Gentleman has the better of me, it is a plutocracy. What surprises me is that the hon. Member for Walton, seems to prefer a plutocracy to an aristocracy. It seems an extraordinary basis, that one should select those who wield political power not by some completely impartial accident such as that of their birth, but by the more partial accident of whether they can make money. The ability to acquire large sums of money is not necessarily—in fact on the whole tends not to be—a good concomitant to using large amounts of political power.
§ Mr. Heffer
I agree entirely with the hon. Member, that wealth in itself by no means signifies that one should have political power. The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I said that there was this new type of plutocracy in America, but it does not have the prescriptive right to sit in a second Chamber, whereas in this country, on the basis of birth, people now have the right to sit in the second Chamber. This is wrong.
§ Mr. Ridley
Are we talking about political power or the right to sit in another place? If the hon. Member was interested in political power, I am sure that he would not be interested in a peerage himself so that he could sit in the right place. Political power means that one can secure the supreme nomination in the country, which is what the Kennedy family has done through the last decade. There are other political families in America who have reigned for generations. They have no right to vote in the Senate, but they have very much more power than those who have a right to sit in another place.
Instead of chasing the shadow of constitutional rights the hon. Gentleman would be much wiser to concentrate on the substance of real political power. That brings me to the right way of constituting any second Chamber. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said, we are abolishing the existing second Chamber and, for good or evil, this is the proposition before the Committee. Before we agree to this it would be wise to discuss what we put in its place. If we are to have a second Chamber there are several ways of constituting. We could have direct election by the people, 1363 election by hon. Members of this House, we could have some form of regional selection, whereby county councils and city councils would elect someone and send him to the second Chamber.
Later on, it might be based upon some reform arising out of the Maud Commission, whereby there would be true regional Governments, which would, in turn send representatives to the Upper House. It may be by appointment, by patronage, which is the present proposal, by the appointment by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Or it could be by some chance process of selection.
The reason why the existing second Chamber has worked, not marvellously, not ideally, but on the whole tolerably well, is because the chance selection of one man to a hereditary peerage with the right to sit in the other place has produced something which is not an interest group—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There are objections to all the other ways. If there is one group of people who do not necessarily stand for any particular interest, be it trade unions or big business or the professions, or any pressure group such as bombard hon. Members, then it must be those who sit in the other place. We have in this Chamber representatives from all the main interests in our society. It is all right because we know them, identify and accept them.
We have a second Chamber where none of these pressure groups appear to exist. This has been because selection is by accident. It is not even by accident of birth alone. I am the son of a peer but I am, call it good luck or bad luck, the second son so I am able to sit in this House and not the other place.
This is an accidental element which produces the sort of impartiality which on the whole is accepted by the people. If I may instance something rather curious to back up my argument, it would be that people are very Socialist-minded in regard to wealth and its inheritance. The making of money is very much criticised by the people. If by a pure fluke, one wins the football pools or £25,000 on the Premium Bonds, people are on the whole quite tolerant. These windfalls are not taxed because, on the whole, people do not feel that one person 1364 in a million should be selected for certain privileges irrespective of merit or hard work. This is one reason why the present composition of the House of Lords has been tolerated.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
I have been listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman's argument about how the other House should be selected. Is he advocating a lottery system?
§ Mr. Ridley
I am merely discussing the alternatives. I have a certain amount to say on them. If the hon. Gentleman listens to my argument, he may find his question answered.
I have dealt with the present system. Working back up the scale—
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
On a point of order. I have been listening with care to the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). He is dealing with how the other House should be constituted. I am not sure whether that is dealt with in these Amendments. However, may we have your guidance, Mr. Jennings, on whether we shall be able to follow this line of argument?
The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury has been putting the obverse side of what we are discussing in the Amendments. We are discussing a change in the method of constituting the other House. The hon. Gentleman went on to discuss the alternative. I considered this point while he was speaking and found, to my satisfaction at any rate, that he was perfectly in order. If he is in order, then as long as I am in the Chair, for the next few minutes, everyone else who speaks on the same subject will be in order.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Further to that point of order. Would you, Mr. Jennings, accept a Motion that you should stay in the Chair for the rest of the debate?
The Temporary Chairman
That is hardly a point of order, but it could be considered, provided I had suitable breaks.
§ Mr. Ridley
I am grateful to you. Mr. Jennings, for your Ruling, which coincides with your predecessor's Ruling on speeches made before you occupied the Chair.
1365 I come to the question of what would be a better basis for constituting the Upper House. No hon. Member seriously advocates that there should be direct elections by the electorate for the Upper House. We have direct elections to this House and it would be meaningless to duplicate such elections, which would add nothing to the powers of the House of Commons. Nor does there seem to be any point in the House of Commons electing a second Chamber by means of direct elections from within itself. This system is practised in certain countries, but its relevance to our constitutional position is hard to see.
I therefore come back to the method proposed in the Bill, which is the main reason why hon. Members on both sides are united in objecting to the Bill and to the proposed method of composition of the Upper House, namely, the system of nomination by the Executive. This is why the Bill is not acceptable to a very large number of hon. Members on whatever side of the Committee they sit. It is curious that as our debates continue more and more back bench Members are joining in an alliance against right hon. and hon. Members who tend to sit on the Front Benches.
Here is yet one more example. We had another example during last night's debate and, to some extent, during Monday's debate. This represents quite fairly the reaction of Parliament against the desire of the Executive to control and nominate the other House. The Secretary of State for Social Services is in his place. If he had been here last night, his ears would have burned because many hon. Members paid tribute to his reforming zeal when he was Leader of the House earlier in this Parliament. But I am sure that he must have doubts about the wisdom of allowing the Executive to nominate the members of the other House, because that could only strengthen the power of the Executive in relation to the Legislature. The proposal that the Executive should nominate the members of the other House has caused the unity among otherwise unusual political running mates on both sides of the Committee.
All that has happened—and this is the answer to the intervention of the hon. 1366 Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter)—is that the Government have talked down the hereditary peerage and caused it to lose its nerve and determination by continually describing it as a threat to the government of the country. I do not know of any instances of the hereditary peerage having challenged this Government or any other Government in the last 30 years. It is a complete bogey in their minds that at some awkward moment in the political life of the nation they will find themselves frustrated by the hereditary element in another place. That has never happened. This is a non-problem because if the Government were to reform the other place, however they were to reform it and nominate, elect or select its members, they would still be open, and indeed might be more open, to the possibility of having their measures blocked by the other place.
Therefore, for the Government to say, "We are prepared to have our measures blocked by our nominees" is a contradiction in terms, because by nominating the members of the other House they would be destroying the likelihood of their blocking the Government's measures. As a result of this bogey, this dream in the Government's mind, they have persuaded the conservative-minded hereditary House of Lords to abandon its position in the Constitution, small though it is, and to give up the struggle. This is a terrible thing to have done.
If the Government were to bring down the House of Lords in a running battle, we would at least know that we could establish a better basis. But to bring down the existing system without working out and justifying what is to replace it is merely asking to bring about a situation of uncertainty and continual alteration which will not give us constitutional certainty and peace but destroy the whole basis of the British Constitution.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) has opened up a very wide ranging debate, which I suppose was inevitable in view of the fact that he has tabled a dozen or so Amendments and new Clauses. My new Clause No. 6 is specific in seeking to get rid of all the hereditary peers within one month of the passing of the Bill. There can be nothing more definite and specific than that.
1367 I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we are not discussing political power. Some of these Gentlemen can and do wield political power outside as well as inside the second Chamber. There are powerful forces in the City of London and elsewhere who never see inside the Houses of Parliament but who wield much more power than the back bench Members of the House of Commons. To that extent I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but we are not discussing that; we are discussing the composition of the second Chamber. The hon. Gentleman said that the assumption was that if one attacks and seeks to destroy the hereditary element in the second Chamber, one is by inference attacking the hereditary element of the monarchy. The monarchy is not included in the Bill, but I would like on another occasion to debate that problem because the two might well be linked.
The Temporary Chairman
I have ruled that no reference should be made to the hereditary monarchy, and I hope that hon. Members will recognise that.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I think your memory is a little short, Mr. Jennings. You said that only passing references could be made to the monarchy, and I was just passing on to my next point.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The hon. Gentleman referred to impartial accidents of birth, and I will deal with that in a little detail.
According to the White Paper there are 736 hereditary peers by succession who are entitled to sit in the other place, a great proportion of whom do not attend. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) said, some of them are quite young men with considerable ability. If the Bill were passed in its present form they would continue to sit in the other place for the rest of their lives, which might be for another 30 or 40 years. It is true that they would not be voting members, but we make the mistake of thinking that voting is more important than speaking, than moving Amendments and Motions, or introducing Bills. These powers are much more important and 1368 more influential on public opinion than trooping through Lobbies. If these young and able people are passionately interested in party Parliamentary politics they should be given the chance, in fact they should be compelled to take the chance, of getting out of the second Chamber and on to the hustings.
Their sons will be able to do so, since they will not be allowed to enter the other Chamber and will be able to hawk themselves round the local Tory constituency parties for candidatures. The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) foresaw that the Tory benches in the House of Commons would be full of Peers and the Labour benches in the other place would be full of retired Members of this House. This is a situation which one would like to avoid—
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Norfolk, Central)
The hon. Gentleman is not quite right. I merely said that I thought that the benches on both sides of this House would be full of hereditary peers and on both sides of the other place full of life peers.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that there would be rather more on this side of the House than on his side. However that may be, if the hereditary peers were removed forthwith, or within a month as suggested in the new Clause, not only would that be a blow for the modernisation of Parliament, on which my right hon. Friend is so keen, but it would be a blow for democracy. It would reduce the House of Lords almost immediately to just over 300 members, 26 of whom would be bishops, whom I am seeking to remove, 23 would be serving or retired Law Lords, whom another hon. Member is trying to remove, 155 would be life peers and 122 peers of first creation. That would be about the size which the Government have suggested in the White Paper. In any event, there can be no democratic justification for allowing hereditary peers to sit for the rest of their lives, if they so wish, in the Upper Chamber.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is no democratic justification at all for the Bill?
§ Mr. Hamilton
We have a mandate for it. It was contained in our election manifesto, and if hon. and right hon. 1369 Gentlemen opposite choose to make this an issue at the next election, if the Bill does not go through, I would be happy to fight the next election on the basis of what we do, if anything, about the second Chamber.
The hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) has an Amendment down, No. 163, on dukes. There are 26 dukes left, not counting the royal dukes. No new dukes have been created since 1874. They are all allowed to sit in the House of Lords. The Duke of Bedford and the Duke of Devonshire—I say nothing about their present incomes—got their wealth from the sacked monasteries in the period of the Reformation. That is their only justification for sitting in the other Chamber. Four dukes are descended from the bastard sons of Charles II; the Duke of St. Albans by Nell Gwynn, the Duke of Grafton by the Duchess of Cleveland, the Duke of Richmond by the Duchess of Portsmouth and the Duke of Buccleuch by Lucy Walters. Only two dukes in the Upper Chamber received their titles through military merit, the Duke of Marlborough and the Duke of Wellington.
The House of Fitzclarence sprang directly from the amusements of Charles II. He is credited with 12 bastard children. Henry I beat him; he is credited with 19. The Earl of Munster is the descendant of George Augustus Frederick Fitzclarence, who was the son of the Duke of Clarence, who was later William IV, and Mrs. Jordan the actress—they were not married. The story of the Fitzclarences is one of the more interesting among those Royal romances which always seem to involve birth on the wrong side of the blanket. The Earl of Munster was the eldest of 10 children, all of whom were probably bastards. The Duke of Clarence was one of the seven dissolute sons of George III, but he at least remained faithful to Mrs. Jordan. In 1831 the eldest son was made Earl of Munster.
The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman is sailing pretty near the wind. He must be very careful in carrying out his historical researches and propounding them here that he casts no aspersions upon living persons who are also members of another place at the present time.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Oh, yes, Mr. Jennings. I would not for a moment dream of doing that. Earlier in my remarks, I made it quite clear that I intended to cast no aspersions on any living Member of the other place. However, I took the view that it was important to discover the qualifications for membership of the other place, and I was attempting to establish what they are.
§ Mr. Hamilton
My hon. and learned Friend is forestalling me a little. I was coming on to some of them in due course, though to do it fully would take me a long time.
The facts that I am giving the Committee come from one of the historical lectures which I used to give a long time ago—
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I find it difficult to understand why the hon. Gentleman has it in for illegitimate children of the past, when, apparently, it is his Government's intention to give present-day illegitimate children equal rights with every other human being.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The hon. Gentleman has it quite wrong. I am objecting to illegitimate children having a particular right by virtue of going into the other Chamber. That is all.
If I may resume my lecture, in 1831 the eldest son was made Earl of Munster. He was determined to cash in on the royal connection, and he married Mary Wyndham, who was the natural daughter of the Earl of Egremont. The double representation of bastardy on their combined coat of arms must have been quite unique.
I come now to the case of the Duke of Richmond and also that of the Dukes of Lennox and Gordon. That family stems from Charles II and Louise de Kéroualle, who was made Duchess of Portsmouth by the grateful King. The Royal arms used by Dukes of Richmond, who can and under the Bill will still sit in the Lords, are shown in the Scottish manner of denoting bastardy, and I think that 1371 some of them are quite proud of their coat of arms.
I come finally, since my hon. Friends encourage me, to the Duke of Montrose. His ancestor was Sir William Graham of Kincardine, who subdued Scotland for Charles II when that monarch apparently was busy elsewhere. The seventh duke is now a farmer in Rhodesia. He went there about thirty years ago. but he has the right still to come and sit in the House of Lords. He is quite wealthy out there and is one of Ian Smith's set-up at the moment. I remember putting a Question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister asking him to take steps to stop that gentleman coming to sit in the House of Lords. At the moment, he is entitled to sit there, and would still be under the terms of the Bill, once he applies for the necessary warrant.
§ Mr. Younger
The hon. Gentleman is being immensely helpful to the Committee in producing this most interesting statistical evidence. Would he not agree that such statistical evidence is only of value when it is produced with comparable figures against which to set it? Will he give some statistics about his own antecedents and those of his hon. Friends?
§ Mr. Hamilton
They may be equally disgusting, but they do not entitle me to sit in the other place. That is the only point that I am making. I dare not look into my own ancestry. I do not know what I would find if I did. I dare say that the same applies to the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). Nevertheless, I think that the point is made.
I mention these dukes only because they can sit and vote in the Lords. Three of them did so on the Rhodesian Order which partly inspired this Bill. The Dukes of Atholl, Rutland and Westminster came and voted with the Conservatives against the Government on that Order.
Incidentally, when the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury says that there are no pressure groups in the other place and that its members are completely impartial and safeguard the rights of the individual, he is talking through the back of his neck. He must remember the Burmah Oil affair. I did a considerable amount of research into Burmah 1372 Oil, and I mentioned the names of 38 peers, one of them even taking his seat on the day, who came to the other place to vote millions of £s to the Burmah Oil Company. To say that there are no pressure groups in the other place is nonsense.
Right from the time of the Reform Bill of 1831 to the present day, the hereditary element in the House of Lords has opposed all kinds of progressive measures. I have referred to some of them in this Chamber time and again. As recently as 1957, the then Conservative Government introduced the Rent Bill to allow private landlords to charge what rents they liked. Rachmanism was given a great fillip by that legislation.
The Bill had not been mentioned in the Tories' election manifesto of 1955. There was no mandate. The Lords passed it through all its stages—First Reading, Second Reading, Committee, Report and Third Reading—in 19 hours. That seems to be the argument to show that, although the other place seeks to give the impression on occasion of being an impartial objective debating Chamber of very high standards, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the high standard of debates is another myth. In general terms, the standard of debate there is no higher than it is in this place. It is a masoleum. It is possible to debate at great leisure and for Members to say what they like simply because they are not answerable to the electorate. The quorum is three. The result is that on occasion three 90-year olds can be debating the destinies of the country. It is quite absurd.
To suggest that we gradually transform it by allowing the hereditary element slowly to recede is nonsense. We ought to end it very quickly. My suggestion is one month, and I hope that the Government will accept it.
[Mr. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair]
Mr. Gresham Cooke
We have listened to attacks on the hereditary principle from the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and from the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). I would point out to them that, in the British Isles as a whole, the hereditary principal goes a good deal 1373 further than they suggest. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) pointed to the number of families who farm the same land for generation after generation, where fathers pass on their skills to their sons, who are all the better farmers for having fathers who were farmers. As anyone who lives in a mining area knows, much the same applies co the coal mining industry, where generation after generation of miners are proud for their sons to go into the pits and teach them skills which otherwise they would never learn.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Another example which may be in the minds of some hon. Members occurs in one section of the meat trade. The same principle applies to bummarees, who have to inherit their jobs.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Will the hon. Gentleman say how the hereditary skill of a coal miner is passed on to his son?
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Fathers talk to their sons about the dangers of the pit and how to avoid them. They guide them in their first trips down the mine, showing them the ropes and teach them haulage as a start. As a result, the sons are better miners for their fathers having been miners before them. It is obvious that the son of a miner makes a better coal miner than anyone who is just the son of a Member of Parliament. So the hereditary principle goes much deeper than one thinks.
The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne admitted to me that environment came quite strongly into this matter. The son of a peer is brought up in public life and learns something from his father. He sees his father in action in the House of Lords. The activities of these families in public life are carried on by generation after generation—the Cecils, the Salisburys, the Churchills, and families too numerous to mention. Now we see the growth of this aristocracy on the other side. We see Labour families growing up, such as the Greenwoods and the Foots. It may be that the Jays and the Callaghans will produce offspring who 1374 will go into public life and will no doubt be successful.
My plea is that we should recognise that there is merit in the hereditary principle and that, therefore, it should to some extent be recognised in the House of Lords. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), myself and other hon. Members have Amendments coming along which will seek to allow for some proportion of the House of Lords to be made up of those who happen to be the sons of members of the peerage.
There is another factor why keeping the hereditary principle is in some degree important. The original peers were selected by their kings. They held positions as tenants in chief of their kings year after year, generation after generation, because in such positions they were defenders of the monarchy. To get rid of the hereditary principle, which the Bill seeks to do, is to take away one of the props of the monarchy which, after all, is and will be, as far as I can see, based on the hereditary principle. To disallow the sons of peers to have voting rights in the House of Lords is a retrograde step. Some rights should be given to hereditary members of the House of Lords to elect members into that body.
My plea today is that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been slashing at the hereditary principle, and have brought out a few examples to its discredit, should remember the years and years in which great families of the State have given, and today give, public service in the House of Lords just as their fathers and grandfathers did. In fact, the sons of some have been Members. The hereditary principle should not be lightly cast aside, either in the peerage or in any other state of life to which a man is called in this country.
§ Mr. Stanley Henig (Lancaster)
Many on this side have long dreamt of the day when there would be a Labour Government and we would get up with a proposal to abolish the House of Lords as such and the hereditary element in it. The Bill goes some way to meet that dream. But in discussing these Amendments we are discussing the kernel of the objection which many of us have long felt to the second Chamber as it has been 1375 in this country. The object of the Amendment that we are principally discussing is to make certain that we get rid of that kernel once and for all rather than let it have a lingering death.
I should like briefly to put as strongly as possible the reasons why many on this side support the Amendment and will vote for it later, unless the rest of the Committee agrees with us and it becomes unnecessary.
Among the families that have served in the House of Lords over generations there have been cases where the son has been as able or more able than the father and his son more able still, and so it has gone on. I do not think that anyone, unless he was being completely churlish, would deny that this has happened in some cases. My point is that in those cases, surely the individuals who later made their mark in the House of Lords would have made their mark anyway without the advantage of this chance accident of birth. They might have got themselves, on their own merit, to the House of Lords, or perhaps to this House, and, therefore, had no need of the advantage of being made, as it were, designate Members from birth.
The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) mentioned political families in the Labour Party. There are also political families in the Conservative Party. But perish the day when somebody in the Labour Party can get up and say, "My father was a Member of Parliament and his father before him. I therefore claim my seat as of right." He has no right, and he should have no right, either in the House of Lords or in this House. The only right that he has is if, on his own merit, he shows that he deserves to be placed in a position of public responsibility. He will do that by getting himself elected to this Chamber or by the appropriate mechanism for service in the other Chamber.
I take the point about Members of the House of Lords not being an interest group. Not an interest group indeed! Surely hereditary peers are an interest group. The moment that the son of a duke or an earl has the right to sit in the House of Lords, he becomes part of an interest group. It is no coincidence that he happens to represent a thin segment of society.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that under the provisions of the Bill there will probably be two dukes in the House of Commons before long and none in the House of Lords?
§ Mr. Henig
We are not discussing the provisions of the whole Bill at the moment. If any duke or other individual can persuade the electorate of a constituency in this country that he should represent it in the House of Commons, I defend his right to be here. However, in my opinion, he ought to be elected because he is Mr. So-and-so who has done, and can do, good work—not because of the blood that is supposed to flow in his veins.
I was about to make the point that those who are now in the House of Lords on the hereditary basis are there because of what their fathers, grandfathers or great-grandfathers did. They may have technical skills to offer. But why not go out into the street and select at random the first 500 worthy citizens and say that they and their descendants for all time should be in the new House of Lords? It would be just as absurd. Yet many of those people will have equal skills to offer. In an age when the people of the country decide who shall have control, individuals should get to positions of power and responsibility only if they can convince the electorate that they deserve that trust. They should not have an unequal start because of birth. Therefore, there can be no justification for continuing in the House of Lords with any hereditary principle at all.
I go further. I think that it is an insult to say in effect to those who get to the House of Lords on the hereditary basis, "We are not quite certain whether you will be able to get anywhere on your own, so we will put you in the House of Lords to make certain". This is an absurd and unjustifiable state of affairs.
I move now to another point which has not so far been discussed, but which is equally serious. If we leave in the subsection that the Amendment seeks to delete, we will have two classes of Members in the House of Lords, the voting and the non-voting Members. I am not clear about the precedent in other legislative bodies for voting and non-voting Members. It may be that when my right 1377 hon. Friend winds up he will be able to explain in what Assembly it has been used and with what success.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. Even if the subsection is left out, there will still be the two categories of voting and non-voting Members.
§ Mr. Henig
Provided that the rest of Bill is left as it is, but we will have to debate that later. We are dealing with the subsection and I am making a frontal assault on the idea that we should have two classes of Members. In any legislative body where people presumably act and work as colleagues in the work of legislation and checking the Executive, there is room for only one class of Member—the Member with the right vote.
It is absurd to say that somebody may contribute to a debate, but cannot vote on it. I am prepared to recognise that there may be debates in this Chamber, or in any other, when some of those who vote have not heard all the debate, but by this provision we shall enshrine that practice as part of the rules of the House of Lords, and that seems to me to be a bad principle.
We are debating more than one Amendment, and one of our difficulties is that not all these Amendments deal with the same thing. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) is not here. I do not know whether he intends to speak specifically to Amendment No. 2, which has been chosen for debate as well as for a Division.
That Amendment is something which perhaps goes rather further than the points I have been making, and perhaps goes against them in principle, because by this Amendment we would exclude from the reformed House of Lords those who have been made hereditary peers in their own lifetime, because of meritorious service to the country, often at a time before the concept of life peers, which is the only concept we should be dealing with in a democratic age. For this reason I should be dubious about agreeing to Amendment No. 2, unless when my hon. Friend speaks to it, if he does—
§ Mr. English
I think that my hon. Friend has mistaken the difference between Amendment No. 1 and Amendment No. 2. Amendment No. 1 excludes virtually all the existing peers by succession. 1378 The object of Amendment No. 2 is to make useless the creation of hereditary peerages for the future. Any person can be created a life peer and sit in the House of Lords. The Amendment does not affect that. It affects the creation of future hereditary peerages.
§ Mr. Henig
I am delighted with my hon. Friend's explanation, but that was not how I read it.
We are in an age when, for the first time, one would like to think that people's work is recognised on its merits, that everybody can be given due recognition for what he has done for our society. We are discussing a House of Lords which, in my opinion, should be able to make a contribution to the constitution. At the moment, three-quarters of the nominal Members of the House of Lords are there by virtue of what past generations have done, and this is unacceptable. It is, moreover, a relic, and a rather nasty form of class prejudice because of who these people are, and because of the small segment of society from which they come.
For those reasons, it seems to me that if we are to reform the House of Lords, we must grasp the nettle. We must break once and for all the whole hereditary set-up. We must leave no lingering remnant of it. Accordingly, I urge my right hon. Friend and the Committee to accept the Amendment.
§ Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington, South)
By courtesy of the Chair we have been having an extremely wide-ranging discussion on this Amendment on the whole question of the place of heredity in the constitution. We have been proceeding at a pace which I think is appropriate to the aeons of time over which our constitution has evolved.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is not here. If I understood him correctly, he said that what we were striving to do was to make our democracy work better. I think that here there is common ground between all hon. Members of this Committee. What we have to determine is whether there is any place at all for the hereditary principle in the workings of modern democracy, and in the democracy of Britain as we hope to see it in the future.
1379 As I referred to the aeons of time over which our constitution has evolved, perhaps I might give a tiny historical sketch—in the course of a few sentences—of the process by which we have retreated from the power of blood ties and the hereditary principle. In ancient times, as we read, humanity tended to group itself into tribes. In ancient Greece, the tribe concentrated on the city. By the time we reach ancient Rome, we see that the development of law tended to concentrate round the rights of the family and in particular of the paterfamilias; and now we are working more and more towards the evolution of the individual human being as a person in his own right.
The hon. Member for Walton adverted interestingly to his own heredity. Were he here, I should have liked to have developed this matter more fully. Possibly it is his heredity which has given him the capacity to become a Member of this House, and to be a useful and influential Member. Possibly the forces of heredity working in their different mysterious ways might also make it suitable for a man, by heredity, to make an equally valuable and influential contribution in another House.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) on having travelled from one end of the landscape to the other without leaving out a single point in his summary of the arguments against the hereditary principle, and without at any moment putting his foot in the middle of the road. The hon. Gentleman referred to popular science as one reads it in the magazines. I do not think that any scientist or any biologist, however popular, would try to pretend that heredity is not a factor in evolution. Many people place increasing emphasis on the importance of environment. Without being tangled in the controverisies over the inheritance of acquired characteristics, may I say that biology does not suggest that heredity is not a force in the development of human capacity, or indeed in the capacity of any form of life.
If we are thinking seriously about what the new second Chamber should be, I think we ought to agree that it should be a conspectus of all the best elements in British life. I hope that in the course of our discussions on other Amendments 1380 we may be able to bring forward reasons why the Bill should contain more specific references to what the composition of the new House should be.
Under this Amendment it is appropriate to consider whether the family as an institution is one of the elements in British life, and whether it ought to be represented constitutionally in the Palace of Westminster. It may be that the family is not what it was in our national life and possibly that it is, in the words of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, becoming only a lingering remnant. But this remnant does linger still, and I daresay that families will continue to exist in our society for 100 or perhaps 1,000 years to come.
The family is an organism which recognises the importance of heredity. I think that the new second House, Senate, Upper House, call it what one will, ought to recognise it, too. It ought also to acknowledge the force of continuity as an element in life. In changing this institution, or in seeking to change it by the Bill, I think we should not forget that continuity is a very important element in all organic life. At the moment the House of Lords, in spite of changes which have been made since the war, and particularly in the last decade, is predominantly an hereditary House. As was said in The Times, in an extremely able article by Mr. Cecil King, this is possibly not because heredity was the reason for the choice of the Members of the Upper House, but rather that they earned their places there by virtue of primogeniture and the ownership of land.
Of course, with the Industrial Revolution and all the changes of the last 100 years, ownership of land no longer confers great authority or power. Therefore, I am not entirely opposed to the idea that the hereditary principle should be diminished in determining the composition of the Upper House. I hope that we will be able to dilate on this on the next Amendment.
We should, however, oppose the spirit of this Amendment, because it involves too sudden and too drastic an exclusion of the hereditary principle. Of course, it is said in that treasure house of constitutional orthodoxy, "Iolanthe", that the 1381 hereditary peers do nothing in particular, but they are also said to do it very well. The British people have a soft spot in their hearts for the hereditary principle and would not support a sudden or dramatic move at this time.
I do not want to deny that what a man may learn from his environment is becoming increasingly important and what he may learn by the forces of heredity and through his family is becoming increasingly unimportant in our national life. A man may learn a great deal through his schooling or his professional training which he should later give back by constitutional means to society. He may learn a great deal through his experience and through his own insights and there should be a place in our Upper House for all these gifts.
But if we abolish the hereditary principle altogether, we are saying that it is now impossible for a man to learn anything at all from his father. This is going further than we need. In my view, a reform as radical as the total exclusion of the hereditary principle is too sweeping. We would be allowing certain hon. Members to over-compensate for their fixations if we went so far as to accept these Amendments. I do not want to leave the people with a new constitution which is visibly at variance with the basic institutions and motive forces in their lives. It would be wrong to exclude heredity altogether as a factor of our national life. We should also be arguing against the facts of life in all the senses in which those words are commonly used.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I oppose the Amendment because I am strongly opposed to the idea of removing the hereditary peers at once, as I am to removing them at all—but I will debate that on another Amendment. I am opposed to being left, as we should be, with a House of nominated peers. I do not know who the hon. Members who support the Amendment imagine will be sent to the new Upper Chamber when they have deleted subsection (2) and got rid of the hereditary peers. I cannot imagine that any Prime Minister, of either party, will send young men to the new Upper House. This is something from which it has benefited for many years as a result of the hereditary principle.
1382 On the contrary, I suspect that we shall have a lot of people who have been good lobby fodder in this House sent up there, who are nearing the end of their days here and can manage on the allowances there, added to a pension—since it seems that, for the moment, these nominated peers will not be paid.
We heard from the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) that we must have in the Upper House people who have proved their worth and that, in a democracy, the people should have control over those who rule them. What control does he think people outside will have over those who are nominated? Does he suggest that the electorate will benefit from being hereafter able to control those who served in the Upper House? All of us know that this is not so, that this is patronage which will be in the hands of the Prime Minister of the day. I am not content to see an Upper House dependent on that, whichever party is in power—
§ Mr. Heffer
The hon. Member must surely accept that the elimination of this subsection does not mean the automatic acceptance of nomination. There are other subsections to be eliminated as well.
§ Mr. Goodhew
This may be so, but we can only take the Bill one Clause at a time. Therefore, if we are to accept the Amendment, we must face the proposition that we may be left with a House of nominated members only. I do not accept that this is a good arrangement, whichever party is in power.
I agree that pressure groups do not exert the same pressure on the hereditary peers. They are no one's servants, but it is clear that anyone who was in that House as a nominee of the Prime Minister of the day would feel under an obligation to him and I cannot accept that.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was rather disparaging about some of the peers who, in the past, have fought in battles for this country, and, in rather a cavalier fashion, dismissed their courage. He should remember—
§ Mr. Heffer
I said nothing of the sort. I merely pointed out that, while the aristocracy were going around in chain mail and mounted on horseback, the 1383 people that I come from were marching with bows and arrows. I said nothing about the courage of either.
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Gentleman did mention that, but he also said that the aristocracy did it for honour. He should remember the bowmen of Agincourt and also that the aristocracy have constantly fought and been out in front on these occasions, even in recent times. So to talk as though they only fought for the honours which they might receive is quite unnecessary.
The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) thinks it right to retain non-voting Members in the Upper House, but not voting Members. He said that political power lay with those who could speak and not those who could vote and suggested that this was where the influence lay, in being able to speak and influence people outside. If this were so, if political power did lie in speaking and not voting, this Government would have been out of office long ago. Their back benchers have talked against them constantly over the last three or four years, but they always hold back from voting against them. So I am not convinced of the hon. Member's proposition, and this is just the trouble. One knows that, in a nominated Chamber, nominees would be expected to vote in return for the places that they have been given; that is why I oppose it.
Much has been said about the hereditary principle and the way that heredity and environment affect people's upbringing. It is a mistake for this House lightly to dismiss the value of the environment in which people have been brought up over generations of service to the nation—whereas here, we are supposedly paid for it, there, they have never been—this service must have its effect on a person.
This has always been accepted, as witness the fact that the eldest sons of peers have the right to sit on the steps of the Throne in another place so that they shall be able to get the feel and the atmosphere of the Chamber and thereby prepare themselves for the duties which they will finally inherit on the deaths of their fathers. We should, therefore, be wrong to dismiss too lightly the value of this.
1384 My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) could not understand why the Government were so frightened of the hereditary members. He said that the Lords had never used their powers to prevent any Government from having their way and had not, in that way, defied the House of Commons.
However, the Government have one big fear. It is that at some stage the Upper Chamber will prevent them from doing something which they might one day want to do, and that is to lengthen the life of a Parliament. In other words, when the time comes for a General Election to be held, the Government may find that they have become so unpopular that they may wish to elongate the life of Parliament so that the Labour Party and hon. Gentlemen opposite may remain in power. The House of Lords could prevent that. This is the bogey which the Government see behind the present Upper Chamber and why they are anxious to get rid of the voting rights of hereditary peers.
I hope, therefore, that the Committee will defeat the Amendment, which seems to be playing into the hands of those who wish to have a purely nominated Chamber.
§ Mr. English
I have listened for some hours to a turgid waste of oratory about heredity, a subject which seems to inspire passions of deracination among my hon. Friends and passions of adulation among hon. Gentlemen opposite.
There is little to be said about heredity, except that, in biological terms, it is a regression towards the mean; which, translated into everyday language, simply means that a pair of brilliant parents will probably have a less brilliant child than themselves whereas a pair of dimwitted parents will probably have a more brilliant child. That is the biological law.
§ Mr. English
I do not know the intelligence level of my parents or of the parents of any of my hon. Friends. Perhaps that is a good thing.
We have been wasting a great deal of time primarily because of the way in which the Bill has been constructed. It 1385 is drafted on the basis of a package deal. Part of the package is to exclude altogether from consideration the whole question of peerage. This has resulted in the series of tortuous and twisted Amendments which appear on the Notice Paper. This part of the package has been inserted, I understand, at the behest of the Opposition; and it is notable how hon. Gentlemen opposite have been conspicuously silent on this subject up to now. If I am wrong about this, I will no doubt be corrected.
It is hardly likely that the Government would have carefully kept the question of peerage out of the Bill voluntarily. One must assume, therefore, that the Bill appears in its present form because it is a part of the package presented to the Government by the Opposition and, in turn, presented to us by the Government. It should be made clear that the Opposition desire to keep what an hon. Gentleman opposite earlier described as something created in the fifteenth century.
§ Miss J. M. Quennell (Petersfield) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. English
I assure the hon. Lady that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made that observation. He was perfectly right, for the majority of peers hold their rank by a patent of creation, a procedure dating back to that period. The result is that many of my hon. Friends are perhaps being somewhat unjust—indeed, one might say merciless—in wanting to exclude from the House of Lords many men who may have sat there for 20 years or more.
I am with my hon. Friends in saying that people should not walk into the Upper Chamber merely on the basis of their paternity. However, those who may have been there for 20 years might as well remain there until death removes them or until, in due course, there is an age limit which prevents them from remaining there.
For this reason I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) is not on the strongest ground in arguing against the existing hereditary peers as distinct from the hereditary principle of succession to the Lords. That principle is totally indefensible, whereas it might be possible 1386 to defend those who, under the existing law, sit in the Lords.
I would have wished to have seen the Government introducing a Bill which altered the whole conception of peerage and abolished it at the same time as abolishing membership of the House of Lords. Two hon. Members of this House have a good chance of becoming the first dukes to sit in the House of Commons, something which would have somewhat perturbed our predecessors. On the other hand, the four honest men who, under the 1963 Act, resigned their titles—three of them in this House and one, Victor Montagu, outside—are the only four who should have succeeded to peerages, but who will not be entitled to keep their peerages merely because they were honest. As a result of being prepared to be so honest and to give up their peerages, they have become the only second-class peers in the United Kingdom. It seems that all these illogicalities stem from the simple desire of the Opposition, accepted by the Government, that we should have a Measure dealing with the Upper Chamber which does not touch the principle of peerage.
It was pointed out earlier that our system of descent of peerages is unusual compared with that applying to continental aristocracies, where the descent appears to apply to everybody. That point was weakened when one hon. Gentleman opposite who is literally honourable by prefix as well as by the terminology of this House—I refer to the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)—spoke shortly afterwards. One remembers that he would, under the present law, take precedence over every knight except a Knight of the Garter merely because he is the youngest son of a peer. He might possibly not take precedence over my right hon. Friend who is a Privy Councillor. There is something archaic in these rules and it is obvious that the situation needs altering.
The same right hon. Member who said this—the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—went on to point out that peerages normally only descended through males. Would my right hon. Friend explain the effect of the Bill in relation to that famous United Nations Convention on the Status of 1387 Women which, we were told, we could not ratify for various reasons, one being that the Upper Chamber was a body which did not conform to the requirements of that Convention? If a peerage descends only to an eldest son as distinct from an eldest daughter, that seems likely to be true.
Since we are, by this part of the Bill—which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne wishes to remove—retaining hereditary peers and since we are, by other parts of the Bill, retaining the possibility of creating hereditary peerages anew, would my right hon. Friend explain whether, as a result, it will still be true that we will be in breach of that United Nations Convention which the House of Lords has caused us to break in the past?
Would my right hon. Friend explain why, in this day and age, we are debating a Bill which is designed to allow the creation of new hereditary peerages and which carefully provides that those which are created shall entitle their holders to sit in the House of Lords as full members of the Upper Chamber? There may be arguments for treating gently existing peers by succession and I would be more lenient than some of my hon. Friends towards existing peers. They might as well continue to sit in the Lords until they die off. However, I would not allow this situation to be perpetuated. The hon. Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) pointed out that the whole tendency of modern society is towards the creation of law based on the individual and the merits of the individual. I therefore see no reason for allowing this archaic system to continue. The hon. Member was the first to say this in explicit terms and I think he was entirely right.
Can there be any reason, apart from what may have been agreed privately between the two Front Benches, for the creation of new hereditary peerages? I know that Her Majesty's Government do not do this, but it would be possible for the Opposition to do so through the capacity to appoint peers by the Leader of the Opposition or if and when hon. Members opposite became the Government. Surely we have passed the time when we should wish to create peerages for the next few centuries. Surely in this 1388 day and age we wish to create the possibility of people going to the House of Lords if they merit it and leave aside the question of whether their children merit it until they grow up and prove that they do.
§ Mr. Birch
I was fascinated by the speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) as well as the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). They are so very well informed on precedents and on the peerage. The point about the exact precedence of the younger son of a viscount is one which very few on this side of the Committee would be able to answer. It is not easy, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Fife, West would know, for he would know the exact place in the table of precedence of a Master in Lunacy. I am sure that the two bedside books of the hon. Member are Burke's Peerage and the Almanac de Gotha. I doubt sometimes whether he has read anything else.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) pointed out with what alacrity so many noble Lords have leaped on the tumbrils. That is perfectly true, but many of them, including some hereditary peers, may assume that they will become voting peers. They may assume that their particular tumbril will not reach its destination until they are 72, and meanwhile ample free refreshments will be provided. That seems a perfectly reasonable proposition.
I have already declared my view that the Upper House should be indirectly elected by Members of this House on a regional basis. I suggest a possible compromise between this Amendment and the one which is to follow. The trouble about a nominee House is that the nominees would not have very much credit. They would be bound by the Whips who appointed them, as it were, to vote one way or another, or, in the case of the "Don't knows", not to make up their minds. They are the "captive balloons." I should think that they are bound to be pretty shop-spoiled when they rise into the air.
What shall we do about this? If this Amendment is not carried, as I hope it will not be, we shall have the hereditary 1389 peers, who have built up a reputation for independence. We shall have independent peers who can speak and others who can vote. The Abbé Sieves, who produced some interesting resolutions, following the French Revolution, said that those who spoke could not vote and those who voted could not speak. Could not such a system be introduced? It would mean that only the independent-minded hereditary peers would speak and the "captive balloons" would vote. The advantage would be that they would often vote against their consciences, but they would not have to speak against their consciences. I should have thought that this had everything to recommend it. There would be an honest debate which would get across to the country and then the "captive balloons" would vote. I recommend that.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Amendment No. 1—if it is accepted by the Commmitee, as I hope it will not be—would totally eliminate the hereditary element from the other place. This was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) as a breach of contract and of faith. I shall not go into that moral argument and I do not want to anticipate later Amendments, although I think that there has been a certain amount of anticipation already.
My hon. Friends the Members for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams) referred in general terms to the sort of second Chamber which some of us would like to see if there is to be a change in the composition and powers of the House of Lords. I make no complaint about his not being present now, but I am sorry that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is not in the Chamber. Some time ago we debated this matter privately by means of the Order Paper. The hon. Member put down an Early Day Motion, entitled "House of Lords future", which began with a quotation from Mr. Winston Churchill speaking in 1909 about the peaceful demise of the House of Lords, which Mr. Churchill then favoured.
I put down an Amendment to the hon. Member's Motion and quoted something else from Mr. Churchill in his Romanes Lecture of 1930, in which in discussing 1390the economic problem for Great Britain … as urgent, vital and dominant "—as it still is—he commented thatthere exists at the present time no constitutional machinery for dealing with it on its merits, with competent examination and without political bias and antagonisms ".I suggested thata bicameral Parliament is a necessary check on the power of the Executive, and its patronage which has increased and is increasingI went on tourge all-party consideration should be given … to a reformdesigned to put into another place representatives on a more systematic basis than we have at present of the economic religious, cultural and professional life of the realm together with the Princes of the Blood Royal—that is the subject being discussed in this debate—and a proportion of the hereditary peerage elected by their order.That enables me to make quite clear that I am opposed to Amendment No. 1. What is suggested in the Amendments which we have put on the Notice Paper would carry forward the idea which I described in my Amendment to the Motion proposed by the hon. Member for Fife, West. We would like to see an element of election, representative of interests—I hasten to tell the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that the trade unions would be one—an element of nomination, because we do not want the Upper House to be exclusively composed of great interests and estates and, thirdly, a traditional and prescriptive element of hereditary peers because we recognise, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South, who made an admirable speech, the force of continuity in the development of our constitution and our national life. What is more, there is some evidence from recent inquiries, although I do not attach too much importance to the polling of public opinion, that considerable working-class opinion in Britain desires the retention of a hereditary element in the British legislature.
I do not suppose that we shall get our way and be able to sit down and shape a reformed second Chamber. If we cannot, I should have preferred to leave it as it is rather than to turn the Lords into what my hon. Friends have called a 1391 House of nominees. This is repulsive to me. I do not think that it has anything to do with what the hon. Member for Walton called the advancement of democracy.
Amendment 1, if carried, and if certain other Amendments are not also carried, would convert a House of nominees with a residual hereditary element into a House totally nominated. My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South quoted the very interesting article in The Times by Mr. Cecil King, who is a supporter, as we are, of bringinginto Parliament the powerful individuals and institutions at present outside.Mr. King said this about turning the Lords into a House of nominees, or making it much more a House of nominees than it is at present:The declining prestige of Parliament has been hastened by the use of the House of Lords by succeeding Prime Ministers as a refuse bin for ministerial failures, awkward back-benchers, party hacks and personal friends.That has an element of truth in it.
I understand that as a result of all the clandestine meetings to which your predecessor in the Chair referred, Mr. Gourlay, there may be a separate Division—I think that is the least there should be—on Amendment 163, which concerns the princes of the blood royal. They have not been mentioned so far. [An HON. MEMBER: "They have."] They have been mentioned today, but they are not referred to in the White Paper.
As I understand, if the Government's proposals are enacted the princes of the blood royal will retain their seats, but not vote. They do not vote now, but they have the right to do so. I think that that would be the formal position. There would be no provision for their successors.
Here again, we touch upon the hereditary principle and the hereditary element in the Legislature. I do not take the view which has been taken by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and which has been argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, that an hereditary Upper House or an hereditary element in the House of Lords must be retained because, if it is not retained, it would strike at the monarchy. After all, there 1392 are hereditary monarchies in other realms of the Commonwealth and hereditary monarchies in Europe and other parts of the world where there is no hereditary element in Parliament.
§ Mr. Ridley
Would not there be real danger in the monarchy's being appointed by the Prime Minister on the basis that is proposed in the Bill?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I am not sure whether to answer that would be in order, but it is a suggestion which is entirely unthinkable and monstrous. In Belgium, for example, there is a monarchy and the Senate is elected and co-opted, but—here we come back to the Amendment about the princes—the king's son sits in the Belgian Senate of right.
I do not propose that we should welcome a return to the days when members of the Royal Family or the Royal Princes actually took a controversial part in debate and voted in the House of Lords, but I am anxious to preserve this traditional thread in the tapestry of the constitution. I do not see why Amendment No. 163 should be divided upon, because I hope that the Government will accept it. I repeat that I do not want any change in the present situation in which the Princes of the Blood Royal are entitled to sit and to vote, but never do so.
The hon. Member for Fife, West had done some interesting research about Princes of the Blood Royal or Royal Dukes who took part in debate and voted in the Upper House. I wonder that he did not tell us about the speech made by the Duke of Clarence on the Adultery Prevention Bill. I came across this in a book called "Royal Dukes" by a Liberal, Roger Fulford. It is appropriate that somebody should at least quote something by a Liberal, because the Liberal Party has believed so passionately in the reform of the other House and the removal of the hereditary element as a matter which brooks no delay. But where are the Liberals?
Roger Fulford has written this fascinating book, "Royal Dukes". He thought that the Duke of Clarence excelled himself by a lack of self-consciousness and tact on the Adultery Prevention Bill, which he opposed. This was a Bill which sought to make it impossible for 1393 the guilty party to a divorce to marry. Mr. Fulford writes that the Dukebegan by remarking that not even the Bishops were stronger opponents of adultery than he. The Bishops remembering that he was fresh from the arms of Mrs. Jordan, may well have thought his remark a little personal. He continued his speech unabashed, and his knowledge of the subject was so intimate and his views so humane that it was generally believed that Mrs. Jordon had written the speech for him.I do not suggest that I want anything like this ever to be repeated in the Legislature. This is an undeferential age, but Amendment No. 163, in which I am supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham, is an unashamedly deferential Amendment. I do not think that we in the House of Commons are over-generous towards the Royal Family. I am not referring to the occasional sneers and snide crypto-republicanism which we sometimes encounter in debate here, often disguised as a great zeal for public economy. Parliament and the taxpayer have driven a pretty hard bargain in the past with those whose exemplary devotion to the public weal and public service we have come to take for granted.
It is therefore, I repeat, in an unashamedly deferential mood and in a desire to recognise the part played by the Royal Family in the national life, that the traditional right, which they do not exercise, to sit and to vote in the House of Lords should be retained.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
As my right hon. Friend knows, I disapprove of the Bill altogether, and I have no intention of voting for it at any stage during its passage. I think it an irrelevant Bill. The proposal that any of it should come into force before the end of this Parliament is, in my view, grossly improper constitutionally. The House would be far better engaged on matters of greater relevance to the economy.
Having said that, however, I am presented with a dilemma. Should those of us who oppose the Bill aim to make it more or less ridiculous? It is a little difficult to make it more ridiculous than it is at present, so I suppose I take the alternative as my main motivation for signing Amendments which, at least in some measure, are designed to make it a little less ridiculous, if the Bill ever becomes law.
1394 The Amendments in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) and myself are aimed at taking the hereditary concept right out of our Parliamentary system. Several hon. Members have spoken of the absurdity of giving a person a right to have any kind of legislative franchise merely on the basis of paternity. If ever there was a reason for having primogeniture, there might just as well, on genetic grounds, be a reason for having ultimogeniture, as there is in some tribal systems and some obsolete forms of tenurial law.
There is just as much reason for giving anyone, male or female, who is descended from a peer of hereditary creation the same right, but only in recent years have peeresses in their own right been allowed to sit in the House of Lords, whether they received the title by descent or by first creation, and there have been very few of these.
The hereditary principle, in relation to legislation was for many reasons indefensible, but that is not the only ground on which I urge upon the Committee the Amendments which would take the hereditary principle out of the system. Unfortunately, the nature of the Bill is such that we cannot expunge the hereditary concept altogether. We cannot destroy it as a system of title or nomenclature. The most we can do is to make it as unattractive as possible, to deprive it of as many of its perquisites as we can, in the hope that, if this Government remain inhibited from abolishing it altogether, as they ought, at least any successor Government will have less reason than hitherto for creating any more peers.
Before I enlarge upon that, I remind my hon. Friend of what happened regarding baronets under the Attlee Government. He will recall that the Attlee Government refrained from creating any baronets, save, rather quaintly, the current Lord Mayor of the City of London. That did not destroy the existing baronetcy; it merely gave it an enhanced scarcity value, and as soon as the Conservatives returned to office in 1951, they promptly resumed the creation of that class of title. Therefore, no good had been done merely by abstaining from creating that title.
There is every reason to believe that, if the Government persist merely in 1395 refraining from creating hereditary peerages, without actually abolishing them, the same will happen with hereditary peerages when there is another Conservative Government, and meanwhile the existing hereditary peerage, whether of first creation or by succession, will have acquired a certain enhanced scarcity value. If the Government intended to indulge in mass creations such as we have had since 1964, it would have been far more sensible to create an absolute riot of marquises and dukes, helping thereby to ridicule the whole thing out of existence. However, as they have failed to do that, there remains a more sophisticated and, perhaps, more permanent way of proceeding, namely, to abolish the peerage altogether.
The Bill does not provide for that, and it would be outside the scope of the Long Title to put down Amendments to that effect. The least we can do is to put the peerage more and more in limbo, hoping that it will be less of an attraction to hold merely a title which carries with it no rights of franchise whatever. Although it is true that the direct legislative influence of the peerage has not been very great for quite a time, the possibility that one can be a Member for life of a luxurious club, which has the right of debate and also the right of vote, though with limited powers, is a not inconsiderable attraction to a fair number of people. In saying that, I am not forgetting that there are many peers of first creation who never take their seats in the other place at all.
I remind the Committee of how ludicrous the hereditary peerage has become as a recognition of merit, quite apart from questions of its relevance to the Constitution. First, no non-royal dukedom, with one rather doubtful exception, has been created this century, and that doubtful exception concerned the royal marriage of one of Queen Victoria's granddaughters. Even Sir Winston Churchill did not have a dukedom, though I am told that the Letters Patent for a dukedom were drawn up but he decided of his own volition that it was not worth having.
1396 Of the marquises created, a rank senior to the earldom which had been the normal reward of retiring Prime Ministers and a few other Cabinet Ministers of seniority and distinction, the last was that of a man call Willingdon, who is remembered as a rather undistinguished Viceroy of India, far less distinguished than a number of others who held that office but have not been granted that particular peerage, for example, Lord Wavell and Lord Mountbatten.
Let us consider the example of Lord Mountbatten; in many ways, I suppose, one of the most remarkable and versatile of men in public life this century. I imagine that that is an uncontroversial remark which hon. Members on both sides will accept. His father, a less distinguished man though in many ways a worthy one, received a marquisate. The present Earl Mountbatten who, one would have thought, if these things counted for anything at all, would have qualified for such distinction, has to put up with an earldom—presumably because the Attlee Government thought that earls were democratic and marquises were not.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the Amendment which he supports would prevent Lord Mountbatten from even voicing his views in the House of Lords?
§ Mr. Lee
He never does voice them, so I do not think that that matters. He has never sought to voice his views in the House of Lords.
With the example of Lord Mountbatten in mind, I am reminded of others who gave distinguished service during the war years. On the other hand, those wretched and incompetent generals of the First World War, of whom Haig was the most notorious example, had earldoms. On the other hand, what was Lord Montgomery's reward in the Second World War? A man who, whatever my hon. Friends may think of his record on the question of South Africa, for example, or whatever hon. Members opposite may think of his views on Red China, is probably the greatest British general since the Duke of Wellington? He is given merely a viscountcy? One compares that with the earldoms given to Haig, to Jellicoe, or for that matter, to Beatty. To take naval examples, an earldom was given in the last war to Jellicoe and to Beatty, 1397 but not to Cunningham. It all shows how absurd the thing is.
One can take other cases. We all know that a viscountcy has been the usual reward for a sacked Cabinet Minister. In other words, a man has a viscountcy the sooner the more incompetent a Minister he is, since his Prime Minister wants to get him out of the way. One would hardly regard that as reasonable ground for giving anyone a reward, and certainly no good reason for giving him an earlier reward.
My right hon. Friend the present Minister of Technology, who spent a long time trying to divest himself of the absurd encumbrance of his viscountcy, which he did not want, once used the analogy that, if we award a man the Victoria Cross, we do not expect his successors in title to wear it. Why, therefore, because a person is given a reward of distinction for civil public service, should his sons or daughters bear that honour merely because they happen to be the first of the litter, as Lloyd George so aptly described them?
I do not know how much hope I have of persuading my right hon. Friend to accept this clutch of Amendments on the question of succession. But I hope that the arguments that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West and I have advanced may make some impression on the Government, and that the timidity which has characterised them in dealing with such matters hitherto will perhaps at any rate abate in the future.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The principal of the Amendments would remove even the voices of the hereditary peerage from the Upper House. I would not claim more than an average working knowledge of the House of Lords, but during my 12 years in this House it has not escaped me that some valuable work is done in the Upper House, much of it by hereditary peers. Hereditary peerage has also made a great contribution to public life outside Parliament.
I do not like the idea of a wholly nominated House. We should examine what we shall lose from the Upper House if the principal Amendment is passed. The hereditary peerage will not be able to have any voice by virtue of its hereditary position in the Upper House.
1398 I have in my hand a roll of the House of Lords. I shall not read it all, but there are certain members on that roll to whose qualities I should like to draw the attention of the Committee, hereditary peers not of the first creation but peers now seated in the House of Lords by virtue of their hereditary position who have rendered great distinction and public service, and are a valuable voice in Parliament.
After certain great officers of State and the Royal dukes, one comes to the Duke of Norfolk, who has a great position and has discharged his duties as Earl Marshal with distinction over many years. He needs no defence here, but he would be excluded. We have the Duke of Richmond, whose services to the motor industry and motor racing, an important aspect of national life, are well known. The Duke of Grafton's son, the Earl of Euston, is a very able custodian of our ancient buildings, and as the President of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings would be a valuable Member of the House of Lords, he is just the sort of person the Government would like to see in the Upper House. He is doing a valuable public service in that direction which would be available to Parliament but for the Amendment.
I cannot pass over the name of the Duke of Beaufort without saying how much all of the West Country values his services. He is Chancellor of our University in Bristol, and no Chancellor just in name but real Chancellor in every sense of the word, whose services to youth are well known and have been appreciated for many years.
The Duke of Bedford may be a figure of amusement to some, but his services to tourism and his attraction of paying visitors to this country are of immense value. It is true that he has not taken a large part in Parliamentary proceedings, but, with Britain lacking the wealth with which to carry on, the tourist industry is a valuable help. The Duke of Devonshire served as a Secretary of State, making a valuable contribution to public life. The Duke of Atholl, whom I count as a contemporary at Oxford, is one of the most energetic young Members of the Upper House. The Duke of Northumberland has a fine record of public service in his part of the country, and the present Duke of Wellington is an architect of considerable distinction.
§ Mr. John Lee
Would the hon. Gentleman like to mention the Duke of Argyll for his services to the divorce law?
§ Mr. Cooke
That is an intervention with which I will not trifle.
I am not making out a case that there are not some hereditary peers whose public services are perhaps less distinguished or valuable than others. I am merely making the case that there are a number of distinguished hereditary peers whose services in Parliament would be of great value to the country, and whose public services will be lost if the Amendment is carried.
There is a long list of marquesses. I shall mention only one, the Marquess of Exeter, whose services to the world of sport and to youth are well known. The Earl of Derby has been a leading figure in his part of the world for many years.
I might, in passing, mention the present disclaimed Earl of Sandwich, whose voice is a great loss to Parliament, and whom some of us would like to see included in a reformed House.
The service to the arts of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres is also well known. We would lose his voice in Parliament. Lord Waldegrave, a Minister and an agriculturalist of considerable distinction, would also be excluded. Lord Bathurst might be put in the same category. There are the Earl of Harewood, with his musical talent, and the Earl of Verulam, who was a Member of this House and is an engineer of considerable distinction.
Lord Halsbury's services are valued even by the present Government in connection with decimal currency, and Lord St. Aldwyn, who is the grandson of a predecessor of mine in West Bristol, has rendered Parliamentary service over many years.
There is even the present Lord Attlee, a hereditary peer, who is surely a valuable Labour voice in the other House. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is probably not Labour."] It is true that certain hereditary peers lose the party enthusiasms of their fathers, but the thought is there.
Lord Esher is a distinguished architect. Lord Brentford is active in the world of motoring, protecting the interests of the 1400 motorists, and Lord Maugham is a distinguished writer.
I could give a long catalogue, but I will not. Some of these noble hereditary Lords should receive at least a passing mention in the debate.
The world of music is represented in the form of Lord Somers, and there is Lord Auckland's distinguished work for youth.
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can continue with his catalogue of reference to Members of the Upper House, because other Members of the Committee may wish to answer some of his points and come up against the Standing Order which precludes them from casting any reflection on Members of another House.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
Surely my hon. Friend is entitled, under the rules of order, to argue that hereditary peers should be maintained in effective membership because they include large numbers of people of high quality? Surely he should not be debarred from doing that because other hon. Members might be tempted to go out of order in answering him? Surely, Mr. Gourlay, you would prevent it if there were such a breach of order?
§ The Deputy Chairman
Order. It is not entirely out of order for the hon. Gentleman to pursue his catalogue, but it puts temptation in the way of other hon. Members, and it might be unwise for him to pursue it at great length.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I take it, Mr. Gourlay, that you are ruling that my hon. Friend is in order, though you have expressed an opinion as to his wisdom. Is that the correct interpretation of your Ruling?
§ The Deputy Chairman
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has made a correct appreciation of this point.
§ Mr. Barnett
May I take it, Mr. Gourlay, as we are listening to this catalogue of dukes, earls, and so on, who might be fitting members of the other House, that I would be in order if I listed a series of aldermen and councillors from my constituency who would be equally fitting for the job?
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ The Deputy Chairman
That would depend upon the relevance of the observations which the hon. Gentleman made.
§ Mr. Cooke
I cannot say that I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Gourlay, because, frankly, I do not understand it.
I do not wish to detain the Committee over long, or to read out the whole rôle of peers and use it as an obstructive instrument in the debate. I have mentioned the names of a very small fraction of those hereditary Members of the Upper House who have distinguished service to their credit and who would bring distinction to any Parliamentary assembly. I had, in any case, nearly finished. But those I have mentioned could well defend themselves whatever any hon. Member opposite might care to say about them.
I have spoken about the arts. The present Lord Methuen is a Royal Academician, President of the West of England Academy and a painter of considerable merit. He even produced the House of Commons Christmas card last year. The present Lord O'Hagan is one of the most active younger Members. A person of his rare experience and enthusiasm would hardly find his way into the Upper House except by the hereditary principle. The present Lord Grenfell is also much interested in youth work.
Lord Kennet is that rare bird, an hereditary Socialist peer, but all the same a valuable Minister, much interested in the preservation of amenities and ancient buildings and a valuable ally to those on this side of the House of Commons who care about these matters. Young Lord Windlesham is experienced in the world of television. These are just a few. There is also Lord Sandford, a clergyman in the House of Lords and not a bishop, perhaps an advantage.
§ Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)
On a point of order. Do I understand that the rules of the House permit a virtually endless catalogue, although a select one, of peers whose qualities are estimable, as an argument in favour of maintaining an hereditary peerage, whereas they do not permit an equally almost endless catalogue of those who have been suffering for many years from too much hereditary in-breeding?
§ The Deputy Chairman
It might not lead to a very good debate, but the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) is in order.
§ Mr. Cooke
There was never any intention in my mind to give an endless catalogue. I have given but a brief selection and I have only one more name to give.
I was about to mention the young Lord Trefgarne, the second baron, whose father sat in this House in various parts of the Left-wing, if I can put it that way. I gather that the late Lord Trefgarne belonged to a number of parties, but he was none the worse for that. His young son is one of the most enthusiastic and active members of another place. He is another example of the young men who would not have found their way to Parliament but for the hereditary principle. The thoughts of these young men are surely of some value in Parliament. I do not intend to detain the Committee for very long and my speech would have been shorter if hon. Members opposite had not sought to interrupt and protest.
The value of the contributions and experience of the people I have mentioned would be lost to Parliament if the Amendment were carried. Perhaps the Committee might care to reflect on this and to think about how one could hope to represent such a wide spectrum of interest and public service in the Upper House by any other method.
§ [Sir MYER GALPERN in the Chair.]
§ No doubt the Government will say that the process of selection—nomination by the Prime Minister—could achieve the same thing, but I do not believe that that would be the case. For a start, it is bound to happen that, on the whole, older men will be selected. Very few in active middle age and no young people will be selected. There will always be a tendency for the Government of the day to go for establishment figures, the men who have worked their way up in their professional associations, probably very worthy men some but not all particularly sparkling in their approach to life. It will be a very dull House if it is entirely nominated.
§ The Committee should reflect on some of those noble Lords I have mentioned. There are others hon. Members can recall to mind. Of course, some noble 1403 Lords have let down the side and I often wish that some of the glossy magazines lying about the place were not produced because they draw attention to some of the less fortunate antics of some Members of the Upper House—and, indeed, of Members of the House of Commons, because we, too, have our failings. If the Committee cares to reflect for a moment, I think it will agree that a great deal of value will be lost to Parliament if the hereditary element is entirely removed from the Upper House, simply because the Government's proposals will not replace it by anything half so good.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Some of us who have listened to the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) may have misunderstood, particularly if they had not been following the whole debate, that his speech was addressed to supporting the Government's position, and the Government, I think, should acknowledge the suport they have had from him. The list he read out were all names of men whose services will be retained in the Upper House under the Government's proposals. I do not wish to cast any reflection on any individual, but as I listened to the list I was reminded of what Junius said when he saw the list of a Tory Administration in the eighteenth century. He said that it read to him like a satire on all governments. In one sense, the recital of the hon. Member was a satire on all our constitutional arrangements. Some of us would have been very happy if we could have said that at any rate this part of the farce was going to come to an end with the proposals for reform of the other place, but that is not to be the case.
Many of us are in great difficulties in this debate, because, of course, those who are root and branch abolitionists like myself do not favour a nominated Chamber nor a hereditary Chamber. It is difficult for us to present the whole of our case according to these Amendments. So my right hon. Friend may well say to us, "If that is the case, why do you not just keep quiet?"
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Richard Crossman)
Oh, no— not to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Foot
My right hon. Friend has to bear responsibility for his misdeeds today. 1404 I think that it is very hard on him in many respects. He is the most naturally productive of all the members of the Government. He does not need to take any political fertility pill to produce the kind of legislative quintuplets which he has given us. I think that is about the right number, although, looking at him at the moment, there may be more to come. As far as I am concerned, the sooner we get on to the rest of the litter, the better.
However, as I have listened to the debate, I have found an argument as to why I should intervene. I am not very enthusiastic about these Amendments. My hon. Friends the Members for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) and Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and I have put down new Clause 6—"Exclusion of peers by succession"—which would deal with the situation effectively, simply and clearly. It does not meet our general attitude to the Bill, but it would have a satisfactory result. If we were to pass the Amend-men, moved so peremptorily by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), we would upset the package and the reception of the Bill in the other place would be slightly less enthusiastic, and it is even conceivable that there might be a few recruits to our side.
Tactically, therefore, the wise course for those who are opposed to the Bill, for whatever reason, would be to vote with us on each of these Amendments, even those who wish to sustain the hereditary principle and who wish to kill the Bill, for this is the best way in which to do that. If we were to wipe the varnish from the rest of the Bill, what would be left would be a simple, crude vulgar, nominated Chamber, a proposal which might even be thrown out in the other place, although I doubt it.
I might even ask for support from my right hon. Friend on this occasion. I assure him that the enthusiasm for the Bill in the other place is so overwhelming that the peers would swallow anything so long as they could keep the power, which is what they want. They would prefer to have all this sweetening which my right hon. Friend has given to them as a result of the negotiations and they want to keep this hereditary part if they can, and they want all the fancy work as well, but what they want more is the central power which the 1405 Government propose to leave the other place, and therefore even the Government might not be too alarmed if the Amendment were passed.
I see that I am carrying the whole Committee with me; the Government can accept the Amendment. At any rate, I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services cannot produce a single argument for continuing the remains of the hereditary principle which are left in the Bill, apart from the bargain which he made with right hon. Gentlemen opposite in order to get the Bill presented at all.
As a root and branch abolitionist, I have a simple remedy, but the difficulty which I have found is that we have to apply our minds to the marginal question of whether a nominated House is better than a hereditary House. I must say that this has been a very tender balance all though the evening. Whenever the spectacle of hereditary peers is presented lo us, I veer in favour of the nominated Chamber and, whenever the evils of the nominated Chamber are emphasised, I am forced to consider the possibilities and advantages of retaining the hereditary principle. This is a most awkward dilemma.
When I heard the hon. Member for Bristol, West, I became passionately in favour of nomination—for a few minutes at any rate—but when I think of some of the others up there, particularly some of those with whom we have had to deal, I veer away from real peers, or life peers, or any new breed of peers. Those are the people to whom, under the Government's proposals, we are to surrender our obligations, a thousand years of history into these quivering hands, the Cromers, the Cobbolds the Caccias, the Brookes, the Bridges, the Hankeys and the Pankeys. Those are the people who want the dominant power in our constitutional arrangements.
I am absolutely staggered that my right hon. Friend should have introduced such a proposal. There may be a case for having the system which was proposed by the Abbé Sieyés, as was suggested by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch). If such a proposal were inserted in the Bill nobody would notice it. At least it would introduce a note of constitutional rigour into the whole ramshackle arrangement. Therefore, if my 1406 right hon. Friend proposes what might be called the Abbé Sieyés Amendment, I shall vote for that.
I want the Committee to apply itself properly to the discussions which we have in Committee. We all know that the Bill which we are supposed to send to the other place was ridiculous to start with, but if we can pile on a few more absurd Amendments, if we can push on to this ship a few more cargoes which are calculated to sink it, we will have done a good night's work and we will send such a Bill to the other place that even the worms there will begin to turn and even those who are already slavering at the lips for the extra power which it is supposed to give them for the next 20 or 30 years may take a different view.
We may make jokes about this, because the whole thing is ridiculous, but in fact it is an extremely serious matter. What we are doing is to ensure that for the next 20, 30 or 40 years the constitutional balance will be heavily weighted on the side of reaction, the elderly and the Establishment, those who in the main have exhausted the contribution which they can make to the political life of the country and who wish to sustain all the old institutions.
That is not what my right hon. Friend really wants. He is a born reformer; he wants to change things; he does not want to alter the constitution in this fashion; but that is what he is doing, and I am very sorry to see it. What we have to do is to rescue him from his own errors and to ensure that he can triumph over this mistake and go ahead to all the future triumphs which he may have ahead. Therefore, every hon. Member who votes for the Amendment will be helping to wreck the Bill and helping to save the Government.
§ Mr. Birch
I think that you would agree, Sir Myer, that it would be only right for the Liberal point of view to be expressed [Laughter.] Here I stand surrounded by eager, young, well-washed faces. Unfortunately, they have not been bold enough to speak; so I shall say what I think the Liberals would be saying.
The Liberals would say that many members—I should not like to say how many, but some hundreds—of another place are there because of an implied 1407 contract with the Liberal Party into which they entered with certain considerations to apply, to put it in a nice way. Having entered into that contract, and having given certain solid advantages to those who supported them at the time, the Liberals would say that it was absolutely wrong that those men who supported the Liberal Party with due consideration should be deprived of the rights of office.
§ Mr. Crossman
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervene briefly to state the view of the Government. I do so now partly because of the temptation to intervene after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who spoke with his usual brilliance. He has a quality, which I sometimes share, of speaking with simplifying candour. He told us willingly what he was up to—he was having good fun—and he said that he did not believe in reforming the other place and he therefore asked all hon. Members to join him in supporting what he consciously described as a wrecking Amendment. It was a very nice speech.
Those who are concerned with the reform of the other place, with the rights and wrongs of it and what should and should not be done, have to consider the group of Amendments before us, which we have now considered for a long time. It might be convenient if, first, I summarised the point of the Clause. Its object is to exclude from a reformed House of Lords all hereditary peers who may succeed to peerages in future.
The point of this group of Amendments, I will not go into them in detail, or refer to their drafting, is to exclude future peers by succession from the reformed House immediately and completely, and to remove the provisions under which those who are Members, or entitled to be Members at the time when the reform comes into effect would be allowed to remain as non-voting Members. This is an important Clause and it has been well worth lengthy discussion.
To some extent I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), but I would say that one has to begin somewhere in the Bill and it is logical to start with the principle of removing the hereditary element from the House of Lords.
1408 My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) asked me, in all sincerity, why was there a Clause in the Bill which not only suggested that hereditary peers might be created in future, but made provision for such a possibility. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) also asked this question. He wanted to have explained to him why the Government accepted the view that it was not their task on this occasion to abolish the peerage. This was not a matter of agreement or disagreement between the parties,—there was no potentiality of disagreement between the two sides.
The conference was established to study the reform of the institutions and composition of the other place, not to study the peerage, not to deal with it. The Bill has been drafted and framed on the assumption that, after it has been passed, a peerage will continue and the Prime Minister will be entitled to create both life and hereditary peerages, although from our side it is unlikely that such a nomination of the latter kind will take place. However, the Bill makes provision for the possibility.
The second matter put to me by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) is one which I hope that he will not press to a Division. From his own point of view that may be misunderstood. Technically, his Amendment is defective. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West was correct. It is, strictly speaking, meaningless, but I do not want to be niggling. However, the phrase "Prince of the Blood Royal" really means nothing, and it would mean nothing at all if it were passed. I understand his intentions, and can tell him that under the Government's proposals all members of the Royal Family who are at present created peers, would be eligible to take voting membership, but I think it would be extremely unlikely that they would wish to do so. As to the future, all members of the Royal Family who are created peers will be eligible for voting membership of the House, but, again, it would be expected that they would opt for a non-voting rôle.
This issue remains completely unaffected, as the rest of the problem of the peerage does, by the Bill. We have not affected the power of the Crown to create a hereditary peer; we have not affected 1409 the relationship of the Royal Princes or any other member of the Royal Family. They will be entitled to vote, but will not normally do so. I hope that the hon. Member will accept that assurance.
I deal now with the single remaining substantial issue. Let me explain briefly why the Government and those who support this reform regard the defeat of this Amendment as essential. It is true that it will be perfectly consistent for someone who was pledged, as we were at the election, to remove the hereditary element and reduce the effective powers of the Lords, to do it in such a way that in future every hereditary peer, every peer by succession, would automatically and totally be excluded from the Lords. That would be fully compatible with the principles laid down in our election manifesto. It is equally true that it is compatible with the manifesto to do it in the way we have chosen.
I might be asked why we have chosen this way, why have we said that we will have a two-tier House in which peers by succession who are there now will be entitled to serve their life out there if they wish, although their sons will not be able to do so? Why have we tapered off the presence of the hereditary principle in the Lords instead of cutting it off clean? It is a matter of taste. My hon. Friend the Member for Reading does not have exactly the same taste as myself in this. When I look at the work in the other place I will not deny that the hereditary peers add an element of youth and energy which it would miss. Many of them will become life and voting peers for that reason, but it is true that others will go.
I was prepared to reach an agreement, and it was part of the agreement we reached on both sides, that this would be a fair and reasonable method of dealing with the problem. Having reached an agreement, as often happens, the agreement was, I thought, better than that which either side had brought to the conference. I have no doubt whatever about the desirability of this part of the Bill, and the need to maintain the structure, and therefore of seeing these Amendments defeated.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
This is the first time I have uttered on the Bill or the White Paper. I share the views expressed in the opening sentences of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee), but I cannot agree quite so strongly with what he went on to say. I regard this as an atrociously bad, irrelevant Bill. The speech we have just heard by the Secretary of State for Social Services shows how he is trying to do two incompatible things at once. He has endeavoured to show to us that this was not a peerage Bill, but a Bill to reform the House of Lords.
The more the right hon. Gentleman went on the more abundantly clear it became that what he was seeking to do will really make a peer in the true sense of the word meaningless. We are starting from completely the wrong end in this matter. I share with the right hon. Gentleman the characteristic that I am an ardent Parliamentary reformer. On this matter I would say that I was holier than he. The pity of all this seems to be that we have got so indoctrinated with the theory that we in Parliament are the only people who can put forward suggestions as to how Parliament can be reformed that, as a result, we do not dare do what we ought to do.
We shall never make sense, with this Bill or any other dealing with the reform of the House of Lords or our own House, unless we get down to an objective study of what sort of Parliament is necessary in the body politic of today and then decide what powers are necessary for it to have to do its job, and who should have them. Until we work on those lines I say a murrain on legislation of this kind.
I would bring a little atomic argument to this one, perhaps to the surprise of the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know whether he knows what a spectral shift reactor is. It is one which is moderated by a mixture of heavy and light water. As the fuel is burned up the mixture is progressively diluted with light water. This changes the degree of moderation and releases excess reactivity until at the end of the useful life of the 1411 core the moderator consists mainly of light water.
If the right hon. Gentleman would substitute the word "talker" for the word "water" in that sentence he will find that it is not untypical of Parliament today. I would say that we are too far into this Parliament to enter into this sort of exercise, and I propose to take no further interest in the Bill whatever.
§ Mr. Powell
Might I intervene again, briefly, to take up two points arising out of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Referring to royal peers, I understood him to say that the position of royal peers in another place would not in practice be affected by the Bill since, as peers of first creation, in future they would still have a right to sit, although not necessarily to vote. I wonder whether this is necessarily true, since I think I am right in saying that certain of the royal peerages are not conferred but are automatically inherited—for example, I believe, the Earldom of Chester. If that be so, the right hon. Gentleman would not quite be accurate in saying that the position of royal peers would be unaffected in practice by the Bill.
The second point is perhaps more substantial and arises out of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the continuation of a non-Parliamentary peerage, possibly life, but possibly also hereditary, after hereditary peerage had ceased to form part of Parliament. The idea of a peerage continuing in vacuo outside Parliament after its function in Parliament has been destroyed is an abomination. There have been many references in the debate to continental aristocracies. I believe that hon. Members on both sides, whatever their view of the Bill and the present situation, would agree that our aristocracy, however one defines it historically and at present, compares very favourably with that of any other country.
One of the reasons for that—perhaps the real reason—is that it has to this day been a functional aristocracy. There have been duties and functions associated with title and with hereditary succession. It would be utterly to pervert the notion of peerage if we were to sever title, and what social status there may come with 1412 title, from any working function in the Constitution. More than that, the peerage of this country is, in a sense, quite different from the peerage of any other country, a Parliamentary peerage. It is true that there are some relics of pre-Parliamentary times in our present peerage, the survival of what are called the baronies by writ, which pre-date the Parliamentary peerage of the fourteenth and subsequent centuries.
However, the peerage as we know it, the functioning and working peerage of this country during the last 500 years, has been an emanation of Parliament. It has been created to serve in Parliament, and its status has rested upon its function in Parliament. Speaking only for myself, if the Bill or anything like it goes through, although I appreciate that the talks and the background to the Bill were not concerned with anything non-Parliamentary, it would be contrary to the spirit of the historic peerage if it should survive as an effete floating institution with no roots, no standing place and no function.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) for his stimulating and interesting contribution.
On the first point, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct. There is a group of peers of the kind to which he refers. In those cases, I understand from my brief that for their lifetime they would serve as non-voting peers. A certain number would die out. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for enabling me to point that out for the record.
Secondly, we shall have plenty of time to debate some of the larger issues about the future of the peerage. I was careful to say that in this Bill we did not think it was for us to determine the attitude of future Prime Ministers to the problem of the hereditary peerage; we had to leave the matter open. We do not create hereditary peers. Therefore, they would die out. On the other hand, if there were those who wanted to do so the Bill leaves that decision to be taken later. Not all right hon. and hon. Members opposite would fully agree with what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said about the peerage, but, 1413 whether they agree or not, the issue of peerage has been deliberately left open and not decided in the Bill.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
I am sorry that the Secretary of State did not give way to me earlier, because I wished to ask him a question arising out of what he said.
The right hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the energy and youth of certain hereditary peers whose services we enjoy in the other House. He conceded that with the wiping out of the hereditary principle the services of these young people would be lost to the Upper House. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Perhaps he will allow me to finish what I wish to say and then he can give a complete reply. I suppose that they might continue to have a voice and no vote, but in the fullness of time they would be excluded altogether unless they were nominated for life peerages.
I wonder how the Government of the day would be able to pick and choose. It would be very difficult and hazardous to get tie young element in by that process. How would a Labour Government, perhaps disinclined to consider hereditary peers for selection, introduce an element of young men, or young women for that matter, into the Upper House? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would answer that question if he finds the others somewhat distasteful. How will young life peers be discovered by a future Labour Administration. Surely we are hoping that we shall not have an Upper House consisting entirely of old men.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I was surprised at the tribute which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) paid to what he called the functioning and working peerage over the past 500 years. That is not how I interpret it. The functioning and hard-working peers were in the House of Lords to protect their own interests. When they worked hard, they did so, by speaking for perhaps a few hours a year, to make sure that the laws of the land protected those interests. I see no reason to pay the sort of tribute which the right hon. Gentleman paid to people acting in this way.
If the right hon. Gentleman was saying that after 500 years the place is coming to an end and that it is right to 1414 pay some tribute, I might be more generous, because, as Doctor Johnson said about an epitaph, in these matters one is not inevitably on oath. If I were to write an epitaph, I would concede that among the aristocracies throughout Europe ours was perhaps a shade more enlightened than most. Perhaps their best quality would be that they knew when to retreat and did not fight to the last ditch. This is why we still have them—because they had enough wisdom not to do that. I would find it hard to say very much more by way of tribute to the other place.
§ Mr. Sheldon
If the hon. Gentleman is saying that there were some peers who were more incompetent than others, I agree with him entirely. That is invariably the case, as with any body of people.
Amendment No. 103 is a probing Amendment which seeks to clarify subsection (4), which deals with the situation which arises when theholder of a hereditary peerage … may by notice in writing given to the Lord Chancellor within one year after the commencement of this Act, disclaim his membership of the House of Lords ".I am not sure why he should be allowed one year after the commencement of the Act to disclaim his membership. If he does not write, his membership presumably, will continue until the end of that Parliament. Why should he not be able to disclaim? We should be delighted if successionist peers who did not wish to attend the House of Lords would be prepared not to assert their rights. It would reduce the numbers and the amount of speaking. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will elucidate this point.
§ Mr. Crossman
The aim of the Clause is to give one year after the passing of the Bill so that a peer would have the right to disclaim, but that he should be excluded from the possibility of choosing a convenient moment in his political career, such as a by-election, and finding himself a right to become a commoner in this way. It was generally felt that, although this period should be given, after this the Clause should lapse.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
My right hon. Friend, in response to the short intervention made by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), said that the Bill left open the possibility of a future Government, if they so desired, creating a new crop of hereditary peers. The Bill is based upon party discussions and, therefore, contains a considerable degree of compromise, but what was said by my right hon. Friend convinces me of the absurdity of these whole proceedings.
My right hon. Friend said that we are all completely opposed to the hereditary principle, we have created no hereditary peers and it is unlikely that we shall create any. My right hon. Friend, who is a member of the Government, is seeking to bring about considerable constitutional reforms because he has accepted compromises which have arisen from all-party discussion. Together with his colleagues in the Government he is abdicating responsibility and is not reforming the other place in the way in which he tells the House of Commons the whole if this side would wish. The result is that we shall have a protracted Committee stage, at the end of which important matters of principle, which my right hon. Friend says are accepted on these benches, will be achieved only in part and for an indefinite period. That is the most extraordinary exhibition of government that I have seen for a long time.
§ Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
Will the Secretary of State say whether it is true that one of the major reasons for the inclusion of Clause 1 is that it allows the second Chamber to go on under the title of the House of Lords? If we are to reform Parliament we must first deter mine whether we want a second Chamber If we do, we must determine what its powers should be and how it should be elected or selected. It was a macabre dance of death that the House of Lords will go on, the hereditary peers being allowed to live out their lives in dismal splendour under the pretence that the principle of heredity has been abolished. A strong case could be made out for a legislative chamber not being composed on the basis of who one's father was. The Clause is the most disingenuous that I have seen in any Bill. The other place 1416 will still be called the House of Lords. Many life peers will be created, but would it not be far better to create senators? Why go through the mumbo-jumbo of creating life peers and calling their sons Honourable? This is the most reactionary proposal to have come from a Government of any persuasion since the end of the war. It is appalling that the Government Front Bench should be so reactionary—
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Sir J. Rodgers
My Front Bench are not as revolutionary as I should like them to be. The Labour Party pretends to be the party of revolution, the great reformists, looking at things afresh and bringing modernisation into our constitutional and national life. This is the opposite. It is a subterfuge to enable the other place still to be called the House of Lords—
§ Mr. Mendelson
The hon. Gentleman must not overlook his own Front Bench in this. These were bargaining negotiations. It is his side that insists on these things and, unfortunately, my right hon. Friend agreed with them.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. The hon. Gentleman must also not overlook the terms of the Amendment under discussion.
§ Sir J. Rodgers
If I may respond to that intervention, I do not exonerate my right hon. Friends, I have the greatest admiration for them, but I can think of no occasion when the country has benefited from the consensus of opinion between the two Front Benches. Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at the Bill, particularly at Clause 1, as it is an insult to this House and to the Upper House.
§ Mr. English
Will my right hon. Friend answer the question I asked earlier? The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) pointed out the peculiarities of our system of inheritance of peerage; I asked my right hon. Friend whether this conflicted with the United Nations Convention on the Status of Women and caused us for a long time not to ratify, and whether the Bill 1417 will still be in conflict with that Convention merely because our system of inheritance is biased towards males?
§ Mr. Sheldon rose—1418
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 45, Noes 207.1419
|Division No. 64.]||AYES||[8.18 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mendelson, John|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Newens, Stan|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Orme, Stanley|
|Barnett, Joel||Henig, Stanley||Paget, R. T.|
|Bessell, Peter||Hooson, Emlyn||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Howie, W.||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Booth, Albert||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Kenyon, Clifford||Sheldon, Robert|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Kerr, Russell (Feitham)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Lee, John (Reading)||Tomney, Frank|
|Davits, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Dickens, James||Lomas, Kenneth||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lubbock, Eric|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Faulds, Andrew||McNamara, J. Kevin||Mr. William Hamilton and|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Marquand, David||Mr. Eric Heffer.|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Ennals, David||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Archer, Peter||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Bence, Cyril||Eyre, Reginald||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Fernyhough, E.||MacArthur, Ian|
|Biffen, John||Finch, Harold||McBride, Neil|
|Biggs-Davison John||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McCann, John|
|Binns, John||Ford, Ben||MacColl, James|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Fowler, Gerry||McGuire, Michael|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mackie, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Freeson, Reginald||Maclennan, Robert|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Gardner, Tony||Mallalicu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Manuel, Archie|
|Boardman Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Marten, Neil|
|Body, Richard||Goodhart, Philip||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Boyden, James||Goodhew, Victor||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mawby, Ray|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gower, Raymond||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Gray, Dr Hugh (Yarmouth)||Millan, Bruce|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Buchan, Norman||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Monro, Hector|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hannan, William||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Harper, Joseph||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Charnnon, H. P. G.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Moyle, Roland|
|Chapman, Donald||Hastings, Stephen||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Coe, Denis||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Coleman, Donald||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Murray, Albert|
|Conlan, Bernard||Higgins, Terence L.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Cooke Robert||Hiley, Joseph||Neave, Airey|
|Crosland, RS. Hn. Anthony||Hilton, W. S.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, s.)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hobden, Dennis||Oakes, Gordon|
|Crouch, David||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Ogden, Eric|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hoy, James||O'Malley, Brian|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oram, Albert E.|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hunter, Adam||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hynd, John||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Oswald, Thomas|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Janner, Sir Barnett||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Dell, Edmund||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Jopling, Michael||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Kimball, Marcus||Pentland, Norman|
|Eadie, Alex||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Eden, Sir John||Lane, David||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lawson, George||Probert, Arthur|
|English, Michael||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Randall, Harry||Snow, Julian||Whitlock, William|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Spriggs, Leslie||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Rees, Merlyn||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Rentan, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Summers, Sir Spencer||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Swingler, Stephen||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Richard, Ivor||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Urwin, T. W.||Winnick, David|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Waddington, David||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Russell, Sir Ronald||Wainwright, Edwin (Deame Valley)||Woof, Robert|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Wallace, George||Younger, Hn. George|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Slater, Joseph||Wellbeloved, James||Mr. Charles Grey and|
|Small, William||White, Mrs. Eirene||Mr. Ernest G. Perry.|
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Myer Galpern)
Not at this stage. It will come in its proper place immediately after we dispose of the next group of Amendments.
The next Amendment is No. 72 and, grouped with it, are Amendments Nos. 68, 74, 73 and New Clause 12—
§ Mr. Jopling
On a point of order, Sir Myer. Your predecessor in the Chair, the Chairman of Ways and Means, told us at the beginning of the debate that he would make a statement about the Preamble and the point in our proceedings at which we could debate it, whether we could amend it, and various other matters. We have been told since that discussions are taking place on these points.
I can understand that it may have been difficult for Mr. Irving to make a statement to us before the end of the previous debate. However, hon. Members will remember what he said, and it is to be hoped that he will be able as soon as possible to make a statement about the outcome of the discussions which he has had in private with various members of the Committee. It will be very difficult for us to continue unless we have that statement as soon as possible.
§ The Temporary Chairman
That is hardly a point of order. However, I was present when the Chairman of Ways and Means occupied the Chair, and I heard him make reference to the Preamble. I am not the occupant of the Chair who gave that promise. I dare say that he is busily engaged in preparing his statement. But, whatever the hon. Gentleman 1420 may think, he may rest assured that the Chairman of Ways and Means will implement the promise that he made earlier.
§ Mr. Onslow
Further to that point of order, Sir Myer. Would not the Committee be helped if you reconsidered that decision? We were advised earlier by Mr. Irving that the selection of Amendments was provisional. We pointed out that, once we had embarked on the first group of Amendments, that ceased to be a provisional selection and became definitive. If we are not to have a statement on this subject, which has a bearing on the grouping of Amendments, as we come to each succeeding group, the selection ceases to be provisional and becomes definitive. It would be to the advantage of the Committee if we could be told when Mr. Irving will be making his statement.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The selection of Amendments is a matter entirely at the discretion of the Chair. In no way can the present occupant of the Chair brook any criticism of that selection.
In the meantime, I am concerned to proceed with the business before us, and I suggest—
§ Mr. Sheldon
On a point of order. I am not sure, Sir Myer, whether you were present at the time that Mr. Irving made that statement.
§ Mr. Sheldon
That helps considerably, because you will recall that the Chairman stated that he would be returning to make a decision on this matter. You have said that you have not heard about the present situation. If you had heard that he made this decision, clearly you would be right in carrying it out. I submit that 1421 if you have not heard of the decision, the best way to handle the matter might be to find out what that decision is.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The Chairman of Ways and Means will be returning to the Chair very shortly. It will be for him—as a matter of fact, he is here—when he takes over the Chair to indicate whether he has a statement to make. In the meantime, we will proceed with, I hope, Amendments Nos. 72. 68, 73, 74 and new Clause 12.
§ Mr. Heffer
Further to that point of Order. As the Chairman is present in the Chamber, may we ask whether he can give us at this precise moment the result of the discussions that have taken place? We can then happily go on with the business. If we do not get such a statement, and the Committee proceeds, it will proceed very uneasily indeed.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The point raised by the hon. Member will be dealt with in due course. I think that there is undue haste in asking a decision to be made on this point. I ask hon. Members to bear with me. But, as it happens to coincide with the time that the Chairman of Ways and Means is to resume the Chair, I gladly give over—not through any sense of defeat, but because I wish to observe the timetabling.
§ [MR. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Onslow
On a point of order. I wonder, now that you have rejoined us, Mr. Irving, whether you are in a position to tell us anything further on the subject of the Preamble about which earlier this afternoon, you promised us a statement?
I apologise for keeping the Committee waiting. I had hoped that I might have a little more time. I have taken the opportunity to consult at least one or two of the hon. Members who raised the matter to be sure that I was seized of the point. I ask the indulgence of the Committee to leave a fuller statement, if necessary, until later.
I ought, first, to say that I am completely bound by Standing Order No. 45:In a committee on a bill, the preamble shall stand postponed until after the consideration of the clauses and of any schedules.1422 So it is ultra vires for me to go beyond that Standing Order.
On the other hand, the Committee may like to look at my selection. Amendment No. 140, in the name of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) seeks to amend a Clause in the Bill. The right hon. and learned Member also has an Amendment down to the Preamble which, in my provisional selection, I had decided to allow to be debated with Amendment No. 140, So, while the Chair cannot rule on Amendments to the Preamble or to other parts of the Bill before proper consideration can be given, the Committee will see that the principle is accepted by the existing selection.
If a Member puts down an Amendment to a Clause and also an Amendment to the Preamble, the Chair will consider calling these together, thereby allowing, at the same time as the debate on the Clause, a debate on that section of the Preamble.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I take it, Mr. Irving, that the same Ruling will apply to Amendment No. 128, when we reach it, which is similar to Amendment No. 67 on page 1068, which seeks to amend the Preamble? I take it that you will allow a discussion both on the Amendment and on that part of the Preamble?
I am not quite clear about the point that the hon. Member raises with me. Amendment No. 128 has been provisionally selected with new Clause 11, which is not concerned with the Preamble, as I understand. But if the hon. Member puts down an Amendment to the Preamble which relates to the Amendments on the Notice Paper, I should consider selecting it for debate with the Amendments already selected.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Mr. Irving, it is possible that we shall not reach Amendment No. 128 today, so you may have time to consider this in the morning. This Amendment refers to the election of representatives of science, technology, the arts, industry, and so on, and new Clause 11 sets out how those representatives should be elected. I have also tabled an Amendment to the Preamble, referring to the same point, and I take it that we shall be able to discuss that new Clause in conjunction with Amendment No. 108.
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I now understand the point that he is making.
The hon. Member's Amendment to the Preamble has not been selected. As I said, the Chair cannot, in advance, give an indication of its selection, nor can it give an undertaking to select an Amendment to the Preamble, but, from the selection, it is procedurally possible for an Amendment to a Clause and an Amendment to the Preamble to be selected for debate together. I cannot go further than that in this kind of ruling.
§ Mr. Younger
Mr. Irving, I apologise for delaying the Committee, but there is a further point which I do not think is covered by your statement. As I understand, the Preamble can in any event be amended only if an Amendment accepted to some other part of the Bill makes it necessary for that Amendment to the Preamble to be made. This will be all right if certain Amendments which are suggested to the Bill are made, but if the Committee decides not to accept certain Amendments, and if it is still the view of some hon. Members that the Preamble should be amended, will there be some procedure whereby it will be possible for the Preamble to be amended?
Could you also tell me whether, even if that is now allowed to be done by a Member of the Committee, it will be in order for the Government, if they wish, to introduce an Amendment to the Preamble which may not be connected with any Amendment which has been made to the rest of the Bill? This is the real problem which faces us. As certain parts of the intention of the Bill are being carried out only in the Preamble, and apparently cannot be carried out in the body of the Bill, I should be grateful if you would look into this. I know, Mr. Irving, that you may not be able to answer my question now, but I think the Committee will need to know exactly where it stands.
I want to help the hon. Member, but I am aware of the danger of giving hypothetical Rulings. What the hon. Gentleman says about an Amendment to the Preamble once an Amendment to a Clause has been disposed 1424 of is correct. If an Amendment to a Clause is rejected, the same matter cannot be brought in by way of an Amendment to the Preamble. Further than that I really could not, and would not, wish to go tonight. The whole question of the Preamble has to be considered, and that is debatable.
§ Mr. Mendelson
Further to that point of order. Mr. Irving, what you have just touched on is a matter of capital importance, because when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services was speaking, at a time when you were unavoidably absent, having consultations, he said that with a Bill one has to start somewhere. That sounded like an innocent remark at the time, but it is not quite so innocent in the light of the discussion that is taking place now.
Although much of the meat of the Bill is in the Preamble, the Government have started with the Clause dealing with composition, and not with the Preamble. This means that if we are prevented from moving Amendments to the Preamble we shall not be able to amend one of the most crucial parts of the Bill. I therefore urge you to reconsider the matter to try to find a solution which makes it possible for hon. Members to make such Amendments to the Preamble as they think necessary.
§ Mr. Onslow
I understand that at some stage the Chair puts the Question, That this be the Preamble to the Bill. I am not clear, and I do not know whether the Committee is clear, whether any Amendments can be moved to that Question. I shall not press you to go into this tonight because it may be, this being the odd Bill that it is, there is no precise precedent on which one can rely. But I hope that, after reflection and having taken advice, you will be able to come before us again soon and elaborate on this point, since it is of considerable importance.
This is why I had hoped that the Committee would allow me further time and allow me to make a statement at the beginning of the next day's business. As I understand, at the moment—unless I am further advised—although it is not possible to amend the Preamble in respect of a matter which has been rejected on a Clause, it is possible in this case to amend the 1425 Preamble in respect of other matters. It is not possible to amend the Question which is put to the Committee, That this be the Preamble to the Bill, but that is debatable.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press me further than this. It is possible to amend the Preamble and I should like to reserve my position a little and have the sympathy of the Committee in allowing me to make any further elaboration of this on our next sitting day for the Committee. I believe that it is possible to amend the Preamble and discuss the Question, That this be the Preamble to the Bill, but not to amend it in respect of any matter which has already been rejected in the Bill.
§ Mr. Younger
Further to that point of order. Perhaps I could be specific to help you, Mr. Irving, in your considerations before the next day. Suppose that no Amendment is accepted in this Committee stage referring to regional representation in the new reformed House. This is merely an example. Are we then bound, as the only action that we can take when considering the Preamble, to reject it lock, stock and barrel or may we then say that, because no Amendments about regional representation, about which hon. Members may feel strongly, or anything else, have been accepted or put through in Committee, we have then only one option—to throw out the Preamble altogether or to accept it as it stands? It seems to me that that would be a most unsatisfactory situation and I should be grateful if you could look into that specifically.
I will certainly look into that. This is why I confined my original statement to suggesting that there were ways and means of having sections of the Preamble considered with the Clauses in the Bill. I feel that this would meet the hon. Gentleman's need more effectively than anything else that I can suggest. However, I will certainly look into the matter that he raises.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I beg to move Amendment No. 72, in page 2, line 14, after '(2)', insert 'and subsection (5)'.
I understand that we are discussing, at the same time, Amendments No. 68, in page 2, line 38, at end add: 1426(5) Holders of hereditary peerages of England, Scotland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom up to a number of 20 elected by a majority of the holders of such hereditary peerages shall not be excluded from receiving a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in any Parliament summoned after the commencement of this Act, and such elected holders of hereditary peerages shall be known as representative peers;No. 73, in page 2, line 38, at end add:(5) In any Parliament summoned after the commencement of this Act all peers by succession shall elect from their number 75 peers who shall possess full voting rights for the duration of that Parliament and who shall henceforth be described as peers by succession with voting rights;No. 74, in Clause 2, page 2, line 43, after first 'of', insert:'peers by succession with voting rights and';and new Clause 12—Election of representative Peers,At the commencement of each Parliament the holders by succession of a hereditary peerage of England, Scotland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom shall meet together according to a procedure to be laid down by a resolution of the House of Lords and shall elect not more than 20 of their number to serve as voting peers in the House of Lords for that Parliament.It will be clear, I think, that Amendment No. 72 is consequential upon No. 73. Although there is no difference between the principle behind my group of Amendments and that behind new Clause 12 and Amendment No. 68 in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and others, an important difference of method is involved. We seek to enshrine the hereditary principle by enabling all peers who receive a writ of summons to elect from their number 75 to serve in all Parliaments as from the acceptance of this Bill, and the new Clause is concerned only with 20 elected in more or less the same way.
If the Amendment is carried, I will be happy to leave the method of selection to the peers. It is perhaps a minor point, but I would take issue with my hon. Friends on their version. I believe that 20 is too few to protect an efficient and able peerage from now on, very much for the reasons so clearly put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Only 20 in the new House would mean that the peerage as a whole will no longer function as such and would gradually become effete. So I prefer the 1427 figure of 75, which I grant is an arbitrary one. It is difficult to work out, from the White Paper and the Bill, exactly how many peers there will be in the new House, and perhaps the Minister will comment on this. My figure of 75 is designed to be between one-quarter and one-third of the total, as I understand it. That would be an important proportion in any decision which the Lords would have to take in future.
I should apologise at the outset for the fact that I am in some danger of covering ground which was covered in the debate on the previous Amendments. It was due to the courtesy of the Chair that that debate ranged wide. It dealt mainly with the heredity principle. In this debate my hon. Friends are concerned precisely with the hereditary principle, and it is therefore inevitable that we will cover some of the ground, perhaps in some detail, previously covered.
Perhaps I need not apologise too much because this matter is at the heart of the Bill. To remove the hereditary principle would be to remove the House of Lords in any historical and meaningful sense. One could refer to it as the "House of Nominees", as some hon. Gentlemen opposite have suggested, or the "House of Members of the M.C.C." or "House of Members of the Football Association". It would be just as relevant to call it that as to go on calling it the House of Peers. Should the Amendment not be accepted we will no longer be debating the House of Lords but a second Chamber of a different description.
I plead with hon. Members in considering the Amendment to take the matter seriously. There have been times earlier this afternoon when, understandably, a note of levity has crept in. Some hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), have made it plain that they wish to treat the matter lightly. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made it clear that he thinks that the way to achieve his objective is to treat the committee stage as a joke. I suppose that that is one way of approaching it.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
The hon. Gentleman is moving the Amendment in moderate 1428 terms. I assure him that I will not treat the matter with levity. When I reply I will try to adopt the spirit which he is adopting in explaining the Amendment. I hope, therefore, that he will not stress this aspect of the matter too much.
§ Mr. Hastings
I have no intention of stressing it any more, and I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's assurance. I merely wish to register the fact that there is a tendency—perhaps it goes wider than the House of Commons—to regard a defence of the hereditary peerage in these terms as simply a waving of some banner from the mediaeval past. It is not. I assure the Committee that I am concerned with what I believe to be the two primary values of good government. They are individual liberty and the limitation of man's power over man. It is in regard to those two values that I seek to make my case.
I remind the committee that the hereditary principle in Parliament is not as old as the peerage. The writ of summons to the Model Parliament of 1295 did not carry with it the right to be summoned to Parliament to the successors of those who were on that occasion. Some sort of hereditary peerage existed in the reign of Edward I, but there was no automatic right of Parliamentary summons then either. The principle emerged in the reign of Henry VII. Thus this system is not the result of some aboriginal custom. It grew, was found acceptable and advantageous, and was formalised as part of the Constitution as the Constitution itself evolved. There have been several assaults on it as early as the eighteenth century and several times since then.
I suggest, in all seriousness, that the present objections to the hereditary principle functioning as it would under this group of Amendments are based mainly on two grounds or two assumptions, both of which I hold to be false. Of the first we have heard several times this afternoon. The argument runs that we have "progressed" in this country or society to a point where inheritance and legislative responsibility have become an anachronism. We hear the phrase "in this day and age" that "in this modern age it is ridiculous to argue that such a thing should continue". The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) used the phrase more than once. 1429 We see it in the newspapers and hear it on television almost every day.
I want to examine precisely the nature of this so-called "progress". I grant that over the last 150 years, to take a somewhat arbitrary span of time, there has been vast technical progress. We live longer than people used to and we are surrounded with all sorts of mechanical marvels. Some, not us, alas, are preparing to land on the moon. These things would have been wildly beyond the expectations of those who lived a century ago. Material goods and economic wealth are more widely distributed, and in that way there has been progress. Education, some better than others, is universal, and to that extent there has been progress.
But none of these considerations relate directly or necessarily to the aims of good government or to a sound constitution. One could represent the same consideration with regard to the people of the Soviet Union, but I do not think anyone in this Committee would suggest that they have achieved good government. Considering the converse side of the argument about progress, there are those, not only in this House but widely in the country, who I think would agree that this is an age of diminishing virtue and failing courage—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—in which we tolerate any manifestation of atavistic excess anywhere in the world provided it does not upset our convenience or our illusions. It is an age in which we view with apparent indifference and lethargy the growth of a tyranny bent on destruction of all the values we should hold dear.
§ Mr. Hastings
Of course I concede. That was an encouraging example on the other side, but I am seeking to show that we can take two views about this famous "progress" at present. I think there would be those who would advance the idea that in this country now disorder is tolerated virtually to the point of reverence. I do not lay that at the door of the Government, but I think it is broadly true. This is an age in which 1430 practically every moral and ethical conviction and standard has slipped. Many would say that our society at present is sick, and many would hold that this conviction about progress is misplaced.
The second ground or assumption on which it is argued that the hereditary peerage should be done away with is that heredity is bad because it is undemocratic. What I am about to say may be unpopular and unfashionable, but I think that it can be justified in the context of the argument. We idolise democracy. This fashion for regarding democracy as the only form of good government stems, of course, from the Jacobin movement originally and to a great extent was supported by the forces of the Marxist historical analysis, the impact of which has gone far to conceal its own sinister implications and the glaring nonsense of its own conclusion. But, political analysis did not start with Hegel's dialectic or with Marx. Aristotle made a far more enduring and lasting contribution to political analysis ages before.
Democracy is just another form of government. It can be good or bad. There is hardly a country which does not claim to be democratic in one form or another. Democracy in the Soviet Union is impeccable; 99 per cent. of all the people there always vote Aye and they claim to be democratic. I contend that democracy is good only in proportion to the extent that it rests upon liberty. Liberty, in turn, is based upon the concept of property and upon the rule of law.
I would assert, to finish this section of my remarks, that it is possible for these foundations to be eroded and for liberty to be confined under a democracy, as under any other form of government, if there is no check upon that excess.
§ Mr. Henig
On a point of order. If the remarks which have already been made were in order, as presumably they were, when other hon. Members speak in this debate will we be allowed to discuss Plato in more detail, Hegel in more detail, Marx in more detail, and many other philosophical concepts in more detail, because I think that to do so would make for a most interesting debate?
I think the answer is that the hon. Gentleman saw that I was edging forward on my chair and about to intervene, but I 1431 postponed that moment because the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) said that he was coming to the end of that part of his speech. I am having great difficulty in relating the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the Amendment. I hope that he will come to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Hastings
I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) would welcome such a widening of the debate, because I understand that that was his business for years, anyway, before he came to the House of Commons.
I finish here. Under this new Constitution, without the hereditary principle, if this hereditary group of peers is not preserved in the House of Lords, there will be no independent check of the kind that exists now over the democratic system, which in fact could develop—there are historical parallels—by degrees into tyranny. By this Amendment we seek to preserve this important check of the existence of 75 independent peers.
Throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century—this is an important constitutional Measure, and I am convinced, Mr. Irving, that a short investigation into our history is not irrelevant—the two great merits of our Constitution, as I understand it, were held to be "the separation of powers" and what was known as "mixed government". This was recognised by such notable authorities as Montesquieu, Blackstone, de Lolme, Paley and Burke, all of whom spoke and wrote with great relevance upon what we are engaged in discussing tonight.
"Mixed government" consisted in an equipoise, which they believed to be brilliantly conceived, between monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Each Estate, in their view, had its merits and its demerits. Each worked as a check upon the other. Together they ensured stability and a peaceful evolution for the British people. We do not have to delve very deep into history to trace how the weight of power here has shifted. It has been foreseen—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is really making a Second Reading speech. He must be more precise 1432 in addressing himself to the Amendment than he is at the moment.
§ Mr. Hastings
Mr. Irving, I am seeking to show the danger if the hereditary principle is dropped and there is no hereditary element left in the House of Lords. With deep respect, I think that to trace how this power has steadily left first the Royal Prerogative and then the House of Lords itself and passed to the House of Commons alone is, in an important respect, relevant to my general argument.
Order. The Amendments are addressed to doing certain precise things. The hon. Gentleman must address himself to how he would bring these things about.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Hastings
I conclude, on this aspect of the matter, by pointing out that the power of the majority, that is, the power of the Commons, will be unchallenged if we do away with the hereditary principle altogether. We seek by our Amendments to preserve some check upon it through the independent peers.
At any given time, only a proportion of hereditary peers—this would apply in the future, too—are effective as legislators. But it is fair to suggest that we are not all necessarily so effective in this place, despite our hallowed democratic origins. A group of 75 elected within the existing peerage would contain a high proportion of effective legislators. They would, furthermore, be motivated—this is a legel mate point—by the need to legislate for posterity at least they would not be impelled so much as this House to legislate for immediate popularity. There is an important difference there. They would be answerable, as they are today, to no one but their own conscience, and not one of us can in honesty claim that that is so in our case, for we are answerable to our constituents, to the Whips and to a number of other influences which would not apply to them.
I admit that heredity is unfair. All accidents of birth are unfair. Life itself is unfair. It is unfair for a politician to get himself elected and become Prime Minister on a set of promises and pledges which, afterwards, perhaps, he has no intention of carrying out—even sometimes doing the precise opposite of what he said he would do. That is unfair.
1433 There is another important aspect of the matter, I would remind the Committee of a dictum of Montesquieu:Nobility is essential to a limited monarchy. Neither could survive without the other. Abolish the nobility and either a despotism or a republic would result.Under the Clause unamended, a long step would have been taken towards just that situation, whether we recognise it at present or not. And I am well aware that there are hon. Members opposite who would wish precisely that.
The case for heredity has not been put better in a sentence or two in recent, months, since the present controversy started, than in a letter in The Times from Garter King of Arms. I shall quote one passage:Is there nothing to be said for containing the great force of 'family first' in political forms stronger, because closer to its own biological nature, than those dictated by the optimism of the 18th-century enlightenment or later rationalism?Yes there is plenty to be said. The prejudice against heredity and against this Amendment is a compound of fashion and of fear. A fashion of politics which has grown since the end of the 18th century, which has distorted history and has created an arrogant illusion of progress which does not in reality exist. A fashion for popular Government for the sake of its appearance, and, at times, at the expense of the true objectives of good Government as I have tried to describe them.
That fashion is the work of a political movement which, in its extreme form, has for too long been the curse of Europe and of the civilised world and which, again in extreme form, has brought untold misery to countless people, and with which many hon. Members opposite, consciously or unconsciously, are in some measure, infected. It is the result of fashion I said and of fear, the fear of appearing to be unfashionable. I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends in particular that we have nothing to be afraid of. Fashion is by definition changeable, and to fear it is too often to compromise with our convictions. There is some danger for us in that at present.
Finally, we are told that a merit of the Bill is that it has been agreed between the two principal parties, and that concessions 1434 are naturally necessary to any agreement of this kind. Presumably the abolition of a functioning hereditary peerage is one of those concessions. Which of us has ever concluded a satisfactory agreement, commercial, legal or whatever, on the basis that we started determined above all to reach agreement? If that is our frame of mind, we are lost; yet that seems to me to be the frame of mind in which this Clause was conceived.
Let us not fear what we know to be wrong. Let us change it. I do not say that my suggestion of a group of 75 is precisely the best way, but it would go far to improve what at present is an appalling hash of a Bill.
§ Mr. Heffer
We should be most grateful to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) for giving us a first-class exposition of extreme Right-wing thinking about the whole question of the reform of the House of Lords. In a sense, this is the traditional Tory attitude to the other place.
We should be grateful to the hon. Member for bringing it out as he has, because it is obvious that he is still living very much in the 15th century, about which we talked earlier. He has not advanced, except in certain directions which are somewhat sinister in a sense. By that I mean that we have heard before the talk about decadence, the sickness of society and the lack of virtue in society. It all has a very familiar ring. I can remember, as a young boy coming into the democratic Labour movement, hearing such things emanating from people in central Europe, who said that they would put Europe and the world in order, but established one of the most horrible dictatorial regimes ever known.
I ask the hon. Gentleman precisely what he meant when he said that Nazi Germany was an encouraging example on the other side. I may have misunderstood him.
§ Mr. Hastings
I was replying to the Minister, who quoted this as an example of what society has achieved in comparatively recent years. I was conceding it without reservation.
§ Mr. Heffer
I accept that, but at the time it sounded rather bad to me. I accept entirely that the hon. Gentleman 1435 by no means meant what I thought was implied in that statement.
I find the Amendments fascinating. One suggests that the hereditary peers should elect 20 of their number who will then be permanently in the reformed House of Lords. The other suggests that we should have 75. For the purposes of what I think we should do if we are to extend this principle, 75 would be very satisfactory.
We should perhaps think of taking the principle a little further. Let us see what we can do with it. Let us decide, for example, that, in the new, reformed House of Lords, we should allow the dockers to elect 75 of their members to it and that the agricultural workers, the carpenters, the joiners and the bricklayers should elect 75 each from their own ranks. I will even concede that the lawyers should elect 75 of their members, and also the university teachers and the students.
§ Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the lawyers might have to deduct some members so as to bring their representation down to 75?
§ Mr. Heffer
That is an interesting thought.
Earlier, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) said that the important thing is to have continuity—for example, that the son of a coal miner makes a good coal miner because his dad was a good coal miner and so the son of a peer makes a jolly fine peer and is very good in the House of Lords because his dad was a peer.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire said that the hereditary peers should have 20 or 75 Members to look after their interests. I am suggesting that all these other sections of the community should have 75 representatives each to look after their interests. Let us get them all in. On that basis, the new, reformed House of Lords would perhaps have about 75,000 Members. Then we could erect a great marquee on Clapham Common for the representatives of all these various sections of the country.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I hope that, later, I shall have the hon. Gentleman's support for Amendment No. 128, which proposes that one-third of the House of 1436 Lords should be elected from societies, associations, trade unions and other bodies so that there will be a genuine election of the great interests of the country.
§ Mr. Heffer
I will be happy to discuss that later. It has great possibilities as well. Indeed, I see immense possibilities in the Bill. It may be that, if we discuss the Bill for the next two and a half months, we shall never arrive at a conclusion as to what we should do.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire made a serious speech. I have been humorous up to a point, but there is a serious side to this and we should treat it seriously—although I must admit that I find it a little difficult to do so. However, I will do my best. The hon. Member says that he would be happy to leave it to the House of Lords to decide who they would elect. He wants to give the peers a privileged position again. Going through the history of our country, he rightly said that the Royal Prerogative has been whittled away and, with it, the power of the peers. If we understand the history of our country, we know full well that, to expand and extend the democratic principle of involving wider and wider sections of our people in government, there has always had to be a struggle against the privileged minorities. The fight for democracy has been the struggle against the privileged minorities.
In a sense, the English Civil War occurred because of the rise of the middle classes in the cities, who complained of being excluded from having a say in the running of the country, although the country's wealth was being built on their efforts and no longer on the efforts of the landed aristocracy. But the landed aristocracy were intelligent people. Although they nearly upset the applecart by fighting strenuously against the cities and towns during the Civil War, they later recognised their mistake and compromised and made certain that they intermarried with the industrialists of the towns. But, in a sense, that, too, was a struggle for the extension of democracy.
It was still rather like the Greek democracy of the days of Aristotle; it was a democracy of the slave owners, and for the slaves there was no democracy. Although the Civil War extended 1437 democracy, the mass of the people who worked in the factories, the fields and the mines were still excluded. To use the modern American expression, they said, "We want a bit of the action". As a result there was a fight which ended in the great Reform Bill of 1832, and that was another extension and expansion of democracy and an attack on the powers and privileges of the other place. We have now reached a stage in our society when we have to say that the powers and privileges—
I hope that the hon. Gentleman has reached the stage when he can come to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am coming to the Amendment now. I am suggesting that the Amendment would mean that, instead of taking that further step towards democracy, the complete elimination of the last vestiges of the privileges of the peers—and, unfortunately, the Bill does not take that final step—instead of removing the last vestiges of the powers and privileges of a class which feels that it is born to rule, the Amendment will continue the privileges of the class which is clinging to some vestige of power.
With the exception of the first Amendment, which is a paving Amendment, each of the Amendments in the group relates to the right of hereditary peers to elect a certain number to be peers as provided by the Bill. The hon. Gentleman must address himself to that issue.
§ Mr. Heffer
With due respect, Mr. Irving, although you may think that I have not been addressing myself to this question, I can assure you that I think most hon. Members know precisely that I have been doing so for the whole of my argument. This is what it is all about.
Order. The hon. Gentleman has been addressing himself to the Amendment, but not in a sufficiently precise way for Committee stage. He is really making a Second Reading speech.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am not making a Second Reading speech. I am talking about the Amendment. It says that the hereditary peers will elect from among their number either 20 or 75 hereditary peers, who will then sit in a reformed House of Lords, and will be permanently in on the basis 1438 of the new Measure which will give them this right. If this is accepted it means that this class which the 20 or 75 will represent, will be clinging on to their last vestiges of political power, to which they have no right to cling.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire said that the hereditary principle goes to the heart of the Bill, and I agree. This is why it is such a mess; it is neither one thing nor the other. It is neither the abolition of the House of Lords and the hereditary principle, nor the acceptance of the hon. Gentleman's point of view. It is something in between, which satisfies no one, and that is why, in a sense we are allies in this battle against the Bill. It does not satisfy either the landed aristocracy or the proletariat. Neither principle is acceptable.
I would like to quote from Robert Barnabas Brough, who wrote a poem called "My Lord Tomnoddy". It says:My Lord Tomnoddy is thirty-four;The Earl can last but a few years more.My Lord in the Peers will take his place;His Majesty's councils his words will grace.Office he'll hold and patronage sway;Fortunes and lives he will vote away;And what are his qualifications?—ONE!He's the Earl of Fitzdotterel's eldest son.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Perhaps I can begin by assuring you, Mr. Irving, that I have no intention of following the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in a somewhat inaccurate discourse of historical events. I must make one comment however. When he referred to the hereditary peerage as a privileged minority, I am bound to say that I can think of many sections of the community who are much more privileged than the hereditary peerage, but who use their privilege far less responsibly.
We have debated the principle and basis of the hereditary peerage for a long time. It would be absurd to suppose that the two groups on either side of the Committee can agree about it. Of course we cannot. What we probably can agree upon is to respect each other's point of view, it being a point of view held sincerely.
The group of Amendments before the Committee now, and the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), do not suggest that the House of Lords 1439 should be composed solely of hereditary peers. It is not now. They do not suggest that the reformed House of Lords should be composed mainly of hereditary peers. It is not now.
I am entirely in favour of reforming the House of Lords, partly because I can see no point in the present Chamber having powers which it cannot use.
But I see no point in replacing the present Chamber with a newly-constituted Chamber and giving it powers which, if it uses them, will be taken away, which was the most unwise threat made by the Home Secretary on Second Reading. That would be an absolute farce. I have a feeling that the Home Secretary will live to regret that remark. What my hon. Friends and I suggest is that the hereditary element in the House of Lords should not be eliminated, but should be elected by their fellow hereditary peers.
I am not wedded to the figure of 75, or 20, as is proposed in another Amendment. We could argue for a long time about numbers. There is no law of the Medes and Persians about 75. I am concerned that the hereditary element should not disappear completely. Election by their fellow peers worked very well with the Scottish peers. No one has said that it did not. I have always thought it a great pity that in the last legislation put on the Statute Book changing the composition of the House of Lords election by their fellow peers should have been taken away.
Hon. Members opposite may say that the hereditary peerage is an anachronism. Perhaps it is. I am not so sure. I have a feeling—and probably I am as accurate in my history as the hon. Member for Walton—that the hereditary element in government, in this country at any rate, has lasted a great deal longer than the elected element and goes far deeper into history. I also have the feeling—and this was put very well in the article in The Times, to which reference has been made—that the principle of one man, one vote is not necessarily the universal cure or protection against all forms of oppression.
The Leader of the House knows that I am making a serious point—whether he agrees with it is neither here nor there—when I say that in its anachronis- 1440 tic way the hereditary system in the House of Lords has produced, in generation after generation, men of great integrity, of great ability and, above all, of independence. I would put the last of those qualities almost at the top, because in any reformed second Chamber, with whatever powers it is given, it is extremely important that, however constituted, it should have ballast. One cannot run any legislative chamber without ballast. The ballast is far more reliable and far less likely to be influenced by undesirable elements if it is weighted on the side of the hereditary element rather than on the side of the nominated element.
I would far rather have the ballast, or safeguard, whatever one likes to call it, with a small element of hereditary peers elected by their fellow hereditary peers than rely on the cross-benchers in the House of Lords who, by their very nature, can rarely agree among themselves about anything.
There is a second reason why I am in favour of a small elected hereditary element. As I say, it is important to have ballast in the second Chamber. It is equally important to have a proportion of youngish men. By "youngish men" I mean men between the ages of, say, 35 and 45, which is a very elastic age group. If it does not contain youngish men, the second Chamber will consist of a lot of older people of 60 years of age plus, nominated from elsewhere, who are coming to the evening of their lives. The second Chamber cannot function unless there is an element of youngish men in it.
I do not know a better way of finding younger men, between 35 and 45, than through the hereditary system. The Prime Minister of the day will not be able to write to the Trades Union Congress and to big commercial firms asking whether three, four or five men of ability, halfway up the ladder, are prepared to drop their careers to come into the second Chamber and be voting peers, perhaps for a couple of Parliaments only, and unpaid. That is sheer nonsense, and I suspect that the Government Front Bench know it.
§ 9.30 p.m.1441
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
Lastly, an element of hereditary peers elected by their fellow peers, while not being perhaps the tidiest way, might be one way of solving the problem—at present unsolved—of the great officers of State, the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain. The Duke of Norfolk has a seat in the other place for as long as he lives. He can function as Earl Marshal on great State occasions and he can be a voting peer until the age of 72. When he dies, which, I hope, will not be for a very long time, his successor, who happens to be a cousin, would succeed to the dukedom of Norfolk and to the functions of Earl Marshal, but would not necessarily have a seat in the House of Lords. The office of Earl Marshal has been in existence for about 600 years. I am a traditionalist and consider that the Earl Marshal should have a seat in the other place so that he can function properly on great State occasions. One way of solving the problem would be for peers to be elected by their fellow peers.
Will the Minister say what is to happen about the great officers of State? Is their future secure, or are the Government hoping that something will turn up to put right this anomaly? For these reasons and others I strongly support my hon. Friends in this Amendment.
§ Mr. Henig
I will for a moment follow on the remarks made by the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). One of our objections on this side is that the other place has become a museum and many of us would feel in the matter of the Earl Marshal and other officers of State that the nation could at a pinch survive if we abolished the lot. If maces were needed for ceremonies perhaps one of my hon. Friends would be willing to participate. To suggest that this vital constitutional reform should be held up because of the Earl Marshal and other officers of State is the worst argument I have ever heard.
Whereas the my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was poetic, may I be prosaic and tell a story which I believe to be true, although it may not be. It concerns a lord of the manor who, when riding round his estate, came across a serf standing in the way. He asked the serf to move. The serf said, "Why should I?" The lord of the manor replied, 1442 "Because this is my land". The serf then asked him, "Why is it?" The reply came, "My ancestors fought for it". The serf retorted, "Well, get off your horse, take off your jacket, and I will fight you for it now".
When the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) introduced his Amendment, it may be that we could be excused for thinking of him as an exponent of the divine right of kings. He spoke about the monarchy and its need to be supported by a strong and thriving aristocracy. However, amongst the surviving constitutional monarchies of Europe, in Sweden, for example, there is no aristocracy on the kind of pattern that the hon. Gentleman would preserve. Moreover, Sweden combines a monarchy with a reasonably socially democratic system. I should have thought that that disproved the arguments in support of the Amendment.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about the separation of powers which is, he said, inherent in the British Constitution and, therefore, is another reason for making the Amendment. I submit, however, that the idea of the separation of powers being inherent in the constitution was irrelevant in the days of Montesquieu and is now a relic on the wall. Montesquieu was wrong when he analysed the British Constitution, though it was a good effort, and, in following him, the Americans have adopted the wrong model. But perhaps to some extent they are stuck with it.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
What safeguard, if any, has the hon. Gentleman in mind against a uni-cameral dictatorship? If a majority in the House of Commons was dominated by a despotism—
Order. I think that both hon. Members are getting wide of the Amendment. We are concerned with the composition of the other place in respect of the election by hereditary peers of certain members to sit in the reformed Chamber.
The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) was the first to urge me to rule the hon. Gentleman out of order. I hope that he will rely on his own judgment and not go wide of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Henig
I accept that, Mr. Irving, and I will do my best to observe your Ruling.
The fundamental objection to the Amendment is that it upsets the whole purpose of the Bill, which is to reform the House of Lords as it exists today, where the majority of members are there by the principle of hereditary and for no other reason.
It is deceptive to talk about 20, 30 or even 75 hereditary members being there to provide some sort of ballast. In the kind of streamlined second Chamber proposed by the Bill, an extra group of 75 hereditary peers clearly will make a considerable difference. In supporting the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton, I am bound to observe that those 75 will not be there for any intrinsic reason based upon their merit. Apparently it is being argued that the existing House of Lords based on hereditary members can be trusted to use the one man one vote principle in the same way as any other citizen. However, they should not be given anything like the weighting suggested that for every ten hereditary peers there should be one representative. After all, we as Members are used to representing 50,000 or 57,000 electors.
Then I want to deal with the point which has been made about young men. This is the argument which was used when the House of Commons was being reformed. It was said that young men could come into the House only as representatives of rotten boroughs and, therefore, if the House of Commons was reformed and the rotten boroughs were got rid of, we should never have any young men. I think that we on this side of the House have disproved that theory in recent years, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite want to reform their party they can do the same. The same applies to the House of Lords.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
There is one essential difference between this House and the other place. It is that hon. Members of this House enjoy salaries.
§ Mr. Henig
They also have to fight elections. My point is that young men have been able to work themselves into this House without the advantage of birth to help them. Similarly, young men can be, and are, eligible for appointment to the other House. In industry and in other walks of life young men in their 20s and 30s are making tremendous contributions. I think that it would be possible for the Government to find young men to serve in the other House, whether they were paid or not. If these young men were not making a contribution in other walks of life they would not be good enough to be in the other Chamber.
§ Mr. Younger
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give us the benefit of his advice. How will a young man living in Scotland, with no means of his own be able to serve in a reformed House of Lords without pay?
§ Mr. Henig
What chance do I stand with my hon. Friend in such sparkling form ! The way for someone wishing to make a political contribution to this country is to fight, like everyone else, to get into the House of Commons. The idea of a reformed House of Lords is to have a Chamber consisting of people who have contributed, or are contributing, to the country in other ways and, in the capacity of a second Chamber, contributing to legislation being passed. I am saying that if there are young men who fulfil these qualifications, then it is right that they should be appointed as Members of a reformed House of Lords.
§ Mr. Younger
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is meeting the point. If he will meet it properly perhaps the 1445 Committee will understand. Is it his contention that some one living in a remote part of the country without private means could afford to come and work in the House of Lords without pay? Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how it is done?
§ Mr. Henig
I am putting forward the contention that the rightful objective of a person in that position would be to serve in this House. I hardly think that a young man in his 20s or 30s would make it his lifetime's ambition to work in the House of Lords when there were such happier pastures in this place. My point is that that person would be doing something else. The Government would be right to pay certain expenses if he came down and participated in it, and it may—
Order. Incidental references to pay may be in order, but to go any wider would be out of order.
§ Mr. Henig
You are right, Mr. Irving, to bring me to order at this point, because it may be that we are straying rather wide of the considerations. My point was that it was wrong to say that there would not be young men in a reformed House of Lords, just as it was wrong 130 years ago to say that a reformed House of Commons would mean there would be no young men in it.
The idea behind the Amendment is to resurrect as a special class that group of people whom we are trying to stop being a special class. The word "class" here has a double significance. Hereditary peers are not a comprehensive section or selection of the population. They are concentrated into certain income groups and into certain geographical and occupational groups as well. They are in no sense representative. That is why the Bill is put forward. We now have this back door suggestion of allowing several hundred totally unrepresentative people to benefit from a representative principle, which they are apparently against, by sending 75 of their number to prejudice the reformed second Chamber from its beginning. We on this side, cannot accept that.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) in moving the Amendment, referred to the relationship between democracy and liberty. I am 1446 sure that everyone will agree that democracy can only be founded on liberty, but liberty is the enemy of entrenched privilege, and so long as entrenched privilege exists both liberty and democracy are impossible.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Though I do not go as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) in my concern about the position of the Great Officers of State, I think that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) was very ungracious in his reference to the Earl Marshal. Those who have had experience of these matters admire enormously the skill and care with which the great ceremonies of State have been organised by the Earl Marshal.
§ Mr. Peart indicated assent.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has explained that. His reference to "anybody can hold a mace" seemed to be an extraordinary reflection, in the direct context of the present Earl Marshal, on the man who organised Sir Winston Churchill's funeral, one of the most splendid bits of ceremonial this country has ever seen. Those who have seen how much better ceremonial is done in this country than in any other have cause to be grateful to the present Duke of Norfolk for the devotion to duty that he shows. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clearing up what he meant, because I wanted to get it clear that no one here was casting a reflection on a public officer who has shown so much regard for his duties even though these duties are hereditary and perhaps particularly because they are duties which have come to him by right of heredity.
I am concerned with nothing on this Amendment except the practical question of how to get the best possible Upper Chamber. I do not think that we should 1447 confuse this by reference to privilege. Indeed, privilege seems an odd word to describe the doing of a considerable amount of arduous public duty, particularly when it is to be done, if we believe the Prime Minister, for nothing. It seems an odd description of privilege.
Surely what we are concerned with is to get the best possible composition for a Chamber, accepting, as the great majority on both sides of the Committee accept, that we want to have a second Chamber. I am with the Government in rejecting the idea of any form of popular election for a second Chamber. I am certain that that way lies great danger to this House, that a second Chamber fortified by a popular mandate would seriously affect the position of this House.
For practical purposes, one is driven back to a membership based on either nomination or some modified degree of heredity. If one is being fair, one has to admit that both those sources of membership have their disadvantages. I do not think the Lord President of the Council would deny that a House based entirely on nomination, whether by the Prime Minister, or by my right hon. Friend, or even by the Leader of the Liberal Party, if he was sufficiently interested, which he does not appear to be, to exercise his right in that way—in fact he would not nominate anybody, because he would not be here to do it—there would be a loss of independence, however one tried to do it, or whatever device of crossbench peers one used.
Equally, I accept that in our present stage of thinking there are difficulties about heredity. Perhaps I might say in parenthesis that when most of our fellow countrymen think of entrusting their money to a horse or to a dog they are very much interested in the heredity of that animal. But is not there a case for, as the Amendment proposes, a mixture of the two? Would not we get a more balanced second Chamber if, accepting for the purpose of this Amendment the Government's proposal and the proposal made by some of my right hon. Friends for a House largely nominated, we also have a separate section dependent on election by the present peerage? There we introduce an element of greater independence, possibly offset in the views of some hon. Members by the hereditary basis but 1448 existing as a counter-balance to the excessive dependence of the nominated element.
Is there not, if one is constructing a second Chamber which one hopes will work well without challenging the position of this House, something to be said for a mixture? It would have an advantage in a particular circumstance which I referred to on Second Reading. I mentioned the situation which could arise in the event of a Government with a majority in this House desiring to perpetuate its majority by extending the life of a Parliament. I said that no constitutional safeguard of powers is an adequate protection if the composition is such that the Government are in control of the second Chamber. It does not matter if legally the second Chamber can resist this House if the Government here have an effective majority there.
If we introduce, as the Amendments propose, an element nominated neither by the Prime Minister nor by my right hon. Friend nor even by the absentee Liberals—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
My right hon Friend would do the Liberal Party far too great a compliment by acting on their behalf. I saw him impersonating the right hon. Member the Leader of the Liberal Party. My only reflection was how much more handsome the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) had suddenly become.
To come back to the point that I was putting when my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) saw fit, in his characteristically kindly way to assist me, if there is another element not nominated by any party but based on this system of election by the present peerage, that is a substantial safeguard against any majority in this House seeking to perpetuate itself by extending the life of a Parliament. I put considerable importance on this, because most students of our constitution take the view that one of the major arguments for a second Chamber is to provide a safeguard against just that. This is an additional argument in its favour.
But to take the practical point with which I began, of trying to create a Chamber which will be a good Chamber, 1449 it cannot be disputed that the present peerage could and almost certainly would, from their membership, elect a number of people whose personal distinction, ability and experience would be of very great value. Indeed, I only wonder whether, in suggesting 75, my hon. Friend is not unduly limiting a very good source of recruitment for the Upper House, but I leave that point. Seventy-five excellent people could be selected.
Are we going to be so rich in talent and ability at the other end of the corridor that we can forgo this source of supply? It has already been said that this system worked very well in respect of the Scottish representative peers, and there is the advantage in a comparatively small electorate of this sort that, on the whole, they know one another and they know the possibilities of the candidates perhaps better than any other electoral body knows the people that it is electing. For that reason, they can be relied upon not only to elect suitable people but—this is equally important—not to elect unsuitable ones.
I therefore ask the Government not to be so bound up with the idea that nomination is the only method as to reject out of hand these proposals. We are in Committee and one has, for that purpose, therefore, to accept the main picture of the Upper House as the Government see it. But would it not be a better House if it had this further element in it which would be of high personal quality and would possess a degree of personal independence of political parties, of Governments and Oppositions, which the rest of the Chamber would not?
The Government are introducing what the Prime Minister rightly told us was a major constitutional reform. They want, not only because they want to do their best but because their reputation is very much tied up with the success or failure of this exercise, a really impressive and effective second Chamber. I ask the Leader of the House to reflect on whether he is not likely to get, and get the credit for creating, a better second Chamber if he adds this additional element than if he closes his mind and, for purely doctrinal reasons, rejects it.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. 1450 Boyd-Carpenter) will recall his Second Reading speech in which he spoke of the Prime Minister's motives in rejecting the proposal in the White Paper concerning pay. He said on that occasion that that was duplicity on the part of the Prime Minister to placate his Left wing and to get the Bill on to the Statute Book. He also said that the Prime Minister would immediately afterwards bring in an Order to give the peers the salary which he now says they will not get. That was also the gist of part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech tonight.
On Second Reading, I said that that was my fear. If, however, that happened, and they were given a salary, the position which the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) posed would not arise, because the young gentleman without independent means would have a salary; and, simply by virtue of having a hereditary title, he would go to the House of Lords. If there is such a young man without independent means, then, by definition, he would be quite worthless and would not deserve a seat in any legislature; that is, unless he fought a General Election and got here by the democratic process.
§ Mr. Younger
The hon. Gentleman must have made a slip of the tongue. Did he really mean to say that a young gentleman without private means must, by definition, be worthless?
§ Mr. Hamilton
A young man without private means is, by definition, not entitled, simply because he has a title, to go to the other place. That is the point I wished to make. If he has no private means and wishes to enter politics, this is the place for him to come.
Several hon. Gentlemen opposite have referred to the position of State officials, such as the Earl Marshal. I have no disrespect for that gentleman. While we could do without him, he does a reasonable job. That is not prejudice one way or the other as to whether he should have a seat in the House of Lords. After all, he need not have a seat there to do his job, and the same applies to his successors.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames spoke of the threat under the Bill of this House prolonging the life of a Parliament because the Government of the day were assured of a majority. He assumes that this danger will be more 1451 prevalent with a Labour than a Conservative Government. If the Amendment were accepted—remembering that the hereditary peers are predominantly Conservative—and 20 or 75 of their number were elected in the way described, then presumably those 20 or 75 would be predominantly Conservative peers, and there would still be a built-in Conservative majority when a Conservative Government were in power.
There would then be nothing to stop that Conservative Government from extending the life of a Parliament, so that the danger of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke would be more real under a Conservative than under a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
That sounds convincing. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will consult those who have had the problem of managing the Conservative peers. He may recall the saying of a former Chief Whip of that House, "It is easy to get them there, but deuce difficult to get them into the right Lobby."
§ Mr. Hamilton
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply in his remarks that heredity produced quality. He mentioned dog or horse racing. I suggest that there is more selectivity on a stud farm than there is in the hereditary peerage.
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.