§ Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.
§ 10.0 a.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Elwyn Jones)
I have been asked to make a statement about the purpose of the Preamble to the Bill and its constitutional propriety. As the Committee will see, the Preamble is divided into two parts. The first part, in the first paragraph, summarises the main contents of the Bill. The second paragraph, beginningAnd whereas proposals for the purposes aforesaid were presented to Parliament by Command of Her Majesty on 1st November 1968 …describes the most important recommendations of the White Paper—which, by reference to it, is brought within the ambit of the Bill—to which effect will be given by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative.
As the Committee will have noted, the Bill describes the composition of the House of Lords by specifying who may and who may not be Members. But it does not specify how many Members there will be or how they will be selected. Those matters are dealt with in paragraphs 46 to 48 of the White Paper.
Paragraphs (a) and (b) in the second part of the Preamble mention two of the key considerations which will govern the selection of the nominated Members of the reformed House. These key considerations are that the process of nomination should maintain, first, a balance between the parties and, secondly, representation of the various parts of the United Kingdom in the reformed Chamber. The purpose is to crystallise as constitutional conventions the proposals in the White Paper relating to the num- 364 ber and character of new creations—as I have said, notably the size and party composition of the voting nucleus of the reformed House.
The Preamble is also the vehicle for a statement of intent relating to the representation of Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. It does not mention all the conventions by which the bare bones of the legislation will be covered with flesh. Nor would it be practicable or desirable to do so. But the two most important conventions, politically and constitutionally, in regard to the number of and method of selection of the new Chamber are specied in paragraphs (a) and (b).
The plan for the composition of the reformed Chamber depends on the exercise of the Royal Prerogative and on the advice to be given as to its exercise. The future upper House is to be a nominated one, but the Bill without the Preamble would be silent about the principles to be observed. As it is, the Preamble, by referring to the White Paper, indicates that its proposals about new creations form an integral part of the package from which the Bill derives.
The Preamble constitutes a solemn commitment by the Government, given expression in the Bill, that the composition of the new Chamber will conform with the two major principles of maintaining a balance between the parties and maintaining representation of the various parts of the United Kingdom. It indicates that the Bill is passed by Parliament on the basis of the declarations in the White Paper relating to the number and character of new creations. Although it has no more than a declaratory effect—[Laughter.] I do not know why such an innocent remark should give rise, at this unseemly hour in the morning, to such derision.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ The Attorney-General
There will be opportunities for interventions later.
Although the Preamble has no more than a declaratory effect, it represents a statement by Parliament of the principles to be observed in selecting the Members of the reformed House, and they acquire greater authority and force than would be possible from a statement in a White Paper or from speeches made by the party leaders. That is the function and purpose of the Preamble.
365 The working of the proposals on composition will depend on conventions, and the fact that the most salient of these are set out in the Preamble is an indication of the intentions of Parliament about the composition of the upper House, if the Bill is enacted, and of the willingness of all parties to fulfil them while the statement remains in force. The willingness of the parties to fulfil them has been embodied in the agreement of the leaders of the parties in the events which preceded the introduction of the Bill.
As to constitutional propriety, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House last night referred to the authority of Erskine May, in which we read on page 515:The purpose of a preamble is to state the reasons and intended effects of the proposed legislation. Though a preamble is not often incorporated now in a public bill, it is still employed in bills of great constitutional importance"—which this Bill clearly is—or bills to give effect to international conventions …and I emphasis the succeeding wordsin order to place on record the intentions of the framers of the bill.Perhaps more accurate language would be "the intentions of the Government introducing the Bill." But I hesitate to question the accuracy of the holy writ, so far as the House is concerned, of Erskine May.
The great landmarks in our constitutional history were normally preceded by a Preamble—the Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement, the Act of Union with Scotland, the Parliament Act, 1911, the Government of India Act, 1919 and the Statute of Westminster, 1931. If the House wishes to elaborate the matter, further examples are given in the notes on page 515.
§ The Attorney-General
I thought that the hon. Gentleman might have been detained elsewhere this morning and that we might be spared such a frivolous intervention.
Another statutory precedent where a Preamble explains the Government's intention is to be found in the Royal Titles Act, 1953.
Perhaps I may cite by way of precedents the words found in the second paragraph of the Preamble to the Statute of Westminster, 1931: 366… whereas it is meet and proper to set out by way of Preamble to this Act …There follows a description of the constitutional conventions governing the constitutional relationships of members of the Commonwealth and their common allegiance to the Crown.
The Government of India Act, 1919, had a Preamble with similar features. It gives an interesting example of Parliament determining upon principles to apply in the future development of the Government of India which were not set out in the Act itself. In the penultimate paragraph of the Preamble, for instance, one reads:… whereas concurrently with the gradual development of self-governing institutions in the Provinces of India it is expedient to give to those Provinces in provincial matters the largest measure of independence of the Government of India, which is compatible with the due discharge by the latter of its own responsibilities:In the Royal Titles Act, 1953, the Preamble is again used to explain the intention of the Act—namely, to permit the style and Titles of the Crown to be altered. It says:Whereas it is expedient that the style and titles at present appertaining to the Crown should be altered so as to reflect more clearly the existing constitutional relations of the Commonwealth to one another and their recognition of the Crown as the symbol of their free association and of the Sovereign as the Head of the Commonwealth:And whereas it was agreed between representatives of Her Majesty's Governments in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon the month of December, nineteen hundred and fifty-two, that there is need for an alteration thereof which, whilst permitting of the use in relation to each of these countries of a form suiting its particular circumstances, would retain a substantial element common to all:That is an illustration of the use of the Preamble as a constitutional instrument to express the intention of the Government introducing the legislation.
It is interesting that the learned author of Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, which is the standard work in this field, used the phrase,The Preamble of a Statute has been said to be a good means of finding out its meaning and, as it were, a key to the understanding of it.In the light of these precedents, I submit that, to use the language of the Statute of Westminster, it is "meet and proper" that the Preamble should be a part of this Bill.
§ 10.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Maudling
I am grateful to the Attorney-General for that considered statement, but I cannot say that its effect is to help us in the problems with which we are dealing. He has called upon his great wealth of talent, experience and knowledge to make many points. Clearly, I cannot deal with them all off the cuff, but there are a number to which I should like briefly to refer.
I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman slightly misunderstands the point. He was talking about defending the constitutional propriety of the Preamble. What we are concerned about is its legal effect, which is quite different. The Under-Secretary of State, Home Department shakes his head, but we should know what we are concerned about. We want to know the legal effects; we want to know what legal obligations the Preamble imposes on anyone in the future.
On the constitutional propriety, I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's examples were very good. He quoted Erskine May on the Preamble expressing the intention of the framers of the legislation. That, presumably, means explaining what they intended the law to do, which is quite different from this. He also talked about the Statute of Westminster describing the conventions. It described conventions that existed, whereas the Preamble we are considering purports to create a convention, which is totally different.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about the use of the word "expedient". That describes a fact or belief underlying the action taken by the House. It does not purport to give legal effect to anything or impose a legal obligation.
Finally, the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted from Maxwell that a Preamble is designed to help to understand the meaning of the legislation. Fair enough. But, once again, this is not the argument. This part of the Preamble is designed, so far as one can make out, not to explain the legal effect of the Bill but to add something of a quasi-legal nature to it.
Therefore, I must return to the main point: what is the legal effect? What did the Prime Minister mean on Second Reading in talking about statutory recognition being given to the White Paper? 368 I must confess that for a time I thought the Attorney-General was going to confuse counsel even further. He used some very odd phrases about the Preamble bringing the White Paper into the ambit of the Bill. What does that mean? It does not make it part of the Bill. If it is not part of the Bill, it is a White Paper which we know all about and has to be recognised as a fact of life.
The Attorney-General talked about crystallising the White Paper as a convention. What does that mean? Can one create a constitutional convention by crystallising it? How does one crystallise it—by writing it down on a piece of green paper, whereas before it was written on a piece of white paper which has been before the House?
I thought for a time that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had made the whole thing more confused. But he made it crystal clear when he went on to say that the Preamble was only declaratory. It has no legal effect, and I do not see that it has any other effect. That is the impression the Committee will receive from his statement.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about a package, about agreement between the two sides of the House, and about commitments. That is just not so as I must emphasise once again. We entered into the discussions about the possible reform of another place, I think rightly, and I still stand by my belief, as I have said time and again, that these proposals represent as good a reform by agreement as one could hope to get. I will not budge from that. Clearly, the talks were broken down by the Prime Minister. The Government have deliberately, openly and avowedly introduced this Measure as their own Government Measure to which no one else is committed. As I see it, the purpose of the Bill can only be to bring into our law the proposals in the Bill. Therefore, we must proceed upon the assumption that the Preamble is shown to be, once again to use the Attorney-General's words, wholly declaratory—in other words, legally meaningless.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I think it would be churlish of all of us who engaged in last night's debate if we did not thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General for the care and 369 trouble he has taken in preparing and making his statement. Although it was his absolute duty to do so, it is none the less a matter of courtesy that we should say to him that we think that he is a wiser man this morning than he was last night; and perhaps the Government are wiser this morning than they were last night. I think that the position which faced us last night was a very unsatisfactory one.
Belated though the assistance of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was, we are none the less grateful for his persuasive efforts in ensuring that the Attorney-General assisted us this morning, if indeed the Attorney-General has assisted us. I am sure that it was my right hon. and learned Friend's intention to assist us, and I give him the utmost credit for seeking to secure the good will of the Committee in this matter. However, we must very carefully examine what he said.
I take, first, the claim which was made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and reiterated this morning by the Attorney-General. This claim was based upon Erskine May. I will not delay the House by reading the passage again, because it was read yesterday. What appears in Erskine May confirms the view put by us rather than that put by the Government. The paragraph which appears on page 515 is the only reference to preambles in Erskine May. A footnote appears somewhere else it is true, but the paragraph on page 515 is a general statement of what preambles are for, and how they can be used.
If it was in accordance with previous constitutional precedents that preambles should be used for the purpose of making these general declarations, then I think that it would have been stated in Erskine May; but that is not what it states in Erskine May. It is a considerably narrower definition of a preamble. Therefore, the very fact that Erskine May does not set out the use of a preamble in the terms that were proposed by the Attorney-General is a confirmation of the fact that if a preamble is to be used for a somewhat different purpose it must be explained and justified to the Committee in much more extensive terms.
370 I grant that the Attorney-General was entitled to say that last night we were questioning not only the legality of the matter, which I will come to in a few minutes following upon the point made by the right hon. Member for Barnet, but also the propriety of the matter. It was, therefore, right that the Attorney-General should apply his mind to this question as he has done, because I certainly raised the question of the propriety of the matter in the sense that I thought that it was a departure from the precedents. We must, therefore, see whether the three major precedents quoted by the Attorney-General stand up to examination.
As the right hon. Member for Barnet said, it is clear that the Statute of Westminster, 1931, is not a precedent which applies in this case, because the Preamble there was a declaration stating what was thought to be the position at the time, which is obviously very different from a preamble which introduces an entirely novel arrangement. So I do not think that there can be any comparison with the 1931 Act. That precedent falls, as I think that the Attorney-General, on consideration, will agree.
I think that the same applies, though perhaps not to the same degree, to the Royal Titles Act, 1953, because the Preamble there is to a great extent a description of what was the prevailing understanding. So, if we are to have a precedent for what is proposed, we are left with the Government of India Act, 1935—
§ Mr. Foot
I thought it was 1935. It is very interesting if it is 1919. I have not had time to look up the 1919 Act since last night, but I am very doubtful whether there was any reference in that Act itself to any of the proposals. However, there may have been. It may be the case that the Preamble there referred to the operation of the provincial councils, but there was nothing in the Act which did. If that were so, it might be a precedent, although, there again, it was obviously intended that Parliament should legislate again later. I should think that it is very likely that anybody who had the time to examine the 1919 Act would find that my belief is right. It is certainly true of the Government 371 of India Act, 1935, that these matters were incorporated in some form of legislation; and, therefore, these were matters which were capable of being incorporated in legislation.
If that is so, that precedent must also fall, because the question of how the Prerogative is to be exercised to appoint people to sit in the other place is not a matter that can be incorporated in legislation. That is why it is not in the Bill. That is why it is put in the Preamble.
There are only three precedents. We were told yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that the Attorney-General would come here this morning weighed down with precedents. We have had three. Those three do not stand up to examination and do not deal with the situation which touches on the further and more important question of what are the legal consequences of this declaratory act.
Before coming to that aspect of it, I want to take the question about its being a key to the understanding of the Bill. The words of the Preamble do not even state exactly how the Prerogative is to be exercised. They do not incorporate the whole of the White Paper. It could have been done more explicitly in those terms, although it would have been extremely clumsy; because, if all the passages of the White Paper which are not incorprated in the Bill had been incorporated in the Preamble, the Preamble would have been three times as long as the Bill, but it would at least have set out the position accurately.
As it is, the Preamble is not a clear declaration. If the purpose is that it should be a key to our understanding of the Bill, the key does not fit the lock—it does not turn. The key describes only in the very vaguest terms what the understanding is. To discover what the key means we must examine the speech of the Attorney-General. Those who in years to come may be examining this matter will have to examine my right hon. and learned Friend's speech. They will then be referred back to the White Paper. Then people will ask, "What is the binding nature in any sense whatsoever of a White Paper?"
372 Although a declaration in a preamble may be slightly more imposing than a declaration in a White Paper, it is certainly not legally binding in any sense. All of us, including the Attorney-General, are agreed about that.
So if it is said, as it must be said, that what is in the White Paper is not binding, and if it is also admitted that what is in the Preamble is not in any sense binding, we are confronted with what could be a serious clash between legislation passed in the House of Commons and the exercise of the Prerogative. It is no good somebody saying in the British House of Commons in the year 1969 that the Prerogative will always be exercised in a particular way. I could not on the spur of the moment recite the definition of "Prerogative", but I presume that it means something like that one does not have to refer to anybody else in order to exercise it. I would not be bound by that definition; but the whole point about a Prerogative is that one is not bound by somebody else: it is an arbitrary act, which is no doubt carried out following representations.
What we are trying to do but failing to do here is to incorporate in some form of legislation how the Prerogative is to be exercised. It is impossible to do that. It is like trying to catch hold of an eel—it cannot be done. We should not attempt it. It is very foolish to attempt something which is impossible of achievement.
What we are trying to do is to specify how the Prerogative can be exercised, but the House has not the power to write it down in these terms. I wish we could. I am in favour of a republic. I believe that it would be more satisfactory. It would be one way of clearing up these disputes. But, as long as we have a system under which a Prerogative is exercised, it is not possible for the Government of the day to say that they will lay down in a White Paper or a Preamble how that Prerogative will be exercised for all time.
The most famous example of the creation of peers is that which arose at the time of the Parliament Act, 1911. On an earlier occasion a large number of creations were threatened over the Irish Home Rule question. Another famous occasion occurred in 1711, when the 373 House of Lords was a more radical assembly perhaps than it is today. It had a Whig majority. In order to force through Tory legislation at the time to put through the Treaty of Utrecht, Queen Anne created 12 new peers. It was a shameful episode.
§ Mr. Powell
Perhaps I can intervene on a point of historical fact. While it has been commonly believed until recently that that was the purpose of the creation of the "Tory dozen", it has recently been shown that the purpose, since the Tories were dependent upon the Scottish representative peers, was to avoid the necessity of bribing them, which was proving so expensive. It gave the Tory Government a majority without the necessity of using the Scottish representative peers, which was proving expensive.
§ Mr. Foot
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I was unaware that there was that commendable aspect to such a disgraceful episode. I am seeking to underline that the exercise of the Prerogative on that occasion was something which up to the moment it happened was thought to be well nigh impossible. A sensation was caused in London by the creation of these 12 peers. Jonathan Swift, writing to Stella, tore open his letter to announce what had happened and what a sensation had been caused by the exercise of the Prerogative in such a manner never seen before, and exercised perhaps partly for the murky purpose described by the right hon. Gentleman but also for the purpose of securing that Measures passed by a Tory Government in this House should get through another place.
It was done despite all the conventions and beliefs as to the way in which the Queen should exercise her Prerogative. The way I am applying it to the present proposals is that whatever may be the claims of the Government of the day, it may well be that in a first-class political crisis, in which the destinies of the country may be thought to turn on what is going to occur—as happened in 1711, when the whole question of peace and war in Europe depended on such a vote—one could get a situation in which the speedy discharge of such a measure depended on whether the Government could get a majority in the other place.
374 In such circumstances, not only the Monarch but the Government would seek to use their powers at the time to create peers, even if there were a preamble which said they could not do so, even though it was in defiance of the White Paper. In such circumstances, there would be arguments whether it was right for the Government to take such a course. In such circumstances, I say that the Government would not be bound by an agreement saying that they would only appoint a certain number of peers at the beginning of the session or that they would only have a majority of so many, give and take a few cross-benchers.
One cannot lay this down in statute. It was difficult enough to lay it down in the package deal between the two Front Benches. Certainly one cannot lay it down in a Preamble. It is absolutely wrong to try and deal with such matters in a Preamble. If the Government want to get this Measure through, they should not stretch the meaning or application of the Preamble in order to do it but should find some other way. They could find another way, and if they do they will still meet my opposition; but they could do it, as was suggested last night, in a way that would be much more open. I hope they will take that course because I intend to oppose the Preamble and the Government's attempt to stretch it to such a degree that it is insulting to the House of Commons.
There are further advantages for the Government in the course we suggest. If they withdraw this part of the Preamble referring to the deal about creating peers and maintaining a Government majority, they could incorporate it in a Resolution of the House, proposed by the Government, when the Opposition Front Bench could state clearly whether they supported it or not, as could other right hon. and hon. Members, for this is eminently a constitutional question on which every hon. Member should state his position, irrespective of party, with the same kind of free vote as we are having on these proceedings.
If this were done by Resolution of the House, there would be no breach of constitutional precedent. There would be no attempt to use the Preamble for a purpose for which preambles were not intended. It would be a reasonable and sensible way of doing it. Everything 375 would be above-board. Everyone would know what was proposed. One might oppose or dislike it, but at least it would be above-board and clear.
If at a later date there were a breach of the undertaking and the Government of the day sought to alter the situation, it would not then mean a clash between an Act passed by this House and the Prerogative, which is the situation we could have if we pass this Measure. As I have said, I am a republican but we could well have a situation in which the Monarch could be dragged into the argument in a crisis in which fierce passions were aroused all over the country, with people saying, "It is wrong for the Government to try to force this Measure through." No doubt the Government would want to create peers because they had temporarily lost their majority in another place.
The question would inevitably arise whether it was right for the Monarch in those circumstances, following an Act of this nature, to agree to what the Government proposed. We should have the most peculiar situation in our constitutional history, with Parliament stating clearly that it wanted something to happen, the Government stating that they wanted more peers to ensure that it did not happen, and the Monarch having to choose between the two. It would create considerable constitutional difficulties.
The Monarch has to accept the advice she is offered by the Government and the Prime Minister, who has a majority in the House of Commons. Let us suppose a situation where the Government are, however, giving advice to the Monarch in defiance of the recommendations of the House of Commons. This is an argument for all of us being clear on this matter. Do not let us pass muddled legislation on the constitutional future of the country.
This is where the Government have got into difficulties, again not from any lack of warning. Many of us have believed from the beginning that this is an extremely important Measure and that it must be clarified. Many of us opposed the recommendations of the White Paper. But, whatever goes through, I hope it will be clear. I hope that we shall all know clearly what the position is at the end and what are the obligations. I have 376 described what can arise from the confusion of the Preamble as between the Monarch and this House.
Other difficulties could arise over accusations of bad faith between the parties. The "usual channels" get blocked every now and then and the world goes on. But here we are creating a situation where there are bound to be questions whether the intention of Parliament has been carried out—and no one will know because Parliament's intention has not been stated clearly.
The Preamble hints at what Parliament's intentions may be and hopes that that will be satisfactory. It is not satisfactory to me. It is not satisfactory that we should have a declaration which is not clear, which could lead to the utmost confusion, which cannot be sorted out by lawyers, for which no genuine precedent can be found and which also makes the whole situation even more confused than we thought it was a day or two ago.
That is why I very modestly put the suggestion forward last night that the Government should ask leave to report Progress and sit again. We should have time to consider this matter. I have been urging all through these debates that the Government should take away this Measure. I do not ask them to say that they will drop it immediately, I know that they are committed in many respects. Let them take it away for a week or two, and have some further conversations. Let them deal with these points about the Preamble and the other constitutional points, which are serious matters. They are bound to be pressed on all the other matters which refer to the Preamble for the rest of the passage of the Bill.
The Attorney-General has darkened counsel, not intentionally I am sure, by what he has said. In effect he said that the real point is that this is part of the package. I do not want to cause any embarrassment to the right hon. Member for Barnet; he is one of the most splendid Members of this House, who contributes to our discussions in the most amiable possible manner. He does not like us to mention such an indelicate word as "bargain". I do not know what he has been doing all his political life; I never knew that he was quite such an innocent. Even though the 377 bargain broke down when the Rhodesian Order went to another place, I have not yet heard, either from the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else, how the items in the proposal before us differ from the original proposals.
The bargain that was almost reached, if I can use such a horrific word, before the incident of the Rhodesian Order is now incorporated, as best the Government can, in the Bill, which is why the Front Bench opposite, most honourably according to their obligations, are standing by the Bill, despite the ever-mounting rage of their back-benchers. They are standing up, shoulder to shoulder. I cannot see many shoulders present this morning; no doubt they will be coming along later in the day.
The right hon. Gentleman stands by his agreement. He has said that he is in favour of the Bill, but even he must agree that we should try to make it clear. His intervention on this Preamble has strengthened the position of those who wish to clarify it. The Government must recognise that they are confronted with a position when they might even lose the support of the Opposition Front Bench. Where would they be then? That would be a very serious situation.
I hope that the Government will take my advice, which I have been urging upon them for a long time. No doubt they say it is hopeless advice, that they need not worry about it, that they need take no notice of such people because our objections do not count. Perhaps they think they can let the whole thing go ahead. As Disreali used to say, a majority is the best repartee. Certainly it is the best repartee that we have had from the Treasury Bench this morning, with the greatest respect to the Attorney-General. The Government have a majority now, and they have to think very fast when they see it slipping. That is what is happening in this Committee. Before this Bill is through the Government will be defeated on it, and it is much wiser for them to consider the case now.
This must be explored in greater detail. We have not had much time to examine all these precedents offered by the Attorney-General. We are grateful to him for telling us what they are, and I am sure that examination of them will 378 continue. The wisest course for the Government, either at the end of our proceedings this morning or at the beginning of proceedings this afternoon—and I should be very happy for them to take over the Motion that I propose—would be to move to report Progress and ask leave to sit again. Then there could be a decent, lengthy interval in which they could look afresh at the whole matter of patching up their bargain with the Opposition Front Bench, for them to get the support of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, so that the question of the Preamble might be fixed up through the usual channels.
It would be interesting to see what the Government's constitutional conclusion is. Once again I offer my assistance to the Government. I hope to get them out of a scrape into which they should never have got themselves. I have seen them in worse scrapes and get out, so they should not despair. I say to them quite seriously that many of us are not prepared to see a Bill of such major constitutional importance go through in such a muddled fashion.
The British Constitution is an interesting contraption. I hope that is not too Burkeian a sentiment for a Thomas Paine-ite like myself to utter. There are many parts of it which die of apathy or inanition, and at the proper moment such parts have to be lopped off. That is what I should like to do with the House of Lords. I thought we had reached that moment. I say the same thing about some of the aspects of Privilege of this House. Some of those should be lopped off, with great advantage to the health of the rest of the organs.
Just as some parts of our Constitution have grown up to protect property rights and reactionary privileges—and I wish to see them removed at the psychological moment—so other parts have grown up to protect the rights of back bench Members of this House and the rights of individual citizens. One aspect of constitutional procedure of this House which has grown up for that purpose is the precision of Measures, Preambles and constitutional devices presented to the House.
It is only because we can make those sufficiently precise—we spend most of our time in Committee trying to slice away the confusion, trying to make them more 379 and more precise—that we can protect ourselves and the interests of the citizens. If we are now to admit that Preambles are to be used for wide declaratory purposes which are not defined, then we shall have betrayed our duties as Members in protecting the best parts of our Constitution. Look at the history of it; to all the devices of this nature and the way in which things are presented to the House ensure that we have clear debate and decisions. I defy any member of the Government to say that if we pass this Preamble in this form we should have clear decisions on a major matter.
§ 10.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The Committee has an affection and admiration for the right hon. and learned Attorney-General. I have a special regard for him in respect of an office which he holds with rather more secure tenure than his office of Attorney-General. Most of us were very sorry for him this morning; he was obviously being put in, and I admit that there are precedents for this with Attorney-Generals before him, to cover up the mess into which his colleagues have got legislation.
I thought that he involved himself in the same difficulty as traditionally involve lay magistrates—they are all right until they start giving their reasons. As I listened to him such faith as I had in the consistency or point of this Preamble steadily evaporated. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not direct his charmingly presented argument to the points which were raised last night, and which will be raised this morning.
No one disputes that there have frequently been Preambles to major Constitutional Measures. How relevant they are as precedents is obviously something that no hon. Member would like to pronounce upon without fairly prolonged examination of those quoted. That is obviously not possible this morning. It appears that many of the precedents related to either future legislative intentions, such as the Parliament Act 1911, or, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) pointed out, to an attempt to state an already existing position, such as the Statute of Westminster. We have not had time to consult the precedents, and maybe there are 380 those which are more apposite to this Preamble than those I have quoted. I leave this as an open question.
What the Committee was concerned about last month, and what I am now even more concerned about, is much more directly germane to this matter, namely, what is the purpose, and still more what is the legal effect, of this Preamble? I would like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to crystalise, to use his own verb, the matter by answering this question: would a Government which wished to act plainly contrary to the intensions of this Preamble be free in law, to do so without previously introducing amending legislation? In other words, do the words of this Preamble have any legal effect whatever?
There is the point made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) of an attempted creation of peers contrary to subsection (a) of the Preamble. This may well put the Sovereign in a position of great difficulty. It is well known that their late Majesties King Edward VII and George V were very unhappy and hesitant about accepting Mr. Asquith's advice to offer in certain circumstances, to create those peers.
If they had been able to say, "But, Prime Minister, I am debarred by Statute from doing so and my advisers say this has some legal effect", the position would obviously have been worse from everyone's point of view. What is unpardonable in this situation is the uncertainty. I hope the Attorney-General will answer the question; could a future government, or this Government, act plainly contrary to what is here set out without introducing amending legislation? If they cannot so act, then this is an odd and inconvenient method of inhibiting them. It would have been much better to put the inhibition in a Clause by itself in the Bill.
If, as I suspect is the truth, they can so act, then this is quite frankly eyewash, and dangerous eyewash at that. I am strengthened in this conviction by the Attorney-General's other arguments. He quoted Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, I thought, to suggest that the purpose of the Preamble might be to assist in the interpretation, in cases of doubt, of the actual provisions of the Measure. That can hardly be the effect 381 of the latter part of this Preamble, because it is common ground that it deals with matters not dealt with in the Measure but with quite separate matters. It could hardly be of the slightest assistance to a court in interpreting quite distinct matters. We must have interpretations of the effect of the phrases used by Ministers to describe its effect. The Attorney-General said that these matters were brought within the ambit of the Bill. I feel that his advisers will shiver when they read that. What on earth does it mean? Does it mean it is legislated into the law of the land? If it does not, what does it mean?
We must have an interpretation of the famous expression "statutory recognition". The Prime Minister, the head of the Administration, used it. The Leader of the House used it yesterday, showing that blind loyalty to his leader which is one of his most agreeable characteristics. I wonder whether the originator of that phrase, the Prime Minister, used it on the advice of the Attorney-General, or whether he Coined it himself. What does it mean? I can understand a statutory provision—it does something; it provides a change in our law which, if broken, would involve one in trouble—but what does "statutory recognition" mean? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman prepared to say, "Nothing at all"? If that is his view, as a matter of law, he must say so, however embarrassing his subsequent interview with the Prime Minister may be.
We cannot, on a major constitutional measure of this kind, have expressions used in commending a Bill which are either meaningless or of so rarified a meaning that no Member of the Administration regards himself as able to interpret them. What on earth does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean by "crystallising the constitutional conventions ", as though they were a plum? It calls to my mind the notice pinned up at an American University: "It is a tradition of this college that undergraduates do not walk on the grass in the quad. This tradition will come into effect on Monday next." One cannot crystalise a convention by putting it in a Preamble. Either it is a convention which has grown up in the ways that the conventions of our constitution have—I recognise as well as anyone how im- 382 mensely important they are—or it is not. One does not crystallise it, coat it with sugar, coat it with legal phraseology and give it some effect.
I deprecate the principal legal adviser of the House as well as the Government using expressions which are so difficult strictly to construe. Of course, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to interpret this again, I am sure that we shall hear him with the greatest interest.
We began to get a little nearer the reality when the right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about "a statement of intent" and then of "solemn commitment by the Government". This is a curious medium to use for this purpose. A Government can state their policy in a White Paper and—if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not mind my mentioning it—also in an election manifesto. They can distinguish, or at any rate the Prime Minister can, between a promise and a solemn pledge. Perhaps, in a spare moment, the Attorney-General would give us an interpretation of the distinction between the two, but I shall not pursue that aggreable topic, Mr. Gurden, for fear of incurring your displeasure.
Is it suggested that this Preamble is simply stating the Government's view? Why is that necessary? A White Paper is the proper method and a resolution of the House is much more valuable, because we can all state our views on it. If it is suggested, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman came near to suggesting, that this would amount to a solemn commitment by Parliament as a whole, that is highly objectionable, because he will know, if he knows nothing else about the Bill, that it is a highly controversial Measure, and that to purport to commit Parliament in this roundabout manner by sticking some words into the Preamble of a Bill would be to degrade the whole statutory process. It is the Attorney-General's duty, of all hon. Member's, to prevent that.
So we come to the nub of this. I suggest that this has no legal effect, and I await the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer. I suggest that it is merely a kind of manifesto and that, if so, it is a manifesto put in the wrong place.
§ 11.0 a.m.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
When we are discussing what matters are in order, we might consider that there is some doubt about whether this debate is actually in order. Standing Order No. 45 says that all considerations of the Preamble should take place after the discussion of all parts of the Bill—
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. The discussion this morning is in order. I gave a Ruling yesterday that we are discussing Amendment No. 139 dealing with the Preamble, along with Amendment No. 140.
§ Mr. Blackburn
Whether it is in order or not, I am not objecting to the debate taking place, because it is useful. But if we had discussed the Preamble at the end of the Bill, it would have been reasonable to expect someone to put down an Amendment to delete the second part of the Preamble if there had been nothing in the Bill to cover it. The Government have made a mistake in introducing this long Preamble, which obviously has no legal effect and is only declaratory. Either that second part should be deleted, or it is not beyond the wit of Government advisers to provide new Clauses to cover the two points contained in the second part and get around the difficulty of the Royal Prerogative. That should be deleted and those two points dealt with. At present the second part has no statutory effect. I hope that the Government will have second thoughts.
§ [Mr. HAROLD GURDEN in the Chair]
§ Mr. Powell
This is an extremely important debate at this unusual hour of day. It bears upon one of the great issues of our time, which is the future of the rule of law. One of the most dangerous trends in recent years has been the breakdown of the rule of law by the continual obscuring of a distinction which should be absolute and upon the absoluteness of which the freedom of the individual depends, between that which is law and is, therefore, binding and that which is opinion—even be it the opinion of a Government or some other exalted body—which is not binding.
The whole effect of this Preamble and, I regret to say, the speech of the 384 Attorney-General has been to continue to blur that vitally important distinction. It is true that he gave up silently the claim made by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the House that this Preamble gave "statutory recognition" to what it contained. He did not use that term. If by omission, he has at any rate confirmed what we really all knew but would have liked him to confirm explicity—that nothing in the Preamble is any part of the Statute. But I am afraid that having done that, at any rate by omission, he produced a stream of expressions, each of which, to use an old legal tag, is "so oily and saponaceous that it is impossible for the mind to get a grip upon it."
The Attorney-General referred to bringing certain matters "within the ambit of the Bill ". A Bill, which is, of course, a petition, in due course becomes a Statute, part of the law. Does he or does he not mean that what is in the Preamble is brought within the ambit of what, in due course, will become the law of the land? If he does not mean that, the expression about bringing it "within the ambit of the Bill" means nothing.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the "declaratory effect" of the words in the Preamble. We are familiar with the significance of declaratory Statutes and provisions in a Statute. They are part of the law. True, they do not purport to make new law, but only to clarify or to declare what the law is, but they are law and they are nonetheless law for being declaratory. It is a regrettable ambiguity that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should use that term in a context where misunderstanding is so dangerous.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has already dealt with the absurdities of another attempt by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the phrase "crystallise as constitutional conventions", but I thought that all kinds of ominous rumbles were audible when he went on to describe the Preamble as "a statement of intent". I should have thought that that was one phrase which the Government would have been anxious to avoid rather than use. In another ill-omened Freudian slip, he referred 385 to it as "containing the intentions of the framers of the Bill". Some of us on both sides feel that there has been all too much "framing" in the preparation of this Statute.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman perhaps summed up this part of his contention by saying that this was a "solemn commitment" of the Government. I need not risk your displeasure, Mr. Gurden, for the instances will occur to the minds of hon. Members without any prompting by me of solemn commitments on the part of the Government which have proved not to be binding upon them, let alone to have any force of law. Therefore, I do not feel that in considering the text of this Bill in the light of the Preamble we can regard ourselves as helped by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's assertion that these words contain a "solemn commitment" by the Government. If the Government want to make a solemn commitment, let them express that commitment in terms of law, so that if they or any subsequent Government wish to depart from it, they must bring to the House a new proposal to change the law. That is the way, when legislating, to give effect to a solemn commitment.
But perhaps the most startling venture of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was his claim that a Preamble to a Government Bill is not only solemnly binding upon the Government but also binding upon the Opposition and, he said, upon all parties and is a sign of the willingness of all parties to fulfil what is adumbrated in the Preamble. One knows the futility of any attempt by a House of Commons to bind its own future acts, let alone the acts of future Parliaments, but it is a sort of nonsense which should not come from the chief legal adviser of the Government that a Preamble enshrines a statement of the willingness of all parties to fulfil what it says.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) put to the test the objections which so many of us feel to the procedure by Preamble in this Bill, by saying, "Why did not the Government write the White Paper into the Preamble?" Then, he said, at any rate we should know a little better where we stand. We should have some key to the meaning of the Bill and the way in which it is to be applied. But when we attempt to do that, we immediately discover why, 386 if they ever thought of such a thing, the Government immediately shied away from it, for we discover that the White Paper itself is wholly unspecific.
One of the key questions is the party composition—we are all agreed upon this—of the new nominated Chamber which is to be established. What does the Preamble say about that? In paragraph (a), to which reference has been made, it states that there shall be preserved "a proper balance" between the various elements in the other Chamber. "A proper balance"—something which is totally subjective and unspecific.
When we go to the White Paper to find out what is meant by "a proper balance", we do not find a specific answer. We are given a specimen. The Government, in the White Paper, say: "It could be done this way. Of course, it might not work. If it did not, we might do it some other way. There is a Royal Commission coming along and it may be that we shall have further thoughts after that time."
What sort of solemn commitment is this, which is to be the key to the understanding of the Bill, the Clauses of which we are to work through and turn into law, when we discover that even in the White Paper behind it there is nothing specific?
It is no use the Government saying "We could not do this, because this is a matter for the Royal Prerogative." In this respect I am at the opposite end of the pole to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I am tender of the Royal Prerogative. I believe that, even in the modern Constitution, the Royal Prerogative has a useful function which can be exercised in the interests of the subject. However that may be, the notion that we cannot legislate about matters which at the moment of legislation are within the Royal Prerogative is an absurdity. A great part of historical legislation has been an erosion of the Royal Prerogative and the conversion of what were prerogative acts into acts limited, defined, and safeguarded by statute. Indeed, the Bill itself is a limitation of the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. That is why, in the early stages of the Bill, the Government informed the House that Her Majesty had graciously placed her Prerogative at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes 387 of the Bill. So it is no excuse for the Government to say, "The number of peers created is a matter for the Royal Prerogative. Therefore, we cannot define it. Mind you, we can give a solemn commitment about it, a solemn commitment which we go on to say will be binding on all parties in future, but we could not possibly turn it into terms of law."
These contentions are a tissue of absurdities. The difficulty of definition and of getting at the reality of what we are debating all the time in going through the Clauses of the Bill is at the heart of the embarrassment of the Committee and of the mounting indignation which the Committee feels at the task that it is being asked to perform.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman purported to give precedents justifying this kind of use of a Preamble to a statute. I believe that, on being examined, they will be found not to sustain the attempt which is here being made.
A number of cases were given—one was the Royal Titles Act, 1953, and another was the Statute of Westminster, 1931—where the matters referred to in the Preamble were matters which could not be brought within the law of the United Kingdom. What we asserted in the Preambles to those two constitutional statutes of 1931 and 1953 were matters which, apart from what we were doing in our own Bill, were wholly outside the powers of the United Kingdom Parliament and depended upon the common action, but the independent action, of other legislatures. The Preambles to those Acts were, therefore, declarations of a background to the legislation which we were enacting, but a background which could not be made part of United Kingdom law.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave other examples—the Government of India Act, 1935, and the Parliament Act, 1911—where, in a programmatic sort of way, the Preamble to the Bill said, "This is what we are doing for the time being; but later on we will do something more."
This is quite different from the use of the Preamble for this Bill. In this Preamble the Government are saying, "Pass the Bill because we will use it in the way stated in the Preamble, or, 388 rather, in the way vaguely and indirectly hinted at in the Preamble."
This is quite different from the Parliament Act, 1911, which said, "It is urgent to reform the House of Lords in this, that or the other way, but meanwhile we will do this, because this is justified on its own merits."
This is different from the India Act, 1935, where the Government said, "We look forward to a future constitutional development of India in the course of which it will be necessary to come back to the House perhaps several times for new India Acts. Meanwhile, this is the India Act justified on the terms of its provisions which we are asking the House to pass."
The Government have failed and by their failure they have thrown into sharp relief the embarrassment of the Committee, faced with the Bill, to provide any justification, by way of precedent or reason, for this use of the Preamble. That alone would justify the Committee in rejecting not only as a whole but provision by provision a Bill of which the alleged justification is to be found in what the Committee is not allowed to examine in detail or to frame in the form of law. That is not an operation on which the Committee ought to be engaged.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
The Committee will know that I have no legal training. Having listened to my right hon. and learned Friend this morning, I do not feel terribly deprived. The Attorney-General is a very amiable man and we are on the best of terms. He will remember that I was prepared to canvass for him to be the Speaker of the House in 1964. Having listened to him this morning, I wish that he had accepted the invitation.
My right hon. and learned Friend's statement this morning, compared with the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House last evening, is a considerable contradiction. The Preamble, the subject of the debate this morning, does not deal with some of the subjects with which the Leader of the House said that it dealt last night. There are some things which he said were dealt with by the Preamble in column 339 which could and should be dealt with in the body of the Bill.
389 The Attorney-General this morning made a quite remarkable statement. It would have been to the advantage of the Committee if we could have adjourned immediately to give further consideration to what was a long, complicated and very important constitutional statement. It would have been better for the Committee and for the country if we had adjourned immediately and if the Government had decided to withdraw the Bill altogether. The more we get into these arguments the more absurd the situation becomes.
The Attorney-General talked about a statement of intent. This has been referred to several times in the brilliant speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and others. We all know what happens to statements of intent. There have been other statements of intent since 1964, which are now scraps of paper, and nothing more, and I suspect that is what will become of this Preamble.
The Attorney-General went on to say that it was only of declaratory effect, but that it was a solemn commitment. It cannot be one and the other at the same time. It is either one or the other, but not both.
An even more remarkable statement was that referred to by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South West (Mr. Powell) that the Preamble embodies a party pact. We have never been told what the pact was. The Government have repeatedly refused to disclose it, as has the Opposition Front Bench. But, even if there were a pact, it is remarkable that my right hon. and learned Friend should say that this pact is binding on all future Governments, be they Liberal, Scottish National, Welsh National, Tory, Labour, Communist, or any other. To say that all Governments are bound by this Statute is absolute nonsense. This shows what an absurd situation we can get into when the two Front Benches get together in solemn conclave and come to some kind of a deal.
I suspect that what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said is right, that the time will come, sooner or later, when the Government will be defeated on this Bill. If they seek to introduce a guillotine Motion they might well be defeated, because back benchers on both sides will reject that kind of ploy. It 390 is quite clear that the Committee is in such an absurd situation that both sides will come together in the event of the Government trying to introduce such a Motion.
I hope that the Government will withdraw the Bill and introduce a much simpler one merely to destroy entirely the powers of the other place, nothing more. They can do what they like along there. They can sit as long as they like, or as little as they like, as long as they have no powers. It is a retired politician's home, and we should leave it at that. Let us not get into this kind of muddle. Let us get out of it as quickly as we can.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
I am sure that the duty of the Committee is being very well discharged by back benchers. The duty of the Committee is to look at legislation put before it and to consider what its long-term impact is likely to be. This legislation seems to have been ill considered, indeed hardly considered, at all by the Front Benches. What we have before us is something which has not been thought out in detail, and it is only when this legislation is examined by the X-ray of many back benchers that some of the problems which must emerge are made clear to the general public.
The trouble is that this legislation has been motivated by timid nobles in another place who do not know how to conduct their own business. This is the root of the matter, and the two Front Benches have fallen into this trap. Unable to conduct their lordships' place, or feeling that they are unable to do so, although it has been done pretty well in the past, they feel that their nerves are being strained. Therefore, they have put before the Committee something which could endanger the whole of the Constitution.
This is not just a question of their lordships' place. It is a question of the balance of the Constitution and how the Constitution should work and appeal and appear to our fellow citizens throughout the land. As a result, we are getting into the kind of condition which is becoming clearer hour by hour as the Bill is investigated by back benchers.
We had from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) a speech of great force and power directed to his Front Bench, and I should like to say 391 a word or two to my Front Bench. I think that this band of brothers on the two Front Benches, this cosa nostra, should begin to get dissolved. The other day, brooding above the ruins of Cuzco, I thought of the times of bands of brothers—sometimes one thinks these men are like Atahualpa and Huascar determined to destroy the State, not with any ill intention, not because they are wicked men, not because they have bad schemes for running the country, like the South American junta, but because they have not applied their minds to the problems which they are putting before us today. This is why it is time for the cosa nostra to disband, and for them to look at the constitutional problems they are imposing on the Committee and on the country.
Two things flow from the question of the Preamble. First, the only way in which the altered place can work is by an exact and total exercise of patronage. The men who have to be sent there have to be totally safe men. If we get the sort of condition which existed in 1711, one of the reasons why the rebellion of 1715 may have been carried out by dissident Scottish lords who did not get on to the payroll, a condition where, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, there is a situation—and it does not need much imagination to consider it—such as there was at the time of the Cuba crisis, at a time when perhaps the bonds of patronage are strained, especially if they are not to be paid it will be difficult to keep these people in check.
At four guineas a week patronage is not very effective, and there may be moments when people will say that the interests of the nation are more important than their relations with the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition. There may come this awful moment when the Chief Whips will find that conscience has raised its hideous head in the other place. All this may be altered. Once the Bill is through there may be great lavish free motor cars. There may be nothing more than four guineas a week, but there may be all the side benefits, and all the fringe stuff may come in. We never know, because of the prerogative.
Far more important, however, the moment will arise when we have a Government who, for some reason, are 392 extremely unpopular, and whose fate could depend on the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is a republican, and this is the way to get a republic. This is the way to make a conflict and drag the monarchy into supporting an unpopular Government. I do not think that this has been considered by the timid peers upstairs. They have not considered that this could happen. The Monarchy could be dragged in and undermined by the creation of further peers to support an ailing Government or a Government who are doing something against the national welfare. This is why this is a serious matter. I made jokes about it. The Conservative Party have clearly not considered this in sufficient depth, and they are supporting a Bill which in time could lead to an attack on the Monarchy and could drag the Monarchy into the worst form of political struggle, not with the House of Commons but with the people themselves.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Paget
I would like to commence by paying a tribute to my unlearned leader who opened for the back benches on this occasion with what—and I am not seeking to flatter or to exaggerate—was the best legal speech which I have heard since Hartley Shawcross. I may have had my differences with Hartley Shawcross as a politician, but, as an exponent of legal argument in this House, he certainly had no equal during the quarter of a century in which I have been here. As a masterly exposition of the law and of the Constitution I was immensely impressed by the speech this morning of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). Since then, many hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) have repeated the question: what is the legal effect of this Preamble?
The answer to this is that a Preamble can have no effect unless it is followed by an amble. The Preamble expresses an intent. The amble, which is the Statute which follows it, gives legal effect to that intention. If no legal enactment follows the Preamble, the Preamble is simply an abortion, a sort of leg one cannot walk on.
The Preamble has no legal authority. It seeks to control the Prerogative, but 393 the Prerogative cannot be controlled whilst it is left as a Prerogative. One cannot go to the courts to ask for an injunction to restrain the Prime Minister from behaving contrary to the Preamble because the simple answer is, "It is not me behaving, it is the Queen, and the Queen cannot be controlled by her courts." That is the whole point of the Prerogative. So there is here something which is of no legal authority, something which seeks to control the Prerogative whilst leaving it as a Prerogative, and something which seeks to define the manner in which that Prerogative should be used yet does not do so because it leaves the whole thing completely vague.
Amongst the excuses put up for this peculiar piece of legislation is that it is to deal with a matter on which we cannot legislate. With the greatest respect, Mr. Gurden, that is simply untrue. Of course we can legislate. If the intention is that there should be another place, consisting of certain peers to be nominated by the Prime Minister, certain peers to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, certain peers to be nominated by a Committee to sit on the cross-bench and certain peers to be nominated by nobody to make speeches, legal effect can be given to that intention. It can be laid down that the Prime Minister shall appoint a certain number of peers to another House. In the old India Army there were Queen's officers and Viceroy's officers. In the new House of Peers there can be Prime Minister's peers, Leader of the Opposition's peers, Committee's peers and Queen's peers. It is perfectly possible legally. If this were done, the difficulty would be that there would be created a body of real authority, a body with a real legal foundation, a foundation with which it would be exceedingly difficult to interfere, particularly if the peers were unpaid.
If people are appointed, as the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) said, by patronage, safe men, the great problem is, who are safe men and how long will they stay safe? It is awfully difficult to find them. I always remember the passage in Trollope's Phineas Finn, when the Chief Whip was discussing the problems rendered by Mr. Finn's decision to vote against the Government on the Irish Measure. The Chief Whip ruminated when this was reported to him and he said— 394 I am quoting from memory, not exactly—"It is a pity, I have seen a lot of young men go wrong in my time here, with some it has been drink, with some it has been women, but principles, that is the worst of the lot."
§ Mr. Paget
And Irish customs—I am quoting from memory. This awful head of principle may arise in such a House of Peers. If we put into the Bill something that means something, the Prime Minister to appoint so many, the Opposition to appoint so many, a Statutory Committee to appoint the cross-benchers, those will be people of their choice, people who might or might not have principles. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale referred to them as statutory eunuchs, or political castrati.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Might not those peers who stood by the obligations which they were supposed to carry out be referred to as Preamble peers?
§ Mr. Paget
At this point the Government ought to reconsider this Measure. If they try to put a guillotine on it they will be beaten. They have not got the kind of commitment, even from the Opposition Front Bench, that will support them on that. They are running into various other matters on which they may be beaten. For heaven's sake, take this away and have more thoughts on it before any more time is wasted!
§ Mr. Deedes
I wish to address only one question to the Attorney-General before he is good enough to reply. It is quite a simple question by contrast with some that have been put to him, and it is a question which has puzzled me more and more as the debate has continued. Quite simply, what are the Government's motives for entering the Preamble of the Bill in this way?
Those of us who have knowledge of how Bills are put together in Government Departments or elsewhere know that the form is not arrived at by a happy accident but by discussions. If the Bill is to take an unusual form the discussions are often protracted and the Attorney-General is always consulted. He was good enough to explain to us this morning that on previous occasions in Bills of major constitutional importance there have been 395 Preambles of this kind, but I rather agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that the precedents offered by the Attorney-General were not perhaps as convincing as he hoped they might be. Had we had a little more time to examine them, we might have found even more flaws than have already been suggested. This may constitute a precedent, but are the Government required to do this in this Measure? Is such a Preamble required in every Bill of a constitutional character?
The Attorney-General gave a list of Measures which had contained Preambles along these lines. Did he omit Bills of this character which had not contained such Preambles? Are the Government aware that if, for any reason, they are compelled to proceed with a Preamble of this kind they will have trouble with the Bill, since it has been made clear by hon. Members on both sides that the House of Commons is not prepared to continue discussing a Measure the Preamble to which contains the implications to which reference has been made? Is there another way in which the Government can fulfil what they want to achieve without this Preamble? If there is, was it considered and will it be considered now?
The Attorney-General laid great stress on paragraphs (a) and (b) of the Preamble, and I gathered from his remarks that these paragraphs are regarded as enshrining the main matter of the White Paper. Is he aware, however, that they are not exclusive but somewhat selective in that sense? One must, therefore, assume that the Preamble has been drafted in an arbitrary way, that it could have been drafted in a different way and that perhaps it need not have been in the Bill at all.
Bearing this in mind, what were the Government's motives in having this type of Preamble and what advantage lies in it for them? I ask this because I suspect that such advantage as may be in it for them carries absolutely no advantage for the Committee, and that is why the Government should be challenged on this matter.
§ Mr. Howie
I come to the aid of the Government—not with vigour and extremely impartially, because I am not 396 firm in my commitment to the Bill—because, like many hon. Members, I am anxious for the Committee to begin discussing in greater detail the Measure and the Amendments tabled to it.
We are in difficulty this morning because of the selection made yesterday of the subjects for debate. I do not criticise the selection; indeed, it is outwith my power to do so. However, we would normally have been discussing the Preamble at the end of our deliberations on the Bill and not in the middle of them. We find ourselves in this position because of the selection of a particular Amendment. We seem to have reached the end before getting past the middle.
The Attorney-General did not challenge the fact that the Preamble cannot be binding since it is nothing but a declaration of intent. Such a declaration made by the present Government, even with the tepid support of the Opposition Front Bench, cannot be binding on any other Front Bench in future. Who knows, in five or 10 years' time my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) may find himself sitting on the Government Front Bench, no doubt alongside his hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett), both as Chancellors of the Exchequer; and after the speech made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne would anyone suggest that he would be bound by a declaration of intent written into this Preamble?
Not only is that idea absurd, it is made more absurd by the comments earlier of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who is an able and respected right hon. Gentleman and of whom I am nearly a constituent—I am happy to say not quite. While I do not wish to be unkind to him, he seemed to be throwing cold water on the idea that there had been a bargain between the two Front Benches. I would be overstating my case to say that he was trying to wriggle out of the bargain. I do not mean it in such an unkind way. He suggested, however, that a bargain had been suggested but that it did not actually exist. He did not say in what way the present proposals differed from any bargain that might have been made, and he should make it clear, for the benefit of back benchers, precisely what 397 the present position is, because we are anxious about the likely future of the declaration of intent.
I said that I would try to aid the Government. There are several ways out of this dilemma. First—this course has been advocated by some hon. Members—the Government could abandon the Bill, rethink their position and introduce a simpler proposal. That would be an excellent idea. If they do not feel inclined to do that, there is another way. There is no doubt that the House of Commons is empowered to legislate on the composition of the other House. The Prerogative has been given to us by Her Majesty and we may use it by defining, within the Bill, the nature of the House of Lords or whatever it may be called in future.
There are certain ways of doing this. It could be done by a direct amendment of the Bill; and by good fortune Amendment No. 136 appears on the Notice Paper in my name. Mine is the only name supporting it, but if, on reflection, other hon. Members care to join me, I shall be delighted, and they need not accept my definition of the composition of the second Chamber. I hope that that Amendment will be selected for debate.
On the other hand, it would be possible for the Government to insert the complete White Paper, perhaps amended, in the Bill as a Schedule. Such an Amendment appears on the Notice Paper. I have not studied it, because of its length, to see how closely it follows the White Paper.
§ Mr. Howie
I thought that it was, and I am delighted to have that confirmation.
A precedent for including an entire White Paper in a Bill exists in the Prices and Incomes Act, 1966. At that time we were making a break with tradition. Instead of the White Paper being a declaration of intent, it would, as it did in 1966, become a part of the law.
To assist our proceedings, the Government should make a statement to the effect that at a suitable stage in the Bill they will accept or propose an Amendment which defines the number and nature of the House of Lords or, alternatively, that they will put their proposals in the Bill as a new Schedule.
§ Mr. Onslow
It would be much more helpful to the Committee if a statement to this effect were made before the debate concluded. We want to know from the Government what their intentions now are.
§ Mr. Howie
I am happy to say "during the debate". I do not think that we can ask the Government at this stage to debate the details of a hypothetical Schedule which we shall reach in the middle of July or December—I hope. But I agree with the hon. Gentleman.
It is for the Government at this stage to tell us that they will put into the Bill detailed proposals about the composition of the Lords. They can then let us get on with the detailed consideration of the Bill after today.
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams
I believe that Ash Wednesday morning, 1969, will be recorded as the day on which backbenchers rose up and forced a Government to withdraw a Bill even though they had already fixed it with the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that before we end this morning's sitting we shall have a statement to that effect from the Government. In the meantime, we have to continue our weary way through this Committee.
I came here this morning to hear the Attorney-General's statement; I thought it a very serious development, because, while the Preamble appeared to be part of the Bill and to have some statutory effect, though most hon. Members did not like it, it appeared to have some restrictive effect on the powers of the Prime Minister's patronage. Since we have now been told that it is purely declaratory and has no legal effect, we must now read the Bill simply in terms of its Clauses without the Preamble. They are revolutionary and extremely dangerous taken by themselves.
When we discussed this matter yesterday we considered new Clause 19. What has been said this morning will give particular relevance to that Clause, which was drafted in the apprehension that the power of patronage that the Bill would confer on the Prime Minister would be intolerable. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said on Second Reading that the Prime Minister's power of patronage was causing anxiety on both 399 sides of the House, and hoped that a formula might be found whereby the Prime Minister would act only with "advice". It may well be that the suggestion made in new Clause 19, that a Committee of the Privy Council should advise the Sovereign on the selection of Members of the other place, is not the cleverest of all possible suggestions. I am not a constitutional expert, and I do not recommend that the particular words in that new Clause should be adopted. But in dismissing it last night, the Leader of the House tended to suggest that it referred only to the selection of hereditary peers, the voteless wonders who are to be allowed to sit in on debates in the other place but not to have any power. But that was not the intention of the Clause when we set it down. The intention was that it should be read together with all the other Amendments that my hon. Friends and I have signed, in which we suggested how the Bill might be amended so as to make the other House a real place. We thought that the new Clause 19 might be one of the keys, so that the other place would not be a House nominated by the Prime Minister but would be nominated in some other way by people competent to advise the Sovereign on its composition.
But the Preamble has been swept away. The Government has chosen to disregard what we suggest in the new Clause, and are riding rough-shod over all that was said on Second Reading. This is a crisis in which the Government are confronting the back-benchers on both sides and trying to force a constitutional change of the greatest magnitude in the teeth of the most sincere anxiety of people who have studied this matter. What we see emerging is the premierissimo, who will be able to carry the Sovereign along behind him in his triumphal car. The premierissimo emerges from the Bill, as we now understand it, as the man of absolute power in the Constitution.
I hope that what has been done this morning, and what was said here yesterday and today, will prove that backbenchers in the House of Commons will have some influence over the Government. Since the Leader of the House and the Attorney-General have in effect killed the Preamble, they have made the Bill into an extremely dangerous Measure. 400 If they refuse to withdraw it, they must satisfy the very real anxieties of hon. Members on both sides and people outside the House who study our Constitution, and they must now put forward some amendment to the Bill whereby the Prime Minister would effectively be limited in his power of choice of members of the other House.
§ The Attorney-General
I have been asked a number of important questions about the Preamble. The basic question with which I must seek to grapple at the earliest opportunity was put to me by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) with his customary vigour and directness. He asked me what would be the legal effect of the second part of the Preamble, which is basically what we are discussing, in the sense of legally binding any Government to act in accordance with the Preamble. The answer is that it has no legal effect in that sense. If the Bill becomes an Act, the Preamble will be part of an Act of Parliament, and it will be open to judicial interpretation. But I agree that this will have no practical significance as far as the second part of the Preamble is concerned, since it does not mesh with anything in the Clauses. It is the case that if the Government of the day did not comply with the Preamble it would not be possible to take legal action in the courts to challenge their action. But that does not mean that the Preamble is without constitutional significance. It has constitutional significance. Its main significance is that if it is passed by Parliament, the action of the present and succeeding Governments, this having been the will of Parliament and the intention of Parliament, can be compared with the purposes of the proposals set out in the Preamble.
The real justification of the Preamble, therefore, is political. It provides information as to the way in which the prerogative will be exercised. The exercise of the prerogative will not be trammelled, but the principles on which it is to be exercised are indicated. The omission of the second part of the Preamble would not cause any legal or constitutional difficulty, but in the Government's view the declaration which the Preamble embodies, that the Government will abide by the principles indicated in 401 the Preamble, is of considerable political and constitutional importance.
The Preamble recognises—it is the fact—that much of our constitutional machinery is exercised in accordance with constitutional usage and conventions. New conventions need to be developed for new situations. The Preamble does not seek to set out all the conventions which will need to be developed in the working out of the scheme of reform, but it seeks to set out the conventions which should be followed in regard to the composition of the House of Lords.
I entirely agree that the White Paper contains some matters of importance which are not expressly referred to in the Preamble. One example is the important proposal in paragraph 31 of the White Paper about the committee which is toreview periodically the composition of the reformed House and report, either to the Prime Minister or to Parliament, on any deficiencies in the balance and range of the membership of the House.It is not practicable to spell out such matters in the Bill. The answer to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) is that it is not practicable to set out the details of composition of the reformed House in what will inevitably be a changing political world, in the sense that there will be inevitable changes in party strength and representation in the upper House.
§ Mr. Birch
The White Paper says practically nothing about the reviewing committee. I suppose it will be a committee to be appointed to enable the Prime Minister to put in whoever he wants. There is to be no provision for any statutory way of appointing it, such as under the Lord Chief Justice, is there?
§ The Attorney-General
There are no statutory provisions in regard to it. It will be appointed by agreement between the parties in the House, because, after all, a great deal of Parliamentary life depends upon reasonable understandings between both sides of the House of Commons on the working of the Parliamentary machine. If every Member of the House of Commons set his mind to wreck 402 the operation of Parliament, he could do it. That is avoided by reasonable understanding and the coming together of minds on the working of conventions.
When we considered alternative methods of dealing with the problem that the scheme gives rise to, the conception of embodying the principles in regard to the composition in the Preamble and the bringing into the Preamble of the White Paper seemed to us to be the most effective means of committing Parliament to applying the principle that the composition of the reformed House should, in particular, embody the two most critical elements of maintaining a proper balance between the parties and representation of the various parts of the United Kingdom.
I therefore invite the House to reach the conclusion that, although the effect of the Preamble is declaratory and political, as I have said, it is not meaningless; it will be an important political test which subsequent Governments will be put to; and, accordingly, I invite the House to accept it.
§ Mr. Maudling
I can only regard the Attorney-General's reply as quite unsatisfactory. I make my position clear once again. I agree with this scheme for an agreed reform of the upper Chamber. I shall continue to support the proposals unless anyone can put forward arguments to convince me that they are wrong. However, my agreement with the substance of the proposals does not in any way bind me or my colleagues to agree with the particular drafting of the Measure. I think that the Government will agree with me there.
I think that the drafting of the Measure in this particular way has been shown to be profoundly unsatisfactory, because the Preamble clearly has no legal effect. It is, therefore, an anomaly within the Bill. The Attorney-General, in giving his final justification for the Preamble, said that the future action of the Government can be compared with the Preamble. It can be compared with the White Paper. It can be compared with Ministers' speeches in these debates. We do not need to have a Preamble to provide a basis of comparison.
Governments are bound either by law or by honour. This Preamble would 403 not bind them by law, nor would it add to the binding obligations of honour which they would have undertaken. It is quite clear from this discussion that the Preamble is meaningless. I do not think that it helps the passage of the Bill for the establishment of a reformed House of Lords to continue with the Preamble in this context.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Silkin) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 173, Noes 95.405
|Division No. 75.1||AYES||[12.5 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Anderson, Donald||Hannan, William||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Harper, Joseph||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Murray, Albert|
|Binns, John||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Oakes, Gordon|
|Bishop, E. S.||Haseldine, Norman||O'Malley, Brian|
|Blackburn, F.||Hattersley, Roy||Oram, Albert E.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hazell, Bert||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Boston, Terence||Henig, Stanley||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Palmer, Arthur|
|Boyden, James||Hilton, W. S.||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hooley, Frank||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pentland, Norman|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Buchan, Norman||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Howie, W.||Probert, Arthur|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hoy, James||Rees, Merlyn|
|Cant, R. B.||Huckfield, Leslie||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Hunter, Adam||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Coe, Denis||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Rose, Paul|
|Coleman, Donald||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Concannon, J. D.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rowlands, E.|
|Conlan, Bernard||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, Rt. Hn. SirElwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Silverman, Julius|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Judd, Frank||Small, William|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lawson, George||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dell, Edmund||Leadbitter, Ted||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Dempsey, James||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Taverne, Dick|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Doig, Peter||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Driberg, Tom||Lipton, Marcus||Tinn, James|
|Dunn, James A.||Loughlin, Charles||Urwin, T. W.|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Cwyneth (Exeter)||McCann, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||MacColl, James||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Ellis, John||Macdonald, A. H.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|English, Michael||McGuire, Michael||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Ensor, David||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Weitzman, David|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'ham, Yardley)||Mackie, John||Wellbeloved, James|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mackintosh, John P.||Whitaker, Ben|
|Finch, Harold||Maclennan, Robert||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Ford, Ben||McNamara, J. Kevin||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Forrester, John||MacPherson, Malcolm||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, s.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Manuel, Archie||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Winnick, David|
|Gardner, Tony||Mayhew, Christopher||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Millan, Bruce|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Miller, Dr. M. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gregory, Arnold||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Biffen, John|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Awdry, Daniel||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel|
|Astor, John||Baxter, William||Body, Richard|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hooson, Emlyn||Percival, Ian|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Braine, Bernard||Hunt, John||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pym, Francis|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Cooke, Robert||Jopling, Michael||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Kershaw, Anthony||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Dance, James||Kimball, Marcus||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Kitson, Timothy||Royle, Anthony|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sheldon, Robert|
|Emery, Peter||Lee, John (Reading)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Eyre, Reginald||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Farr, John||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)||Tilney, John|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Mawby, Ray||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mikardo, Ian||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Monro, Hector||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Montgomery, Fergus||Wright, Esmond|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||More, Jasper||Wylie, N. R.|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Nott, John||Younger, Hn. George|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hiley, Joseph||Paget, R. T.||Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke and|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Mr. Victor Goodhew.|
§ The Chairman (Mr. Sydney Irving)
I remind the committee that this rather wide debate arose on Amendment No. 140, moved by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald).
§ Question put accordingly, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 57, Noes 196.407
|Division No. 76.]||AYES||[12.15 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Goodhew, Victor||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Biffen, John||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hiley, Joseph||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Sharples, Richard|
|Body, Richard||Jopling, Michael||Taylor, Edward M.(C'gow, Cathcart)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Kimball, Marcus||Tilney, John|
|Braine, Bernard||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Cooke, Robert||Mawby, Ray||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Cordle, John||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wright, Esmond|
|Dance, James||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wylle, N. R.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Monro, Hector||Younger, Hn. George|
|Emery, Peter||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Farr, John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Neave, Airey||Mr. Cranley Onslow and|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Sir Brandon Rhys Williams.|
|Abse, Leo||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dempsey, James|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Buchan, Norman||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Anderson, Donald||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Dobson, Ray|
|Bagier, Cordon A. T.||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Doig, Peter|
|Barnett, Joel||Cant, R. B.||Driberg, Tom|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Carmichael, Neil||Dunn, James A.|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Binns, John||Coe, Denis||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Coleman, Donald||Ellis, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Conlan, Bernard||English, Michael|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Ensor, David|
|Booth, Albert||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)|
|Boston, Terence||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)|
|Bottomley, RI. Hn. Arthur||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Ferynhough, E.|
|Boyden, Jantes||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Finch, Harold|
|Brown, Bob (N c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Dell, Edmund||Ford, Ben|
|Forrester, John||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Probert, Arthur|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Lee, John (Reading)||Rankin, John|
|Freeson, Reginald||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Calpern, Sir Myer||Lipton, Marcus||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|Garrett, W. E.||Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Coronwy|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McCann, John||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||MacColl, James||Rose, Paul|
|Gregory, Arnold||Macdonald, A. H.||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||McGuire, Michael||Rowlands, E.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Ryan, John|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Hannan, William||Mackie, John||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Harper, Joseph||Mackintosh, John P.||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N 'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Maclennan, Robert||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Silverman, Julius|
|Haseldine, Norman||McNamara, J. Kevin||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hattersley, Roy||MacPherson, Malcolm||Small, William|
|Hazell, Bert||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Henig, Stanley||Manuel, Archie||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Steel, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mayhew, Christopher||Taverne, Dick|
|Hooley, Frank||Mendelson, John||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Mikardo, Ian||Thornton, Ernest|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Millan, Bruce||Tinn, James|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Urwin, T. W.|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Howie, W.||Moonman, Eric||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Hoy, James||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Watkins, David (Contett)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Weitzman, David|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Murray, Albert||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hunter, Adam||Newens, Stan||Whitaker, Ben|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Oakes, Gordon||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||O'Malley, Brian||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stechford)||Oram, Albert E.||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Orme, Stanley||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Wilton, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Jones, Ht. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Paget, R. T.||Winnick, David|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Palmer, Arthur||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Judd, Frank||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Pentland, Norman||Mr. J D. Concannon and|
|Lawson, George||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
Amendment No. 163 proposed, in page 2, line 38, at end insert:
(5) Nothing in this Act shall affect the right of any Prince of the Blood Royal, being a Peer, to receive as heretofore a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords.—[Mr. Biggs-Davison.]
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 46, Noes 197.409
|Division No. 77.]||AYES||[12.24 p.m.|
|Allson, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Percival, Ian|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Coodhart, Philip||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Biffen, John||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Tilney, John|
|Body, Richard||Hiley, Joseph||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Braine, Bernard||Kimball, Marcus||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Brewis, John||Kitson, Timothy||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Cooke, Robert||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Wright, Esmond|
|Cordle, John||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Wylie, N. R.|
|Costain, A. P.||Mawby, Ray||Younger, Hn. George|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Dance, James||Montgomery, Fergus||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Emery, Peter||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Mr. R. Gresham Cooke and|
|Farr, John||Neave, Airey||Mr. Victor Goodhew.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Abse, Leo||Crimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Anderson, Donald||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hannan, William||Murray, Albert|
|Barnett, Joel||Harper, Joseph||Newens, Stan|
|Benn, Rt, Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||O'Malley, Brian|
|Binns, John||Haseldine, Norman||Oram, Albert E.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hattersley, Roy||Orme, Stanley|
|Blackburn, F.||Hazell, Bert||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Henig, Stanley||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Booth, Albert||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Paget, R. T.|
|Boston, Terence||Hilton, W. S.||Palmer, Arthur|
|Bottomley Ht. Hn. Arthur||Hooley, Frank||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Boyden, James||Hooson, Emlyn||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Pentland, Norman|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Brown, Hugn D. (G'gow, Provan)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Howie, W.||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hoy, James||Probert, Arthur|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Huckfield, Leslie||Rankin, John|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|Carmichael, Nell||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hunter, Adam||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Coe, Denis||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Rose, Paul|
|Coleman, Donald||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Rowlands, E.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Ryan, John|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Judd, Frank||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dell, Edmund||Lawson, George||Silverman, Julius|
|Dempsey, James||Leadbitter, Ted||Sherrington, Arthur|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Small, William|
|Dobson, Ray||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Doig, Peter||Lee, John (Reading)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lipton, Marcus||Taverne, Dick|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Loughlin, Charles||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||McBride, Neil||Thornton, Ernest|
|Edwarde, William (Merioneth)||MacColl, James||Tinn, James|
|Ellis, John||Macdonald, A. H.||Urwin, T. W.|
|English, Michael||McCuire, Michael||Varley, Eric G.|
|Ensor, David||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne valley)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne valley)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Mackle, John||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mackintosh, John P.||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Finch, Harold||Maclennan, Robert||Weitzman, David|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Whitaker, Ben|
|Ford, Ben||MacPherson, Malcolm||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Forrester, John||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fowler, Gerry||Manuel, Archie||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mayhew, Christopher||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mendelson, John||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Gardner, Tony||Mikardo, Ian||Winnick, David|
|Garrett, W. E.||Millan, Bruce||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gregory, Arnold||Moonman, Eric||Mr. John McCann and|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Mr. J. D. Concannon.|
|Griffiths, David (Bother Valley)|
§ The Chairman
As I am of opinion that the principle of the Clause has been adequately discussed, I propose, under the discretion given to the Chair by Standing Order No. 47, to put the Question forthwith.—[Interruption.]
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Maudling
Without wishing in any way to question your discretion. Mr. Irving, 410 in view of the very considerable feelings held on this matter could you explain when and in what way protests can be made?
§ The Chairman
Not while the Chairman is putting the Question in the exercise of his discretion under Standing Order No. 47.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—411
§ The Chairman
I am sorry. I cannot entertain points of order while I am putting the Question. I am bound by the Standing Order, in the exercise of my discretion, to put the Question forthwith, and that excludes entertaining any points of order while the Question is being put to the Committee.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Are you, Mr. Irving, prepared to hear submissions on the exercise of that discretion?
§ The Chairman
Order. Hon. Members must wait until the Division is in progress before they can assume their top hats.
§ Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 193, Noes 68.
§ While the Division was in progress—
Mr. Gresham Cooke (seated and covered)
May I respectfully point out to you, Mr. Irving, that this Clause is headed "Exclusion of peers by succession." We have not debated that point at
|Division No. 78.]||AYES||[12.34 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hoy, James|
|Anderson, Donald||Eadie, Alex||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Bagier, Gordon, A. T.||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Ellis, John||Hunter, Adam|
|Binns, John||English, Michael||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ensor, David||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Blackburn, F.||Evans, Fred (CaerphilIy)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Boston, Terence||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Finch, Harold||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S)|
|Boyden, James||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Ford, Ben||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Forrester, John||Judd, Frank|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Fowler, Gerry||Lawson, George|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Buchan, Norman||Freeson, Reginald||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Garrett, W. E.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Cant, R. B.||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Lipton, Marcus|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Gregory, Arnold||Loughlin, Charles|
|Coe, Denis||Grey, Charles (Durham)||McCann, John|
|Coleman, Donald||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||MacColl, James|
|Conlan, Bernard||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||McGuire, Michael|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hannan, William||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Harper, Joseph||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mackie, John|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Haseldine, Norman||Maclennan, Robert|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hattersley, Roy||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Dell, Edmund||Hazell, Bert||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Dempsey, James||Henig, Stanley||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Dobson, Ray||Hilton, W. S.||Manuel, Archie|
|Doig, Peter||Hooley, Frank||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Dunn, James A.||Hooson, Emlyn||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Millan, Bruce|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Probert, Arthur||Urwin, T. W.|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Rankin, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rees, Merlyn||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Moonman, Eric||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rowlands, E.||Weitzman, David|
|Murray, Albert||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Oakes, Gordon||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|O'Malley, Brian||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Oram, Albert E.||Silverman, Julius||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Skeffington, Arthur||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Small, William||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Spriggs, Leslie||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Pentland, Norman||Taverne, Dick|
|Perry, Ernest C. (Battersea, S.)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Thornton, Ernest||Mr. J. D. Concannon and|
|Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Tinn, James||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Price, William (Rugby)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Quenneil, Miss J. M.|
|Barnett, Joel||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Biffen, John||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Huckfield, Leslie||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Booth, Albert||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Rose, Paul|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Royle, Anthony|
|Brewls, John||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Ryan, John|
|Cooke, Robert||Kimball, Marcus||Sharples, Richard|
|Costain, A. P.||Kitson, Timothy||Sheldon, Robert|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lee, John (Reading)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Dance, James||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Tilney, John|
|Driberg, Tom||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Vickcrs, Dame Joan|
|Eden, Sir John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Emery, Peter||Mendelson, John||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Farr, John||Mikardo, Ian||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Fletcher-Coolke, Charles||Monro, Hector||Wright, Esmond|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Montgomery, Fergus||Wylle, N. R.|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Neave, Airey||Younger, Hn. George|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Newens, Stan|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Nott, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhart, Philip||Orme, Stanley||Mr. John Biggs-Davison and|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Mr. Victor Goodhew.|
§ all. All that we have debated in the Amendments is whether there should be a certain number of representatives of the hereditary peers, either 75 or 20. We have not debated the main subject of the Clause, which is exclusion of peers by succession.
§ The Chairman
Either on a point of order or in any other way, at this moment I cannot enter into a discussion about the exercise of the discretion of the Chair under Standing Order No. 47.
§ Mr. Peter Emery(seated and covered) (Honiton)
With respect, Mr. Irving, may I ask for your guidance as a matter of order for hon. Members who have waited for the "Clause stand part" debate specifically to deal with matters of the principle of succession, which has not been debated? How now are we to take part? I have waited all last night and this morning to make a speech in the "Clause stand part" debate. How now are we to register our feelings?
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Gentleman is inviting me to discuss the exercise of the discretion of the Chair. That is a thing I cannot do.
§ Mr. Maudling
I beg to move,That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.I move this Motion to ascertain the Government's reaction to this new situation. As I think you, Mr. Irving, will be aware and as the House is well a-ware, there is a good deal of opinion that Clause 1 has not been thoroughly discussed. I am not in any way challenging your Ruling or your discretion, but I am pointing out to the Government that the situation has been created by your perfectly proper Ruling and am asking what they intend to do about it—
§ The Chairman
Order. I want to help the right hon. Gentleman, but I can draw no other conclusion from his remarks than that he is reflecting on the discretion of the Chair, and that is out of order.
§ Mr. Maudling
With respect, I am not intending any such reflection. I am saying that there is a feeling of considerable unhappiness, which the Leader of the House should set about putting right.
§ Mr. Michael Foot rose—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison rose—
§ The Question is, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.415
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I found the response of the Leader of the House singularly and, if he will allow me to say so, unusually unhelpful. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), in the most reasonable terms, put to the right hon. Gentleman a problem which should concern him as Leader of the House more than any other matter—that is, that a very important issue, the termination of the hereditary principle in another place, should, on some appropriate occasion, be fully discussed. It is the duty of the right hon. Gentleman in arranging the business of the House, to meet what I think he will agree is the view of hon. Members in all quarters of the House.
Whatever view one takes of this matter—I should stray out of order if I expressed one—it is plainly of immense importance to alter the composition of a House which has stood for hundreds of years. This is a matter affecting, as, in another context, the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said so well earlier, our Constitution for a very long time. Both as a Member of the Government and as Leader of the House of Commons, the right hon. Gentleman should certainly wish to help the House to secure that proper opportunity, within the rules of order, is given for the proper discussion of this issue.
If the right hon. Gentleman just mulishly sits there and talks about rising at one o'clock, and shows no willingness to meet the views of hon. Members who wish to discuss this matter, he will find, I think, that it will not avail him very much and that it might even not help the progress of this Measure. I beg him to remember his duty to the Committee and to think again.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot rose—
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
Yes, let us have a long debate now.
§ Mr. Foot
This is a Bill on which the name of the Home Secretary appears first among those who presented it. So, no doubt for many reasons which are satisfactory, he has not been able to attend the debate today so has not heard what the Attorney-General said to the Committee or the comments made from both sides about it. With great respect to the Home Secretary, before making suggestions that it was improper for the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) to move this Motion, he should have taken into account what had happened in the Committee in the last three hours, because the right hon. Gentleman moved the Motion precisely because of what had happened. Therefore, with great respect to the Home Secretary, he is not qualified to give us any judgment upon these things which he has not heard.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I was allowing my hon. Friend to go on to see how far he would commit himself. He obviously has not noticed that I have been sitting here for nearly the whole of the debate.
§ Mr. Foot
If I am wrong, I apologise at once. I must say that I have never seen my right hon. Friend make himself so unobtrusive. We all know that he does everything on purpose. However, we are very glad to see that he has come along now. We can see him in full face as well as in profile. We are glad that he, as the master mind behind the Bill, the man who has enthusiastically backed it throughout, has come along to participate in the debates and take over from his juniors. It is high time that he did, in view of the difficulties in which we have got ourselves.
But I was distracted by my right hon. Friend's interruption. I strongly support the Motion of the right hon. Member for Barnet—
§ Mr. Foot
I do so because I think that it is in the best interests of the House of Commons. It is the same Motion that I moved last night, although I was ruled out of order then, and I think that it would have been better if we had had it then, because, if the Government had 417 accepted it, as they could have done, it would have given the Attorney-General a longer time to consider the statement which he was to make to the Committee on this subject.
If the Attorney-General had come before us to make his statement this afternoon, having given full consideration to the matter, and possibly having been able to consult with others responsible for presenting the Bill, including the Home Secretary, I think that a different situation might have developed. But there is no doubt about the situation that has developed. Wherever the Home Secretary was eavesdropping in our proceedings earlier today, he must surely have overheard, from both sides of the Committee, that we are getting, as I believe, into deeper and deeper difficulties about the Bill.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Because my hon. Friend's eyesight is defective, he must not assume that I have not been sitting on the Front Bench in full view of everybody except himself the whole morning.
§ Mr. Foot
In that case my eyesight must be defective. I am sorry that the Home Secretary did not intervene earlier. He seems ready with his interventions now, but he might have interrupted during the proceedings. If he had been eager to assist the Committee on the matter he could have made the winding-up speech perhaps on the previous Clause.
We are now faced with the situation that on both sides there is a growing feeling that the Bill cannot go through in its present form. Therefore, I think that it was proper for the right hon. Member for Barnet to propose the normal procedure whereby the Government agree to take the matter away for consideration. They would not have lost anything. They are not gaining any time by resisting the proposal.
It would not be very fruitful for the Committee, but we could have a discussion until two o'clock on whether we should accept the right hon. Gentleman's Motion. I do not think that it would assist very much in getting the Bill through the Committee. It is a very big Bill indeed, There are many Amendments down. Every member of the Government who looks at it and any 418 Member who has attended all the time this morning and last night must be fully aware that the Bill will take days to get through if there is no sense of co-operation.
The right hon. Gentleman made his proposal in perfectly reasonable terms. He was not questioning the Ruling of the Chair. He was merely saying that he thought it would be more convenient to have the matter dealt with as he proposed. But immediately the Government jump to the conclusion that such a proposal has to be resisted. If they approach debates in this way, they will only add to their difficulties. They know that eventually they will have to concede on this point.
Moreover, I underline the scene, which the Home Secretary must have witnessed so clearly this morning, and the development which has occurred which is of great importance in the conduct of our proceedings on the Bill. Hitherto, the Bill has been propped up by the attitude of the Treasury Bench and the Opposition Front Bench. So long as that prop remains fairly stable I suppose that eventually the Bill can be passed through. But that prop was looking a bit shaky this morning. Despite all the valiant efforts of the right hon. Gentleman it was shaky. As we proceeded it looked even shakier still. Some of us gave it a gentle push every now and again, and we will give it a few more gentle pushes. That might assist the other kind of operations which are operating on the benches opposite.
If that prop is knocked out, what is the position of the Government? There are many complications to be taken into account. They might be in the position of getting the Bill through the Committee in defiance of the vast majority of Members opposite, in defiance of a considerable number on this side who are sticking to Labour Party policy, and in defiance finally of those who entered into the bargain, which the right hon. Gentleman does not like to call a bargain. If they get the Bill through in those circumstances, something might happen in the House of Lords. As I suggested, in terms which I should be happy to phrase in more elegant language, even worms in ermine can turn—and they might.
§ Mr. Foot
The Home Secretary is picking up everything now that he has taken up his full station on the Front Bench.
What happens then? We will have spent many days in Committee getting the Bill through. Despite all the rough wear and tear that the Government will endure during the process and the casualties that there may be on the Treasury Bench, they will eventually get this bleeding object into the other place and there they will finally cut its throat.
What happens to the great reform of the House of Lords then? Are we to have the Bill brought back to this place and go through the whole travail again, with the Government wasting more and more time and this issue enervated as if it is the greatest issue of the age? Is this what the Government think is a wise course? That is what could happen to the Government once they lose the support of the Opposition Front Bench. As an amateur judge, my judgment of these matters is that the strength of the Opposition Front Bench is greatly weakened. We saw the other day, on the racial question, that they were split wide open. The Opposition Chief Whip will be the first to acknowledge that.
§ Mr. Foot
That could easily happen again—and it is happening. I do not know whether the Chief Patronage Secretary opposite has been sitting secluded on the Front Bench listening to these proceedings all morning. I know that he has popped in occasionally. He has been a more frequent attender than the Home Secretary. However, I will not go too far into that matter.
I am trying to impress upon the Government, because they are the only people who do not seem to understand, that their support for the Bill, in the places where they thought it was absolutely secure, is crumbling. If it crumbles they will either be defeated here, or, as I prophesy, in another place. If that happens at the end of the whole proceedings, the humiliation for the Government will be much 420 worse than having to deal with the situation now.
That is why some of us have urged the Government that it is genuinely in their interests, although this comes from those of us who are bitterly opposed to the Bill and whose antagonism towards it becomes stronger the more we examine it. I never realised some of the horrors in the Bill before I heard them being elaborated. I did not come with an unprejudiced mind in the first place, but I never thought that such a Bill would be presented to us.
I do not know how enthusiastic the Home Secretary was about the Bill originally. It may be that he had gone through every word and comma, saw it as perfect, was determined that it should be fought through inch by inch, and that he would not take any objection from his right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Social Services, the Leader of the House, or any others. It may be that his attitude is that he is determined to ram the Bill through. However, I think that in that case he must go back to the Cabinet and say that he has had second thoughts—or perhaps it is first thoughts. I do not know. At any rate, I think that he must go back to the Cabinet and say that it must choose between his first and his second thoughts, because the Government are now in a predicament from which they will not escape by adopting the attitude that they have taken towards the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman—a rigid disciplinarian attitude of saying, "We will have our way, because we happen to have a majority at the moment."
That will not solve this problem. If this was a short Bill with a few Clauses and not many Amendments, it might possibly work. Other Bills have been rammed through on that basis. But this is a Bill, as I said on Second Reading, with infinite possibilities of objection.
One of the virtues of the House of Commons is that it is able to mobilise its opinion and impress it on the Government. Wise Governments learn that at an early stage. They certainly do not solve problems by thinking that they can deal with them by objecting when proposals are made for an Adjournment which, in any case, will not cost them anything. They will not lose anything. 421 But apparently their prestige is at stake. They cannot accept that a Motion of this nature should be accepted.
As a result, they have worsened the situation, which was bad enough, and we shall have further debates on all these Clauses. We shall have further debates on moving to report Progress. We shall have further discussions, such as we are having now, on the fundamental reason why the Government ought to think again about the Bill. These will proceed hour after hour, day after day, and week after week, and in the other place for weeks on end.
I say to the Government that they are getting themselves into a worse and worse difficulty. We plead with them to retreat before it is too late. If the right hon. Gentleman presses his Motion, I shall support it, because I believe that it has been moved in the interests of the House of Commons, and that it would be in the interests of the Government to accept it. I urge the Government to get up and say that they accept the Motion. We shall come back this afternoon, and I hope that the Government will agree to the proposition made earlier that they should, maybe not drop the Bill, but let the Cabinet consider it again for another week and decide what is their attitude to the question of the Preamble over which we have got into such difficulty. Let them consider their attitude to the Bill as a whole, and then come before the House again with a considered statement.
I urge the Government to do that in the interests of what I believe is best for the House of Commons. The Government are riding roughshod over the majority opinion on this side of the Committee. Against all the warnings which were given, they went ahead. We said that we would oppose the Government, and we are going to do so, but I hope that they will take into account the Parliamentary situation which has been created. I hope they will realise that eventually they will be forced to make a decision which it would be more graceful to make now. I believe that those who support the Motion are doing so in the best interests of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I have listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) with great attention. 422 I always find his speeches of great value, because he is extremely honest and he tells us what is in his mind. This morning my hon. Friend has given us a clear revelation of what is in his mind in his attitude to the Bill, apart from one moment of dissembling at the beginning, when he appeared to be saying that he wanted to improve the Bill.
My hon. Friend does not want to do anything of the sort. He wants to kill the Bill. This is his object, and this is why he is supporting the Motion. He is not interested in improving the Bill, any more than are some others in this House.
§ Mr. Callaghan
As my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) says, it cannot be improved.
I do not wish to enter into any discussion about this with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, but I sat through nearly all the debate yesterday on Clause 1. I was here until a late hour in the evening. I was not here at 10 o'clock this morning, because I had another meeting. I arrived a little late, but since then I have listened to nearly all the debate. I find it very interesting to sit here, to watch, and to listen, and I have learned a great deal.
I agree that the attitude of the Front Bench opposite has not been very heroic. I agree that the pillar seems to be a little shaky, that the bargain which was made on the introduction of this scheme, although supported by the Front Bench opposite, has not received very noticeable support, except by their abstention in the Lobby. This is a very interesting revelation. I agree that the Cabinet will, in due course, have to take this situation into account. It will have to consider the situation which is being created by the obvious opposition of a relatively small number of Members.
§ The Motion has been accepted, and it is, therefore, in order to discuss it. I point out to the Committee that the Government have just won three Divisions in a row.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That is not unusual. The right hon. Gentleman will get 423 apoplexy if he does not sit back and keep quiet. The right hon. Gentleman was a member of the Government which kept the Whips on continuously. There are plenty of precedents for this, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.
I have every sympathy with what the Attorney-General said earlier this morning. One can make a mockery of the House of Commons. It is possible to make a mockery of its proceedings. It is possible, for example, when an understanding has been reached to adjourn at 1 o'clock, at 20 minutes to one to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again, and so waste the last 20 minutes of the time instead of getting on with moving a further Amendment. It is possible to make a mockery of these things.
The procedure of the House is designed to enable hon. Members to have a full expression of their views. The Government will take note of what is being done in this way. They will have to take note of the views of certainly some hon. Gentlemen opposite, if I may use their own words, that they intend to block the Bill. All these things have to be taken into account.
The present position, and the reason I shall resist the Motion, is that there was an understanding that we should adjourn at one o'clock today.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes. It was not made with the hon. Gentleman. There are a number of hon. Members who apparently wish to speak.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison rose—
§ The Chairman
Order. The Minister has said that he does not intend to give way. The hon. Member must, therefore, resume his seat.
§ Mr. Maudling
There was no understanding. We were told courteously what the Government intended to do.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I understand that there was no dissent from the proposal, and that nothing else was said about it. If the Opposition really want to twist the procedure in this way, they are entitled to do so, but the Government will have to take note of it.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton) rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
No. I have sat here and listened to the tactics. I am as old a Parliamentary hand as most hon. Members here, and I know what is going on.
It is clear that whereas in the normal circumstances we would, at twenty minutes to one, have got on to the first Amendment to Clause 2, it was decided that we should instead have a little fun and games by discussing whether we should report progress. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been giving it out for a long time. They should understand that some of us can see what the tactics are, and know what is going on.
Because we know what is going on I think that it is as well to tell those hon. Members who are involved that we understand their tactics, and that, clearly, they will have to be taken into account in due course. I understand that that is what they want us to do. They want us to take account of what they are doing. They want us to take into account the fact that they say that the Bill will be blocked. That word is in HANSARD, and I take note of it.
We have been asked to reconsider the position, and we shall obviously need to do so in due course, but, as regards this Motion, if I may use a Parliamentary term, there can be no doubt that it is intended to delay the proceedings and not to accelerate them. Whatever the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, he cannot claim that when we have spent two full days and one morning on Clause 1 it has not been adequately debated. It has been, and I recognise this as well as the right hon. Gentleman does.
The synthetic indignation of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) leaves me completely unmoved. I have sat in this House for as long as he has. I have watched him many times, and I know what his approach is.
§ Mr. Birch rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to put to me a point arising out of what I have said?
§ The Chairman
Order. I cannot allow either right hon. Gentlemen to reflect on the discretion exercised by the Chair under Standing Order No. 47. If they wish to say that the matter should be discussed more, this is a different proposition.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
On a point of order. On the Ruling you have just given, Mr. Irving, if I may respectfully say so, the Standing Order under which you in your discretion acted earlier, refers to whether the Chairman is of opinion that the principle of the Clause has been discussed. With very great respect, you ruled that that opinion of yours should not be challenged at the time, but the Standing Order is based solely upon your opinion. In my respectful submission, this does not preclude right hon. and hon. Gentlemen from expressing a contrary opinion, although at the moment it is your opinion which is decisive.
§ The Chairman
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct; it is the opinion of the Chair. The point I am making, and the point which I must insist on making, is that neither on the occasion when it was sought to challenge the discretion of the Chair nor on this occasion is it the right moment to challenge that opinion in the exercise of discretion.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Surely it is open to any hon. Member, without challenging the fact that that was your opinion and that your opinion was at the moment decisive, on a subsequent occasion, as now, to express with equal sincerity a differing opinion.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Further to that point of order. As we now have until two o'clock, in view of the attitude of the Opposition, may I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman who wishes to pursue an argument should do so when I have sat 426 down, rather than raise it in the middle of my speech, since we clearly have plenty of time. Had the normal convention been observed, we would all have been at lunch, but since the hon. Gentlemen are sitting here and insist on making speeches, we are able to continue making our speeches until two o'clock.
That is the position which the Opposition have got us into, and it is typical—
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop rose—
§ The Chairman
I understood, although it was rather a lengthy one, the right hon. Gentleman was on a point of order.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
My point of order was how we would determine when the Home Secretary had finished his point of order, so that if a fresh point of order arose, it would be proper to raise it. If the Home Secretary was not prepared to tell the House when he had finished his point of order and returned to his speech, we would not know when to raise a point of order.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That last intervention is typical of a great deal of what we have had to put up with in the last two and a half days. I certainly take note of it, as the Opposition wish us to take note of it. We are faced with a series of frivolous interruptions and frivolous speeches which are repeating Second Reading debates, clearly designed to take up the time of the Committee without being obstructionist. That has been the whole purpose.
It has been said that we will lose the Bill. That is exactly the objective of a small group of Members who are determined to oppose it. They want us to lose the Bill. [Interruption.] I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants us to lose the Bill, but it is quite clear that there is a group of hon. Members determined that we shall now get the Bill. Am I misinterpreting them? There 427 is a combination of Members here who are determined to make sure that we do not get the Bill. I merely point out that this leads to a number of frivolous, lengthy, time-wasting speeches.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The point now is that we have until two o'clock instead of adjourning at one o'clock. Therefore, the Government may as well use the time as hon. Gentlemen opposite, having listened to a lot of drivel for a very long time.
So we are in this position, that a number of hon. Gentlemen, on this side of obstruction and while trying to keep just on the right side of the Chair, are determined to make the most lengthy speeches they can. I think that that at least has been established to the satisfaction of everybody in the Committee during the last two and half days. I am sure we are all agreed about that.
During one speech yesterday the Chair had to interrupt the speaker 48 times to call him to order. I have never sat in the House and heard a speaker called to order 48 times by the Chair. I think there were rather more times than that, but I am giving him the benefit of a little leeway.
The position is becoming clear. I readily acknowledge that it must be examined, and I would have thought, Mr. Irving, subject to anyone else wishing to continue the debate for as long as they wish to do so, it would be for the convenience of the Committee, as the Motion to report Progress has no more relevance than, and is just as frivolous as, many other debates we have listened to, that we should get on with Clause 2.
If we do not want to get on with Clause 2, and if hon. Members wish to continue to discuss the Motion, no doubt they will continue to discuss it at great length. But my recommendation to the Committee would be that we should now proceed to discussion of the first Amendment of Clause 2, if hon. Gentlemen are in earnest in saying that they wish to proceed with the Bill.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House ill served both the House and the Administration to 428 which he belongs by his reply to the reasonable Motion made at a reasonable time by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), and that miscalculation was made considerably worse in its effects by the petulant intervention made by the Home Secretary. One or two observations which fell from the Home Secretary in the course of that intervention I believe justify, indeed necessitate, this procedural debate being carried a little further.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had, apparently, a good deal of information to give about bargains. He said that there had been a bargain with the Front Bench of the Opposition on the introduction of the Bill.
§ Mr. Powell
I took his words down, and we will see whether they are in HANSARD. I distinctly heard him say that, but I am glad if he now wishes to disavow it, because I was about to ask my right hon. Friend to make it clear that there had been no bargain on the introduction of the Bill. Let us get it clear that there is no bargain about the passing of the Bill through the House; that is absolutely clear.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am always ready to withdraw words if I use them inadvertently when speaking without notes. That word "bargain" I used in a previous connotation, namely, that the scheme as it emerged was a bargain. It was to that I was directing myself. I used those words on Second Reading. There was no bargain about the introduction of the Bill, although one normally assumes, if Members have accepted a scheme, that they will not indulge in frivolous opposition, as, indeed, they have done, when it comes before the Committee.
§ Mr. Powell
I do not know which hon. Members the right hon. Gentleman has in mind in referring to frivolous opposition. Those who have sat through this debate, as he has not, will be aware that the vast majority of speeches have been very far from frivolous and have gone to the heart of about the most serious matter, the constitution of Parliament, that the House of Commons could possibly debate. However, I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the 429 candour with which he has corrected what he will probably find was inadvertently on the record and made it clear that there is no bargain on this side about the passage of the Bill.
There was a second bargain to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, a bargain to adjourn at 1 o'clock, a bargain to ask leave to report Progress at 1 o'clock.
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman has modified it to an understanding. When a query was raised about that, it transpired that all he meant was that the Opposition had been informed that it was the intention of the Government to take steps for the House to rise at 1 o'clock. If the notification of an intention on the part of the Government is to be held to be a bargain made with the Opposition which binds the Opposition, then normal Parliamentary proceedings in this House will be virtually at an end, for all that will be necessary will be for the Government to notify what is their will and pleasure and we shall be held to be bound to that by a bargain.
At the time when my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet proposed the Motion there were strong grounds for the Leader of the House to be reasonable and to accede to the proposition. The Home Secretary said that during his presence this morning he had learned a good deal. I fancy that the Government have been learning a good deal during these proceedings. A good deal of learning was done in the small hours of the morning when the Attorney-General was preparing the statement which he courteously and helpfully presented at the beginning of our proceedings this morning.
That statement, and the debate which followed it, was important. It presented the Committee with what in some respects is a new situation. Time and again hon. Members pointed out that we required time and opportunity to examine the advice of the Law Officer of the Crown as well as its significance, legal and constitutional, in relation to the Preamble which overshadows all our debates, not just on Clause 1 with which we are parting, but on all subsequent Clauses.
430 After all, the Government needed further time. They needed locus poenitentiae between 11 o'clock last night and 10 o'clock this morning, but we are expected to carry on after that important statement made by the Attorney-General without an opportunity to give it mature consideration and study. That reason alone would have been adequate for what would have been no more than a gesture on the part of the Leader of the House in accepting my right hon. Friend's proposition, at what was then a-quarter-to-one.
I join with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), from whom I dissent in so many respects, in telling the Leader of the House—this is the feeling of many hon. Members—that the kind of action which led him to repudiate the Motion proposed by my right hon. Friend will only get him into difficulties even deeper than those in which the Government already find themselves.
The Home Secretary seemed to say at one point that it was only a minority of hon. Members who, for one reason or another, detested the Bill and wanted it buried. There is a simple way for him to find out. I invite the Government to put the matter to the test. Let them say to their adherents—as to those… adhering to other parties and members adhering to no party …to borrow some words from the Preamble—that there is no Whip on the Bill, that they wish candidly and openly to ascertain their views on whether or not the Bill should pass and that no sort of disadvantage or prejudice—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Or discrimination?"]—or discrimination will accrue to any of those who express their opinion. Let the Government do what my right hon. Friends have candidly done and then they will learn where the feeling of hon. Members lies.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It would be interesting to have the right hon. Gentleman's answer to a question, since it might aid our progress. He said that if we followed the present line—he attacked the Lord President of the Council for turning down the Motion—we would get into trouble with the Bill. Is there any way in which the Government can get out of what he called trouble with the Bill, short of withdrawing the Bill?
§ Mr. Powell
With his long experience, the right hon. Gentleman knows the kind of difficulties into which a Government get when they show themselves to be obdurate, even with the minor details of a matter—
§ Mr. Powell
I am answering—in response to the feeling of the House of Commons. In that case those difficulties can be superimposed on the difficulties which are inherent. I admit that I can do nothing to help the Government over those difficulties which are inherent in the Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman need not heap on top of those difficulties further unnecessary difficulties—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that either we can lose the Bill by allowing it to drift on, because he will do nothing to help—indeed, he will do everything to oppose it—or that there is something that the Government could do which would enable the Bill to go through? What is the view of the right hon. Gentleman and his small group of colleagues on this question?
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
It seems that the nerves of right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench are becoming a little frayed. Their behaviour is difficult to understand. I had the impression that the Government were worried about the progress with the Bill. [Interruption.] If that is so, why are we met here in the forenoon, at such an early stage of such an important Measure?
It seems curious that the Home Secretary, having listened to the serious debate this morning, should, if he wishes to make progress with the Bill, have intervened at length in our discussion of the Motion moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) without furthering the interest of the Administration. He said that some hon. Members had been making a mockery of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Callaghan indicated assent.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Many of us are inclined to think that his speech did precisely 432 that. Many of us also believe that the Bill is designed to make a mockery of the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks were uncharacteristically discourteous and I wonder why he levelled such generalised accusations at hon. Members.
The Home Secretary seemed to join the filibuster. Everything he said seemed directed against Her Majesty's Opposition. He suggested that hon. Members on this side had been making frivolous and time-wasting speeches. I will willingly give way if the right hon. Gentleman can point to one speech made from this side which has not been a serious contribution. I have been here throughout our debates on this subject and have made only two quite short speeches.
§ Mr. Callaghan
A speech was made yesterday by an hon. Gentleman opposite in which it was stated—the hon. Gentleman will find it in HANSARD—that the purpose was to block the Bill and that all measures would be taken to block it.
I now repeat to the hon. Gentleman the question which I put, without answer, to his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Is there anything which would satisfy him and his small coterie of colleagues, except the complete withdrawal of the Bill? In what circumstances would they be willing to allow the Bill to go through?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
It is one thing to say that hon. Members are determined to block a Bill. It is another to say that their conduct is wasting the time of their colleagues. There is a genuine distinction between the two, and that is why the right hon. Gentleman's nerves are frayed. It is why Jim is not sunny today. The reason is that the Government do not like a situation in which hon. Members, irrespective of party, are seriously applying their minds to the future of the Constitution. The Government consider it the duty of their supporters to go into the Lobby when they are told to, and to vote the matter through with as much dispatch as possible.
The Government also consider, although this has been denied, that they 433 have entered into some sort of agreement over the Bill with the Opposition Front Bench. That is not so. It has been denied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet. There was an agreement between the two Front Benches on the general line set out in the White Paper, but it has been expressly denied today that there is any agreement between them that the Bill should be facilitated. If the Home Secretary denies that, I shall be glad to give way. What irks him is that this fundamental Measure cannot be rushed through the House. It is a Measure to change the constitution of centuries.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Sir D. Glover
On a point of order. Cannot the Chair do something about the Chancellor of the Exchequer—[An HON. MEMBER: "He has been sacked from that job."]—who has carried on a running commentary, treating the House with complete disrespect? I do not understand what is getting into him this morning.
§ The Chairman
I am trying to keep an eye on all right hon. and hon. Members. I shall intervene when I feel it appropriate.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
We are within our rights and are discharging our duty in opposing a constitutional reform of the greatest magnitude which we consider to be harmful. It is not a reproach to be levelled by any Member against any other hon. Member to say that he is doing something wrong in seeking to defeat a Bill. The surprising thing is how brief, how much to the point and how serious the speeches on both sides have been.
I was challenged by the right hon. Gentleman to say whether I am just negative about this. I am not. I do not know whether he has studied the Notice Paper in detail, but he will find that my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and various of my hon. Friends have proposed a very radical reform of the House of Lords, so we are not just being negative about its reform. My general position is that I should like to see a complete reform of the other place in accordance with the objects which we think it should have. 434 But if a reform such as I should like to see cannot find agreement in Parliament—and I do not think that it can—I should prefer the House of Lords not to be touched until agreement on a real and rational reform can be reached. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman's challenge.
It is a pity that we could not debate the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. I fully accept the Ruling of the Chair and cannot argue about that, but there are very special circumstances today. I warmly support the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), because this testy, jumpy, nervy Administration should go away and be given time to consider the strong feelings about the Bill throughout the Committee, and to consider their own conduct.
Many of us have been placed in a very difficult position today. We were committed to important duties in Standing Committee upstairs, and we are deeply interested in this Bill. At the start of today's sitting, the Attorney-General replied with some asperity to an intervention of mine by saying that he had hoped that the hon. Member for Chigwell would be detained elsewhere. In other words, he was saying that he thought that the Government had been rather clever because some of the people most deeply concerned with the Bill would be detained and would not be present for the debate.
That is a reason why it is a great pity that the Chair, which, of course, had to make the decision, decided that the principle of Clause 1 could not be discussed. I am one of several hon. Members deeply interested in the Bill who have been prevented from speaking this morning because of our inescapable duties in Standing Committee.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) paid a tribute to the other place. This was not his usual form, because he usually considers their Lordships to be lower than ermine. But he said that he hoped that if this House was misguided enough to pass the Bill their Lordships would deal with it, so at least one thing that has come out of our debates is that we have a new admirer of the House of Lords in the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Emery
I have paid particular attention to the debate because in moving the Motion to report Progress my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) put a specific question to the Leader of the House to which neither he nor the Home Secretary have given us a reply.
As will be realised from the point of order I raised during the Division, it is the opinion of some of us who waited throughout much of the debate yesterday and this morning that discussion of the principle of succession, which is the principle of Clause 1, was best done on a stand part debate than on any of the Amendments. It was that specific matter that concerned me, because it was obvious that no debate on principle had taken place.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is entirely in order to argue that the whole matter requires further debate in respect of its importance. But I think that he is verging on the question of the discretion of the Chair in the exercise of Standing Order No. 47.
§ Mr. Emery
If that was implied, I immediately withdraw, because it was not what I intended. I had tried to make that clear.
But there is a major matter of principle that needs further debate, and that is what my right hon. Friend put to the Leader of the House when he asked leave to report Progress and sit again. A number of us are concerned about this. It does not do the House any good for the Home Secretary to accuse hon. Members of making frivolous, lengthy and time-wasting speeches. Those are adjectives which could easily be applied to his own contribution. He added that if we are to be on the Motion until two o'clock the Government can take up some of the time. Those may not be 436 his exact words, but they are close to what he said. If that is not thought to be frivolous and time-wasting on the Motion I do not know what is.
We have not had a direct reply to my point. The Home Secretary says that we have had 2½ days of debate on Clause 1, but it alters the whole principle of our Constitution. It is probably as important constitutionally as anything I have known in my nine and a bit years in the House. If hon. Members feel that they should make their opinions properly known to the Government, the necessary time should be provided for them to do so on this matter as much on any other.
I have not attempted to delay the passage of the Bill. In many respects I greatly favour reform, but I believe that the manner proposed in Clause 1 is wrong. This is why it was reasonable for my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet, in view of what has taken place this morning, particularly the statement by the Attorney-General, to submit that there is a need for the Government to reconsider this matter. Yet the Government apparently see no point in doing so. I beg the Leader of the House to consider the two points I have made, because if we are not to be allowed a new method of debating these points many of us will be dissatisfied.
I believe that the Home Secretary's speech revealed that he is really seeking to turn this into a justification for his asking for a timetable Motion. I see him smiling, but he cannot deny that that was the thought that passed through his mind. If he is considering such a Motion, after the Committee has disposed of only Clause 1, his conduct will be reprehensible and will bring upon him a measure of condemnation from many who, marginally, support the Bill. If the Government use that device to get the Bill through, although on much of the rest of the Bill I was willing to support the Government, I shall turn completely against them. I hope that by this revelation this morning we shall ensure that that step is not taken by the Government.
§ Mr. Peart
The hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) will appreciate that I cannot involve myself in an argument about the decision taken by the 437 Chair that there should be no debate on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". I am prepared to accept the Motion to report Progress, if it is for the convenience of the Committee.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress.