HC Deb 25 February 1969 vol 778 cc1637-87
Mr. Sheldon

I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 3, line 22, leave out' dissolution of the 'and insert: 'end of each session of'.

The Chairman

With this Amendment we can discuss Amendments Nos. 88, 22, 24, 116, 90, 93 and 118.

Mr. Sheldon

We see the Government showing increasing distaste for the Bill. They are verging on near unanimity in that. The Opposition Front Bench puts in only rare and fleeting appearances and obviously has a similar distaste. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House says that there will be discussions through the usual channels. I am not sure whether he meant on the timing of the Bill or on its future existence. The problems for the Committee and the Chair are increasing and you, Mr. Irving, are very much in the position of watching a steamroller which is out of control. No one knows how to stop it but everyone wants it to run out of steam quickly. At this stage we are still undecided about some important matters on which we shall need greater clarification and more information.

Amendment No. 20 has to do with voting declarations. It seeks to ensure that the declarations shall be submitted for each Session and not for each Parliament. This is closely linked with the age limit. Once a peer is created, he cannot subsequently be deprived of the right to apply for his voting declaration. He is given an absolute right, both in the White Paper and the Bill. But he has to satisfy the minimum requirements for attendance and to be not over the age of 72 at the beginning of each Parliament. This is a great feature of whatever independence he might be considered to possess.

Clearly, there will be a turnover of peers in the House of Lords. Some will have commitments elsewhere which will prevent them from putting in the necessary number of attendances. Others will go over the age limit. But we all know the great ease of avoiding a minimum attendance requirement. Peers have a device for obtaining leave from the House, and they can also, of course, plead illness, and such a provision is obviously reasonable. But all we are really dealing with are 40 days a year on which a peer can have this kind of exemption. Indeed—and this thread is inextricably woven into almost every discussion on any part of the Bill—for very little outlay of value to the community or usefulness to the House of Lords, they are able to obtain these not inconsiderable sums of money.

One of the advantages of a sessional declaration in preference to a declaration beginning of each Parliament is that one could vary the age limit. My Amendments Nos. 23 and 117, with which I had understood Amendment No. 20 was to have been taken in conjunction, formed part of the same theme, and Amendment No. 20 on its own does not really tell the final story. The whole that was envisaged was that new peers would have a maximum age of 65 on appointment, while present peers would have a maximum age of 70, and that the voting declaration would be carried out at each Session.

The arrangements which have been made are technical ones. They naturally need to take into account the requirements of "topping-up" as Members of the Upper House leave through other commitments or on reaching the age of 72. The average age of retirement will be 72 plus half of a five year term of Parliament—which means, in practice, the age of 74 or of 75. At such an advanced age, a number of people will die and, as I have pointed out, this will be an important element in topping-up the House.

Mr. Powell

The hon. Gentleman says that the average age of retirement would be 72 plus half of a five year life of Parliament. Should he not rather have said 72, plus half the actual average length of Parliament, which is much less?

Mr. Sheldon

Yes. Clearly, I was thinking in terms of a five-year Parliament but, of course, if a Parliament is shorter than that, the age will be less. It is useful to think in terms of five-year Parliaments because, although they are not necessarily the rule, it gives us a figure on which to plan.

The present system of topping-up depends to a large extent on the anticipation of a fairly high proportion of deaths so that replacements can be made. However, there is an alternative way. One can get the same result by lowering the age limit to 70 and saying that at the end of each Session a fresh voting declaration shall be required. That would mean that, instead of the average age of retirement being, say, 74½it would be 70.

The death rates between 70 and 74½ vary considerably. If one takes the lower age limit, the amount of topping-up necessary due to deaths would be quite different from that it would be with a higher age limit. What it really comes to is that this is an incentive to pick rather younger men and women. One of the considerations in selecting younger men and women is their likely life span. We have no precise calculations, but it is obvious that to depend on deaths in this way is not the only solution to obtaining the two main requirements, one of which is a younger age of entry into the House of Lords, and the other is an alternative means of getting a number of places available so as to take account of the different composition of the House of Commons.

These Amendments affect no great principle beyond the fairly narrow one that it will be easier to get younger men and women into the House of Lords. However, this is largely a technical matter. The White Paper looked at it in one way, but it can be looked at in another. If this proposition commends itself to the Committee, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary ought to be willing to accept it.

It might, however, affect some of the narrow aspects of the bargain which has been entered into by the two Front Benches. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said that the White Paper represented the bargain. If that is so, a bargain of that size and complexity might be very difficult to renegotiate. If that proved to be the case, it would mean Amendments of an extremely technical nature and, even though the end result might prove better than the proposal envisaged, it would probably not be accepted because of the difficulty of renegotiation.

We know that the two Front Benches are not enjoying a very happy relationship at present, and, bearing in mind the accusations which have been thrown out about not quite straight dealing on the matter of remuneration, it may be that even renegotiation of a comparatively modest kind, such as I have suggested, will prove impossible. If that is so, the Committee ought to know because, if we are unable to make even modest technical Amendments of this kind, not only have we become the rubber stamp to which reference has been made during our debates, but we shall not even have any influence on possible subsequent changes.

10.45 a.m.

Very frequently when we debate matters, we know that we shall be unable to influence the eventual decision. But we also know that the views expressed here may find an echo in the thinking of a Minister at some time far removed from the date of these discussions. In this case, we do not have that minor consolation which is usually afforded to us. This is an agreement between the two Front Benches, both of which are anxious to avoid the sort of confrontation which would lead to the difficulties of renegotiation, when charges have been put forward such as those which we have heard in the course of these debates.

To return to the technical questions, one of the advantages of this sessional voting declaration is that the party balance is easier to maintain year by year. This might be thought less important than the need to change it at the end of each Parliament, because that is when big changes occur here and when similar changes should take place in the House of Lords. But big changes are likely to take place all the time. I am not thinking so much of peers who cross over, because their numbers will not necessarily be large. What we may need to take account of is the position of cross-benchers. It it very difficult to anticipate how they will act. It may be necessary to have a fair amount of leeway of the kind which would be provided by a sessional voting declaration to take account not only of the number of peers who cross over, but of the larger number of cross-benchers who might not act as one would anticipate.

There will be an acquisition of real power by a number of people who had not thought too much about politics or who, if they had, were torn between two sides so that inevitably they kept to the middle path or who felt that they should not take a definite public stand. Those attitudes are quite tenable throughout the whole of one's public life until one comes to the position of having real and genuine power. At that stage, a fence-sitting position is no longer possible. Action has to be taken, and such a position cannot be maintained for long because of the patronage which will be showered upon those on whom important public decisions will depend. We have already seen the possibility of patronage in appointments to Ministerial office. In Appendix II the hope, or even a promise, is expressed that these are likely to be increased.

There could well be further patronage in order to control the situation in the House of Lords. No Government can stand idly by when decisions of enormous importance to them are being taken. Almost by his very nature, the Whip is forced to take positive action in such circumstances. One advantage of having a sessional voting declaration would be to take account of changes in people which are difficult to predict because of the situation in which they are placed on coming to the House of Lords, a situation which they have not experienced before. Although we can guess fairly well the way in which a number of people are likely to behave, we are often astonished by surprising behaviour in our dealings with constituents and others.

The minimum attendance requirement is arranged on a Session by Session basis. Failure to reach the minimum required drives a peer out of the House of Lords. He has to attend on one-third of the sitting days in each Session, and voting declarations covering the same period might fit in reasonably well.

A further advantage of lowering the age limit—this is an integral part of the scheme—will be, in effect, to reduce the number of years spent by peers in the House of Lords. A number of hon. Members might see that as a disadvantage, but I do not. The years spent before the age of 60 in the House of Lords are more valuable than years spent over the age of 70. If there were a number of peers spending more of their time at the lower range of these fairly advanced ages, there would be benefit to the House of Lords and, in addition, some effect in reducing the Conservative bias there. There is a correlation—I put it no higher—between age and a bias against willingness to change.

The sessional voting declaration would help in another way, by giving the possibility of continuity of experience as people move in and out during a Parliament. We see this in local government. We deny that it is right in the House of Commons, but there is no reason why we should not consider it to a more limited extent in the House of Lords.

Paragraph 48 of the White Paper tells us: The government of the day would normally have a majority in the House of Lords of about 10 per cent. of the combined strength of the opposition parties. The distribution of seats between the opposition parties would so far as possible be determined in relation to their representation in the House of Commons and to the number of votes cast for them in recent general elections, but it would not be related exactly to either since neither is an accurate reflection of a party's strength.

Plainly, what the Government have worked out, in conjunction with the Opposition Front Bench, is a scheme to ensure that a change of up to 20 per cent.—a 10 per cent. change with a Conservative Government with a 10 per cent. majority or vice versa, or with a Labour Government with a 10 per cent. majority or vice versa—and that would work out at about 45 Members. That is what is felt should be obtained if it is to reflect the party balance.

On the basis of figures which I have worked out, I see no great difficulty in obtaining that change-over of tenure of 45 Members over five years. It works out at nine per year.

Mr. Birch

Nine deaths?

Mr. Sheldon

Nine deaths, retirements, removals for various reasons, nine people getting tired of the work of the House of Lords—all sorts of reasons. Nine people leaving is almost a certainty if there is no remuneration. We come back to the old question of remuneration every time. If there is to be remuneration, one can argue about whether nine a year is reasonable. Without remuneration, there will be more than nine going per year. There is no question about it. Paragraph 48 of the White Paper did not need to be written, from that point of view. For one reason and another, there will inevitably be a number of people who go. It is only when we think of it in conjunction with a useful salary that the problems of topping-up begin to emerge.

Sir John Foster (Northwich)

I am puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's reference to a change of Government every five years. What happens if there are three elections in the year, as there were in 1924?

Mr. Sheldon

That is a problem of which the White Paper failed to take account. These occasions tend to be rare. There will be perhaps two or three years for catching up if they are paid. But if they are not paid, so many other factors come into account that topping-up is not important. The problem will solve itself straight away, and there can be Session by Session or Parliament by Parliament adjustment.

11.0 a.m.

Whenever we find something in the White Paper which does not ring true the reason is that the investigation reported in the White Paper has been carried out implicitly with the idea of a salary in mind and trying to work out the reactions of people who already receive a considerable salary. Everything in the White Paper is based on that. Therefore, when the Prime Minister says, "We have dropped this as a matter on which we could not agree", he is saying that the whole of the White Paper should be rewritten because the cornerstone on which it is erected has been removed.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish to misquote the Prime Minister. He did not say that it was dropped. He said that it should be dropped for the moment. That is a vital difference. Perhaps it is not politic for the Prime Minister to do this at the moment. My hon. Friend may not have intended to do so, but he inferred that the Prime Minister had dropped the idea completely.

Mr. Sheldon

This cornerstone of the White Paper has been dropped for the time being. It is no use coming back to the edifice and saying, "When it is all built and the Bill has been passed we will fit in the cornerstone in a few years' time." That is nonsense. The scheme is built on that cornerstone which is implicit in the White Paper and the Bill.

Not only are we back to discussing remuneration, but it is inextricably interwoven with composition and with powers. I hope that sooner or later, and perhaps on Report, arrangements will be made so that we may consider again the crucial question of remuneration, because it has not been adequately examined. So central is it to the structure that a full debate is required again to understand the implications of remuneration. Certainly, we shall need to return to this matter on Report. A much fuller debate than we had last night is necessary.

[Mr. ARTHUR PROBERT in the Chair]

Mr. Ridley

The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) has, as usual, brought a cool and clear logic to bear on the problems which hour after hour, day after day, the Committee is asked to examine without sleep or rest. The Committee becomes more and more indebted to him for his critical analyses of the Bill, and his performance this morning has been no exception.

It is right that I should refer to the Amendment in my name which proposes that the voting declaration should last for ever. To this extent, I am at variance with the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, who wants to make the voting declaration last for one Session only. We have before us three possibilities—for ever, for a Parliament, or for a Session. The suggestion that it should last for a Parliament is that of the Government. The right to be a voting peer is for the duration of that peer's life until he reaches 72. It is very important that we should stress that this concerns the peer who will have the right to vote and to be summoned by the writ until such time as he dies, retires or reaches the age of 72. I do not like the words in the Bill because they imply that the voting declaration is available to be given each Parliament and, therefore, cannot be given at the whim of somebody or persons unknown.

I know that the intention of the Bill is not as I read it. The White Paper states: … once he possesses these rights he is entitled to a seat in Parliament and to receive a new writ of summons for each parliament for the remainder of his life-time, That is subject to the qualification that they would be expected to give a "substantial part of their time to the business of the House and would be subject to certain minimum conditions of attendance and to a" specified age of retirement. "The Bill makes it clear that a voting declaration is a right for life which peers who receive it will possess. But it seems to be contradictory that the peers will have to place a voting declaration in the Lord Chancellor's office for each Parliament. This is totally unnecessary. Once one is a voting peer, one should remain a voting peer until one is dead.

I do not accept the two qualifications. I do not accept the qualification of age. I do not believe that there should be an age qualification on membership. I do not accept the qualification of attendance. It is totally wrong that there should be any counting of attendances which Members of the House of Commons do not have to suffer. If the age and attendance qualifications are removed, the only way in which a peer can be removed is by his death.

A defect in the Bill is this. A voting peer should be able to disclaim his voting membership at will. We in the House of Commons can disclaim our membership by applying for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, or, I believe, the Manor of Northcote.

Mr. John Hall

I believe that my hon. Friend means the Manor of Northstead.

Mr. Ridley

These are places which I hope never to visit—at any rate, for a few more years.

Mr. Paget

Clause 3(4) seems to deal with this point. It reads: A voting declaration deposited by a peer in respect of any Parliament may at any time be withdrawn by notice in writing given by him to the Lord Chancellor". Would not that have the same effect as an application for the Chiltern Hundreds?

Mr. Ridley

I am always impressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman's perspicacity. I confess that I had my mind fixed on Clause 1(4), whereby the holder of a hereditary peerage would have the right to disclaim his membership of the House of Lords within a year of the coming into force of the Act. However, I am glad to see that my point is met by the subsection to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers, and my thanks go to him. It shows what a service the hon. and learned Gentleman gives to us. We are glad that he has not had to go to Northampton, as he threatened to do earlier.

We now reach the position, which is the right one, that a peer who is made a voting peer remains so until he dies or voluntarily disclaims. This should be the position, and this is the reason for my Amendment including the words "for ever". It takes away any shadow of doubt that the voting declaration is something which can be bargained for, bludgeoned over or in any way used to browbeat the independence of the peer. Our discussion in Committee has made it clear that there are enough strings, constraints and shackles even on voting peers without adding any more.

The defect in the scheme which I think all hon. Gentlemen who oppose it unite in condemning is that the voting peers will be creatures of one party or another. If there is any question of their licence running out or of their being able to be abused, we must put as our first priority the insistence that the licence to vote should be for ever. May I instance this phenomenon by referring to other Amendments on the Notice Paper in my name, whereby I attempt to call the voting declaration a dog licence. This is all too relevant when we remember the Prime Minister's speech to the Labour Party on 2nd March, 1967, when the full duty was demanded of those who had the party licence to be members of the Labour Party.

By quoting some of the words used, I hope to bring home the vital importance of protecting the voting peers from the influences, pressures, blandishments and bullying which the Prime Minister used on his hon. Friends on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman said this: All I say is watch it. Every dog is allowed one bite, but a different view is taken of a dog that goes on biting all the time. If there are doubts that the dog is biting not because of the dictates of conscience, but because he is considered vicious, then things happen to that dog. He may not get his licence renewed when it falls due. The crime that that dog is committing is voting according to what he thinks right and not following the party ticket. This is explained later, as follows: What has happened this week is one more incident in the problems of a governing party. All of us, even the small minority who may have nostalgia for the halcyon days of opposition, want this party to go on governing. If they do not, they should not be here, because the people who sent them here and worked hard a year ago in rain and snow want this party to go on governing. It is a question of trust. If you do not trust the Government you have a duty to say so, and say it here, not mutter it in the tea room nor say it in the daily newspaper. Because the party in the country trusts us and supports us, I say to the party, 'Stop talking defeatism'. That shows the strength of the blandishments, the attack and the pressure which a party leader can put upon his nominees, even in the House of Commons; and hon. Members have a vastly greater degree of independence than voting peers in another place will ever have. They owe their presence here more to the electorate and to their party backers in their constituencies than to any selection by the Prime Minister. If that whole concept of a dog licence, a licence to be a member of the party and troop through the Lobby——

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Arthur Probert)

Order. I draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that the Amendment on which he appears to be speaking has not been called. I can understand that he is trying to include discussion of this Amendment with the Amendments which have been called, but I ask him to restrict his comments to the Amendment which has been chosen.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)

I am sure, Mr. Probert, that it has not escaped your notice that on Clauses 1 and 2 we have not been able to discuss the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill. I had hoped that in discussing Clause 3 there would be a little tolerance from the Chair towards hon. Members digressing, since the Government, on Clause 1 and on Clause 2, have not allowed discussion on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

The Temporary Chairman

I cannot discuss the question of Clauses 1 and 2. I am concerned with the Amendments which have been chosen. I am sure that those who have been listening to the last few moments will agree with me that the Chair has been tolerant to the hon. Gentleman. I do not wish to be intolerant, but I ask him not to make use of the Amendments which have been chosen to discuss Amendments which have not been chosen.

11.15 a.m.

Mr. Ridley

I concede that I was teetering on the brink of being out of order in pursuing the question of dog licences further, and I will not do so. I was doing so not to talk about the Amendment, but to illustrate the vital importance of securing the maximum amount of independence from the party machine once a peer has been nominated.

To take any suggestion of party politics out of what I have said, may I quote what Disraeli is alleged to have said to Bulwer Lytton, who was causing trouble in his Cabinet: Damn your principles. Stick to your party. These are the sort of pressures we mean when we speak of the independence of future Members of another place.

I believe that the voting declaration should be for life. Once it is received, it can either be renounced by the holder or it is to be for ever, and I see no need to interrupt it each Session or each Parliament. It should be a document which cannot be taken away from a peer by any means, fair or foul, unless he voluntarily relinquishes it.

This means that once a peer is appointed—by what murky means and as a result of whatsoever deal as a reward for whatsoever service we cannot say, we will never know—if he is prepared to stand up and speak his mind nothing can be done to harm him.

With these two qualifications of the age limit and the attendance record, one could see how he might be trapped. There might be a plot to make sure that he has been in attendance just one day short of the one-third of the sitting days during which he needs to attend and, on false information, he might be dissuaded from attending on that day which is necessary to enable him to make up his quota. There may be a plot of that sort because he has been showing independence, abusing his dog licence or kicking over the traces. We must guarantee his survival as an independent and free-thinking Member of the Upper House once he is made a Member of it.

Mr. Paget

Can one describe him as a free-thinking, independent Member of the Upper House when he has been appointed, unpaid, to support either the Government or the Opposition? The two things are contradictions in terms.

Mr. Ridley

Again, the hon. and learned Gentleman is right, but I thought that I had qualified what I was saying by admitting his point at the time of appointment. But there are those who, having sold themselves, will struggle back to regain at least a small proportion of their integrity. All I seek to do is to make it possible for them to do so. The hon. and learned Gentleman is right. Even 4½ guineas a day might become worth quite a lot. As tax-free expenses in the hands of a very rich man, it may well be worth more than £4,000 a year taxed. So we are not in a position to neglect even that small element of pay; but I must not stray over that ground again.

I accept that independence of mind is not something that will be found in our new-found Upper House. On the other hand, I am sure that the hon. and learned Member will agree that this is something that we should strive to obtain, as far as possible, in relation to peers who find their way into the other House.

I have been doing my sums, and I want to refer to the question of topping up——

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Bromley-Davenport (Knutsford)

On a point of order. It is with great regret, Mr. Probert, that I call attention to the fact that fewer than 40 hon. Members are present.

The Temporary Chairman

Under Standing Order No. 30 it is not in order to call a Count now.

Mr. Ridley

I was going to discuss the question of topping up. It would seem that we can do these sums in almost any way we like. The variable in all the calculations——

Mr. Lewis

Further to that point of order. I do not want to delay the Committee, Mr. Probert, but I did not hear what happened. Did I understand you to say that we cannot call a Count in the morning? I should like to get the position clear.

The Temporary Chairman

Under Standing Order No. 30: The House shall not be counted on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between half-past seven and half-past eight of the clock or after ten of the clock, but if on a division taken on any 'business between half-past seven and half-past eight of the clock and so on.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

Would you mind reading out the remainder of that Standing Order, Mr. Probert? We are still in the sitting which commenced yesterday afternoon. We have not adjourned or suspended the sitting.

The Temporary Chairman

The Standing Order says clearly that the House shall not be counted between half-past seven and half-past eight o'clock or after ten o'clock—and it is after ten o'clock last night.

Mr. Ridley

I had better start my sentence again. We get mixed up in doing the mathematical exercise upon which I am attempting to embark in respect of the topping up. The result of this mathematical exercise depends on the age of the peer at the time of his creation; the frequency with which general elections occur—and, therefore, the frequency of changes of Government—and the total number of Members of the other House. I have done many sums on my slide rule at weekends and have taken a very young age for the average at the time of creation. Every time it is necessary to top up in order to swing the balance in favour of the new Government we shall have to create many extra peers, and if they are fairly young creations they will not die very quickly.

All the calculations of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) were based on a death rate of nine voting peers a year. That death rate will occur only if peers are relatively elderly at the time of their creation. Anyway, in the initial ageing period, if the peers are not senile when they are appointed there will be some time during which the number of Members in the other House will grow and grow and grow. I have worked it out that if this process goes on until the year 2000, with a frequency of general elections of about 3½ears, we shall end up with about 2,500 peers on the basis that their average age at the time of creation is 40.

If we use different basic figures—if we say that the average age at creation is 45 or 50—we reduce the number. If, on the other hand, the frequency of general elections is changed, the number will be increased or decreased accordingly.

Sir J. Foster

How often has my hon. Friend presumed a change of Government?

Mr. Ridley

I have taken it at 3½ years. That was the assumption that I fed into my machine, but that is not statistically accurate. It seems that we shall need a computer in the Committee to feed in all the different possible solutions to the problem in order to find out how many Members there will be. The residual or this process is the size of the Upper House. That depends on the frequency of general elections, the average age and life span of creations, and the number who disclaim or die.

Sir J. Foster

And the defeat of the Government.

Mr. Ridley

I should have referred to the rate of change of Governments. It is, therefore, very strange that the size of the Chamber should vary from Parliament to Parliament, depending on completely haphazard factors, such as the rate of change of Government, the average age of creations, and the average life span of peers. If life is not too arduous in the other place its Members will presumably live much longer than we do. We are worried to note how the average life span of Members of this House appears to be dropping. After the treatment that we have been subjected to in the last 24 hours it is no surprise.

I have sat here for hour after hour, in debate after debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour) has had time for a bath and a shave, but I have not even had time for a bath. No wonder Members of Parliament are declining in health—but that has nothing to do with the Bill. If their noble Lords find that they thrive in the conditions existing along the corridor—if they find that they can grow old with dignity and good health—there might be a vastly expanding other place. How can we conceive of the success of a scheme in circumstances in which the size of the other Chamber is completely beyond our control? If the Bill is operated according to the spirit of the bargain between both sides of the Committee, and if the membership of the other place is increased according to the formula on each change of Government, we might well end up with a need to rebuild the other place on an enormous scale. We might have to take the Albert Hall for a site for the other place.

This whole series of difficulties is a new one which the Committee will have to explore in detail. I have second-class honours moderations in mathematics, and I suggest that the mathematics of the matter will be too complicated for hon. Members to do off the cuff. They will need some professional help. I am pleased to see the Under-Secretary and I hope that he will be able to explain the exact calculations on which the Government plan is based, and will place his figures before the Committee. Whether he uses Taylor's theorem or one of the more advanced differential calculi systems for assessing the number of seats to be provided in another place I do not know, but this is Government planning, and the Ministry of Works takes at least 10 years to build anything, so it will need to be informed of the number of peers to be provided for 10 years hence.

I suggest that this is a crazy system. We have no knowledge of the size of the other Chamber after a certain period. We have launched this monster upon the world but whether we shall have 2,100 peers or 50 peers depends on a whole series of accidents which may or may not break the way the Government expect. My mathematics and assumptions may be wrong, but nobody can tell what the right answer will be.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The hon. Member claims to be a mathematical expert, or at least that he is good at mathematics. Can he explain what will happen if the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists obtain a large representation at the next election? How will they be affected? Could they control the Lords?

Mr. Ridley

They were not parties to the bargain. They did not come in when the cake was carved up. They carved it up in the ratio of 105 to the government party, 80 to the main opposition party and 15 to the Liberals. But there is no room there for Welsh or Scottish nationalists, flat earthers, do-gooders or Communists——

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Surely, the point is not whether they were or were not parties to the bargain, but that at the moment they are not parties as such in the House of Commons, being represented by one representative in each case.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Ridley

This makes the point. The Welsh Nationalists might get 100,000 votes and the Scottish Nationalists 1 million votes, but they would have only one or two seats, as at present. Yet this will be used to reduce their seats in another place, because no one here will have a big enough foot in the door to create peers to match their representation in the country.

The minority parties have always argued for some form of proportional representation because they claim that our system gives all the advantage to the big parties and none to the minority parties, who get far fewer seats than their voting strength demands. I support the present system, but if there is to be a second Chamber there is a strong case for having a different representation, giving more to minority parties than we—rightly, I think—give in this Chamber.

Therefore, the reverse will happen, because all the nominations will be based on the power of creation of the two big parties and, for some extraordinary reason, the Liberals too, although why they should have 15 seats when they have only 12 Members in the House beats me.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Might I refer the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) to the White Paper, from which it appears that what he said is not the Government's intention? The White Paper clearly says: … distribution of seats between the opposition parties would so far as possible be determined in relation to their representation in the House of Commons and to the number of votes cast for them in recent general elections, but it would not be related exactly to either, since neither is an accurate reflection of a party's strength. Would my hon. Friend comment on that passage?

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I called Mr. Ridley to speak, and he has the floor at the moment.

Mr. Ridley

I was delighted to give way to my hon. Friend, Mr. Probert. I am prepared to be used as an "in-off" cushion. When, answering the Under-Secretary, I said that the representation of minority parties in another place would be smaller than it should be, I saw the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) nodding. He may have been nodding at the development of my argument, rather than its Tightness, but I did not see him spring to his feet to contradict me.

I think that this will be the case. After all, the power exists to put all the creations in the hands of the big parties and it is these small minority parties which cause the most irritation to the big parties. The Welsh and Scottish Nationalists cause intense irritation to both my right hon. Friends and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench because they are the greatest potential threats. The big battalions of Conservative and Labour seats are relatively safe, and we know that there will not be much change between our own bases, but when it comes to these unknown elements, individuals are threatened, because Welsh nationalists can sometimes overturn a majority of 24,000, taking everybody by surprise. These parties are a far greater threat than the opposing main parties.

When we come to parties which we consider to be near-subversive, the situation becomes more difficult still. The Communist Party, for instance, is not banned in this country, but there is a healthy condemnation of Communists. As I have said previously on this Bill, no Communist has managed to find his way into either House of Parliament except by inheriting a hereditary peerage—[Interruption] I mean at the present time.

Mr. Hay

I was going to say that in the past 20 years we have had a number of Communists in the House from time to time, although not sitting in this House under that label.

[Mr. JOHN BREWIS in the Chair]

Mr. Ridley

But I am addressing myself much more to the declared member of a minority party. My only proposition is that only a declared Communist——

Mr. Paget

On a point of order, Mr. Brewis. Is not that observation of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) a reflection upon the honour of hon. Members? That suggestion, that people may have been here under false colours, Communists pretending to belong to another party, seems to me a very serious allegation. If it is made, names should be given and the matter referred to the Committee of Privileges.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Brewis)

I must apologise to the House, but I did not hear the remark. However, judging from what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, it does sound to have been out of order.

Mr. Hay

If I said anything out of order, Mr. Brewis, I unreservedly withdraw it, but I do not think that I went so far as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) suggested——

Sir W. Bromley-Davenport

Further to that point of order. My right hon. Friend, surely, was not accusing the other side of having Communists: what he meant to say and what we mean and what is well known to everyone in the country is that at least 50 per cent. are fellow travellers, and what are they?

Mr. Ridley

I do not want to enter into this part of the debate. I was merely putting the proposition, which is a matter of fact, that the only declared Communist in either House of Parliament at present is Lord Milford, who is my godfather, who got into Parliament by inheriting a peerage. My question for the Solicitor-General is: would he still get in there if we had the sort of House of Lords which the Government are trying to create?

Let us take another sort of party, the Paisleyites in Northern Ireland, or people who exist to promulgate racial minorities, or Scientologists with views obnoxious to nearly every one in the House. They may be obnoxious to us all, but so long as their organisations are not proscribed or prevented by the law, who are we to say that they should not have representation either in this House or in the other? I can foresee an occasion arising when the two party leaders, supported no doubt by the jackal who has secured a slice of the cake for the Liberal Party, would exclude all such people from having a chance of sitting in the House of Lords, although they had support on a fairly massive scale, perhaps regional, perhaps confined to Northern Ireland or some other part of the kingdom. This is a terrible danger, to which my hon. Friend is right to draw my attention.

Mr. Iremonger

Should my hon. Friend not point out in that context that we have not heard this protest from the Liberal Party? They have taken their 15 seats, and they know perfectly well that any moral claim they have to them applies a fortiori to the people to whom he is referring. They are not even here to listen to what he is saying.

Mr. Ridley

I imagine that some of them are trying on their ermines to see if they fit, since they have 15 seats for 12 of them, whereas there are only 105 seats for 350 members of the Labour Party——

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is it not possible that if, say, the Scottish nationalists got 12 seats at the next election they could claim the same as the Liberals and get 15 seats in the other place? No doubt the Government of the day would be only too pleased to arrange it for them.

Mr. Ridley

I would entirely support the hon. Gentleman if that were built into the Bill, if there were a complicated formula which was weighted partly by votes cast in the country, partly by seats obtained and partly by other qualifications and criteria. The danger, however, is that it is all left to the two party leaders and is not put into the Bill in any sort of formula, and we, therefore, cannot be certain that this will happen.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Brewis. Is it in order for the Opposition Chief Whip to be conducting a committee meeting? Will he please tell the Committee what is being said, so that we may all know, or should the Committee adjourn so that we can meet outside to know what is happening?

The Temporary Chairman

I was perfectly able to hear what was being said by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). There was a lot less noise in the Chamber than on many occasions during yesterday evening.

Mr. Ridley

As I, too, want to hear what is being said, I shall conclude my speech. Having urged the Amendment with all the power and eloquence at my command, I resume my seat.

Mr. Paget

If I may make a passing reference to the point of order which has just been raised, there is a slight difficulty in addressing the Committee during the session of a committee within a Committee. None the less, it is a difficulty with which I shall put up, as I feel that the committee within the Committee is probably doing a much more useful job than we are, because I hope that it is making arrangements to bring this debate to a conclusion to allow us to get on with different but not unimportant issues.

With a normal Bill this would be a rather narrow Amendment dealing with a small piece of machinery, but this is a rather peculiar Bill, because it is from the machinery that we have to deduce the principle. We are not told what the Bill is meant to do; we are not told how many peers there are to be; we are not told how they are to be remunerated; we are not told whether it is to be a House of paid professionals or transient amateurs. All this we have to guess from the machinery, and one has to consider the machinery and draw one's conclusions.

Here is a piece of machinery which is apparently to implement the intention which is adumbrated but not defined in paragraph 12 of the new Schedule suggested by Amendment No. 58: The government of the day would normally have a majority in the House of Lords of about 10 per cent. of the combined strength of the opposition parties. The distribution of the seats between the opposition parties would so far as possible be determined in relation to their representation in the House of Commons and to the number of votes cast for them in recent general elections, but it would not be related exactly to either since neither is an accurate reflection of a party's strength. Assuming a total voting House of 230, the figures which would be appropriate in the present parliament are: government 105, main opposition party 80, other opposition parties 15 and cross benchers 30 (these figures again exclude law lords and bishops). If the total membership were more than 230 the party representation would be increased in proportion. The figure for particular parties would naturally be capable of being varied from time to time to reflect changes in their relative strength and to take account of the emergence of any new parties. That deals with the emergence of the Scottish and Welsh nationalists. This is a second aspect of the reformed House which the proposed Committee might keep under review. That being the intended machinery, what kind of a House will the Clause work on? The Clause says: A peer of first creation shall be qualified as a voting peer in any Parliament summoned after the commencement of this Act if he has deposited with the Lord Chancellor in respect of that Parliament a voting declaration (that is, a declaration in writing that he wishes to be so qualified), and that declaration is for the time being in force. One conceives a situation in which one starts with 105 peers committed to the Government, 80 committed to the Conservatives, 15 plus or minus committed to the Liberals and 30 committed to the most difficult of all commitments—neutrality.

11.45 a.m.

If it were an unpaid House, this might be a workable solution within manageable figures, because the usual channels might get to work and say, "We have lost this election and we shall be in opposition and perhaps you would like to take it a little more quietly and perhaps not make a declaration in the new Parliament". But if it is to be a paid House, it is very much more difficult to say, "You are one of the people who should volunteer not to have pay for this period".

There is also keeping the balance and totting up. What sort of age is this kind of Parliament to have? If peers were to be appointed at the age of 40, how would it be known that they would stay of their persuasion for 30 years? A man may be bought for a limited period, but to buy a chap, particularly for the extraordinary commitment of neutrality, and to require that for 30 years he should not only start off as a man without political opinions but fail to pick up a political opinion when engaged in politics during that period is something which I should have thought would stretch the imagination of even the present Government.

Mr. Iremonger

They are allowed to pick them up as long as they start without them and pick up different ones. It is consistency that they are not allowed to have. They must not be reliable. They must have no principles.

Mr. Paget

One may have the neutral man distinguished in breeding cattle, in making films, in performing in plays, or possessing any of the wide distinctions which may be brought to ornament another place, who in that kind of life has not formed any consistent views as to the way in which his country should be. If he is appointed at 70 there may be a reasonable prospect that he will stay that way for two years. But if one appoints him at 40 and leaves him 32 years in which he is not just breeding cattle, painting pictures, performing on the stage, giving charming talks on the wireless, or even writing novels about the corridors of power—if he is actually in the corridors of power during that time, is it conceivable that he can continue to be inconsistent and uncommitted for 32 years? It looks to me as though that kind of machinery commits one initially to very old men. On that basis, one does not really want to be bothered with them for more than one Parliament and one will be looking to those who are just under 72, so that they will at least acquire their disqualification during that Parliament, and one will have a clean sheet when one comes to the next.

I do not know whether that is a desirable sort of Chamber. It is indeed a council of the elders of the tribe, and such a council, as those who have read "The Golden Bough" and have been interested in tribal societies have observed, is always a committee for avoiding change. It is not a decision-making but a decision-avoiding committee. If one wants a House of Lords whose function shall be to look at the rash decisions taken here and to see how their implementation can be avoided, one begins to see the shape of this and the attraction of the arrangement for the vacant Front Bench opposite. Here is a solid reason why the Conservative Party should agree to the arrangement, but I do not know that it is one which would appeal immediately to me or my hon. Friends.

There is a curious feature in the rather delicate balance that must be maintained. The Bill has a rather ingenious method of providing that once a noble Lord has made his declaration he must either attend as a voting peer or bring himself into one of the exceptions, which would include being present in a mental institution. If he goes insane—and we are told how terribly alarming the mental illness figures are—he comes within Clause 4(2)(b), which provides that … a peer who, at any time during the Session, is absent with the leave of the House on account of ill-health… shall not be disqualified. A peer can have a stroke, or become insane. There was one tragic instance of a motor accident to a Member of the other House, a very charming and brilliant man whom I used to know, who was unconscious for 2½ years. These are the terrible kinds of physical tragedies that can occur. Yet here we have a machinery which precisely provides that people to whom this sort of thing has happened shall hold one of these essential seats within the balance during a whole Parliament. Why?

Sir J. Foster

Could not one get over that by refusing the leave of the House to such a peer?

Mr. Paget

It would be a very unkind House that did so. I do not think that it is in the atmosphere of our proceedings. I presume that that sort of leave is given automatically, that someone says, "Our friend Lord So-and-So has had a terribly bad accident and will not be able to come." Nobody would dream of refusing absence for that. One does not know how long or serious this sort of thing will be. Once the leave has been given, I do not see any machinery for withdrawing it.

The contemplation is that this leave shall be available to the sick. One cannot contemplate another place deciding on the quality of the sickness and saying, "Poor old Jones is ill, but we will not give him leave because it is in his head, you know." We do not work like that, and I am thankful that we do not, because we should be a brutal society if we did. Members of this sort of Chamber—of the other place perhaps even more than ours—are involved with a commitment of kindness to each other. Here we find a great commitment of kindness.

Some of us can remember an instance not many months ago of great kindness shown in the House because Members felt that perhaps the Member concerned was not at fault. This kind of thing will apply everywhere else.

If one wants this kind of balance to work, why should not the declaration be made each Session? If a man is absent from a Session for a good reason it can be renewed in the following Session. There is nothing to prevent that. Even if one thoroughly dislikes the Bill, as I do, even if one feels, that this is quite the wrong way to conduct affairs, when one is looking to the machinery parts of the Bill one should look to something that makes sense instead of something that does not.

Miss J. M. Quennell (Petersfield)

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman also agree that there seems to be something strangely anomalous about this Chamber considering the provisions for another House, and considering provisions in which leave of absence has to be granted in another House, when no such provision applies here? Hon. Members do not have to attend this Chamber. If they do not, there is nothing this Chamber can do about it.

12 noon.

Mr. Paget

That is the subject of another Amendment, which, I understand, is not being called. It raises a matter of considerable principle, and, therefore, on this occasion at least, we should be able to discuss it on the Motion that the Clause stand part, because the Standing Order provides only for the skipping of a "Clause stand part" debate when the principles involved in the Clause have been adequately discussed on the Amendments. Here, however, we have two narrow Amendments which do not include or cover the important point of principle touched on by other Amendments which are unselected. Doubtless, therefore, we shall be given the opportunity for a "Clause stand part" debate. It would be contrary to Standing Orders if we were not.

Mr. Farr

So far we have not had a discussion on "Clause 1 stand part" or on "Clause 2 stand part". Is it not highly unlikely that we shall be able to have a discussion on "Clause 3 stand part"?

Mr. Paget

But that comment is not really fair on the decisions which have been taken. There were wide Amendments down to Clauses 1 and 2. It was at least very arguable from the Chair that the principles involved had been discussed on the Amendment, but no one can argue that in the case of Clause 3. The other and broad question of principle raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Petersfield (Miss Quennell) is not discussable now since it and other aspects are covered by Amendments which have not been selected. They are obviously different from those involved in the Amendments which have been selected. So I believe that the decision on this Clause must be different from the one given on the previous two. I am sure, Mr. Brewis, that you will agree with me on that.

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. and learned Gentleman will see in due course.

Mr. Paget

I turn to another aspect which worries me, and this is very much a question of procedure. I assume that the Committee will accept Amendment No. 20 because it would be a positive improvsment. I am, therefore, wondering what is to happen to the others of the Amendments which we are allowed to discuss apparently but not to vote on. Subsection (2) would read as follows if amended by Amendment No. 20: A voting declaration duly deposited in accordance with this section shall, unless previously withdrawn, continue in force until the end of each session of the Parliament to which in relates. Assuming that we have made that change, we turn to subsection (3), which says: A voting declaration in respect of any Parliament summoned after such date as Her Majesty may prescribe by Order in Council (being an Order of which a draft has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House) shall not be deposited by a peer who had attained the age of sevenly-two years before the dissolution of the last previous Parliament. At that point, the words in subsection (3) … in respect of any Parliament… will not make sense, because the declaration required by subsection (2) will be in respect not of a Parliament but of a Session. Subsection (3), will, therefore, be referring to a declaration that cannot be made. So surely there must be an alteration also to subsection (3), and how are we to make it unless the question is put on appropriate Amendments? I remind the Committee again of the final words of subsection (3), … before the dissolution of the last previous Parliament. Would it really be consistent, if the declarations were sessional, that the age limit should be by Parliament? This is the sort of question we have to put.

There is a further consequential and necessary amendment—No. 116, in page 3, line 30, leave out second 'a' and insert 'any session of'. This relates to subsection (4), which begins: A voting declaration in respect of a Parliament"— which one. finds in subsection (4)— shall not be deposited by any peer after the end of the period of one month from the issue of the writ summoning him to attend the House in that Parliament, or such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow. Once again, if we pass Amendment No. 20, the declaration will be in respect not of a Parliament but of a session.

Mr. Kirk

The hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that if we make this Amendment we shall be entitled to a Report stage, which I suspect the Government are trying to avoid. We could, however, make the consequential Amendments on Report.

Mr. Paget

This is a rather clumsy way of doing it. We are trying to put this in order, and all I am saying, with great respect to the Chair, is that, whilst it may be reasonable to allow a Division on Amendment No. 20, if that Amendment falls, the others fall with it. For the Chair to commit itself in advance to saying, "We will not retain the power to include necessary consequential Amendments" seems to me quite wrong and unnecessary. It has notified us as a matter of convenience of the Amendments it proposes to call. There is nothing to prevent the Chair from making a different decision when the time comes.

Subject to this eminently sensible and reasonable Amendment being accepted, which is purely a matter of machinery, I feel that we should have the assurance that the Chair will consider the consequential Amendments flowing therefrom, which by then will have been discussed.

Sir J. Foster

But will not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that when an anti-Government Amendment is accepted or carried it is difficult for the amateur draftsman to go through the Bill and make all the consequential Amendments? Is not the practice that when an Amendment is accepted or carried the Government draftsman then makes all the consequential Amendments? It would be very inconvenient to have to pick out a few consequential Amendments and vote on them. Suppose a vote went the other way? It would make the House look ridiculous. The practice surely is that once the main Amendment is carried the Government draftsman goes through the consequential process. Imagine the situation that might arise where consequential Amendments were not carried because 12 hon. Members had gone out to dinner.

Mr. Paget

I can only say to the hon. and learned Gentleman, not for the first time during the long period in which we have both been in the House,, that I am deeply impressed by his Parliamentary wisdom. I think that he is right, and I am wrong. I withdraw the remarks that I made.

Mr. Iremonger

With reference to earlier observations about the conduct of proceedings, perhaps I might refer fleetingly to the fact that I have been in my place for 17 hours except for very brief periods of absence and, that, owing to the tactics of the Government Whips, this is the first time that I have been able to catch the eye of the Chair on anything but a procedural point.

I am particularly glad, therefore, to follow the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and very pleased that he has accepted with good grace the point put to him by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster).

The hon. and learned Gentleman said that we are not told what the House of Lords which the Bill seeks to create is supposed to do. That is true, but we know already what it is supposed to do. Its purpose is to transform Parliament into the tool and servant of the Government. That is made clear, to anyone who is not satisfied merely to infer it, in the Preamble where mention is made of maintaining "a proper balance". A proper balance is supposed to be the sort of balance which ensures the Government getting a majority, which seems to me to be about the most improper balance to envisage. It is one which we have to put up with here, in the nature of things, but we should not tolerate it in the Upper House.

12.15 p.m.

The object and purpose of the other place is to be a kind of public relations organisation for bureaucracy, and that is why I am against the Bill. I can see the tactical merit of the Committee accepting these Amendments, but I am against them because they improve the Bill from the point of view of its promoters. However, if they were carried, it would mean having to have a Report stage, and I can see some merit in that.

Apart from the reference that I have made to the Preamble, the object of the Bill is nowhere more clear than in this Clause. The intention of the sessional voting declaration which prospective peers are supposed to make is to enable the Prime Minister and the Government of the day to keep control of their party stooges in the new House, topping them up in the interests of the Government if any of the dog bites the hand that feeds it and changes its opinion or forms an opinion which it had undertaken not to acquire on being admitted to the kennel.

The object of the age limit is to stop unreliable peers who may have disappointed the Government who created them from clinging to a well paid sinecure. The concept of the Bill is objectionable. It is anathema to any Parliamentarian and a bureaucrat's dream.

I do not think that the objects which are superficially sought to be achieved by this Clause, namely, to ensure that the peers are able to do a lot of work, are ones which are proper to try and achieve for the Upper House. There is no point in an Upper House doing any work. That is not its function. It does very little work now, as anyone looking at Lords Amendments knows. The other place considers that it has had a series of late nights if it rises at 6.15 p.m. three days a week. However, its job is not to do work. Its job is, capriciously and abitrarily, to obstruct the Government when it sees fit.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Brewis)

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman bring his argument round to the sessional voting declaration?

Mr. Iremonger

Mr. Brewis, the object of this Clause is to produce fit men who will support the Government. I am against any Amendment which improves the Clause to that end, because I want to see an Upper House composed of old men who will obstruct the Government.

Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)

In the event of a Conservative House of Commons, is the hon. Gentleman agreeable to having a Labour House of Lords, and, with a Labour House of Commons, a Conservative House of Lords?

Mr. Iremonger

I will come to the deeper philosophical implications of this doctrine in a moment. At present, I am dealing with the superficial implications of it.

The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on the real point of the Clause. The function of an Upper House, which this Clause will thwart and which acceptance of these Amendments would thwart even more, is to obstruct the Government. There is nothing undemocratic or unprogressive in that. If the Government and the House of Commons do not like their will being obstructed by a House of Lords with a conservative tendency, they have their remedy. If the House of Lords has a delaying power of two years, which it should have, and the will of this House is obstructed within the last two years of Parliament, the Government need not complain. They can like it or lump it. Or, if they are not prepared to do that, they have a simple recourse, namely, to put themselves to the people. They can dissolve Parliament and have a general election. What could be more democratic and progressive than that?

The present Government, here against the will of the people, are neither democratic nor progressive. If we had a House of Lords with power to chuck out the Bill and put the option to the Government of doing without it or going to the country, that would be a great deal more democratic and progressive.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I have already reminded the hon. Gentleman that he must come to the matter of the Amendments. This is not yet a debate on the Clause as a whole.

Mr. Iremonger

I am against the Amendments for the reason that they would make the Clause even stronger in promoting that undesirable constitutional situation. Perhaps I had better leave it there, Mr. Brewis, without going further into the principle that a second Chamber, if it is to have a function, must be a brake and not an accelerator. It is no use saying that the Clause is good because it makes the other House a better accelerator. It is a bad Clause. We want to improve the brake.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Arthur Irvine)

In moving the Amendment, my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) observed that no great principle was involved. He did not underestimate any more than I do its importance, but he put it forward largely as a technical matter. I agree with that view of the Amendment, and at this stage in the debate I consider it entirely upon its merits and without any of the restraints and inhibitions which have been referred to as, perhaps, operating in these matters as the consequence of a bargain or compact.

Considering the Amendment in that fashion, I invite the Committee to conclude that the Bill in this respect at least is better left as it is and that the Amendment should be rejected. If I have understood him aright, my hon. Friend has two separate intentions. To some extent, they overlap, but there are two threads in his proposals, and it is right to consider each of them. I hope I put it fairly when I say that part of his purpose is to require that voting peers should make their declaration for a Session at a time instead of for a Parliament at a time. Apart from the effect which would flow from such a change upon other matters, upon composition and the age of peers, my hon. Friend regards that as an improvement considered entirely by itself.

A change of that kind, however, is inherently open to objection. It has been said that, with voting declarations on a Sessional basis, it would be much easier than under the method proposed in the Bill to keep the composition of the Upper House in closer relation, as is the purpose and plan of the Bill, with the balance of the parties as the history of Parliament proceeds. Theoretically, perhaps, there could be some force in that, but it is too theoretical a concept. It involves the concept of narrow and meticulous balance and adjustment in the course of a Parliament which is not appropriate for the objects we have in mind. The beginning and end of a Parliament represent what for practical purposes, is the relevant climacteric in this manner, the relevant, convenient, appropriate and businesslike point in the development of affairs at which the endeavour should be made to determine the relationship of the parties in the Upper House.

The consequence of the Amendment to require that voting peers should make their declaration for a Session at a time would be to remove the only sanction at present in the Bill against the voting peer who fails to meet the attendance requirement. The attendance requirement is related to minimum attendance on a sessional basis. In passing, I point out that the consequences of the change my hon. Friend desires in this respect go rather wider than, perhaps, he has thus far recognised.

Sir J. Foster

I quite understand the argument that the Session is too short, but I have not understood the hon. and learned Gentleman's premise, which he did not elaborate, that the expiration of voting declarations at the end of a Parliament enables the question of balance to be looked into.

The Solicitor-General

I have in mind nothing more complex—I hope I am right—than that, when there is a General Election, that is the point at which the relative strengths of parties, the relevant factor in the composition of the Upper House under the agreed schemes, comes to be seen most clearly and specifically. I do not go beyond that.

Sir J. Foster

I do not see why, when that comes to be discussed at the end of a Parliament, it matters that the declarations of the voting peers have expired. They just put them in again. I do not see the Solicitor-General's point.

The Solicitor-General

My understanding is that the process described as top-ping-up deals with the situation which arises when the General Election comes.

12.30 p.m.

I turn to the other thread of argument and intention which, rightly or wrongly, I see comprised in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne. He has in mind, as a byproduct of his proposal, that a peer who reaches the age of retirement should be required to retire at the end of the Session in which he reaches the age of retirement and not at the end of the Parliament. He see this as broadly having the consquence of a lower-aged peerage.

Mr. Sheldon

I wish to raise with my hon. and learned Friend a point about the basis of the White Paper, since that was founded on payment to peers. The topping-up process will be much more easily achieved as a result of the decision not to go ahead with paying peers. Would my hon. and learned Friend deal with that?

The Solicitor-General

I would not wish, on this Amendment, to get involved in the question of the relevance of remuneration.

The effect of my hon. Friend's Amendment on the ages of peers would be to spread retirements evenly throughout the Parliament and prevent the necessary grouping at the end of the Parliament. As a result it would be impossible to balance with retirements the new creations which would be needed to adjust the party balance after a change of Government. The alternative would, therefore, be to allow the voting House to run down in size towards the end of a Parliament, finishing at the end of a Parliament with a House of, say, 150, or to have a large increase above what is regarded in the White Paper as the desired number of 230 at each change of Government.

I was asked about the manner in which the age of 72 was decided. I assure the Committee that it was decided after very careful inquiries. A number of actuarial studies were carried out to test the effect on the size of a voting House of various ages of retirement, each taken with various assumptions about the frequency of changes of Government, the number of new creations for an outgoing Administration, and matters of that kind. It is very easy to make fun of this kind of actuarial exercise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is a great deal more difficult to put forward an alternative and more sensible and practicable way of proceeding.

Mr. Birch

Am I to understand that the age of 72 has nothing to do with a judgment about the competence of an average person of that age and whether he is capable of doing his job, but that mathematical juggling has produced a certain effect?

The Solicitor-General

I do not accept that account. Competence at a particular age was taken into account. The right hon. Gentleman can be confident about that.

Mr. Roebuck rose——

The Solicitor-General

I have a number of points to deal with.

The effect of the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) would be that a voting declaration, once deposited, would remain in force in perpetuity instead of for the duration of the Parliament. The retiring age of 72 would cease to be effective. The arguments in favour of a retiring age are well known and they have been widely canvassed. It is a matter of judgment for the Committee as to whether there should be an age limit. The Government's view is that it is desirable that there should be an age limit for voting peers.

The hon. Gentleman's Amendment would also confuse the right given to a voting peer to opt to become a nonvoting peer by not depositing a voting declaration or by withdrawing it. The procedure proposed enables a voting peer to avoid what might be thought to be the indignity of loss of voting rights by non-attendance under Clause 4.

I have put forward the grounds which I regard as justifying the view that the Amendments should be rejected on a strict basis of considering these proposals on their merits and with no other considerations in mind.

Mr. Powell

I do not know what satisfaction the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) has derived from the reply of the Solicitor-General. As I apprehended it, there were two main effects which the hon. Gentleman intended and which would follow from his Amendment. I confess that, like the Solicitor-General, I find both of them less good than the effect of the Bill as it stands. One is that it would in practice reduce the upper age limit and thus make for a slightly younger House of Lords. The main thing is that it would, in effect, reduce the upper age limit.

On these Amendments, we are not discussing the substantive question whether there should be an age limit. But, as my view and that of many of my hon. Friends is that an age limit is mistaken and irrational, naturally one does not welcome an Amendment which has the effect of making that age limit rather more severe. Therefore, on that account, I am against the hon. Gentleman's intentions.

The second effect is that with sessional declaration it would be necessary to top up the membership of the House session by session, but in smaller quantities at a time. I thought that the hon. Member was arguing that, if so, possibly the scope for an undesirable exercise, or a more massive exercise, of Government patronage would be reduced. In so far as that is the object and effect, then my sympathies are with him. However, in practice, I do not think that it is the natural casualties which will be the main cause of the topping-up process, but rather changes in political allegiance or behaviour during a Parliament, as well as changes in the balance of parties at the end of a Parliament. On balance, therefore, I feel that the Bill as it stands is somewhat preferable to the way in which the hon. Member would amend it.

However, the hon. Member did manage to extract one important point. We are learning more and more, as the Committee stage goes on, about the contents of the bargain. The hon. Member reminded the Committee that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) had described the White Paper as the bargain between the two sides. I confess that, until the Solicitor-General got up, I had assumed that a retirement age, and, indeed, this retirement age, had been part of the package which had been accepted by the various parties in both Houses.

Now, however, we learn from the Solitor-General, unless I misunderstood him, that neither the retirement age in general nor this particular retirement age was part of the agreement or the package, but was the Government's own proposal, based, as appeared from an interchange between him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), upon actuarial calculations rather than upon more solid and prudential foundations. So we have learnt something more about this strange package, bargain or understanding, and what we have learnt, apparently, is that the retirement age falls outside it.

The Solicitor-General

The right hon. Gentleman did not learn that from me. He misunderstood me if he thought that I said that. What I put to the Committee was that in dealing with my hon. Friend's Amendment on the retiring age I was considering the merits of the matter by themselves. I was not, in that judgment, inhibited by considerations of compact or bargain.

Mr. Powell

Either the Solicitor-General means that there is an agreement, but he ignored it in order to deal with the Amendment on its merits, or he means that there is no agreement which would conflict with an alteration of the retirement age.

If it is the first, then the hon. and learned Gentleman is wasting the time of the Committee by arguing an Amendment upon an unreal basis, namely, that we are not inhibited by the agreement. If he means that we are not, in practice, inhibited by the agreement, he must be telling the Committee that the agreement does not lay down the retirement age. Maybe it lays down a retirement age, but I am to learn from him that the agreement does not embody a specific retirement age, and that that is the reason why we are all uninhibited in our consideration of the Amendments. If so, we can chalk it up as a slight gain in our information about the package.

As one of the Amendments in the group which we are considering relates to subsection (4), I would be obliged, although he has already spoken, if I might put two points on subsection (4) to the hon. and learned Solicitor-General. The first is little more than a drafting point. The last words of subsection (4) are: … or such extended period as the House may for special reasons allow. As drafted, those words are ambiguous, and it is an ambiguity which ought not to be suffered to remain. One possible meaning is that the House may for special reasons allow an extended period to a particular peer. An alternative meaning is that the House for special reasons may allow an extended period generally.

I cannot see that the Clause in its present drafting makes clear which it is and, since we are giving the House a dispensing power, we ought to know whether that dispensing power is to be exercised ad hominem, in the case of a particular peer, or is to be exercised with regard to circumstances from time to time. That is the drafting point, the point of ambiguity, which I hope one or other of the Law Officers of the Crown will clear up.

The other is a more substantial point. That subsection refers to a writ summoning a peer to attend the House. That expression clearly repeats the fuller form which occurs in Clause 1(1): … a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords … I take it that the writ to attend the House referred to in Clause 3(4) is the same thing as the writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in Clause 1(1).

12.45 p.m.

There may have been a recent innovation in the form of writs of summons, but, unless there has, there is no such animal as a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords. Unless such a writ has recently been invented, and if it has, no doubt one or other of the Law Officers will come promptly to his feet and say when and how, there is no such thing as a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords. If there is no such thing as a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords, then Clause 1 and, in so far as the Bill depends upon it, the Bill are null and void.

I am directing myself specifically to those words which occur in subsection (4) of the Clause to which one of the Amendments relates, and I wish to read to the House the terms of the writ of summons which, so far as I know, is in use at present. I will not read it in full, merely the material words. It runs: 'Whereas … we have ordered a certain Parliament to be holden … we strictly enjoin and command you upon the faith and allegiance by which you are bound to us that you be at the said day and place personally present with us and with the said prelates great men and peers to treat and give your counsel upon the affairs aforesaid. I submit that that is not a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords. It is a writ of summons to Parliament, as it always historically has been. I further submit that, unless there has been a recent change in formula, there is no such thing as this writ of summons to attend the House of Lords upon which this Clause of the Bill and the whole Bill depends.

It may be urged that the reference to "the said prelates, great men and peers" is the equivalent of a summons to the House of Lords, but I do not for a moment think that this contention can be maintained. At the period when this form of writ originated there was no distinct House of Lords, and the writ is saying to the addressee, "We command you, as we are commanding all your peers, to come to Parliament." It is an assurance that he will not find himself alone, but that he is coming to a general gathering of his peers. This historically, and, I submit, in current law, is a writ of summons to Parliament and, since the Bill does not purport to deal with a writ of summons to Parliament, but with a writ of summons to the House of Lords, unless there has been a change in the style, or a very substantial argument can be produced, it seems to me to be open to the contention that we are engaged upon a wild-goose chase and that the Bill which we are examining has no effect.

[Mr. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair.]

Mr. Roebuck

Such is my admiration for the learning of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, and such is my immense admiration for the deep wells of wisdom that reside within him, that I am suffering from a sense of grievous disappointment at the remarks he addressed to the Committee in respect of the age of 72. During the first part of his remarks he told the Committee that this figure had been arrived at on an actuarial basis, and when challenged by some hon. Members he appeared to indicate that certain other factors had been taken into consideration.

The Committee ought to have before it a more detailed explanation of the other factors which have been taken into consideration. It would seem that we should be depriving the other place of a great deal of useful counsel if we chopped off people automatically at the age of 72.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

On a point of order. My hon. Friend is arguing this point although it forms the substance of the next Amendment, which is in my name.

Mr. Roebuck

May I, with great respect, Mr. Gourlay, draw your attention to subsection (3), and also to the extremely interesting speech made by my hon. and learned Friend? Surely we are entitled to comment on his observations.

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

The hon. Member's observations have some reference to the following Amendment. Perhaps he will direct his remarks more specifically to the Amendment which is before the Committee.

Mr. Roebuck

That is precisely what I was doing, Mr. Gourlay, with respect. I was addressing myself to the considerations which my hon. and learned Friend had put before the Committee. My hon. and learned Friend's argument was that this provision should remain in the Clause because certain considerations had been the result of deliberations on the part of those who were responsible for this rather curious Measure. My hon. and learned Friend explained that certain other considerations had been taken into account. I wish to explore that statement, and the Committee is surely entitled to go into the matter in some detail.

I should like to know from my hon. and learned Friend whether, in coming to this determination, he took account of the history of these islands—whether he took account of what would have been the effect on our legislature if Gladstone had been dismissed from public life at the age of 72, or if Palmerston had been so dismissed, or if my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) had been thrown out at that age. He might also direct his attention to other places——

Mr. Murton

The hon. Member ought not to forget his hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), for whom we have the greatest respect.

Mr. Roebuck

I am obliged to the hon. Member for drawing my attention to the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is so young-looking that nobody would think that he was above the age of majority.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I might not be so young-looking if I went to the House of Lords.

Mr. Roebuck

May the heavens preserve my hon. Friend from such an unfortunate fate. I hope that the Valhalla to which he will eventually go will be one in which joy bells will ring for ever and ever.

To return to this most important Clause—the Committee ought to take into consideration the contributions which other statesmen of mature age have made on the world stage. What would have happened if Dr. Adenauer had been dismissed from public life at the age of 72? A sinister thought occurs to me: I suspect that the age of 72 has been arrived at because some of my hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench have something against the President of France, and may be thinking that if he had been dismissed from public life at the age of 72 certain irritations would not now be causing them trial and tribulation.

My hon. and learned Friend owes it to the Committee to give us a better explanation. He ought to tell us why he has reached this conclusion. He might also direct his attention, as a most distinguished member of the legal profession, to the fact that barristers and solicitors are not required to retire from the law at the age of 72.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

On a point of order, Mr. Gourlay. I must stress the fact that this argument is related to the next Amendment and that my hon. Friend is anticipating all my remarks on that Amendment.

Mr. Roebuck

If my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) had attended more of our deliberations he would know that I am addressing myself precisely to the arguments put to the Committee by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, and that it would be extremely discourteous of hon. Members not to take into proper account everything that my hon. and learned Friend has said.

The Deputy Chairman

There is a relationship between the two Amendments. I find it difficult to draw a narrow line. Certain references have been made. Perhaps the hon. Member will now resume his speech.

Mr. Roebuck

Perhaps we shall now have a period of unusual silence from my hon. Friend the Member for Watford, so that I may bring my remarks to a speedy conclusion. I do not wish to detain the Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "Go on."] I am obliged to the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Murton), who apparently wishes me to continue this interesting line of inquiry.

My hon. and learned Friend ought to address himself to why it is apparently desirable for legislators in the other place to be dismissed and sent out into the cold at the age of 72 whereas members of the legal profession are apparently to be allowed to continue, until the Lord claims them, administering and going in great detail into the sort of laws which have been enacted by others—not only practising members of the Bar and solicitors but also Her Majesty's judges.

It is surely within the knowledge of my hon. and learned Friend that from time to time Her Majesty's judges make law. Apparently we are to allow them to deliberate on matters of common law and to produce all sorts of judge-made law. Why should Her Majesty's judges be able to make law when they are over the age of 72? Many learned judges are over that age. We can recall a former Lord Chief Justice—Lord Goddard—who carried on until he was about 84. Apparently he was competent until he reached that sort of age—at any rate, competent to make law. I shall not go into other matters.

My hon. and learned Friend has told us that other men are not competent to make law in the legislature. Why is that? Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend will now intervene to give us the benefit of his great knowledge in these matters. Is it the case that when someone appears on the Bench, by a miracle the arcana of wisdom descends upon him and he is able to make law? If such people can make law, why should not others? There must be some logical progression in the matter. My hon and learned Friend and other of my hon. and right hon. Friends are obviously men of such wisdom and burning zeal that they would not put these provisions lightly into a Measure. They must have some reason for this, and the Committee is entitled to the fullest explanation of it.

It may be that they have some secret information from the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which tells them that there is something about the atmosphere of the other place—possibly something in the air conditioning—which makes it possible for noble Lords suddenly to become stupid at the age of 72—a phenomenon which does not apply to us. If so, should we not hear about it?

Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend thinks that it has something to do with the food, in which case, he might send a message to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), so that he could come to the Committee, which in itself would be an event, to explain whether there was any difference between the food served here and that served in the other place. Perhaps they eat sheep's brains—or perhaps we do. This is a most unsatisfactory situation.

My hon. and learned Friend, who is noted for his great knowledge of these things, has put into the Clause the age of 72 without offering any real explanation. This is treating the Committee with contempt. If he argued a case somewhere else, he would not dream of saying that something was so without referring to some authority. My hon. and learned Friend seems to be receiving advice from the Home Secretary, who, as we all know, is a tremendous supporter of the Bill, but I should be obliged if he would explain it, so that we shall have a chance of expediting our proceedings.

Many of us are not willing that the Committee be treated with contempt. I see my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security., going out, perhaps for the actuarial tables——

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Murton

He is going for his vitamins.

Mr. Roebuck

He may need them, as will all those on the Treasury Bench before we are finished. Despite what has been said to them, they are clearly not yet seized of the fact that hon. Members are not prepared to be rubber stamped like some voting peers in the other place might be. If my hon. and learned Friend wants to intervene to explain, I will willingly give way. Unfortunately, he is not rising.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I would counsel the hon. Member of the grave dangers of giving way to any of his hon. Friends in the presence of the Deputy Chief Whip.

Mr. Roebuck

That is a great danger, but, after certain observations which have been made, my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) probably has a better understanding of the Committee's views now. Certainly, he no longer wears a shining morning face, but a contrite expression, and I hope that he has a contrite feeling in his heart. I would even allow him to intervene to explain this age of 72—but I will not tempt him further. He has his own unique way of intervening in our affairs.

Mr. Murton

When working out these very impressive arguments, has the hon. Gentleman thought of the dangerous precedent of an age limit? Might the Government not ultimately attempt to apply the same limit in this House?

Mr. Roebuck

The hon. Member puts his finger on an important point, to which I was hoping to come later in the afternoon, perhaps about teatime. But perhaps I should address myself to it now, if it does not distress my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham, who likes his tea.

I have tried to explore the logic of this matter. Why should there be an age limit of 72 in the other place and not here? Why have this age limit for the other place, which makes laws, and not for judges, who also make laws? Let us turn to some other aspects of our national life——

Mr. Keith Speed (Meriden)

The hon. Gentleman should not leave that point altogether. There is a dilemma here, in that a judge may also be a member of the other place and unable to make laws there but able to do so in his capacity as a judge. This is a greater anomaly.

Mr. Roebuck

The hon. Gentleman uncovers there a more startling anomaly which must compel my hon. and learned Friend to rise instantly to say why this should be so. I will not be so discourteous to suggest that he has come here without the answer to this problem, or without having considered the various precedents.

Another group of men with an important part to play in our national life and who, even if they do not make laws, give some attention to our conduct, are the clergy——

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide of the Amendment. We are more concerned with whether a peer's seventy-second birthday comes before the end of the parliament or the end of the Session. We are not discussing whether the age of 72 is relevant or otherwise.

Mr. Roebuck

I am obliged, Mr. Gourlay, and will recross the line of order over which I sadly strayed——

Mr. Emrys Hughes

On a point of order. My hon. Friend is referring to the clergy, and bishops sit in the other place.

Mr. Roebuck

That is so, and I was going to mention that point, which my hon. Friend with his usual perception has noticed. The bishops will form an important part of the other place under this legislation. I want to know from my hon. and learned Friend or any other right hon. Gentleman along that Treasury Bench, except for the Patronage Secretary, who does not know anything except how to say, "On a point of order", whether, when the bishops pass the age of 72, they will be dismissed from the other place.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

As the guiding tactics of the Government may prevent me from putting several points myself, can the hon. Gentleman clarify one matter? The Amendment will marginally affect the average age of the average peer by about six months. Would he consider this in relation to the problems of elderly peers who will be representing Scotland or places far distant? Does he think that, if we marginally raise the age by this much, this might affect the ability of peers travelling long distances to contribute effectively to the proceedings?

Mr. Roebuck

That is an important point of which my hon. and learned Friend will have taken notice, in his courteous way, as he will of my point about the bishops. The question of distance is important and there are other features.

We come back now to the argument on the actuarial question which my hon. and learned Friend addressed to the Committee. Hon. Members will know that people live for different lengths of time in different parts even of this country.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

When considering the travel, is the hon. Gentleman aware that over the last few days, for example, planes have been unable to land at London because of fog, while trains have been four hours late and——

The Deputy Chairman

Order. That intervention has nothing to do with the Amendment.

Mr. Roebuck

I have no doubt that the hon. Member will have another opportunity on another Clause to raise that interesting subject. I would not dream of going out of order and I bow instantly to your Ruling, Mr. Gourlay.

I was discussing the actuarial basis of my hon. and learned Friend's reasoning for arriving at the figure of 72. I wonder whether he has taken due note of the fact that people tend to have different life spans, depending on the part of the country in which they live. For instance, a man who lives in the industrial area of the Midlands will have a shorter life span than a man who has the good fortune to live beyond Glasgow, on Loch Lomond, for instance.

If part of my hon. and learned Friend's argument is that he has arrived at the figure of 72——

The Deputy Chairman

Order. I have already pointed out to the hon. Gentleman that we are not discussing whether it should be 72 or 75. We are discussing whether the age should be 72 at the end of the Parliament, or the end of the Session.

Mr. Roebuck

With great respect, Mr. Gourlay, that is precisely the point to which I am addressing myself. What I was saying is precisely relevant. We have heard from my hon. and learned Friend why this figure was reached and surely we are entitled to examine that; and that is precisely what I am doing. There are many hon. Members to whom this is a most important provision and we want it to be explored thoroughly.

My hon. and learned Friend could cut my remarks very short by instantly coming to the Box and telling us about this matter. I have no desire to detain the Committee unnecessarily, but I should be failing in my duty if I did not examine legislation very carefully. I am sure that that is what all hon. Members feel about this matter. My hon. and learned Friend has it within his power to cut the proceedings short, should some hon. Members think that they are becoming tedious, by coming to the Box and explaining himself. Perhaps we shall have to go on until my hon. and learned Friend decides to give us the benefit of his advice, his experience and his knowledge.

My hon. and learned Friend has told the Committee the basis on which the figure of 72 was fixed. What I want to know, to put it in simple terms, is whether the age takes account of regional variations. Is it not the fact that the average life span of a man in the Midlands is; shorter than the life span of a man who lives in the Highlands of Scotland. Is it not something to do with the waterfalls, or something like that? My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) may think that it has something to do with the interesting beverages which are produced in these areas and which in certain circumstances are used to fortify people. Has this been taken into account, or is the age of 72 an average which has been reached after taking note of various local circumstances in various parts of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has my hon. Friend forgotten that in Georgia it is 140 years?

Mr. Roebuck

I do not have my hon. Friend's great experience of Georgia, but I know, and it will be within the knowledge of most hon. Members, that there are considerable variations depending on various things, such as environment, the sort of food eaten, the atmosphere, the smoke from chimneys, and so on.

Mr. Murton

There is also the excessive radio-activity in Wales.

Mr. Roebuck

That is an interesting factor. As my hon. and learned Friend represents Liverpool, Edgehill, which is a constituency close to Wales, he must be an expert on that subject and no doubt he will be able to address the Committee at some length on that so that we may have a proper appreciation and understanding of these various factors. It would clearly be undesirable if, for instance, some of my hon. and learned Friend's constituents were to be deprived of exercising to the full their capacity as legislators in the other place because of some climatic or geographic fact, and the Committee will want the clearest possible explanation from my hon. and learned Friend, and I now call upon him to give it.

Mr. Ridsdale

Because of my interventions on points of order, the Home Secretary has been kind enough to allow me to speak for a few minutes before the Guillotine may fall. This is what I understand to have been the purport of what he kindly suggested a few minutes ago.

Mr. Callaghan

I was trying to be helpful, but if the hon. Gentleman is not careful he will get me into trouble, because I have no influence either with the Chair or with the Patronage Secretary.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

On a point of order. In the light of what has just been said, in fairness to the Chair and the Home Secretary should you not make it clear, Mr. Gourlay, that although it is no doubt the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to move the Closure at a predetermined time, there is no arrangement that the Motion should be accepted?

The Deputy Chairman

The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct: there are no arrangement between the Chair and either side of the Committee.

Mr. Ridsdale

I have no wish to get the Home Secretary into difficulties.

Mr. Roebuck

He has enough already

Mr. Ridsdale

I am sorry that the Attorney-General has left the Chamber, because I had hoped that he would reply to the important point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Such a reply would make us much happier about the future progress of the Bill.

The voting declaration and its duration is the substance of the Amendment. Should a voting declaration be for the duration of a Session, for the duration of Parliament, or should it be permanent?

The House of Lords exists not to veto the will of the Commons, but to see that the will of the people is done. The more we move to Sessional and Parliamentary periods, the less likelihood there is that the will of the people will be done and the greater the likelihood that the rights of the people will be reduced and that the Commons or the Lords will become mere rubber stamps and simply part of the political machine. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) that the voting declaration should be permanent. If democracy is to mean anything, we have to ensure that there are independent people able to have an independent judgment.

It is because of this view that I share the opinion of my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury.

Mr. O'Malley rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be not put.

Question put, That the Question be now put: —

The Committee divided: Ayes 147, Noes 53.

Division No. 96.] AYES [1.20 p.m.
Abse, Leo Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Oram, Albert E.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Hattersley, Roy Oswald, Thomas
Bishop, E. S. Hazell, Bert Owen, Will (Morpeth)
Blackburn, F. Henig, Stanley Palmer, Arthur
Boyden, James Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Brooks, Edwin Hoy, James Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hunter, Adam Pavitt, Laurence
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Buchan, Norman Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Pentland, Norman
Carmichael, Neil Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rees, Merlyn
Chapman, Donald Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Coe, Denis Judd, Frank Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Concannon, J. D. Lawson, George Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Leadbitter, Ted Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Dalyell, Tam Lee, Rt, Hn. Frederick (Newton) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silverman, Julius
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lomas, Kenneth Skeffington, Arthur
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Loughlin, Charles Small, William
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Snow, Julian
Delargy, Hugh McBride, Neil Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Dell, Edmund McCann, John Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Dunn, James A. MacColl, James Taverne, Dick
Dunnett, Jack McGuire, Michael Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Thornton, Ernest
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Tinn, James
Ellis, John Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Tuck, Raphael
English, Michael Mackie, John Urwin, T. W.
Ennals, David Maclennan, Robert Varley, Eric G.
Ensor, David McNamara, J. Kevin Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) MacPherson, Malcolm Wallace, George
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'ham, Yardley) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Wadrins, David (Consett)
Fernyhouglt, E. Manuel, Archie Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Finch, Harold Marks, Kenneth Wellbeloved, James
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Maxwell, Robert Whitaker, Ben
Foley, Maurice Millan, Bruce Wilkins, W. A.
Freeson, Reginald Miller, Dr. M. S. Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Galpern, Sir Myer Milne, Edward (Blyth) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Gardner, Tony Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Williams Clifford, (Abertillery)
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Gregory, Arnold Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Grey, Charles (Durham) Morris, John (Aberavon) Woof, Robert
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Murray, Albert TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Oakes, Gordon Mr. Alan Fitch and
Hamling, William O'Malley, Brian Mr. Joseph Harper.
Hannan, William
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Percival, Ian
Booth, Albert Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Channon, H. P. G. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Clegs, Walter Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Ridsdale, Julian
Crouch, David Kitson, Timothy Roebuck, Roy
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lancaster, Col. C. G. Scott-Hopkins, James
Farr, John Loveys, W. H. Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maude, Angus Sheldon, Robert
Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Mawby, Ray Speed, Keith
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mills, Peter (Torrington) Ward, Dame Irene
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Montgomery, Fergus Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Goodhart, Philip Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Murton, Oscar Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nabarro, Sir Gerald Younger, Hn. George
Harvie Anderson, Miss Onslow, Cranley
Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Holland, Philip Paget, R. T. Mr. Edward M. Taylor and
Hooson, Emlyn Pardoe, John Mr. Victor Goodhew.

Question, That the Amendment be made, put accordingly and negatived.

To report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.—[Mr. Callaghan.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.

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