HL Deb 22 April 1970 vol 309 cc711-3

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will introduce this Session a Bill to abolish the disqualification of Peers from voting at elections for Members of the House of Commons, so that Parliament may have an opportunity of passing it into law before the next General Election.]


My Lords, the Government remain of the view that in the context of a reformed House of Lords it would not be appropriate to maintain this disqualification, but they have no plans for legislation this Session to abolish it.


My Lords, arising out of the noble Lord's reply, may I ask whether he considers that the question of giving Peers the right to vote at elections depends upon the reform of the House of Lords? Is it not the case that the House of Lords has already been substantially reformed by the creation of Life Peers, leave of absence and so on? Is it not also the case that even after the reform of the House of Lords, as envisaged in the Bill of last year, it will remain more or less the same as it is now?


My Lords, I think your Lordships' House has certainly undergone some reforms, but I think your Lordships are susceptible of further reform; indeed, the majority of us voted very strongly for it. I am not, as the noble Lord knows, out of sympathy with what he is saying. In my view, the present position is anomalous, not to say anachronistic. But there is a relationship —indeed, quite a fundamental constitutional relationship—because if the noble Lord consults some of the authorities, such as Coke, in his Institutes, he will there find (I will not read the whole of it, but I recommend it to him to read at some time) that there is, in fact, representation and anyone who is not a Lord of Parliament and of the Lords' House is of the House of Commons, either in person or by representation, partly coagmentative and partly representative. The noble Lord is himself in Parliament and represents himself in your Lordships' House. I fear that I can make no further promise at the moment, beyond expressing a great deal of sympathy for what he has had to say.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that we have a 2 per cent, lead according to the poll in today's Daily Express, and that we can now be generous on this issue?


My Lords, I regret that noble Lords would be unlikely to be in a position to influence the result either way, at least by their votes.


My Lords, is there not the practical difficulty that, even if legislation were passed this Session, the names would not in fact be on the register for an Election at the time when most of us think it is coming?


My Lords, I am unable to forecast the date of the General Election.