§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord SHEPHERD rose to move, That the Order designating certain Lords members of the European Parliament dated 20th December 1972, as amended by the Orders dated 24th October 1973 and 10th March 1975, be discharged.
§ That the Lords following be designated members of the European Parliament:
- E. Bessborough,
- L. Ardwick,
- L. Bethell,
- L. Bruce of Donington,
- L. Castle,
- Bns. Fisher of Rednal,
- L. Gordon-Walker,
- L. Reay,
- L. Saint Oswald,
- L. Walston.
§ That this Order shall remain in force and effect, notwithstanding the Prorogation or Dissolution of Parliament, until this House otherwise orders. The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps we could agree on one thing—that it is right, and to be welcomed, that the Labour Party has now decided, through its Parliamentary representatives in the House of Commons and in your Lordships' House, that the Labour Party should be represented at the European Parliament. Of course, the consequences of that decision will mean that there must be changes in the delegation to Strasbourg. New faces will appear, and some old faces will not be present. I should like to pay tribute not only to those who may not be going, but also to those from this House who have borne a very heavy burden during the last two and a half years in service at the European Parliament.341
§ I will mention only one name, and I single him out for one simple reason. The strain of going to the European Parliament, of dealing with strange procedures, coping with many languages, is a very heavy one, but for one there was not the comradeship of being a member of a political Party, or of being able to join a political grouping in Europe. Therefore, I would single out the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, who went as an Independent Member, who rendered considerable service to the European Parliament and rendered great service to your Lordships' House when he gave evidence to the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, and some of us on his Select Committee. I am sure that we are not only grateful but have admired all that he has done.
§ My Lords, the Motion in my name on the Order Paper is one that is required of the Leader of the House. I move it in no way differently from the one earlier in the Session, when at the request of the Conservative Party I moved a change in the Conservative delegation at Strasbourg. Today, I move a Motion to put forward names for the European Parliament which have been submitted from the Labour Party and from the Conservative Party. The House will be aware of two Amendments on the Order Paper. Naturally, I will be able to deal with them more fully when I have the opportunity of winding-up the debate. But I should like to make one point very clear to this House. Some of us have spent many years here seeking to improve the relationship between these two Houses, and the relations between the political Parties here and in another place. I do not believe that if these Amendments were passed we would in any way be serving the long-term interests of closer relationship and co-operation between the two Houses.
§ I believe passionately that if we were to act unilaterally in this matter we could well destroy all the hard and good work that has been done over recent years, and which many of us can see when we observe the way in which Peers and Members of another place not only go to the European Parliament, but also sit together at the Council of Europe, the WEU, NATO, and many of the other overseas delegations. So I would ask the House to bear this point particularly in mind. I do not suppose anyone can speak with greater authority of the possible conse- 342 quences than the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, who is an ex-Speaker of another place.
§ It seems to me that we should be clear what the Parties had in mind in 1972 as to how the British delegation should be made up at Strasbourg. The European Assembly is a political Assembly. Members sit in political Parties; they act as political Parties. It is true that countries select their members in varying ways. There is one cardinal principle, which is that the delegation going to Strasbourg reflects the relative proportions of the elected political Members in Parliament, whether it is in the Lower or the Upper House. So when the Conservative Government were considering representation in 1972 they had a number of possibilities. They could well have taken the Committee of Selection formula, which would have provided that the delegation should have been made up of 19 Conservatives, 15 Labour and two others. According to Mr. Peter Kirk, who had already been nominated as leader of the Conservative delegation and was very close to the Prime Minister of the time, a decision was taken not to accept that formula, but to use the one that was in practice—and still remains in practice—in the Council of Europe. That gave a benefit to the main Opposition Party. It provided for a representation of 18 Conservatives, 16 Labour, and two others.
§ Rightly or wrongly, the Parliamentary Labour Party decided not to go to Strasbourg, and to wait until the issue was more clear. As a consequence, a delegation was sent to the European Parliament on a Resolution of both Houses, providing for 18 Conservatives, 2 Liberals and one Independent. I again fall back on Mr. Peter Kirk, who is reported in Hansard of yesterday. The Liberals were allowed two, but I believe it was made clear to Mr. Thorpe in 1972 that in the event of the Labour delegation going to Strasbourg that number would have to be reconsidered. Certainly, no hope or expectation was given to the Liberal party that two would necessarily remain the final figure for Liberal representation.
§ My Lords, I appreciate that there has been much concern in your Lordships' House about the position of the Independents, particularly the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. Again, I rely on Mr. Kirk. 343 The noble Lord, Lord Strang, is present, and perhaps he can correct me, or otherwise. I understand that my predecessor, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Strang, considered the question of an Independent Member of your Lordships' House going to Strasbourg, and that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said that he would raise no objection to such an approach. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan himself, I am sure, will agree that that arrangement was entered into on the very clear understanding that if a Labour delegation went to Strasbourg then the position of an Independent was open to reconsideration.
§ I come back to the issue which I believe is fundamental. It is that no Member from either this House or another place goes as a representative of either House; he goes as a representative of Parliament as a whole, and he is in fact a nominee of his political Party. It therefore seems to me—and I fully acknowledge all that the Independent Members have done in your Lordships' House and the contribution they have made—that on that basis they have not a prescriptive right, or a right at all, to send a representative to Strasbourg.
§ If in the light of review and reconsideration of this matter an occasion arose when each House had a prescriptive right to a particular number of delegates, then the Independents could be considered. But I would suggest that under the present arrangements, the formula to which we are now working, the Independents have no basis. I will come back to this in a moment in the light of the Amendment of the noble Earl, Earl Perth.
§ If we assume that it is right that Parliamentary Parties should send their own delegations, their nominees, I think it follows naturally that it is for those Parties themselves to consider the basis on which they make their election or selection. The Parliamentary Labour Party holds its meetings in confidence, although much leaks into the newspapers. But I can disclose that this was a matter which was very carefully considered by the Parliamentary Labour Party. Finally, we decided that so far as the House of Commons is concerned our members should be selected. It was left entirely to the 344 Labour Peers to decide how they would either select or elect their members. The Labour Peers met in Committee Room 4. They considered the question of election or selection, and they decided that they should entrust a system of selection to my noble friend Lord Champion, who is the elected representative of the Labour Peers to the Liaison Committee, and also to my noble friend the Chief Whip.
§ I can assure this House that on no occasion did I in any way seek to consult with either as to the membership of that delegation, nor did the Prime Minister at any stage have a communication with either of them. When they had made their selection, the list of names was submitted to the Labour Peers again at their Thursday meeting. It was approved and reported to the Parliamentary Labour Party. So the Labour delegation is one that has been accepted by the Labour Peers and the Parliamentary Labour Party as a whole.
§ My Lords, I cannot speak for the Conservatives. If they have a sense of disquiet about the way in which their selection is carried out I suggest it is a matter for the Conservative Party alone, not for anyone else. We therefore have the names on the list. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, proposes that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, shall forthwith become members of the European Parliament, that the 10 names that appear on my list, a list submitted after due consideration and decision by the Conservative and Labour Parties, should be submitted to a Committee of Selection of your Lordships' House, and from those 10, 8 shall be selected. The European Parliament is a political being. Is it conceivable that Members of the Labour Party sitting on the Committee of Selection should choose which Conservatives should go to Strasbourg? I myself would find it quite intolerable if it was ever suggested that Members of the Conservative Party should sit in judgment as to which Members of the Labour Party should go to Strasbourg. A Committee of Selection is all right for the domestic matters of your Lordships' House, but it is not the vehicle for selection of members for any political assembly in Europe.
§ I was under attack in another place for deviousness and discourtesy. I have had 345 many things thrown at me, but I have never yet been called devious. But I think I ought to say something by way of apology to the noble Lord, Lord Byers. The intention to place a Motion on the Order Paper last Monday was included in italics in future business to give warning that a Motion would be taken. There was a good deal of discussion in Parliament as to what was to be the membership of the British delegation at Strasbourg. Certainly the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, and the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, were aware of it. I think it was some two weeks ago they came to see me, at their request, to express their concern about the position of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan.
§ I did not receive any representations from the Liberal Party until Thursday of last week. I got back to my office in your Lordships' House at about twenty minutes to 7 to find a note that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, wished to see me. I sought to communicate with him, not only from your Lordships' House but from my home, but, unfortunately, we were not able to make contact. I at least took the initiative, I think at a quarter to 9 on the Friday morning, to make contact with the noble Lord. That was the first occasion on which I was aware that the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House were concerned about the situation. I apologise because I did not quite appreciate the full implications of the Motion on the Order Paper. I knew what was sought to be done by the Motion, but I did not appreciate that it arbitrarily removed a certain name from the existing list. But I would say to the noble Lord that I was under the impression that, while the Liberal Party were still seeking to increase their number, they themselves had decided that the Liberal Member in the Commons remained at Strasbourg. I do apologise. I gave that explanation, and I hope the noble Lord will acquit me of deviousness and discourtesy, bearing in mind that I have sought to keep my door open to all. I would not wish it ever to be thought that there is a weakness in our communications.
§ My Lords, may I conclude with these few words. I think it would be wrong for this House arbitrarily to change procedures which are the practice in another place and which have been the basis of 346 our nomination to, and our membership of the European Community and many other international bodies. I do not maintain that the present system is perfect. So many things in this Parliament are established, they grow, and they become custom, but from time to time they ought to be reviewed. However, a review would need the co-operation not only of the three political Parties in your Lordships' House but also those in another place. It would need a real and genuine appreciation of the problems of both Houses, and I know the concern that we shall hear later this afternoon could well be reflected in another place.
§ But I say to this House that good progress is made in this Parliament that we serve only when it is made by reasonable approaches seeking consent and agreement. I believe that an arbitrary decision by your Lordships' House in a political field—because we should be under no illusions but that if the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is passed it would automatically mean that the formula that has been established of one Liberal member will immediately become two, that there would then be a presence of an Independent, and this at the expense of the two major political Parties. None of us should underestimate the consequences that might flow at the European Parliament from any reduction of the Party strengths.
§ So I come back to this: I hope that we shall debate this matter, that the concern shall be expressed, and if the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Byers, and, for that matter, if they so wish, the Independents, wish to enter into immediate conversations with me, I shall see what progress can be made to seek a solution with another place. But we can do this only by co-operation and restraint. On that basis I hope that the Motion will be passed and the Amendments withdrawn.
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that this is an important pronouncement which he has made. Could he indicate what form that solution is likely to take, so that we shall know the position for the rest of this debate? Is he offering to restore the Liberal position?
§ Lord SHEPHERD
No, my Lords, I am not offering to restore anything. I 347 said that I was appreciative of the concern that has been expressed in this House. I could not refuse anyone who suggested to me that there should be a review or a consideration. In fact, I think it is part of the Amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. All I said, and suggested, was that we should enter into immediate discussions to see whether there is a way of dealing with both this matter and the concern in your Lordships' House.
§ Moved, That the Order designating certain Lords members of the European Parliament dated 20th December 1972, as amended by the Orders dated 24th October 1973 and 10th March 1975, be discharged.
§ That the Lords following be designated members of the European Parliament:
- E. Bessborough
- L. Ardwick
- L. Bethell
- L. Bruce of Donington
- L. Castle
- Bns. Fisher of Rednal
- L. Gordon-Walker
- L. Reay
- L. Saint Oswald
- L. Walston
§ That this Order shall remain in force and effect, notwithstanding the Prorogation or Dissolution of Parliament, until this House otherwise orders.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ The Earl of PERTH rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal—
§ (1) At the end of the first line of the second paragraph to insert—
- (" L. Gladwyn
- L. O'Hagan
§ That the Committee of Selection do meet forthwith to select and propose to the House which of the Lords following should be designated the remaining eight members of the European Parliament.") The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the first Amendment standing in my name. Before I proceed further I should like to express my pleasure at the fact that the Labour Party are now to be represented in the European Parliament. That is to me a very welcome move— 348 late but, none the less, better late than never. Perhaps, at the start, I should explain the purposes of my Amendments—I say "Amendments" because two have been put down, although, of course, we consider No. (1) first—and then I have in mind very briefly to tell you why I seek your Lordships' support.
§ The Amendment which I first propose is to the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the House who has just sat down, who asks that we approve a list of 10 members for the European Parliament, Labour and Conservative. My Amendment gives two other names, and then goes on to suggest, as well, that if it is accepted, eight out of the remaining 10 already listed be the members of the delegation. In my Amendment I suggest that the Committee of Selection of your Lordships' House should do this choosing. Perhaps I was wrong to do that, but I saw no other easy instrument to use. If you look at the Committee of Selection you will find that among its members are the Leader of the House, the Chief Whip, the Leader of the Liberal Party, and so on. The Committee of Selection, being composed of wise men, would in fact—and I emphasise this—leave it to the respective Parties to choose who they wanted out of their numbers for the purpose. So, if I may say so, I feel that the noble Lord's point on this is something of a red herring. I know—and I feel that all your Lordships would realise—that the Committee of Selection is very wise, and, in that sense, is a political animal and would so act. To finish on my Amendment, in the sense of the explanations of it, may I say that Amendment No. (2) is purely consequential, and I do not feel, at this stage, that I need go into any detail about it. It is not of concern unless the first Amendment is carried.
My reasons for seeking your Lordships' support for my Amendment should now be given. The noble Lord the Leader made a great point about the need for political representation at the European Parliament. In broad terms I go along with this, but if I look at Article 138 of the Treaty of Rome I find no mention of the need for political Parties. May I quote it to your Lordships. It says:
The Assembly shall consist of delegates who shall be nominated by the respective Parliaments from among their members in accordance with the procedure laid down by each Member-State.
There is no mention of political Parties in that. I believe that that means that members should be designated who are representative of both Houses of this Parliament. I understand, in passing, that this is certainly the practice in other Houses in Europe where they have two Chambers as opposed to a single one.
§ It seems to me of great importance that your Lordships' House should have a real say in the choosing of those who are to represent them, and not accept a list which is unrepresentative of this House. I say "unrepresentative" because we have four main groups in this House: there are the Conservatives, the Cross-Benchers, Labour and Liberal Parties. I am rather careful about the order; I have put them alphabetically so that nobody will think there is any prejudice in what I have said. I believe that all four groups should continue to be represented, as has been the case heretofore—anyhow, until such time as a Select Committee, as proposed in the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, has been considered. I fully support the Amendment which stands in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, which is in no way contradictory to mine. Rather, it is complementary to it. My Amendment is designed to deal with the present, until such time as the future method of selection can be determined, and it was interesting to hear from the Leader of the House that he himself would wish to consider the present methods.
§ What can I say about the two representatives whose names appear in my Amendment, those who have been omitted from representation as groups for this House? Remember, my Lords, that these two—the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan—represent us at the present time. Lord Gladwyn's record of service over the last 25 years in Europe is too well-known to your Lordships for me to develop or to do other than praise. His service during these years to the European Parliament has been of the greatest value to the country and the European Parliament and I was glad that the Leader of the House paid tribute to him. I was particularly glad of that because I understand that neither he nor the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, were told ahead of time that it was proposed that they should no longer be members. If that is the case— 350 and I have reason to believe that it was the case in respect of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan—then that is an unhappy situation.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Earl could not have been listening to what I said. I said that I saw the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, and the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, who came to see me as representing the independents, and I then informed them, at the second meeting, of the situation. So I think the noble Lord is being less than generous.
§ The Earl of PERTH
That is certainly not my desire, my Lords. I do not know the timing of that and if the courtesy was done then I withdraw, but I query it in the sense of whether it was done last week or only on Monday when the list was first published.
§ The Earl of PERTH
—but I will not develop that further. It has been argued at great length that the Cross-Benches as such are not a political group and that therefore they do not deserve representation in the European Parliament. Yet I recall when, some ten years ago, the question arose of the reform of the House of Lords and a Bill was proposed by the then Prime Minister, who is the Prime Minister today, it was with the Cross-Benchers—if I may put it this way—that the balance of power was to lie. In other words, at that time it was recognised by the political Parties that the Cross-Benchers had a real role to play in this House, and so it was proposed. Surely what was true then should be true now.
When we were asked if we would choose a Member, as Cross-Benchers there was full consultation and we decided on someone young and enthusiastic. How right we were and how well served we have been! In the last three years, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has not only done great work in Europe but has been of immense benefit to us in this House by keeping us informed of all that has been 351 happening, and perhaps because he is not a member of any political Party, this has been all the more helpful and advantageous. Thus, I feel that he, with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, are in every way proper representatives for two groups who otherwise will be excluded from any representation from this House in the European Parliament.
I hope that many of your Lordships will feel that I have shown good reason for my Amendment. If my friend and sometime chief, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd, were here, he would be speaking for this Amendment and voting for it, but, alas! he cannot be here. Your Lordships have a chance, by accepting my Amendment, to kill two birds with one stone, and in this time of economic crisis that is an economy which must be worth while. In voting for my Amendment noble Lords would show, first, that we have a small but real voice in deciding who should represent us in this House of all four groups; and, second, that voice would ensure that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, who have represented and served us so well, would continue to serve for the next few months, until the present session of the European Parliament comes to an end in the spring.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, it might presumably be for the convenience of the House if the debate that follows ranges over all the subject matter on the Order Paper, and I take it that this is what will ensue. First, I wanted to say how grateful I am for the courtesy, which is unfailing, of the Leader of the House. He has asked me to see him on various occasions; he has never been difficult to contact and I am sure that nobody in this House would infer from anything I am about to say that I have any complaint whatever about the noble Lord's unfailing courtesy, kindness and good humour. However, I was interested to listen to his account of the present formula, as he put it, for choosing Members to go to the European Parliament. That, and his accusations of a plan for "arbitrary" change—the words he used, and his fears of a clash with another place, all were apparently based on citations not from the spokes- 352 man of his own Party in the other place, but from Mr. Peter Kirk.
Had he followed that debate as closely as some others have done, he might have noticed that the Labour Party spokesman, Mr. Mellish, said:The other place "—that is, referring to your Lordships' House—is doing the honourable thing; namely, tabling a Motion which will be properly debated.He went on:It is not for me to question the procedure in another place. I shall not suggest to the other place how it should select its delegation. "—[Official Report, Commons, 1/7/74; col. 142]I find it difficult to find in those words the overtones of a forthcoming constitutional clash between the Lords and the Commons.
My own Amendment, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, pointed out, is simply couched to create a machinery which may be suitable to the problem which we all admit confronts us. Of course I heartily support the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, sitting on the Cross-Benches, but my own case is simply that we ought to have a system of election, whether it is within each Party, or non-Party, group or whether it is across the House as a whole. Thrice this matter has been raised—in December 1972, in October 1973 and in March 1975 by myself. Thrice I have argued for a system of election within this House. Thrice the Leader of the House has promised consideration. Thrice that consideration has proved to be a non-event. Perhaps we should say, with Turgot. "Scrupulous people are not suited to great affairs".
My Lords, I have five objections to the Government's Motion. First, the delegation is offered to this House on a take it or leave it basis without any process of election overall, whatever may have happened within the Party opposite. It is a simple Soviet style, one list endorsement that we are invited to give. I seek due process of election. My second objection is that the nominations have been made by the management without consultation with the ordinary body of workers in the House. My third objection is that this is a carve-up of patronage between the two main Parties. My fourth 353 complaint is that this simply means that significant elements in your Lordships' House have been disfranchised. My fifth objection is that the method of nomination chosen is unworthy of Britain's Parliamentary contribution to Europe's Parliamentary experiment.
There are two Articles of the Treaty which are not only relevant but binding. Article 139 requires the European Parliament, to which we are sending a delegation, to put forward a scheme for direct elections on a uniform procedure applying within all Nine countries of the European Community. The delegation that we send now will speak for Britain's point of view in making those preparations. Surely in such a critical matter we owe it to ourselves to ensure that the credentials of that delegation are satisfactory, to make certain that their mandate is sufficient and to be absolutely sure that their authority cannot be gainsaid either at that end in Strasbourg and Luxembourg, or at this end at Westminster. The noble Lord the Leader of the House, weaving his tangled web, told us about a formula that was established. But the Treaty is relevant and binding, and Article 138 requires that delegations meantime shall be chosen by their respective Parliaments: not just by the Lower House, not just by the Parties within it, but by the respective Parliaments—and I quote from the Article—" according to a procedure laid down by each State ".
My Lords, this State has not yet laid down a procedure. All that has happened is that the Front Benches of the two Houses have found it convenient, and a saving of trouble, to follow the procedure used in sending people to the Council of Europe and the Western European and NATO Assemblies. Those are consultative. We are talking today about representatives to go to a Parliament-to-be—and this is what it is intended to become—a Parliament that will gradually acquire the powers of a Parliament, powers to curb an international executive and powers to curb the Council of Ministers. That is a very different function from sending representatives to a consultative body which can do no more than make some suggestions, and which has no Parliamentary ambitions whatsover.
How do the other countries proceed? Five of the other six members which 354 have Upper Houses select their Upper House delegates by an electoral process. Belgium chose seven of their total 14 from the Upper House; France, 12 out of her 36; Eire, two out of their 10; Italy, 18 out of their 36; Holland, four out of their 14. Three of the other six do this without any reference whatever to the political balance in the Lower House, and I am now referring to Belgium, France and Italy.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene, but this is important. Which of those Houses is not elected?
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, I was just coming to that. I am much obliged to the noble Lord for anticipating a point to which I was about to come. In fact, two of those Houses, Eire and Belgium, have non-elected members. In our case, the situation is rather different. The Labour Party evidently debated their list and, if the Press is to be believed, they did so at length. But also, if the Press is to be believed, your Lordships, Members of the Party opposite, were debarred from whatever vote took place within their Party—
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
—so far as Members of the other House were concerned. So far as I am aware, in my Party there has been no electoral procedure of any kind. It may be that I have not been attending meetings of independent Unionist Peers lately, because I had other things to do at 2.30 on a Thursday afternoon, and it may have happened when I was not there. But to my knowledge there has been no form of election within the Tory Party. Speakng generally, the 130 or so working Lords who sit on the Cross-Benches have been ignored. So far as one can see, the 40 or so working Lords who sit on the Liberal Benches have been ignored. Furthermore, the 26 Bishops who, like it or not, are Peers of Parliament appear to have been ignored. And, my Lords, what about the 20 Law Lords, wise men and grave, who counsel us over and over again? Have they been consulted? Perhaps the noble Lord can tell us that. My general impression—
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
Obviously, my Lords, a Law Lord counts as more than two of one of us! It is now quite certain that confusion "hath made his masterpiece". This managerial carve-up has two consequences. First, it concedes new patronage to a national executive just when Parliament is losing power to an international executive, which is bad enough. Secondly, only the Party conformist, or the licensed non-conformist, is allowed to join in the European Parliament's struggle to lay hold on the levers of power now being lost to the Parliament of Westminster.
At different times, five objections have been mentioned to me to the principle of election to which I adhere, and to my suggestion that we should have a Select Committee. First, it is said that we must keep in step with another place. What, then, is your Lordships' role as a review Chamber? What about our obligation as long-stop for the quinquennial Act? What about our remaining power of veto on any tampering with the electoral system of Parliament? Surely, those obligations themselves require us not to be so concerned with keeping in step as with our obligations as a review Chamber. Then it is said that we have no business, as an unelected Chamber, to talk about elections. At least two other Parliaments—those of Belgium and Ireland—have non-elected members in their Upper Chambers.
Then it is said that the hereditary element is an embarrassment. I am quite sure that it is so today. Two hereditary Lords have caused the Government, and, I dare say, my own Front Bench, a certain amount of embarrassment. But let us not worry about that. Surely the jury principle, which the hereditary Peers represent in this House and which lays down that one shall take a group of chaps and put them on a jury to weigh up the judge's summing-up, is a normal and ingrained part of British procedure and is a valued element in this House. If it is said that we are the scions of privilege, I shall look around the Chamber and ask which of your Lordships was able to choose his father.
Then we are told that the Cross-Benchers do not deserve representation because they are non-Party. But the Party system is falling apart and, whether on the right or the left or in the middle, is 356 in utter confusion. There is nothing sacrosanct about it and to disfranchise 130 or so working Peers, out of a House which has about 500 working Peers, because they do not adhere to a Party would be something very strange. The Cross-Benchers are a valued element in our House because, when we have a debate for which the Whips are on, it is the way they vote that tells the public who won the argument.
My Lords, it is said that a system of nomination is necessary to secure proper regional representation. Let us take a look at the list. The list which has been laid before us today covers the South-East, the Midlands, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Lancashire and that part of the Northern Highlands—the Forest of Reay—which is empty. What about the areas which are not covered? Wales is not represented, the South-West is not represented, the North-East is not represented, the North-West is missed out, and the Central and populous part of Scotland is omitted. Then we are told that we must have a system of nomination to secure continuity. We are to do that by knocking out the noble Lords, Lord O'Hagan and Lord Gladwyn.
This age has seen, and continues to witness, grotesquely unrepresentative minorities imposing their will on the supine. At the heart of Parliamentary democracy lies the principle of the accountability of power. To whom, then, shall these delegates render their account? By whom shall their mandate be confirmed or withdrawn? Shall it be by the management or, as elsewhere in the Nine, by the Parliaments themselves? The squalid spectacle of Party bickering, the unhappy sight of the semi-clandestine manoeuvres of the past weeks, should surely be enough to persuade your Lordships that we can do better than that. Setting up a Select Committee, as my Amendment will propose when I move it later on, would enable the matter to be examined calmly. It would enable the difficulties to be seriously probed and would make it possible for the problems to be objectively encountered. The setting up of such a Select Committee would enable that to be done by a machinery suited to the subject, familiar to the House and worthy of the age, and it would be an exercise becoming to the people's overwhelming choice about our place among the Nine.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, it is not my intention to detain your Lordships for long, if for no better reason than the length of the list of speakers this afternoon. However, it may be helpful to your Lordships in deciding what may, at first blush, seem to be a difficult matter if I speak as what might be termed an "old boy" of the European Parliament, if not as an "old lag" of that organisation. I should be wrong if I did not begin by welcoming the advent of the Labour delegation from another place and from your Lordships' House. If I wanted to be contentious, I should say something about repentant sinners, but I do not want to be over-contentious so I shall say no more. Those of us who have time and again—and the words are there for all to see in the Official Report—prayed, if that is the word, noble Lords opposite to use their best endeavours to see that a delegation is sent have now had their prayers answered. Until there was a Labour flavour in the British delegation to the European Parliament, it was not a cohesive or an all-embracing delegation.
My Lords, if it is not out of place for me to say so, I feel that the country and Parliament and, indeed, this. House, have been well served by the delegation which they have had up till now. I do not think noble Lords or the country at large have always realised the political and personal strain which is put upon members of the delegation. That is something which the new members will find out very shortly. It is a strain on one's finances, on one's marriage, and on one's business, but, above all, I found that it was an almost intolerable strain on my family. Living 455 miles North of your Lordships' House—the only other person who was living further North at that stage was Mr. Russell Johnston—it was 455 miles more of a strain as well. Insufficient stress has been laid in your Lordships' House—and I quite understand the reason why—on the political nature of the European Parliament. It is intensely political. I do not suppose the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, would disagree with that.
I should have said before and I say it now with all the sincerity at my command, that everybody throughout the country should be more than grateful to the noble 358 Lord, Lord Gladwyn, with all his great experience and political expertise, and to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for what they have done in the past two years. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, was really a lone voice crying in the wilderness. He was the only independent in the European Parliament. There were solitary Italian Fascists and Italian and French Communists until their numbers grew sufficiently for them to form a group, but the noble Lord has been the only true independent. I dare say that at moments he found it fairly thankless. The representation on committees, for instance, of the European Parliament is decided according to a mysterious formula—the De Hondt formula—which gives the political groups or Parties representation on the committees according to their numerical strength. The same goes for the officers of the Parliament and the officers and the presidents of the committees. As a result, it is impossible for a person who is, to quote the translation, "non-attached ", or still more so one who is an independent, to make any effective representation as to what committee he wishes to be on, still less to achieve anything once he is on it by way of an office.
It is also not generally known just how political the committees and the Parliament are. On many occasions, Motions and consideration of various measures which had been proposed by the Commission were passed or Amendments upon them were passed or lost by very small majorities. In my own group, we had a most effective whipping system and, on many occasions, especially early on before the Socialist group realised what we were about, we were able to turn the Parliament upside down and on its head because of our efficient West-minister system of whipping. The reason why I say that is that if we seek to upset the political balance in the European Parliament—and I am not saying that your Lordships or Parliament as a whole is not entitled to do just that—it must be something we do consciously and in the full realisation of what we are trying to achieve. It is a matter of the greatest regret that the names of the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord O'Hagan, are not the subject of the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, the Leader of the House. But I think it would be idle, if I may say so, to ignore the political facts 359 of life both as they are in the country and as they are in Europe. The European Parliament is a political institution.
Perhaps I may now come to another point. Much has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and also by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale on the matter of representation. I am bound to say that on the occasions when I went to Europe and attended meetings of the European Parliament or its committees or its delegations I never felt that I was representing this House. I always felt that, however humble and inadequate. I was a member of the British delegation at the European Parliament and that, however inadequately, I spoke for Britain. I think this is reflected by the attitude in which we were held by the other members of the European Parliament. It is right to say that after an uncertain start other members of the European Parliament regarded us as members of the European Conservative group—and not as Lords' members and not as Commons' members.
I can say in parenthesis that the initial confusion was compounded perhaps by the fact that of the original delegation of 21 members, no fewer than 12 had a title of some sort; whether a noble Lord or a Knight or. in one case, a Baronet; but there it was! We were a sort of Duke of Plaza Toro's army. Once that situation was sorted out and we were accepted as what we were, (that is to say, delegates from Britain) and not as who we were (delegates from one House or the other) the situation was completely satisfactory. I would imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, would agree that so far as the Liberal group is concerned, a distinguished and revered person he may have been in it—but as a Briton and not as a Member of this House.
It is in that sense that we are asked to consider both these Amendments. I say "both" but there are four; I refer to both noble Earls who spoke to them. Can one reflect for a moment on what would happen if the selection of your Lordships' delegation—and I say that against the background of how I regard the delegation and how I believe it is regarded both in Europe and in this country as a whole—was made by a committee answerable to the House but 360 not to the Party; and the possible effects that could flow from such a decision? I have no quarrel with what the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal has said so far as the historical background and flavour of this delegation is concerned. Suffice it to say that when the Party of noble Lords on this side of the House were in Government a balance of 18–16–2 was considered appropriate. That was with an overall majority of 40. In my submission it is praiseworthy that the present Government with not quite so big an overall majority (or at least with some of that majority not readily to hand) considered the appropriate numeration could be exectly the same.
What happens if the Committee of Selection selects a number of Lords whose political complexion is not according to that formula? Can it be said there will not be a clash between the two Houses? What would the Government say if instead of 18–16–2 it was 18–16–2 the wrong way; because the Committee of Selection in their wisdom had so selected? If that would not lead to a clash I do not know what would. I appreciate, and I think noble Lords on this side of the House appreciate, that there is not a fully democratic system of selection or nomination. I believe that is a very good thing; because one of the reasons why, as a group, we were so effective in the European Parliament came from the fact that we had Members of both Houses who came from different parts of the United Kingdom. One was from Northern Ireland; three lived in Scotland and two, while they did not live in Scotland had a Scottish flavour; and so on round the United Kingdom. We had lawyers—and this is a matter which should not be ignored. Sir Derek Walker-Smith, a Member of the other place, was one of the most distinguished members of the Legal Affairs Committee on which I had the honour to serve. He is now the chairman. The Committee of Selection, if it were to make the choice—
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, before leaving that point—and I am closely following the noble Earl's speech—would he not agree that if a Select Committee were set up to look into the problems and the possibilities, this is one of the problems it is necessary 361 to look at? As for saying the delegation is representative of the various Parties, would he not refresh his mind on what I said about the Lords' delegation now proposed?
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, I think that there is more than that between the noble Earl and me. I regard this as a national delegation and not as a House of Lords' delegation; except in the narrowest sense. However many counties there now may be in England and Wales—for they have all been turned upside down—you cannot, in a delegation of 36, get 52 members from the old number of counties.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl again, but would he not agree that it is perfectly possible to devise a system of election in either House or both Houses whereby, taking this House, for example, noble Lords were offered a panel to choose from, from various parts of the country? It might be done within the respective Houses of Parliament and that would still conform with what he is after.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, I shall go further. Not only did we have lawyers, splendid people, but also an accountant. We also had ladies; and in this day of the Sex Discrimination Bill we must not forget them. How is this Panel to reflect all this, all the different expertise required in a delegation of this nature. We may seek; but we shall not find—except chaos.
My Lords, I hope very much that what I have said, and what I think other noble Lords will say, will move the noble Earl, Lord Perth, to reflect upon his Amendments; certainly upon the first one. Perhaps I can say a word before I sit down about the second Amendment of both noble Earls, the general purport of which is to provide a fixed term for these members of the new delegation to serve as members of the European Parliament. I will take first my noble friend Lord Lauderdale who proposes, in effect, that the shutter should come down at the end of the present session of the European Parliament which would be in February 1976. Any noble Lord who has had anything to do either with the European Parliament or with the various Select Committees which now investigate its 362 legislation will know that it is quite impossible to understand, let alone to play a constructive part in under two years. If within such a time the whole matter has once more to go into the melting pot, I do not think anybody of calibre would agree to serve on a delegation; and that goes for the other two Amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Perth.
§ The Earl of PERTH
My Lords, may I clear this matter up? The noble Earl has misunderstood my second Amendment. It is a purely consequential Amendment which, I am advised, has to be included if my first Amendment is successful. It would be open to the Government tomorrow if there was a new list, to include in that new order the exact words here now. I would ask that people understand that this is not an Amendment designed to change time or anything else, but is a purely consequential and necessarily technical Amendment.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, I am sure the noble Earl's advice is of the best quality and from the best source. I can only read into it my own humble, stumbling thoughts. The effect would be to limit the duration of the order—that is to say, the last paragraph of the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal. Members of the European Parliament, so far as your Lordships are concerned, continue their membership until one of two things happens; either they drop down dead, or your Lordships pass another Motion of the same flavour as this. If I am right, the second Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is not needed. I do not think I need detain your Lordships any longer on that.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords. before leaving the question of the fixed term, if the noble Earl is so certain that an unfixed term is better, why should he be afraid of the Select Committee looking at the matter?
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, I am not in the least afraid of the Select Committee, except of what conclusions it will come to unless its labours are carefully directed. It should be a matter for Parliament to decide as a result of performance, as a result of inclination, as a result of continuing political change which occurs both in the House and in the 363 country, to make its mind up when and if a delegation is going to be changed. I say this in the knowledge that in 1978, if the Governments of the Nine confirm the wishes of the European Parliament, there will be direct elections. Therefore what your Lordships are talking about will go into the melting pot because there will be a term of election and after that term, as with any other Parliament which has ended, there will be new elections for the European Parliament. Therefore what we are discussing is of a temporary nature, and I do not think it would be very wise for a Select Committee to investigate matters which, in any event, are going to come to an end, we hope, in two or three years' time. That is a waste of time, labour and effort. I hope on this occasion your Lordships will consider particularly what the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal has said.
There is not a distribution of patronage. As I caught the dawn 'plane to Brussels I never thought that I was in receipt of any patronage. This is the selection for a particularly arduous if honourable and satisfying job—unpaid, I hasten to say! That is the way we should look at it, and I suggest by this Motion the Government are continuing, at least for the moment, although they may well have debates on future policy, to carry out a policy and a programme which has been satisfactorily in existence since our entry into the Community in January 1973.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was good enough to tender me an apology, and of course in this House when any noble Lord does that one must accept it, and I do so. I am extremely puzzled at the remarks which he made when he said, for instance, that early Friday morning was the first occasion he knew, thought or felt there was in the Liberal Party any dissatisfaction with what had been done. Hansard will show what the noble Lord said. The noble Lord must have known talks were going on between the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, and that there had been correspondence about our worry at the Press reports. These conversations, as I understand it, ended on Tuesday in a second meeting in which the Prime 364 Minister said he would have a word with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. I do not know whether or not he did. All I can say is that is what we were told about it. I feel that on an occasion like this, where a distinguished person of any Party is to be dropped by Government decree, at least courtesy demands that he should not hear it on the 10 o'clock news on the radio.
I believe all fair-minded Members of this House will feel the present method of allocating the United Kingdom seats in the European Parliament, and the method of selecting members of the British delegation, is both unsatisfactory and unfair. The only satisfaction is expressed by the unity of the two Front Benches, who find this a very convenient way of handling our affairs. It is totally unsatisfactory for a Party like ours, with a substantial vote of between 5 million and 6 million in this country, to have our inadequate membership of two arbitrarily cut to one without any warning, and then to find, without any consultation, the Government have decided which of our two members shall be excluded from the European Parliament. If this is not discourtesy, I leave it to the House to judge what is. Even leaving out the question of discourtesy, we believe the method to be totally unfair. It is unsatisfactory because there is no proper agreement between the two Houses as to the basis on which the delegation should be selected, and the selection rests entirely in the hands of the Whips of the two major Parties, taking what advice they may care to do. So far as I can see, it has certainly not been done in consultation with anyone outside the two major Parties. I do not believe that this is right. It results in this House having no real say as to the members who would best reflect the political makeup of this Assembly.
As to the basis of the representation, I am advised that there is nothing in the Treaty of Rome nor in rule or custom that decrees that national delegations should be based on the number of seats and votes in the Lower Chamber or seats generally in one or both Houses. As has been said, in seven out of nine countries the proportion of seats and votes is similar because they use an electoral system based on the proportional representation. On this basis, the British delegation would consist, if that formula 365 were applied, of 15 from the Government, 15 from the Conservatives, 6 or 7 from the Liberals and one or two others. I am told by a prominent Member of the FDP whom I met yesterday that for 5 million people to be represented by one member would be unique in the EEC, and would certainly not be understood. Luxembourg, with a total population of 350,000 people, has six seats. The European Parliament is supposed to represent the main political forces in the nation. Therefore some regard must be had to the number of votes cast for each Party at the previous General Election. Even the French now include the Communists in the European Parliament because there was a strong feeling that the Communists should be represented as a group. I think they have a couple of members.
In 1972, on the basis of the 1970 General Election in which the Liberal Partly polled 7.5 per cent. of the votes, won six seats and had about 2 million votes, we were allotted two seats in the European Parliament. It is true that at that time the then Prime Minister said this might have to be reviewed if the Labour Party were to send their own delegation. But that was on the basis of under 8 per cent. of the national vote being gained by the Liberal Party, and only six seats in the Commons. In the October 1974 Election, where we did not do so well as we did in February, over 5 million Liberal votes were cast and the percentage of the national vote rose to 19 per cent. On this basis, where the Liberal Party is nearly half that of the Conservatives and of the Labour Party, and five times that of the SNP, surely there cannot be any case for reducing the Liberal representation from two to one.
Then we are told that a good guide to representation would be the proportions adopted by the Commons Committee of Selection when, for instance, they appoint members to Standing Committees. These proportions are: Government 19, official Opposition 15, and others 2. If this was in the Prime Minister's mind at the time he was having these discussions with my right honourable friend, it is quite clear that what has happened is that the Labour Party have forgone one seat by going down to 18 in order to raise the Conservatives from 15 to 16. I see no rhyme or reason at all in that.
366 But then we are told that that is not the basis. The basis is that which was used for the Council of Europe and that, I understand, is 18–16–2. That formula was agreed—if it ever was agreed—over 20 years ago and it is still used, despite the fact that the Liberal Party vote has come up from under 2 million to over 5 million; despite the fact that our percentage has come up from single figures to nearly 19 per cent. It cannot be right that that formula should be used today. In the days when that formula was first hit upon, there was no such thing as the Scottish Nationalist Party, no United Ulster Party and no Plaid Cymru. Times have changed and it seems to me that, if the noble Lord says this formula is still being used, that is a condemnation; it means that no notice has been taken of any electoral change over the last 20 years or so.
Apart from these considerations, I should like to put forward further claims for our representation not being reduced. First, it is widely recognised that it has been the Liberal Party alone which since the War has urged the formation of a European Community in which Britain would be a partner; and we campaigned in favour of Britain joining the EEC right from the beginning, when the Treaty of Rome was first mooted. And when we hear from the Conservative Front Bench about political balance, let it not be forgotten that the Liberal group in the European Parliament is the third largest group, and we ought to have at least two representatives in that group from the two Houses.
Secondly, both our representatives in the European Parliament, as has been recognised today by the tributes which have been paid, are men of outstanding distinction. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, whose membership of the European Parliament is to be summarily terminated without notice or consultation, is one of the more distinguished and effective members of that body. I do not know whether the House realises this, but he has continuing responsibilities; he is the active Vice-President of the Political Committee and he is the rapporteur of the draft Resolution on the defence of the Community. This is to be debated in September or October. It is his own Report and, according to the Government, he will not be there. The noble Lord has also 367 played a very large part in the preparation of the Report on the whole future of the Community, which is to be debated next week in the European Parliament. I am sorry my Lords, but I did not hear what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, it could be agreed, for the period, to drop the Member from the House of Commons.
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, why should we do that, because he, too, has on-going responsibilities? What seems to me utterly fantastic is that at less than 48 hours' notice you can terminate the work that is being done by a man in an important Parliament. If it is insisted that Liberal representation is reduced to one, my right honourable friend and I have the invidious task of choosing between two distinguished Members who have contributed much to the European movement in the last two and a half years, while the Labour Party have been sulking on the sidelines. I think it is totally unfair, after bearing the brunt of the referendum campaign and considering the work done by the Party ever since the formation of the EEC, that this should be the reward they get from the two major Parties in this Parliament.
Moreover, I would ask whether there is not a strong case for this House to be adequately represented. With over 40 Peers now taking the Liberal Whip, are we not entitled to at least one member? How can it be right for the Labour Party, with about 140 Peers taking the Whip, of whom I understand about 100 are active, to have six seats in the European Parliament, when the Liberal Party, with 40 Peers taking the Whip, of whom more than 30 are active, are to have no representation. Does the noble Lord wish to comment? I think he may be a little surprised when it comes to the vote. My right honourable friend put all these considerations to the Prime Minister, both in writing and verbally at two meetings last Tuesday. He gained the firm impression that the Prime Minister had been convinced of the Liberal case, and it was a complete shock to all of us when this Motion appeared on the Order Paper without consultation. Therefore I would ask the Government, on the grounds of justice alone, to withdraw this Motion so that further thought may be given to this whole question.
368 In 1972, when this matter was debated in another place, Mr. Michael Foot was one of the great protagonists of the appointment of a Select Committee to look into the whole basis of how this Parliament should be represented, and he was met by Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, who was speaking for the then Government, and who said, "We could go a long way along these lines ". This is not a new problem; it is something which must be threshed out, whether by means of a Select Committee, by consultation or by any other method. This present method cannot possibly be the right way to do it, and I shall ask my noble friends to support the Amendments of the noble Earls, Lord Perth and Lord Lauderdale. If these are not carried, we shall seriously consider opposing the Motion itself.
We have no intention of denying representation to the SNP or to the Cross-Benches of this House. We believe that they can be accommodated and our representation preserved if the behind-the-scenes patronage of the two major Parties, particularly in another place, is slightly eroded. Is the noble Lord trying to say that it is not patronage? If it is not patronage, what is it? We have been in politics for a long time and can recognise patronage after 40 years, and we know exactly how it works. The Government want to keep the present system because, as the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, said it is a "carve-up" between the two Front Benches. I hope we shall have the support of the many fair-minded Peers here today to retain what is, after all, still a meagre representation compared with anything which would, as in other countries, be related to the total number of votes cast for the Party in the country.
I think we have to get a proper basis on which representation is agreed and selection is made; and I am not in the least deterred by the threats of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that this would mean a constitutional clash between the two Houses. I get the feeling, having been to another place, having friends there and also having taken the feeling here, that there is a sense of unfairness and injustice about and I hope that that will be shown in the vote tonight.
§ 4.58 p.m.
The Earl of BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, perhaps it would be inappropriate 369 for me to say that I should like to defuse this situation; but certainly I should like, in a minute or two, to pour a little oil on these troubled waters. If the Motion by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal is accepted by your Lordships this evening, then I should like to say how much we in the European Conservative Group, of which my noble friend is also a member and which is led by my honourable friend, Mr. Peter Kirk, shall welcome the new Members of this House at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Monday. We have had to wait two and a half years for them to join us but, as one noble Earl said earlier, "better late than never", and perhaps they are all the more welcome for that reason. I look forward to working with noble Lords opposite in the various committees of the Parliament and have no doubt that on many occasions, in representing British interests in the Community, we may well be supporting each other more often than not.
The only other observation I would make is this. Despite the tremendous eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and indeed that of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale, it seems to me, pending direct elections to the European Parliament and perhaps ultimately electoral reform in this country, that the method of designation adopted by the last Conservative Government and accepted by the present Government is the most practical way of designating noble Lords in accordance with Article 138 of the Treaty. Therefore, regardless of the fact that I am one of those concerned—and I thought hard as to whether or not I should take part in the debate—I feel I should support the Lord Privy Seal's Motion and also what my noble friend Lord Mansfield said, whatever may be the ultimate solution. But we need a solution now, my Lords, because we shall look very silly in Strasbourg on Monday if we have not resolved this matter.
If indeed the noble Lords mentioned in the Lord Privy Seal's Motion are so designated, then, like other Members of your Lordships' House, I shall certainly greatly regret the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and of my noble friends Lady Elles and Lord Lothian who have not yet been mentioned in this debate. 370 But clearly some have had to drop out. That is what politics is about. In the past I myself have dropped out of Governments; so occasionally have certain noble Lords opposite. This happens. We shall miss the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and my other noble friends, very much. Lord Gladwyn has, as has already been said, put in a tremendous amount of work on the subject of political union and defence questions within the Community. After what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, I admit to having some understanding of the numerical case which the Liberal Party has put forward. But in regard to Lord Gladwyn, who has an important platform in your Lordships' House as, I think, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and that Party's spokesman on foreign affairs, I only hope that we shall continue to benefit from his advice here. I certainly will always listen to him with attention, as I always do to Lord O'Hagan, when he speaks either in your Lordships' House or on the Continent. But above all, my Lords, I would repeat the words of welcome which I mentioned at the outset of my remarks: we all look forward to seeing noble Lords on the opposite Benches in another Chamber on Monday.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Lord SHACKLETON
My Lords, I must confess that I had not intended to speak in this debate, but when the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, was kind enough to inform me about it I felt so sympathetic to his position that I thought I had better do some thinking about the issue. The conclusions to which I came were of such a kind that, although I am somewhat more removed from Party politics than I used to be when I was leading on one side of the House or another, I felt I ought to give your Lordships the benefit of them. On this occasion, not for the first time in politics and indeed not for the first time in anybody's life, we are confronted with the choice between a greater or a lesser evil, or alternatively between a greater good or a lesser good. The personal aspects of this controversy are particularly painful I think to all of us in your Lordships' House. I am glad to have heard the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, mention that others are involved—not merely the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble 371 Lord, Lord O'Hagan, much as we respect them.
If the Labour Party, as I would have wished, had three years ago gone into the European Parliament we should not have been faced with this problem at all. But unfortunately it did not—and I do not propose to go back over the referendum campaign. Incidentally, let me say to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that the Liberal Party were not the only people involved in the referendum campaign. I am reminded of a platform on which I spoke along with a Liberal and a Conservative Member of Parliament. I spoke before the Conservative Member, and when he rose to speak he said he thought that I had not given enough prominence to the Socialist case for entering Europe. I admit I had rather sensed that the audience was not particularly Socialist. However, he proceeded to give that case and it was a powerful one. It was the case that we are serious politicians; we are not just playing at representing this or that issue. We are here to make the European Parliament work and to take it very seriously indeed. Either it is a serious body or one that is just a bit of fun to which you send your friends as an act of patronage—a reward for good boys, particularly in another place, who have always obeyed the Whips, with nothing for those who have occasionally stepped over the line. That is a problem from which we do not suffer here.
Party politics may be working badly in this country at the moment. In looking at the serried ranks of the Cross-Benchers, I think they may be justified. I heard one saying that politicians were demonstrably failing. I should like to think that the Cross-Benchers are politicians, too. But although I have left active politics I still happen to be a Party man. I believe that the conduct of democracy depends on established groups within defined rules of behaviour and democratic custom. It is vital at this moment that the Labour Party should take up its full quota and work, as I hope it will, with its European Social Democratic colleagues and make the European Parliament a more effective body. Conservatives and Liberals, sometimes in a rather patronising way (I excuse them that; they had some grounds to be patronising) have twitted us and urged 372 us to take this matter seriously. My Lords, we are taking it seriously. This—and I beg noble Lords to think in these terms—is not just a matter of fairness to a particular individual.
I sympathise with what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has said, but it so happens that we are net debating the electoral system of this country. It may well be that the right answer—I personally hope that this will come about—is direct elections. But I would not for one moment accept that the methods that have been employed in selecting those whom the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has put forward have been in any way undemocratic. It has been the subject of full consultation. I do not know how the Conservative Party dealt with it, but certainly the Labour Party was given a full opportunity to express its views on how individuals should be chosen and to approve that choice, and then it was put to the House for decision. I do not accept that the methods that have been put forward are in some way undemocratic.
We now have two Amendments in front of us. I find the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, peculiarly difficult to understand. He spoke highly of the qualities of the Select Committee, but apparently he does not propose to submit the choice over the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, to that Committee. And we are up against a timetable. We may not be finding the right answer. The answer may offend some of us individually; indeed, I have been worried about it. But on 7th July, as the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, pointed out, it is important that a full delegation should appear at the European Parliament.
§ The Earl of PERTH
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way on the question of timetable? What is proposed in my Amendment, if it is accepted, is that the Committee of Selection should meet forthwith. I understand that it would be possible for them to meet this evening or first thing tomorrow morning. On the assumption that they have made their choice it is then possible—and would follow, I think—that a list of 10 members would be put before your Lordships tomorrow and could meet with your Lordships' approval. Therefore, I wish 373 your Lordships to understand that my Amendment would result in no difficulty of timetable and that the full representation of this House could be present on Monday.
§ Lord SHACKLETON
My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord is not proposing that all 10 members should be chosen or recommended by the Select Committee. But even granting his argument, I am bound to say that in a difficult situation it is always very easy to blame the Party managers. Let me also say to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that in our Party in this House the decision would be made not by the usual channels or by the Whips; it would be made by unanimous election. My noble friend Lord Champion was advised by the Chief Whip but he acted for us all. Let me say this about the position of the House of Lords: there is nothing that your Lordships enjoy more than occasionally beating your breasts and saying, "We shall not give in to threats from another place." It is very popular and lovely to be brave and say, "We shall stand out"; and when the last bee sting of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, goes in, no doubt we shall be able to have the satisfaction that we stood out!
Nobody has greater affection for your Lordships or for the work of this House than I have and I think that this is known to the House of Lords. One of our great qualities is that we are not always Party political, that we do not always know the way the votes are going, that it is possible for a Conservative Government as well as for a Labour Government to be defeated in this House, despite their large paper majority. But let us accept that we are quite unrepresentative in democratic terms. I wish to goodness that we had carried through the reform of the House of Lords. Then we should have had rather more influence in these matters. It is quite all right for us to go on working within our own conventions and to make valuable contributions, but I am doubtful whether we should export our somewhat peculiar constitution to the European institutions. This is a difficult problem. In this dilemma the decisions which have been reached after very anxious thought by the leadership of the two main Parties who are most likely to have the responsibility for the Govern- 374 ment of this country is the best that can be done in the circumstances.
Indeed, it is arguable that your Lordships' House—which is not always the most popular of institutions with certain of our colleagues in another place who do not realise what splendid people we are—has been treated generously in this matter. I would say, not as an act of cowardice or of giving way to threats, that we should be very ill-advised to carry either of these Amendments at this moment and not to take the advice of the noble Lord the Leader of the House of Lords—and no doubt in due course the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. Sometimes we in this House forget that politics are about power within rules.
I believe that the Labour Party must now play the part that I greatly regret they have not played until now. Despite my sympathy for the great services of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, I come inevitably to the conclusion that what we should do today is carry the Motion which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Lord O'HAGAN
My Lords, I am as embarrassed to be speaking as your Lordships may be to be listening. So embarrassed was I yesterday that I took my name off the Order Paper, but I put it on to the Order Paper again because I have played a small part in doing what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just said cannot and should not be done, which is to export the peculiar constitution of this House to the institutions of the European Economic Community.
Perhaps I could very briefly give a firsthand report to the House of the practical consequences of trying to do this. I should like to congratulate wholeheartedly the Labour members of the delegation and to sympathise with those others who, like myself, are under sentence of death. I agree with the noble Lord the Leader of the House in what he said about the origin of the Cross-Bench place in the European Parliament. I have always known that I was a squatter, although I have made every effort to acquire security of tenure. I am speaking today with no sense of bitterness, or personal betrayal, or sour grapes. I always knew that what has happened to me was a possibility.
375 Despite what the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, has said, I believe that until direct elections take place, both Houses of all the Parliaments of all the Member-States have something to contribute to the European Parliament. There is a wide variety of views represented in the European Parliament. Apart from those whom the noble Earl mentioned, there is Mr. Morgan of the No-Tax Party. There is an Italian monarchist and there are two members of the Walloon Nationalist Front. If the European Parliament has been able to absorb them, I can assure your Lordships that it has been able to absorb me! It may be that the noble Earl was cocooned by the elaborate paraphernalia and the expensive services provided by the European Parliament for members of groups.
I can assure the noble Earl that one reason for having a non-Party member in the European Parliament is to keep a watching eye on what the political Parties are doing with all the money that they vote themselves continuously, because the European Parliament is responsible for its own budget and is accountable to nobody for it. I can also assure the noble Earl that, in fact, the working realities of the independent member are much less harsh than he has suggested. I have found that it is possible, with ingenuity and imagination, to be an effective member of the European Parliament. Some noble Lords say, "How can any Cross-Bencher represent the rest of the Cross-Benchers?" The answer is that, of course, we cannot, except in an administrative way through our convener. I was elected to the European Parliament by my fellow Cross-Benchers at the end of 1972 to be as Cross-Bench there as I am here, and this is what I have tried to do.
I believe that other Upper Houses reflect the proportions of their working membership. In Belgium, France and Italy the representation of their Upper Houses in the European Parliament is not according to the representation as elected in their Lower Houses, but according to the spread of opinion in their Upper Houses. Although I am not speaking personally, I believe that our own peculiar constitution has been and until the next Election can continue to be successfully and usefully exported to the European Parliament.
376 What complaints have we had so far? The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, mentioned the importance of Committee work in the European Parliament, and he was quite right to do so. But he also said that the European Parliament discriminated against independent members. This is true. In the past, the European Parliament has made it difficult for independent members to be represented on committees. But I should like to read a letter that I received this week from the President of the European Parliament. It began "Dear Colleague", which encouraged me, and went on:… it becomes necessary to review the membership of European Parliament bodies to ensure that non-attached members are guaranteed the same opportunity as other members to sit on Parliamentary committees."Non-attached" is the European Parliament's word for "Cross Bench."
The European Parliament is capable of dealing with independents and is making increased provision for them. The President enclosed a resolution from the Bureau—which is the "usual channels" of the European Parliament—and the extract which he sent to me stated:Considering that after the British referendum and the arrival of Labour members at the European Parliament, it will soon be necessary to hold new elections for the appointment of members to Parliamentary Committees "—the Bureau—adopted the principle that non-attached "—that is, independent—members will then be individually entitled to the same number of Committee seats as the average available to the other Members of Parliament, subject to a limit of one non-attached member per Committee.My Lords, the European Parliament has independent members. I admit that all the others except myself belong to political Parties, but increased opportunities for them to work in and through the Parliament are being created. The President of the European Parliament is the President of a Socialist group. He is not expecting a Cross-Bench Member of your Lordships' House to be removed. If I read this letter aright, he does not see this as part of the price to be paid for the arrival of the Labour members at Strasbourg, which we all welcome.
I hope your Lordships will vote for the two Amendments that we are discussing today, because I do not feel that 377 what has been settled between the two Front Benches is fair nor do I believe that many of your Lordships feel it is fair. If your Lordships are not able to vote for the Amendments for reasons of loyalty, I hope you will at least abstain, because today we are being asked to reinforce the powers of this House and to ensure a fair representation of its working Members in a legislative body that has taken away some of the powers and influence of this House. One of the cases against the Community was, and is, that membership of the Community results in a permanent downgrading of the power of Westminster. By going to Strasbourg, British Parliamentarians can reclaim and recoup some Parliamentary control. Is that privilege to be denied to two important sections of the working membership of your Lordships' House? I do not think that would be fair, and I hope the House will vote for both Amendments.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Lord CHAMPION
My Lords, it took a great deal of courage, I am sure, for the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, to make his speech in this House today. I remember that when the noble Lord came to this House, in his first and immediately subsequent speeches we recognised that this was a new force coming into this Chamber and one which we all welcomed. The only regret that I have about the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, is that he has not increased the power which is clearly his by joining the Labour Party where he clearly belongs, for here he would have done a first-class job of work and I am sure he would have had the backing of this Party in the work that he has had to do.
I join with those who have sympathised with him and with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, but I also sympathise with the two Conservative members who have been dropped from this delegation. I sympathise with them because I know what it is to be dropped. I was dropped from this Front Bench and it is not a very pleasant thing to happen to one. But I also sympathise with Mr. Kirk, who had to take the decision with regard to the two Conservative members who have been praised by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for the work they have done in the European Assembly. They too have undoubtedly 378 rendered a great service to this country, and I sympathise with Mr. Kirk in having to drop them.
It was said by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, that those of us who were engaged in the selection of those whose names appear before your Lordships today were engaged in—what did he call it?—a "carve up of patronage". I never realised that I was doing that when I was selecting, or rather helping to select, the group who appear on the Order Paper and who represent the Labour Party. I very much doubt whether the patronage that I have exercised in this connection will bring any kudos to myself. I can well imagine that when those who are going have experience of the European Assembly, of the work involved and the financial sacrifices they will have to make, they will curse me rather than feel that I have conferred upon them a very great favour.
§ Lord CHAMPION
Yes indeed, my Lords, they might come borrowing, but they will not get anything from me. The Prime Minister, speaking in the other place on 24th June at column 240 said:… about the European Assembly … It is a matter for this House because the list has to be approved by this House. It has long been understood in relation to both the Council of Europe and other overseas assemblies that the names are selected by the individual Parties concerned, but they require approval by this House and this will happen in this case. "—[Official Report, Commons; 24/6/75, c. 240.]It seems to me that the key words in that statement are, "it has long been understood" and,"the individual Parties concerned". In the matter of delegations, so far as my memory goes back—and that is to membership of the Council of Europe, 1949 to 1951—agreement as to the membership of that Assembly was always hammered out between the Parties, as to numbers and so on. It was always a matter for Party decisions. There has been agreement on the allocation of places available to the British Parliament as between the Parties in the Commons and in the House of Lords, and also on the proportion of the places going to each House. That agreement resulted when neither major Party had a large majority in the Commons in the formula 379 that we now know of the 36 places being divided as to 18 to Government members, 16 to the main Opposition Party and two to others—the 18, the 16 and the two being selected by the Parties concerned. The only difficulty that I can ever remember being raised on the Floor of the other place about the selection was by a Member who thought that his very exceptional qualities had been overlooked by his Party.
My Lords, the formula devised for the Council of Europe was adopted by the Conservative Government in 1972 as a sound basis for the European Parliament membership. In the circumstances of the decision made necessary by the nearness of the meeting of the European Parliament, it was a wise decision of the Government of today to stick to a tried and tested formula. This day, four days before the opening of the plenary session of the European Parliament on 7th July, is certainly not the time to start interfering with the selections made by the Parties in this House. Even to talk of the Committee of Selection meeting forthwith is to fail to recognise what is involved in the preparation for such a meeting, and in the preliminary discussions that normally precede it.
In the light of past practice and custom which has worked so well, the House would be well advised not to embark on the selection of members for this delegation in opposition to the advice of the Parties. That is what the first Motion on the Order Paper embodies namely, the advice of the Parties. Clearly, it would be inadvisable for us on the Floor of the House to start to try to assess the qualifications of this Member as against that, but that is what the first Amendment on the Order Paper is asking us to do—virtually to cut out two of those already appearing in the Motion of my noble friend and to substitute two others mentioned in the Amendment. It is the case that the rules of neither this House nor the other recognise Parties as such, but without Parties the system of Parliamentary democracy as we understand it would be unworkable. Although the rules of neither House contemplate the two-Party system, practical politics consist of conflict between Government and Opposition, with the minor Parties intervening. This means that we have to 380 accept that in practice much of Parliamentary procedure in fact is dominated by the Party spirit.
Although I accept the fact that the Party system is essential to our form of democracy and that conflict is desirable, I assert that without the arrangements of the usual channels, the behind-the-chair discussions and decisions, this and the other place would be unworkable as reasonable institutions. These consultations necessarily take place, and are known to everybody to take place. This is an incontrovertible fact which has for many years been accepted by the vast majority of Parliamentarians in this country.
My Lords, having said all that, I must add that I am not opposed to an examination of the system of allocation of places as between Government and Opposition Parties, and as between the elected and non-elected Houses of Parliament. I think an examination might take place—all of which certainly demands some thought being given to it. For, as I understand it, what has happened, has resulted in ten places being allocated to this House, and this arose not from any particular desire to see this House holding nearly one-third of the places on the delegation, but because pairing arrangements in the other place made such a division between the two Houses essential in the circumstances of the narrowness of the balance between Government and Opposition. These are the facts of life that we have to face. An examination of these general arrangements, including that of the proportion of places allocated to this House, ought not to be decided by the pairing necessities of the Parties in the other place.
This matter certainly needs consideration, not just by a Select Committee of this House alone, but by both Houses of Parliament. This is where I disagree very much with the Amendments that appear on the Order Paper. Certainly I would favour an examination of the whole system of appointment and allocation of the places between the two Houses, but certainly not by a Select Committee in the first place, not even a Joint Select Committee drawn from the two Houses. Consideration should be given to the matter by the Parties in both Houses; there should be consultations between the leaders of the Parties in both Houses. 381 They know what the parties feel about this, and they could do something in preparation, perhaps, for ensuring that eventually there shall be a fairer and better method of allocation. Such consultations might eventually have to have over them the umbrella of some formal decision, perhaps by a Select Committee. But initially to attempt to do this by the methods proposed in the Amendments appears to me to make a nonsense of what we know to be the facts of life in relation to Parliament as a whole.
My Lords, in the coming period and before we have again to decide on who should go to Europe, I hope that we shall see that the consultations I have suggested will take place, and that decisions will be taken which will prevent us having to discuss such a matter as we are today—talking about personalities, talking about people, paying tribute and so on. I should like to see something acceptable to the House as a whole, including, of course, the Cross-Benches and the Liberal Party.
The Motion before us today does not result from an abuse of Parliament or the Party system, but rather from its sensible application. The simple fact is that the Motion on the Order Paper is the result of a system that works reasonably well. It is not perfect, of course; it is something which should be subject to examination, as I have suggested. But the very fact that it works is the supreme test of the British Constitution and the British Parliament. That it works is an example to the rest of the world seeking to institute Parliamentary democracy.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Lord STRANG
My Lords, my reason for speaking today is to place on record some points about Cross-Bench Peers which may be material to the present debate. I intend to speak in a low key. May I recall what happened in December 1972. Then, two places for Cross-Bench Peers were asked for; one was agreed to by the then Leader of the House, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. But it was explained at the time that when at some future date the Labour members took their places, the position would have to be reconsidered, and that was accepted. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, told the House a short time ago. I have the permission of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to say that that is what occurred.
382 My Lords, three names came before a meeting of Cross-Bench Peers, and one was chosen. It was a good choice. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has won golden opinions. He did not go to the European Parliament to represent the Cross-Bench Peers, to speak in their name, or on their behalf. He could not do that. As the noble Lord himself said, he went to the European Parliament to act as an independent, a non-Party member exactly as he does in your Lordships' House. As he has testified, his position was well understood by his colleagues in Strasbourg.
My Lords, who are the Cross-Bench Peers? They number about 150. Their regular attendance, of course, is very much less than this. Essentially they are Peers who take no Party Whip, who, when they attend, habitually sit together on these Benches, who allow their names to be enrolled on the Cross-Bench list, and, when they can, attend the weekly meeting of Cross-Bench Peers. Outside this definition there are, of course, the Law Lords, who sit with us but are not carried on the Cross-Bench list. And for all we know, there may well be Peers in other parts of the House who take no Party Whip but who do not sit with us.
Why do Peers decline to take a Party Whip? Some are genuinely non-Party; some are retired public servants who have served Governments of both Parties. Some have definite Party sympathies, but because they hold some public office prefer for the time being to lay aside their active Party allegiance. Some are not in full sympathy with their Parties. Some just do not like to be at the receiving end of a Whip. In our political opinions we range widely from Right to Left. We have no Leader and no Whip. One of our number, curiously called the Convenor, helps us in our relations with the authorities of the House, and I should like to say here and now how much we owe to Lady Hylton-Foster for the help she gives us.
We make no attempt to co-ordinate our voting patterns. At the time of the discussions on the reform of the House, statistics showed that the Cross-Bench vote for and against the Government was cumulatively about equal. There are occasions when the Cross-Bench vote is predominantly in favour of the Government, 383 and there are occasions when the Cross-Bench vote is predominantly against the Government, and I would guess that the Party Whips pay close attention to this. Clearly, therefore, we are political animals, but we are not politically organised political animals. It would be foolish to deny that Party is a major part of the fabric of political life as it is carried out in our kind of society. It would be equally foolish to claim that Party is the sole component of politics. There can be politics without Party, and that is the kind of politics we try to practise. If we are united about one thing, it is that we deeply cherish our independence.
The political role of the Cross-Bench Peers was emphatically stated in the proposals for the reform of the House contained in the White Paper (Cmnd. 3799) of November 1968. Those proposals were elaborated by a Committee composed of representatives of all three political Parties in both Houses. On occasion, under those proposals the votes of 30 Cross-Bench Peers, out of a total voting House of 230, could in effect have held the balance between Government and Opposition. That would have been an important political role. In addition, for a wise and well-informed appraisal of the position of the Cross-Bench Peers in this House, I would recommend your Lordships to look at pages 124 to 126 of a recent book by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, which is called Politics in Practice.
My Lords, after what has already been said, I do not propose to repeat the case for the inclusion of a Cross-Bench Peer among the members of the European Parliament. Lord O'Hagan in particular, from personal experience, has shown how hollow are some of the arguments against such inclusion. In effect, what has happened is that the two main political Parties have taken all the places. Calling upon all the moderation I can, I am bound to say that that does them no credit, no credit at all. I have no more to say. While realising that there are strong objections to the two Amendments before the House, I still feel that it would be right to support both of them.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord MAYBRAY-KING
My Lords, may I first say how glad I am to realise that for the first time we are going to have a full delegation of British representatives in the European Parliament. I would pay tribute to Mr. Peter Kirk, who, in the absence of a Labour delegation, has led the British representatives so well at Strasbourg; to Lord Bessborough, who has been Deputy Leader of his Party and Vice-President of the Assembly; and especially to Lord Gladwyn, about whom it is almost impossible to speak too highly, as Vice-Chairman of the Political Committee, Chairman of the Defence Committee, a noble man with a tremendous reputation of international service behind him.
I am happy to follow my noble friend Lord Strang, who has given us the picture of the nature of the Cross-Bench animal. He was for many years our distinguished mentor and our Convener until he was succeeded by my noble friend Lady Hylton-Foster. In the nature of things, Cross-Benchers can rarely be unanimous; but the Cross-Benchers, all 156 of them, are unanimous in their appreciation of the work Lord O'Hagan has done at the European Assembly.
My Lords, Cross-Benchers are a unique phenomenon in the Parliamentary world. We had hoped that when the new delegation was chosen the Government would make provision for the Cross-Benchers to have a seat. Especially we felt that in view of the excellent work I have spoken about by Lord O'Hagan. So some of us went on a delegation to see the Leader of the House. He received us several times, most courteously, as always; but we gathered then, and we gathered once we saw the Motion on the Order Paper, that our visits, though pleasant, had been fruitless.
I am one of the first to realise that the structure of Britain's representation in Europe is an intensely Party political question. And it must be governed by the usual considerations of the Government Party having its majority and, as far as it can giving fair representation to the minorities. It is also true that the European Parliament itself is intensely Party political in its make-up—more Party conscious, I believe, than 385 even our own Parliament. So it might be thought that the Cross-Bencher would be as anomalous in the European Parliament as the House of Lords is in the free democratically-elected Parliamentary bodies. But the experience that Lord O'Hagan has described today, founded on his experience, has shown that it is possible for a Cross-Bencher, despite the chasms and the structure of the Parties, to play a useful part.
The number of Cross-Benchers, to quote part of Dunning's famous Resolution, has increased, is increasing; far from diminishing, it is increasing year by year, will increase as long as the present practice of creating Life Peers continues, and that seems to be a permanent institution now. So sooner or later I think your Lordships will have to consider the case of the 156 Cross-Benchers, different, but alike in one thing, in their independence and their love of Parliament and their desire to serve it.
On the issue of the two Amendments before us I speak with great diffidence, and I feel I must express a personal opinion. In the other place when I became Speaker I was defender of the rights of the House of Commons against all corners, including your Lordships. But I also there sought, as I do this afternoon, to preserve the courtesies and the good understanding between the two Houses. I am happy that this debate is being continued in such a fine, high, and generous tone. I have not changed; on the day that I was elected Speaker I said that although I left my Party for all time I believed, and I do now, in the Party system, even though I no longer belonged to it. I believe that on all important matters of policy the power of decision must lie finally in the hands of elected Members. We here can seek to amend, and we do; we can seek to advise; we can urge the Government to have second thoughts—and often do with tremendous success. But constitutionally the House of Commons is the final arbiter of important matters, and it consists of a Government and the Government are the majority of the elected Members in that place.
Now in this matter of choosing the delegates to Europe the decision has been made by the Government. They have consulted the Opposition, but apparently have not adequately considered all the 386 Opposition. We have seen that from what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has said. I regret that very much. I feel that if the Liberals had been given the choice, and had to accept the fact that they had only one delegate to Europe, they would have sent the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, rather than Mr. Russell Johnston. But the Government decided, as the Conservative Government did previously, what the Party strength at Strasbourg should be. The Conservatives were freer because when there were no Labour delegates there they were able to be generous and provide two places for the Liberals, and indeed one for the Cross-Benches. The present Government have, as we know, dropped the Cross-Bencher here, and then had to decide to what other minority Parties they would give seats, and they gave one to the Liberals and one to the Scottish Nationalists. So the Liberals at this moment are, I think, paying the price of the Scottish Nationalists having a seat in Europe.
The reasons for this decision are political and not personal. As I said earlier, I regret the loss of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, but according to Peter Kirk in the debate early yesterday morning—and indeed, according to my noble friend Lord Strang, who has just confirmed it—it was made clear at the time of Lord O'Hagan's appointment that it would be only for the time that no Labour delegation existed, and that once the Labour Party took a full delegation the position of the noble Lord. Lord O'Hagan, and indeed of the two Liberals, might have to be changed.
As for the Liberal loss, that is a Party matter on which I cannot comment, except once more to pay tribute to the character and quality of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, an elder statesman of supreme distinction. I regret that the Liberals were not allowed themselves to choose which Liberal they wanted to send to Strasbourg.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene here, because the noble Lord has twice referred to this matter. It is still open, even at this very moment, for the Liberals to decide who shall go to Strasbourg. If the Liberals were to inform the House of Commons that the honourable Member for Inverness should be withdrawn and were to 387 ask me, as Leader of the House, as the Conservatives have done on a previous occasion, to move a Motion that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, should go to Strasbourg, that could be done, and would be done, with the greatest of expedition.
§ Lord MAYBRAY-KING
My Lords, I am sure that the Liberals will have noted with interest what the Leader of the House has said. I speak for myself, as all Cross-Benchers do, and I would regret it very much if the happy relations between the two Houses were in any way marred this afternoon. I believe the relations would be marred if the first Amendment were carried, and the House of Lords said not that we are choosing certain people as delegates, but that we are changing the Party structure which Her Majesty's Government have set out for the delegation to Europe, for the effect of the first Amendment would be just that. Therefore, I cannot support the first Amendment. I hope that the Leader of the House will look sympathetically on the second Amendment which, as I read it, accepts the position but says that in the months ahead we might look at the whole question.
Finally, in all this I think that the Leader of the House has acted blamelessly. Her Majesty's Government created a Party structure. Here, his Party and the Conservative Party carried out in a proper way—and we have the noble Lord, Lord Champion, giving us an example of his work—the selection of the delegates, without any interference from the Leader of the House or the Leader of the Conservative Party in this House. As a fervent European I regret that there have been any difficulties at all at this historic moment. It may yet be possible for the Government to think again. I took comfort from the last words of the speech of the Lord Privy Seal when he opened this debate. Perhaps some day your Lordships will recognise that the Cross-Benches are a force. It has been suggested that we can settle the fate of any Division. If we voted as a party of 156, indeed we could; but you will find that on any question Cross-Benchers are on both sides of the House. I end by hoping that the delegation now setting out on its great and very important career will have success and the good will of this House and the other place.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Lord DIPLOCK
My Lords, I am perforce compelled to speak from the Cross-Benches because there is nowhere else from where I can speak, but I cannot speak as a Cross-Bencher. Beyond, therefore, expressing the sympathy and regret which any human being must express to those Members of this House who have served in the past in the European Parliament and will serve no longer, it would be quite improper for me to express any views about who should be nominated, or indulge in an expression of any views as to their qualifications. I shall therefore abstain upon the first Amendment, because that is the one which dictates the persons who shall go to the European Parliament. What I am concerned with is how those representatives in this House should be selected.
There is only one function which the Treaty recognises as being possessed by national Parliaments, and that is the nomination of representatives to the European Assembly, in striking contrast to the power to nominate to the other three Community institutions—not only the Commission and the Council, but also the European Court of Justice—which in contrast, is in the hands confided by the Treaty to Governments, and nomination to the European Parliament is confided by the Treaty to the Parliament, not the Government.
The referendum being over, we are now in the Community for keeps and it is—and it has appeared from every speaker in this debate so far—our common aim to make the Community work efficiently and better than it has worked before, and the particular institution for which this House is concerned and for which it has a responsibility is the European Parliament. It should be our aim, and I am sure it is the aim of all of us, that we should appoint to the European Parliament the Members of this House who are best qualified to enable it to perform its functions of a Community institution efficiently, in the best interests of the Community as a whole, of which we are members, and with due regard to the particular interests of the United Kingdom. When the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said that in the European Parliament he spoke for Britain and not for this House, it is true of all the Members of this House who have been in the European Parliament that they 389 spoke for Britain and not for this House and not for any particular Party in this House.
There is, I venture to think, some misconception of the functions and of the method of working of the European Parliament if one supposes that it is a similar political institution to the United Kingdom Parliament. It is, of course, highly political but it is political in a different way. At present it exercises no legislative powers; it is purely consultative, and it is this Parliament, constituted as it is at present and exercising the powers that it has at present, to which we are engaged in nominating representatives tonight. There are three years at least before direct representation comes—years of great importance in the functioning of the Community, years perhaps of economic crisis, and it may well be that 1978 is a date earlier than that at which direct representation will come in—and it is to that Parliament, working as it does now, that our representatives are going.
Although in theory the European Parliament is consulted on Community proposals only after they have been submitted to the Council—and this is the most important way in practice in which its influence is exercised—they are consulted by the Commission on the proposals when they are in avant-projet stage before they are submitted to the Council, and it is at that stage that the most important part of the work of the European Parliament is done today and will be done in the few years that we are contemplating. The major work of that Parliament is done by, I think it is now, 13 sub-committees dealing with groups of subjects, specialist subject meetings, in the same way as we have found it necessary in the Select Committee of this House to divide up into sub-committees with similar groups of subject matter. The object of most of the Community legislation is uncontroversial in the Party political sense; controversial yes, but controversial as to the best methods of achieving a common object on which all are agreed but having regard to technical considerations arising out of different circumstances and different systems of law, to come to my own subject, of the Member-States.
This has certainly been borne out by my experience as a member of the sub-committee of the Select Committee and 390 Chairman of the Law Sub-Committee for the last nine months. On to those sub-committees we have co-opted noble Lords because of their experience or expertise in the particular subject of the committee to which they are adopted and I cannot recall during those nine months any proposed legislation coming from the Commission which did not raise questions which I could describe as bipartisan. I do not recall any case in which the views of the committee depended on whether they took any or which Party Whip, and indeed I have to be a non-political animal; unlike the Cross-Bench Peers, I could not tell your Lordships which Whip, if any, many of the members on that committee take.
In this House we have a fund of expertise among the Members which is quite independent of which Whip they take or whether they take no Whip at all, and we can best achieve what is the common aim of all of us, to assist the European Parliament to do its job well with due regard to the particular interests of this country, if we adopt a method of selection of Members of this House with the expert knowledge and experience which will enable them to bring their service to these specialist committees of the European Parliament and produce, at that important formative stage when they are consulted by the Commission, the result which technically is the best way of achieving an object that we have in common.
I am not only not a political animal, but I have little knowledge of how the procedure of this House operates in matters outside the Judicial Committee. But surely our object should be to find the best procedure for selecting Members with those qualifications which will enable them to help the European Parliament to do a better job than it has done before, and for that reason I shall support the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale.
I would just add that, as I understand the noble Earl's Amendment, it would not affect the timetable for the next meeting, which I think is on Monday or Tuesday next week. It is concerned to allow those whose names are on the Motion to go until the next session, and in the meantime we should appoint a Select Committee to consider the best way of selecting membership of this House so as to 391 have members who can best serve the interests of the Community and make the institution of Parliament work well.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
My Lords, this is clearly a painful occasion, and it is the more regrettable to me because it is a consequence of the refusal of the Parliamentary Labour Party to send delegates to the European Assembly at the outset. Had that been done, we should have overcome some of the difficulties which have since arisen. In any case, we should not have had the temporary representation in the European Assembly which today we are asked to remedy and bring to an end. I know it is easy to say, "Better late than never", but that overlooks the trauma of the Labour Party and the anguish of some of the delegates, which we have gone through to get where we are. It was a very bitter experience for many noble Lords and many of our colleagues in another place. But that cannot be helped now. We have to try to adjust ourselves to the decision of the Parliamentary Labour Party to send delegates to the European Parliament.
A number of the speeches which have been made in this debate leave me with the impression that, while we may be part of the institution of Parliament, we are not a very important part of the political life of the country. I suppose that is why so few people are interested in what we do. It is only when we make trouble that people give their attention to your Lordships' House. However, there are one or two fundamentals that it is right to mention in this debate. The first is that, whatever we do on an important matter like this, it has to be done in a spirit of accommodation with another place. In this matter we are not a power by ourselves. The second point is that we are not an elected Chamber, and therefore we can make no claim to an elected representative role.
We have only a constitutional existence and not a representative place in the institution of Parliament. We are of great value in domestic politics and affairs, but I doubt whether your Lordships' House could really claim to represent this country in political and Parliamentary institutions elsewhere, which are based on 392 the expression of the political will of the member-States. This is quite fundamental to the matter. Up to a point, we have reserve powers in Parliament, we have delaying powers, a revising function, a safeguarding role, but in many respects we are an anachronism. Your Lordships' House, as it is today, exists through the failure of political opinion and political power to resolve the underlying dilemma of the continued existence of the House of Lords in our Parliamentary institutions in 1975.
We all remember the preamble to the 1911 Parliament Act. How many years have gone by since then without fundamental revision of the position and power of your Lordships' House? If we are asked bluntly to speak the truth, I do not think your Lordships' House has any real case to participate in the European Assembly. In my opinion, we can make that claim only by consent of the elected Chamber. We have no claim deriving from our own representativeness, or from our own constitutional position. When we have direct elections to the European Assembly—and I join with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in hoping that that will come soon—I hope that Members of your Lordships' House can stand for election to the European Parliament alongside other candidates who may be eligible to serve this country.
Much stress has been made upon the nationalistic aspect of our representation at the European Parliament. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said that when he was there he spoke not for Party but for Britain, but with great respect to him, I think one has to be very modest indeed in claiming to speak for Britain. Which Britain? Which part of Britain? Which sections of Britain? Moreover the European Economic Community is not a League of Nations; it is a Community.
§ The Earl of MANSFIELD
My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that at the time of which I was speaking, because there was no Labour representation at Strasbourg, it was incumbent upon us to speak for everybody?
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
My Lords, I shall not pursue the matter. I am sure that the noble Earl, in making his claim, did so sincerely and genuinely. But I would still beg leave to question whether the noble Earl could speak for 393 the sort of Britain for which I should want to speak. We each have our different approaches to our role on these occasions. But I think I am entitled to say that the European Economic Community is not a League of Nations, with each country speaking for itself. I hope that there will be a much greater degree of integration of the representatives of the peoples of Europe, so that those who go to the European Parliament can speak for that section of political thought and action which they believe they represent in their own country, and can join with others of like-minded politics and bring about a new dimension of political controversy and debate within the European Community. That is my expectation and hope of the European Community and its Parliament.
A further point I should like to make is that the members and political composition of the delegation to go from your Lordships' House must be determined by the elected Chamber, by reference to the balance of political power in that Chamber. I do not believe that we in this House can reserve to ourselves our own concept of political balance and representativeness. I feel we must reflect what the electorate has said in the composition of the House of Commons.
Another point with regard to representation is the following: the noble Lord, Lord Byers, opened up the whole question of electoral reform when he referred to the number of Liberal votes as opposed to the number of seats they would have in the European Assembly and the number of seats they have in the House of Commons. I have a good deal of sympathy with the Liberal point of view about electoral reform, but we have to deal with existing circumstances in the field of representation in Parliament. We cannot begin to revise representation by reference to votes when the power in the elected Chamber exists by means of seats. I believe that it is the seats in Parliament which have to be taken as the basis of dividing up representation because they represent the reality of political power in the elected Chamber.
§ Lord RAGLAN
My noble friend talks about this House being—as it is—unelected and unrepresentative, yet he says that the Lower House also tends to be unrepresentative although it is elected. 394 Can he clarify his thinking on this? He seems to have two opposite and colliding strands of thought.
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
My Lords, I have not time to clarify my thinking on the matter. I am trying to be very brief indeed and to make a few assertions for your Lordships' consideration. If I may say so to my noble friend, he can clarify his own thinking on what I am saying and that may help me one day to clarify mine. I believe that these are the crudities of the situation. Finally, I come to the distressing case of the Cross-Benchers. Here, I feel in very close proximity to them, divided, however, by a strip of carpet which I hope will protect me from any unwelcome demonstration.
§ Lord HOUGHTON of SOWERBY
Cross-Benchers in front of me and Cross-Benchers behind me, my Lords, but there is no place in a political assembly in Europe for the Cross-Bencher. He is a valuable domestic animal and of enormous use to your Lordships' House, but, frankly, in a European Assembly I believe him to be practically useless. After all, Cross-Benchers represent no political point of view. They may embody an enormous amount of expertise, but it is not expertise that we are sending to Europe. We are sending political power and opinion to Europe. The expertise can be obtained by the politicians.
A final word about the sudden change. Personally, I feel deeply distressed at the exclusion of the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord O'Hagan. These are very painful occasions. One thing that has struck me as a relative newcomer to your Lordships' House is the deep personal attachment which large numbers of members have one for another. There is a feeling of personal comradeship here which is in striking contrast to the bitterness, political rivalry and discord encountered in another place. However, it is there that the real battle and struggle for power is going on, not here.
In political life, we are all at risk of being stopped in our tracks when we have ongoing commitments. My noble friend Lord Champion said that he had been so stopped when he had ongoing commitments; I was stopped in my tracks when 395 I had ongoing commitments. With a change of Government after a General Election, a lot of people are stopped in their tracks with ongoing commitments. We just have to give them up. After all, we read the story of a Minister who is leaving Office and in the paper the next morning it says he called briefly at his office to clear his desk of his personal papers and then departed. That is a measure of how quickly it takes place. Did I not once read of a noble Earl who was Prime Minister leaving by the back door because it was embarrassing to leave by the front? These painful experiences are part of the ruthless life of politics and, if we cannot stand them, we do not have to take part in them. It is sad but inevitable that there should be these sudden changes.
My conclusion is that noble Lords, if they pass these Amendments, would be in danger of making a serious political mistake. I believe that that would be a great pity. It will be a tragedy of some dimensions if we put ourselves in conflict with another place over a subject which, while it is important, is one which is not of permanent duration. I hope that, within a relatively short period of time, a new form of election to the European Assembly will overcome these difficulties.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord ALPORT
My Lords, while the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, was speaking and in the middle of his argument, I was struck by the same point which brought the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, to intervene. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, was saying that the present system ought to continue until a new system of direct elections came into being, perhaps in 1978 or thereabouts. In the meantime, we could go on with a system of appointment based on the original system of the Council of Europe. But surely what we are proposing here with the second Amendment of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale is a step in what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, would agree is the right direction, because it would enable the delegation going from this country not to be merely a reflection of the House of Commons as it is produced by our existing electoral system but also to be a reflection of a wider representation which would be closer to the eventual form of the representation 396 when it takes place as a result of direct election.
I should have thought, therefore, that the noble Lord would have been on our side. Further, I believe that he was under some misapprehension when he suggested that, if there had been a Labour component in the delegation in 1972, there would never have been a problem of this sort. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, made exactly the same point, but I am sure the noble Lord, will remember that exactly the same problem arose on that occasion. The only reason why I am intervening very briefly in this debate is in order to support my noble friend Lord Lauderdale as I did on that previous occasion. On this occasion, I am trying to make exactly the same point as I did then. What I objected to and what my noble friend objects to is that the present system of appointment is based on patronage. I do not say for one moment that this was a very great element in the minds of the Front Benches of both Houses on this occasion, but there is no doubt at all that the appointments to the Council of Europe which this system exactly reproduces were a form of political patronage which was very useful at that time.
The fact of the matter is that the Council of Europe was and is a body of very little importance, but the Parliament of Europe is a body of very great importance. It seems to me to be totally illogical that simply because there is a precedent of a form of appointment to a body of no importance it should govern the form of appointment to a body of very great importance. I hope, therefore, that, though I shall not support the first Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Perth, the House on this occasion will give serious thought to supporting the second Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. The fact of the matter is that we do not know—and I certainly do not know—the criterion of choice which was used in the selection of the present members. It may have been perfectly right. It may have been just in every circumstance. Indeed, they may have chosen, for all I know, the best people to take on these responsibilities. But I have an indication, and perhaps I am wrong, that the main criterion of choice was to give representation in the 397 delegation, both from the Conservative and Labour Parties, to those who were in favour of Europe and to those who were against Europe in the recent referendum. If that was the case it may be right, for all I know. I personally would doubt whether that is the right criterion and I am doubtful whether that necesarily means that the individuals concerned are equipped to carry out what are grave and heavy responsibilities in the Parliament of Europe as well as perhaps others who would be chosen on a different basis. That is the reason why I criticise and object to the means whereby this choice has been made simply as a decision by the management, by the Front Bench, by the leadership of the Parties in Parliament as on the basis of their present strength in the House of Commons.
I think that the political atmosphere, although I have no direct experience of the Parliament of Europe, particularly in the Party context of the Parliament of Europe must be very different from the politicial atmosphere in the Party context in this country. I do not believe that there is necessarily a natural affinity between Conservatives from here and Christian Democrats from Germany or elsewhere; nor necessarily between Socialists—Labour Party members—from here and Social Democrats from other countries. When they reach the Parliament of Europe—and it was certainly true of the Council of Europe—there is a melting pot. As we heard from the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and from my noble friend Lord Mansfield, when they got there—and it will be the same for Labour representatives when they get there—the objectives and criteria in their judgment change from a purely Party point of view into something much more on a national basis. That is as it should be. It is certainly all the more illogical that we should base our representation from this country to the Parliament of Europe on a direct reflection of the Party divisions of the House of Commons.
Lastly, I should like to say, particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that I deprecate appeals to this House not to enter into conflict with the House of Commons. I understand the 398 significance of it, but the truth of the matter is, let us be frank, the reason why we are the ineffective Second Chamber that we are, is largely because the House of Commons has decreed that we should be so; and because on no occasion do we every try to establish our own independence as a Second Chamber. Whether we are hereditary or non-representative or whatever it may be, we are, for better or for worse, in this day and age the Second Chamber of the Parliament of Great Britain. That we could have been a better Second Chamber might have been true if certain reforms which were proposed from this House and which were turned down by the House of Commons had been passed a few years ago during the period when the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and my noble friend Lord Jellicoe were leading us here. The fact is that the object of the House of Commons over a long period of time has been to keep this House as ineffective and powerless as possible. It is remarkable that we have been able to do what we have been able to do. I do not think it is in the interests of Parliamentary institutions, at a time when Parliament is under great attack, from so many quarters, that we should continue to take this rather cowardly—so I regard it—point of view. We should try to ensure—whatever may be the background of our appointment here, however we as Members got here, whatever may be the power that we have left to us, however small—that at any rate we are able to conduct ourselves with dignity and effecttiveness and with the decisiveness of a Second Chamber of a great Parliament.
However, that was my view. I hope that in the future we shall have less of these appeals to go like—I almost said "whipped dogs"; but I am not sure that that is a good simile—following the policies, the decisions, ambitions, the desires of the House of Commons. That is my personal point of view. I shall on this particular occasion support my noble friend Lord Lauderdale's Amendment as I hope will your Lordships. But I realise that, from the point of view in our interests in the European Parliament at this moment, it would not be right for us to put any obstacle in the way of those, nominated by this very unsatisfactory method of nomination, who are going to represent us there on Monday.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Lord GOODMAN
My Lords, as one of the domestic animals to which the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, referred and was kind enough to say we were valuable, I promise to be brief and I am anxious to get back to my saucer of milk. I came this afternoon for one reason and for one reason only—I wanted to support my noble friend Lord Perth on his Motion. I have listened with great attention and careful attention to a subject on which my mind was anything but made up, and it remains anything but made up. But I have reached an interim conclusion which to some extent will be dependent on an answer I may be able to extract from the noble Lord the Leader of the House if he can be cajoled to return and join the night watchmen who are still batting while the light is failing. I should like to ask him a direct question.
At the end of his speech the noble Lord made an important statement that he was prepared to enter into discussions. I ventured to send a note to the Chief Whip asking whether, consequential on those discussions, if in fact they failed, there would be a further opportunity for discussion in this House. I am sure she will not mind if I read her helpful reply. It was:For future delegations, yes. This delegation is due at the "—somewhere or other; I cannot read it—on Monday. Derisory if after referendum etc. British delegation were 10 short on first occasion.That seems to make good sense. We are discussing only a very transitional matter. We are apparently discussing the representation of the delegation for a matter of a few months. If there will be ample opportunity to discuss the matter further at the end of this Session and before a fresh delegation is appointed, and in particular if we can have an opportunity of discussing all the points we want to raise here again so that our discussions can sound in the future constitution of subsequent delegations on a more permanent basis, I should be disposed to abstain. Nothing on earth, may I say to noble Lords on the Government Benches, would induce me to vote for this Motion; for that would involve a declaration from me that I approbate the selection of the persons whose names appear 400 on the list. It would be invidious to say anything about their selection.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, on the question of the duration of the mandate, as it stands, the Government Motion is for an indefinite period, notwithstanding dissolution or prorogation. Therefore, although one day there will have to be another delegation, there is no guarantee in the Government's Motion that this is for a limited period.
§ Lord GOODMAN
My Lords, if I may say so to the noble Earl, whose exceptionally engaging speech entitles him to the utmost consideration for it is such a novelty, that is precisely what I want to ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House. He said that there would be an opportunity for consultation. The Chief Whip said that these would be an opportunity, if consultation failed, for further debate in this House. If that is not the situation, then I will go into the Lobby with the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I interevene? Your Lordships' House is well aware that any matter is open to discussion at any stage; it can always be put on the Order Paper. As I said earlier, I am willing to open consultations through the usual channels with the leadership of all the Parties, and also with those who sit on the Cross-Benches, to see what steps could or should be taken, and perhaps then enter into consultations with another place. I will give this undertaking. It is always open for your Lordships to debate a matter of this importance and I will certainly see, if it is the wish of the House, that time is provided for it.
§ Lord GOODMAN
My Lords, I have a feeling that that is an assurance which, for my own part, I ought to accept. One has to weigh it carefully. It would be wrong not to accept that assurance which is in two parts: first, there will be consultation (which I take to mean honourable consultation); and secondly, following that, there will be an opportunity for a debate which can reverse the situation by a vote. If that is so, then that is as much as we can hope for in this situation. I am not particularly affected, and I wholly approbated the closing remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, about the constitutional issue. We behaved like 401 hypnotised rabbits instead of whipped dogs—if the noble Lord is looking for another parallel. There is no reason why we should accept instructions from below as to what our constitutional position is, since it is clearly defined in the Parliament Act. I am not sure that this issue is clear-cut enough to make it appropriate to promote a constitutional crisis.
I venture to say this to my noble friend Lord Perth. I am not sure either of the Amendments give a sufficiently clear delineation of the method that might be used to elect the delegation when the time comes. This needs a great deal more thought. I believe that the method of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, would produce for him an entirely satisfactory solution, and perhaps for other people, too, and it would a least ensure that the majority of the delegates, if not all, were Tories. You cannot avoid that conclusion if you have an elected representation from this House. I am not saying it would be any worse than the present method. It would be different but it does not seem, in terms of democracy, necessarily ideal.
It is unfortunate that we have had this debate. My noble friend Lord Perth was prompted by what I know to be the extra-ordinary generosity of his own feelings. He felt, as many did, a sense of deep resentment that the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord O'Hagan, were left out of this delegation, and there ensued the consequence of these Amendments. They should not have been left out; it was ungenerous, churlish and wrong. It would not have been difficult for consultation to take place between the two major Parties, to enable these two noble Lords to continue in their positions at least until the end of this European Parliament. We can feel slightly ashamed of ourselves that this was not brought about. But I do not think either noble Lord would wish to promote a constitutional issue in relation to their personal positions.
Having had that assurance from the Leader of the House, we should watch the position faithfully and closely, and if there are full discussions, in which I hope the Cross-Benchers will participate—not by dint of my own participation, but by dint of our accepted leaders and the people who play that role on the Cross-Benches—we shall arrive at a more generally accepted method of appointing the 402 delegates to this Parliament. I do not know what the method is. I do not know whether you can use any method other than a Party method. Having regard to the fact that the Liberal Party did at least as much as, or more than, any other Party to win the referendum, a more ungenerous way of treating them it would be impossible to imagine. The whole situation is shot through with ungenerosity, and that is disagreeable and provokes decent people to action which may be too emphatic for the situation as it exists. My own recommendation is that we abstain from the Motion and do not vote on the Amendments. That would be my recommendation having given careful thought to the matter on the basis of one person who will happily provoke a constitutional issue at any moment of day or night. In view of events which may occur in the next week or so, it is important that I should make that position absolutely clear.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of INCHRYE
My Lords, like many noble Lords who have spoken, I deplore the political fate of the noble Lords, Lord O'Hagan and Lord Gladwyn. I have great sympathy with the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, but if he presses it to a Division, I do not feel I could support him in the Lobby, for the very powerful reasons which were deployed by the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King. I will not elaborate upon those, but they were convincing reasons why the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, would not be the right one to take to a Division. It is for the noble Earl to say whether or not he wishes to take the matter to a Division, but personally I would not support him. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who regretted this debate, I am glad we are having this debate because it is a form of much-needed political bloodletting on this issue.
The Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, brings to the fore the general dissatisfaction that has been expressed on all sides of the House, by Members of all Parties, at the present procedures which have grown up regarding the method of selection or nomination, whichever you like to call it, of members of the European Parliament. There is great dissatisfaction. I have a 403 feeling, which I hope other noble Lords share, that Members of your Lordships' House should be associated more closely in the future with the selection of members for the European Parliament. If this debate brings that objective nearer, then it will have been worth while. Coming again to the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, it is for him to decide whether he takes it to a Division, and if he does I shall support him. Nevertheless, I shall regret the need to take it to a Division, because I believe there is a possibility of elements in that Amendment which are rather impractical, or if not impractical perhaps not the best way of doing something. I do not know whether a Select Committee would be the best method of examination. There are other possible methods which I will not go into.
I think there is a need now to examine not only the short term until 1978, but the long term methods of possible election after 1978. I was not impressed by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, when he said that we were considering only a short-term problem. We are probably considering both a short-term and a long-term problem at the same time. I believe both should be considered now. Perhaps the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the noble Lord the Leader of my Party would tell me, and perhaps other Members, that they admit there is dissatisfaction at the present position and that they agree there is a need to associate Members of this House more closely in the future than in the past. Perhaps they would express a willingness to examine and inform your Lordships' House of their views on the duration of the membership of the European Parliament. It seems wrong that membership should continue after a Dissolution of Parliament and a General Election which, at the present time, is the case. I hope they will tell us that they think the Select Committee is not the best method of proceeding with this matter.
If we could hear those things, I would hope that the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, might feel that he had obtained the substance of his Amendment, if not the exact wording of it. In that case, I believe we might avoid having a Division, which I personally should be very sorry to see but in which I would support him in the Lobby, without reservation as 404 regards the general picture but with reservation as regards his method of obtaining the common objective. Perhaps our Front Benches will be able to tell us that this is not an impractical proposition to put to your Lordships.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Lord DARLING of HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I believe it was my noble friend Lord Shackleton who pointed out that this House is quite a unique part of our Parliamentary institutions. All of us who have been involved in European institutions or assemblies have had some difficulty from time to time in trying to explain to our European colleagues just why and how this House still exists in what is supposed to be a system of popular democratic Government. But whatever explanations we may give—and now I express a purely personal view—one thing that is certain is that if your Lordships press for more representation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Communities, your Lordships are in danger of coming into conflict with the principles of Article 137 of the Rome Treaty. We have heard references, particularly from those noble Lords who are supporting the Amendments, to Article 138; but Article 137 seems to have been overlooked so far and I think I had better quote it. It says quite simply that—The Assembly—which is now, mistakenly in my view, called the European Parliament—shall consist of representatives of the peoples of the States brought together in the Community".From my point of view. "representatives of the peoples" means those representatives who have been elected by the peoples to represent them.
It is perfectly true that Article 138 may be interpreted as allowing non-elected Parliamentarians to be included in the delegations to the European Parliament; but even this seems to have come in for some misinterpretation. Again speaking personally, it seems to have been misinterpreted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, because Article 138 says this:The Assembly shall consist of delegates who shall be nominated by the respective Parliaments from among their Members in accordance with the procedure laid down—405 not by Parliament, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, said—by each Member-State.This means that the Government and Parliament of each Member-State are involved in deciding how the system of designating their delegates shall be arrived at.
I do not want to pursue this matter at length, but should like to express agreement with the views put forward by my noble friends who have said that we must not, especially at this time, come into conflict with the elected representatives of the people—those who are mentioned in Article 137 of the Treaty as being the representatives who go along to the European Parliament. I was astonished when the noble Lord, Lord Byers, put forward the thoroughly illiberal and undemocratic point of view that whatever the number selected by the representatives of the people to go from your Lordships' House, they should be, as it were, elected or in some way selected according to the representative numbers of the Parties here. My Lords, if there is one Parliamentary Assembly within my knowledge that is thoroughly unrepresentative, it is this one. How do we come here? Some come by birth, and the rest of us come because we have the patronage of the Party leaders, who think that we can make a contribution here. Indeed, I am sure that we all try to do so; but this is not a representative Parliamentary Assembly. Therefore, to suggest that we should choose the representatives of this House according to the Party strengths within it seems to me thoroughly undemocratic.
Following the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, I agree that this is a very good opportunity for some "bloodletting", and I hope that your Lordships will not take my remarks as being in any way personal if I venture some criticisms. I believe we are quite right to follow the established procedure of selecting Parliamentary representatives to European institutions which has gone on for so long in the Council of Europe, the Western European Union, the North Atlantic Assembly, and so on—that is, in proportion to Party strengths in the other place. How many Peers are to be included in each delegation must be decided by the other place—the elected 406 representatives of the people—and not decided here.
Perhaps we need some changes, particularly as regards providing for the representation of minorities. These have hardly been mentioned during this debate: the Scottish Nationalists, the Welsh Nationalists, the Ulster Unionists, and so on. Frankly, I do not see how the Independents can fit into this political scene, but I am willing to discuss them, too. However, all these changes in the matter of selection, if they are made, will have to be made by another place and not your Lordships' House. I think it would be utterly unconstitutional to decide upon changes here.
I can well understand the disappointment of the noble Lords, Lord O'Hagan and Lord Gladwyn, who are no longer going along to the European Parliament; but as my noble friend Lord Houghton said, this is part of the rough and tumble of politics; it is something we all have to accept. Those of us who have had the disappointment of being rejected and barred from Parliamentary representation by a fickle electorate can well understand how people feel when, trying to get into Parliament or having once been there, they find themselves roughly turned away. We all have to take the rough with the smooth.
Some noble Lords will know that I have been very closely involved with the Council of Europe for many years, and in that context perhaps I might claim to have held high office there—Vice-President of the Assembly, Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, Vice-Chairman of the Socialist Group, and so on—and I have twice been removed from the delegation by people on the Front Bench in the other place. One is disappointed when this happens, but I have never complained, because I accept the need for change. I think it is a good idea to have changes in delegations.
We have heard noble Lords talking about the importance of continuity in Office. But, my Lords, this can be overdone. It is not always desirable to have continuity: indeed, I think it is seldom desirable. Those of us who have been delegates to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union for many years can see the faults in continuity, when there are long-serving delegates, 407 deeply immersed in all the machinery of procedure, and so on, who have never given birth to a new idea for decades. But they are still there and they have become a hindrance and a handicap to progress.
I do not say that either of the two noble Lords who unfortunately are now no longer in the delegation, and the two Conservative noble Lords who are being left out, come into that category. I can share their sense of disappointment. But there is—I do not mean this in any personal way at all—a rather unfortunate implication in the first Amendment, as there was particularly in the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, when he was moving it, that, knowing very well the good service that Lord O'Hagan and Lord Gladwyn have given to the European Parliament, none of the newcomers will ever be able to measure up to their standards; the new members will not be able to be as useful or to make such a constructive contribution. I do not believe this. I think we should try out new people all the time. It may well turn out that they make a better contribution than the people they have replaced.
However, the real issue here is a constitutional one. This has been brought out clearly in the debate: that power in this respect—the selection of delegations and the number of Peers in them—must reside in the elected Chamber of the other place. I was surprised when the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, suggested that we should stand out in this matter against the other place. This is a very dangerous course and I hope that he and his noble friends will reconsider the challenge which is presented by the first Amendment—the challenge to the authority of the elected Chamber of our Parliament. As I say, this is a dangerous course on which to set out, and I hope therefore that that Amendment, at least, will be withdrawn.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Lord HANKEY
My Lords, it seems to me politically undesirable and personally most unjust and most unfair to the noble Lords, Lord O'Hagan and Lord Gladwyn, that they should be excluded at this point. Let me explain these two major criticisms separately, one political, one personal. I 408 am rather a Hegelian. I think that truth usually emerges as a kind of synthesis of opposing arguments. How often in your Lordships' House we cause legislation and even political principles to be sensibly modified to meet the practical needs of the situation! I believe our House renders a great service to the nation in this way precisely because we do not exist solely in dedicated blocs bound by every command of the Party Whips; and this goes for all sides of the House.
In this the Cross-Bench Peers have a rather special function and position; so do the Liberals. We do not gang up or set out to embarrass the Parties politically. We respect the Parties. We often help them. But we do try to help truth to emerge. On these Benches we include the judges, many scientists, former diplomats and experienced administrators, and many experts on economics, banking, industry and other matters. And I think we can very often help quietly and without intellectual arrogance to create the current of sensible, middle-of-the-road opinion which can promote and find solutions. The Cross-Benchers claim to be, and I believe are, a unique feature of our Parliament. I contend that they ought not to be ignored because they are not a formal institution and have only the most elementary organisation, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, has explained. May I add that it is much more trouble to be a Cross-Bencher than a faithful Party man. Nobody tells us ho wto vote; we have to do our own homework. We try hard to be impartial, progressive and sincere, but let no one think it is easy.
This brings me to the injustice which is being done to my noble friend Lord O'Hagan and to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—I call him a "noble friend" also. Anyone who has been at Strasbourg will confirm, as we have heard, that Lord O'Hagan has distinguished himself there. He has been a most worthy delegate of your Lordships' House and of this Parliament. I should like to say that that is the position which he occupies in accordance with Article 130 of the Treaty of Rome—a delegate of the Parliament. I do not accept that because this distinguished House, with a very long history, is not elected by the whole nation it is not part of the Parliament. We have a right to be represented and we ought to be represented until our Constitution is 409 changed. Lord O'Hagan has worked really hard. He has shown courage and initiative and a real devotion to his work far beyond what would normally be expected from a man of his age. After two years, apparently, a sort of bandalog of Party Whips sweeps down out of the trees and hoofs him and Lord Gladwyn out of the way. I think that is a most ignoble procedure and that it casts a sombre light on our Parliament and on the distinguished men of all Parties and sections, including the Cross-Bench Peers who serve in it. It would be unjust and unfair to Lord O'Hagan; and Lord Gladwyn has also greatly distinguished himself and it is personally unfair to him also.
Then it would be politically undersirable to suppress the expression of Independent and Liberal opinion, especially now when it seems to me and to so many other people that neither of the great Parties can expect to control our national situation all by itself, and when we obviously so greatly need the co-operation between moderate and sensible men of good will, of all Parties, which we saw with such great effect during the referendum campaign. The national interest which we have in making a success of Britain and in making a success of Europe is so much greater than these Party issues. I will end by repeating to the two main Parties that famous phrase used in Cromwell's Parliament:I beseech you in the bones of Christ that you may yet think whether you may not be mistaken.My Lords, I shall vote for both Amendments.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lord BOOTHBY
My Lords, I want to say only two or three sentences, and they are these: I was a member of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe for seven years. I found the continuity gratifying and satisfactory and it is a good idea to get people there on a semi-permanent basis. I do not think it is altogether desirable that as soon as they learn the job they should be hoofed out and somebody else take their place. The idea of permanency is good. This debate has shown that the present position in which we select members to go to the European Parliament is not altogether satisfactory. The element of election should come in. I share the views of almost everybody in this House that it 410 is a pity that the noble Lords, Lord O'Hagan and Lord Gladwyn, should be kicked out at this moment when they have done such good work in Europe. But I see the force of the argument in favour of Party nomination.
The real issue was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, when he said, in effect, that it is a question of selection or election. I believe that sooner or later election is the answer. I regret bitterly that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, is not a member of the European Parliament. He wanted to go and he would have been a superb ornament and a very fine representative of this House. I believe he would have been overwhelmingly elected if this House had had an electoral vote. I am sorry he is not there and I am sorry that the situation of continuing Whips' nominations by a sort of carve-up between the two major Parties has resulted in this situation.
I shall not vote for either of the Amendments because I do not think the situation can be changed at the moment. We are right to accept the position which has been put forward by both of the major Parties but I hope that some kind of Committee will be set up to devise a system of election by both Houses of Parliament of those whom they think should represent them on a rational basis and, of course, on a Party basis. However, the Labour Party in another place and the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in this House should elect their own members and not allow them to be nominated by the Whips. Election or selection is the choice and I come down on the side of election.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Lord BROCKWAY
My Lords, I shall be very brief. I feel impelled to speak tonight, although not very happily. I am doing so because of what I shall say at the end of my speech. I have spent hours trying to decide how one should vote on this occasion. It is now recognised that the present system is not satisfactory and that we shall have to reconsider it, but for three reasons I feel unable to vote for the Amendments.
The first reason is that I believe that the British delegation to the European Parliament should be a national delegation representing Parliament as a whole, and I not the two Houses separately. Certainly 411 I do not take the view that this very undemocratic Assembly should have the right to decide the British delegation. Secondly, I reject the Liberal view that representation in the European Parliament should depend upon the strength of the vote given at Elections. It must represent Parliament at the time when those delegations are appointed. Speaking for the Liberal Party, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, argued that at Strasbourg the representatives reflect the votes in the Elections. But that is not why they are there; they happen to do so because the Parties from other European countries are largely elected by proportional representation. Therefore, this is not a matter for representation at Strasbourg; it is a matter for electoral reform.
The third reason why I do not feel able to vote for the Amendments is this. There is a claim that the Cross-Benchers—very large in numbers in this House—should have representation. The difficulty is that there is no unity in philosophy or in programme among the Cross-Benchers. They extend from what is regarded as the most extreme Left Member—a Communist—to the most extreme Right Members in this House. You could scarcely get three Cross-Benchers together who would agree on any issue. For that reason, I reject the suggestion that as a group the Cross-Benchers have a right to representation, because their delegate would not reflect any common opinion among them.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to remind him that very often, when there is a Division in your Lordships' House, he can witness the spectacle of more than three Cross-Benchers going together into one or other of the Lobbies?
§ Lord BROCKWAY
My Lords, I apologise for being a little rhetorical in saying three, but I should not have to multiply the number by very much. The reason why I have felt almost commanded to take part in this debate is to regret that our delegation to the European Parliament will not include the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. There is scarcely anybody in this House with whom I differ more than the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I almost prickle with 412 political hostility whenever he rises in his place. But his knowledge and experience, which have been recognised in the European Parliament itself by his appointment to the important positions of Chairman of one Committee and Reporter of another, and the service which he has given there, is, apart from political views, a loss to British representation. Therefore, I regret very much indeed that he is not a member of our delegation.
What I have said about the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is also true of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, who is one of our youngest Members. I think he was at Eton College when I represented Eton in the House of Commons. I hope that I did something to influence his views! He is a young person who is absolutely devoted to service in the European Parliament. He was an independent member; I am not sure whether he was the only independent member. Therefore, he was without the privilege of Party support and Party pressure. Despite all that, he made a valuable contribution at Strasbourg. He came back to this House and made constructive proposals to us arising from the experience. Particularly valuable was his service in the Strasbourg Parliament for the migrant workers of Europe. Again, I say that although my political views do not always agree with those of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, it is a loss to the representation of this country that he should not be at Strasbourg. My only consolation is that by more frequent attendance in this House, since he will no longer have to go to Europe, he may now be able to make contributions here which will be equally valuable. My Lords, I have said this because I feel that from the Back-Benches of the Labour Party recognition should be given to the services of the two Members of this House who will no longer be going to Strasbourg, and whose service to the European Parliament has been so notable.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Lord CACCIA
My Lords, at this stage I have only three points to make. The first is that when the noble Lord the Leader of the House spoke he emphasised a point which has been taken up by other speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King; namely, the great disservice that might be done if there was any collision between this 413 House and another place. I do not think any speaker who has entered this debate so far would wish that to happen in any circumstances whatever. But at the same time the evidence in this regard does not seem to be clear. At least the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, in his speech drew attention to the fact that the Government Chief Whip seemed to be content that the House of Lords should appoint their own delegation. The numbers would be laid down, but it was very much up to them to decide whom they would choose and what methods they would use. So having said that I do not think anybody would wish a collision I do not see that this need in any way take place if these Amendments are passed. Quite the contrary: if the other place could see what has been said by people who have spoken in this debate one after another from all sides of the House, they would see that it is clearly not the wish of this House as expressed today that there should be a collision, and one can only assume that there are means of avoiding that by drawing attention to what has been said.
The next point, which was made more particularly by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, from the Opposition Front Bench was that there really is no place in Strasbourg for an independent. But when we heard the experiences of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, it became manifest at once that there is such a place. As things develop in Strasbourg they themselves recognise that they should make more room for such representation, if it comes, and it will come, not only from this country but also, as he explained, from other nations as well. Therefore, again I found myself unpersuaded by the argument that if the first Amendment were passed we would be committing the idiocy of sending to Strasbourg somebody who could take no real part in the progress of affairs there.
The third point which, with the leave of your Lordships, I wish to draw attention to, is that again and again it has been said that those who go there represent, at any rate, the British Parliament and the people who meet them there wish to find representation of this Parliament as it now exists. As the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said, on occasion they may have to speak, in a sense, for Britain. In that case it is inevitable to 414 look down to ask whether it is right in the circumstances which have been described, and by no one more clearly than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, that in these next three formative years this Parliament and this country should be represented by two people who have such expert knowledge of its workings as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who has an appointment in it, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. It would seem to me that we should diminish our stature by their omission because these are the three years before elections that may be decisive in the formation of the future of the Parliament of Europe. Therefore, once again I do not find the arguments against the first Amendment to be of great force.
In saying that, I would add at once that I accept that in these political appointments there may be the criticisms—and well founded—which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has used, about the rather ignoble manner in which these things have happened. Never mind, it is not so much a question of whether it was done nobly or ignobly, but who is to represent in Strasbourg, in these next formative years, the British Parliament. I should enormously regret it and I think we should be diminished if any procedure were to end in the omission of those two noble Lords.
Again, it may be said, and it was indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, that it may be an act of great generosity on the part of the other place to have accepted as many as 10 noble Lords. That is a point of view, but they have done so and if that is the case I should have thought there were very strong arguments both for the first Amendment on the basis of experience and good representation, taking both Houses together at Strasbourg, and for the second Amendment on the grounds that the method of selection surely has been the one thing that so many noble Lords have thought in this case at least merited reconsideration.
Finally, I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has said about his readiness always to allow a further debate, further discussions through channels, and so on but, of course, as the noble Earl Lord Lauderdale, has already pointed out, what we are committing ourselves to here 415 and now, if the Motion moved by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal is accepted, is that the Order shall remain in force until this House otherwise orders. Surely if we were to have another debate all the same arguments would come up and the same result as is achieved tonight might be achieved. So, my Lords, I intend to vote for both these Amendments.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lord GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, I have the responsibility, if one can call it that, of being the last of the convention of Cross-Benchers—to use a collective noun which seems to fit with the Convener—to speak from these Benches. Although one can never say that one speaks "for" the Cross-Benchers, I think what I shall say represents a very broad stratum of view among the people who speak from these Benches. I should like to start by associating myself most warmly with what the noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, said about the help we have had from the noble Lord the Leader of the House. He has been accessible to us, he has made time for us when we wished to ask him questions, and he has always told us as much as he was able, or was proper for him to do, and we are most grateful. It might be best for me to speak very shortly, taking just a few of the really bad arguments against the Amendments, and also rehearsing one or two of the better arguments for them.
The first bad argument has been that this is a normal way of selecting the representatives who are to go to the European Parliament. One must think in terms of public impressions and public relations. What has happened is that the selectors have given the impression of preferring political expediency to experience and merit. That is bad for Parliament and one really must object on those very basic grounds to what has been done. I am saying nothing against the personal or political qualities of the noble Lords chosen, but that is the impression which has been created and it will not depart.
Then there is the argument which has been dealt with by a number of noble Lords, and which was first advanced by the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield—who has already been subjected to a great deal of attack, but I must also join in—that the European Parliament is a place for 416 which one needs professional politicians, and where nobody else will fit in. The first refutation of that is the noble Lord sitting behind me, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and I need not add to that. However, I would also argue that the noble Lords who sit on these Benches, while they are not politicians in having not, in large degree, gone through the burden and heat of the day in fighting constituencies, none the less if they had not some liking for and interest in, and possibly even some aptitude for, politics, would not be sitting here at half-past seven in the evening discussing matters like this. The people who sit on these Benches must be allowed a little interest in, and possibly an ability to learn something about, politics, in addition to representing the individual point of view which each of us has.
My Lords, there has also been a bad argument used in this debate by implication, but I think not spotted by noble Lords altogether, that much of the argument is based on the assumption that the Select Committee will do its job wrongly. I do not understand why this assumption has been made, but so many noble Lords whom I have heard based their argument—unconsciously maybe—on the feeling that somehow the Select Committee will do a less good job than the Whips. I cannot see why this should be the case.
One must treat the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, on the basis that this would lead to a thorough, necessary and probably wise basis of selection being produced. I do not need to rehearse again the argument that under Article 138 of the Treaty of Rome the representatives sent to the European Parliament should represent Parliament, not part of Parliament, nor political Parties. They represent Parliament. As the noble Lord, Lord Strang, made so abundantly clear—and I am now speaking for these Benches—these Benches exist. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, called this House an anachronism, and said that we were people who were occasionally useful on domestic issues. This makes me totally useless! I do not resent it. But in fact, of course, the knowledge and experience possessed by those on these Benches covers most of the world in one way and another. I think we can say without immodesty that whoever might be chosen from these Benches, while he 417 might do as well as the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, would have a good chance of holding his own.
Then there is the argument against the Amendments, so charmingly put by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, that it will be all right quite soon because we are to have direct elections. All the experience of Europe shows that we get there in the end, but that we do not get there—wherever it may be—nearly as quickly as we should like. To base our immediate procedures of selection and nomination on the assumption that we shall make the direct election deadline, would seem to me to be a very shortsighted way of proceeding. As a House, we must try to choose what is the best way for our voice to be heard now or, at any rate, as quickly as possible.
There are many other arguments; it is not for me to rehearse them again at this moment. But, clearly, there is dissatisfaction about what has happened. It is a very good thing that this matter should have been brought out so clearly in your Lordships' House over the hours which have just passed. It was encouraging to hear the noble Lord the Leader of the House saying that he was open to suggestion, and we thank him for that. However, I have to take up one word he used; that is, the word "arbitrary". We must insist from these Benches that this is not an arbitrary proposal in the Amendment. It is very carefully thought out as a better way of doing things than they have been done. It is a well thought out proposal, and the Amendments cannot be opposed on grounds or arbitrariness. They really represent serious thought and practical suggestion.
So that based on what I have said, if a little breathlessly, I shall vote for both Amendments. I shall vote for the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, with my heart, because I believe it is not sufficient to praise the noble Lords, Lord Gladwyn and Lord O'Hagan, with obsequy. I should wish to express it more strongly than that. I shall vote for the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, because in the last resort I believe it to be fundamentally non-controversial. I believe a great many noble Lords who may feel it their duty to vote against the Amendment will have the feeling deep down 418 that it is in fact the best way to handle the matter.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships for more than a few sentences. I came into this debate, almost every word of which I have listened to, intending to vote for both Amendments. In the event, I intend to vote for the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, if it is put to a Division, but I shall abstain from voting on the Amendment put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I do this because I have been convinced that this is not the occasion to provoke a clash between this House and the other place. I do riot think that this is a suitable issue on which to vote on such a clash, and having regard to the extreme gravity of the economic situation at the moment, I think it would be very unfortunate if in this House we were to give other people the pretext for creating a diversion of attention from the grave issues being debated at this date.
In saying that, I must confess that I am still very unhappy indeed. I would certainly not vote for the Motion put down by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal. In saying that, I am not activated by general discontent with the electoral system, although I have great sympathy indeed with the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in that respect. In saying what I have, I am not activated by any sense of being "holier than thou" as regards the main organisation of politics. I agree with Edmund Burke and with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that organised Parties are an essential part of orderly Government. None the less, I would plead to leaders of both the Government and the chief Opposition Party that there is more elbow room in this respect than they have allowed themselves on this occasion.
My Lords, the moving testimony with regard to his experience at the European Parliament given by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, shows that the existence in that area of talents such as he possesses tends to produce a more wholesome atmosphere there, as I would humbly submit they do in this House, than if they were absent. I was immensely impressed, as I always am, by the exposition of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, 419 when he pointed to the fact that in the next formative years of the European Parliament what is needed—and those of us who believe in the European Community most desire this—is not tight Party organisation but contributions of vision and expert knowledge, contributions which could have been made by the two noble Lords who are excluded by this Amendment. Without any personal aspersions at all, I do not think that the Parties concerned have acted in a visionary or generous sense in this particular respect. I would remind your Lordships—and this is my last sentence—of what I think is an accurate quotation from Measure for Measure; namely:O! it is excellentTo have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannousTo use it like a giant.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, we have had a long debate but a good debate, and I do not think it would be too unkind to say that towards the end perhaps the material became a little well-worn. We have one notable first today; I think this is the first occasion when we have ever had a three-line Convener, because I have never seen so many Independent or Cross-Bench Peers turn up to any debate in my life. I think it is too much of a coincidence if they did not have a three-line Convener. I congratulate them, too, on their discipline, though perhaps just recently one or two have disappeared.
Perhaps I may single out two splendid speeches; that of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale, which I greatly enjoyed, and I think the whole House must have enjoyed, though I cannot pretend that I agreed with all of it, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who in the course of his speech made a surprising, and I should have thought quite untrue, observation, that the Liberal Party had been more responsible than anyone else for the success of the referendum. I think he does less than justice to Mr. Jenkins and to Mr. Heath and to Mr. Wedgwood Benn.
Having said that, I think the first thing one should have said on this Motion is that this House owes a great debt of 420 gratitude to those Members of both Houses who pioneered British entry into the European Parliament. If I may say so, we should be particularly grateful to Mr. Kirk and his 17 Conservative colleagues, and of course the two Liberals, and of course the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. They have done a splendid job in rather difficult circumstances, with very little recognition in this country, and we are grateful to them. Secondly, I hope that the differences which divide us do not obscure the fact that we welcome the occasion for this Motion, which is the decision of the Labour Party to take part in the European Parliament; all of us will welcome that. They have now repented of their decision, and even those most bitterly opposed to our membership seem anxious to take part in the European Parliament's decision. I know it is genuine, and that those who voted against the Common Market will not go to Strasbourg with any idea of playing a negative role or making things more difficult.
This is not, of course, the issue about which most of your Lordships have spoken, and I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye that there is obviously disquiet about the way in which these delegations were chosen. I must confess to your Lordships that trying to get to the bottom of how they were chosen is really quite difficult. So far as I can make out there has been over many years a convention by which Members of the Council of Europe, the forerunner of the European Parliament, have been selected on the basis of 18 members for the Government, 16 for the Opposition and two for the other parties, regardless of the state of the Parties in the House of Commons; though I think on one occasion it was 19, 15, 2, because the Government of the day had a rather larger majority over the other Parties than was usual. The Conservative Party in 1972–73 followed this precedent, and since the Labour Party did not take up their allocation of 16 seats, one of their seats was given to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, on the understanding that this was open for review should the Labour Party take up their allocation. It seems that the Labour Government on this occasion have followed exactly the same precedent; 18 seats for the Government, 16 for the Opposition and 2 for the other Parties.
421 I must admit that I do not quite know who selects which two members of the Opposition Parties it will be for the minority two. I imagine it is the Chief Whip of the Government in another place, but I do not know. As I understand it, the usual channels in the House of Commons make all these decisions, and they apportion the number of Peers to go, having regard to the Parties and the pairing necessities in another place. On this occasion they decided that the House of Lords was to be given six Labour Peers and four Conservative Peers. I think that is a more or less accurate account of what happened.
It is, of course, open to argument as to whether this is the right way to do it, and I shall say a little more about that later, but the fact remains that it has always been done this way, and the Government have, in my view, done nothing whatever out of the ordinary. It also seems to me—and I think this is important, though not all of your Lordships have agreed with this—perfectly proper that the representation in the European Parliament should reflect the political composition of the elected House and not of this House. Were it to be otherwise, there would be a large preponderance of Conservatives, which would not reflect the political situation in the elected Chamber. I agree very much with what my noble friend Lord Mansfield said, when he said that he, when he was in Strasbourg, was regarded not as a Member of the House of Lords but a member of the British delegation and the British representation. If it were not so, if this was not accepted, my Party would have an enormous majority over all the other Parties. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, talked with great pride of having 40 working Members. We have 350 working Members, all of them working, and working even harder than noble Lords on the Cross-Benches. If the present practice was not accepted, we would have an enormous majority over all the other Parties, taking the two Houses together, and I cannot believe that would be the right thing.
I would ask your Lordships to remember, when we talk of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—I will say something about them in a minute—that my own Party has lost two seats; we have lost two noble Lords in this House. I have heard a great 422 deal about the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and I have heard a great deal about the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I have heard very little about what my noble friend Lord Lothian has done or what my noble friend Lady Elles has done. And yet we on this side of the House have, without too much fuss, acknowledging that these are difficult issues, accepted that we have to lose two seats and my two noble friends have given up their seats. Though it is perfectly possible for the House to decide which Conservative Peers and which Labour Peers should be selected, it would be extremely difficult to adopt the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Perth without upsetting the balance of the Parties, which it seems to me, as I have said, quite rightly gives the Government the largest number of seats. I have great sympathy—of course I have—with everybody who has spoken about the four noble Lords who have lost their seats and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and I have had a lot of letters about it, you will be pleased to hear. The noble Lord and I have sat on "Britain in Europe" platforms together, and I know the work that he has done.
With regard to the Liberal Party, it seems to me that they should discuss with the Government whether they should have both the minority seats, or whether they should have one only, on the basis of their numbers in the House of Commons. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, it is, I think, rather difficult to argue that they should have more because of the votes they polled at the last Election. Although, of course, it is perfectly true, and nobody can deny it, that they polled votes at the last Election which are not reflected in the number of seats in the House of Commons, the fact remains that hitherto we have always based our system upon the seats in the House of Commons and not the votes cast.
§ Lord BYERS
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite wrong. In the case of broadcasting it is the votes, because I negotiated that with the Labour Government in 1945.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, this may be the one exception. I do not know. Certainly in other cases it is on the basis of seats held in the Commons; all Committees are on the basis of the seats held. 423 We do not yet have proportional representation, if ever we do. I am not at all convinced that in this one particular case, at this particular moment, we should depart from our well worn rules. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, the situation is not the same. I wish he would come and sit on this side of the House, because if the speeches made about what he has done in the European Parliament are any guide there would be no doubt whatever about his selection or election to the Conservative representation in the European Parliament. He is, however, an Independent, and he can represent only himself. I do not see how an Independent can represent other Independents; by definition he can represent only himself, unless we have the absurdity of an Independent Party in your Lordships' House, agreed, it seems, on nothing else except to be independent.
As I look at noble Lords on the Cross-Benches I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Platt, is exactly a soul-mate of the noble Lord, Lord Monson; nor does the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, seem to me to be a blood brother of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman; nor is the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton. Tweedledee to Lord Milford's Tweedledum. They are united, it seems to me, only in their determination to join no other Parties, and in nothing else.
I confess that however admirable they may be—and admirable they are singly—they really cannot be capable of representing any other of them than themselves. Nor am I quite sure that it would be right to do so, because if there are only 36 members for this country in the European Parliament, it does not seem to me entirely right that one of the 36 places should be taken up by one man who represents only himself.
§ Lord GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, the noble Lord is having such fun with these Benches that I think that somebody from these Benches should say something. Perhaps in answer to the noble Lord, and to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in one voice, I would remind the House that all the Cross-Benchers present on one occasion voted on one side in favour of fundamental freedoms. I would only further say that I think that this argument of 424 how independent we are will obviously go on for a very long time without solution.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, the occasion on which they all voted together was so unique that the noble Lord has remembered it! It seems to me that in the European Parliament we should surely seek to express the views of political opinion in this country. Having said that—and these are my own opinions—it may well be that the system which we have followed for so long is not the right one; but I would hope that your Lordships, in view of the fact that the European Parliament assembles next week—and it is important that the Labour Party should take their seats and attend—will not support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Perth—my noble ex-friend Lord Perth—whose motives I understand. To support his Amendment would upset the political balance of British representation, and I do not think that we ought to do this without considerable care.
The noble Earl says that we can get it all settled in the Committee of Selection, for whom he expressed a profound admiration. I think that the Committee of Selection would have great difficulty if they were charged with this task. This would have to be agreed by your Lordships in your Lordships' House, and in view of the debate we have had, I do not think that it would be easy for either Party in the present circumstances to accept any lessening of their representation at Strasbourg. As for the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale, some of these objections apply, but not very many of them. I do not believe that we, as a House, can choose our own representatives in isolation from the political composition which must be agreed by both Houses.
It would seem to me much wiser, therefore, if your Lordships were to pass the Motion of the Leader of the House, but ask the Government to initiate discussions between both Houses of Parliament to see whether, in the future, it is desirable or proper to continue the traditional method of selection, or whether some change ought to be made. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has gone some way to agreeing to that, and it may be that my noble friend's suggestion, if my suggestion is adopted, will be 425 one way in which this can be done. But I hope very much that until such time as the Leader of the House says "Yes" or "No" to my suggestion, your Lordships will certainly not vote for my noble friend's Amendment but will see perhaps that there is a wiser course in discussing this matter in both Houses of Parliament.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am sure that the best service that I can render to your Lordships' House is to be brief, and if there is to be a Division we should deal with it with the greatest of expedition. I should like to say just one word about the number of Peers who may be able to go to the European Parliament. The Motion before the House lists 10. They are names that were submitted by the Labour and Conservative Parties. As I said earlier in an intervention, if the Liberal Party wish to change their own representation then it is open for them to include a Peer in substitution for a Member of another place.
Where the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is so wrong is in saying that there is a prescriptive right to this House of 10 places for Strasbourg. The reason there are 10 places today is because the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, within their own discussions and consultations, agreed what their Party composition should be. Therefore, I would say that for this House to intervene, to substitute, to change in an arbitary way, would be of great disservice to this House and its relations with another place.
One could say a great deal about the debate as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who I believe exerts a great deal of influence among the CrossBenchers, asked me whether there was a possibility of discussions within the House. I said earlier that discussions could commence with the agreement of all sides as soon as we wish, and nothing will prevent a debate inside this House on this matter at any stage.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, said that he might be disposed to support the Motion that I have moved if I could deal with four questions, and perhaps I could use those four questions in the way of reply to this debate. Do the 426 Government accept the discontent in your Lordships' House? My Lords, I should need to be blind and deaf not to be aware of a degree of concern that exists in this House. Discontent is a natural thing in a political assembly but, if I may say so, I think some of the strictures that have been levelled on recent occasions at the usual channels are less than fair. They serve us well. It is only through the efficiency of the usual channels that this House is enabled to continue its work in such a civilised way, and we ought to be grateful to those who serve within the usual channels.
As to the need for closer consultation with Back-Benchers, I am always open to suggestions as to how this could be improved. As the Leader of the House from a minority situation I feel that my strength is more likely to come from a contented House than a discontented House. Therefore, if any noble Lord can tell me how we can improve the situation I shall be only too happy to listen. In regard to the duration of these appointments to the European Parliament they are, as we have them in the Motion, of an indefinite nature, but they can always be brought to an end and it may be that with the new European Parliament of 1976 this might be an appropriate occasion for a general reconsideration of our membership. But this, I suggest, is again a matter for the Parties themselves rather than for the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour, then asked me what were my objections to a Select Committee. In practice, I have no objection to this procedure, and I think a great deal can be learned by a careful examination of the problems. My reluctance to advise the House to support the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, is that I think it is too precipitate at this moment. As I said at the outset, this is something on which the two Houses have to be brought together; no single House should go out on a limb and we should seek to work together for a common purpose. It is for that reason and that reason alone that I would not wish to see a Select Committee being set up at this stage.
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on the question of consultations, I confirm that we will be willing to enter into consultations between the Parties in both Houses before the end of 427 the present Session of the European Parliament, which is in the spring of 1976. I suggest that all past practice and custom shows that we make greater progress through this form of approach than by setting up Select Committees solely for one purpose and one Chamber. This is a matter for Parliament as a whole, and I therefore hope that with the assurances I have now freely given to the noble Leader of the Opposition we can enter into consultations between the Parties of both Houses and that they will take place before the end of the present Session of the European Parliament—
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, I think I said "all Parties", but if I did not then I say it now. I hope that that assurance will satisfy the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. I also hope that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, will recognise the very great dangers that could flow from the acceptance of his Amendment, and that he will feel that the weight of the debate has been such that he should now withdraw it. It has been a debate of which I have taken great note, which I will study with particular care in the light of the fact that we will enter into consultations.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Strang, is prepared to be included within a Party—which of course Cross-Benchers never have been—then of course that will include them. May I tell the noble Lord that when I refer to all the Parties in this House I am really referring to all quarters of this House, which clearly would include the Cross-Benchers. It has been a debate the Report of which we will study with the greatest care. I hope that the House will approve the Motion unamended, and will wish all good fortune to the new Members who will be going to Strasbourg and who, I know, will receive every support from those who are now old hands, particularly those from this House, in dealing with this new system of 428 Parliamentary control. I hope the House will now feel it right to let the Motion go through unamended.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ The Earl of PERTH
My Lords, I am advised that I have the right of reply and I intend to exercise it very briefly. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said that politics is power, but power should be tempered with justice and fairness and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, was right when he said that that is what prompted me to move my Amendment. I do not believe that at this moment that power is being so used. This House is made up of four important groups and I believe it right that all groups should be represented in the Parliament of Europe. That is why I have put forward in my Amendment the name of one Liberal and one Cross-Bencher, and have left the other eight to be chosen, undoubtedly five from the Labour Party and three from the Conservative Party. I accept what the Leader of the House said about our not having an absolute right to 10, but given the 10 I feel that we should have the right to distribute the number in some way in relation to who the House is composed.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, and others, pointed out that the European Parliament was a political force and that my Amendment would upset the political balance. Consider, my Lords, what my Amendment would do. It would mean that instead of 18 representatives of the Labour Party there would be 17, and instead of 16 Members of the Conservative Party there would he 15. Would that really upset the political balance? The noble Lord, Lord Maybray-King, and many others made the very serious point that this might upset the good relations between the two Houses. I do not know how to assess this. I think that all your Lordships have to judge this issue for yourselves and I feel it would be wrong for me not to press my Amendment so they may have just that opportunity. Therefore, at this point I intend to go forward with the Amendment. Then the question arises—at any rate, it has been implied—that if my Amendment were accepted the time-table for next Monday could not be achieved. I say that it could be, and your Lordships must take my word for that—
§ The Earl of PERTH
—and if noble Lords do not want to take my word for it, I will explain how. There would be a meeting of the Committee of Selection tonight, tomorow what they decided would be put before your Lordships, it would be voted on, it would go through and Members could go on Monday. During that time—and, if my Amendment is accepted, there is that delegation—the important undertaking given by the Leader of the House that there should be consultation could still go forward and nothing stops that. I end by saying that in my opinion that undertaking is of the greatest value and, indeed, has justified all those who have taken part
§ in this debate, and I thank the noble Lord for giving it.
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)
My Lords, the original Question was in the terms of the Motion set out on the Order Paper in the name of the Lord Privy Seal, since when an Amendment, No. 1, has been moved—At the end of the first line of the second paragraph insert the words as set out on the Order Paper. The Question I therefore have to put is that this Amendment be agreed to.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 99.431
|Airedale, L.||Garner, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Gladwyn, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Arran, E.||Gore-Booth, L.||Perth, E. [Teller.]|
|Avebury, L.||Greenway, L.||Platt, L.|
|Banks, L.||Grey of Naunton, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Halsbury, E.||Robson of Kiddington, B.|
|Bourne, L.||Hampton, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Brain, L.||Hankey, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Byers, L.||Hanworth, V.||Seear, B.|
|Caccia, L.||Henley, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Clancarty, E.||Hood, V.||Strang, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Hylton-Foster, B. [Teller.]||Swaythling, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Kimberley, E.||Tanlaw, L.|
|Combermere, V.||Kinloss, Ly.||Terrington, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Lauderdale, E.||Vernon, L.|
|Erskine of Rerrick, L.||Loudoun, C.||Wade, L.|
|Esher, V.||Monson, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Feversham, L.||Moyne, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Foot, L.||Ogmore, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Cowley, E.||Henderson, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Cranbrook, E.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Crook, L.||Inglewood, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Crowther-Hunt, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Cudlipp, L.||Janner, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Darling of Hillsborough, L.||Kissin, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Davies of Leek, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, [Teller.]|
|Bernstein, L.||Denham, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Long, V.|
|Beswick, L.||Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Longford, E.|
|Bethell, L.||Elton, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.|
|Birk, B.||Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chanceller.)||McLeavy, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Emmet of Amberley, B.||Maelor, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Evans of Hungershall, L.||Mais, L.|
|Brown, L.||Falkland, V.||Mansfield, E.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Fisher of Rednal, B.||Maybray-King, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Gaitskell, B.||Meichett, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Gardiner, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Castle, L.||Goronwy-Roberts, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Champion, L.||Hale, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Collison, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Pannell, L.|
|Peddie, L.||Sandford, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Pitt of Hampstead L.||Sandys, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Popplewell, L.||Shackleton, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Raglan, L.||Shannon, E.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Reay, L.||Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal.)||Walston, L.|
|Redesdale, L.||Slater, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Ritchie-Calder, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.||White, B.|
|St. Aldwyn, E.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]||Winterbottom, L.|
|Saint Oswald, L.||Strathclyde, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE moved, as an Amendment to the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal—
§ In the last line to leave out (" this House otherwise orders ") and insert (" the end of the present session of the European Parliament "). The noble Earl said: My Lords, during this debate I have wondered just how precise the Government's assurances were meant to be, and I have listened with interest to their gradual response, I will not say to pressure but to approaches and appeals. I do not want the final stages of this afternoon's debate despoiled by any kind of ill will. We are offered the assurance of consultations through the same usual channels that have brought us to the present unworthy situation. We are promised a debate at the end of it, which we can have at any time, anyway, but we have in the last half-hour had a further promise—and I take it that it is a promise—that these consultations will be finished by the time the present Session of the European Parliament finishes in March. I will gladly give way to the noble Lord the Leader of the House if he cares to confirm or deny that. I am assuming that he has given an assurance that these consultations through the usual channels will be completed by the time the present Session of the European Parliament finishes in March. I am glad to give way if he would like to confirm that.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, I do not think I can be expected to commit anyone here by saying that we shall be able to complete these discussions by any fixed time. Certainly, it must be the determination of us all to achieve that end. However, as I say, I think it would be a little harsh on me to be called upon to give a specific assurance that consultations between the various Parties, which could be difficult and protracted, 432 would be completed by any given date. I am sure, however, that it would be the wish of the Government that we should seek to end the consultations by that date.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord has said and of my normally uncontroversial contribution to situations in this House, I should like to beg leave to withdraw my first Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE moved as an Amendment to the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal—
At end to insert—
That a Select Committee be appointed to propose to the House the method of choosing the Lords members to serve in future sessions of the European Parliament best designed to secure the representation of all sections of the House and to recommend whether or not such members should be chosen for a fixed term.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, we now come to the Select Committee. A Select Committee could perfectly well take account of all that is done through the usual channels. It could call evidence and there is nothing to stop it collaborating with another such Committee if one were set up in another place. The Select Committee offers all the machinery for review. Therefore, in view of the catholic scope which it offers to the operations and studies of this House, I beg to move my second Amendment and I believe that it will be right to test the opinion of the House.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, I do not think I ought to detain your Lordships for too long on this matter. I indicated earlier, and I have been drawn a little more in the course of the afternoon, that the Government are willing to undertake consultations with all the parties in all quarters of your Lordships' House and in another place. The noble 433 Earl is asking that there shall be a Select Committee to go into the various matters that no doubt the Party machines and the leadership will be considering. I said earlier that I thought it a little precipitate and that there was some advantage in letting the usual machinery work, but I am willing to agree in principle to the establishment of a Select Committee. However, I should like a little more time to consider the terms of reference of the Committee. I think that that is something we ought to deal with through consultation, but I hope that the Select Committee will be one which will seek to bring forth all the facts governing the European Community and also that it will be able to provide advice to the parties themselves.
If the House accepts that, I feel we should look at the terms of reference to see that we have them quite right and, if the noble Earl is willing to accept that, I will be happy to proceed with a Select Committee, so long as we have care and attention that we do not create a confrontation between the two Houses.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for what he has just said. I believe—because I always take absolutely literally everything he says, even when it is in jest—that what he has said now is of great importance. He has said that he is willing to consider a Select Committee and I believe that "consider" means that he is willing to have one set up once there is agreement as to the terms of reference. Am I right to understand that?
§ Lord SHEPHERD
Yes, my Lords. I am personally not opposed to the idea of a Select Committee for the examination of a particular problem. But I should certainly need to look at the terms of reference. I have said—and I hope the House will accept this—that, before we come to a decision about the Select Committee, if we are to go through this process, it is better to have consultations between the various parties concerned to see which is the best way of proceeding.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, may I just thank the noble Lord. Am I right in understanding that these will be consultations with all quarters of the House and also that they will be set in hand pronto?
§ Lord SHEPHERD
The noble Earl is getting me into difficulty with some of my noble friends. I suggest that he takes what I have said. It has been said in good faith. If he pushes too hard, we shall have a vote.
§ The Earl of LAUDERDALE
My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord has said, but not of the barrage behind him, I beg leave to withdraw my second Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.