§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ The Earl of CORK and ORRERY
My Lords, as I was about to say when we were interrupted, it is true—I must admit it myself—that, as my noble friend Lord Alport has hinted, one or two of our procedures have begun to verge on the old-fashioned, and among such must be included the strange ritual dance, invented centuries ago, for the Introduction of a fledgling Peer. Few, perhaps, would wish to sweep it utterly into oblivion, but can anyone seriously claim that there is a reasonable place for such antics in 1975? Well, yes, of course; my noble friend Lord Denham can, and does ; and he is one whom I regard with unremitting affection and esteem. But neither of these emotions should I allow, I feel, to blind me to the fact that my noble friend is also perhaps one whose feet tend to be somewhat rooted in the past. Perhaps it was unfair and unreasonable to expect otherwise of our once and future Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, who may be supposed to have a certain vestmented interest in scarlet facecloth and gold lace. Indeed, I sympathise. None the less, I face the fact, as we all must do, that the calendar moves on.
We are not, as sage observers have remarked, living in the Middle Ages or 539 even in the age, for the matter of that, of Ioianthe or the Red Queen. I confess to a temptation, when a new Peer is seen to be shaking hands with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, to cry not, "Hear, hear! " but, "Tantan-tara Tsing-boom" ; and I cherish a happy suspicion that my noble friend Lord Denham may actually be doing so under his breath. But I know that the time for such splendours, however noble and inspiring in their day, may in the end have to be laid aside. It is all import-ant nowadays to keep in touch with what is really going on in the harsh, pragmatic world about us—or rather, perhaps I should say," At this moment in time one must maintain a meaningful dialogue at the grass roots"—or perhaps it should be " with the grass roots" ; I do not know. If ever I find myself thinking that a speech containing such illiterate rubbish as that sounds more like a meaningless monologue, I try to pull myself together, recognising the wistful reactionary who lurks inside me somewhere and bidding him sternly avaunt. Empty ceremonial, as I spell it out to him, is at risk of establishing an ambivalent ambience and so of losing its charisma and ceasing to be viable. At this moment in time (to repeat that jewel of a phrase), remembering that justice must be seen to be done, and that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we must be prepared at the end of the day to stand up and be counted, and even to allow ourselves, traumatic as the experience may be, to be dragged, kick-ing and screaming, right across the board into the year of the silly referendum! At this moment in—no, perhaps not again. In this day and age, and in the last analysis, should we not seek to streamline our procedures? Is it reason-able any longer to preserve the spectacle of distinguished ladies and gentlemen performing a stately saraband in heraldic tabard or mediaeval dressing-gown? Is it still reasonable, frequently for minutes at a time, to listen to pronouncements concerning mere motions, the waiving of excuses, and the danger of the said affairs?
To each of these last two questions, my answer is an emphatic and unhesitating, Yes. It is both reasonable and right. In the Introduction of a newly created Peer we see tradition made both audible and visible, tradition that has remained 540 unchanged for three and a half centuries; and such tradition is precious since its function is, by bringing the past into the present and carrying both present and past forward into the future, to lend both stature and coherence to a body or institution. The Introduction of a new Peer is something vastly more than an archaic survival of which the best that can be said is that there is no ill to be said. It is, like any initiation ritual, pace my noble friend Lord Alport, a threshold that can-not be passed insouciantly. Nor, I suspect, is it altogether easy for one who has passed it to feel precisely the same as he did just before. I collected something of this impression from the totally admirable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cudlipp, whom I hope we may hear frequently again in the future, and the near future at that. He, after all, is the last to have had this experience, I think, and has referred to it this after-noon.
To be a Member of the House of Lords is not quite the same as not to be a Member. I do not mean to say that it is better than not being a Member in the sense that a Member is in some ways superior to a non-Member; but I do mean that to receive a Writ of Summons as a counsellor to the Sovereign is both to receive an honour and to accept an obligation, and in each of these regards to enter into a line of honourable succession that has endured and has been unwinding for many centuries. Therefore, I say not only that the Introduction ceremony ought not to be abolished but also that it ought to be left exactly as it always has been and as it is—unchanged and unshortened in any way.
The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, sup-ported by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, and also by my noble friend Lord Alport, says that the procedure for installing a new Peer in his place on the Barons' Bench is undignified, not to say comical and absurd. When one sees all the hatwork and the bowing and bobbing up and down, I suppose one could say that. I suppose one could say much the same of Black Rod having the door slammed in his face by the Serjeant at Arms in the House of Commons, or of the Earl Marshall and Lord Great Chamberlain walking backwards at the State Opening of Parliament. I dare say one could say that the Royal Arms 541 are not placed with the maximum regard to seemliness and dignity upon a Door-keeper's stomach. But does it, in fact, seem necessary or sensible to say any of these things? Not to me, my Lords. There is one thing, however, that I feel to be unnecessary and wrong; namely, the custom of the King of Arms audibly telling the new Peer and his sponsors what to do. I do not believe that grown-up men and women either ought, or need, especially after careful rehearsal, to be treated like children or recruits.
In the general picture of the life of the nation as we know it and live it in this ancient and honourable House, tradition is at once the gilding of the frame and the unifying patina of age ; or, to use a totally different metaphor, it is the key to the iconography of the picture. Tradition may become atrophied, distorted or debased. In the particular manifestation of it which we are discussing this afternoon, none of these fates has befallen it. Its symbolism is as ancient as it is clear, as intelligible as it is rich. I have said, and I hope I may be forgiven for saying it, that the feet of my noble friend Lord Denham tend to be somewhat rooted in the past. So, I suspect, like those of a good many others, are mine, and they will carry me very happily to the right by the Throne if the noble Lord chooses to lead the way.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Lord PANNELL
My Lords, may I say a word or two in support of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, largely because of an intervention which I made earlier this afternoon. I come from a society which is used to ceremonial and to the taking of Oaths, but I do not believe that either Oaths or ceremonial have much use beyond their context of time and meaning. That is why I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Alport.
When I referred to the trade union movement earlier in the day, I recalled that my own trade union, which goes back to 1780, also has the ritual of ceremonial and Oath-taking. During the time when the Combination Laws lay heavy upon it, it was then the custom for the initiate to be brought in and for the curtains to be closed to keep out prying eyes. The initiate took the Oath upon the Bible and was presented with a pistol to blow out 542 his brains if he broke the Oath. At that time, trade unionists in this country were subject to the caprice of the predecessors of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Salmon, and of the Lords of Appeal who would transport them to Botany Bay merely for the right to combine. This enshrined the historic name of Tolpuddle and other occasions. That was the Oath of the society to which I belonged, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, until the Combination Acts were repealed in 1825.
Later on, responding to the context of time and place, Charles Kingsley and Tom Hughes, who wrote Tom Brown's Schooldays, devised another form of initiation ceremony which reflected the hard working Victorianism of the engineers and told them how to be attractive to their employers. This was an Oath in its context of time and place.
I do not believe that the present ceremonial, in which I was glad to take part some months ago, has any place in our present society; it puts at a disadvantage this honourable House. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, was quite right when he said that coming to this House was probably the consummation of a life of public work, or of a life in one of the learned professions; probably it is also true if one comes from the other place to this House. The best reason I have heard for the present ceremonial was given to me by a Peer who came from the other place. He believes that any legislator who comes to Parliament without submitting himself to the pitiless ordeal of an Election should suffer for it. I think there is something to be said for that point of view.
Surely there cannot be any rationality in the present Oath. I understand in the other place that a maiden speech must never be commented upon except in terms of approval. Therefore, I must desist from expressing my view about it. How-ever, it reminds me of the Chinese general who baptised his troops with a hosepipe —the conversion was so quick! Consequently, with the advent of Life Peers I want this place to be a modern assembly, standing in dignity and in its own right.
May I suggest that the present idea is not an idea which is worth pursuing. We stand for certain values and recognise that 543 this House is the greatest repository of public service in the world—with, probably, the exception of the other place— and that people in great variety are brought to this House. By their nature, they cannot be impressed with the initial ceremony that we have to go through. It could be a shorter ceremony which would be just as dignified. I think it is awe-inspiring enough to come to your Lordships' House without, I suggest, a degree of ridiculousness—I was almost going to say humiliation. It is really quite ridiculous and it should be done away with.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Lord KINNAIRD
My Lords, may I say one word to your Lordships' House. At the beginning of this debate the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, said that he wished to produce something that would please everybody. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who said that we cannot please everybody. If one is unable to please everybody, surely one ought to shun compromise; you could call that tampering, with which nobody in the long run would be satisfied.
I disagree very much with the noble Lord opposite who has just spoken. He suggested that today this ceremony has no place in your Lordships' House. If we act on that premise, we shall scrap 90 per cent. of the way of life to which we are accustomed. Talking of tampering, I should like to give your Lordships one word of warning. Already in the last decade we have tampered with the Bible—I do not think with very good results. We have tampered with the Prayer Book, again not with very good results. We have tampered with the Church of England services, also with not very good results. Therefore, I think we should think twice before tampering with one of the oldest ceremonies in your Lordships' House.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Lord POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I think that the last speaker has indicated the views which are held by your Lordships: whether the old traditions should be maintained in full or whether, in view of the changed conditions in the world and our line of approach to the nation as a whole, we should have another look at these things. This seems to be the dividing line. Quite frankly, I feel that the 544 ceremony that takes place adds to the dignity of a new Member coming in. I feel that such a new Member must feel a sense of awe, of gratification in some way that his services in some direction have at any rate been appreciated and therefore he is put in this place fox a given purpose. What is that purpose? That purpose has not the power behind it of election to another place. Therefore, to introduce them under the present ceremony dressed in robes and all the paraphernalia, I think indicates that we are just a show place.
In view of the change that has taken place among the nation as a whole and the way this House is looked upon, and when one hears the observations of people who have been sitting in the public gallery and have seen what takes place, I personally think it would be much better if the ceremony were changed. I have had my leg pulled because in going up the steps when acting as sponsor to a new Peer I have been inclined to trip on my robe. I do not think this adds to the dignity of this House in this day and age. I rather agree with the idea put forward by my noble friend Lord Raglan that a new Peer should be introduced almost on the same lines as a Member of Parliament who has been before the electorate and who comes here with some responsibility given to him by the people he is to represent. But we have not that responsibility; we are nominated people and as such we can do—and in fact do—a useful job of work in many ways, but I do not think that walking up and down the steps and doffing our hats does any good, because no one has been able to give any indication of the meaning of doffing the hat so many times. Why does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor take his hat off in reply?
§ A Noble Lord: Because he is polite, my Lords!
§ Lord POPPLEWELL
My Lords, if there was a meaning behind it, there would be something to be said for it, but it is just part of the pageantry that might appeal to us here and to the few people who might be in the Gallery, although even there one finds mixed views. But keeping in line with modern development, I agree with the Motion put forward by my noble friend Lord Raglan, asking the 545 Government to appoint a Select Committee to look into the introductory process and I hope it may be adopted.
I hope the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will not be quite so adamant as to insist upon the Amendment and so force a vote, because I think that would rather look as though we were people who refused to face up to modern society and who wanted to keep things exactly as they are, which is not in accordance with the modern trend. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will allow the Motion to go through in order that the Government can see whether they can reach some kind of agreement on the method of Introduction.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord SOMERS
My Lords, I should like to support very strongly the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Denham. There have been times when I have not supported the noble Lord but I certainly do so today. The noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, referred to the noble Lord as one who has his feet firmly rooted in the past. What is wrong with the past? There is a strong tendency today to denigrate anything that comes from the past but there is a great deal of merit in our past as a nation, and I should be sorry to see our national pageantry go. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, said that this would not be doing away with the whole of our pageantry; it was merely attacking a very small part of it. But, my Lords, it is the first bite. One has to remember that every landslide starts with the falling of a few small stones. Since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I have seen one stone fall; that is, the abolition of the ceremonial Royal Commission, which is now replaced by a simple reading out of a list of those Bills which are accepted.
Perhaps some of us do get a little tired of seeing the constant repetition of the introductory ceremonial, but I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Platt that the cause is not nearly so much the ceremony itself as the number of times we see it performed. There have been weeks when we have had as many as five Introductions, and it is not at all uncommon to have three.
My Lords, I have brought to this House many friends from outside, and without 546 exception I think I can say that every one has been absolutely fascinated by the tradition of the place, the ceremonial and the totally different atmosphere that it has from anywhere else in the country, or for that matter in the world. I should be sorry to do away with the various ceremonials that we have not only in this House but in the country. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, mentioned a few. I could name a few others. Why not do away with the normal dress uniform of the Guards, which is totally unadaptable to modern warfare?
§ Lord RAGLAN
My Lords, I should like to try to refute what the noble Lord is saying. I do not wish to abolish all ceremonial; I do not wish to destroy the Grenadier Guards. I am asking whether the House may look at this ceremony to see whether it can be modified in order to make it more dignified. I do not want to abolish it.
§ Lord SOMERS
My Lords, I accept that, and I think it is possible that it might be modified slightly, though I cannot really see the point in doing so if one is going to retain it at all. For that matter, one comes to the ceremony, for instance, of the Opening of Parliament. That is the only time when humble Back-Benchers such as myself have a chance to wear our Parliamentary robes. I should be very sorry to see that go, though I must confess that nowadays I do not make a great deal of use of it.
My Lords, the past is not a laughable thing. In this country, it is a very great thing. Looking back on our greatness as a nation, our tradition is something which should be preserved. I do not agree that it seems out of keeping with today. Perhaps one could ask your Lordships' Chamber, "Do you want to see this replaced by a concrete and glass Chamber? ". One sees them elsewhere in London, with colour-washed walls, presumably blue one side and pink the other.
§ Baroness WOOTTON of ABINGER
My Lords, I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that we are not discussing replacing this building with a structure of concrete and glass, or the ceremony of the Opening of Parliament, but we are discussing the Introduction ceremony of noble Lords into this House.
§ Lord SOMERS
My Lords, I quite accept that, but, as I say, that is just the first step towards doing away with all pageantry. Therefore, I think it a pity to take it away.
§ Lord HARVINGTON
My Lords, I had no intention of intervening in this debate, but I do so for a few moments because of what fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell. I was rather surprised to hear him speak as he did. I have made a point of trying to be here for as many Introductions as possible, since being Introduced myself a few months ago. I recollect vividly the Introduction of the noble Lord, Lord Greene, of Harrow Weald, carried out with the noble Lords, Lord Champion and Lord Popplewell, as his sponsors. Of all the Introductions I have seen—and I am someone who has had had to be Master of Ceremonies in other places—I have never seen anything done more beautifully or more perfectly than was done at the Introduction of the noble Lord, Lord Greene, by the noble Lords, Lord Popplewell and Lord Champion. So I find it extremely difficult to take what he said with the obvious seriousness with which he said it. I think that if the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, could have seen himself in a looking glass on that day, he would not have said what he did.
§ Lord DOUGLAS of BARLOCH
My Lords, may I add my felicitations to my noble friend Lord Cudlipp upon his wise and witty maiden speech. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, indicated that Members of this House might become bored by seeing the ceremony—and that is possible, because they see it many times. But I entirely disagree with his view that the public outside do not like to see it, or regard it as ridiculous. Some years ago, I had the pleasure of entertaining here a distinguished citizen of the city of Chicago. It happened to be a day upon which a new Peer was introduced. Afterwards, I said to the American, "You have not anything like that, I suppose, in Chicago", and he said, " I only wish we had ".
§ 4.55 p.m.
Lord WALLACE of COSLANY
My Lords, I will be brief because I can see that my noble friend the Leader of the House is getting anxious at the length of 548 this debate. May I say that I think we are making somewhat heavy weather of a subject which could have been disposed of in half the time, but I feel I must rise to speak, simply because I am a very new Member. Incidentally, the noble Lord, Lord Platt, referred to the large number of Members introduced. I was the 100th Member introduced by the present Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. Whether he is happy about that century, I do not know! As a newcomer, I feel I should reply to my noble friend Lord Popplewell who so excellently acted as one of my sponsors, when he referred to the fact that we are nominated, not elected. The fact that we are nominated imposes upon us greater responsibility than even the question of election, because we have freedom of action and freedom of speech. That in itself imposes on us greater responsibility.
So far as concerns the ceremony of the three noble Lords going up to the Back-Bench and raising their hats three times to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I must confess that after my Introduction my own ego was completely shattered by my family. I understand that when the York Herald issued the command to us and I promptly obeyed, my wife muttered to my son, "Good boy, give him a chocolate drop". I was thus reduced to the status of my four-legged and faithful friend, who does precisely that. Even so, I still think we should retain the ceremony as it is, not "mucking about" with it, because it imposes great dignity on those involved and conveys to them the serious nature of the responsibility which they are taking on. So I hope that we shall be sensible about this, and keep the ceremony. I know some of my friends disagree with me. There is one person who I strongly disagree with. I shall not reveal his name, but when I came here he said to me, "George, for God's sake, do not take this place too seriously". However, we should take this place seriously, because we have a responsibility to the country just as much as those elected in another place.
Earl ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, I had no intention of intervening either, but there are one or two points I must make. It is clear that those opposed to the present ceremony are not in agreement as to how it should be revised. There has 549 been talk about the doffing of the hat three times. Are noble Lords also suggesting that when Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Commons come to the Bar, they should no longer bow three times to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, and that he should lake up with the Royal Commission that they should not take their hats off on that occasion? It seems to me all much the same. There are those who are basically in favour of retaining it, and those who want to change it in one form or another. I strongly urge my noble friend Lord Denham to press this Amendment. Let us hope this matter can be settled now, once and for all.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, it will not have escaped the notice of your Lordships' House that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has sat on the Woolsack, which I believe to be uncomfortable, for the full length of this debate. I think I understand the reason why. Both he and I have sat in Cabinet on seats that again are not very comfortable, dealing with matters which are obviously secret, but about which I think there is a certain amount of conjecture in the newspapers. Both he and I have had a sense of light relief in listening to this very good humoured debate.
My difficulty is that I agree both with the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and with the noble Lord, Lord Denham. But, first, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Cudlipp on his outstanding maiden speech. It is not easy to deliver a maiden speech in your Lordships' House. It is easier to deliver one on matters of great moment, and it is more difficult to deal with a subject of this kind in such a light-hearted way, yet at the same time making clear points relevant to the decision—if we have to have a decision this afternoon. To my noble friend Lord Raglan, may I offer my congratulations. He has done something that other noble Lords have not been able to do for a very long time; that is, to get the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, the Opposition Chief Whip, off that Bench and to declare a view. We can see why there is this desire for Divisions. When I used to sit opposite, I was always seeking to avoid Divisions.
I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Harvington, who was congratulating my 550 noble friends Lord Champion and Lord Popplewell on their performance, that if he were sitting on this side of the House watching the ceremony I think he would usually give credit to the Labour Peers for their greater sense of discipline. This is nothing to do with a Chief Whip in another place. It is due to the fact that there is knowledge that my noble friend Lord Henderson gives marks, nine out of ten, eight out of ten, according to the performance, so there is a degree of competition.
My Lords, I was the instigator of this matter being taken to the Procedure Committee in 1964, when I was Government Chief Whip I did it because we were then having the first influx of Life Peers, at least in any number, and it was taking up a good deal of time. Your Lordships' House had not then got used to sitting beyond six o'clock in the evening; if we were to sit beyond six o'clock, it was the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, who used to complain, and, therefore, there was a degree of pressure. I took the matter to the Procedure Committee; I did not get much success or much change, as my noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said. I think I can understand it. The feelings were, as has been said this afternoon, that this has been a ceremony attached to your Lordships' House for very many years and, therefore, unless there is any real justification, change should not be made. I must say I had a sense of despair that your Lordships' House would ever undertake any radical change. Yet I cannot help but reflect that some three years later, on a Motion moved from this Box and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, your Lordships supported a Motion which would have removed for all time the hereditary right of sitting in your Lordships' House.
So to my noble friend Lord Raglan I would say that this House is still not without hope; it still may take change. But I suspect, from this afternoon's debate and the massed ranks I see before me, which is very strange on a matter on which there is no Whip—unless, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, the Opposition's Deputy Chief Whip, has been letting it be known that he would like support for this Amendment—that my noble friend is unlikely to have any greater success than I had in 1964. I am not against ceremony. I think much 551 of our life in this country depends upon ceremony, and it is enjoyed by a lot of people. But I wonder whether the ceremony can retain its position if it is repeated so often. This is the one question that I find it very difficult to answer.
I feel, when we have had some 20 or 25 Peers introduced since Christmas, that the ceremony loses its life and its attractiveness. On the other hand, it may be that we shall go some months without any new creations, so the new batch will start again all fresh, and everyone will be interested to see how the ceremony is proceeded with. Therefore, as I said earlier, I am rather torn between the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and the noble Lord, Lord Denham. I wonder whether this is a matter that we should solve by a Division, because a Division brings it to a conclusion; one side has won and the other side has lost. I suspect from today's debate that both sides have made considerable points.
I wonder whether, if the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, undertook to withdraw his Motion, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, would be willing not to press his Amendment. I am trying only to be helpful. I wonder if there was something in what the noble Lord, Lord Alport, said, and whether, without making a basic change in the ceremony, it could be looked at to see whether there could be some improvement, some refinement of it, genuinely bringing it into the present day life of this House, without in any way changing its historic position. My Lords, I have done my best. The look on the face of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, seems to indicate that I have not done enough. I can only try. I wonder whether this is a matter on which we should divide. I think there is a lot to be said for calling it a day—I will not say all square, but the points have been made —and in due time, when the moment is ripe, this matter can be considered again, perhaps by the Procedure Committee, without the limelight of a public debate.
§ Lord MOLSON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House this question? Is he of the opinion—I am not asking him to give a ruling—that if my noble friend's Amendment were carried it would prevent the Procedure Committee from looking at any modification of 552 the procedure for an indefinite period of time?
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, too Parliament binds another, but I should have thought a Division today with the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, succeeding—which would kill the Motion of my noble friend—would mean no consideration by the Procedure Committee in this Parliament. But your Lordships' House can do what it wishes; it may vote one way today and decide that the matter should be looked at tomorrow. I should have thought a decision of this kind today would rule out any consideration in this Parliament.
Viscount ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, in order to help me to decide which way to see the question, I wonder whether the nobls Lord the Leader of the House could help me on the subject of the frequency of this ceremony. I feel rather strongly that there is a point here, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Platt, made. There is a simple question which we can put to the noble Lord the Leader of the House; that is, how often is this ceremony likely to occur in the near future?
§ Lord RAGLAN
My Lords, I am not sure, following what my noble friend the Leader of the House has said, whether it is for me to speak now. I understand that it is. First of all, as regards what the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, said about those who wished for modification of the ceremony not being agreed among them selves as to what it should be, that is why I suggested the matter should go to a Select Committee for examination and a recommendation. Throughout the debate I have found myself agreeing exactly with the sentiments of my noble friend Lady Wootton, who described the difficulty that ceremonial frequently has in teetering between impressiveness and ludicrousness. I also agreed with the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Alport. I am glad he reminded me that the Writ is, of course, the oldest of all the Parliamentary missives, and I agree with him that it would probably be a loss if the Writ were not read out at the ceremony. I myself take great pleasure in reading my own Writ whenever it appears through the post.
There are two main points put forward in opposition to the Motion, which I should like to answer if I can. The first 553 is the argument that we should not change what has taken place for 354 years. I think that itself is a poor reason for not making a change. As I indicated at the beginning, up to 1621 there were frequent changes in the ceremony of Introduction brought about by the fact that it was of immense importance to the participants. My point is that the ceremony which was formulated in 1621 was of great relevance then, but is not quite so relevant today, for it does not agree with our custom of equality between Peers nor with the sense of a great many people in this House of what is dignified. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cudlipp on his maiden speech. I am sorry that I did not find it entirely non-controversial, but I hope that his incisiveness and his experience of life in the newspaper industry will often be at the service of your Lordships in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, did not, I believe, listen to my speech. I think he came to the House thinking that I wanted to abolish everything, right, left and centre, and then accused me of wanting to do all sorts of things which I do not. The point is that every custom has a beginning at some time and when this ceremony was brought into being it was, in its day, radical. My noble friend Lord Cudlipp said that we must not tamper with the ceremonial, but that is exactly what happened in the year 1621—they tampered with the ceremonial. Running into that is the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument. Surely the joy of this House, and why so many of your Lordships, including myself, have such a deep affection for it, is that we are entirely in charge of our own procedure. Nobody imposes things on us or gives us rulings. Erskine May and precedents do not dictate to us, and we can decide exactly what we want to do. Noble Lords need not change the Introduction ceremony, or they can change it exactly so much as they wish and no further.
Our procedure always incorporates the best of what is both modern and traditional. That is one reason why we remain a House of contemporary influence. We have never been, and I hope we never shall be, against change unless it be change for the sake of it, and surely that is not the case here. What I urge on the House is that we 554 must consider change; we must surely consider it from time to time even if that next time is 354 years hence; and if the matter goes to a Select Committee which can publish its report with its reasons, recommending change or otherwise, it is still then within your Lordships' hands, in the light of that report and perhaps in the light of what has been said in the debate, to take action or no action as your Lordships see fit. So I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will be prepared to withdraw his Amendment and that the House will agree with the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Alport, and of my noble friend Lord Shepherd, and let the matter be considered by a Select Committee.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Lord DENHAM
My Lords, first I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cudlipp, on a maiden speech which I enjoyed very much. I enjoyed it a little more perhaps because he agreed with my Amendment rather than with the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. For reasons that filled me with horror, the noble Lord the Leader of the House suggested that your Lordships should not come to a decision this afternoon. He said that if we came to a decision this afternoon, we could discuss this subject again and again. I think that that is an extremely good reason for reaching a decision this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, suggested that your Lordships should not make up your minds this afternoon but should refer the matter to a Select Committee and then wait to see what that Committee decides and to judge whether we like its decision. But I think there is a strong possibility that the majority of your Lordships do not want, and will not ultimately accept, any alteration in the ceremony at all. If this should be the case, it would be pointless to waste the time of a Select Committee and improper to ask Her Majesty to waive her prerogative.
I will leave noble Lords with this one point about making changes. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has already questioned the authenticity of the ceremony, which was devised in 1621, because it is only an adaptation of older ceremonies. If your Lordships were to agree this year to any alteration, however slight, how much easier would it be for some noble 555 Lord in the future to seek to do away with the ceremony which could then be said to date only from 1975. I must ask your Lordships to accept my Amendment.
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord Elwyn-Jones)
My Lords, the original Motion was that an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her Majesty that she will be graciously pleased to place her prerogative and interest so far as they may be concerned at the
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment agreed to accordingly.556
§ disposal of the House of Lords for the purpose of the consideration of alterations in the ceremony of Introduction by a Select Committee, since when an Amendment has been moved to leave out all the words after "That" in line 1, and to insert "this House has no desire to change the ceremony of Introduction."
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 106; Not-Contents, 31.555
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Arran, E.||Gainford, L.||Piercy, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Geddes of Epsom, L.||Porritt, L.|
|Balniel, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Berkeley, B.||Goronwy-Roberts, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Granville of Eye, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Greenway, L.||St. Davids, V. [Teller.]|
|Blyton, L.||Grenfell, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Castle, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Guest, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Cawley. L.||Hanworth, V.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Champion, L.||Harvey of Prestbury, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Harvington, L.||Sherfield, L.|
|Collison, L.||Hawke, L.||Snow, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Henderson, L.||Somers, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Hood, V.||Stamp, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Cudlipp, L.||Ironside, L.||Strang, L.|
|Darwen, L.||Kilmany, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Kilmarnock, L.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Davidson, V.||Kinnaird, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Kinnoull, E.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Eccles, V.||Long, V.||Thomas, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Elles, B.||Lyell, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Ely, Bp.||Merrivale, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Meston, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Erroll of Hale, L.||Monck, V.||Wigoder, L.|
|Erskine of Rerrick, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Wise, L.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Newall, L.||Young, B.|
|Faringdon, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Ferrers, E.||Norwich, V.|
|Fortescue, E.||Ogmore, L.|
|Adeane, L.||Cranbrook, E.||Raglan, L. [Teller.]|
|Airedale. L.||Davies of Leek, L.||Reay, L.|
|Alport, L. [Teller.]||Elton, L.||Royle, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Gladwyn, L.||Salisbury, Bp.|
|Avebury, L.||Hale, L.||Slater, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Hayter, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Boothby, L.||Longford, E.||Wade, L.|
|Brock, L.||Molson, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Brockway, L.||Pannell, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Platt, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Popplewell, L.|
§ On Questions, Motion, as amended, agree to.