§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Lord Diamond rose to move, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to allow that Her undoubted prerogative may not stand in the way of the consideration by Parliament during the present Session of any measure providing for an amendment of the law relating to hereditary peerages that may be introduced.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ Although it is a formal matter, it would perhaps be for the convenience of the House if I offered just a few words of explanation. In the new year I hope to introduce a Bill to provide that hereditary peerages will, except where there is a male heir already, descend to the eldest child whether male or female. The opportunity for full debate is of course a Second Reading and, although the Motion that I now propose is an essential preliminary, it is, so I am advised, a purely formal matter. I commend the Motion to the House.
§ Moved, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to allow that Her undoubted prerogative may not stand in the way of the consideration by Parliament during the present Session of any measure providing for an amendment of the law relating to hereditary peerages that may be introduced.—(Lord Diamond.)1466
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, can it be confirmed that, for the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, the object or end of his Bill is to further the trend of girls now to take still more of the cake, thus proving that diamonds are still their best friend?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I understand the purpose behind the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond. However, the Motion is very wide. It covers any measure dealing with hereditary peerages and not merely the limited one to which he referred. Why is it necessary to take such a wide cover for what is really quite a narrow proposal?
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, I believe that I should rise to say briefly that I support the Motion tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond. The Motion is a formal one and one which we are advised is necessary in order to enable the noble Lord to introduce his Bill. I hope that your Lordships will agree to the Motion. I suggest that any debate on the merits of the proposed Bill to be introduced by the noble Lord should be deferred until such time as the Bill is given a Second Reading. In supporting the noble Lord, I hope that I do not indicate that I necessarily support the Bill. I believe that the substance of it should be discussed on Second Reading.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I should like to follow the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. With the deepest respect, it seems to me to be somewhat unfair to Her Majesty to ask for Her prerogative to be used when, for all Her Majesty knows, the Bill may be one which orders execution for every hereditary Peer. I should have thought that it would be somewhat undesirable to put Her Majesty in that position. I know that I shall have the support of every hereditary Peer in the House in saying so.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, I am in some doubt as to how far the House will be committing itself in approving such a Motion. I agree that the detail will eventually be discussed when the Bill is presented, but the Motion must mean something or nothing. By committing ourselves to agree to move along the line proposed, we will be making a commitment which perhaps we ought not enter into.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, can the noble Lord the Leader of the House confirm that the assumption of his noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter is correct; namely, that not only would the Motion allow the introduction of the Bill by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, but that any other person who feels like producing a Bill dealing with some aspect of hereditary peerages would also be allowed to do so once the Motion is passed? Indeed, we could have any number of Bills of varying character benefiting or disadvantaging the hereditary peerage once the Motion has been passed.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, will my noble friend follow up that point and answer my earlier question to which he did not respond; namely, why is it necessary to have a proposal which would cover any amendment to the law affecting hereditary peerages when we are told that the only purpose is a limited and, 1467 arguably, sensible one? Why cannot the Motion be restricted to that? Why must the Royal prerogative be suspended right across the field?
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I intervene with some trepidation among the life Peers who have spoken in this short debate. It seems to me to be perfectly obvious that, although the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, (the purpose of which he explained), is the subject of a very much narrower Motion than that which we have in front of us, it is quite possible that the Bill will be amended in any way whatever. Therefore, it seems to me that we need the wider Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, which my noble friend the Leader of the House has supported.
§ Lord Wakeham
My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. This is a customary Motion that is put forward. As I see it, it is a Motion which will allow your Lordships to discuss the Bill and, presumably, any amendments that may be made to it. Its purpose is also to seek Her Majesty's agreement to the Bill. If the Motion is passed, it will go to the Home Secretary who will give Her Majesty advice on it. It is in accordance with our customs that, when a Private Member's Bill is directed substantially to the Queen's prerogative, the practice is to move an Address for the consent of the Crown before the introduction. I repeat, it is in no way committing us to agree to any part of the Bill or any amendments that might be made to it; it is in order to have a debate and to obtain the Queen's consent for such a debate.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.