HL Deb 27 October 1997 vol 582 cc885-96

3.18 p.m.

Lord Richard: rose to move, 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 disposal of the House of Lords for the purpose of the consideration of alterations in the ceremony of introduction.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is with a certain degree of anticipation that I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I feel a little unsure of what to expect from the List of Speakers in this debate but I do know one thing: that this House takes it traditions and procedures very seriously indeed. I am therefore prepared for nothing less than a full and thorough debate. I hope that this Motion will provide the House with an opportunity for all those interested to make their views known on this important, if arcane, subject.

I should like to begin with a few words about the Motion before the House today. It is not a Motion to change the procedure for the ceremony of introduction; it is a technical Motion asking Her Majesty to allow the consideration of changes. As the ceremony of introduction is principally a matter for the Sovereign and not for the House—a topic to which I shall return later—technically the House needs to agree the Motion and receive Her Majesty's reply before we can even begin to consider options for change. However, perhaps I should say that that does not preclude a full debate this afternoon.

I am sure that the House will expect me to give some indication of the changes I have in mind to propose in due course if this Motion is agreed and I shall not disappoint your Lordships in that. It is, however, my clear understanding, on advice, that our procedures cater for this: although the House cannot formally consider changes to the ceremony until Her Majesty has given her permission, that does not preclude individuals from expressing their opinions and exploring ideas today. Indeed, we could hardly debate whether an humble Address was needed without discussing the reasons why.

I should also add that I am aware that some might question—indeed some have questioned—the propriety of the procedure committee having produced the report that the House has just accepted in advance of the House's agreeing to my Motion today. It would have been possible for me to have just tabled this Motion after discussion with the usual channels, but I considered it important to obtain the blessing of the procedure committee before even tabling today's Motion. That also had the advantage of enabling various background papers to be made available to the House. I hope that the House will agree that that was the most sensible and courteous way for us to proceed.

Perhaps I may make one further procedural point before coming to the substance of the Motion. If the Motion is agreed to and Her Majesty gives her consent, there are a number of procedures which could then be followed to take forward the will of the House. The procedure committee could, for example, consider the ceremony itself, or perhaps a special Select Committee could be appointed. No discussions have yet taken place within the usual channels on this question, but I hope that noble Lords who have views on how we might proceed if the Motion is accepted will make them known during the debate.

I should now like to look at the ceremony itself. In this context I should say at the outset that I am not in favour of the most radical change of all: doing away with the ceremony entirely and requiring life Peers to go through no greater formality than is now observed by the hereditary occupants of our Benches when they succeed to their seats—namely, taking the oath and signing the roll. I am not in favour of what I call that most radical option because I recognise that, for those Peers for whom their new title is an honour personally bestowed, the day on which they first sit in your Lordships' House is a great occasion, for the Peer, their family and friends. A ceremonial introduction is a part of that sense of occasion and is a moment of significance for the House. I accordingly believe that an appropriate ceremony should be retained.

I suggest, however, that the present ceremony is no longer entirely appropriate. Some of its components no longer carry any meaning in the House and make even less sense to the public. It is also too long. It seems to me that an appropriate ceremony should meet three aims: first, it should provide a proper and public introduction of a new Peer to the rest of the House; secondly, it should be dignified and in accordance with the traditions of the House; and, thirdly, it should be conducted in a manner which does not lead to boredom in the House and disdain for our procedures. I do not believe that the present ceremony meets those aims.

There can be no doubt that the ceremony does provide a public introduction for a new Peer and for that reason I am in favour of retaining a ceremonial that takes place in the Chamber of the House rather than behind some beautifully gilded but firmly closed doors.

In one sense one could argue that the ceremony is in accordance with the traditions of the House, since it has been largely unaltered since 1621; but I suggest that longevity is not an entirely convincing justification. All traditions begin somewhere and the present ceremony was imposed upon the House by James I. He regularly created new Peers without ceremony. Indeed, he created peerages at an unprecedented rate in return for the large sums of money that he could secure for a peerage.

It may be that the King had become embarrassed at his involvement under those circumstances in personal investitures such as his predecessors had for centuries carried out. Whatever the reason, it was in the course of the year 1621 that the new ceremony was devised and imposed upon the House, perhaps as an assertion of authority by the new Earl Marshal appointed that year, whose successor, I am delighted to say, will speak later in the debate. The House had then not sat for six years and was not involved in the formulation of the new ceremonial. It was presented with a ceremony which was largely an amalgamation of the procedures which the Sovereign had carried out at investitures—which took place sometimes, but not always, in Parliament—together with the previous procedures of the Lords for receiving a Baron by Writ. Hence, in looking to preserve the best of our traditions, as I accept that we should, we must not lose sight of where they originated—in the particular circumstances of a particular Sovereign over 300 years ago.

Nor should we lose sight of the fact that this ceremonial is not strictly part of our procedures at all, nor were the procedures used before the arrival of the present ceremony in 1621. Strictly speaking, introduction ceremonies have never been part of the proceedings of this House.

Hence in saying that I agree with the need to keep in touch with tradition, I stress that we need always to be aware of what our traditions mean. Furthermore, there is another perspective on such matters, one looking to the future rather than to the past. The lifetime of this Parliament will extend into the 21st century and, however those in some parts of the House feel about it, change is in the air. I ask the whole House to consider carefully whether a ceremonial of this kind fits as it stands with the kind of efficient and businesslike working second Chamber that we aim for or indeed with the well known dictum of many, particularly on the other side of the House, that the House of Lords "works". It may work, but does it not sometimes also creak under the weight of unquestioned tradition and accumulated precedent? I also believe that the dignity of an occasion such as an introduction is bound to suffer if repeated at length and ad nauseam.

As far back as the 1960s, when options for reform of the ceremony were discussed, there was a feeling that the ceremony had become repetitive and that the House was becoming bored with it. The fact that the House is never full for introductions also indicates to me that Peers in general may not be particularly keen on this ceremony and that the wishes of the House as a whole should be considered—the wishes of those who do not come to see it as well as those who do. There are certain elements of the ceremony which may seem somewhat ridiculous to the general public and are indeed awkward for many of those who have to undergo it.

If I may set out my own personal stall for a moment, I believe that a public ceremony, in accordance with tradition but appropriate for the present, would include supporters, robes to give a sense of dignity, the reading of either the Patent or the Writ and the handshake with the Lord Chancellor to the acclamation of the whole House. I might add that Peers by descent receive a similar Writ which is not read, but I do not consider that the placing of a new Peer and the accompanying doffing of somewhat difficult and ancient hats serves any modern purpose whatever.

Indeed, the placing could be argued to be divisive and out of accord with the spirit of the House that all Peers are equal. It also reflects a time in your Lordships' House, long since gone, when Peers were arranged geographically in the Chamber in ermined ranks according to their degrees of peerage. Only a few vestiges of that practice remain. Accordingly, I believe that the placing of Peers on introduction should now be omitted from the introduction ceremony.

The doffing of hats too seems to be somewhat unnecessary. Its purpose was, perhaps, to reveal a Peer's face. Yet, for most of the ceremony now, Peers are hatless—male Peers are hatless anyway—and wholly visible. On a purely practical note, the corner of the Chamber in which the new Peer is placed is not exactly in easy sight of everyone present. If I may digress for a moment, that is yet another area where the procedures for hereditary Peers have become less onerous than those established for Life Peers. In the 16th century, Garter regularly "placed" all new Peers, whether by succession or on creation. The hereditary Peers have long since escaped that particular tradition.

I understand that many years ago Garter used to receive a fee for the placing of Peers, whether by succession or on creation. In that respect, I am very grateful to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, for drawing my attention to a monograph on the introduction of Peers in the House of Lords written by Sir Anthony Wagner in 1967. As I am sure the House will know, the powers, duties, advantages and fees payable to Garter were set out in a tract of the late 14th century or early 15th century, which survives in a number of copies, entitled: Jura debita et largitates appertinentes de antiqua consuetudine Armorum Officialibus secundum morem et consuetudinem Angliae. Your Lordships may feel that that needs translation into a more modern language. In Norman French it reads: Ces sont les Droiz et largesces appartenant et d'aunciennete accoustumez aux Roys d'Armes selon l'usance du Angleterre.

Why did it change? I fear that I have to tell your Lordships that, yet again, money seems to have played a part. Again, I am grateful to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and the monograph in question. It seems that when the new ceremony was devised, Garter, the Clerk of Parliaments and possibly other officers were accorded specific fees in connection with it on condition that they abandoned the fees that they had previously received on the first entry of Peers coming in by descent.

So there is nothing particularly moral or indeed particularly honourable about the fact that doffing of hats takes place on the introduction only of Life Peers. It would seem that in 1621 it was felt that repetition of the ceremony would clearly be so great after the number of Peers that James I had created that better and more proper arrangements for the payment of the Heralds were necessary; and so it took place.

Perhaps I may just make one other remark about that matter. It seems to me that, if the object of the introduction is that a new Peer should be introduced to the House, so far as I personally am concerned, I frequently know the Life Peers who are coming in rather better than I know the new hereditary Peers coming in by succession. When I made that point to an hereditary Peer the other day and questioned why there was such a great difference, I am afraid that the only answer I received was "Well, of course, we all know them.". My Lords, we do not. If the object is recognition and presentation of the Peer to his or her peers in this House, it should apply either equally or not at all.

I have said much about tradition and the need for change but I have not yet said anything about the question of time. There can be no doubt that introduction ceremonies absorb the prime time of the House at the start of the day, when Peers are looking to get on with important business. The House has recently given careful consideration to a number of aspects of its procedures, with a view to improving time management. But this ancient ceremony has remained unscrutinised. That is another reason why I hope that the House will agree to this Motion today: so that those questions of timing can be examined. I am also conscious that our procedures allow Peers to take their seats only slowly, spread over a number of weeks after announcement. A number of those who have been summoned by Her Majesty to be "personally present" to give counsel "waiving all excuses" are still unable to do so because they are in a queue to take their seats. I assume that that is acceptable as an excuse that cannot be waived; if so, it seems to be a little extreme. I do not believe that the present lengthy wait is appropriate or in accordance with the dignity that a peerage confers.

Let me deal with one argument that I have heard; namely, that this is all a put-up job and a ploy by the incoming Labour Administration, so that it can flood the House with Labour Peers. The present composition of this House is that on these Benches there are approximately, even with all the newcomers, 148 or 149 Labour Peers. The composition on the other side is that there are now no fewer than 498 or maybe 499 Peers, life and hereditary, to take the Conservative Whip. Flood, my Lords? It would need a deluge—and all I am looking for is a trickle. But even leaving aside that kind of watery simile for a moment, it seems to me that a situation in which somebody is made a Peer and then has to queue up because of the details of the ceremonial is frankly absurd and we ought to examine it. While I accept the need for the House to spend some time on the introduction of each new Peer, I do not consider that the current delay before introduction is right or makes sense.

Therefore, I believe that the time has come for the ceremony to be considered. We need a dignified ceremony with real meaning, which combines the strength of tradition with the needs of a modern legislature. But all I seek today is the agreement of the House that the process of consideration should begin. Passing this Motion today will not commit the House to change—I wish that it would do so, but it does not—but merely provides the first of the formal mechanisms required. If the Motion is agreed, the House will have ample and proper opportunities to give its views and accept or reject any change proposed in due course. I commend the Motion to the House.

Moved, 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 disposal of the House of Lords for the purpose of the consideration of alterations in the ceremony of introduction.—(Lord Richard.)

3.37 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, it is my entire good fortune that by sheer happenstance I have this very day taken part as one of the supporters of a new Peer. That circumstance has enabled me to have experienced in the laboratory of reality the nature of the ceremony which I myself underwent only some six years ago.

One of the emotions that assailed me when I followed Garter and Black Rod in all their glory into your Lordships' House was the feeling that man is clearly not a rational beast. Your Lordships will perhaps be more aware than most of the justice of that observation. It seems that man still has a need for ceremony, just as he always has. Before any noble Baronesses in the House rise in protest, let me say that I use the word "man" in the sense of mankind.

I must observe also that even the most revolutionary promoters of man as a rational being recognised that underlying emotional need. One only needs witness what in all conscience one can only call the absurd rituals invented by the holders of the most extreme opinions of the first French Revolution, or, indeed, occasionally the Soviet regime at its most dreary and depressing, to realise that regimes which were supposed to be based entirely on the rationality of man saw that there was a gap which their rational opinions could not fill. I have to observe that, in general, self-consciously modern—dare I say "new"—regimes are at least as vulnerable to the temptation to invent new and modern ceremonies (as I am told the Scots found this week), as are anciens régimes of the most dyed in the wool kind.

Most ceremonials, unlike the ceremonials of the French Revolution, grow up through happenstance, through muddle and, as the Lord Privy Seal pointed out this afternoon, even through the idleness of kings. As he said, our own introduction ceremony is one such, since it in part originates from the reluctance of James I and VI to confront directly the consequences of his mass sale of peerages to fund his personal extravagances.

Some ceremonies have been refined or even re-invented in modern times, often to their and our advantage. I am told by those who know more of this than I that much of our admired present day ceremonial was invented by King Edward VII. We have certainly become better at it in the 20th century, as anyone who has read accounts of the coronation of George IV and Queen Victoria can testify.

But well performed or ill, rational or irrational, symbolically clear or muddled by the accretions of time, we have a need for ceremonial to mark occasions of significance. It is for that reason that the House is right to hold a ceremony of introduction for a new peerage; indeed, I wholly agreed with the sentiments expressed by the Lord Privy Seal, at least in that respect. I underline the use of the word "peerage" as opposed to the use of the word "Peer". A peerage in the present House of Lords is the institution rather than the Peer himself or herself, whether life or hereditary. However, I would be insulting the House if I did not acknowledge that many noble Lords individually qualify, certainly in the public mind, as institutions in their own right.

To that extent I agree with the Lord Privy Seal. The question therefore is not whether we should have an introduction ceremony at all—it is clear from what the Lord Privy Seal said that we should—rather, it is whether the present ceremony is dignified or appropriate. The Lord Privy Seal feels that it is not. I know that that view is expressed both inside and outside your Lordships' House; I have even heard the adjective "Gilbertian" applied to some of our proceedings. It is because there are differing views and because those views are being expressed on both sides increasingly forcefully—perhaps as a result of the prevailing atmosphere of change to which the Lord Privy Seal referred—that we should be grateful to him for proposing the Motion we are now discussing.

I confess that I have a greater affection for ceremony than our almost aggressively casual age will allow, at least in our national life. I also enjoy, perhaps rather more than the Lord Privy Seal, the quirks that usage and forgotten symbolism insert into some of our national ceremonies. I note that affection for ceremonial is often a matter of fashion and, as anybody who has children will know, fashion is a pendulum which can swing unpredictably to and fro.

I note also that the present Government wish to abolish the hereditary peerage. It is the hereditary peerage whose existence justifies a large part of the ceremonial that affects not just this House of Parliament, but on occasion both Houses. A new utilitarian quango which would be the House that would emerge after phase one of the proposed government reforms would look even more ridiculous in socialists' eyes if it retained all of what they feel is the flummery of a hereditary peerage.

It is a little curious, therefore, that changing our existing ceremonies should assume such a high priority over changing our composition. In that context, I hope that the Government will not feel that I am being unduly impertinent if I make an entirely constructive suggestion. If the Government feel that the existing ceremony is absurd, then clearly they have an interest in preserving it in full in order to point out all the better, perhaps at the margins of their argument, that we are a ridiculous House and that that is a good example of our absurdity.

For both those reasons—one perhaps more serious than the other—I feel that the timing of this initiative is a little premature. It may be better to consider the ceremonial attaching to this House after the abolition of the hereditary peerage than before. Nevertheless, I am happy to recommend to the House that we should accept the Motion. It gives us an opportunity to express our views, as the Lord Privy Seal pointed out, and, like him, I suspect that those views will be diverse. They will give any committee that emerges from our proceedings to consider the matter a suitably difficult task to perform in order to synthesise what it has heard and report back to the House as a whole in due course.

I am happy, if the House agrees, to leave the nature of the body which is to consider these matters to the usual channels. No doubt your Lordships will want to express views on the nature of the body concerned and I can undertake that the usual channels on this side of the House will listen carefully to the views expressed. Indeed, your Lordships may feel that a Select Committee rather than the Procedure Committee or a sub-committee of the Procedure Committee may be a suitable vehicle for such an inquiry. However, the usual channels will be wise to be guided by your Lordships' views.

There will be much temptation in the public prints tomorrow to poke fun at your Lordships' activities this afternoon. Nevertheless, this is a matter of importance to your Lordships' House, and, as the Lord Privy Seal said, to the public's view of this House. It is also a matter of importance to new Peers, their families and friends, for whom the day of introduction is a great day, often the culmination of a long and distinguished career.

In that context I say, with the greatest respect to the Lord Privy Seal, that I hope that any Select Committee—if that is the body that emerges to examine this question—will not worry too much about the length of the ceremony. There is a via media in all these matters. I am told that the average amount of time the present ceremony takes is around 12 minutes, and that perhaps is not such a long time during the daily proceedings of your Lordships' House—in normal times as opposed to the queue mentioned by the Lord Privy Seal during the course of his remarks this afternoon. It is a solemn and important occasion and certainly, sub specie aeternitatis, it seems to me that this is not something which need detain us too much, so long as we do not lengthen the ceremony.

With your Lordships' permission I should like to make just one or two further points. I want to refer to the 2.15 p.m. start and our practice since we reassembled after the summer to introduce three, and I believe on one occasion four, Peers on the same day.

The Lord Privy Seal

My Lords, three Peers and a bishop.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for correcting me; three Peers and a bishop. I thought a bishop was also a Peer but I may be wrong about that. In view of the queue that has built up, thanks to the extraordinarily unusual circumstances now obtaining in your Lordships' House—there are an unusual number of new creations awaiting introduction—that practice is clearly justified. However, I hope that when we return to what will perhaps be more normal conditions we shall be able to return to our previous practice. I understand that that is the Lord Privy Seal's intention, and I welcome it. Equally, I hope that the House will reject the idea of a production line Friday. That would be a way of cheapening the ceremony as far as concerns the introduced Peer and, I suspect also, cheapening the dignity of your Lordships' House.

With the greatest respect to the Lord Privy Seal, I do not altogether believe that the very large number of Peers now being introduced has a great deal to do with the shortage of Labour Peers. Perhaps we are conflating two arguments. I hope the Lord Privy Seal remembers that I was one of those who greatly sympathised with his dilemma and indeed admired the extraordinary work rate and effectiveness of the Labour Peers in Opposition. He also knows that I strongly felt that he always had a powerful case for increasing the number of Peers at his back, perhaps at the expense of the number of Tory Peers that were introduced. The Lord Privy Seal will remember conversations that he and I had in private on that subject. I hope he will forgive me for referring to it but I am stung into doing so by his remarks earlier this afternoon.

I have given, perhaps rather elliptically, some of my personal views on this subject, but this afternoon's debate is, above all, an opportunity for your Lordships to express your opinions. It would be wise for both Front Benches to listen to what your Lordships have to say, to see whether clear themes emerge from the debate, to refer the matter to a body which might be set up with the agreement of the usual channels and then for the matter to be brought in the form of a Motion to your Lordships' House so that your Lordships can agree or disagree with what the usual channels recommend. In that context, I greatly look forward to hearing what is said in your Lordships' House this afternoon. Certainly, from the list of speakers, it will be an interesting and informative debate.

3.53 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, the Motion seeks to permit further discussion of the matter. It seems to me that the only reason for rejecting the Motion would be if there were nothing to discuss and no change was in contemplation. But even if the ceremony had been unchanging over the centuries, it could change now, coming up to a new century. However, according to the paper which the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, was so good as to draw to your Lordships' attention in the Procedure Committee and which I found so interesting, the ceremony has changed. The Leader of the House mentioned changes that have occurred. I could not help noticing that there was a custom, no longer applied, of paying a fee to Garter on one's way in.

I read in that paper, too, that a number of peerages have been created where no ceremony was involved. In other words, the ceremony has evolved and could, in my view, evolve further. I was struck as well—I say this perhaps against myself—in noting from the paper that there was a time when a Barony—a mere Barony—was not regarded as an honour, not being of such high status as other forms of peerage.

In the late years of this century there has been a change in how the peerage is regarded. Increasingly, it is coming to be regarded as a job; it is a task of work; a job to be done. I regard myself as very honoured in being in your Lordships' House but particularly honoured in being trusted with what I regard as a most important job of work. I accept that we women are, of course, something of a modern innovation, so perhaps my words are themselves untraditional. I admit that I did not have any words of criticism for the ceremony when I was introduced six years ago. I was too baffled to move on to any criticism. I am glad to note now, having taken part in ceremonies of introduction in support of colleagues, that there is rather more explanation as to what is happening during the ceremony. That is an entirely good thing.

The Leader of the House referred to the danger of public disdain for our procedures. That is what is mostly in my mind. Like the two noble Lords who have spoken, I believe that it is essential to preserve our dignity in whatever form of ceremony of introduction we end up with. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said that the ceremony had been referred to as Gilbertian. The comment that that is no one's fault but Gilbert's has an impeccable logic to it. Nevertheless, it is something we should have in our minds. We should seek to maintain dignity, or perhaps achieve a little more dignity than we are achieving at present and achieve an appropriate character for introductions to a part of the legislature in a modern legislative body.

Like the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, I believe that it is to some extent repetition that is in danger of undermining those two attributes. Like him, I agree that a production line Friday would be a bad idea. Inevitably, those are personal views. What mattered to me was coming in and taking the oath. The Letters Patent and the Writ were a necessary basis for that. Assuming that the robes are a mark of status, which is how they are regarded in the House and by those who look at us from outside—not that they are to indicate equality, as is the case with robing in other walks of life—I have to say that I rather dislike them. To those noble Lords who comment on doffing hats, I would say that it is far harder to keep a hat on one's head when bowing low, as we women Peers have to do, than it is to take it off.

However, those points are trivialities. What is most important is that there is a job to be done and, as has been observed, a Writ of Summons to be answered. The point made by the Leader of the House about delay in introducing those who have been appointed to take part in your Lordships' proceedings is a most important one. In a modern democracy, seeking to retain the best and improving the rest of the ceremonial is most important. I believe that the ceremony is at least worth full debate. There will be many different views as to possible changes. But, as I say, the only basis for refusing to agree to the Motion is if there is no argument at all for some change.

My views may be at one end of the spectrum. I have perhaps expressed them deliberately in a rather extreme fashion. However, there is a whole spectrum of views which deserves thorough discussion. I would urge your Lordships to support the Motion.

3.59 p.m.

Lord Weatherill

My Lords, in view of the number of your Lordships who wish to participate in this debate, I shall be very brief. I am relieved to hear that the Lord Privy Seal is not suggesting that Her Majesty should be asked to place her prerogative and interest at the disposal of this House for the abolition of the ceremony of introduction. It is, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said, a very great honour to be a Member of your Lordships' House and to be introduced for the first time.

I agree with what he said about the importance of ceremonies. I can think of three ceremonies in my life which made a deep impression on me. The first was in 1946 when two of our soldiers who had defected to the enemy came back to join the regiment, claiming that they had been fighting behind the lines for us. They were drummed out of the regiment. It was a very moving ceremony and it made a great mark on everyone who witnessed it. The second was when I was brought to the other place as the Speaker Elect, Mr. Weatherill, and went away as Mr. Speaker. Within a year they had forgotten my name completely. Mr. Ian Mikardo once introduced me to his constituents as Sir Jasper More. The third occasion was on 15th July 1995 when I was introduced into your Lordships' House.

I cannot speak for the Cross Benchers and neither would I presume to do so. Nevertheless, when we heard just before the Summer Recess that this matter was likely to come before your Lordships' House, we did have a discussion about it at our Thursday meeting. That was before I had read a most interesting paper on the origins of the introduction of Peers by Sir Anthony Wagner and Mr. J.C. Sainty, who later became the Clerk of the Parliaments. I know that the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, will be drawing attention to that and I shall not trespass on it this afternoon.

I believe that there is perhaps a good case for leaving well alone, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, has already said, because of the 50 new Peers who have recently, or who are about to join us. They will not be affected by the changes. Since the Lord Privy Seal has said that he is thinking of a "dribble" of new Peers into your Lordships' House rather than a flood, I believe that the matter could well be left until we come to the major matter—

Lord Richard

My Lords, I put it more elegantly than a "dribble". I said a "trickle".

Lord Weatherill

My Lords, it is much the same thing so let us call it a trickle then. I should have thought that the matter could have been left to when we come to discuss the major changes which, I understand, we are likely to have before us in the days to come.

If there is a case for speeding up the introduction, perhaps I may make three very modest suggestions. The first is that the Letters Patent and the Writ should be combined in order to save a small amount of time. Unlike the Lord Privy Seal, I am in favour of the ceremony of placing. That should be done from these Benches—actually from this Bench—rather than from the usual third Bench, because, as I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, if one is on the Conservative Benches one has to crick one's neck to recognise them anyway. From this Bench it would be a simple matter. I am in favour of keeping the ceremony of doffing hats, but once rather than three times. On my estimate that would save about five minutes of the ceremony.

I would also be in favour of continuing the 2.15 p.m. start. As the noble Viscount Lord Cranborne has said, that would encourage fuller attendance in the Chamber. As I have said, the ceremony of introduction is a very significant one for Peers of first creation and for their families as well.

I end on a purely personal note. Your Lordships may not be aware that my Peerage is somewhat different from others, in that it arises from a Motion on the Order Paper of the House of Commons. All Motions there are debatable and this Motion was certainly debated because there are very few occasions where Members of the other place can debate the finances of the Royal Family. I have a dozen charming letters saying in effect, "No hard feelings, mate. We've got to seize our opportunities 'ere". And they did. So my Peerage came a little later than others who were created at that time.

In my modesty I thought that someone might write to me and suggest that it would be a good idea if I came and joined your Lordships but nothing happened. Eventually, my wife prodded me in to coming to see the Clerk of the Parliaments, who asked me if my Letters Patent had been published in the London Gazette. Most of us do not read the London Gazette. I just got in, I believe, the day before the Summer Recess. I remember saying then to the Clerk of the Parliaments, going back to my days in the Army, "Is it like being in the Army?" He said, "What do you mean by that?" I said, as some noble Lords may remember, "The Sergeant Major would say, 'Come on, get fell in. Them what's keen got fell in previous'". I believe that "them what's keen" were certainly "previous".

I end by saying that I hope that this ceremony will not be greatly changed other than with those modest suggestions that I have made. I would be very much in favour of the matter being considered by a Select Committee and then perhaps through the usual channels.