HL Deb 16 November 1998 vol 594 cc983-1017

3.8 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

For the convenience of the House perhaps I may add a word to what the Government Chief Whip has said about the form of the debate. As soon as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has moved the first amendment standing in his name and has spoken immediately afterwards to the second amendment, I hope that your Lordships will feel free, while bearing in mind what the Government Chief Whip has said, to speak on any aspect of the Report of the Select Committee on Procedure there and then. That will avoid the need for several debates, the need for repetition and, in particular, the need for more than one further speech from myself. Of course, the noble Earl will then have his right to reply on his two amendments.

As your Lordships will have noticed, the Fourth Report from the Select Committee on Procedure is a little unusual. It enters into a lot of detail about item 1, relating to the formal dress of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. That is because the committee was divided on the two matters of the dress of the Lord Chancellor and of his speaking from the Government Front Bench. Robust views were expressed in the committee—

Noble Lords


The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, your Lordships are obviously taken by surprise by that. Robust views were expressed in the committee both by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor arguing in favour of his proposals and by other members of the committee arguing that there should be no change. As the report notes, there was strong opposition to both proposals. While, on the one hand, the proposed changes in dress can be described as modest, it is also the case, on the other hand, that even those modest proposals drew strong objections. It is right to tell the House that the opposition to the changes proposed in the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor's formal dress was greater than the opposition to the second proposal on the place from which he should speak. In those circumstances, I thought it was right to place in the committee's report a summary of the arguments used on both sides during the committee's deliberations on the two points. I hope that this will have helped the House to understand in more detail the background to the committee's recommendation.

On the matter of the recommendations, I believe that the report reflects accurately the summing up which I made in the committee after a very full and forthright debate there which lasted almost two hours. While no Division took place, I felt that a majority of the committee—perhaps not a large majority, perhaps a bare majority but a majority nevertheless—endorsed the proposed changes and recommended them to the House, as the report makes clear. Those who were present at the committee and who saw the report in draft certainly agreed that this was the case.

A noble Lord


The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, that is of course for other noble Lords to say; it is their perfect right. I will seek to reply later in this afternoon's proceedings, if it proves necessary.

The summing up was not challenged in the committee. At the same time it was recognised by all those who took part in the committee's deliberations that the final decisions on these matters would necessarily have to be taken by the House.

The other matters in the report do not call for any elaboration from me at this stage. I will do my best, as necessary, to answer any questions about them which your Lordships may have.

Moved, That the Fourth Report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 144) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Earl Ferrers rose to move, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end to insert ("except the recommendation relating to the Lord Chancellor's Dress").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving the first amendment which stands in my name on the Order Paper, it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I speak to the second one at the same time. For the sake of simplicity, one might describe the first amendment as "dress" and the second as "moving about".

I had the privilege of being a member of the Procedure Committee. I admired the dexterity with which the Chairman of Committees summed up the proceedings of the Procedure Committee. It was not easy. He has summed up again today with fairness.

If I may, I shall deal with dress first. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor wishes to do away with his breeches, tights and buckled shoes other than on ceremonial occasions. He wishes to wear black trousers and ordinary shoes instead—although he has graciously assured us that the shoes will be well polished. I think that this would be a retrograde step—not the well-polished shoes but the removal of the breeches, tights and buckled shoes.

The office of Lord Chancellor is one of the highest in the land. The ceremonial which goes with that office, and the uniform which attaches to that office, are very important. They are a reminder to all of us—your Lordships, Members of another place and the general public—of the stature, dignity and, indeed, the awe with which the office of Lord Chancellor is held. With the greatest of respect to the noble and learned Lord, it is not, after all, Lord Irvine of Lairg at whom we are looking but at the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and all that goes with that. In my view, any attempt to "dress down" is wrong.

Nor do I think that it is incumbent on whoever happens to be the holder at any one time of this most prestigious office to say "I do not really like this uniform". One can just imagine what would happen if guardsmen at the trooping of the colour said that they wanted to do away with silly old bearskins, that they are out of date. Whether it is bearskins or the uniform of the Lord Chancellor, they are both uniforms which symbolise what has gone before and upon which the present is built. Would it not be absurd, too, if Black Rod and the Yeoman Usher were to keep their breeches, tights and buckled shoes but the Lord Chancellor did not? They would, as it were, out-Peter Peter—and that does not seem to be the right pecking order. With just trousers and shoes, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would be wearing a very similar dress to the Clerk at the Table. The Clerks are fine fellows and they look resplendent in their uniforms.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Earl Ferrers

But the Lord Chancellor is different. He should keep his distinctive dress.

Indeed, if I may respectfully suggest it, it would seem curious for one who is so punctilious in ensuring that the Lord Chancellor's apartments correctly reflect history not to apply the same critical analysis to the Lord Chancellor's dress as well. When, in 1889, Queen Victoria made Kaiser Bill an Admiral of the Fleet, he exclaimed "Fancy wearing the uniform of Nelson. It is enough to make one feel quite giddy". One might have hoped that a similar flicker of excitement and engaging humility might be forthcoming from whoever happens at any one time to hold the office of Lord Chancellor. I think that for the Lord Chancellor to give up his uniform—and so to set the precedent for his successors to follow—is wrong.

So much for dress. Now for "moving about". The proposal is that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor should be entitled to vacate the Woolsack and sit on the Front Bench with his ministerial colleagues—without, of course, his wig and gown—at all stages of the Bills with which he is involved; at Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage, Third Reading and Bill do now pass. In a nice avant garde way, I think that this is a mistake too. Other than at Committee stage, the Lord Chancellor's place is on the Woolsack and he moves to the side when it wants to "enter the House" in order to speak. He still retains the grandeur and aura of the Lord Chancellor.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor holds the curious role of being a Cabinet Minister, of being head of the judiciary and of being Speaker of your Lordships' House. If I may be slightly vulgar for a moment, part of the salary which is paid to the Lord Chancellor of the day is by virtue of his position as Speaker of the House of Lords.

The late Lord Gardiner—who was of course a Labour Lord Chancellor of distinction—when he occupied the position of Lord Chancellor, was so assiduous in his responsibilities that he was on the Woolsack almost the whole time. His stamina was unbelievable. He felt that it was his duty to the House—and it was a courtesy to the House—for him to be there as much as possible. I do not think that the noble and learned Lord should leave the Woolsack and then pass to others the responsibilities of fulfilling his role as Speaker.

There are plenty of Deputy Chairmen who help out and sit on the Woolsack when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not in the Chamber, but it is a very different thing for the noble and learned Lord to be in the Chamber and to decide to metamorphose into a Front Bench Minister, and then leave it to someone else to look after his responsibilities on the Woolsack.

We are all, in different ways, the beneficiaries of tradition; and we are all, in different ways, the custodians of tradition. I do not think that the noble and learned Lord should lightly toss his responsibilities on one side and give them over to others.

I do not like being horrible to the noble and learned Lord in opposing what he would like to do but my fear is that these proposals are yet another example of the present Government quietly chipping away at the traditions and standards of public life for no valid reason other than for what might loosely be called modernisation. And modernisation, my Lords, carries no virtue without there being a reason for it. I am bound to say that, over this, I can see no reason for it and I can see no virtue in it either. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end to insert ("except the recommendation relating to the Lord Chancellor's Dress").—(Earl Ferrers.)

3.20 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees for explaining the recommendations of the report and I have listened with great interest to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, when explaining his amendments. I have the greatest respect for the noble Earl. In fact, he and I have known each other for a very long time. I often agree with what he says but I am afraid I cannot do so this afternoon.

I do not think that these modest proposals would detract from the dignity of the high office, as the noble Earl supposed, nor from the dignity of the House. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has said that he believes he could act more efficiently if he did not have to act as Speaker at the same time as he deals with legislation. As a Deputy Chairman, I have observed, while in attendance, how difficult this must be, switching the roles instantly, moving to the left to speak and back again to put the Question—a continual minuet when you are trying also to concentrate on a Bill and also wearing a heavy, full-bottomed wig, even in the summer. I would not like to have to do it.

If the Lord Chancellor were able to deal with all stages of a Bill from the Dispatch Box, instead of only at the Committee stage, it would be easier for him and he would also—this is very important—be able to communicate with the other Ministers dealing with the same Bill instead of being separated from them on the Woolsack.

My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor would be able to divest himself of his wig and gown while on the Front Bench for all stages of a Bill but he would continue to wear his wig and gown on the Woolsack. The fact that the Lord Chancellor would be wearing black trousers and black shoes under the gown instead of breeches and tights and buckled shoes should surely not make very much difference. On all formal occasions my noble and learned friend proposes, I understand, to wear the full regalia.

I realise that these modest proposals are a small break with tradition but the advantages surely outweigh the disadvantages. Surely, my Lords, we have to move with the times in this more informal age. At the beginning of this century noble Lords wore frock coats and top hats. One has only to look at the paintings outside the Chamber of the proceedings on the Home Rule Bill of 1893 to see the difference. The only dress that has not changed has been that of Lord Herschell, the Lord Chancellor at the time.

I suggest that we need also to move with the times in this respect. We all dress much more informally now and noble Baronesses, who I am glad to see are present, sometimes wear trouser suits. If it comes to a vote, I shall oppose the noble Earl's amendments.

3.24 p.m.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

My Lords, Walter Bagehot famously wrote of constitutions such as ours that there are two parts: first, those which excite and preserve the reverence of the population—the dignified parts … and next, the efficient parts—those by which it, in fact, works and rules". This Motion and the amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, require us to decide whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor's dignified parts—his full-bottomed wig, gown, breeches, tights and buckled shoes—so excite and preserve the reverence of the population beyond and within this House that he should continue to be compelled to wear the full uniform not only on all ceremonial occasions but also on ordinary sitting days.

It is a Motion conspicuous for its moderation. It does not propose that the Lord Chancellor should be able, if he wishes, to dispense with the full-bottomed wig, the gown and the buckled shoes on ordinary sitting days, but merely that he should be able to wear trousers instead of breeches and tights on those days.

I hope that I shall not be regarded as lacking in respect for tradition, dignity and ceremony when I express regret that the present Motion will still not permit the Lord Chancellor, like other noble Lords, to wear ordinary dress on ordinary sitting days when the efficient parts are working, dispensing with the full-bottomed wig and the buckled shoes. The Select Committee on Procedure has wisely had second thoughts about the decision to forbid noble Lords from speaking with their hands in their pockets, on the ground that it is not appropriate to regulate the conduct of noble Lords in such detail. In the same way, it is surely inappropriate to require the Lord Chancellor to wear buckled shoes instead of ordinary shoes, and to be weighed down with a heavy full-bottomed wig.

The antiquity of the Lord Chancellor's costume does not equal the antiquity of his great Office of State. In the history of men's clothing and fashion, the wig and knee breeches had a comparatively short life. Wigs were introduced in polite society in the reign of King Charles II; and, until the 17th century, lawyers wore their natural hair, or no hair. One can still see judicial portraits which were painted before the 1680s showing judges without wigs. As for knee breeches, they date only from the late 18th century. Those noble Lords with a scholarly disposition will find information about this given by Professor J.H. Baker of St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, in An Outline History of the Legal Robes Now Worn In England and Wales, which is in a consultation paper of some years ago.

I do not know when noble Lords other than the Lord Chancellor dispensed with wigs and knee breeches or, for that matter, when they dispensed with the top hats and frock coats that we see in the paintings outside the Chamber marking the defeat of Gladstone's Irish Home Rule Bill by the third Marquess of Salisbury and his party. But I suggest that to allow the Lord Chancellor to dispense with all of the dignified parts of his ceremonial uniform on ordinary sitting days would in no way diminish the dignity and authority of this House.

Upon those occasions when I have had the privilege of appearing before the Law Lords in the Appellate Committee, I have never heard anyone suggest that their dignity and authority are lessened in any way because, except for ceremonial occasions, the Law Lords, unlike barristers and other judges, do not wear wigs, gowns, wing collars and bands. I have never heard anyone suggest that the Law Lords should wear ceremonial costume when they deliver their judgments in the full Chamber.

As a barrister of 35 years' standing, like many of my learned friends, I wish that the Lord Chancellor would liberate me and my colleagues from the outmoded obligation to wear such uncomfortable, unhygienic, unhealthy and outmoded dress in our daily work in court.

The ceremonial costume of the Lord Chancellor certainly adds to the richness and colour of the House's ceremonial and procedure. It also provides good material for entertainment and mockery in political cartoons and parliamentary sketches, and in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, "Iolanthe". If this Motion is passed, it will continue to do so, because the costume, in its full glory, will continue to be worn on ceremonial occasions. And on ordinary sitting days, the Lord Chancellor will be obliged to appear in a curious new-fangled hybrid of 18th and 20th century garb.

The Select Committee's recommendation that the Lord Chancellor should be able to speak from the Government Front Bench when the House is sitting as a House rather than in Committee is surely plain common sense. It enhances the efficient parts, without any sacrifice of the dignified parts, of the procedures of the House. It recognises that he is participating in his capacity as the Minister of Justice rather than in his ornamental and symbolic role. It is surely sensible for our procedures to reflect the reality of the Lord Chancellor's role as a senior and powerful Member of the Government. It is, I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, a much altered role from the rather minor role played by the Lord Chancellor in the days of that great Lord Chancellor, Lord Gardiner, 34 years ago.

I hesitate to state the obvious but we are not an exclusive social club, regulating our internal procedures for our own pleasure and personal gratification. This is not the Garrick Club, Buck's or White's. The public at large will respect the House more rather than less if we conduct our debates and regulate our procedures with the much-needed recognition that the way in which we use our parliamentary time is in the public interest and not in the interest of our own personal whims. We shall win much more public respect if we agree to this very modest and sensible reform. Otherwise, I dare say that we are at risk of looking ridiculous.

3.31 p.m.

Lord Ackner

My Lords, it is the full-bottomed wig which is identified specifically in the Select Committee's report as causing the Lord Chancellor both restriction and tedium when he has to carry a Bill through this House.

Fellow feeling makes us wondrous wise. Some 30 years ago, Silks (QCs) appearing before your Lordships' Appellate Committee also had to wear full-bottomed wigs. In my capacity then as Chairman of the Bar Council, I approached the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Gardiner, at whose feet I had sat when he was chairman and explained to him that the effort of filtering through horsehair some of their Lordships' more incomprehensible questions when acting as an advocate imposed a quite unnecessary strain. The result of that supplication is that QCs no longer wear full-bottomed wigs when appearing before the Appellate Committee; they wear them only when taking a judgment or in the first fortnight of October, when the Appellate Committee still sits in this Chamber because Parliament has not yet fully returned.

The Lord Chancellor has said that he is interested in these changes in order to do his job more efficiently. I am all in favour of the Lord Chancellor doing his job more efficiently. It may well be that it is the horsehair that is inhibiting his hearing the oft-repeated question: "Why are you going back on so much that you said when in Opposition?".

I give two examples of what the horsehair may be doing. In regard to conditional fees, I merely quote what was said by the Lord Chancellor when he was but a shadow of his current self. He said: I regard contingency fees in any shape or form, however diluted, as abhorrent". In regard to legal aid, one year before he became Lord Chancellor, he said: Legal aid is a highly successful public social service". Within a year it had become a Leviathan with a ferocious appetite.

Under this heading, I refer finally to the Lord Chancellor's fervent support of the separation of powers—not to be found in a very strange document, a consultative paper, entitled, The Way Ahead. I thus hope that the abolition of the requirement to wear the full-bottomed wig will redound favourably in regard to the matters I have mentioned.

As regards trousers replacing the breeches, I do not think that that would in any way reduce the dignity of the office of the Lord Chancellor. I wish to provide an analogy. The proper attire of Silks from the waist upwards consists of a tailed coat with distinctive sleeves, silk buttons and frogging, which can be seen poking through the gaps in the gown. In addition to the tailed coat there is a waistcoat which follows the same sort of decoration, with special pockets. Those of us who used to travel around the Far Eastern circuit to Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia found the wearing of those two garments oppressive. They were not suited to the climate. Legal ingenuity invented a new garb. It looks rather like a porter's jacket. The waistcoat is a true copy of the waistcoat previously worn by Silks and is, I believe, currently worn by the Lord Chancellor. That is visible because the gown is open. But tacked on to the waistcoat are the sleeves, which are appropriate to the heavy tailed coat. However, that is not apparent, because all one sees through the gown is the sleeves and the front of the waistcoat. So there is one simple garment; it is quite cool, and is able to be used not only in the Far East but in this country, where it is currently worn not only by QCs but by judges in the Court of Appeal, who wear the QC's outfit when sitting.

That has not in any way detracted from the dignity of the office of an Appeal Court judge; nor has it detracted from the dignity of the QC. It is an example of how one has ensured that dress which follows tradition should not make it more difficult to carry out one's job. I therefore support the Lord Chancellor on the "efficiency" approach to his garb, and I look forward to impressive results if his proposal is carried.

3.39 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I shall not follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, in all the arguments that he adduced this afternoon. As someone who was present at the Procedure Committee, I wish to support what was said this afternoon, with his usual wit and charm, by my noble friend Lord Ferrers. As we have been reminded, time is not on our side and I shall not repeat the points which my noble friend so clearly made.

If, as we are given to understand, there is to be a Bill providing for major reform of your Lordships' House, surely that will be the occasion on which to look at all these matters. I believe that at that time we should have a change and that the noble and learned the Lord Chancellor should determine how he would appear in the House. The Bishops, too, could presumably look at the question of their dress at the same time. My impression is that a number of clergymen dress down these days in a way which is surprising to older members of the Church. I am not sure that that has benefited everyone; perhaps they think it has.

The arguments made by the noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Lester, comparing this matter with dress in your Lordships' House in the 19th century and the dress of judges in court, do not address the point so clearly made by my noble friend Lord Ferrers, which is that the Lord Chancellor occupies one of the highest offices of state and presides over one of the Houses of Parliament. I do not think that the dress worn by judges or by Peers in the 19th century is a comparable matter. We are talking about something quite different.

Nor should we be put off by debating this matter. One of the difficulties about debating something such as "what is in a change of dress?", as speakers have said in various amusing and witty ways, is that this is a good example of salami-slicing. We have this today; what will it be tomorrow? We have already had an alteration to the Ceremony of Introduction. What will come next? If we want to be really modern, why not wear T-shirt and jeans, which, after all, seem to be a national uniform? People would be surprised if one went that far, but it is an argument. There is no stopping the process. There is no comparison between the matter we are discussing and the changed dress of others who have been referred to.

I believe that many professionals have not helped the dignity of their office and their public standing by dressing down. I think particularly of nurses, who have not helped themselves by adopting uniforms which are nothing like as recognisable and as fine as they were previously. I do not think that clergymen have helped themselves by dressing down. People look to the dignity of the office, which is shown by the uniform of the office-holder. The uniform signifies the importance of the office which the current bearer has taken on from previous holders of the office and which will be carried on for the future. I strongly support my noble friend Lord Ferrers.

I do not feel quite so strongly with regard to my noble friend's second Motion. I remember very well Lord Gardiner, a predecessor of the noble and learned Lord. I recall particularly two all-night sittings in which I took part, when Lord Gardiner was on the Woolsack throughout the debate, arguing a case very impressively and with tremendous wit and humour until the early hours of the morning. I believe that he set a very good example, and he was held in great respect. I am sorry that the traditions which he set and the things which he was able to do are not to be continued. I do not believe that, at the end of the day, this will be to the advantage of New Labour, if that is the intention, and I am certain that it will not be to the advantage of your Lordships' House.

3.44 p.m.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, when I go home this evening and am asked what important legislation we debated today, I shall have to say, "the Lord Chancellor's clothes". I shall have to tell my family and friends that there was a debate over which shoes and trousers the Lord Chancellor should wear.

I do not wish to be cynical, but what does that say about the values and culture of your Lordships' House? Those who think that we are irrelevant will have their prejudices confirmed. Those who think that we bring experience, expertise and balance to the nation's affairs will be disappointed. Some may agree with my noble friend Lord Hattersley, writing in today's Guardian, that this debate is appropriately trivial. What everyone will think is that this is yet another symbol of our inability to reform and to modernise ourselves.

I say to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that the dignity and respect in which we and the public hold the great office of the Lord Chancellor does not come from the way that he dresses. Surely it comes from the manner in which he carries out his responsibilities, the way in which he runs his great office, his work and the decisions that he makes?

Of course, there is a place for uniform, pageantry and tradition, but they must not stand in the way of progress and reform. If we do allow pageantry and tradition to stand in the way, I repeat what I said in the debate on the reform of your Lordships' House on 15th October: we shall be perceived as part of "theme park Britain" instead of part of Parliament. Theme parks are wonderful for their purpose, but their purpose is different. Do we really want to be perceived in the same way as the Tower of London is perceived? Of course not. Yet how we are perceived by the public is important, because they are the people whom we serve. We do not serve each other in your Lordships' House. That is why we have to modernise to reflect the more informal values of those whom we serve. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lester, that, if we do not modernise, we shall lose people's confidence and become irrelevant.

I am saddened to have to speak against a Motion moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I have long admired his wit, his sense of fun and his usually progressive views. But in this case he is wrong. He is being too conservative.

Reform and modernisation are all around us. We are reforming our constitution, our society, our economy and our politics. Even the Conservative Party is reforming itself. If your Lordships' House as presently composed cannot even allow the Lord Chancellor to change his trousers, there is every justification for changing the composition of your Lordships' House in order to carry out the far more urgent and pressing modernisations that will come before us.

I urge your Lordships to oppose the Motion moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. The noble Lord the Chairman of Committees and others have put the arguments, and they are entirely reasonable. The noble Lord the Chairman of Committees deserves our support.

3.48 p.m.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, in order to try to assist the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I did a little reading to see whether there were any historical precedents which might be prayed in his aid. I came across one precedent involving Lord Chancellor Northington. I am a little reluctant to mention that particular Lord Chancellor because he presided over the trial of the seventh Earl Ferrers and condemned him to death! When he became Lord Chancellor he applied to King George III for leave of absence from court on Wednesday and Friday afternoons so that he could finish his bottle of port at leisure, and the King granted his request. It is not difficult to understand why the King did that. Indeed, he gave as his reason the fact that he thought that it might be a positive advantage to his subjects if the Lord Chancellor did not sit on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, having drunk his port.

While one can see the advantage to the subjects of King George III in the granting of that application in the present case there can be no advantage whatever to the subjects of the Queen if the Lord Chancellor removes his tights. Not only is there no obvious advantage to be gained by the public in the proposed change, but I am at a loss to understand what particular advantage will accrue to the Lord Chancellor. He may say that the wearing of tights is very uncomfortable. If that be the case, he has done a great deal to mitigate his suffering by sitting rather less than previous Lord Chancellors. Therefore, that is not the strongest argument that he can possibly advance.

I refer to only one other Lord Chancellor. Lord Eldon, who was known I understand as "Old Bags", used to open his correspondence when the Bishop commenced Prayers, but that is beside the point. Lord Eldon petitioned King George III that he should not be required to wear his wig. The King rejected that request. That brings us very close to home. I very strongly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, who gave the show away. We are not talking simply about an application to change the dress of the Lord Chancellor in a very modest way but about a course of conduct. The Lord Chancellor petitioned that he should no longer be required to walk backwards down the steps of the Throne, having delivered the Speech to the Queen. The other day one read in the press—

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. His comment a moment or two ago about the Lord Chancellor making a petition is wholly inaccurate.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, if that was not the request of the Lord Chancellor it was certainly a request made by someone and it resulted in a change in the procedures to be followed at the State Opening. Therefore, one cannot look at this matter in isolation. One is looking at a request, from wherever it comes, for a change in the way the Lord Chancellor carries out his duties at the State Opening. We are today looking at a request to change his clothing. Noble Lords are also aware from a speech made the other day that the Lord Chancellor is interested in the removal of judges' wigs in court.

I listened attentively to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. I believe that this is just the beginning, not the end, and if we accede to this request we merely add fuel to the flames and encourage more and more requests for modernisation. I see the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, nods in assent. Therefore, I support my noble friend's first amendment as a warning shot, as it were, over the bows of the Government and the Lord Chancellor. I believe that this modernisation has gone far enough.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down perhaps I may comment on the Lord Chancellor's tights. I have taken steps to find out that gentlemen's tights are available from Ede & Ravenscroft.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that information.

3.55 p.m.

Baroness Thornton

My Lords, I rise to speak in this debate with considerably more trepidation than I did some weeks ago when I spoke in your Lordships' House for the first time. The opportunities for revealing the depths of my ignorance about the history and traditions of your Lordships' House are legion. However, I am consoled by the fact that I shall certainly leave here today better informed and more enlightened than when I arrived.

I believe it possible, even probable, that people outside your Lordships' House will not understand. and may even find bizarre, the fact that we have taken up to two hours from a busy legislative schedule to discuss articles of the Lord Chancellor's clothing. Therefore, it is important for all of us, as well as for my noble and learned friend, that the House reaches a sensible conclusion at the end of this debate. In the current climate where grand issues of constitutional reform fill the air, to spend time debating more or less intimate apparel and wigs seems quite surreal. We must agree to this modest request from the Lord Chancellor. I urge noble Lords to oppose the amendments proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

I find odd the argument that costumes lend dignity to the office. In my short time here I have already observed that the respect which this House accords to the Lord Chancellor—indeed, to everyone—in no way depends on what he or she may be wearing at any given moment. Thus, unless we believe that we have the primary role of entertaining tourists there can be no compelling reason for maintaining the Lord Chancellor's evident discomforture. I am surprised that he has not yet invoked the European Convention on Human Rights, with its explicit prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.

There may be a point in insisting that the Lord Chancellor does something that he plainly does not want to do for the sake of maintaining an important tradition that somehow serves a larger purpose. If so, what is that purpose? Is our legislation improved by it? None of the arguments that I have heard so far convinces me that that is the case. In any event, it is not as if this proposal involves the permanent abandonment of the robes in question. For those who truly thirst for a glimpse of our history, it will still be on offer on ceremonial and important state occasions.

Before my introduction into your Lordships' House, like many of my new colleagues I attended various briefing sessions conducted by the officials of the House and of my own party. That is what happens to new Peers these days. Nowhere in any of those briefings was I alerted to the fact that joining your Lordships' House would bring me into contact with so many men in tights! Men in tights seem to be rather numerous here, and I feel that I should have been warned. So far I have counted four. I suspect that at least one of the four relishes his costume and is happy to wear it on all possible occasions, but I am not so sure that that is the view of the majority. Certainly there is one—the Lord Chancellor—who wishes to consign his tights to the appropriate place: ceremonial occasions. I for one, as a wearer of tights of many years' experience, feel that that is an entirely reasonable request. If the next Lord Chancellor wishes to resurrect the practice, equally I would have no objection. If the next Lord Chancellor is a woman, everybody will be happy for many different reasons.

In preparing this speech I began to think about where different traditions had come from. I have consulted one or two books about the history of your Lordships' House. We have many traditions here. Some have a sensible basis in history, some are just silly and the reason for others has been lost. It became clear to me in my researches that many so-called traditions were mere accidents of history. If the historical accident in which the present Lord Chancellor is encased had happened a little later or a little earlier, we might today be arguing about whether the Lord Chancellor should be allowed to shed a short tunic, a mail shirt, an embroidered frock coat, with beribboned high heels, a powdered face and a beauty patch. I suppose that for these small mercies we should be grateful.

3.57 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I first point out to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, that my recollection of the source of the abandonment of the requirement for the Lord Chancellor to walk backwards down the steps of the Throne was the Queen. She was the one who ordered it. Therefore, the Queen should be excluded from his censure of those who initiated the change. The noble Lord shakes his head. The noble Lord is not censuring the Queen, is he? This change in procedure arose from her wish and command, not a request from the Lord Chancellor.

I shall be very brief because so much has been said very wisely. As for me, I should like to recall the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Lester of Herne Hill, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. Those three speeches, one after the other, made a complementary but unanswerable case for what the Lord Chancellor proposes to do in relation to both his dress and his movements about the House.

I do not think that we wish to hear many more speeches. My speech will be very short indeed. I support the Lord Chancellor's proposals for the reasons made abundantly plain in preceding speeches. I detected some note of hysteria both in the committee whose report we are considering and to a certain extent in the House today. I do not believe that this new Government, or anything that they propose to do, will change the face of the House completely.

When the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, spoke I could not fail to recollect a speech he made in the House 30 or 40 years ago, before women became Members of the House. The skies were going to fall when women became Members. Perhaps the noble Earl remembers. He does indeed, so my recollection is right: the skies were going to fall if women were made Members of the House.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, I merely signified to him that I remembered the occasion; but his remembering of it is incorrect.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, if the noble Earl was so agitated 30 or 40 years ago about the presence of women in this House, one must take that into account when considering his agitation today about the dress of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. But there we are. I do not think that the devil has changed in that respect. He has always been consistently retrograde in his views about change, and this is one example.

4.1 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I must declare an interest in speaking in this debate. I am one of the jeans and T-shirt generation referred to earlier. When I first came to the House over 10 years ago I found the idea of wearing a suit every day slightly unusual. I found seeing the officials walking around in their attire utterly terrifying. I do not think that that has changed for a large part of the population.

Noble Lords in this House have gained a good reputation over the past few years. For some strange reason we became fashionable. We were listened to; we sounded better than the Commons. It was not because we wore knee breeches, ties or anything else; it was what we said.

When the Lord Chancellor formally moved the Motion, I noted that one cannot see the knee breeches or the buckles on the shoes from these Benches. As someone who speaks from these Benches, I would rather that the Lord Chancellor spoke from the Front Bench. I know those who sit on the Front Bench. My neck has become used to the habit of turning that way. When someone speaks from the Dispatch Box, is it not nice to watch Ministers having to turn to deal with points made by noble Lords sitting behind them, and suffering just that little bit? That may not be quite the same suffering that the noble Lord the Lord Chancellor seeks to avoid by not wearing his wig, but it is something to bear in mind.

We are dealing with a minor issue which we are wrapping up in great reams of self-produced red tape. What matters is what is said and done in the Chamber. We have ceremony enough to spare. We are the best show in town when the Queen's Speech is presented. We do not need to have little extra bits. I suggest that we conclude the debate as quickly as possible—I have already spoken too long—and, it is to be hoped, make changes, and then deal with real issues. This matter really is playing around at the edges.

4.3 p.m.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I wonder whether noble Lords opposite have ever noticed that for something over 50 years their party's periods in office have averaged out at one-and-a-half parliamentary terms as against two-and-a-half, and more, for my right honourable and honourable friends, and asked themselves why this should be.

Let me enlighten them. It is what I always think of as the "Gotcha" factor. Throughout the general election process they are sweetly reasonable, all things to all men, then the mask slips allowing politics of hate and spite to emerge. "We are the masters now", for example, or "I'm going to make the pips squeak." And this is indicative of a state of mind that successive electorates have never found very endearing.

It has been most apparent, in this Parliament, in its urge to modernise the constitution, not so much with regard to the changes themselves, as to the way in which they are being carried out, without any sort of consultation and with its insistence on the result being precisely as Her Majesty's Government ordain.

First, it was devolution and the Government's use of public money to campaign for one side of the argument, holding those for Scotland and for Wales on separate days so as further to influence the result and even dictating from Westminster who can and cannot stand as Welsh First Minister.

Now it is the turn of your Lordships' House and, here again, it is the method that is at fault, picking away at established traditions and practices bit by bit. It started earlier this session with the Government's insistence on curtailing the Introduction Ceremony, even though by that time some major but as yet unspecified reform was already scheduled for some as yet unspecified time later in the Parliament. Then, after much speculation, came the announcement that Her Majesty's Government were to stick to their plan for a short sharp Bill to eliminate the hereditary Peers and only then to set up the Royal Commission. This despite the fact that all the evidence and 90 per cent. of informed opinion indicate that it would make it far less easy—if not impossible—to get the definitive Bill through another place. Never mind that—doing it all in one nice big clean sweep would not be nearly punitive enough to the despised hereditary Peers. After all, did they not themselves vote by four to one in favour of reform, over 30 years ago?

And now there is the matter of the Lord Chancellor's new clothes. It has an awful ring of Hans Andersen about it. Surely this could have waited at least until next Session's phase one Bill had reached the statute book. But no; it has to be done now, this minute. Go on, let these few really rather modest little changes through, or show yourselves up for the fusty old reactionaries you are!

I hold the heretical view that it is no bad thing to let a little bit of pageantry and colour into our daily lives. It is an innate part of our British national character, eccentric perhaps and one that other countries affect to laugh at, but secretly admire and even covet.

When Barry the architect and more especially Pugin the designer, of whom the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is rightly one of the foremost present day champions, conceived their new Palace of Westminster, they did not just design a lot of empty rooms. They had regard to the function of each and to the people who would participate in it. It is a matter of record that, with one day of the year in mind—that of the State Opening of Parliament—they spent more time and trouble over this suite of rooms (the Queen's Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and your Lordships' Chamber) than on any other part of the building as a setting fit for the Sovereign, crowned, robed and accompanied by her great Officers of State, to meet the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons in Parliament assembled.

For the other 364 days, the Robing Room and the Royal Gallery revert to just a room and a passage. Your Lordships' House, on the other hand, is forthwith transformed into its other capacity, that of the most magnificent legislative Chamber in the world. The centre of interest moves forward from the Cloth of Estate and the Throne to the Woolsack, designed no doubt by Pugin himself as was every other piece of furniture in the Palace, every wall, every floor, every ceiling, down to the minutest detail, there to be seated the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, Speaker of your Lordships' House, head of the Judiciary, the Mace, his purse and his tricorne hat behind him, dressed in full-bottomed wig, black silk gown and train, over court dress of linen bands, coat, waistcoat, knee breeches, black silk stockings and buckled shoes, as the last 33 of his predecessors have been proud to do.

But what of Pugin now? Could he but have foreseen all those years ago, that this, the focal point of his entire vision would from this day forward be occupied by an everyday figure in plain black shoes, short socks and striped trousers, what would he have done then? He just would not have bothered.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I suggest to him that he may be wrong in his reference to the Prime Minister who spoke of the "pips squeaking". I believe that that was the Liberal Prime Minister, Mr. David Lloyd George, presiding over a coalition government in which the Conservative and Unionist party played a decisive part.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I do not believe that it was the Prime Minister, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I believe that he was quoting Lord Geddes as regards German reparations. If the noble Lord does not like the quotation I used, that particular Chancellor of the Exchequer also referred to "making them howl". Those were his own words.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, perhaps I may return your Lordships to the rather conciliatory note of the whole debate against the unfortunate background of the recent comments of the noble Lord, Lord Denham. Perhaps I may begin by saying that if I do not mention "wigs", that is to return to the opening comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, who said, a fellow feeling makes us wondrous wise". The author of that comment was none other than Robert Burns. It is significant that in his 37 years on this earth the only time in his life when he was unpopular was when he wore a uniform. It was in that context that Burns made the remark.

I come to this debate as a traditionalist. I regard it as a House of Lords matter and not a party political matter at all. Perhaps I may comment on the report as a whole to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. The report is written as though there is never to be a female Lord Chancellor. It is written as though the Woolsack is always going to be occupied by a male Member of your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, who intended to speak in this debate, would no doubt have wanted to say that, but unfortunately she is absent.

I shall deal with two issues in the amendment. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, referred to the fact that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor wants to wear different dress to that which he wears at the moment and wants to occupy the Front Bench when he speaks as a government Minister. I openly admit that I am old fashioned and that I am unashamedly, unashamedly, unashamedly—I say that three times so that the record gets it right—old Labour. I have always taken the view that those who choose to forget their past will search in vain for a future.

However, that being said, I am in favour of the proposals, not becausee they are modest, but because of the march of time. The noble Earl who moved the amendment is a hereditary Peer. I use the term reluctantly because I am conscious that we are slipping into the routine of using that description as though it were something to be ashamed of. I am not using the term in that manner at all. I wish only to make the point that the noble Earl is a hereditary Peer and the title was created in 1711. The noble Earl does not come to your Lordships' House wearing the garb of his predecessor of 1711. He arrives as one of the best-dressed Members of your Lordships' House wearing the garb of 1998. That is all the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor seeks to do; namely, to wear the garb of 1998. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is a Highlander. We say in Scotland, "Ye cannae tak the breeks off a Highlandman". "Breeks" means breeches. All that the noble and learned Lord is asking to do is to remove the breeks from the Highlandman and let him wear trousers on occasions when it suits him to do so and to wear breeches on ceremonial occasions. I honestly do not see anything wrong with that.

My final point concerns the question of moving to the Front Bench when the Lord Chancellor speaks as a government Minister. In my early days in your Lordships' House I was heart sorry for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who was the Lord Chancellor in the Conservative government. I had to watch him get up and move to the left in John Major's government in order to make a speech. My voice falls silent about the present position. I shall not go into great detail about that. The Lord Chancellor is a member of the Cabinet and when he is speaking on behalf of the Government it makes sense for him to speak from the Government Front Bench. My guess is that at this advanced stage of the debate the House has come to its own conclusion and that the request of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor should be acceded to.

4.15 p.m.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, I support the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, as a humble colleague of his on the Procedure Committee. I wish to make two very brief points. First, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor knew what uniform he would be expected to wear when he took the job. Secondly, I believe that the manner in which people dress influences the way in which they conduct themselves. I believe that any regimental sergeant-major would agree with that. They have always insisted on correct and immaculate uniforms because they know that appearance affects the conduct and morale of the troops. I leave those two brief thoughts with your Lordships.

4.16 p.m.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees for the way in which he introduced the report of the Select Committee of which I am also a member. I was unable to attend the last meeting because I was in bed with flu. I very much regret that I am unable to support it for the reasons alluded to so elegantly by my noble friend Lord Ferrers and other noble Lords. I shall not go over the same points again.

As a member of the panel of Deputy Chairmen, I am concerned with the smooth running of your Lordships' House. As a panel we number 31. If one excludes the Front Bench members, our number is 24. Of these, two or three are frequently overseas. There are committees of your Lordships' House which have to be manned in the Moses Room and so our numbers are even more reduced. Until now every Lord Chancellor has conducted his business from the Woolsack, apart from the Committee stage of the Bills. That has given us, the deputies, a little leeway. But now, under the proposed scheme, more pressure will be put on us to sit on the Woolsack. That may result in our having to do two sessions a day and more than we do at present in a week, for instance, if someone is ill or absent for some reason, as in the case of my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree who is looking after his wife following an operation and who will not be back until after Christmas.

I know that my noble friend has our numbers in mind. I also know that in the past it has been difficult to find Peers who are prepared to commit time to the group because of outside interests, personal commitments and engagements. The job is voluntary and unpaid, but to my mind, it is a job well worth doing.

One other big problem looms. I am glad to see the noble Baroness the Leader of the House in her place. If the Government go ahead with the proposal to abolish hereditary Peers, they will lose over half the panel at a stroke. It will be very hard to find 12 Members of your Lordships' House to fill the gap at short notice. I hope that that has been considered; if not, the Government must find an answer.

4.18 p.m.

Baroness Goudie

My Lords, we live in an age of rapid developments. The pace of technology, changes and social progress is so fast and all-embracing that the world in which we live is very different from that into which we were born. The 21st century is but 14 months away, yet the Lord Chancellor is required to dress as for a 17th century court, to the bafflement of the British public. It is not a cherished tradition but an absurd anachronism. No one in this day and age, even when appearing before the Sovereign, wears anything but a day suit, except on ceremonial occasions. It is time that this House acknowledged that when the world moves on we should move with it.

This Government were elected on a radical manifesto to take this country beyond the millennium. An integral part of that manifesto is to reform the Palace of Westminster, including this House. Such reform is long overdue. And it is not about re-writing our history or throwing away our traditions; it is about making Parliament a better place to work, more accessible to the people and more relevant to the needs of a modern nation.

The Procedure Committee has proposed reforms which are eminently sensible. The Lord Chancellor should not be expected to wear ceremonial dress every day. And the Lord Chancellor should be allowed the convenience of speaking as a Minister and addressing the House from the Government Front Bench. If this House resists these minor modernisations the British public will have their suspicions confirmed; that the House of Lords is out of touch with reality. I support the Fourth Report from the Select Committee and I urge the House to agree to it in full.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, when I came to this House I felt the same as the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie. Up to a point, I still do, but the matter we are discussing is not so simple—

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Baroness is asking a brief question for clarification, but as she has not put her name on the speakers' list, perhaps we should get on with the debate.

4.22 p.m.

Lord Rowallan

My Lords, perhaps I may take the Lord Chairman at his word and move the debate on to another recommendation. As regards the third recommendation, may we know more about the proposed membership of the working group of Back-Benchers considering the procedures in the Chamber? Remembering that at present all Peers are equal in your Lordships' House—whether they be Dukes, Barons, Ladies, Baronesses, life Peers, hereditary Peers, temporal or spiritual—I hope that we shall see a true composition of Back-Benchers.

As regards the Lord Chancellor's dress, we must be careful not to start massive changes down to the lowest common denominator. The Lord Chancellor's Procession might be seen as faintly ridiculous, but many people come to the Palace to see it, as they do the Speaker's Procession. If the recommendations are agreed they will see the Purse Bearer and the Train Bearer still wearing full ceremonial dress, but the Lord Chancellor not in ceremonial dress. In the procession we will see informal and formal dress and I wonder whether that might look slightly ridiculous.

I strongly believe that the Lord Chancellor should be allowed to move to the Front Bench if he wishes. Most government speeches are made from the Front Bench and I see nothing wrong with that recommendation.

Part of the Lord Chancellor's salary is related to the fact that he is the Speaker in your Lordships' House. He receives a dress allowance for that. I presume that we shall not be so silly as to change the salary.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that perhaps this is not the time to be discussing such changes. During the course of next year we shall have a big debate on the role and composition of this House within Parliament. Perhaps rather than dealing with this small issue now we should do so when we undertake that debate.

4.24 p.m.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, some of our debates are curious occasions. Your Lordships are considering the 4th Report of the Select Committee, which has made five recommendations. One is of great importance upon Questions for Written Answer concerning, as it does, the accountability of government to Parliament. However, except for two brief mentions by two noble Lords, the entire debate has been about the first recommendation.

Indeed, it has engendered some strong language, which I shall not repeat, from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and the noble Lords, Lord Waddington and Lord Denham.

The recommendations on the Lord Chancellor's dress are thoroughly sensible. They represent a movement of the times and no more than that. Therefore, it is curious that we have had a debate of such length; While I entirely support these recommendations, I would add a caveat. It is referred to in the committee's penultimate paragraph and relates to the suggestion that the Lord Chancellor need only move to the Government Front Benches when he "wishes" to do so.

I understand the problem when the Lord Chancellor is dealing with a detailed Bill and is having to act as Speaker at the same time as talking to amendments on behalf of the Government. However, as I remember when I was a Cross-Bencher, the noble and learned Lord sits in a particularly advantageous position in your Lordships' House; we can see him and he can see us. Indeed, when I saw the Chief Whip of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, to break the painful news that I had decided to leave his party to join this party, I was minded to give another reason for my decision. I could see him better! Now I am sitting on this side of the House I can, indeed, fully see members of the former government which used to lead me.

I ask the noble and learned Lord to consider that caveat. He should feel free to remain in his position on the Woolsack, in particular during such debates as on the Queen's Speech, so that we can have the advantage of seeing him and he can have the advantage of seeing us. He should move to the Government Benches only when he needs to do so during the detailed passage of a Bill.

As regards the other recommendations about which there has been no debate or discussion today, I commend in particular the second and third. Adherence to procedures of the House has deteriorated. There has been a great deal of takeover by some Back-Benchers during Question Time. There is a great deal of unfortunate shouting when noble Lords do not give way to one another, particularly during Question Time. I believe that the proposed committee should be set up.

I make no comment on the fourth recommendation, which is a small matter. The fifth recommendation is useful and concerns the use of e-mails. Perhaps we can consider the Fourth Report in its entirety and agree to the sensible proposals. They do not slap tradition in its face or have anything to do with chipping away at standards in public life, as suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. The recommendations are sensible and perhaps we may accept them without more ado.

Viscount Slim

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may raise one matter. He referred to leaving this "party", pointing at the Cross Benches. I believe that that is correct, but I am happy to be corrected. Hansard will tell us. Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord that we are not a "party"; we are independent Peers. I hope that he will remember that. He now belongs to a party; I do not.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, I was a Cross-Bencher in your Lordships' House for 19 years and much enjoyed my time as a member. I was never a member of a party when I was a member of the Cross Benches, nor did I say that to your Lordships a moment ago. I was referring to the fact that I have visited other places in your Lordships' House and that when I made the painful decision to leave the party led by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, I knew that I would have the pleasure of getting a much better view of him. I have that pleasure now.

4.28 p.m.

The Earl of Drogheda

My Lords, I am sure that many noble Lords realise how fortunate we are to meet in this glorious Chamber. I suggest that the pageantry and uniforms which accompany our proceedings are an important ingredient and contribute an essential note of gravitas. There has been much use of phrases such as "moving with the times", "this day and age", "being accessible to the people", and so forth. Those are clichés. I dare say that your Lordships will recall how, in the 1960s, there was an expression much in vogue which was "with it". One had to be "with it". In the name of what John Betjeman called "withitry", many of our greatest cities were destroyed. We are now trying to repair that damage.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is a man of taste and discernment. His love of and eye for paintings are exceptional. Moreover, he clearly has a great feeling for the beauty of this building, a feeling to which the redecoration of his apartment bears ample witness. Why he should wish to do anything to diminish its grandeur baffles me, just as it baffles the noble Lord, Lord Denham.

A senior figure should be seen to be a senior figure and, where uniforms apply, should dress accordingly. When an admiral or a general is on parade, it is not just the other ranks who must be properly dressed. No doubt the admiral or general may be more comfortable in more casual clothes, but I am sure your Lordships will agree that that would not be right, just as I am equally sure that the troops would feel affronted were he to do so.

Therefore, I beg the Lord Chancellor to wear his breeches with a good grace in the knowledge that he suffers for a worthy cause. Let him abandon all thought of becoming a sansculotte.

4.31 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, it has struck me during this debate that there has been an attempt to paint the Members on this side of the Chamber as having no respect for the dignity and authority of the Lord Chancellor.

The report states that: There would be a lessening of dignity and … another move towards dismantling the richness and colour of the House's cermonial". Noble Lords on this side of the House are just as jealous as those on the other side of the need to maintain those aspects of the past.

A suggestion has been made, but the amendments moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, seek to challenge the idea that there has been a suggestion. In the past hour there have been attempts to block any move at all. It is said that we should have change, but not now. We are faced with a reasonable request from someone who serves us well but who believes that he could serve us better if some of the impedimenta of the past were removed.

I cannot believe that people outside this House who are affected by the work of the Lord Chancellor give a tinker's cuss about the uniform or the dress. They are concerned about the quality of the law and the dignity of the Office. There is nothing that the Lord Chancellor has done in the past, nor, I suggest, will do in the future, which will diminish that. I believe that this is a measure of practical common sense and, as such, I commend it to the House.

4.33 p.m.

Lord Annan

My Lords, I shall have to speak in the gap as I was unaware that we had to put down our names to speak. I wish to make two points and not waste the time of the House further.

The first point is to meet the usual objection that the time is not ripe. The doctrine of unripe time is well known in debate, as is the argument about the thin end of the wedge if we make a change.

The second point is that when I was first appointed to your Lordships' House, it was enjoined upon us at the opening of Parliament that we should wear a morning coat under our robes. Over the course of time, it became quite clear that there was no need for that whatever and now we are allowed to wear normal dress. If that can be so on a state occasion, surely we should accede to the modest request of the Lord Chancellor.

4.34 p.m.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, I intervene briefly, and I apologise to the House for arriving late but I had to attend a memorial service. Therefore, I did not put my name down to speak.

I hope that this will not be considered to be a party matter in any way. I hope that nobody will accuse me of not being extremely supportive of all the customs of this House. The recommendations of the report seem to me to be eminently sensible. They preserve the dignity of the Lord Chancellor. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, that dress is not important. It is important. But customs change and conventions alter. As the great John Henry Newman said, "To be human is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often". No pun is intended.

4.35 p.m.

Lord Brightman

My Lords, I too take advantage of the gap to depart from the problems of the Lord Chancellor's dress in order to ask a question of the Chairman of Committees. It relates to Recommendation 3, the Working Group on the Procedure of the House. The terms of reference of the group refer to, how the procedures of the House can be improved". I have certain suggestions which I should like to make for the purpose of simplifying the wording of amendments tabled in Committee and at later stages of a Bill. For example—I shall give only one example—I cannot see why a recent tabled amendment had to say: Leave out from the beginning to the second 'or"', instead of simply saying, "Leave out subsection 1(b)", which would be simpler and have precisely the same meaning.

There are other simplifications of a different sort which I should like to ventilate in order to make our paperwork more user-friendly. Will the Chairman of Committees confirm that possible improvements to the wording of amendments would be within the terms of reference of the working group as an improvement to the procedures of the House? The wording of amendments is relevant to such procedure.

I appreciate that what I have in mind will hardly be a matter for rules but only a matter of exhortation.

4.36 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, there is a limit on how much can be said on the topics covered by the amendments to the Motion. Perhaps it is as well that not more noble Lords emulated the ingenuity of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and I shall not say quite as much as I could say.

I sum up the underlying question as whether the proposed changes will contribute to or detract from the reputation and efficiency of the House. As my noble friend Lord Lester said, we are not a club and, in my view, both changes would be likely to contribute to our reputation and to our efficiency. Indeed, to refuse either may detract from that.

With regard to the dress of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, what is most apparent to the public, as has been mentioned this afternoon and what is most apparent to Members of this House, is the gown and the wig. I should be surprised if most people noticed the difference if the noble and learned Lord were able to adopt the discreet plain black trousers and highly polished shoes which are proposed.

There is nothing disrespectful in modern garb. For example, your Lordships have not argued for dress-down Fridays which are now quite common in offices in the City of London. As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, noted, women Members of this House now quite frequently wear trousers. There would be a riot if there were an attempt to prevent us from doing so.

I recall on the occasion of my own introduction to this House, when I was in danger of walking straight out after the series of bows, the previous Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, extended an extremely elegantly clad leg which made sure that I did not walk straight past the Woolsack on that occasion. Even at that time, while I was grateful for the hint, I wondered at what he was required to wear.

I have said that in refusing these proposals we could be detracting from the reputation of this House. The publicity around the refusal to moderate what one might almost call a minimum change—I agree with other noble Lords who made that point—could indicate to the world at large that the House is more concerned with the peripheral, almost the irrelevant, rather than the substance of the House's important work. This afternoon has had its moments, but I am not sure that I care for being living material for the sketch writers. I have rarely seen the Press Gallery as full as it was at the beginning of the debate and, though it is difficult to see from down here, I do not believe that many of them are constitutional historians.

One comment that I have already seen in the press—this matter has been covered fully—is that the wig which the Lord Chancellor customarily wears is rather like a dead sheep wrapped around a bollard and the bollard comes off worst, but I do not compare the noble and learned Lord to a bollard. More seriously, I understand the heightened sensitivity to these matters because of the currency of the debate relating to reform. We have heard the "right time" argument; the argument that we should await reform; the salami-slicing argument. I can see that when the right time comes—in other words, when we have a degree of reform—we may hear the opposite argument; that is, that we have already done away with enough traditions and should change no more.

I feel as strongly about the working arrangements as I feel about the question of dress. From these Benches we can clearly see the difficulties faced by the Lord Chancellor in dealing with material when he is speaking on a major piece of legislation and does not have the convenience of the Dispatch Box nor the ability easily to communicate with colleagues. We are a working Chamber and have every reason to accede to a reasonable request.

I am sorry to disagree with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who said that the Lord Chancellor's place is on the Woolsack other than when the House is in Committee. Why is that so? He called the second amendment the "moving about" amendment. I suggest that it is the speaking and working amendment.

During the course of the debate reference was made to the custom of the Lord Chancellor to walk backwards down the steps of the Throne on the occasion of the State Opening. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, corrected that point, but I understand from the Lord Chancellor—I have had the benefit of sitting nearest to him during the course of the debate—that the suggestion for change came from Her Majesty herself and that the Lord Chancellor's response was to thank her for her consideration.

Yesterday I mentioned this debate to a relative who is the widow of a senior Army officer. She expressed some surprise at this being prime business for today. However, she also said that officers never wore dress uniform when they went into the trenches, nor indeed on normal peacetime duties, but only on ceremonial occasions. The analogy is a good one, though I appreciate that the Lord Chancellor may sometimes wonder whether this House constitutes the trenches or just peacetime duties.

I conclude by thanking the noble and learned Lord for his courtesy in bringing these matters to the House, in particular with regard to dress. I have been somewhat flippant—I recognise that—but there are serious points to be made. I understand that it was not necessary for him to bring the matter to the House. He has shown the House a great courtesy in doing so. I support the modest and reasonable changes proposed.

4.44 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, before I ask your Lordships to turn their attention during the course of my remarks to what is clearly the burning political question of the hour—the matter of the noble and learned Lord's dress—perhaps I can briefly refer to a couple of other matters set out in the report.

I want to underline what a number of noble Lords—notably the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, for whose charming reference to myself I am grateful—referred to as the desirability of recommendation number 2 headed, "Questions for Written Answer". All those who have been members of governments know that the only mechanism open to anybody to hold governments continuously to account is Parliament. The fact that, according to the sheet headed "Questions for Written Answer" dated 13th November, the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, has had a Question outstanding since 12th March, underlines the extraordinary value of that recommendation. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that we may be able to agree with that as a recommendation without further debate.

I welcome the suggestion of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House in relation to establishing a working group on procedure in the Chamber. The noble Baroness gave us every assurance that we were not going to talk about great matters affecting the powers of this House or how they are applied. My understanding from the noble Baroness—I am grateful to her for remaining so long; I know that she has a number of other important engagements later this evening—is that that working group would look at the minutiae of procedure in your Lordships' House. I greatly welcome it. It is already difficult to keep up with everyday practices in this House. I have been here for five or six years, admittedly not as long as many other noble Lords. With so many of our number being newly introduced, the little politesses which enable us to do without a conventional Speaker are more important than many of us realised when we first came here. A reminder of that would be helpful also when looking at whether any of the small matters need attention and change because, as we know, nothing is perfect.

That brings me to the matter of the noble and learned Lord's attire. During the course of what has proved to be an extremely lengthy afternoon, a number of noble Lords referred to the absurdity of spending so much of our time discussing what is, by any standards, a relatively unimportant matter. I associate myself with those who made those remarks. However, all of us knew—I hope that the noble and learned Lord will realise that I say this with the greatest respect and admiration and I hope we can agree in friendship on this matter—that as soon as a matter of this kind was raised in your Lordships' House, it would be bound to attract a great many people who wished to debate it. The fact that Members of the Government wanted to raise this matter, first in the Procedure Committee and then here, inevitably meant that we would risk making ourselves look a little foolish. The noble and learned Lord clearly felt it was worth that risk and the Procedure Committee took his request, as is only right, entirely seriously.

I hope that I will not be more than usually long in prolonging this debate but I wish to record that I am sorry that my memory was clearly defective in relation to the proceedings of our committee. I thought that we had agreed that the noble and learned Lord should move to the Dispatch Box as recommended in the report though, as the Chairman of Committees indicated, there were a number of dissenting voices, notably from my noble friend Lord Ferrers. However, I had remembered—and clearly I had misremembered it—that there was very far from overwhelming agreement in the committee as to the second matter of the dress of the noble and learned Lord. I had recalled that we thought that the sensible thing to do was to refer the matter to the House as a whole without a recommendation. Nevertheless, I stand to be corrected in that respect.

In that context, perhaps I should also emphasise that I speak here purely as an individual Member of your Lordships' House. There is no intention whatever for this Front Bench to influence any of its normal supporters. Indeed, even if I had wanted to, I am sure that I would have been unable to do so on this matter, above all others. Speaking personally, I have absolutely no quarrel with the idea of the noble and learned Lord "moving about", as my noble friend Lord Ferrers put it, in the way recommended here. I have no quarrel for exactly the reasons given by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, during the course of his intervention. I shall not attempt to repeat them now because the noble Lord did so much more eloquently than I could have done.

However, we should think carefully about the second recommendation. I say that for one specific reason to which I shall now turn. There is a feeling among the more traditional and perhaps deeply entrenched Members of your Lordships' House that members of the Government dislike much of the ceremonial associated with this House. We have heard a number of passionate démentis given to that assertion this afternoon. Of course, I accept them without any argument. Nevertheless, it is a feeling which is very much abroad. I believe that it has been encouraged by the equally embarrassing debate in your Lordships' House in prime time over the change proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, to the Introduction ceremony, and what has been described by a number of my noble friends as a process of salami slicing which also appears to be taking place in the matter.

I have absolutely no quarrel with the desire to review our ceremonial in principle. After all, it seems to me that all ceremonial treads rather a tricky tightrope between what one might think of as undignified understatement and, on the other side, bathetic absurdity. That is particularly so in an age which no longer values so much, as once did this country, outward and visible signs of dignity. That is perhaps increasingly reflected in the lack of self-confidence on the part of people who form part of the Government to take some pride in the authority of government by the way they dress and process.

Therefore, it would seem to me to be sensible in the normal course of events to review our ceremonial practices from time to time in an attempt to remain on that tightrope. However, as a number of noble Lords on both sides of the House have asked, the question is, when? We all know—we are getting rather bored, at least I am, with the question; indeed, I seem to talk of little else these days—that we are facing a change in the composition of your Lordships' House.

After all, the basis upon which much of the ceremonial in this House is predicated—indeed, I venture to suggest pretty well all of it—is the dominating ethos of this Chamber; in other words, the ethos that surrounds the idea of a hereditary peerage as an order, even though I suspect that hereditary Peers day to day barely form 50 per cent., perhaps even a regular minority of the number of your Lordships who actually take part in our proceedings.

The fact that the prospect of reform or change in our composition is now so dominant a part—so dominant a leitmotif—of everything that happens in your Lordships' House, and will continue to be so until that change happens, is bound in some way to distort any debate on any matter affecting your Lordships' procedures and ceremonial, however trivial it may seem. That debate and that feeling are emphasised above all by the fear that a number of your Lordships unquestionably have of what might happen to them some time next year.

It seems to me that the new House will be very different in character after we hereditaries have gone. As my noble friend Lady Young said earlier, and in view of the remarks that I have just made, would that not be the time to look at our ceremonial as a whole? The noble Lord, Lord Annan, who, of course, is one of our most distinguished Cambridge academics, is more familiar than I am with that splendid little booklet, Microcosmographica Academica, in which I understand a most eloquent definition was posited of the theory of unripe time. If my memory serves me right, it is put forward in that small volume as the ultimate argument, along, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, with the theory of the thin end of the wedge of the reactionary.

I believe that I can counter the noble Lord's argument very simply by saying that the reactionary is implying that the time will never be ripe. That is not my argument to your Lordships this afternoon. The time, some of us may think rather sadly, will be ripe very shortly. I submit to your Lordships that that time will be when we hereditaries have come and gone and have been duly thanked most charmingly, if I may say so, by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. But gone we will be. That perhaps clearly indicates a time when we should look at our ceremonial in view of the new ethos which will undoubtedly dominate your Lordships' House after I and my fellow hereditaries have left.

Therefore, it seems to me that it would be only sensible—

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, I trust that the noble Earl will forgive me for interrupting his speech and delaying the House. However, is the noble Earl giving an absolute guarantee at the Dispatch Box that he will co-operate with the Government in the legislation for the abolition of hereditary Peers?

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, perhaps I may, first, tell the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, that I am deeply grateful to him for the promotion. Secondly, the noble Lord knows the answer to that question as well as I do. I shall advise my noble friends to treat such a Bill in exactly the same way as they treat every other Bill; namely, to exercise their judgment in trying to improve it as it passes through your Lordships' House.

I have spoken far longer than I should have done. I deeply apologise to the House. However, I was provoked by my former colleague in another place as, indeed, I remember he used to do regularly in Standing Committee. The answer is perfectly clear. We are bound to be living in a rather heightened atmosphere during the next 12 months. Therefore, would it not be sensible just to look at the question of reform first and then the new House could look at its ceremonial in the light of its new ethos and ethics? I believe that that would certainly be the right time to do so, rather than this evening.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I hesitate to speak because I am well aware that the House would like to proceed with the matter and with other important business. However, having heard the whole debate and the contribution of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition, I crave the indulgence of your Lordships to make two very brief points. I have no intention of seeking to contribute to what he rightly described as the possible perception of this being an absurd discussion. However, there are two practical points that I should like to draw to the attention of noble Lords.

First, the noble Viscount referred to the text of the committee's report. I, too, was at the meeting of the Procedure Committee at which all of these matters were discussed. I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his support for my proposal that a working group should be set up to look at what I believe he rightly described as the everyday practices of your Lordships' House. However, I must tell the noble Viscount, and other noble Lords who have raised the matter, that I was satisfied that the report which emerged from the Procedure Committee was accurate. But I shall leave it to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees to deal with any points of detail on the matter when he concludes the debate.

Secondly, the noble Viscount in his eloquent peroration, and other noble Lords, have questioned why the House should be asked to approve these changes when there are other more fundamental reforms in the air. It has never been my belief that you should avoid changing anything simply because you cannot change everything. I do not understand the description of this as "salami slicing". The House has shown itself able to evolve its own procedures. That is important. I believe that the reform of the Ceremony of Introduction has proved in practice to be successful and has in no way led to a reduction in the dignity or the appropriate ceremonial for the introduction of new Members of your Lordships' House. It is in that spirit that the Procedure Committee produced its report. I support the committee's report.

5 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, after a debate such as this I hope that your Lordships will feel that I should not attempt to give a prolonged summing up. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I do not mention every speaker by name, much as they all deserve that. I shall not rehearse all of the arguments which have been mentioned about the two what I might call principal proposals, or those which at any rate have attracted greatest attention in the report of the Procedure Committee, as that has already been done thoroughly in the course of this debate. I hope that is acceptable. I shall discuss some of the factual and one or two of the substantive matters which have been raised.

First, I shall discuss the points which have just been made about the report by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition. I thank the noble Viscount for the way in which he referred to the text of the report. If the noble Viscount wishes to adhere to his interpretation of what is in the report, he and I must differ. I say—I hope more persuasively and more substantially—that there is not really anything between us on this matter. As I indicated—I hope clearly—when moving the Motion, without taking a head count of the arguments adduced in the committee I thought there was a small majority in favour of the proposal for the procedural changes of moving to the Dispatch Box and a still smaller majority in favour of the proposals on dress. There was no request for a Division. I would have acceded to a Division instantly had one been requested. That is what I ventured to say to your Lordships in moving the Motion this afternoon. I am reassured and comforted by the smile on the noble Viscount's face. I hope he will agree that there is not much, if anything, between us on that point.

I shall now discuss some of the other matters which have been raised. If your Lordships adopt the proposal that the Lord Chancellor should move to the Government Front Bench for the purposes specified in the report, I shall bring forward at an early stage for your Lordships' consideration proposed amendments to the standing orders. Clearly that will occur in the new Session, not this one. Without addressing the arguments again, I have one point to make to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I thank him for saying that he thought I had presented a fair summary of the arguments. I thank him, I hope, on behalf of others for the way in which he presented his arguments this afternoon. The noble Earl said he felt it was wrong to set a precedent for future Lords Chancellor. I have one point to make about that—this is, of course, pure speculation—namely, it is of course open to any succeeding Lord Chancellor to submit other proposals and indeed to suggest reverting to the previous system, if the new proposals are adopted. However, I do not make too much of that.

The working group was mentioned by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan. I cannot tell him precisely at the moment who will be the members of the working group, but I am assured that the usual channels, to whom this matter was left by the Procedure Committee, have these proposals well in hand. I shall ensure that the noble Lord and your Lordships are informed as soon as the names emerge. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, also mentioned the working group. The points which he suggested are not wide-ranging—therefore that overcomes the problem which the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition mentioned—and I see no reason to doubt that those matters which the noble and learned Lord has mentioned as possibly appropriate and within the terms of reference of the working group could be considered by the working group.

I and your Lordships' Procedure Committee were grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, and to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for their proposals for altering the system of Questions for Written Answer. We have received representations to the effect that the system of printing Questions for Written Answer only once is causing great inconvenience and worry to a number of your Lordships. It was for that reason that we decided to adopt these two proposals as a means of overcoming that. That would still result in a substantial saving of money.

The noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, mentioned the Deputy Speakers and Deputy Chairmen. He made a valid point. However, I can reassure your Lordships that those of us in your Lordships' House, including the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, who serve as Deputy Speakers and Deputy Chairmen—the others are voluntary, but I am in the fortunate position of not being voluntary and therefore I speak on behalf of the others—will accept any burden that your Lordships place upon us. It may be a little more difficult than it was in the past but we shall fulfil those duties to the best of our ability.

I believe those are the main points which your Lordships may feel I need to take into account in this brief summing-up. As regards the point that the noble Viscount made about the report, I accept full responsibility for the text and terms of the report before your Lordships. This debate has gone on long enough. On behalf of the Procedure Committee it is my duty to invite your Lordships to adopt its report without alteration.

5.8 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord the Lord Chairman says that the debate has gone on long enough. However, it has not gone on quite long enough. I hope I may be permitted to express a few brief thoughts. I am grateful to your Lordships for having taken part. I believe the noble Baroness the Leader of the House said she thought it was an absurd debate.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I must correct that false impression. I was simply picking up the words of the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition who said he feared it might be perceived as absurd.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am most grateful for those comments which mean that I shall not have to apologise to your Lordships for having been absurd or for having introduced a debate which might be considered absurd.

Perhaps I may thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for having the courtesy to sit through the debate, on the Woolsack, with his usual genial smile, bearing all the arrows that have flown backwards and forwards. I hope that he will not take this as a personal affront. I am all for the dignity of the Lord Chancellor; and I am all for enhancing and elevating his office so that he is even higher than he is already. I am on his side.

I hardly dare mention that the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, did say that he thought it an absurd debate. He asked what he could say to people, when asked what we had been discussing all afternoon, other than "The Lord Chancellor's dress." Having thought that it was an absurd debate, he promptly joined in. That does not say a great deal for consistency.

We would not have had the debate in the first place had it not been for the Lord Chancellor wishing to make alterations. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, said that what matters is the way in which the noble and learned Lord does his job. We all agree with that—and that he does his job very well—but that does not mean that he has to change his attire.

It was frightening to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, an eminent QC, and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who is neither a Law Lord nor an eminent QC, but who is a very eminent Member of your Lordships' House, say that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would do his job better if he did not have to wear a wig. Do your Lordships think that the noble and learned Lord cannot do his job properly wearing a wig? Do your Lordships really think that all previous Lords Chancellor did not do their jobs properly because they were wearing a wig?

Lord Ackner

My Lords, I merely quoted from the report in which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor himself made the observation that if he were not burdened with the wig, he would be able to discharge his job more efficiently—an observation that I was delighted to hear.

Earl Ferrers

Dear, oh dear, my Lords. The noble and learned Lord will not remain a friend of the Lord Chancellor for very much longer. He has directed the arrows to the Lord Chancellor who, according to the noble and learned Lord, admits that he will do his work better without a wig. I would like to hope that his conduct has not been adversely affected by wearing a wig.

I was also concerned when the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, in arguing for doing away with the wearing of the wig, asked what we are doing here and whether we are providing entertainment and mockery as per Gilbert and Sullivan. That argument was not worthy of the debate. In fact, we are concerned with the dignity and stature of the office of Lord Chancellor. That is not a question of mockery. If people want to mock it, they can. If people want to mock your Lordships, they can. The fact is that the office of Lord Chancellor is one of great dignity and great awe. When the noble and learned Lord carries out his ceremonial duties, including every day in the Lord Chancellor's Procession, that is important.

If I may say so with a degree of humility, I make no apology for having tabled the two amendments. It is important that the office of Lord Chancellor should retain its stature. The Lord Chancellor should not dress down; he should not dispose of his breeches, buckles and tights. I do not believe that he should leave his position as Speaker on the Woolsack, move over to join his ministerial colleagues and, as I said earlier, metamorphose into a Front-Bench Minister as opposed to standing at the Woolsack with the dignity and aura of the Lord Chancellor. I commend my first amendment to the House.

5.14 p.m.

On Question, Whether the amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 115; Not-Contents,145.

Division No. 1
Aberdare, L. Craigmyle, L.
Ailesbury, M. Cranborne, V.
Ailsa, M. Cross, V.
Astor of Hever, L. Davidson, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Denham, L.
Beloff, L. Denton of Wakefield, B.
Blatch, B. Dixon-Smith, L.
Boardman, L. Downshire, M.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Drogheda, E.
Braine of Wheatley, L. Ellenborough, L.
Broadbridge, L. Elles, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Bruntisfield, L. Erne, E.
Burnham, L. Falkland, V.
Butterworth, L. Ferrers, E. [Teller.]
Cadman, L. Fookes, B.
Calverley, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Gormanston, V.
Carnock, L. Grey, E.
Chalfont, L. Halsbury, E.
Charteris of Amisfield, L. Harding of Petherton, L.
Chesham, L. Headfort, M.
Clark of Kempston, L. Higgins, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. HolmPatrick, L.
Courtown, E. Home, E.
Hooper, B. Onslow of Woking, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Oxfuird, V.
Jopling, L. Park of Monmouth, B.
Kinnoull, E. Pender, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B. Platt of Writtle, B.
Lauderdale, E. Rathcavan, L.
Leigh, L. Rees, L.
Liverpool, E. Renton, L.
Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E. Renwick, L.
Long, V. Roberts of Conwy, L.
Lucas, L. Rotherwick, L.
Luke, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. [Teller.]
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Savile, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L. Seccombe, B.
Macleod of Borve, B. Sharples, B.
Marlesford, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Massereene and Ferrard, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Merrivale, L. Slim, V.
Mersey, V. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Middleton, L. Strathclyde, L.
Miller of Hendon, B. Sudeley, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L. Swansea, L.
Monro of Langholm, L. Swinfen, L.
Monson, L. Teviot, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L. Teynham, L.
Mottistone, L. Trumpington, B.
Mountevans, L. Vivian, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Waddington, L.
Moynihan, L. Warnock, B.
Munster, E. Wedgwood, L.
Naseby, L. Wilcox, B.
Northesk, E. Young, B.
Ackner, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Acton, L. Evans of Watford, L.
Addington, L. [Teller.] Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Ahmed, L. Ezra, L.
Alli, L. Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Annan, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Fitt, L.
Bach, L. Freyberg, L.
Barnett, L. Gilbert, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Gladwin of Clee, L.
Berkeley, L. Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Biffen, L. Goudie, B.
Blackstone, B. Gould of Potternewton, B.
Brightman, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Gregson, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Grenfell, L.
Burlison, L. Hacking, L.
Burns, L. Hamwee, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Hardy of Wath, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Carter, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Chorley, L. Haskel, L.
Christopher, L. Hayman, B.
Clancarty, E. Henderson of Brompton, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Clement-Jones, L. Holderness, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Crawley, B. Howie of Troon, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L. Hoyle, L.
David, B. Hughes, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Islwyn, L.
Desai, L. Jacobs, L.
Dholakia, L. Janner of Braunstone, L.
Donoughue, L. Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal]
Dormand of Easington, L.
Erroll, E. Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Redesdale, L.
Judd, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Kennet, L. Richard, L.
Kilbracken, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Kinloss, Ly. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L. Sawyer, L.
Leathers, V. Shaughnessy, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L. Shepherd, L.
Lockwood, B. Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L. Shore of Stepney, L.
Longford, E. Simon, V.
Ludford, B. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
McNair, L. Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]
McNally, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Maddock, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Marsh, L. Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Monkswell, L. Thornton, B.
Montague of Oxford, L. Tope, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. Tordoff, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. Turner of Camden,B.
Morris of Manchester, L. Walker of Doncaster, L.
Nicol, B. Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Northbourne, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Paul, L. Weatherill, L.
Plant of Highfield, L. Wharton, B.
Prys-Davies, L. Wilberforce, L.
Puttnam, L. Williams of Crosby, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Rea, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.
Reay, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Earl Ferrers had given notice of his intention to move, as a second amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end to insert ("except the recommendation that the Lord Chancellor should be able to speak from the Government Front Bench when the House is sitting as a House").

[Amendment not moved.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Lord Carter

My Lords, before we move to the Statements on Iraq and agriculture, I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that The Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length will do so at the expense of other noble Lords.

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