§ (1) In implementation of subsection (4) of section 2 of the House of Lords Act 1999, this Standing Order makes provision for by-elections to fill vacancies occurring by death among excepted hereditary peers after the end of the initial period.
§ (2) In the event of the death of a hereditary peer excepted under Standing Order (Hereditary Peers)(2)(i) only the excepted hereditary peers in the group in which the vacancy has occurred shall be entitled to vote.
§ (3) In the event of the death of a hereditary peer excepted under Standing Order (Hereditary Peers)(2)(ii) the whole House shall be entitled to vote.
§ (4) The provisions of paragraphs (2) and (3) shall apply also in the case of any subsequent by-elections.
§ (5) The Clerk of the Parliaments shall maintain, and publish annually, a register of hereditary peers (other than peers of Ireland) who wish to stand in any by-election.
§ (6) By-elections shall be conducted in accordance with arrangements made by the Clerk of 20 the Parliaments and shall take place within three months of a vacancy occurring.
§ (7) Paragraphs (5) and (6) of Standing Order (Hereditary Peers) shall apply to by-elections under this Standing Order."
§ Electoral arrangements1138
§ The Committee also agreed the following arrangements for elections and by-elections.
- (a) The Clerk of the Parliaments will be the Returning Officer.
- (b) Hereditary peers will be required to register, if they wish to vote for the hereditary peers in the party groups. The officers of each group will be entitled to examine the registers to ensure that they are correct. If any peer who wishes to vote is not on any party or Cross bench list, the Clerk of the Parliaments will consult the relevant group to ensure that no hereditary peer is disenfranchised. The registers will be up-dated before by-elections are held.
- (c) Hereditary peers who wish to stand for election in a particular group must register as candidates for that group. Hereditary peers wishing to stand in the election for Deputy Speakers and other offices must also register for such election. Any hereditary peer may stand in either, or both, elections.
- (d) Peers who have not taken the Oath or who are on Leave of Absence shall not be qualified to stand or vote in any of the initial elections. All peers, including those on Leave of Absence and those who have not taken the Oath, will receive a House of Lords notice about arrangements for the elections not less than 6 weeks before the intended date of the elections. This will make clear to those who wish to vote, or stand for election, that they must, if necessary, terminate their Leave of Absence and take the Oath. This requirement will not apply in the case of candidates in by elections.
- (e) The election for Deputy Speakers and other office holders will be held before the party elections. So far as by-elections are concerned, paragraph (3) of the by-election Standing Order provides that voting for a candidate to take the place of any hereditary peer elected as a Deputy Speaker will be by the whole House. Any peer elected at a by-election will, however, not be expected to serve as a Deputy Speaker.
- (f) The initial elections will take place in the forthcoming "spill-over".
- (g) Peers will be invited to register in person or by post or fax during a period of two weeks, one of which may be the last week of the summer recess and the other the first week of the "spill-over". Telephone registration will not be allowed because it could result in error or omission. Registration by e-mail will not he allowed because of the problem of authentication.
§ Page 3
§ (h) On the Monday of the week following the period of registration a list of candidates will be issued for the elections for the Deputy Speakers and other office holders. In view of the large numbers likely to vote and in order to ensure that as many who wish to vote can do so, the election will be held over two days (probably Wednesday and Thursday) and between such hours as will best suit the convenience of peers. Ample notice will be given of the dates and times. Peers will vote in person in a Committee Room designated for this purpose. The result of this election will be reported in accordance with sub-paragraph (0) below on the next sitting day.
§ (i) A list of candidates will then immediately be issued for the party elections, eliminating the to names of any peers who were successful in the earlier election. Voting will take place in a Committee Room designated for this purpose, possibly over two days, but the numbers voting will be smaller since only hereditary peers will be voting. Again, the date and times will be announced well in advance.
§ (j) No candidate will be allowed to indicate on the ballot paper (including the ballot paper for Deputy Speakers and other office holders) any qualification or reason why he or she should be elected. The Clerk of the Parliaments will however facilitate the publication, in a form yet to be decided, of a separate paper giving electors information about each candidate.1139
§ (k) Postal voting will be allowed only where the Clerk of Parliaments receives a doctor's note to say that a peer is unable, for medical or incapacity reasons, to travel. Since voting in these elections will he parliamentary business, peers will be entitled to claim reimbursement of their travel and subsistence expenses.
§ (l) The electoral system will be as follows. The ballot papers for the party elections will he printed with the names of all the candidates for the relevant party/group, and voters will be required to vote for the total number of vacancies for that party/group in order of preference, marking against each name the figure 1, 2, 3, 4 etc The figure 1 will indicate a first preference, the figure 2 a second preference and so on. It must be stressed that a voter will he required to vote for exactly the number of vacancies in the relevant party or group; failure to do so will result in the ballot paper being spoilt and not taken into account when the votes are totalled. So if there are 28 vacancies, voters must place the figures 1, 2, 3 up to 28 against 28 names and not more or less than 28 names.
§ In the initial count, every vote will have equal weight and the candidates who receive the largest number of votes will be elected to the relevant vacancies. In the event of a tie, the number of first preferences received by a candidate will be taken into account, so that the candidate with the higher number of first preferences would be elected. If this does not resolve the tie, second preferences will be taken into account, and, if necessary, third preferences and so on. In the unlikely event that this did not resolve the tie, lots could be drawn.
§ (m) The ballot papers for the Deputy Speakers' etc election will be printed with the names of all registered candidates, and voters will be asked to number the candidates of their choice as above.
§ (n) The count will he undertaken by staff of the Parliament Office under the supervision of nominees from each of the parties (including the Cross-Benches). The voting papers will not be made public.
§ (o) The results of the elections will be reported to the House by the Clerk of the Parliaments. The number of votes cast for the various candidates, including the votes for unsuccessful candidates, will be published in this report. The names of the successful candidates will also be recorded in the Minutes of the House and in the Clerk of the Parliaments' certificate to the Clerk of the Crown.
§ (p) The Clerk of the Parliaments will, after consulting the party Leaders and whips and the Convenor of the Cross-benchers, issue a code of conduct for candidates and voters in the elections.
§ Page 4
§ If the Clerk of the Parliaments suspects, on reasonable grounds, that some material irregularity or improper conduct may have occurred in the electoral process, he may refer the matter to the Committee for Privileges for investigation.
§ (q) The ballot papers and overall votes recorded for each hereditary peer will be retained by the Clerk of the Parliaments for the purpose of deciding how subsequent vacancies occurring in the 90 hereditary peers are filled. When subsection (by elections) of Clause 2 of the House of Lords Bill becomes effective this provision will become redundant.
§ To help the House to understand more fully the arguments used in the Committee to reach these conclusions, a transcript of the Committee's proceedings is appended to this report.
§ Viscount Bledisloe moved, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end insert ("with the following amendments:
§ Page 1, line 5, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")
§ Page 1, line 6, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")
§ Page 1, line 7, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")
§ Page 1, line 8, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")1140
Page 1, line 12, at end insert-
("(2A) Each of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and the Cross Bench peers may decide whether the qualified peers for the party or group referred to in paragraph 2 above are to consist of
Such decision shall be notified at least one month before the date of the elections to the Clerk of the Parliaments by the leader of each party and the Convenor of the Cross Benchers. If no such notification is given by any party or group, the qualified peers of that party or group shall be deemed to he only the hereditary peers.")
§ Page 2, line 11, leave out ("excepted hereditary peers") and insert ("qualified peers who are members of the House")
§ Page 2, line 21, after ("Paragraphs") insert ("(2A,)")
§ Page 2, line 26, leave out first ("hereditary")
§ Page 3, line 11, leave out ("but the numbers voting will be smaller since only hereditary peers will be voting")").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, as your Lordships will see, the Motion proposes certain amendments to the Standing Orders and to the consequential directions to which the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees has referred. As set out on the Order Paper I accept that these amendments appear somewhat complicated, but they all relate to one topic only; namely, who among your Lordships should form the electorate which will select the 90 hereditary Weatherill Peers who are to remain in this House pending stage two of the reform.
§ As noble Lords will by now be well aware, these 90 Peers fall into two classes. First, there are the 15 who are to be chosen because of the services it is expected they will render to the House, either as Deputy Speakers or as chairmen of various committees. Those 15 are to be elected by the Whole House; that is, by all Members of the House, whether hereditary or life Peers, and all such Members will have an equal vote for those 15. The second class is the 75 Peers who are to be selected by each party or group according to the number set out in the report of the Procedure Committee. These Peers will, of course, be selected only by the Members in their party or group. Thus the 42 Conservatives will be chosen by the votes of Conservatives; the 28 Cross-Benchers by votes of Cross-Benchers, and so on. So far so good.
§ However, as the report now stands, those 75 Peers are to be elected solely by the votes of the hereditary Peers in that group and the life Peers are to have no say whatsoever in this process of selection. No explanation has been forthcoming as to why it is appropriate for the life Peers to have a voice in deciding who shall chair committees, or who shall sit on the Woolsack, yet it is wholly inappropriate for those same life Peers to be allowed any say in who shall be their continuing colleagues in their own party or group.
§ I suggest to your Lordships that this exclusion of the life Peers is wholly illogical and wholly unjustified. Ideally I would have wished that the electorate for all parties and groups should include the life Peers as well as the hereditaries. However, the Conservative Party, or, to be somewhat more accurate, the majority of the Front Bench Members of the Conservative Party, have set 1141 their face resolutely against it. So far it has been impossible to determine the logic of their attitude, but what is beyond doubt is that the attitude exists.
§ In the light of this stance by the Front Bench, I recognise that we might have some difficulty in persuading the House to determine that every party and group shall be required to include the life Peers in their electorate. The amendment before the House, therefore, proposes that each party or group shall be entitled to make its own choice as to whether it wishes its Weatherill Peers to be elected by all its Members or only by the hereditaries.
§ One of the Government's recurrent themes on Lords reform has been their recognition of the need for a strong, independent Cross-Bench element. It seems at the lowest to be somewhat inconsistent with that to deny to that independent element the right to select its Members in its own independent way. Since one of the main arguments for this Motion is that it would be utterly wrong for the Cross Benches to be compelled by the two main Front Benches to have the wrong electorate, so likewise we recognise that it might be wrong for us to seek to compel the Conservative Party to follow what is undoubtedly the best and most sensible course if, even after reflection, that party remains determined to have a solely hereditary electorate.
§ Thus this Motion is—I make no bones about this—a compromise between the ideal and what should be practically achievable. Indeed, as a compromise it departs from the view which I have previously expressed: that it would have been preferable to have a uniform system. But it seems that an acceptable uniform system is not achievable and therefore my Motion allows everyone to follow his or her own conscience without in any way interfering with the desires of other parties.
§ Why, then, do I feel so strongly that all Members of the House should be entitled to vote for their group? It has been decided that 75 hereditary Peers are to remain in this House until stage two; and it is surely very important, first, that those who remain are the people who can make the most useful contributions to the ongoing work of the House; and, secondly—I venture to suggest that this is important—that they are seen by the outside world to have been chosen by the method best suited to achieve that result.
§ If one wishes to select the most appropriate and useful people it would seem obvious that the persons best suited to make that selection are those who attend the House with some regularity and who have therefore experienced the contribution which can be made by the various candidates either on the Floor of the House or in the committees upstairs. The importance of the work on those committees was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, at a previous stage. I had hoped that we should hear from him on the same topic. As he pointed out, only those who sit on those committees can know which person makes a valuable contribution.
§ In each party or group a very considerable proportion of the people who attend regularly, and who sit on committees and therefore have the necessary 1142 knowledge, are the life Peers. Further, since by definition the life Peers cannot themselves be candidates for election they will not only be well informed but also wholly dispassionate in the casting of their vote.
§ On the other hand, if only the hereditaries are allowed to vote, many of those who attend regularly will themselves be candidates. Thus the dispassionate voters will comprise the relatively few hereditary Peers who, although regular attenders, have decided not to stand, and other hereditaries who attend only seldom and have little knowledge of the candidates.
§ In this connection it is important to bear in mind—it is a point which may not have fully caught the attention of some of your Lordships—that anyone who wishes to vote in the election of their group out of the 75 is obliged to cast as many votes as there are places in his group. Thus every Conservative voter has to vote for 42 people; and every Cross-Bench voter has to vote for 28, and if he does not exercise every one of those votes his entire ballot paper is void. Those hereditaries who attend only rarely may well know five, 10 or perhaps even 15 candidates whom they regard as well suited to remain in the House. But I suggest that they are likely to find it virtually impossible to fill up the remainder of their list from their own knowledge. In those circumstances, they will either have to make a very random selection to fill the list, or they may have to seek and follow the guidance of the Whips. When one reaches that point, if one were a cynical observer, one might feel that one had detected the true reason for the Front Bench enthusiasm for excluding the knowledgeable life Peer in favour of those who will be driven to seek the Whips' guidance on the exercise of their vote.
From time to time the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has said that,
hereditary peers can well be trusted to make their own decisions.
My Motion does not suggest that the hereditaries are not capable of making a decision or that any decision they make will be bad. What it says is that a decision which is made with the participation of the life Peers as well is almost certain to be better informed and therefore to produce an even better result. More importantly, it is a method which will be seen by the outside world as much more justified. I suggest that there is a real risk that if only the hereditaries elect their colleagues, the press and the public will regard this as an exercise of the old boy net merely to provide a consolation prize for some of the poor old hereditaries.
§ The need to include the life Peers among the electorate is emphasised by the amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, referred on the replacement of those among the 75 who die. It will provide that after a short time vacancies occurring among the 90 hereditaries should be filled by means of by-elections, not simply by a topping-up process. The voters in those by-elections shall be only those who remain as Members of the House. As was pointed out on Report, that model of by-elections to fill vacancies among the Labour or Liberal Democrat hereditaries solely by the votes of those parties' hereditaries makes no sense. If one of the two Labour Weatherill Peers dies, 1143 there will be a by-election involving one voter only. If both of them die together or in quick succession or if the remaining Peer is unfortunately incapable, there will be no voters. If one of the three Liberals dies, there will be only two voters, who may well be deadlocked.
§ Even in the rottenest of rotten boroughs, matters never degenerated to quite that level of absurdity. It seems somewhat strange to find the new Labour Government seeking to reintroduce the constituency of Old Sarum into our parliamentary system. That prospect was described by The Times today as "nonsensical and farcical." I hope that the Front Benches on both sides will be duly grateful to me for producing a proposal that extracts them from that unfortunate position.
What is the argument against my suggestion? When the matter was discussed on the recommittal of the Bill on 25th May, the principal proponent of the argument that the electorate should be restricted to hereditaries was the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. His argument was that the 75 Peers were to be in the House,
to represent the hereditary peerage".—[Official Report, 25/5/99; col. 802.]
§ He and many others in his party have repeatedly emphasised that the 75 Peers were to be representative of the hereditary peerage and therefore must be elected by the hereditary peerage.
§ I accepted then, and I still accept, that if that is their real role, the noble Viscount's argument is justified. His argument was bolstered by reference to a supposed analogy with the representative Scottish Peers elected under the Act of Union. That argument is demolished by what is now Clause 4 of the Bill which provides that all the hereditaries who do not remain in this House are entitled to vote and stand in elections to the House of Commons. That is in direct contrast to the position of the Scottish Peers under the Act of Union. No Scottish Peer—not even one who was not elected to sit in this House—had any right to vote or stand in any election to the Commons. That was a direct application of the well established principle that no one can vote for representation to both Houses of Parliament.
§ 4 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, Irish Peers had the right to elect Members to this House on a life-long basis and they were also allowed to stand for the House of Commons. The rules for the Irish Peers were different from those for the Scottish Peers.
My Lords, the noble Earl is half right. The Irish Peers who were not elected had the right to stand for the House of Commons and, if elected, had the right to vote in another constituency. But they had no other right to vote.
Faced with that constitutional anomaly, the Conservative Front Bench has entirely abandoned the suggestion that the 75 Peers are to be in any way representative. At the meeting of the Procedure Committee they fell over themselves to disclaim any suggestion that the 75 were to be in any way representative of their hereditary colleagues, abandoning 1144 the only argument advanced by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. Having abandoned that point, they advanced no logical argument as to why the electorate should be restricted to the hereditary Peers. It is merely ordained as the will of the party leaders, not as a logical position.
The decision of the Procedure Committee was plainly based solely on the stated fact that election by hereditaries forms part of the Cranborne agreement. Very honourably, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor feels that while the Conservative Front Bench continues to insist that election should be by the hereditaries alone, he and his Front Bench colleagues are bound to follow their lead. I venture to suggest that one cannot feel that the Labour Party has any doctrinaire enthusiasm for the concept that the hereditaries have the sole right to elect. Indeed, I doubt whether the Government Front Bench has any view on the appropriate machinery other than a very understandable desire to ensure that some method of election is finally determined so that we can get on.
Others far better qualified than I will deal more fully with the agreement. Your Lordships have to decide whether the Conservative Front Bench should be entitled to impose on all parts of the House the system that appealed to the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, at the time of the negotiations, even though other parties might regard it as much more appropriate to allow their life Peers a say in the selection process.
The amendment would allow each party or group to decide for itself whether the Peers who are qualified to vote in its group election should consist of all the hereditaries and life Peers or only the hereditary Peers. That decision will be notified to the Clerk of the Parliaments by the leader of each party or the convenor. The Clerk of the Parliaments will not in any way be concerned with the mechanism by which each group reaches its decision. Once a party or group has decided on the composition of its qualified Peers, that decision will apply to the initial elections and to all subsequent by-elections.
If passed, the amendment would pay proper regard to the rights of independent groups to decide for themselves. In no way can it merit a party line or a party Whip. It is a matter solely for the views and conscience of each individual in the House.
One of the unfortunate consequences of the debates on the House of Lords Bill is that, for the first time, Members of the House have been distinguished from each other by virtue of the fact that they are hereditary or life Peers. That division is a great pity and every effort should be made to ensure that it disappears as quickly as possible after the Bill is passed. The process would be greatly assisted if the House recognised that all its Members are of equal value and have a right to an equal say in the election. I beg to move.
§ Moved, as an amendment to the Chairman of Committees' Motion, at end insert ("with the following amendments:
§ Page 1, line 5, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")
§ Page 1, line 6, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")
§ Page 1, line 7, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")1145
§ Page 1, line 8, leave out ("hereditary") and insert ("qualified")
Page 1, line 12, at end insert-
("(2A) Each of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties and the Cross Bench peers may decide whether the qualified peers for the party or group referred to in paragraph 2 above are to consist of
Such decision shall be notified at least one month before the date of the elections to the Clerk of the Parliaments by the leader of each party and the Convenor of the Cross Benchers. If no such notification is given by any party or group, the qualified peers of that party or group shall be deemed to be only the hereditary peers.")
§ Page 2, line 11, leave out ("excepted hereditary peers") and insert ("qualified peers who are members of the House")
§ Page 2, line 21, after ("Paragraphs") insert ("(2A,)")
§ Page 2, line 26, leave out first ("hereditary")
§ Page 3, line 11, leave out ("hut the numbers voting will be smaller since only hereditary peers will be voting")").—(Viscount Bledisloe.)
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am not summing up the debate at this point. That is not my role today and we have had only a brief series of contributions so far. The Labour Peers have no great numerical interest in the results of the elections that we are discussing. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that we do not have a doctrinaire enthusiasm for the procedures. We expect in the main to be able to watch the process in a splendidly disinterested way.
However, the process is important. The Government support the Standing Orders and the electoral arrangements agreed by the Procedure Committee. I am afraid that we cannot support the amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
The draft of the first Standing Order on hereditary Peers was the outcome of detailed discussion by the so-called "O" group of officials and party and Cross-Bench representatives. The group's remit was to give effect to the agreement between my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. The draft, which was immediately placed in the Library—some time ago now—represented the best judgment of a consensus that it was thought could command general support. I believe that events have proved that judgment to be correct. The deliberations of the Procedure Committee, which approved the draft in its entirety and made only a few amendments to the draft electoral arrangements, certainly suggested that the scheme was likely to be acceptable to all sides of your Lordships' House.
The second Standing Order before the House today is new. It gives effect to the amendment which the Government intend to table at Third Reading, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor promised during discussions on the Bill at Report stage. The order makes provision for by-elections to fill Vacancies arising among the Weatherill Peers in the unlikely event that the transitional House lasts beyond the First Session of the next Parliament. Your Lordships know from our debates on the subject that the Government were content to rely on the fastest loser system for the entire duration of the transitional House. We are confident that that system will work perfectly well for what we fully expect 1146 to be a matter of only a very few years. If, for whatever reason, that system failed to produce a replacement, we preferred to leave it to the discretion of the House to decide at the time how to fill a vacancy. To deal with the matter in Standing Orders would allow the flexibility that we thought, and still think, would be simplest and best.
However, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition craves certainty in the matter; and we have agreed to propose a statutory provision. This of course rests on the hypothetical assumption that the transitional House lasts longer than any on this side of the House would like or, indeed, intend. As the by-elections Standing Order makes clear, only the relevant excepted hereditary Peers will be entitled to vote. Excluded hereditary Peers, who will no longer be Members of the House, will have no vote in that process.
In support of his argument, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made an important part of his case the assumption that Peers of ability and, indeed, of independence should be among the chosen few who will remain for the temporary period. I am sure we all subscribe to that view. Of course, we all want to see the most able individuals staying on in the transitional House. I see no reason to suppose that the hereditary Peers cannot be trusted to elect their colleagues on that basis.
However, regardless of whether or not we accept that thesis, the most important reason why we cannot accept this amendment is that, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has had occasion to explain many times during the course of our debates on this subject, the hereditary composition of the electorate for the 75 was an inherent part of the agreement he reached with the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. The agreement was reached on the basis that the elections within the party and other groups would be of hereditaries, by hereditaries, for hereditaries. I appreciate that there were Cross-Bench reservations about that at an earlier point, but indisputably it was one of the cornerstones of the "O" group, and that is why it is so clearly reflected in paragraph 2(i) of the first Standing Order, which faithfully gives effect to the agreement.
Finally, perhaps I may touch briefly on one of the arguments of the noble Viscount about the by-election procedure. He has expressed concern that limiting the electorate to hereditary Peers in the relevant party could make a mockery of the proposed by-election system for the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. I shall make two points in response to that particular concern. First, as I have already said and I am happy to repeat, we have no expectation that by-elections will be necessary, because we expect to press ahead with stage two of reform before the relevant provision kicks in. Secondly, in the unlikely event that a by-election to replace a Labour or Liberal Democrat excepted Peer was required, it would of course be open to your Lordships' House to refer the matter to the Procedure Committee for it to take another look at an alternative option. For our part, therefore, we have no fears about what is likely to be a hypothetical scenario which, if it did materialise, could in any event be practically addressed at the time.
1147 I am sure that nothing I have said in my short intervention will come as a surprise to the House. The Government have argued consistently their position on these questions as they have arisen in the course of our extended debate. The noble Lord, Lord Boston, will sum up the debate later.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, perhaps it would be helpful if I were to follow the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and say a few words on behalf of these Benches. What we have before us today is essentially a technical decision. The House has already voted by a substantial majority for what have come to be known as the Weatherill arrangements. Perhaps I may again pay tribute to the role played by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and indeed my noble friend Lord Cranborne in securing the agreement.
At the time, the noble and learned Lord described it as an act of statesmanship. He was right to do so, because it is not easy for a government committed to a particular plan to look at it again, to see its weaknesses and to agree to change. The noble and learned Lord, after his initial volley of sulphur and brimstone in warning against any changes to the text of the House of Lords Bill, came to recognise that a wholly nominated House, as proposed in the Labour Party manifesto, was not an attractive or desirable prospect to the country. He recognised the value of the work carried out by hereditary Peers in this House. He agreed to keep a number of independent hereditary Peers, and we very much welcomed that change of heart, as I believe did the majority of the House. We should like to believe that the statesmanlike stance of the noble and learned Lord was shared by all his colleagues.
The principle of the Weatherill arrangement is not at issue today. The House has voted on that issue of principle. What is at issue are the practical details. We may not like all of the details; indeed, some of us may not like any of the details at all. However, the House has resolved that it wishes to retain some 92 hereditary Peers, and we must agree the means by which those Peers are elected. In that context, I pay tribute to the Clerk of the Parliaments, who has done a great service to the House in preparing for the Procedure Committee the paper which lies behind the proposal before your Lordships today.
The Procedure Committee examined the ideas with great care. The report before the House is acceptable to the Government, and it is acceptable to me. I must tell my noble friends that I shall support the Motion in the name of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, and I support the adoption of the Procedure Committee report unamended. In any Division, I shall urge my noble friends to do the same.
However, that is not to say that I regard the necessity for this system with anything other than distaste. It is still my view that the House of Lords Bill is a thoroughly bad Bill. It is a Bill that will weaken Parliament and further strengthen the hand of the 1148 executive, which is already too powerful in this country, whatever the colour of the party rosette it wears. But the Weatherill amendment makes a bad Bill somewhat less bad, and for that reason, we support it. I have no affection for these arrangements.
Equally, I have difficulties with some of the details of the voting system. I should perhaps have preferred all 90 Peers to be elected in one common system, and I should certainly have preferred a representative system on the Scottish or Irish model, with hereditary Peers outside the House electing replacements in any by-election. However, what we have here is a package. It may not be perfect, but it is one on which all parties in the Procedure Committee—except for the Liberal Democrats—were able to agree. I advise the House that a counsel of perfection may be a self-defeating course.
In another act of statesmanship, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has agreed, on behalf of the Government, that hereditary Peers will be replaced in by-elections. As he knows, I do not instinctively favour this model of by-elections, but I believe that securing the principle of by-elections is more important than indefinite wrangling over the small print. I therefore advise the House to go along with what is proposed.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, in his amendments to the Motion on the Procedure Committee report, has proposed that each party should be allowed to choose its own electoral college. He envisages that in some cases both life Peers and hereditary Peers should choose members of the 75. I cannot support the amendment. Indeed, I firmly oppose the amendment. I cannot agree that each party should determine its own election system. I oppose it for a number of reasons. First, the Clerk of the Parliaments has rightly reminded us that these are elections to a House of Parliament; more particularly, to a House of Peers. We are all equal, and that has always been the principle of the House—at least, until the Government introduced the divisive poison enshrined in this Bill.
Parties should not be given a decisive hand in deciding how Peers are chosen for this place. There should be a common system. Then, all those who come to this place as members of the 75 can say, "We came here by the same means and for the same purpose. No one of us has any election system that is more valid than another's".
I am sure that a common system would be right for this House. Even if I did not think that, I could not favour the amendment moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, because it envisages that some elections for the 75 would be by both life Peers and hereditary Peers. I oppose that because I believe that the 75 Weatherill Peers are representative hereditary Peers. The system is logical and well precedented. The House has accepted such a system before and it is one that is likely to endure in the event that the Government, of whatever party, fail to come forward with a second stage of reform in the next Parliament.
It would be odd for life Peers to be able to vote in elections in which they could not stand. I fear that some of those who want an election by all Peers somehow do not trust hereditary Peers to make sensible choices. I do 1149 trust them. It will be a well informed election and, if by some chance it is not, it will be the electorate who are to blame. That hereditary Peers outside the House should elect representatives, I see as no odder than the people of this country sending representatives, whom they may not know at all, through elections to the other place.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, mentioned the potential problem that might arise for the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party with by-elections, but he ignored the possibility of hereditary Peers from those parties being elected to the 15, thus increasing the electorate for any potential by-elections of the 75. If, for whatever reason, the by-election system proposed becomes unworkable, it will be a simple matter for the House to change the Standing Orders to take account of that.
I believe that we should trust our fellow hereditary Peers in any election. I therefore believe that we should reject the amendment and stand by the Procedure Committee's report. I hope that my noble friends will agree.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, it is all of five weary months ago and many hours of debate since from these Benches we described the Weatherill amendment as it was then called—it is now Clause 2—as a dog's breakfast. For some noble Lords, that was relatively strong language and unjustified hyperbole, and for others it constituted unfair ridicule. However, a dog's breakfast is what Clause 2 has proved to be and, if we needed further evidence, it is contained in the report of the Procedure Committee that we are discussing today.
I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when he said that this was basically a technical matter, a question of practical details. There are very important political and constitutional ideas behind the decisions that we are being called upon to make. I agree that the House has agreed, although the other place has yet to pronounce, that despite the purpose of the Bill—and it has no other—being to remove the hereditary Peers from Parliament, 92 will stay on. That has been decided and is part of the Bill that we are discussing. In the view of many of us, there was a better way of keeping on the most talented and most hard-working hereditary Peers, but the matter has been decided.
It has also been decided that the selection of 90 out of the 92 should be a matter for our Standing Orders. I still view it as an extraordinary presumption without precedent or justification that the House of Lords through its Standing Orders should decide who should sit here and that the House of Commons should have no say in that matter.
If there was any doubt about the difficulties that we have let ourselves in for, they are illustrated by the report of the Procedure Committee and, indeed, by the minutes of the committee. It is an example of parliamentary decision-making at its worst and it would be laughable, if the issue were not so serious.
In these elections, no one will need to be nominated. Every candidate will simply register his wish to stand. I can think of no election in my life, parliamentary or 1150 other, in which someone has not needed to nominate me. Standing in these elections will be by self-nomination and that is unique in the experience of most of us. Furthermore, if someone stands for the post of Deputy Speaker or other office, he or she will have no obligation to fulfil that role once elected. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said, those elected would be expected to serve and they will be honourable men. However, there is no provision in the Standing Orders or the legislation before us to require those who have stood for election to a particular office to carry out its duties once they have been elected.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, also drew attention to the unique system of voting. Noble Lords will have to number candidates in order of preference to fill the exact number of vacancies—not one more or less, but precisely the right number. They will do so on the assumption that they are expressing preferences, but the votes will not be preferences at all, except in the case of a tie. We can forget the problems with the European elections because this election will be a perfect formula for spoilt ballot papers.
In this election, according to the proposals before us, a candidate may send all his voters a jeraboam of champagne, whereas buying a pint of beer for an honest vote in parliamentary elections was banned by the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act 1854. I shall he told, although I know already, that there is to be a code of conduct. It will be discussed through the usual channels and will not come before your Lordships' House. The code of conduct will suggest restraint, but the only restraint I can see will be on sending a jeraboam of champagne to a prospective voter after registration, which will begin on 11th October. My advice to noble Lords who intend to stand in the elections is, "Get your champagne sent quickly by Berry Bros. and do not leave it too late".
§ Lord Randall of St. Budeaux
My Lords passing champagne around would not be fair. However, in the other place—I know that the noble Lord spent some time there—it is established practice to have networking in voting. In this case, for example, four or five Peers would come together and agree that each of their supporters would vote for the other four and, eureka, all five would get in. The noble Lord's proposal appears to be eminently sensible. In order to ensure that such behaviour does not have a deleterious effect, it is best to have as big an electorate as possible, thus making the case for life Peers voting alongside hereditary Peers.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for anticipating my destination. For the moment, I make no proposal of my own. Today I am only listening to others and supporting what they propose to do. The noble Lord's comments will have been heard by those responsible for our code of conduct. I believe that the code of conduct would be ridiculed if it were not part of the extraordinary arrangements that we are making in this House.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said—and it was clear from our discussions in the Procedure Committee—that we are in a most extraordinary 1151 situation. An excepted hereditary Peer, if he is the only one from a party, will be in a position to nominate someone to take the place beside him. It is very odd, and I see no precedent, that one Member of Parliament, which is what we all are, will be free to choose to nominate and to elect one other person to sit on the Benches beside him. How much money has been paid over very many years, including to Lloyd George, to get into this House? On this occasion, you only have to be nice to one Member of your Lordships' House to be able to sit here free of charge.
The best argument, and it is not a good one, which we hear from the Leader of the House, the Government Front Bench, is that the arrangements, muddled, confused, unsatisfactory though they are, will last only for a short time. Well, we all have our views on that. Most of us believe that they will last at least five years. Some of us believe that they will last at least 10. But the Leader of the House has come up with an interesting suggestion; if they look like lasting longer, we can change the rules. We do not have to be committed to what we are deciding today; we will return to it again. Why not decide something sensible today which will endure for five or 10 years, rather than have the nonsense included in the proposals before us?
In the light of these anomalies and contradictions, the outright nonsense in some cases, it is tempting to suggest that your Lordships' House should reject the Procedure Committee report and ask it to try again. But I have conceded, and I concede again, that the root of the problem lies in the agreement reached between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, last December, which is incorporated in Clause 2.
Out of that flawed deal much trouble has come, but there is little we can do about it now. However, we have the amendment in the name of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and at least we can support that. I know that the House will share my view that it was moved with brilliance and panache by the noble Viscount. I hope that the House will share my view that his arguments were wholly convincing.
We on these Benches would have preferred the House to agree that if there are to be 92 excepted Peers, all Peers should choose the 90 who are open to election, life and hereditary alike. After all, we are arguing about the principle that hereditary Peers should choose hereditary Peers. That was spelt out clearly by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. She said as much today. Some of us do not like that principle, but it is not the principle in the legislation. It is a principle breached. Fifteen of the hereditary Peers are to be elected by all of us, so where is the principle that some noble Lords seem so anxious to hold on to? If 15 can be elected by all Members of the House, hereditary and life Peers, why not elect the remaining 75? There is no rational justification for this proposal.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, has settled for choice. That is what he is offering the House. He is not dictating to any party or any group; he is simply saying that each party, Cross-Benchers, too, should be able to choose whether they prefer an electoral college of all 1152 Peers or an electoral college of hereditaries. It is a compromise. It is a fair-minded solution. I join in commending it to your Lordships' House.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Weatherill
My Lords, I must begin by correcting the report of the Select Committee. Noble Lords who have read the report will have noticed that my comments on page 11 do not make sense because the words "short term" have been left out in lines 15 and 24. Perhaps those of your Lordships who have the report would be kind enough to put them in.
When we negotiated the arrangement, it was envisaged to be a short-term one. What has muddied the waters has been the acceptance of the by-election procedure. If the arrangement was intended to be short-term, surely the replacement of the 90 plus two hereditary Peers by a system of fastest losers would have been both simple and adequate for the two to three years envisaged when Clause 2 was incorporated into the Bill.
I imagine that many of your Lordships will know the story of Bismarck negotiating with the Austrians towards the end of the last century. In the course of those negotiations, the Austrian Ambassador died and Bismarck's immediate reaction was, "I wonder what he meant by that".
§ Lord Weatherill
My Lords, I thought that it might have been Metternich, but the story stands. I wondered what was meant by the by-election procedure which, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, pointed out, has serious flaws and difficulties for the replacement of hereditary Peers on the Liberal Democrat and Labour Benches if the electorate consists only of the hereditary Peers.
When we were negotiating the details of Clause 2, it was clearly understood that the 75 hereditary Peers would be representative hereditary Peers. I was under the impression that that had been discounted. In previous debates, we were informed that they would be elected to carry on the work of the House not as hereditary Peers but as those best qualified so to do.
The reason we negotiated in that way was to ensure that the Government would move rapidly to stage two, because as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and others pointed out, the Government would not wish to have a body of representative hereditary Peers in this House for longer than absolutely necessary. As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, pointed out and as the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said so well, there is no logical reason why after the election of the 15 Chairmen of Committees—those who will sit on the Woolsack and will serve the whole House—the 75 additional hereditary Peers, who will also serve the whole House, should be elected by a different method.
When I moved my amendment, which is now Clause 2 of the Bill, I made it plain that I was speaking as an individual and not as the Convenor of the 1153 Cross-Bench Peers. Today, I do speak as Convenor of the Cross-Bench Peers, and I do so in order strongly to express their views. Many of them would have liked to speak today, but will not do so for reasons of time. I therefore support the amendment tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and I hope that the House will weigh its arguments and do likewise.
In saying that, I must pay a tribute to the noble and learned the Lord the Lord Chancellor, who I know takes a different view. He has consistently and honourably said that he struck the arrangement, the deal, with the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and that he must stick to it.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Will he explain a crucial point? It is accepted that a private arrangement was made between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and my noble friend Lord Cranborne. This was long after the deal brokered by my noble friend Lord Cranborne. There is no doubt—it is accepted—that the private arrangement was hereditaries for hereditaries. None of us knew what happened, so I am asking the noble Lord whether he could be kind enough to say that it was no part of the deal brokered by my noble friend, which ended up in the Weatherill amendment, that hereditaries should support hereditaries.
§ Lord Weatherill
My Lords, the noble Viscount must speak for himself on that. I was present at some of the negotiations with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, but not at all of them. It was always my understanding that the hereditary peerage would select the representative Peers, for the reasons that I have already stated; namely, that the Government would not wish to have a body of representative hereditary Peers in this House for longer than was absolutely necessary. I think that in a previous debate the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, said that it was sand in their shoes. I would rather use the expression "ginger under the tail". But the intention was to ensure that they got on with the second stage.
Perhaps I may return to paying a tribute to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. It is quite remarkable that the Government have a manifesto commitment, regularly repeated in your Lordships' House, that no political party should seek a majority in the reformed House of Lords. I doubt whether there is any other government in the world who would contemplate subscribing to such an arrangement. In effect, it means that the balance of influence will always be with the independent Peers on these Cross Benches.
If that commitment is to be put into practice, it must surely mean that the independent Peers should not be pressurised into voting one way or another by any deal that may have been arrived at through the usual channels, of which we are not normally part. So, in a sense, the vote on the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, is a test of that commitment.
The debate on the report of the Select Committee is not about a matter of government policy. It has already been described as a technical matter, and it was arrived 1154 at by members of the Select Committee on Procedure, of whom there are 27, only three of whom are Cross-Benchers, one of them a Law Lord. That is despite the numbers; we are inadequately represented on that committee.
Despite the committee's recommendation, I hope that in a matter of this kind—a matter of procedure, not of government policy—there will be a genuine free vote. If the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, is carried, it will not bind any other party to follow suit. If the Conservative Opposition prefer that the election of the 42 hereditary Peers should be by hereditaries alone, so be it; it is a matter entirely for them. Similarly, that would be true of the government party and of the Liberal Democrats, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, has already said.
All that the Bledisloe amendment seeks to achieve is the freedom of the independent Cross-Benchers to exercise their judgment as they think best. It is their majority view that the choice of the hereditary Peers best qualified to carry on the work of the House in the interim period before the second stage of reform of your Lordships' House would best be made by life Peers as well as by hereditary Peers.
Therefore, despite the fact that this arrangement was made between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, to which I have already said that I subscribed at the time, for reasons stated, I wholeheartedly support the amendment so well and so eloquently moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. I do so because I so strongly applaud the commitment of Her Majesty's Government that the balance of influence in your Lordships' House should be with the Cross-Benchers, and because the amendment is a test of that commitment.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Cranborne
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, because that enables me once again to congratulate him on his wisdom in advising your Lordships' House to put the minimum amount of detail on the face of the House of Lords Bill, thereby ensuring that your Lordships can control your own procedures, a matter to which the noble Lord rightly gave considerable weight, particularly because, as he has reminded us, as if we really needed reminding, that, as in all things, it is for your Lordships to decide on your own procedures. I seek merely to persuade your Lordships. I am under no illusions that I have any prior claim on your Lordships' support beyond the power of the arguments that are laid before the House this afternoon.
Before coming to the matter of the electorate for the 75 hereditary Peers—the most contentious issue before us this afternoon—I should like to reiterate two points which I seemed to make repeatedly during the Bill's Committee and Report stages.
First, I personally would much have preferred it if the electorate, when and if by-elections are held, consisted of all hereditary Peers. As I never tire of saying, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has behaved 1155 more than honourably over the past few months. I know that the basis of our agreement was that the election of hereditary Peers should be by hereditary Peers for the 75. We were less certain about the basis of election for the 15, a matter to which I should like to come in a minute.
There are perhaps sensible reasons for suggesting that it is unwise for the House, certainly for the 75, to elect its own Members. It has been suggested—most notably by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and others during previous debates and today—that it would be unwise to allow a large number of hereditary Peers, many of whom do not come to your Lordships' House regularly, to make a judgment on who would be most appropriate to serve in your Lordships' House from among the hereditaries. It has been said that the life Peers together with the hereditaries would be far better qualified to perform that task because, by implication, life Peers are more likely to see more of the active hereditaries than the hereditaries themselves.
I may have misread the figures, but I do not necessarily find from my reading of them that the overwhelming majority even of life Peers are here all the time. Of course, very many life Peers are; but it seems not entirely sustainable to assume that the life Peers are more likely to be able to judge who is a sensible Member of your Lordships' House.
I also wonder how sensible it is for us to assume that we should trust the experts. I am always doubtful about the wisdom of trusting experts. That is a principle to which we should do well to adhere in parliamentary institutions. Experts have often misled us in the past. The whole basis of election to another place is that it is the inexpert electorate that we trust beyond the specialists who, in some other polities, perhaps might be chosen as more reliable. It seems to me that the whole basis of election in this country is that it is the non-expert, the broad outside electorate, on which we rely. I suspect that no one in this House would oppose that fundamental principle.
Let us take the example of another place. We trust the electorate, who see no more of the work of Members of the other place carried out in Parliament—as opposed to work in their constituencies—than the media allows them to. We are clear that we encourage the electorate, even though they have limited exposure to proceedings—unless they are complete groupies and watch Parliament all the time on television or sit in the Gallery—to elect Members of another place. I fail to see why we cannot trust a wider electorate of hereditary Peers, which is no more or less deficient in judgment—I make no assessment between the two—to elect the representatives of the hereditary peerage in the interim House.
For that reason alone, the broad franchise which applies to the initial electorate could have been applied to the question of by-elections with great advantage. Such a franchise would have avoided the remote possibility of the absurdities to which a number of noble Lords, notably the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, have alluded. Equally, I agree in principle with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that large electorates are better than 1156 small ones. However, I make one proviso. It seems to me that large electorates are advisable as a general principle of the need to avoid the Old Sarum difficulty so long as those electorates—
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, if the noble Viscount will forgive me, I believe that what my noble friend is suggesting is that we make the electorate even wider.
§ Viscount Cranborne
Yes, my Lords, he is. I was coming to that point. I was entering a proviso just as the noble Earl rose to intervene. The proviso is so long as those electorates are rooted outside the institutions to which they are electing representatives.
It seems to me unwise for any House of Parliament, as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde said, to elect its own membership. That is why I have been nervous during the course of previous debates, as I believe I made clear both in Committee and at Report Stage, about the whole House electing the 15. That is for similar reasons to the ones I have just tried to explain. Nevertheless, there is a stronger case for the whole House electing the 15 than the 75. The reason is quite simply due to the nature of the tasks for which the 15 are making themselves available. After all, the other place would not expect the electorate to make a judgment of those who were to serve as Chairmen of Committees there.
Similarly, it seems to me arguable that if noble Lords are to choose who is to serve as a Deputy Chairman or Deputy Speaker, then there is a case for this House to exercise its expert judgment in a way which perhaps does not apply to the broader electorate of the 75. Nevertheless, I am the first to admit that one could argue, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Rogers has, that it is inconsistent. I merely suggest that it is marginally less inconsistent for the whole House to elect the 15 than for the whole House to elect the 75.
My noble friend Lord Strathclyde was clear that we must look at the matter as a package. I should have preferred a broader electorate of hereditaries to elect candidates in by-elections, if we should come to that. However, the Government have refused to do that. In the interests of compromise—a point which the noble and learned Lord and I addressed briefly, but on which we did not come to any conclusion—I find that I am willing to accept that.
I should like to make one further point. The compromise before us, recommended by the Procedure Committee, preserves the nature of the understanding which I reached with the noble and learned Lord and with the Government; that is, that in the transitional House the hereditaries should elect themselves. If they are to do that, it seems to me consistent that they should elect themselves and continue to do so in by-elections, should they occur. It would be odd and inconsistent to change the system for the sake of by-elections when we already had a system for electing the original incumbents.
I regard that point as important, given the purpose of the original agreement as I saw it. As the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, said, the good reasons for maintaining 1157 a representative group of hereditary Peers in the transitional House are, first, as an incentive for the Government to proceed to stage two, which is something I believe we all want.
I make my next suggestion with some diffidence because I do not want it to be felt that I am singling out my hereditary colleagues. I believe, however, that I must try to make the point. As the embodiment of a wish which many hereditary noble Lords have often expressed in the House, I believe that we hereditaries should retire gracefully on completion of a full and satisfactory reform. It is, I believe, an honourable aspiration of hereditary Peers that we should hand on the baton, perhaps with some relief, but certainly with some sense of honour.
For non-hereditaries to choose which of us should become the residual element of that wish would perhaps dilute our purpose. With the greatest respect to my life Peer colleagues, it seems to me slightly odd that they should be the ones to choose which of us should discharge that obligation. For those reasons, I find myself strongly opposed to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, if only because I find it peculiar to suggest that a Member of this House should be elected on the same basis and from the same category, but nevertheless by a different system, simply by virtue of the accident of the Whip he takes. It would be a curious principle if that part of the noble Viscount's amendment were to apply.
For the reasons I have tried to explain, I strongly oppose the noble Viscount's amendment. I hope that before considering whether to support it, the House will consider carefully whether the adoption of the amendment would not in fact introduce more difficulties than those it attempts to solve.
§ 5 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the reflections of the noble Viscount. I recall that his great grandfather left Disraeli's Cabinet because Disraeli was introducing the vote for the working class. I shall not pursue the issue of representation today.
I remember Sir Winston Churchill was once asked which side he supported in the Spanish civil war. He replied, "Both sides". It is very easy, as an honest person, to be on both sides of the argument in relation to the amendment proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
On the one hand, if we are to retain some hereditary Peers, as I want to, there is a powerful argument that they should be allowed to choose their own representatives. On the other hand, it seems that some of the best opinions on the Cross Benches take a different view.
As someone who inherited a hereditary peerage—but I am glad to say I now have a life peerage—I feel profound sympathy for the devoted hereditary Peers, who have performed great work in the House, as they are being sacked. They do not like speaking up for themselves as that is not quite the gentlemanly thing to do, but I feel great sympathy for them.
1158 I feel like someone in a hospital suddenly being told that half the patients have cancer and it is not clear what will happen to them. It is pretty certain that they will not last long. By the same token, news comes through of a wonderful operation that costs a fortune but which only a few people will be selected to undergo. Everyone, including the cancer patients, has to decide who will be the lucky people who will survive. One has to feel enormous sympathy for the hereditary Peers. I suppose I admire them dying gracefully, as I suppose the French aristocrats died gracefully when they went to the guillotine. I am not sure that is ideal.
I agree that I voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. The Chief Whip kindly helped me to vote at 3 o'clock in the morning. I voted for it and I suppose I shall have to do the same again if the facilities are still available. Nevertheless, my colleagues are disappearing; they are being sacked. It is a terrible situation.
I turn to the immediate situation. What do we do now? I had thought of mentioning a few hereditary Cross-Benchers by name, but I shall get into trouble with those I do not mention, so I had better not. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is well qualified to advise us on this. I have talked to him. There are many who work in the House, including some younger people, who I am sure will do great work in years to come. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, takes the view that the hereditary Peers on the Cross Benches who do the most work and show the most promise will benefit from the change suggested. What is good enough for the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is likely to be good enough for me.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I oppose the Motion and support the amendment of the noble Viscount. One does not have to do so strongly or weakly. It is a question of objective argument. Whichever system of election may commend itself to your Lordships, it is in implementation of the Weatherill agreement, now Clause 2. It cannot delay the Bill and the Bill as a whole will stand, subject to consideration of certain matters on Tuesday. The great cross-party contrivance that masterminded the massive support of the Weatherill amendment, and that has ever since fretted over engaging in any activity that could engender its removal in another place, has no cause whatever 10 dominate these proceedings.
It is all but inconceivable that discussion on a procedural matter such as this could trigger implementation of the threat to remove Clause 2 in another place. Notwithstanding what has been said by my own Front Bench and by my noble friend Lord Cranborne, in principle it is a procedural matter on which there should be a free vote on the merits of the argument. Which system should be adopted is of no interest or concern to the Government, although the choice between the two is a matter of very serious concern to many noble Lords on all sides of the House, not only to some noble Lords on this side of the House.
The patrician system, somewhat akin to that adopted by the Doges, was agreed. It was agreed between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and my noble friend Lord Cranborne in a private agreement, hereditaries for hereditaries. That agreement was made.
1159 It is totally correct that the noble Lords, as men of honour, should stand by their agreement. That is fully understood. But the agreement was made without authority; it was made subject to the ratification not of the Procedure Committee, but of your Lordships' House. It has to be ratified on the merits of the argument. This debate is all about that.
Let us start at the beginning. If I may say so, there are two Cranborne deals. The first deal was brokered by my noble friend. The second deal, if it was a deal, was a private arrangement made with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Under the first deal, the Weatherill amendment has been ratified. That is all well and good. That is the end of it. If that arrangement of hereditaries for hereditaries was part of the deal that was ratified, what is the object of making it all over again with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor? My noble friend said it was, but it could not have been. The deal with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was made months after the deal was brokered by my noble friend Lord Cranborne. I see signs being made across the House.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg)
My Lords, will the noble Lord accept from me, as I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, will confirm, that there were not two deals, but one integral deal only. I have no notion at all from where the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has obtained the idea that there were two separate deals. There was one deal and one alone.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord says so. What on earth could have been the object of the meeting and the second private arrangement, which was never ratified and which was not known about by the other parties? I have asked some of them whether they knew. They did not know. I said that it was made without authority and the short answer to that is that whether or not it was made without authority it still has to be ratified by this House on its merits. That is the point. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord because he will realise that we do not understand and do not know what on earth has been going on. It is all done between Privy Counsellors on Privy Council terms. We do not know what is going on. Now we are asked to ratify it. We are entitled to look into it. If I have made a mistake, it is not a mistake that goes to the essence of the problem of whether or not, when one examines this matter on its merits, one is going to ratify it. We have to ratify it. It does not bind us until we do.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I want to speak to the point raised by the noble Lord who just put the Question. One is entitled to debate this Motion. Two or three noble Lords have spoken. There is more than one view. It is perfectly reasonable for the House to debate this.
1160 I do not agree with absolutely everything that has been done. I do not agree with a lot being said by my noble friend Lord Campbell. But it is surely his right to say it without our shutting him up. Nobody should ever attempt to shut up my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway; that would be a major mistake.
I hope that we do not put the Question yet, but that we continue with the debate for a reasonable and civilised time. This is an important constitutional issue and we ought, first, to get it off our chests; and, secondly, to be intelligent about it. Cutting short the debate does not help in that.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Serota)
My Lords, I am instructed by Order of the House to say that the Motion that the Question be now put is considered to be a most exceptional procedure and the House will not accept it save in circumstances where it is felt to be the only means of ensuring the proper conduct of business of the House. Further, if the noble Lord who seeks to move it persists in his intention, the practice of the House is that the Question on the Motion is put without further delay.
§ The Deputy Speaker
My Lords, the Question is, That the Question be now put. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; to the contrary, "Not-Content". The "Not-Contents" have it.
§ Question negatived.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I do not speak in my defence. I am grateful to your Lordships for having heard me so far. If I am allowed to speak further, I shall bear that tolerance in mind.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, I think it is the turn of this side now. The Cross-Benchers have been speaking continuously.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, was just making clear that many noble Lords may feel that we have had quite a long debate on this issue but, like the noble Earl, I feel that it is a matter of such profound importance that we should debate it to the full and as long as constructive contributions are being made. I hope therefore that I may be allowed to rise to support the Motion tabled by my noble friend Lord Bledisloe. I must say at once, as others have said, that—for me at any rate—it is not the ideal solution.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I go back to the beginning of this matter and say that it is a bad Bill, a deplorable Bill. But that is all history. Since then we have had the Weatherill amendment arising from the arrangements made on Privy Council terms. I have 1161 always strongly believed that the voting arrangements for what are now called the "Weatherill Peers" should be uniform throughout the House, as my noble friend Lord Bledisloe said, and that the electorate should consist of Peers, both life and hereditary.
After all, we are all Members of the same House and of the same Parliament. Although we may have different allegiances, different ideologies, different social backgrounds, we are all Members of the same House of Parliament. It might be worth reminding this House that the word "Peer" means equal in standing and in rank. It was to underline that fact that as long ago as the 15th century those who had previously been Lords Temporal had their names changed to Peers; meaning that all were equal. The only distinction was between the ranks within the peerage. That remained the case even after the Life Peerages Act 1958; we were all equal Members of this House.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Viscount Cranborne
My Lords, I was not asking the noble Lord to give way but as he has so kindly and so suddenly sat down, perhaps I may take advantage of his good nature to say that I am sure that he is exactly right and that it is perfectly true; but they did not choose themselves.
§ Lord Chalfont
No, my Lords, and I never suggested that they did. Evidently my quick sit-down was to no great effect.
It is only in the passage of this reform Bill that an attempt is now being made to make an important distinction—a discrimination—between life and hereditary Peers. However, those are statements of principle and your Lordships will know better than many that principles sometimes have to be compromised in order to achieve proper and desirable ends.
I remain convinced that the electorate for the Weatherill Peers should consist of both life and hereditary Peers. In the first place, as others have said but it bears repeating, there is no logic in the present proposal that 15 Peers—the Deputy Chairmen and others—should be chosen by the whole House, while the remaining 75 are to be elected by hereditary Peers only. I have never heard a persuasive argument for that and to me it is an illogical arrangement.
A good deal has been said—the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, referred to it again during this debate—about it being in some way offensive to hereditary Peers to suggest that they cannot manage their own affairs without the participation and help of the life Peers. The answer to that somewhat insubstantial debating point might be that this is not merely a matter of the "own affairs" of hereditary Peers; it is a matter of the composition of this House, affecting everyone in it. It is equally offensive to life Peers to suggest that they should have no role whatever in electing those who are 1162 to be their colleagues in the interim House. So, the less we hear about the way in which we cause offence to the hereditary peerage, the better.
It became clear to me when I was privileged to attend and address a recent meeting of the Procedure Committee that the possibility of ensuring that the electorate for the Weatherill Peers would be an electorate of both life and hereditary Peers was remote. I discovered that the Procedure Committee consisted substantially of heavily whipped Front-Bench representation from the major parties. It may be worth while in this context pointing out that in that fairly large committee there are only three Cross-Bench Peers. The committee was clearly bent on a system in which only hereditary Peers would elect the Weatherill Peers. That is what appeared in its report. It seemed to me from the discussion that took place in the Procedure Committee that that determination was based largely, if not entirely, on the now famous deal negotiated between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne.
Perhaps at this stage I should say a few words about the agreement. The first point I should like to make is that the agreement cannot be binding on anyone who was not a party to it. That certainly applies to us on the Cross-Benches, where each Member is independent and obviously will not be bound by an agreement between the Labour and Conservative Front Benches, even if a small number of Cross-Bench Peers were involved in the negotiations which led up to it.
Those in favour of the present form of the legislation have made much of the point that it is important to have an independent element in your Lordships' House. We on the Cross Benches regard ourselves—with some justification—as that independent element. My noble friend's Motion this evening, as he implied, seeks to remove from the realm of rhetoric the need for an independent element and to place it in the realm of reality.
In any case, I turn back to the agreement—the famous deal—for a moment. I may be wrong and no doubt, if I am, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor or the noble Viscount will correct me. However, I do not believe that this business of the hereditary Peers being the only voters for the excepted hereditary peerage was a fundamental, important and integral part of the deal. Indeed, I do not believe that the deal would have stood or fallen on that one element alone. It is, of course, entirely right and honourable that those who were party to the deal should consider themselves to be fully bound by it. However, in my opinion, it is extremely doubtful that such an agreement should be the sole basis, or even the main basis, for a fundamental procedural decision of this kind.
I return to the recommendations of the committee. I was present during the proceedings of the Procedure Committee. No strong arguments were advanced at that time in favour of this system of hereditary Peers electing hereditary Peers. Although my noble friend Lord Bledisloe and I took the time to advance very strong arguments against it, I never heard any of those arguments refuted. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Bledisloe has 1163 said, the only argument that was ever seriously advanced in favour of the "hereditary-only" electorate seemed to have disappeared. I refer, as he did, to the argument that the Weatherill Peers were to be representative. If the proceedings of the Procedure Committee are to be taken as a guide, apart from anything else, the Conservative Party now seems to have abandoned any pretence, or any claims, that the Weatherill Peers are to be representative.
In my view, the recommendation of the Procedure Committee as it stands is, therefore, based entirely on assertion, not on argument. Indeed, a friend of mine, for whose legal expertise I have great respect, has suggested to me that if the proceedings of the committee were subject to judicial review, they would almost certainly be quashed. Despite the significant change on the subject of the representative nature of the Weatherill Peers, from the soundings that I have taken since the meetings of the Procedure Committee it seems to me to be clear that the possibility of ensuring that the electorate consists of a universal system and that all Peers—not simply hereditary Peers—should form the electorate is, to say the very least, in the balance.
As this is my major preoccupation and as I very passionately want to see adopted the principle that the Weatherill Peers should be elected by a mixture of life and hereditary Peers—a substantial number of my noble friends on the Cross Benches believe the same thing—it seems that the only way in which we, the independent element in the House and in any future House, can avoid being bulldozed by the major parties and bring about the system that we want to see, is to support the Motion tabled by my noble friend Lord Bledisloe.
As a result of this debate, if for no other reason—it has, in my view, been a good, constructive and informative debate so far—I trust that there will be support from a sufficient number of Peers of all groups and parties to ensure that my noble friend's Motion is carried.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, I have been looking forward for a very long time to debating the minutiae of this remarkable document containing the new Standing Orders. It is equalled in its remarkable nature only by the verbatim account of the proceedings of the Procedure Committee. If various amateur dramatic societies wish regularly to perform that as a playlet in due course, I hope that Her Majesty's Government, or whoever owns the copyright, will not make any effort to stop them.
Unlike one or two noble Lords on the Cross Benches, I did not regard this as a matter of "profound importance". It is a matter of importance, but the idea of using the word "profound" for a technical matter of this kind is really quite absurd. As I have been looking forward to a long debate, I hope that nothing I say will shorten it. I start from exactly the opposite position to that of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, but I come to exactly the same conclusion. He starts from the position that it is a bad Bill which is made better; and I start from the position that it is a very good Bill which has been made slightly worse by the Weatherill amendment.
1164 However, having said that, I begin from the position set out by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor on page 9 of the Third Report of the Procedure Committee's proceedings. He said that,it was expressly agreed between myself and Lord Cranborne that the electoral range should be confined to the hereditaries of the relevant grouping and exclude the life peers".I emphasise the words "expressly agreed". He continued:I am aware of the press release to which he refers"—that is, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—To the extent it gives a different impression, it was erroneous. There may have been a failure of communication but what was agreed between myself and Lord Cranborne is precisely as I have said".I understand that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, has said much the same now.
I was completely bemused, although perhaps my hearing is not so good, by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill. I say that because, on page 11 of the report, he says:I am bound to say that it was my understanding that the arrangement was that the hereditary peers would elect hereditary peers".I do not know whether the noble Lord was trying to say that that is no longer his understanding, but he certainly said that it was his "understanding". Therefore, I have no idea why this debate is proceeding or why anyone on the Cross Benches is supporting the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe—
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, I do not understand that either. Obviously, I am in a rather "thick" mood this afternoon.
In connection with the interpretation of all this, perhaps I may say that, for once, I am able to say how much I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I am afraid that he said nothing during the whole of the debates on this Bill with which I have been able to agree; and that has brought me enormous disappointment. However, apropos something that his noble friend Lord Skelmersdale said, I believe that he said that the 75 might be elected by hereditary Peers but that that did not mean that they would represent them. Once they were elected, they would be here as Members of the House the same as everybody else; they would not be representative of anybody. That is of the essence.
Therefore, when my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor debates with the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne—who, I believe, was then Leader of the Opposition—and comes to an agreement, are we to say that this somehow has no significance for your Lordships and that we should all start from scratch, despite the fact that two of the major figures in this House have, in all honesty, done what a great many Peers have done?
I repeat my point: I do not like the Weatherill amendment. Indeed, I have said that consistently. I should like the hereditary Peers not to sit and vote in 1165 your Lordships' House. However, to suggest that we regard what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, the former Leader of the Opposition and colleagues—I use that word to refer to the whole House—said as just another few words, when they have negotiated in all honesty, and to suggest that we can now debate the matter as if none of this had happened, does not seem to me to be remotely a way in which your Lordships should proceed.
I do not want to stop all the other Cross-Benchers who are ready to speak from doing so. I certainly have no wish for them not to vote. However, if this House is to stick to its great traditions, it is time that we stopped making remarks which imply that, somehow or other, leading figures in this place are not to be trusted and carry no great weight. Of course, the agreement is not binding, in the sense that it cannot be binding for Liberal Democrats who were not party to the deal. However, the fact that it has weight seems to me to be of enormous importance. It certainly has weight for me, and I speak as someone who does not agree with keeping any of the hereditaries. Therefore, if it has weight with me, it ought to have weight with a great many other noble Lords.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords. I think it is reasonable to say that I support wholeheartedly the 75 plus 15. I see grave difficulties, however, with the by-election system.
The by-election system has to come about because obviously things go wrong and we have to plan for things going wrong. Let us assume for the sake of argument that of the 15, there are three Liberal Democrats who are chairmen or deputy speakers and three Labour Party members as well. Under those circumstances in a Labour by-election there will be an electorate of four and in a Liberal Democrat by-election there will be an electorate of five. I am sorry but I do not think that that is good enough: 42 is "iffy", 28 is "iffyish", five is not on, and four is awful.
I therefore think that we ought to do one of two things. Either we say—and I think it is a perfectly reasonable proposal—that all hereditary Peers elect at by-elections; that is, all those who are still in the House. In those circumstances, if the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi—who I sincerely hope is elected under one ticket or another—were, unfortunately, to fall under a bus, or die of a surfeit of lampreys or whatever, I would be quite happy to vote for a Labour successor of his, be he inside the House or—as he obviously then will be—outside the House. I think that most of us would have no difficulty with that and the electorate would then be 90, which is a respectable number. Equally, I suspect that if one of us, who were or were not elected, were to die, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, could be trusted to vote for an appropriate Conservative replacement. Either we do that, or we say that the whole of the Labour peerage elects its hereditary successor and that the same applies to the Liberal Democrats. I believe that the 1166 by-election system is in danger of bringing us into serious disrepute.
I happen to think that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and my noble friend Lord Cranborne, by a mixture of bluff and ignorance—all the things that make England work—have come up with an extremely good compromise which I hope will result in a proper reformed House in due course. We must not allow one small bit—the mote and the beam in someone's eye—to ruin what is either a good enough compromise which will stand on its own or the sand in the oyster which will ensure that we have a properly reformed House of Lords, which I certainly want, able to kick governments where it hurts most. The by-election system is not good enough.
§ Lord Barnett
My Lords, I disagree, unusually, with my noble friend Lord Peston. I agree that this is not a profound matter, as he said; it is a technical matter. I trust my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, but that does not mean to say that I feel bound by what they did in a "deal": I do not. I do not feel bound by that at all. As the House will know, I would prefer the simple solution; namely, to have elected life Peers and not to have a Weatherill clause. I say that with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, who is really the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. The plain fact is that if we are dealing with the kind of technicality described by my noble friend Lord Peston, there is absolutely no reason why we should be bound by a deal done by two noble Lords for whom I have the greatest regard and respect, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and my noble and learned friend know.
As I say, we are dealing here not with a profound matter but with technicalities. We are all entitled to a view. My view—I at least agree with my noble friend Lord Peston on this—is that the document before us, and some of the stuff in it, is quite hilarious. I thought that Peter Riddell was quite modest in his comments in The Times this morning. It is the greatest load of nonsense I have seen in my life. I say that with the greatest respect to those who compiled it. We are dealing here with a technicality. I would prefer not to deal with it, but we are. I trust my noble and learned friend, as I do my noble friend Lord Peston, although on this matter I do not agree with him. As he said, we are dealing with a technicality. On a technicality we are all entitled to a view. My view is that I shall support the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
My Lords, I feel sorry for the poor noble Lord, Lord Peston, who no longer has the confidence of his noble friend, at least in this debate. Meanwhile I am deeply indebted to the noble Lord because if I have been able to give him any pleasure at all, I am glad. He said I had because he was able to agree with something that I had said even though I have not yet said anything.
I am singularly excited at the fact—which I thought would never happen—that I should be on the side of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I always reckoned I was on the side of the angels in the matter, 1167 and to find myself not on the other side but perhaps the same side as the noble and learned Lord is a gratitude I had not expected to come about.
The matter is, I believe, relatively simple. I do not agree with the amendment but with the Motion. I say with the greatest of respect that I do not think it matters what the "deal" was or whether we are supposed to agree with it. We have to agree with the Motion or the amendment. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made a persuasive speech, along with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. That surprised me a great deal. They said that they could not understand why life Peers should be excluded from voting for hereditary Peers. It seems to me there is a perfectly obvious reason; namely, that the life Peers are here and the hereditary Peers are being—to use the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer—thrown out. Therefore the hereditary Peers are quite right to vote for those people whom they would like to see remain as hereditary Peers.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that he could not understand why, if life Peers were excluded from voting for hereditary Peers, they should vote for the 15. The answer is perfectly simple; namely, because the 15 hereditary Peers are being voted for as servants of the House, or rather Members of the House who occupy positions which facilitate the running of the House, such as deputy chairmen. There is a perfectly logical argument for two forms of votes. However, what is illogical—here I agree with my noble friend Lord Strathclyde—is that the Labour Party could use one form of voting, either hereditary Peers, or hereditary and life; the Cross-Benchers could use another; and the Conservative Party another. We must have a similar thread running through the whole lot.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. If he says that the 15 are being voted upon and elected to be of service to the House, what are the other 75 going to do?
Dear, oh dear. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has not been following all this very well. The 15 are supposed to be deputy chairmen of committees and chairmen of other committees, whereas the other people are what you might call the PBI in old-fashioned language. I do not propose to translate what that means because it might be unparliamentary language.
However, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he said that he hated the whole Bill. He is absolutely right about that; I hate it too. The trouble with the Bill is that it is rather like going to a tenpin bowling alley. Every time a new ball gets thrown, about six perfectly good upstanding skittles get knocked over. That is what is happening here. Now we are all getting into a muddle as to how people should be elected and who should vote for them. This situation has never arisen before. It has arisen because of this jolly old Bill which is perfectly awful.
1168 I believe that we should stick with the Motion and vote with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. It will be fun seeing each other in the same Lobby. It will no doubt be a day he remembers for as long as he lives. I believe that we should vote against the amendment so ably put by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
I was concerned about one or two things in the report. Reference was made to people producing CVs—curriculum vitae. We must be very careful that this does not turn into people giving election addresses. Can one imagine a noble Earl, with his coat of arms and wearing a nice Earl's coronet—on the front of which is a message? As one goes down the scale, a Viscount might have a less glamorous coronet; and when one comes to the Barons, they are like all the rest except that their papers and coats of arms are usually more flamboyant than anyone else's. That would be pretty disagreeable.
What will be put in this election statement? "I will be a regular attender; vote for me"; "I will be a loyal party member"; or "I will use my nous and I will vote not for the party when I want to but in my own way"; or "I will guarantee not to speak too long and so keep your Lordships from dinner". I know your Lordships cannot be that hungry. It really is pretty awful. I bet that, if we are not careful, some noble character will start producing an election statement. I hope that will not happen.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, spoke about jeroboams of champagne. I agree with him. What will happen if a Peer seeking election is seen giving a drink to a Peer who might be a voter, or taking him out to dinner? What will happen if he takes him to the ballet? Where does sleaze start and common sense end? Or has it already ended? It is a frightful thought.
I had a great deal of sympathy for the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, when he said that he did not like the idea of voting for all 42 Peers. I was told that all one had to do was vote for oneself and then get off; that one had more likelihood of getting in that way. But of course the powers that be have seen through that trick and they now say that we have to vote for 42. I do not know whether we all know 42 Members for whom we would like to vote. What happens if a noble Lord does not know 42 Members? That is a pretty curious thing.
I am thankful that the replacement for what somebody described rather grotesquely as the "dead Weatherill Peers" is to be established by a vote and not by going back to the old system of who will be the 12th man. It is obviously much better that it should be done in that way. I hope that we vote for the Motion and not for the amendment.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)
My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were to make something of a summing up before the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, winds up on his amendment.
1169 After the speech we have just heard from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I find myself in very great difficulty; I cannot possibly match that at all. He has not only pleased the noble Lord, Lord Peston, but he certainly pleased me with the exuberance and humour of his speech and, I suspect, the whole House.
That brings me to another relevant point in connection with the noble Earl. I would not dream of entering into any question of—or indeed revealing—whom I might support among those who will stand for election; I have my own personal thoughts. After the noble Earl has brought me such great pleasure, I am not sure that I can bring him excessive pleasure because if your Lordships reject the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and accept, as the noble Earl has suggested, my Motion, I will not be in a position to vote for him anyway. I shall reveal no more.
After a debate such as this—which has been very thorough even though a comparatively limited number of your Lordships contributed to it—I think the House will forgive me if I do not refer to all the points that have been made. Your Lordships will forgive me even further if I do not refer to all those who have taken part in the debate. It is right to make clear that I do not feel it would be for me anyway, doing the job that I try to do for your Lordships, to enter into the substantive arguments of either one side of today's debate. The arguments emerge from policy matters and they are not matters in which, traditionally, a Chairman of Committees gets involved. So I will not deal with those points.
However, there are one or two subsidiary matters which it might be thought I am required to answer. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, mentioned that those who stand for election for the Deputy Speaker and chairmanship posts will not be required to undertake to carry out the duties of a Deputy Speaker. I paraphrase his words, I hope without inaccuracy. We grappled with that difficulty in the Select Committee. It would be very difficult to compel anyone to undertake any particular work. In accepting the services of those people who serve us so well as voluntary Deputy Speakers and as chairmen of committees and sub-committees of your Lordships' House, we must rely on good faith, as we always have. That is all we can do. I hope that reliance will be sufficient.
Perhaps I may comment on the speech and the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. He clearly put in a tremendous amount of work on the paper that he submitted to the Procedure Committee. He and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, put forward their proposals—as they have today—with great clarity, cogency and moderation. I know that those attributes are always acceptable to your Lordships' House.
I can say, without going into the substantive matters which it discussed and which have been discussed this afternoon, that the Procedure Committee came forward to your Lordships' House with a very clear recommendation. It came forward with that recommendation on the basis of a substantial majority within the committee in favour: 18 to 4. However, in 1170 fairness, I should point out that that majority probably needs to be regarded as 17 to 4 because the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, in the customary honourable way in which he approaches the House, has indicated the different view he has expressed this afternoon.
This matter was discussed very thoroughly and at considerable length within the Procedure Committee, as I hope your Lordships will have seen from the transcript of the proceedings. At the end, there was a substantial majority within the committee for the recommendation which is before the House. On behalf of the Procedure Committee, I ask that your Lordships bear that very much in mind.
That is all that I propose to deal with. On behalf of the Procedure Committee, I ask your Lordships to decline to accept the noble Viscount's amendment and to accept the Motion before the House.
My Lords, I am under instructions from the noble Lord, Lord Carter, to close the debate at this stage. On such matters I am, as ever, the soul of obedience. I think that is a pity. I know that there are many Back-Benchers on all sides of the House who still wish to contribute. We have heard at some length from the heavy guns on the Front Benches; we have heard rather less from the Back-Benchers.
The noble Lord, Lord Boston, has prayed in aid the recommendation of the Procedure Committee. A decision like that is not surprising in a matter which is Whipped and when, almost in its entirety, the committee is composed of Members of one Front Bench or another. With respect to—
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, will the noble Viscount give way? Half the members of the Procedure Committee are Front-Benchers, the rest are Back-Benchers.
And, my Lords, the Back-Benchers of both parties were Whipped. I gather that that is not the case today.
The noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, says that the matter was fully debated by the Procedure: Committee. With respect to the noble Lord, I confess., having been present, that I do not believe that it was. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—and I to some extent—put forward reasoned arguments. The}' were met solely with the response: "Well, it's in the agreement, ain't it?". If that is what is meant by being "debated cogently and thoroughly", it is not what those words normally mean to me.
I want to make three points. First, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has today returned to the concept of, "Oh well, they are representative". That is remarkable. At a very early stage in the Procedure Committee, the Chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, said,I would venture to suggest that neither those who would support the original proposal"—that is, the draft orders—nor those would support Lord Bledisloe's proposal is going for … what has been called been called representation".1171 So the noble Lord said plainly that no one was arguing for representation. That was the way in which the Procedure Committee was conducted.
Secondly, I deprecate the argument that the "O" group or the Clerk of the Parliaments has examined the matter carefully. It is absolutely plain that that admirable body and that even more admirable person have skilfully put down on paper what they were told to put. They have in no way given thought to whether this is the right way of doing things. They acted as draftsmen, and they have said so.
Thirdly, at the end of the day, the question is: does the House do what is sensible, or does it merely say, 'Two people have made an agreement. We have to follow that"? This House has a unique reputation among the parliaments of the world for actually listening to the arguments and deciding matters on that basis. I hope that on this occasion the argument will prevail over the wishes of the Front Benches. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 146; Not-Contents, 229.1174
|Division No. 1|
|Ackner, L.||Dholakia, L.|
|Addington, L.||Downshire, M.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Drogheda, E.|
|Alderdice, L.||Dunleath, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Dunrossil, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Effingham, E.|
|Arlington, B.||Exmouth, V.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Ezra, L.|
|Ashburton, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Avebury, L.||Fookes, B.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Freyberg, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Geraint, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Gibson, L.|
|Blaker, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Bledisloe, V. [Teller.]||Gladwyn, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Glasgow, E.|
|Bridge of Harwich, L.||Goodhart, L.|
|Brightman, L.||Gray, L.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Greenway, L.|
|Butler of Brockwell, L.||Grey, E.|
|Calverley, L.||Halsbury, E.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Hamwee, B.|
|Carew, L.||Hankey, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Harding of Petherton, L.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Carrick, E.||Harrowby, E.|
|Chalfont, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Hereford, Bp.|
|Clancarty, E.||Holme of Cheltenham, L.|
|Clement-Jones, L.||Hooson, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Cooke of Islandreagh, L.||Huntingdon, E.|
|Craig of Radley, L.||Hylton, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Dahrendorf, L.||Iddesleigh, E.|
|Desai, L.||Iveagh, E.|
|Devonport, V.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Killanin, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Roll of Ipsden, L.|
|Kintore, E.||Runciman of Doxford, V.|
|Laming, L.||Russell, E.|
|Lauderdale, E.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Lester of Herne Hill, L.||Sandberg, L.|
|Lincoln, Bp.||Sandford, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Sandwich, E.|
|Longford, E.||Shannon, E.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Sharp of Guildford, B.|
|McNair, L.||Slim, V.|
|McNally, L.||Smith of Clifton, L.|
|Maddock, B.||Strafford, E.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Strange, B.|
|Marlesford, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Tenby, V. [Teller.]|
|Methuen, L.||Thomas of Gresford, L.|
|Middleton, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.||Thomas of Walliswood, B.|
|Molyneaux of Killead, L.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Monson, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Thurso, V.|
|Mountgarret, V.||Tope, L.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Nathan, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Newall, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Newby, L.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Norton, L.||Walton of Detchant, L.|
|Ogmore, L.||Waverley, V.|
|Pym, L.||Weatherill, L.|
|Rathcavan, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Razzall, L.||Wharton, B.|
|Redesdale, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Rennell, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Renton, L.||Williams of Crosby, B.|
|Rochester, L.||Wright of Richmond, L.|
|Acton, L.||Carter, L. [Teller.]|
|Addison, V.||Castle of Blackburn, B.|
|Ahmed, L.||Chadlington, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Chandos, V.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Chesham, L.|
|Alli, L.||Clanwilliam, E.|
|Amos, B.||Clarke of Hampstead, L.|
|Anelay of St. Johns, B.||Clark of Kempston, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.|
|Ashley of Stoke, L.||Clinton-Davis, L.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Cocks of Hartcliffe. L.|
|Bach, L.||Colwyn, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Cope of Berkeley, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Courtown, E.|
|Berkeley, L.||Cowdrey of Tonbridge, L.|
|Berners, B.||Cox, B.|
|Biddulph, L.||Cranborne, V.|
|Biffen, L.||Crawley, B.|
|Blackstone, B.||Cross, V.|
|Blackwell, L.||David, B.|
|Boardman, L.||Davidson, V.|
|Borrie, L.||Davies of Oldham, L.|
|Bowness, L.||Denbigh, E.|
|Bragg, L.||Denham, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Diamond, L.|
|Brett, L.||Dinevor, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Dixon, L.|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.||Dormand of Easington, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Dulverton, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Dundee, E.|
|Burlison, L.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Elder, L.|
|Buscombe, B.||Erne, E.|
|Byford, B.||Erroll, E.|
|Cadman, L.||Evans of Parkside, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Evans of Watford, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Falconer of Thoroton, L.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Montrose, D.|
|Faulkner of Worcester, L.||Morris, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Fisher, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Forsyth of Drumlean, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Munster, E.|
|Geddes, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Gilbert, L.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Gladwin of Clee, L.||Newton of Braintree, L.|
|Glentoran, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Gordon of Strathblane, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Goudie, B.||Norfolk, D.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Northbrook, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Grenfell, L.||Norton of Louth, L.|
|Hacking, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Hanningfield, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Hanworth, V.||Onslow, E.|
|Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Hardy of Wath, L.||Peston, L.|
|Harlech, L.||Pilkington of Oxenford, L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Pitkeathley, B.|
|Harris of Haringey, L.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Hayman, B.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Henley, L. [Teller.]||Puttnam, L.|
|Higgins, L.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B.||Randall of St. Budeaux, L.|
|Hogg, B.||Rawlings, B.|
|Holderness, L.||Reay, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Rendell of Babergh, B.|
|Hooper, B.||Richard, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||Roberts of Conwy, L.|
|Howe, E.||Rogers of Riverside, L.|
|Howell of Guildford, L.||Romney, E.|
|Hughes, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Hughes of Woodside, L.||Rowallan, L.|
|Hunt of Kings Heath, L.||Saatchi, L.|
|Hunt of Wirral, L.||Sainsbury of Turville, L.|
|Hurd of Westwell, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]||Sawyer, L.|
|Scotland of Asthal, B.|
|Janner of Braunstone, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]||Selborne, E.|
|Jeffreys, L.||Shaw of Northstead, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Shepherd, L.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Shore of Stepney, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Kingsland, L.||Simon, V.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Simon of Highbury, L.|
|Lea, B.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Smith of Gilmorehill, B.|
|Levy, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Stewartby, L.|
|tollhouse of Pontefract, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Long, V.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Lovell-Davis, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Luke, L.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B.|
|Lyell, L.||Taylor of Warwick, L.|
|McColl of Dulwich, L.||Teviot, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Thatcher, B.|
|Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.||Thornton, B.|
|Mallalieu, B.||Tomlinson, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Torrington, V.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Mayhew of Twysden, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Merlyn-Rees, L.||Uddin, B.|
|Merrivale, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Milverton, L.||Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Mishcon, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Warwick of Undercliffe, B.|
|Monk Bretton, L.||Watson of Invergowrie, L.|
|Monkswell, L.||Whitty, L.|
|Montague of Oxford, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Williams of Mostyn, L.||Young, B.|
|Windlesham, L.||Young of Old Scone, B.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.