§ 3.14 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington)
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.
§ Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Lord Mancroft moved Amendment No. 46:
§ After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ VOTING RIGHTS OF LIFE PEERS: EXTENSION OF
DURATION OF PARLIAMENT
§ (" . In respect of any proceedings in the House of Lords on a Bill providing for the maximum duration of Parliament to be extended beyond five years, no peer appointed to the House of Lords under the Life Peerages Act 1958 during the course of that Parliament shall be entitled to vote on such proceedings.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will be pleased to hear that this is a very simple amendment. Under the provisions of the quinquennial Act, which is more properly called the Septennial Act, as amended by the Parliament Act 1911, your Lordships have an 281 absolute power of veto should the government of the day bring forward a Bill to extend the life of a Parliament beyond five years. If the Government have a legitimate reason for so doing, such as in time of national emergency, your Lordships might choose to agree with the proposal. It was, for example, with your Lordships' agreement that the 1935 Parliament continued until 1945.
§ The power of veto was deliberately left with your Lordships under the provisions of the Parliament Act 1911, and again by the Labour Government of Mr Attlee when the 1949 Act was passed. Although it might seem unlikely that the Government would attempt such a thing, it was felt to be so important that this extraordinary and unique provision should remain. Indeed, it is significant that in its submission to the Royal Commission the Labour Party spelt out its view that this power should continue to remain with your Lordships' House.
§ During the course of the Bill, the Government have made it clear that the Bill before your Lordships today is solely concerned with the composition of the House and that there is no intention within it to alter the powers of the House. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, repeated this point somewhat forcefully when he addressed this issue in answer to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry at Committee stage.
§ I would suggest to your Lordships that the Government are being a little naive. Any Bill which removes a substantial proportion of the membership of this House, while not affecting the theoretical powers of the House, is bound to affect the way in which those powers can be used. No one could argue that if one were to reduce the cubic capacity of a motor car engine, it would not have a marked effect on the ability of that car to operate; of course it would.
§ In the case of your Lordships' House, the removal of a large number of existing Members would automatically increase the voting power of those who would remain. We have already felt the effect of the uniquely large number of new Peers who have been appointed by the Prime Minister since May 1997. I believe that the House has been happy to welcome them and has indeed benefited from their input. However, there is no denying the weight of their impact, not least in the Division Lobbies. Imagine how much greater that effect would be, whether benign or malign, which is not relevant today, when at the other end of the scale almost half the existing membership departs, as the Bill proposes.
§ The situation which this amendment is designed to counter is one in which a future prime minister—and, before anyone gets over excited, nobody has mentioned the present Prime Minister, who, as we all know, is completely perfect in every way—might decide that it is temporarily inconvenient to submit himself to the judgment of the electorate; and he may believe that, with a little help, he can get your Lordships to allow him an extra year in which to persuade the voters to re-elect him. I am the first to admit that this is unlikely to happen. I am also of the view that it would be extremely 282 difficult to pack this House with enough new Peers to make a significant difference—unlikely and difficult, but not impossible.
§ Although today it may be difficult for us to envisage a set of circumstances in which that could happen, I wonder how many noble Lords sitting in this very Chamber in June 1899 would have predicted that in less than 10 years' time they would be facing a threat from the Prime Minister to pack this House. What is even more significant is the fact that noble Lords at that time clearly believed that the threat to pack the House was both real and possible. It is also interesting to note that the size of the House at that time was broadly the same as it will be when this Bill is passed.
§ All that this amendment does is prevent Peers of all parties and no party, appointed during the term of a Parliament, from voting on proceedings to extend the life of that Parliament. In other words, a prime minister cannot pack your Lordships' House with his supporters before asking the House to prolong the term of the Parliament beyond five years, by suspending a general election. Those Peers denied a vote on this issue will still be able to speak in the relevant debate and will be able to vote on all other proceedings as normal. Should the prime minister's request be reasonable, as it was in 1939, the House would, of course, be able to agree to it. The voting prohibition only extends to the term of that Parliament because, following a general election, the prime minister will have defended his policies and received a fresh mandate, or not, as the case may be. In either event, the electorate will have had the opportunity to express a view. My Lords, it is as simple as that.
§ I suspect that we shall be told that this amendment is unnecessary in the light of the assurances already given about the parity between the parties and in respect of the proposed appointments commission. Unfortunately, it is difficult to assess the impact of these, since they are not on the face of the Bill, which is what we must consider in isolation. It is equally difficult to assess the effect of the amendment that was accepted by your Lordships last week, setting up a statutory appointments commission, since the Government have already declared their intention to try to remove it from the Bill. In a sense, the importance of the amendment this afternoon is reinforced by the haphazard way in which the Government have chosen to execute the reform of your Lordships' House.
§ When my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry proposed his amendment, the response from the Government Benches was largely devoted to destroying my noble friend's solution rather than addressing the problem. At one point the debate almost deteriorated into an extremely unpleasant "hereditary versus life Peers" match. I am happy to say that this amendment does not stray into that territory. I do not believe that hereditary Peers are the sole guardians of the constitution, nor do I believe that the life Peers who will remain cannot be relied upon to act independently or with integrity. On the contrary, I am confident that many life Peers on all sides of the House, who I have come to know and work alongside, can be relied upon with confidence. But none of us can be sure that a future Prime Minister, a person unknown who may not hold 283 office until we have all gone to that great debating Chamber in the sky, will not seek to appoint a different sort of person to this House for his own short-term political gain.
§ It is for that reason, and that reason only, that my noble friends and I propose this amendment today. In matters constitutional, I believe that we would be failing in our duty if we did not seek to ensure that this piece of legislation is as watertight as we can make it. That is not because we do not trust the Government; it is not because we do not have faith in those noble Lords who will remain when the rest of us have taken our seats in the tumbrels. It is because none of us can see into the future and predict what political turmoil may lie ahead, particularly during the next few years of unprecedented constitutional upheaval.
§ The amendment would not stop the Royal Commission making recommendations; nor would it tie the Government's hands. It would not infringe upon the Labour Party's manifesto commitment and it would not alter the main substance of the Bill. Indeed, if the Government fulfil their promise to implement stage two reasonably quickly, the amendment will never come into play.
§ The amendment would not change the powers of your Lordships' House in any way whatever: it merely seeks to ensure that its most important constitutional power cannot be undermined. If I may say so, it is the smallest and mildest of insurance policies for a future crisis that may never happen. But if that crisis were to develop and your Lordships had failed to press the issue, we would rightly be accused of neglecting our duty. For some of us, it may be our last opportunity to be of collective service to the British people. I beg to move.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, the noble Lord who moved the amendment said that on the last occasion it was raised I was somewhat strong in my objection. I was strong in my objection then, and I remain strong in my objection today. If it helps the noble Lord, I will coo as gently as a sucking dove in what I have to say, but that will not alter the substance of my view.
I find it a little ironic that the only time this issue arises is when the Conservative Party is in danger of losing its majority in this House. The implication is clear: it is that the constitution is safe in Conservative hands but unsafe in the hands of anyone else. I reject that view. It is neither accurate nor fair. I think that this side of the House and the Labour Party are just as capable of upholding the British constitution and the principles in which we all believe. Indeed, I believe in them, as, I am sure, do my noble friends, just as deeply as the noble Lord who moved the amendment. With great respect, it cannot be right to say that what has been sauce for the Conservative goose in this House because of its majority cannot be sauce for the Labour gander if, at some stage in the future, we get a majority in this House. I am sure that the noble Lord also knows that we are not even proposing that we should have a majority in this House; indeed, we are proposing rough parity with the Opposition.
284 I am afraid that I find the suggestion implicit in the amendment just as offensive today as I did on the last occasion the matter was discussed. It assumes—does it not?—two things in essence. The first is that a Labour Prime Minister will try to do this—not a Conservative Prime Minister because, by definition, Conservative Prime Ministers do not do that sort of thing—and I reject that. Secondly, it assumes that a Labour majority in this House would go along with it. I reject that just as strongly as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, rejects the proposition that the hereditary peerage on that side of the House would have gone along with a Conservative Prime Minister's suggestion to extend the life of a Parliament.
There is no suggestion anywhere that we should interfere with the power that this House has in relation to the Septennial Act. It is right that that should remain precisely as it is. But a suggestion—and that is what this is about—that somehow that side of the House can be trusted and this side cannot—
§ Lord Richard
Noble Lords can shout as much as they like. The fact is that when you actually analyse the essence of the suggestion that is being made by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that is what it comes down to. I reject it; indeed, I hope that the House will reject the amendment.
§ Viscount Goschen
My Lords, I agreed with a number of the preliminary points that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, made, but I wholly disagreed with his conclusions. He has sought to turn the issue into a Labour versus Conservative argument and an hereditary Peer versus life Peer argument. It is neither. The principle behind the amendment is that the existing House, and the House as it evolves, can be trusted to act as a safeguard to prevent a very specific set of circumstances arriving; namely, a government seeking to prolong the life of a Parliament without a very good reason for so doing.
What we are saying is quite simple. We are saying that an unscrupulous administration some time in the future—be it Labour, Conservative or even (who knows?) Liberal Democrat—would have the ability to pack this House with its supporters, with people who have given a pre-arranged commitment to support the government in their intentions whatever they may be, including the prolonging of the life of a Parliament. That is wholly different from what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, suggested, which is that Conservatives or hereditary Peers are better at judging these major constitutional issues than life Peers or indeed Labour Members of this House.
With the Bill that the Government are seeking to pass through your Lordships' House we are being asked to sign a blank cheque. We are being asked to pass a temporary measure, and ill-thought out measure, which the Government recognise will need urgent amendment at some time in the future. All we have is a commitment from the Government that they will bring forward further reform of an unspecified nature and at an 285 unspecified time in due course. We know that no government can bind their successors; we know that circumstances change; and we know that priorities in the legislative programme change. We are being asked to approve a temporary set of circumstances, but a set of circumstances which might last for a very long time. We must legislate for the future and we must legislate on the basis that all legislation that comes from this House can stand the test of time and is not just for three or four years. This Bill will go onto the statute book and, until amended, will be the law of the land.
This is an incredibly important issue. The ultimate safeguard against serious abuse of the constitution is the fact that the executive must face re-election every five years unless there is an extraordinarily pressing national interest. This provision is there. The very fact of the numbers of the House as it stands at present means that it is difficult to pack this place. It is simple mathematics. Many times more Peers would have to be introduced in order to achieve the aims of an unscrupulous administration. With the removal of the vast majority of the hereditary peerage, that would substantially change. It would become much easier for that to happen.
I return to our central point. We cannot envisage any immediate circumstances in which this situation could arise. We do not know what is around the corner but we have to produce robust legislation. On these vital constitutional issues we have to produce legislation that will serve this country well in the long term. We do not pretend that this amendment will turn a bad Bill into a good one. All we are saying is that it would provide a strong safeguard on the face of the Bill against the terrible circumstances that we have discussed occurring in the future. The Government should recognise—they would be wise to do so—that there is strong feeling that a safeguard is required to prevent serious abuse of the constitution in the future. I believe that this amendment would achieve exactly that. I hope that the Government will accept it. If they do not, I hope that my noble friend will press the amendment.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Barnett
My Lords, I shall speak briefly. I have no wish to oblige those noble Lords who are "packing" the House to stay too long. I am pleased to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen. As he will know, I have followed his name in another context. Unlike my noble friend Lord Richard, I do not just find this amendment offensive. Frankly, I find it rather insulting. It is insulting to all life Peers.
§ Lord Barnett
My Lords, the amendment is insulting to life Peers. For 18 years and more there was a majority in this House of Conservative hereditary Peers. No one on that side of your Lordships' House thought for one moment that they should introduce legislation to prevent life Peers undertaking this action when assurances have been given that the life of a Parliament will not be extended beyond five years. They will not say that they do not trust any future Labour Prime Minister on this 286 matter. They claim the measure is decent, honest, honourable, safe and impartial. Of course all those 400 Conservative hereditary Peers were impartial in taking the Conservative Whip! Frankly this measure is a nonsense. I hope that Conservative hereditary Peers and others—and certainly Cross-Bench Peers—will see this measure for what it is; namely, a nonsense. I hope that it will be rejected out of hand.
§ Lord Renton of Mount Harry
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that he found the measure offensive. Unfortunately, that message was repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. I think that they have this matter totally wrong. The amendment, spoken to so well by my noble friends Lord Mancroft and Lord Goschen, states the case simply; namely, that if there is a move to extend the life of a Parliament beyond five years—we all agree that that is highly unlikely—those who have been created life Peers since the previous general election cannot vote until there has been another general election. That applies to Conservatives, socialists and Liberal Democrats. I do not believe that that is in any sense an attempt either to demean life Peers—of which I am one—or to criticise socialist life Peers. It is an attempt to build an additional constitutional safeguard into the most important aspect of our life altogether in parliamentary terms; namely, how long can a government last?
In moving the amendment my noble friend Lord Mancroft said quite rightly that I had moved an amendment at Committee stage to discount Clause 1 of the Bill in the event of an attempt being made by a government in the House of Commons to prolong their own life. As was pointed out by several noble Lords during that debate—and as one of them rather unkindly put it—it was not possible to dust off a lot of hereditaries, bring them out of the cupboard and put them back in this Chamber again. That is a sentiment with which, sadly, I agree. But it was clear in that debate that there was a general feeling that some additional safeguard was needed for the particular circumstances of a government extending, or attempting to prolong, their life.
I hope that I may attempt to divert your Lordships for a moment. I refer to the idea that "packing" a particular party will never happen and therefore there is no necessity for the amendment. I quote from a cutting which is headed,Political Notes. The Creation of Peers. The Whip's List".The article states:It has for some time been understood in Ministerial circles that the Master of Elibank, as Chief Whip, has had the preparation of the list of names of supporters of the Liberal Party which the Ministry will submit to the King if the Constitutional crisis ends in a creation of peers. The number 500, with which the public have been familiarised, there is reason to believe was taken as the number that might be required in extreme eventualities, and it is stated that there are more than 500 names now on the list. Some, it is understood, are members of the House of Commons, and a large number are supporters of the Liberal Party outside the House".287 Thus The Times, on 12th July 1911, a month before the Parliament Act of 1911 was passed. On top of the article, in handwriting—the reference to Nicholson is to Nicholson of The Times—appears the following:These are the Master's notes given to Nicholson in the Chief Whip's Room, House of Commons, on the evening of July 11th 1911 to bluff the Tories".That is why the Liberals had to do it. It is worth remembering the history. There had been an election in January 1910 in which the Liberals maintained their majority over the Unionists of two. The question of the Parliament Bill, as it then was, was at the top of the agenda. The Liberals went back to the country again in December 1910 to get the country's support for passing the Bill that gravely reduced the powers of this House. It was only then, following a second general election in December 1910, that the threat of creating more Peers to get the Parliament Bill—with its great reduction in the powers of this House—through Parliament became a reality and they got the support of the newly crowned George V for it.
We should not forget that history. It all seems a long time ago but this was a case of Asquith taking great care to ensure through a second general election that if he created a lot of new Peers—they would have been hereditaries then—it was on the clear understanding that the aim was to limit the powers of this House. I do not want to detain the House long—
§ Lord Marsh
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I am following his speech carefully. However, can he address the point which has now been made twice; namely, what was to prevent any Conservative Prime Minister in a period of 18 years doing exactly the same thing? I am sure there is an answer to that, but I am waiting to hear it.
§ Lord Renton of Mount Harry
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I have no problem with that point at all. In the course of 18 years of Conservative government there never was an attempt to change radically the composition of this House.
§ Lord Renton of Mount Harry
My Lords, that is clear. Although this Bill is about composition—as Clerks in the Public Bill Office have frequently pointed out to us—it is a fact of life that those appointed by different political parties use their powers differently. That is exactly why the Liberal government of Asquith took care to have a second general election in order to make certain that they had the country's backing for a reduction in the powers of this House. Therefore I very much support the amendment. My noble friends have certainly improved on the amendment that I moved in Committee. Like them, I regard the establishment of this constitutional bulwark in the rapidly evolving process of constitutional charge that is now occurring as of supreme importance. I hope that the Government will therefore accept the amendment without a vote. If they do not, I very much hope that we will pursue it in the Lobbies.
My Lords, I very much support the principle that this House should have the power to prevent the extension of the life of Parliament—a principle which is well enunciated in Amendment No. 61, tabled in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Perth. It is of great importance. However, I very much doubt that the amendment is appropriate to achieve that end. I say this not for the party political reasons so robustly advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, but on perhaps more dispassionate grounds.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, has quite rightly referred to the history of the procedure up to the 1911 Act. It seems to me that the noble Lords moving the amendment appear to have forgotten that the power to appoint new Peers is vested not in the Prime Minister but in Her Majesty. There had to be the two elections referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, because His Majesty—as he then was—declined to exercise that power for the sole purpose of swamping the House unless and until the country had demonstrated that that was its wish. It would be the undoubted power—and presumably the proper course—of a monarch who was invited to swamp the House purely to achieve an escape from the 1911 Act to decline to do so until there had been an election. Therefore, if swamping is not to be carried out until after an election, that of itself defeats the attempt to extend the life. If one cannot extend the life until after a new election, one has rather defeated the point.
Secondly, I fail to understand why this power has suddenly become necessary in the context of the Bill. There has always been, and will remain, a theoretical risk of swamping; however, I do not see why that risk grows with the Bill. Indeed, the House after the Bill will not be a better place but it will be a more evenly balanced place. I do not see that it will therefore require a greater number of appointments to achieve the overall majority to vote this through than it would have done had the Conservative Party made such a proposal in the past.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Richard, I fail to understand why it is said that pre-appointed life Peers are less apt or able to defend the constitution. Although it is fair to say that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, entirely disclaimed that allegation, it seems to me to be somewhat inherent in his proposals.
Thirdly, I find it a very strange proposal that Peers who were appointed long before the idea of extending life was ever mooted and who had exercised a position in the House for perhaps two or three years should suddenly be disenfranchised from a particular measure. Let us take the situation where a new Government are appointed and they desire to appoint as the Leader of this House somebody from another place or from outside this House. That person is duly appointed and exercises that role with great aplomb and skill and with the admiration of the House for three years. The Government then decide, for good or bad reason, that they wish to seek to extend that life. The mover of that Bill is this very Leader of the House. For some strange reason, that person will be disenfranchised. Because he or she arrived only on the first day of that Parliament 289 some three or four years before, he or she would be suddenly disenfranchised for the purposes of that Bill and for no other.
I would be happy to hear that all my doubts are wrong. But unless and until they are resolved, I shall find it impossible to support the amendment.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, this story goes back a lot longer than even my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry said. This habit was started by the Tories after the Treaty of Utrecht. They decided to pack the House to make sure that a rather bad treaty went through. The Whigs used it to deal with the 1832 Bill and then the Liberals used it again in 1911. I should say that in no way do I distrust the Government; I give them, completely and utterly, 100 per cent for integrity. I am not saying that they would dream of doing something like that.
We have had recently a rather large number of ill thought-out constitutional proposals, all of which, I suspect and I am afraid, will end in tears. Therefore it is even more important to have proper checks and balances. Historically, whenever constitutional change has been introduced at such a rapid rate, things have got out of hand. One has only to look at England in the 17th century or France in the 18th century to see that things go wrong. It is essential that we should have in the Bill this particular check.
Let us assume—it is not a totally phantasmagorical assumption—that this Government potter on for another three years and we then have a general election; and then a stroppy Liberal Government are elected. I admit that it is unlikely. They may think that we do not trust them. We are not saying that we do not trust noble Lords opposite. I completely trust the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington—who would not? The point we are trying to make is that there are others who may not be trusted and we should have checks and balances. That is the way our constitution has worked. The Whig concept of checks and balances is terribly important. It is all very fine and large saying "Oh no, it will not happen" because almost invariably when people say that it will happen. As my mother frequently told me, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and things go wrong.
No one is impugning the honour of Labour life Peers, Tory life Peers, Tory hereditary Peers or even the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. One is saying, please let us be careful. It would do no harm at all to accept the amendment; it would do quite a lot of good to have it in the Bill. It would show the grandeur—I use the word advisedly—of the Labour Government if they were to say, "Yes, we see validity in your argument. In no way do we think it will happen, but we must be doubly sure". All we are suggesting is that we should be doubly sure. I support the amendment.
§ Lord Goodhart
My Lords, we accept that there are arguments in favour of the amendment. Those arguments have been put clearly by those who have 290 moved it. It is true that both in 1911 and when the Parliament Act was amended in 1949 the extension of the life of Parliament was excepted from the restriction on the powers of your Lordships' House. That is not to be altered by the present Bill.
As matters now stand, the exception in the 1911 Act can be overridden in two ways: first, by a further Act of Parliament which removes that exception—although, of course, that would take a year if the Parliament Act procedure had to be relied on, as no doubt it would. Secondly, as matters now stand, it could also be overridden by packing the House with new Peers. That possibility has, of course, always existed. The risk of packing is no greater now than it was in 1911 or 1949.
Extensions of the life of Parliament will happen only in times of profound national crisis and with the consent of all major parties. That is what happened in the First and Second World Wars; and it happened then with the consent of all major parties. When that consent was withdrawn—as happened after VE-Day in 1945—a general election followed immediately.
No one has suggested that any Conservative Government at any other time have considered exercising the power to extend the life of Parliament; no one has suggested that any Labour Government have at any time considered extending the life of Parliament. The real sanction on a government who seek to extend the life of Parliament without the broadest national consent is that that Government would face rebellion on their own Benches in both Houses; that they would face massive public protests and demonstrations; and that they would face certain and catastrophic defeat when they were eventually forced into a general election.
The amendment therefore adds nothing of value. We have lived with the risk of packing for 88 years. Why is the amendment being introduced now? Nothing in the Bill makes packing any more likely. We on these Benches will be unable to support the amendment.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, I rise to speak because the amendment in my name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, Amendment No. 61, is linked with Amendment No. 46. Our amendment states:Nothing in this Act affects the power of the House of Lords to veto any Bill introduced by a Minister of the Crown providing for the maximum duration of Parliament to be extended beyond 5 years".Those words combined with what has been put forward by my noble friend Lord Mancroft and others is very compelling. I am not Conservative—I served with a Conservative Government for a period of time but that was quite a different matter; it was on colonial questions only. I was a Cross-Bencher before and a Cross-Bencher soon after.
It is curious that these amendments, which are bracketed together, should raise such anxiety. I could almost use the word "hostility" on the part of some on the Labour side. I completely trust what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has said at one time or another, in writing or otherwise, and indeed what the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, has said. That is not the issue. The issue is something quite different. It is that one cannot tell what 291 the future will hold. No one knows what the outcome of making a major change in the composition of the House would be. It is for that reason that Amendment No. 46 is most ingenious because it in no way affects the powers except if someone threatens to prolong the life of Parliament. No one can tell when that might arise. It could be a Conservative government just as easily as a Labour or even some new government which might, under certain circumstances, try to do this.
Under those conditions, packing the House is also something that has been threatened before. We have heard the historical side of that. What is proposed in the first amendment prevents that. It gives time and time is of the essence in an issue like this.
Not only can there not be packing, but there cannot even be the threat of packing which could be a very serious issue. With every power that I have I urge the Government to accept the amendment in good faith in the belief that we are worried as to what could happen in the distant future. I wondered how to express the anxiety about the extension of the life of a Parliament. I came to the conclusion that if it were a statutory statement in the Bill itself, it would not be absolutely effective but it would show what the Peers of this moment are worried about. It would give time, which I think is of the essence here, for everybody, the Government of the day included, to think for a second time and give public opinion, particularly the media, the opportunity to draw attention to the danger that lies ahead.
It may be said that the first amendment by itself is enough. Amendments Nos. 46 and 61 cover one and the same anxiety and purpose, that we should have a defence which is not only the belt but also the braces. The first amendment is the belt and mine is the braces. The two amendments go together. I beg the Labour Government to realise that this is not intended to be a party matter but one which is for the good of the country and the future, the future may well be in 40 or 50 years time as nobody can tell just what we are really faced with.
I hope very much that the amendments which are in a sense totally bracketed and belt and braces will be accepted in the spirit that they are put forward.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I am pleased that I gave way to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, who has very carefully and calmly made much of the case that I want to make.
I was struck by the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who said that there is a need to build in additional constitutional safeguards. The puzzle on this side of the House is why, when there is a change of political power, there is the need to build in additional constitutional safeguards.
Reference has been made to the impact of this attempt. I do not besmirch anyone's motives in this matter at all. We are all politicians. We all look at these matters from the point of view of how they affect, among other things, the political fortunes of the party that we serve. We on this side of the House—I speak 292 for myself of course—are just a little suspicious that the need to protect the constitution arises this year or next year when it did not in the past.
You do not need to look into a crystal ball to see what a political party did when it had power in this place. I can recall that, in 1979 when the Conservative Government took over, the Conservatives had a majority in this House over Labour of more than 300. At the end of the government of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, with that majority of 300, Labour was down by 28 and the Conservatives were up by 32. There was a net difference in the strength of the parties in this House of 60. One might say that was not deliberate, that it just happened. We have to make sure that someone who governs the country in the future who has a different point of view, a different agenda, will not deliberately take advantage.
One of the matters that upsets noble Lords on this side of the House, despite protestations, is the clear implication that they do not believe what the Prime Minister is saying. What he has said with all the dignity that he can is that it is not his intention to pack the House. In fact, he has taken away from himself the supreme power of a Prime Minister in forwarding to Her Majesty the names of those upon whom she should confer a peerage. The Prime Minister has given his word, which in my view the country will accept and we on this side of the House accept. If the other side is worried about that possibility, let them take my assurance too.
I remember very well what the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said. If there were ever any attempt by a Labour Prime Minister to do anything remotely like what has been hinted at, his biggest opponents would be here on these Benches. So if there is a worry, please be assured that the Labour Benches are as much in tune as others about damage to the constitution. We have worked hard. The issue was resolved on 1st May 1997. Whether noble Lords on the other side of the House like it or not, the manifesto was put before the people and we have a mandate to govern; and that is what we intend to do.
§ 4 p.m.
My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will forgive me if I do not follow him, because I wish to be as brief as possible. As the Life Peerages Act and the powers under it are being discussed, I should declare that I had some responsibility for piloting it through Parliament in 1958. I was then merely an Under-Secretary at the Home Office; the Home Secretary who introduced it was the late Mr R.A. Butler, as he then was. It will intrigue your Lordships to know that the purpose of that Act, although it was not declared in it, was to enable people who might be offered peerages to become life Peers if they did not want to become hereditary Peers. However, it became clear after a year or so that that would not be the limited purpose for which peerages under it would be created. Indeed, 293 in the past 30 years—this is an answer to the noble Lord—no party in your Lordships' House has had a clear majority.
If in 1958 when the Life Peerages Act was passing through Parliament it had become clear that the powers under the Act could be used for creating peerages to extend the life of a parliament at the behest of a government, that Act would not have been passed into law at that time. No party would have agreed to it; neither House would have agreed to it. We have as a possibility—it is no more than a possibility but it is one that we should guard against—that some government, for some reason, inevitably, I think, an inadequate reason, might say, "Let us use the powers in that Act to extend the life of the government and of the parliament". That would be wrong and that is why I fully support my noble friend's amendment.
Perhaps I may say as well that Amendment No. 61, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, which goes somewhat wider than Amendment No. 46, is also worthy of support.
The Earl of Erroll
My Lords, I rise briefly to speak as my name is attached to Amendment No. 61. I like Amendment No. 46 for the simple reason that it has real teeth, whereas the other amendment does not. The question has been asked as to why such a provision should now be necessary when it has not been necessary for many years. The answer is that we have not been looking at changing the composition and powers of this House for many years. Therefore, there was no point in raising the issue as it was not an issue. It has now been made an issue, so we are looking at all the implications of what has been proposed. If one notices that there is a shortfall somewhere, it is naturally logical to try to close some loopholes such as exist at the moment under the 1911 Act so that there will not be a problem in the interim House. That is why the amendment is needed.
I have found it sad that life Peers seem to think that the provision is aimed at them. Life Peers will be able to vote under Amendment No. 46. Life Peers will not be excluded from voting on the measure which will come before the House to extend the life of Parliament. They will be included. The only ones who will be excluded are new Peers who are created immediately before that measure is proposed to the House.
As someone once said, "I know you think you understand what I said but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant". The trouble is that people are trying to look for offence when none is intended. This is a perfectly reasonable idea in order to try to prevent problems arising. As a Cross-Bencher, my concern is that the Conservatives, with their larger group, might, if the Cross-Benchers had not come out against, have been able to get such a measure through more easily than they should have been. I look forward to the time when the House is more evenly balanced, as it will then be harder for a Conservative Government potentially to abuse their position of power. On the other hand, if the House is more evenly balanced, it will also be easier to pack it. One will not need to put forward so 294 many in order to tip the balance in one's favour. Therefore, with a more evenly balanced House, the danger becomes greater.
I found the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, slightly naïve in his thinking that Her Majesty might tell the Prime Minister that he could not create new peerages. Those days have long since gone. I fear—and I am not sure that one should say it—that it is now accepted that the Crown will always accept the recommendations of the Government of the day. That is a sad reality. I strongly support Amendment No. 46.
§ The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry
My Lords, it is with great diffidence that I intervene in the debate, but I have been listening carefully to the arguments. It seems to me that the main objection to the amendment is that it is not necessary. If it is not necessary, why are those on the Government Benches so strongly against it? It will not do them any harm. I believe that it may not be necessary in the near future or in the immediate future but perhaps in the distant future it could become necessary. One does not know what may occur in years to come. It may be that my feelings on this matter are somewhat encouraged by having recently read that great classic by George Orwell, 1984, where one sees things moving slowly towards a state of big brotherhood. There are already signs that the Executive is taking greater powers throughout the land and that Parliament is losing powers to the Executive. One sees the media becoming more dominated by the Left-wing. So the drift carries on towards the situation which George Orwell so clearly described. We should look rather further ahead than the immediate future. Therefore, this could be a worthwhile safeguard.
Perhaps I may mention this point in conclusion. Noble Lords may not remember that George Orwell's real name was not George Orwell. It was Blair; Eric Blair.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, when I saw the amendment I was very angry. I thought it offensive and insulting. I shall have to temper my remarks and try to calm down. It made me angry for three reasons. First, it flies in the face of history. On only two occasions in this century has the life of a parliament been extended. One was when we had a Liberal ascendancy and the other was when we had a Conservative ascendancy. Never has it been on the agenda for the Labour Party. Secondly, it perpetrates the big lie that the only safeguard for democracy in this country is the House of Lords. That is absolute nonsense. Noble Lords have been talking about packing the House of Lords. I was at a Labour Party Conference in the mid-1980s when Tony Benn made a resounding speech in which he declared that the Labour Party would install a thousand Peers to get rid of the House of Lords. We all cheered that to the rafters.
After we had had a good cheer, thinking it a terrific idea, I wondered how we would select the thousand Peers to flood the House of Lords. I thought that the sensible way would be to pick the chairs and secretaries of every constituency Labour Party up and down the 295 land; and then, knowing a good number of them and having been in the Labour Party for God knows how many years, I suddenly realised that once they were in here they would vote to keep the place going. So the threat that the Labour Party would engage in that sort of activity is nonsense.
I take exception to the suggestion by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, that it would do no harm to put the amendment on the face of the Bill. I think it would do a great harm to the House. One of the terrific strengths of this place is that when we come in, whether we are life Peers, hereditary Peers or Peers on the judicial Bench or are on the Bishops Bench, we are considered completely equal; we all have exactly the same rights to speak on the Floor of the House and to vote.
One of the terrible things that the amendment would do is to introduce the concept of second-class, probationary, apprentice Peers. That would be a grave mistake for the House to make. I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, put his name to the amendment because in this Parliament he comes into that putative category of apprentice Peer or probationary Peer. I would defend his right to speak and vote in the House on the same basis as I and every other Member of the House.
I implore the House to reject the amendment because it is insidious in introducing the concept of second-class Peers.
§ Lord Phillips of Sudbury
My Lords, I am not offended, upset or insulted by the amendment. Rather, I think it is self-defeating. I find it strange that the Conservative Benches in particular, which I had always taken to be upholders of our unwritten constitution and of the conventions underlying it, should put forward an amendment which, on the admission of those proposing it, deals with an extraordinarily unlikely eventuality.
It may be odd for a lawyer, as I am, and part of this House, which is a legislative House, to question the effectiveness of trying to legislate virtue. It has always struck me that the strength of the British constitutional arrangements rests not upon their words but on their spirit and the fact that certain acts, certain denials of a constitutional nature, would be so repugnant to the broad mass of the people of this country, let alone those that sit in this House and the other place, that they would simply not pass.
Therefore, I have the sense that the amendments, far from sustaining and ensuring that which they purport to preserve and protect, could give a bogus credence to the very notion of packing this House and extending the life of Parliament. They could undermine the very taboo which in a sense they seek to protect.
While, I suppose, understanding the endeavour of the two amendments, I have confidence in the people of this country and in the occupants of this place and the other place, not only now but in the future. I also believe that ultimately we provide a much greater protection for future constitutional arrangements if we have confidence in the good sense and decency that have sustained us these thousand years.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, I am not a politician. I am a life Peer though. I find no difficulty in supporting the amendment. It is not about the past; it is about the possible future. The White Paper says that the future powers of the House of Lords should be looked at and reviewed, and we are considering one of the most important powers among them. Indeed, it is so identified in the White Paper.
It seems to me logical and right that when so much constitutional change is happening—who could have thought two years ago what the extremely changed constitutional picture would be today?—we need to make absolutely sure that any further change, such as extending the life of a parliament, whoever does it, must be stopped and thought about.
I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, that this is an honourable and excellent House, but we are not talking about the constitution of the House as it is now; we are talking about a possible future threat. I cannot see why it is not right to be quite sure that the House of Lords, which I hope will always be the impressive body it is now, can exercise that very necessary brake on possible action by a possible future Prime Minister, who might by then be much more presidential, for instance, than we have ever had. There might not be that much consultation.
Therefore, I feel very strongly that we ought to put in this safeguard; we ought to do our duty by the future. I do not think that we ought to look at this in terms of one party thinking that another is insulting it. That is irrelevant and it is beneath us. We should not be thinking like that.
I greatly respect many of my friends on the Opposition Benches. I feel sure that if they think about it they will accept that we are talking about the future of the country. It is all very well saying that the people would rebel. If there is one thing about the British, it is that they never notice anything that is happening to them until it has happened. That is why we always win wars at the last moment. We cannot afford to put this particular liberty at risk.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, speaking from these Cross-Benches, I have no concern with party politics, but I remember one very old proverb: better be safe than sorry. I shall vote for the amendment.
§ Lord Cobbold
My Lords, while I very much support the purpose behind the amendment, I am a little concerned about the reference solely to the Act of 1958. For the amendment to become really important there would have to be some very exceptional circumstances. A Prime Minister, probably with a very large majority in the other place, would have the power, if confronted with the amendment as part of an Act, to introduce another new measure appointing life Peers or Peers Members of this House. Doing that under a completely new Act would get round the amendment. Would that be a problem?
§ Viscount Mountgarret
My Lords, the undying trust expounded by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in the 297 propriety of the Labour Party in all respects is matched only by my cynicism, and that of others, I suggest, with regard to a government who make such a major constitutional change without any idea whatsoever what will replace the House as now constituted or how it will be done. That must give rise to doubt.
My only surprise is that there is no provision in our constitution at present to prevent any government swamping your Lordships' House with sufficient Peers, whether hereditary or life Peers. I am amazed that it has not come in sooner. There were opportune moments. I do not know, I was not there, but the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, has given some indication. It was long before my time.
This must surely be an appropriate moment, when we are considering a major constitutional change, to write into the Bill this sort of amendment which prevents any tampering—for want of a better word—with the unwritten understanding of how we proceed.
I leave noble Lords with one thought. Do those who oppose this amendment have something to hide? Is there not something that we should fear? I thoroughly support the amendment.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the trouble with debating this proposal in this country at this time is that this country has been without a revolution for 311 years. Any Spanish or Portuguese people, for example, listening in the Gallery at this moment would be astonished at your Lordships' equanimity. Our anxiety is about a future that we cannot foretell.
There is common ground on one matter in this debate; namely, it is essential to the health and survival of a democracy that the electors are able remove a government and are assured of being able to do so at regular intervals. The amendment turns on that principle.
If that ability is lost, the only way of removing a government, as the Portuguese, the Spaniards and many others will tell us, is by violence—by revolution—which sets a country back many generations, costs the breaking of families and lives and is at all costs to be avoided. The purpose of the amendment is to avoid that loss.
Many noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Graham, foremost among them, focused their attention on the present and said that this could not possibly happen now. Of course it could not. We are not so crass as to suggest that it could. I do not go along with the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, in his doubts about the Government, but even he would not expect them to engineer their survival with the present manning of the Front Bench in this House, let alone the other place.
We are not thinking about now; we are thinking about the future—and in exactly the same way as your Lordships think about the future of the houses in which you live when you decide to buy a fire extinguisher. You are certain that you will put out your cigarettes before you go to bed; you are certain that the oven will not be left on when you go on holiday—but, just in case, you put in place a provision to take care of that, so that 298 someone can put the fire out damn quick before the fire brigade gets there and has to souse the place with water. My noble friend is doing an analogous thing. He is attempting to put in place a provision that will nip in the bud any unfortunate development which could easily take place in the future. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, laughs, and the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, winds his hand as though I had not finished. He is right; I have not.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I gladly accept the noble Lord's apology. It gives me time to draw breath in my excitement.
There was no bloodshed in the 1688 revolution 311 years ago. We have to go back before that. Did people in 1600, three years before Queen Elizabeth I left the throne, think that there would be a civil war in this country during their lifetime? Certainly not. Did people in 1920, in the German empire, foresee the rise of Hitler and the democratic republic? Certainly not. We cannot tell the future. My noble friend Lord Halsbury is right—wait and see.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, I should like briefly to support the amendment and the remarks of my noble friend Lord Halsbury. I speak as a mother. When you take a child upstairs, put it into bed, listen to its prayers and read a story, you say to the child, "Now, do not move from there until morning". You then say goodnight and turn out the light. Then what do you? You tuck the child in—just to make sure. That is all that this proposal is. You love your child very much, but you tuck it in, just to make sure.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, this amendment is not like installing a fire extinguisher in one's home, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, maintained. It is like taking out an insurance policy against being struck by a meteorite. The odds against such an event are astronomical.
Noble Lords say that they are not speaking about the immediate future. They are right; they could not be speaking about the immediate future. They must be speaking about a future in which it is not this House that is calling the shots and deciding that the life of Parliament is to be prolonged but the other place. They are talking about a government being installed who presumably have no mandate from the people to prolong the life of Parliament, but they decide, halfway through their term of office that they wish to govern for longer than the five years and present a Bill in the other place to prolong the life of Parliament. They see that that would not go through this House without the creation of a vast number of new life Peers, so they set about bringing in the 1,000 or so new Peers to get the legislation through. That is the point at which the main 299 amendment that we are considering comes into play. It states that those new life Peers would not be able to vote on the Bill to extend the life of the Parliament.
What is happening in the country during that period? Is it contended by those who advance this proposition that a government who do not have a mandate from the people will introduce such a Bill halfway through the life of a Parliament and that they will seek to create this vast number of Peers who will ensure that the Bill goes through this House? That is science fiction. It is way beyond anything that George Orwell thought of. It might be considered that such an event might occur in the year 3000, but if we were to legislate against all such improbable circumstances, why stop at extending the life of Parliament? One speaker mentioned the fact that Hitler came to power even though there was an elected government in Germany, and suggested that that could happen in this country—so we could legislate against any party representing an extreme appointing Peers to this House.
All kinds of things could happen to change the composition of this House in the future which might be of an extreme or remarkable character. But they will not happen in our lifetime or in the 21st century. Events may occur in the far distant future which are not the responsibility of Parliament as it is composed today.
It is utterly wrong that fears should be raised by noble Lords who support this amendment. Incidentally, they are not correct in saying that there is a vast public outside this House which is anxious to see what this House does. When I travel on the No. 36 bus I do not hear people talking about the extension of the life of Parliament and how the Lords must be vigilant to protect the country against that. It is not a matter for consideration. To debate it at such length now is not the best use of this House's time. It is not important to the wishes of the country. We should get the Bill onto the statute book and leave these matters for consideration by others in the 36th century.
§ Lord Molyneaux of Killead
My Lords, as a comparative neutral in the matter under debate, and one who has been accused in the past of propping up governments of both complexions, perhaps I may briefly make a point that was touched upon by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. With great respect, too many contributors to this debate are living in the 300 past. I beg to differ with what has just been said from the Liberal Benches; namely, that some of these events may occur in the distant future. It is not quite like that.
For 27 years, at the other end of the building, I had the honour and privilege of working with both governments. At that time, one was quite clear as to the procedure. One operated with the Prime Minister of the day, based on a freshly elected parliamentary party. Decisions were made eventually through the usual processes of civilised discussion, both in the Chamber and sometimes outside it. It is not like that now and it will not be like that in the future.
The part of the United Kingdom from which I come is involved in a very serious crisis; I do not know what the outcome will be by midnight tonight. But one thing I do know is that this present crisis and much of the uncertainty and instability in Northern Ireland could have been avoided had it not been for those whom I call the unelected Whitehall manipulators who sometimes meddle in the decisions made by elected governments, reaching a peak in, for example, the recent Hillsborough agreement and this week showing their hands again. What are we to make, for example, of two schoolchildren being dragged up to Stormont bearing placards transmitting a political message? In certain circumstances, and under other legislation, that might be called a form of child abuse.
To return to the theme of the debate, I should be happy if we did not need safeguards, but I suggest that we need the safeguard provided for in the amendment and many similar safeguards if the real power of governance in the United Kingdom is not to slip out of the hands of the elected representatives and, ultimately, your Lordships' House.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Lord Peyton of Yeovil
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to say that I agree entirely with one speech made this afternoon which I hope the Government Front Bench will read, mark, learn and inwardly digest with care. I refer to the speech of my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth. I cannot believe that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will have found anything deeply offensive in it and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will not have been deeply insulted by anything that my noble friend said with such eloquence.
The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, began his speech by saying that he would attempt to calm himself down from the point of rage that he had reached. I am bound to admit, in all fairness, that I thought he made a very good job of that! Whether he achieved anything else must be open to doubt.
We then plunged into this extraordinary argument about trustworthiness. I cannot remember a government who ever claimed to be entirely trustworthy without anticipating a sharp rebuke, usually from the bottom of the hearts of the British public. I do not think we should have an argument about who is trustworthy and who is not. I believe that governments are not in control of events, although they frequently pretend to be. The unforeseen and unpredictable frequently occur. Therefore the undertakings given by government, in 301 perfect good faith, become worn in the course of events. I hope that noble Lords will not be too upset when we on this side of the House ask for provisions to be put on the face of the Bill. I recollect that not long ago, during the previous Parliament, the party now in government was most eloquent in demanding that matters should be put on the face of Bills. I even recall—without too much shame—that I supported many amendments against the government, who in name I supported, which sought to put provisions on the face of a Bill. I do not think the party now in government has any reason to claim to be shocked or upset by what is a very innocent request.
I go back to the speech made by my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth. I hope that members of the Government Front Bench will be convinced by what my noble friend said that amendments from this side of the House are not prompted by viciousness or a wish to embarrass the Government but by a genuine concern. From that remark I exclude the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. What I say this afternoon is milder and more restrained because of the speech made by the noble Lord in response to what I said last time I spoke in these debates.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, perhaps I may preface my remarks by saying one or two things which I hope will preserve my friendship with the noble Lords, Lord Barnett, Lord Graham, Lord Richard and Lord Monkswell. Nothing that I or any of my friends say on this issue implies in any way that we think that the present Prime Minister, or anyone we know who is likely to be Prime Minister in the future, is ever likely to try to use the majority in another place to drive through an extension of the life of a parliament unless, as happened in the two world wars, there is general agreement on all sides that that should happen. I certainly do not think that the current Prime Minister falls into any category that deserves suspicion. He may drive down bus lanes, but I do not believe for a moment that he would drive a bus through the very heart of the British constitution. Let us have that clear.
To those who say, "You did not complain about this over the past 90 years, so you must have been happy with the previous provision", I would say that, on reflection, I think that perhaps the previous provision was not that terrific. Of course, as my noble friend Lord Renton of Mount Harry pointed out, there have been threats in this century to pack your Lordships' Chamber with hereditary Peers. The Chamber could have been packed with hereditaries every bit as easily as it could in future be packed with life Peers. I believe the position is perfectly straightforward.
Why are we discussing this matter today? It is for the simple reason that the Government have come forward with some major constitutional changes, including the reform of your Lordships' House. Therefore, thinking laterally, it is quite legitimate to look at some of the other aspects of your Lordships' House. The matter referred to in the amendment is one of the most important duties laid on your Lordships' House, a duty which will continue to be laid on the second Chamber.
302 My preference for dealing with this would have been along the lines of the Scotland Act, of which I am reminded because I shall be attending the opening of the Scottish Parliament tomorrow. In Section 3 of that Act, which is about the life of the Parliament, the Government themselves chose to put in a qualified majority, not for the extension of the life of the Parliament but for the restriction of its life. The Scottish Parliament is a four-year Parliament and in order for that four-year Parliament to be dissolved early it is required that the resolution is passed on a Division, the number of Members voting in favour being not less than two-thirds of the total number of seats for Members of the Parliament. That is a new concept in the British constitution, put into the Scotland Act by the Government because they felt it necessary. I should have liked to see a similar provision to that put into the Bill. Unfortunately, that was deemed not to be in order because of the Long Title of the Bill. I believe that my noble friend Lord Mancroft has come forward with a provision which is almost as good which puts in a protection. If noble Lords on the Government Back Benches think that that protection should have existed before, perhaps they are right. That is a good reason for putting it in today. I think the House should put it down as a marker.
None of us can foretell the future. A Prime Minister of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party or even the Liberal Democrat Party—admittedly, that is an unlikely event—may have a sufficient majority and convince himself and sufficient of his colleagues that, for a number of reasons, Parliament should last a bit longer than five years. As in this Bill we are looking to the future, we should consider how to prevent that admittedly very unlikely event.
Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will say that this is only an interim measure and that when in three or four years' time—who knows?—the Government bring forward stage two, that will be the time to address the wider powers of the House. I can see that argument, but is it not sensible that today when discussing the changes under stage one we put down a marker in the Bill so that when the next one comes along it is carried forward? Those of us who are here then will realise that they must put in a similar protection for the Parliaments to come. I believe that that is the sensible way to proceed. It is no reflection on anyone living today, but it guards against the possible danger that some day in the future the world will be different. The world will certainly be different in future but it may not be to the advantage of democracy in this country. This amendment is a straightforward protection and is worthy of support.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn)
My Lords, it is heartening to see such a good turnout this afternoon for this particular amendment. I cannot begin to put my finger on the reason for it. I felt downhearted when I heard the in terrorem argument of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. He threatened me, among others, after death with the great debating chamber in the sky. Please, God, no, 303 because if I got there I would still find the ranks of the hereditary Peers doing their utmost to hold up the passage of this Bill.
The amendment together with that in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, proposes that some Members of this Chamber should not be allowed to vote on one particular issue irrespective of party, where they came from and why, the quality of their attendance or non-attendance, their contribution to debates or lack of it and their independence of mind or heart. They are, therefore, always to be considered potentially as second class and untrustworthy. As was rightly pointed out, that applies to a number of life Peers presently here who came after the previous election. That remains a fact even though unpalatable.
It seems to me that two justifications, spoken or not, underlie the approach. It is not said, but sometimes hinted—admittedly, not this afternoon but certainly in similar debates in the past—that hereditary Peers are uniquely independent. Experience demonstrates the contrary. They are no more independent than life Peers. It is suggested that the balance of numbers in the House may make it easier for the government of the day, or any future one, to pack this Chamber. I do not accept either of those propositions.
I listened carefully to the speech of the noble Baroness, as I always do. I also listened to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton of Yeovil. I recognise that there is concern, and it is only right that I should try to deal with it. One way of addressing the concern that has always been refused by the Conservative Party and Conservative governments throughout the years is to have a written constitution that can be amended only in the circumstances described generally by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. This amendment does not begin to do that, and I shall demonstrate why.
I find the amendment wholly unacceptable, not least because it cannot work for two reasons. First, even if passed—I recognise that the present arrangements allow the mover of the amendment and his supporters overwhelming fire power to have their way this afternoon—the amendment cannot bite on any legislation to amend the Act of 1911. It is therefore wholly valueless and meaningless except as a rather superficial, cosmetic device. Secondly, it would not catch a newly re-elected government who had taken the trouble to pack the House shortly before an election. If one looks for the "conspiracy" motive in modern political life, one nee is to bear in mind that anyone with half a grain of intelligence, or even the foresight to read what is being said presently, will not be hampered in the slightest.
Let us see what powers would remain in the House. Those who were disenfranchised from voting on what one recognises would be an important aspect of your Lordships' duties could still vote on a number of matters. I take some examples across the spectrum. Those noble Lords could still vote on a declaration of war, a state of emergency or martial law. Should they be so inclined, they could vote—perhaps it is doubtful—for the complete restitution of the hereditary peerage in 304 this House in its intact and sublime glory. They could also vote for the complete abolition of the judiciary or jury system; and they could vote for the abolition of the monarchy. Therefore, if one wants constitutional safeguards one should make a proper job of it rather than tinker at the edges in a way that will not work.
The fact is that this is a device. I impugn no one's motives because I take the guidance of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. It does not take the argument any further to say that an amendment is bad because motive is had. An amendment may be good and motive bad, and vice versa. The fact is that none of this will work. This is a self-indulgent amendment, which I am aware is capable of being passed this afternoon. The amendment will have no effect at all, except to demean—I put it neutrally—what we have been about.
To conclude, my observations are: first, the amendment will not work; secondly, it is not needed; and, thirdly, it is based on a flawed premise. Apart from that, it is quite a good amendment.
Earl Baldwin of Bewdley
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he explain to a bemused Cross-Bencher exactly why it will not work? I have missed the point.
Lord William of Mostyn
My Lords, it will not work for two reasons: first, it does not bite on the fundamental statute, which is the Act of 1911; and, secondly, any government can pack the House before the election and the post-election sitting life Peers will have a vote even on the basis of this amendment.
§ Lord Mancroft
My Lords, we have had a very interesting debate this afternoon. The quality and breadth of the contributions demonstrate the strength of feeling in the House about this amendment. I am most grateful to all noble Lords who took part. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that it is always nice to see a full House, particularly when most noble Lords, suspect, would rather be watching the tennis. I am particularly glad to see so many new faces on the Benches opposite. Although noble Lords opposite do not have the advantage of several generations of experience in constitutional affairs, they will undoubtedly have learnt much which will be of use to them in the years ahead. I accept that not all of those new faces have turned up this afternoon. I suspect that they do not support the Government as much as the Government might like them to.
I have no intention of attempting to sum up the debate because I am not qualified to do so; and if your Lordships will forgive me, nor shall I attempt to answer the many points noble Lords raised. The House is more than capable of reaching its own conclusion without help from me.
The only point I wish to make is this: the amendment is not party political. However much the party opposite may like to think that it is, the amendment is not aimed at this Government or this Prime Minister. If noble Lords opposite do not believe that, they may wonder why my noble friends and I do not accept their assurances as often as they might like.
305 I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for the care and courtesy with which he presented the Government's case. I am delighted, too, that he thinks that we shall still be debating the Bill when he and I are in that great debating chamber in heaven: that will imply that the Bill has not yet gone through your Lordships' House. The noble Lord's contributions from the Front Bench over the years have won him the respect of the House even though the cases he presents to the House are not always as welcome on this side of the House as they might be. It will come as no surprise to the noble Lord to hear that I am a little disappointed with his answer.
The main argument put forward by the Minister is that the amendment is unnecessary. I accept that the situation is obscure and highly unlikely ever to occur; but it is still theoretically possible, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, conceded. During the course of the Bill, I have been intrigued by the advice the House receives from noble Lords opposite and in particular from noble and learned Lords. In my commercial life, I am constantly advised by lawyers, both solicitors and learned counsel. When, for instance, an obscure issue is raised during a contractual negotiation which is dragging on—noble Lords know that such matters tend to do so on more than one occasion late at night, in the lawyer's office, I have said, "That's never going to happen. Leave it out". The lawyers always reply, "You're probably right but we should put it in to be on the safe side". I cannot remember an occasion when I have been advised otherwise.
Here we are dealing here with the most important contract of all, the constitution: the contract between the British people and those who seek to govern them. Your Lordships seek to put a small but vital measure into an important piece of legislation in order further to protect the people. On the Government Benches opposite we have a full team of noble and learned Lords. I wonder if they would be advising the House in the same way if they were retained in their professional capacity. I rather doubt it.
It is clear that your Lordships regard this as an important issue. I have listened carefully to the Government's response, and I am clear that they have not thought the matter through; neither do they take it seriously enough. Without damaging the Government's Bill in any way, I believe that this amendment solves a vital, if obscure, constitutional problem. More in sorrow than in anger at the muddle the Government are making of this Bill, I think it right to test the opinion of the House.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 46) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 283; Not-Contents, 177.309
|Division No. 1|
|Abercorn, D.||Crickhowell, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Cross, V.|
|Ackner, L.||Dacre of Glanton, L.|
|Addison, V.||Dartmouth, E.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Davidson, V.|
|Ailsa, M.||De L 'Isle, V.|
|Aldington, L.||Dean of Harptree, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Deedes, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Denbigh, E.|
|Anelay of St. Johns, B.||Denham, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Denman, L.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L,||Denton of Wakefield, B.|
|Arlington, B.||Derwent, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Dixon-Smith, L.|
|Astor, V.||Donegall, M.|
|Astor of Hever, L.||Downshire, M.|
|Attlee, E.||Dundee, E.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Dunleath, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Eccles, V.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Eccles of Moulton, B.|
|Bathurst, E.||Eden of Winton, L.|
|Beaverbrook, L.||Effingham, E.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Elibank, L.|
|Bell, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Elles, B.|
|Berners, B.||Elliott of Morpeth, L.|
|Biddulph, L.||Elton, L.|
|Biffen, L.||Erne, E.|
|Birdwood, L.||Erroll, E.|
|Blaker, L.||Exmouth, V.|
|Blatch, B.||Feldman, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Ferrers, E.|
|Boardman, L.||Fisher, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Flarher, B.|
|Brentford, V.||Fookes, B.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Forbes, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Fraser of Carmyllie, L.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||Freeman, L.|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||Gage, V.|
|Burnham, L.||Gainford, L.|
|Burton, L.||Gainsborough, E.|
|Buscombe, B.||Gardner of Parkes, B.|
|Butterworth, L.||Geddes, L.|
|Byford, B.||Gibson, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Glentoran, L.|
|Caldecote, V.||Gormanston, V.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Goschen, V.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Gray, L.|
|Carew, L.||Gray of Contin, L.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Halsbury, E.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Carnock, L.||Hankey, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Harding of Petherton, L.|
|Cavendish of Furness, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L,|
|Chadlington, L.||Harmsworth, L.|
|Chalfont, L.||Harrowby, E.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Hastings, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Chilver, L.||Henley, L [Teller.]|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Hesketh, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Higgins, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Hogg, B.|
|Clinton, L.||Holderness, L.|
|Cobbold, L.||HolmPatrick, L.|
|Coleridge, L.||Home, E.|
|Colwyn, L.||Hood, V.|
|Cope of Berkeley, L.||Hooper, B.|
|Courtown, E.||Hothfield, L.|
|Cowdrey of Tonbridge, L.||Howe, E.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Howe of Aberavon, L.|
|Howell of Guildford, L.||Northbrook, L.|
|Hunt of Wirral, L.||Norton of Louth, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Ironside, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Iveagh, E.||Oppenheim-Barnes, B.|
|Jellicoe, E.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Jenkin of Roding, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Johnston of Rockport, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Jopling, L.||Patten, L.|
|Kelvedon, L.||Pender, L.|
|Kenyon, L.||Perry of Southwark, B.|
|Killearn, L.||Perth, E.|
|Kimball, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Pilkington of Oxenford, L.|
|Kingsdown, L.||Piatt of Writtle, B.|
|Kingsland, L.||Plumb, L.|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Pym, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Radnor, E.|
|Knight of Collingtree, B||Rathcavan, L.|
|Knollys, V.||Rawlings, B.|
|Knutsford, V.||Reay, L.|
|Lane of Horsell, L.||Rees, L.|
|Lang of Monkton, L.||Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Renton, L.|
|Layton, L.||Renton of Mount Harry, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Roberts of Conwy, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.||Roxburghe, D.|
|Long, V.||Ryder of Wensum, L.|
|Lucas, L||St Davids, V.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||St. John of Fawsley, L.|
|Luke, L.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|McColl of Dulwich, L.||Sanderson of Bowden, L.|
|MacFarlane of Bearsden, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Mackay of Clashfern, L.||Sharples, B.|
|Mackay of Drumadoon, L.||Shaw of Northstead, L.|
|MacLaurin of Knebworth L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Mancroft, L. [Teller.]||Slim, V.|
|Marlesford, L.||Somerset, D.|
|May, L.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Merrivale, L.||Stockton, E.|
|Mersey, V.||Strange, B.|
|Middleton, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Miller of Hendon, B.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Molyneaux of Killead, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Swinfen, L.|
|Monk Breton, L.||Taylor of Warwick, L.|
|Monro of Langholm, L.||Tebbit, L.|
|Monson, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Thatcher, B.|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Moran, L.||Torrington, V.|
|Morris of Kenwood, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Mountevans, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Mountgarret, V.||Tryon, L.|
|Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Moyne, L.||Waddington, L.|
|Moynihan, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Waverley, V.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Naseby, L.||Wilcox, B.|
|Nelson, E.||Wise, L.|
|Newall, L.||Wolfson, L.|
|Noel-Buxton, L.||Woolton, E.|
|Norrie, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Northbourne, L.||Young, B.|
|Acton, L.||Alli, L.|
|Addington, L.||Amos, B.|
|Ahmed, L.||Annan, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Archer of Sandwell, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Islwyn, L.|
|Bach, L.||Jacobs, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Janner of Braunstone, L.|
|Bassam of Brighton, L.||Jay of Paddington, B [Lord Privy Seal.]|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||Jeger, B.|
|Blease, L.||Jenkins of Hillhead, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Borrie, L.||Judd, L.|
|Bridges, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Brookman, L.||Kirkwood, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Lester of Herne Hill, L.|
|Burlison, L.||Linklater of Butterstone, B.|
|Carlisle, E.||Lockwood, B.|
|Carter, L. [Teller.]||Lofthouse of Pontefract L.|
|Carver, L.||Longford, E.|
|Castle of Blackburn, B.||Ludford, B.|
|Chorley, L.||McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]|
|Clarke of Hampstead, L.||Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||McNally, L.|
|Clement-Jones, L.||Maddock, B.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Mar and Kellie, E|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Marsh, L.|
|Crawley, B.||Mason of Barnsley, L.|
|Currie of Marylebone, L.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|David, B.||Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.|
|Davies of Oldham, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Dholakia, L.||Mishcon, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Dixon, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Morris of Manchester, L.|
|Dubs, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.|
|Evans of Parkside, L.||Nicol, B.|
|Ezra, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Falconer of Thoroton, L.||Orme, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Paul, L.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Perry of Walton, L.|
|Geraint, L.||Peston, L.|
|Gilbert, L||Phillips of Sudbury, L.|
|Gladwyn, L.||Pitkeathley, B.|
|Glasgow, E.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Glenamara, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Goodhart, L.||Porter of Luddenham, L.|
|Gordon of Strathblane, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Goudie, B.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Randall of St. Budeaux, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Razzall, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Rendell of Babergh, B.|
|Grey, E.||Renwick of Clifton, L.|
|Hacking, L.||Richard, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Hamwee, B.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Rogers of Riverside, L.|
|Hardy of Wath, L.||Roll of Ipsden, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Russell, E.|
|Harris of Haringey, L.||Sainsbury of Turville, L.|
|Haskel, L.||Sandberg, L.|
|Hayman, B.||Serota, B.|
|Hayter, L.||Sharp of Guildford, B.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Shepherd, L.|
|Hooson, L.||Sheppard of Liverpool, L.|
|Howie of Troon, L.||Shore of Stepney, L.|
|Hoyle, L||Simon, V.|
|Hughes, L.||Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Hughes of Woodside, L.||Simon of Highbury, L.|
|Hunt of Kings Heath, L.||Stallard, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]||Strafford, E|
|Symons of Vernham Dean, B|
|Tenby, V.||Varley, L.|
|Thomas of Walliswood, B.||Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Thomson of Monifieth, L.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Thornton, B.||Warner, L.|
|Thurlow, L.||Whitty, L.|
|Tomlinson, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Tope, L.||Wilberforce, L.|
|Tordoff, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Turner of Camden, B.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Uddin, B.||Winston, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 47:
§ After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ DISQUALIFICATION OF MEMBERS OF SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY
§ (" .—(1) A member of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or Northern Ireland Assembly is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords.
§ (2) Where an individual is disqualified under this section, the disqualification ceases on the day he ceases to be a member of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or Northern Ireland Assembly.
§ (3) No writ of summons shall be issued to a person who is for the time being disqualified under this section.").
The noble Earl said: My Lords, perhaps we may turn our minds to a more limited subject. Amendment No. 47 proposes that:
A member of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or Northern Ireland Assembly is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords".
In setting up a Scottish Parliament, the relationship between Scottish Members of Parliament and Members of the Scottish Parliament has always caused a problem. Why should Scottish Members of Parliament discuss issues of health, transport, education and so forth as they relate to both Scotland and England, while English Members of Parliament cannot discuss those issues as they relate to Scotland? As your Lordships know only too well, that has become known as the "West Lothian question". As there was no answer to that question, the previous Scottish devolution Bill in 1978 collapsed.
The trouble is that the Government have gone ahead and set up the Scottish Parliament, but have completely ignored that question. It is interesting to note that on the first page of the document Modernising Parliament: Reforming the House of Lords, it is stated that:
Parliament is the central element of Britain's democracy. Britain needs a two-chamber legislature".
The Government promptly set up legislatures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which are one-Chamber. Therefore, only the Members of those Parliaments can pass Acts which do not go through the House of Lords, but which refer to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That does not happen in England.
§ Despite the fact that with great virtue the document claims that we need a two-Chamber legislature, the Government promptly set up single-Chamber legislatures for those three parts of the United Kingdom. As your Lordships know only too well, the problems 310 have just started and we shall wait to see what happens. However, Members of, your Lordships' House can stand for the Scottish Parliament—and in my argument I include the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies—can take part in Scottish affairs, can decide all the matters relating to Scotland and can then come to this House to discuss all the matters relating to England. English Peers have no such say on Scottish matters. In schoolboy language, "That's not fair".
§ If noble Lords decide to stand for the Scottish Parliament, in which the English House of Lords has no participation, in order to run its affairs as they wish, in my view it is not right that they should also come down here and participate in the rough and tumble of English party politics. That is the reason why I have tabled Amendment No. 47. I believe that it is a jolly good amendment.
Amendment No. 47 is even more important because it proposes that:
A person who is the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly or the presiding officer of the National Assembly for Wales is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords".
§ Your Lordships may wonder why the presiding officer of the National Assembly for Wales is written with a lower case "p". That is because the Bill refers to the "Presiding Officer" for the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly with an upper case "P", but to the "presiding officer" of the Welsh Assembly with only a lower case "p". I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who has a vigorous respect for all such things, will have discovered that Wales is not worth, as it were, "capitalising on"! He may decide to table an amendment at Third Reading to adjust that.
§ A person can stand for the Scottish Parliament and be elected; then with all impartiality can act as Presiding Officer (a Speaker); and can then come to your Lordships' House and take part in the rough and tumble of party politics relating to English matters. Perhaps I may give the example of the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. He is not in the Chamber, but I warned him that I might refer to him. He began life as David Steel. He then became a knight, Sir David Steel, which was very good. He was then elevated to become a Peer, Lord Steel of Aikwood. He then decided to stand for the Scottish Parliament as Sir David Steel. I do not know why he did not stand as "Lord Steel"; perhaps he was ashamed of having the title. He was then elected as Presiding Officer when he will have all the impartiality which goes with being Speaker. He can then come down here and take part in deliberations on English matters such as education, roads, transport, health—matters about which we have no say as they relate to Scotland. And that is when he is an impartial person!
§ It is unbelievable to imagine that a Member of the other place can be a political animal, be dragged to become Speaker and then become impartial. I cannot imagine the Speaker of the House of Commons going to the Scottish Parliament and setting about it in a party political manner. Yet that is what can happen with the presiding officers of the three Assemblies.311
§ I do not believe that that is right. I have nothing against the noble Lord, Lord Steel—or Sir David Steel, whichever he prefers—but I wonder whether when he is here he will sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches or whether he will be impartial and sit on the Cross Benches. If he is impartial, why does he want to come down here and participate in English matters? This is an important point. I beg to move.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Ellenborough
My Lords, I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Ferrers. I do so with some temerity because today it was revealed in The Times that he is one of the most popular and best speakers in your Lordships' House.
§ Lord Ellenborough
My Lords, there are many excellent and distinguished Members of your Lordships' House who are Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish, but it goes without saying that they are not Members of the devolved Parliament or Assemblies. It must be wrong for those who have chosen to devote their time and energy to that role to remain or become Members of your Lordships' House. What on earth will they do? No Scottish legislation will come to this House and it would be intolerable for them to intrude, take part in debates and vote on English legislation. After all, there are sufficient Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Members of this House who can adequately discuss the reserved powers, even after most hereditary Peers eventually go.
The amendment highlights the fact that the Government have not thought through the consequences of devolution or addressed what has become known as the "English question". Already, Scottish MPs are grossly over represented in another place and unbelievably this will continue to be so probably until 2006 or 2007. That is simply because the Government skulk behind the Boundary Commission, which could easily have put forward recommendations to alter some 70 constituency boundaries in time for the next general election. That is hardly a gargantuan task.
The White Paper on reforming the House of Lords hints that some Members of the devolved institutions should be sent here. I noted a speech of the right honourable Member for Hartlepool, Mr Peter Mandelson, who approved of that. In a pretty cynical speech on 2nd February (col. 766 of Hansard), he said that the "fissiparous effects" of devolution—his words not mine—required some much needed glue. At least he did not call for a sticking plaster, only much needed glue, to keep the UK together.
By failing to weigh the implications of devolution, and ignoring the English question, the Government have done their best to crack, if not smash, the foundations of the Union. I find it pretty ironic that the likes of Peter Mandelson are now worrying about the need for glue to stick it together. The Government need to be fair to all parts of the Union, not just Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They need also to be fair to England. That is why I strongly support my noble friend's amendment. I could not agree more with what he 312 proposes in his further amendment disqualifying the presiding officers of the Scottish Parliament and the national assemblies from membership of this House.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, these are interesting amendments. They have opened up slightly wider issues, as regards some of which I do not want to follow my noble friend.
My noble friend Lord Ferrers mentioned the White Paper. I do not believe that in any future changes to the composition of this House, people should be sent by the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament or, indeed, by the European Parliament, to this House to somehow represent any of those bodies. That is not a sensible way to proceed. It is not clear, constitutional thinking. My noble friend and I are certainly in agreement on that score.
However, I do not believe that anybody should be prevented from standing and being elected, if that is the wish of the electorate, for more than one tier of government. I have no problem with somebody standing and being elected to the European Parliament and the House of Commons; to the European Parliament and the Scottish Parliament; to the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster Parliament. I have some questions about whether they would be able to do the two jobs properly, but that is not for me to judge, unless the person was standing in a constituency in which I had a vote. If the electorate wants to vote for somebody and does so knowing that that person is already a member of another parliament, that is entirely for the electorate to judge. I am clear about that.
Indeed, some of our noble friends are Members of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. My noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas was successful in being elected to the Scottish Parliament. On the Government Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie was successful. On the Liberal Democrat Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood—I shall call him that despite the suggestion by my noble friend—was also successful. I shall return to him in more detail when I consider the second amendment. To show a balance around the House, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, has been elected to the Welsh Assembly. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, has been elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly. That is perfectly fair. I would not debar them from coming here at all. It is perfectly reasonable that they should stand. The electorate obviously knew that they were Members of this House and elected them.
Equally, a number of Members of Parliament of the other place—all the Scottish National Party Members, two Liberal Democrat Members and six or seven Labour Members—stood successfully for the Scottish Parliament. Two or three stood, one rather controversially, for election to the Welsh Assembly. I have no problem about that. They should be allowed to sit in both Chambers if that is their desire and if they have made that clear to the electorate. I believe that five of our number have been elected to the European Parliament. It is perfectly reasonable that they should sit here and in the European Parliament.
313 Therefore, as far as concerns Amendment No. 47, I cannot agree with my noble friend, except in the very limited part of his speech, but not his amendment, that these bodies should not be allowed to nominate representatives to sit in the interim House or the future House.
Amendment No. 48 deals with the position of the presiding officers of the three devolved bodies. Here, I believe my noble friend certainly has half a point. I want to underline my agreement with that half. Interestingly enough—perhaps this is a positive reflection on your Lordships' House—two out of the three presiding officers are Members of your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, is the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood is the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I apologise; it is three out of three. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas is the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly. It is a huge reflection and credit to your Lordships that we have produced these men. I suppose that in two cases out of the three it actually gives the Liberal Democrats some responsibility. I have to say that in Scotland, judging by the fuss over the invitation list for tomorrow, they are not doing it very well. However, I cannot complain too much because I received an invitation. My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and I shall attend tomorrow to watch the opening of the Parliament.
I have no problem with those noble Lords being here as Members of this House. I do not suppose they will attend very much. However, it is right if they do attend, and wish to speak, that they may do so obviously on their own behalf or even if they wish to make a point relevant to the Parliament or Assembly they preside over. That is perfectly fair. It is a channel of communication between this United Kingdom Parliament and the devolved parliaments.
§ Lord Roberts of Conwy
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for giving way. Perhaps he would allow me to refer to the fact that some of those Members who are presiding officers may well have difficulties in attending both institutions. I have here a copy of the record of the Welsh Assembly from a debate on 22nd June. Having given up the chair to his deputy, the Presiding Officer participated in the debate. At page 36 he stated:It is impossible for any Member to be a full Assembly Member and to be a Member of the second House in Westminster. It is important that we say that unanimously to the Commission".I wonder whether my noble friend would take that on board?
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I am very interested in that remark from one of the presiding officers. I presume that that means we shall not be seeing him in this Chamber again which, if I guess 314 correctly who it is, is rather a pity. However, that is something with which the presiding officers will have to deal. It is interesting that, according to the press, the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, has decided that he wants to be called "The President of Scotland" and not "The Presiding Officer". I think that is a little pretentious. I have no problem with him being called "The Speaker". Indeed, I tabled an amendment proposing that. However, I believe that "The President" is a step too far.
My noble friend Lord Ferrers has a valid point. He says that when these three gentlemen come here, they should do what they do in their own parliaments and assemblies; that is, to stand clear of party politics and sit, like the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, on the Cross Benches. Perhaps it is slightly out of date, but Dod's tells me that the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, is the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in your Lordships' House. I believe that has now changed and he has resigned from that position—
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. That position has now changed. My noble friend Lady Williams was elected some little time ago. The noble Lord must catch up with developments.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I do not wake up every morning wondering what has happened inside the Liberal Democrat Party. That would, perhaps, keep me awake all night. However, I am glad to hear the noble Lord's comments. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, is absolutely right. However, he should consider the next step, as should his noble friend, Lord Alderdice; that is, that when they come to this House they should sit on the Cross Benches. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, has made it quite clear that he is no longer actively part of the Liberal Democrat Party in Scotland. Clearly, he has slightly moved aside in your Lordships' House. I think that they should both go to the Cross Benches.
That said, that is as far as I can go with my noble friend Lord Ferrers. The matters of who should be elected to parliaments ought to be left to the good sense—perhaps in the case of one where they elect persons to different parliaments, the not so good sense—of the electorate.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, it may be helpful to your Lordships if I indicate the attitude that my noble friend the Leader of the House and my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton and I wish to adopt; that is, having looked carefully at the Companion, we intend to take its guidance thatArguments fully deployed in Committee of the Whole House should not be repeated at length on Report".It is perhaps as well for me to indicate that intention because we have a good deal of business to get through today.
As I said in Committee, we specifically considered the questions of dual mandates in our debates on the Scotland Bill, the Government of Wales Bill and the 315 Northern Ireland Bill. Those Acts, as they now are, make express provision that Members of your Lordships' House are eligible to be Members of the respective devolved bodies. It is only a short time since we decided that and put specific provision in the relevant Acts.
It is true that the noble Lords, Lord Alderdice, Lord Elis-Thomas and Lord Steel, are a credit to the life Peers in this House, since all of them were elected for their presiding positions. It was a lower case "p" and a lower case "o" in the case of the National Assembly for Wales because we are notorious for being a good deal more modest and shy than Members of the Parliament and the Assembly in the other two jurisdictions.
When we passed the Bills into law, we did not say that a person should be able to stand only as an independent; we did not say that if the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, were elected in Cardiff he would be ineligible to hold certain offices. As to the question of where such Members should sit and how they should conduct themselves in this House, that is entirely a matter for their individual decision with regard to what is proper behaviour in this House.
I cannot accept these amendments. By and large, I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.
My Lords, it does not surprise me that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, cannot accept these amendments because he has not accepted any so far, so that is par for the course.
I understand the noble Lord's arguments in relation to Amendment No. 47. I can see that it may be thought right that people should be able to leave your Lordships' House. go to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly and then come back here. But his answer in relation to the lower case "p" was, if I might say so, lower case "pathetic". He obviously had not realised that there was a distinction between Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the Government's Bill. It is obviously a "cracking" and insulting mistake. I have no doubt that the noble Lord will see that it is corrected at the next stage.
When we come to the business of the Speakers of those Assemblies, we come into a different game. Those people are there as impartial people. Why should a Speaker come to your Lordships' House and participate in all the matters relating to England which their Parliaments have not discussed when they were Speakers of those Parliaments? It is neither right nor fair that they should participate in this House from their party Benches.
It is true that the noble Lord. Lord Elis-Thomas, is a Cross-Bencher, but he was a Cross-Bencher to start with. It may be that the other two noble Lords will want to sit on the Cross Benches, but there is nothing to insist that they should do S.D. They may well sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches.
I "Question" with a big "Q" whether it is right for an impartial Speaker to participate in your Lordships' affairs. I draw the analogy with the Speaker of the 316 House of Commons. Can one imagine the Speaker of the House of Commons standing for the Scottish Parliament and participating in the rough and tumble of politics in Scotland and then coming down and being impartial in another place'? That is fundamentally wrong.
From that point of view, I should like to test the opinion of the House, but not in relation to Amendment No. 47. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 48:
§ After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ DISQUALIFICATION OF PRESIDING OFFICERS OF SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT AND NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY AND PRESIDING OFFICER OF NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WALES
§ (" .—(1) A person who is the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly or the presiding officer of the National Assembly for Wales is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords.
§ (2)Where an individual is disqualified under this section, the disqualification ceases on the day he ceases to be the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly or the presiding officer of the National Assembly for Wales.
§ (3) No writ of summons shall be issued to a person who is for the time being disqualified under this section.").
§ The noble Earl said: I beg to move.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 48) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 125; Not-Contents, 165.318
|Division No. 2|
|Abercorn, D.||Clark of Kempston, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Coleridge, L.|
|Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L.||Crickhowell, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Cross, V.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Cumberlege, B.|
|Bathurst, E.||Dacre of Glanton, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Davidson, V.|
|Belstead, L.||Deedes, L.|
|Biddulph, L.||Denman, L.|
|Biffen, L.||Donegall, M.|
|Blyth, L.||Dudley, E.|
|Boardman, L.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Erne, E.|
|Bruntisfield, L.||Exmouth, V.|
|Burton, L.||Ferrers, E. [Teller.]|
|Buscombe, B.||Fisher, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Fookes, B.|
|Caithness, E.||Gainsborough, E|
|Caldecote, V.||Gardner of Parkes, B.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Geddes, L.|
|Carrick, E.||Gisborough, L.|
|Cavendish of Furness, L.||Gray, L.|
|Chalfont, L.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Chalker of Wallasey, B.||Hankey, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Hayhoe, L.|
|Hesketh, L.||Newall, L.|
|Holmpatrick, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Iddesleigh, E||Oppenheim-Barnes, B.|
|Inchcape, E.||Oxfuird, V.|
|Jopling, L.||Park of Monmouth, B,|
|Kenyon, L.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Kimball, L.||Pender, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Pilkington of Oxenford, L.|
|Kingsdown, L.||Plumb, L|
|Kinloss, Ly.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Rees, L.|
|Kintore, E.||Roberts of Conwy, L.|
|Kitchener, E.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Knight of Collingtree, B.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Knutsford, V.||Sharples, B.|
|Lang of Monkton, L.||Somerset, D.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Long, V.||Sudeley, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Swinfen, L.|
|Mancroft, L.||Taylor of Warwick, L.|
|Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Tebbit, L.|
|Monk Bretton, L.||Torrington, V.|
|Monro of Langholm, L.||Trefgarne, L. [Teller.]|
|Montgomery of Alamein, V.||Trumpington, B.|
|Morris of Kenwood, L.||Tryon, L.|
|Mountevans, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Mountgarret, V.||Waddington, L.|
|Moyne, L.||Wade of Chorlton, L.|
|Murton of Lindisfarne, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Napier and Ettrick, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Young, B.|
|Acton, L.||Donoughue, L.|
|Addington, L.||Dormand of Easington, L.|
|Alli, L.||Dubs, L.|
|Amos, B.||Dunleath, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Eatwell, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Effingham, E.|
|Bach, L.||Evans of Parkside, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Falconer of Thoroton, L.|
|Bassam of Brighton, L.||Falkland, V.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Farrington of Ribbleton, B.|
|Blackstone, B.||Geraint, L.|
|Blease, L.||Gilbert, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Gladwyn, L.|
|Borrie, L.||Glasgow, E.|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.||Glenamara, L.|
|Brookman, L.||Goodhart, L.|
|Burlison, L.||Gordon of Strathblane, L.|
|Burns, L.||Goudie, B.|
|Carlisle, E.||Gould of Potternewton, B.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Graham of Edmonton, L.|
|Carnegy of Lour, B.||Grantchester, L.|
|Carter, L. [Teller.]||Grenfell, L.|
|Charteris of Amisfield, L.||Hacking, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Christopher, L.||Hamwee, B.|
|Clarke of Hampstead, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Hardy of Wath, L.|
|Clement-Jones, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Harris of Haringey, L.|
|Cobbold, L.||Haskel, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||Hayman, B.|
|Crawley, B.||Hilton of Eggardon, B.|
|Currie of Marylebone, L.||Hollis of Heigham, B.|
|David, B.||Howie of Troon, L.|
|Davies of Coity, L.||Hoyle, L.|
|Davies of Oldham, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Hughes of Woodside, L.|
|Dixon, L.||Hunt of Kings Heath, L.|
|Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]||Pitkeathley, B.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Islwyn, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Puttnam, L.|
|Jacobs, L.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Janner of Braunstone, L.||Randall of St. Budeaux, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]||Redesdale, L.|
|Rendell of Babergh, B.|
|Jeger, B.||Renwick of Clifton, L.|
|Jenkins of Hillhead, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Jenkins of Putney, L,||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Judd, L.||Rogers of Riverside, L.|
|Kennet, L.||Russell, E.|
|Kirkhill, L.||St Davids, V.|
|Lester of Herne Hill, L.||Sawyer, L.|
|Linklater of Butterstone, B.||Serota, B.|
|Lockwood, B.||Sharp of Guildford, B.|
|Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.||Shaughnessy, L.|
|Longford, E.||Shepherd, L.|
|Ludford, B.||Sheppard of Liverpool, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]||Simon, V.|
|Simon of Glaisdale, L.|
|Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.||Simon of Highbury, L.|
|McNally, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Maddock, B.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Strafford, E.|
|Marsh, L.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B.|
|Mason of Barnsley, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Merlyn-Rees, L.||Thomas of Walliswood, B.|
|Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Milner of Leeds, L.||Thornton, B.|
|Mishcon, L.||Tomlinson, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Tope, L.|
|Monkswell, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Morris of Castle Morris, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Morris of Manchester, L.||Uddin, B.|
|Murray of Epping Forest, L.||Varley, L.|
|Newby, L.||Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Nicol, B.||Warnock, B.|
|Ogmore, L.||Weatherill, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Whirry, L.|
|Orme, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Paul, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Peston, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Phillips of Sudbury, L.||Winston, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 49:
§ After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ RETENTION OF ANCILLARY RIGHTS
§ (" . Any person who is the holder of an hereditary peerage and who would but for this Act be entitled to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House shall be entitled to continue to exercise the same rights of access to, and use of, the House of Lords and any premises occupied by that House to which he would have been entitled but for the passing of this Act.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, we referred to this amendment the other day. It is an amendment which would allow hereditary Peers to continue to come here and use the facilities of the House once this Bill has been passed. I believe it is fair to say that not many will do so. I also believe that if there is to be a reform of this nature, it would be a pity if it were done without decorum. I believe that it is an indecorous way of going 319 about things to say to people who have been in this House for many years that they are to go and may never enter the place again.
§ It also raises other problems. As was mentioned previously, if you happen to be a successful Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons, you come up to the House of Lords. If, like my noble friend Lord Carrington, you have been a successful foreign secretary in the House of Lords, you will no longer be allowed to come into the House, not even to have a cup of tea. I believe that that is disgraceful, and I do not believe that your Lordships individually would ever wish that to happen.
§ It also raises a problem of what would happen in the case of Privy Counsellors. If you are a Lord Justice of Appeal, you are a Privy Counsellor; you are allowed to come here and sit on the steps of the Throne. If you are a hereditary Peer and a Privy Counsellor—and I should declare an interest in so far as I am one, but that is not the point—once this Bill is passed, you would not be allowed inside the Chamber again. Does that mean that you cannot sit on the steps of the Throne, which is one of the rights of a Privy Counsellor? If being a Privy Counsellor means that you can enter the building and sit on the steps of the Throne, does it mean that as soon as you move off the steps of the Throne you may not go to wash your hands or have a cup of tea, but that you have to find your way out of the front door as quickly as possible? If that is so, that is also pretty indecorous.
§ In that context, what happens with elder sons? They are allowed to sit on the steps of the Throne. Does it mean that elder sons will not be allowed to sit on the steps of the Throne? At the moment, as your Lordships know, Bishops and such people are allowed to come back and use the facilities of the House. It seems to me quite extraordinary that your Lordships' hereditary Peers should not be able to do so. I believe that that is wrong.
§ I know that there are some people who say that this is a matter for the House to consider and that it ought to be considered by the Privileges Committee or the Procedure Committee. I do not take that view. I feel that if an Act of Parliament says that people should be removed, that Act of Parliament should also say "but they can use the facilities of the House". However, I see that there is an argument for saying, as some people do, that it should be a matter for the Procedure Committee.
§ I wrote to the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees and told him that I hoped he would propel this idea through the appropriate committee so that it could consider what should be done. I was surprised to have an answer today in which he said that he had no plans to put this to a. committee and that it ought to be left to another Parliament at a later date. I do not believe that that is good enough. There is a problem. I understand that the Government want to get rid of hereditary Peers, to use the charming expression used by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer.
§ However, there is a problem. Are people never to be allowed to come back here, whatever the circumstances—Privy Counsellors or not—and however good a service they have given? If that is a problem, 320 someone has to resolve it one way or another. Either it ought to be resolved by an amendment or it ought to be resolved by one of the committees of the House. I do not say that I would be more than happy, but I would be happy, if whoever is to respond to the amendment could confirm that. I expect that it will be the noble Lord, Lord Williams, although I see that perhaps it may be the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. In that case, I may well get a different answer. I would be satisfied if he would agree that there is a problem here and that it ought to be resolved by one of the committees of the House. If he says no, and that there is no problem at all, I might take a different view. I beg to move.
My Lords, I very much hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, who I understand will reply, will seriously consider the suggestion that my noble friend made in his closing remarks. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, will know, I have raised this matter with her privately. I have also written to the noble Lord, Lord Boston, about the matter. The Minister is looking as if I have said something that is quite wrong, but I make these points because I regard this as a very serious issue.
I do think—I speak as a life Peer—that this is very difficult for hereditary Peers, many of whom have been Members of your Lordships' House for many years and whose families have certainly been here for possibly hundreds of years. Ninety per cent of them have been told that they are going; just like that. Some have said this afternoon that they find it rather painful. I believe I should find it very painful if someone just addressed me in those terms. But I am not a hereditary Peer, so it does not apply.
However, I take my noble friend's point about what is becoming to the House of Lords. Indeed, the practice of this Chamber and its civilised behaviour have distinguished it from other Chambers. Even though this particular amendment may not be quite right, I really believe that one of the committees of the House should consider the matter to see whether what I have suggested could be allowed; namely, something like dining rights or the opportunity to come in on a given number of occasions during the year for a meal, or indeed the right to use the Chapel and the Crypt, although that is a somewhat different issue. Nevertheless, it is something to which people attach importance. I think that these issues deserve to be looked at with care and consideration.
As my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, it may well be the case that no hereditary Peer ever wants to set foot in the House again, but that would be their choice. However, to say that none of them can do so under any circumstances seems to me to be something which is not really worthy of the House of Lords and, if I may say so, not really worthy of the Ministers. They should seriously consider this matter. I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, will tell us that it is the Government's intention that this will be considered by one of the committees of the House.
§ Lord Davies of Coity
My Lords, we appear to be going round and round the mulberry bush on this 321 question of "club rights". Quite frankly, that is what it is all about. That is not to say that I am unsympathetic to hereditary Peers in this matter, but I am totally opposed to this provision being put on the face of the Bill. It seems to me that the pleadings are now becoming completely undignified. There are channels involved, but I do not think that they can be exercised until after the Bill becomes law.
We must recognise in this House that the Labour Government, despite some people's interpretation of the manifesto, have extended a great deal of sympathy by accepting the Weatherill amendment. They thought that that would get the Bill through in a dignified way. However, we are now finding that noble Lords are totally betraying that Weatherill amendment and raising the same issues time and time again.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I am very strongly in favour of the hereditary Peers who are not members of the 95 continuing to enjoy what are called the "ancillary benefits" of being a Member of your Lordships' House, for the reasons given by the noble Earl, and, if I may say so, very movingly by the noble Baroness, who is a life Peeress and former Leader of the House. But, having said that, and despite feeling very strongly that that should be so, I presume to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, that this is really not a matter for legislation, particularly if it can be dealt with in some other way.
As the noble Earl said, the retired Bishops continue to enjoy the "ancillary benefits" of your Lordships' House. As far as I know, there is nothing in any Act of Parliament which says that they may do so. The noble Earl mentioned the Procedure Committee, but I rather think that it would be a matter for the Offices Committee. In my respectful submission, it would be far better dealt with by a favourable answer from the Offices Committee. I very much hope that it might consider the matter and consider it favourably before Third Reading. If that can be done, I presume to think that it would be better if this amendment were not pressed to a Division.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, before today—indeed, before a moment ago—I did not know that my noble friends Lord Ferrers and Lady Young had written to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham. I, too, have written to him and, like my noble friends, I have had what I regard as a wholly unsatisfactory reply. I think it is a matter of great regret that the noble Lord, Lord Boston, who has been replying in such an unsatisfactory fashion to so many noble Lords, including a number of Privy Counsellors, has not bothered to be here to listen to the debate. That is a matter of very considerable regret.
However, I also think that there is a respectable case for saying that the matter ought to be considered by one or other of our committees, rather than writing such a provision on the face of the Bill. But the noble Lord, 322 Lord Boston of Faversham, has turned his face against that and he is the Chairman of Committees in your Lordships' House—
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord or indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Young, actually mentioned to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, that they intended to name him and to criticise him in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has just done. I am sure that he would have been present had he been given notice that these personal remarks were going to be made.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, if I have said anything offensive, naturally I withdraw it at once. However, I did not receive the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, until an hour or so ago. Therefore, I have not had an opportunity to tell him that I was going to mention his name. In any event, the noble Lord, Lord Boston, is an Officer of the House and he must have been aware that this matter would be raised; indeed, the amendment has been tabled for some while. However, be that as it may; if I offended the noble Lord, or indeed transgressed the rules, I apologise and withdraw whatever I said which may have been offensive.
I believe that it is right for the relevant committee of this House to consider the matter urgently—it is to be hoped before the Summer Recess and certainly long before the Bill, if it is to become law, passes on to the statute book. It is a matter of wide concern to a number of Members of your Lordships' House and it is a matter of regret that it has not yet been found possible for the relevant committee to convene and consider the issue.
I believe that it would be right for the Offices Committee—if that is the right committee, which I fancy it is—to consider the matter urgently. If the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is able to give an assurance that that will happen, I shall of course take a different view. I am not certain whether it is the Government's view that the committee should consider the matter now or after the Bill becomes law, but the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, has clearly expressed his view on this matter. I regret that very much.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I think that we should pause to consider in a more general and wider sense what we have been doing over the past several weeks, and what we shall be doing possibly over the next several weeks for all I know. We are expelling from this House a considerable body of people, many of whom have been here for many years and many of whom have given substantial and considerable service to this House and to Parliament as a whole. I support the Government in doing this. I have been described as being agnostic with regard to expelling the hereditary Peers. That is true, but I know that the arithmetic is wrong and it has to be put right. This is one way of doing it. However, as we are doing something which clearly must be extremely painful to a substantial number of our colleagues we should pause and think 323 perhaps of being merciful. It is not too difficult to be merciful to one's opponents when they are defeated; or it ought not to be. A small thing is being asked for here. It is requested that hereditary Peers should be allowed to utilise some of the facilities of this House after they have ceased to be full Members of it. I do not think that is a terribly awful thing to ask.
I recall that when I ceased to be a Member of another place—by popular demand—I was still allowed to use certain, admittedly limited, facilities in that other place. I did not use them because I felt that if I turned up there I would feel rather like Banquo's ghost and not wholly welcome there. As we are taking away from people something which they value, we should not take away everything. We should give them something to soften the blow. Like my noble friend who has spoken, I am not sure whether that measure should be put on the face of the Bill. Perhaps this matter should be decided by a committee or by my noble friend Lord Boston. I do not know about these things. However, it should be done somehow. What I really seek from my Front Bench is a demonstration of mercy and a hand offered to our colleagues which they might grasp. That would alleviate the passage of the rest of this Bill. I hope that my noble and learned friend will take note of that—although I do not know that he will.
§ Lord Waddington
My Lords, I rise to seek guidance from the Government Front Bench because I can see a real problem here. Am I not correct in thinking that the eldest sons of Peers have the right to attend the State Opening of Parliament? Am I not right in thinking that the eldest sons of Peers have the right to sit on the steps of the Throne? Am I not also correct in thinking that they are able to do so not because of any resolution of this House but because of custom? If that is the position, they cannot be deprived of what they have now as the result of a meeting within the House of some committee and a determination by that committee. It seems to me that unless this matter is addressed we shall be faced with a confusing situation—it is for others to judge whether it is just or unjust—where the sons of Peers can sit on the steps of the Throne, but Peers cannot. As I say, there is a problem here which needs to be addressed. I agree with the speech made by my noble friend Lady Young. I really think that we ought to recognise the service given by hereditary Peers over the years. We are not asking for anything very great here.
But quite apart from that, I should like some advice as to where we are going here because I think that we shall end up with some extraordinary situations if we just sit back and say, "We do not have to do anything for the time being".
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, there is an even jollier irony. All those Irish Peers who are no longer representatives can sit on the steps of the Throne and can use the facilities of the House but we old, ex-UK Peers, or GB Peers, or Scottish Peers, or whatever we are, will not be able to do so. However, the Irish Peers from the Republic of Ireland with wonderful names such as Malahide, McGillicuddy of the Reeks, or Clonmel, will be able to clutter up the steps of the Throne.
324 However, sensible people such as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, will be barred from the premises. I must admit that I nearly wept with joy at the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. It was an awfully sweet speech. There is an element of decent behaviour and niceness here, and, for want of a better phrase, good manners. I think that in many ways the Government are keen on good manners. It would be a good mannered gesture to accept the amendment and it would do no one any harm.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, I think that one part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, has been overlooked. Those of us who have sat in the House of Commons have access to the buildings of Parliament as a right. I am perfectly entitled to go into the Members' Lobby and Central Lobby any time I like. Is the House to say that police are to be posted at the point of access from Central Lobby to this House to make sure that no ex-MP who is wandering about can get in here? It would mean posting policemen and all kinds of officials around, with or without guns in their pockets. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, in his initial plea for good manners and mercy missed a technical point. This issue will cause difficulties. If we are to be kept out of here, despite former membership of the House of Commons, which gives us access to the dining rooms downstairs and the Central Lobby and so on, that will be a complicated situation to administer.
§ Lord Haskel
My Lords, the tone of the debate suggests that we are asking the hereditary Peers to leave rather a pleasant club. This is not a club; it is a place of work. Ancillary facilities are provided because we have to attend this place of work at lunch time, in the evening and at times when we should be able to eat on the premises, and so that we have a place to entertain guests. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that we should be a little kind and gentle in this regard but it seems to me that there are other ways of doing that rather than treating the facilities of the House as if they were the facilities of a club.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, much of what I was going to say has already been said much better by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and others. However, I want to make three points. First, I very much welcomed the splendidly civilised speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. I differ from him only in suggesting that the relevant word is not "mercy" but "civilisation". I point out incidentally that the Explanatory Notes to the Bill expressly state thatThe removal of these rights does not prevent the House from deciding to grant some rights to use the facilities of the House to a hereditary peer under the exercise of its own authority".May I suggest to the Government Front Bench that that suggests to me some kind of an indication to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees that he and the committees should be considering this matter, and indeed that the Government expected that to happen? I believe that it would be best for that to happen before Third Reading; otherwise there will be an extraordinarily difficult gap, and that would be wrong.
325 Incidentally, I take the point about refreshments. I have a splendid new suggestion; namely, let us take back the Pugin Room. There is plenty of space that end now. That would ease matters. I believe that were a decision to be taken with regard to dining rights, that would help to ease any pressure. However, I come back to the point that we are not talking about a club; we are talking about a place where people have lived, worked and devoted themselves to service for many years. They are entitled to decent, civilised and honourable treatment by those of us who are staying. It is not a question of mercy; it is not a question of clubs; it is a question of civilisation. I have great faith in this House and I hope that even though this amendment may not be quite right, definite commitments will be given by the Government Front Bench that the matter will be considered by the committees of the House and that some proposals will be made. A clear indication has been given in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill issued by the Government.
Finally, it will be much, much easier for the servants of the House—the Attendants and all the others who have served us and worked for us these many years—if they do not have to say one fine day, "I am sorry, my Lord, you cannot do that". The matter needs to be sorted out. We need some express privileges decided and offered—and we should offer them without any question of mercy but as recognition of a good job well done.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, I understand the very strong feelings of my noble friend and others who have spoken during the course of this short debate. In Committee, I was struck by the strength of feeling on the other side of the argument. It is true that the House is not a club; I deprecate the phrase "club rights". The phrase suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, of "ancillary benefits" is much better.
As my noble friend Lord Lauderdale said, the other place extends privileges to former Members; we, in turn, extend privileges to retired Bishops. The service of some noble Lords to this Parliament is enormous. For example, my noble friend Lord Ferrers is a Privy Counsellor; he was for many years a Minister; he is a former Deputy Leader of this House; he entered this House in 1954. There are others even more senior. I wonder if the Leader of the House will give orders to the Doorkeepers to bar my noble friend from the premises in November. Will he be sent to queue at St. Stephen's entrance? Will he have to wait his turn while the Pass Office conducts security checks? That is an unthinkable scenario. The noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, agrees; he is right so to do. Is it the Government's view that no privileges should be extended to former Members, except retired Bishops?
It is no good the Government saying that this is a matter for the new House. They will be the Government in the new House of Lords and they will have to make their view known in that new House. I will come clean with my view. I believe that certain privileges should be accorded to former Members. Does the Minister agree? Or does he not want to see former Members hanging 326 around? Even if he cannot give the Government's view, perhaps the Minister will share his personal opinion with the House.
This is not a matter to be determined on the face of the Bill; these decisions should not be placed in the hands of another place. However, that the matter should be addressed—and addressed promptly—I have no doubt. I have suggested a way in which this could be done and carried forward. I very much hope that the Government will support that suggestion. As the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, said, this issue is causing unnecessary ill-feeling. The churlishness behind being ready to look at the matter now is demeaning to the House.
We took a decision on the rights of retired Bishops when the right reverend Prelates were present in the House. We should not use the presence of hereditary Peers as a bogus pretext for deferring a view on the oldest element in our House. I very much look forward to a response from the Government.
§ The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)
My Lords, we have had this debate on a large number of occasions during the course of the passage of the Bill through the House. Indeed, we have discussed the matter once already on Report during the debate on an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk. We are now debating it for a second time at Report stage. It would be wrong in those circumstances to go through the details in the debate today. I should say that if those who took such pleasure from the eldest son sitting on the steps of the Throne had been listening the last time we had this debate, when the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, moved his amendment, they would have heard that the only eldest sons, according to custom, who can sit on the steps of the Throne are those eldest sons of Peers who sit in this House. That completely dealt with the conundrum that the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, found so jolly.
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, as the noble Earl may know, that is the resolution of 1806—which he would have heard, had he been listening, when the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, was moved on the last occasion.
As far as concerns the matters to which the amendment refers, I think everyone agrees that they are not matters for legislation but for this House to determine in whichever way it thinks appropriate. It will be for this House to determine; not both Houses to determine.
The amendment proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, would allow not only people who have sat in the House to enjoy certain club rights but their heirs and successors as well. In 1957, the then Marquess of Salisbury said:This House is not a club; it is a place for legislation.That must be the starting point for the resolution of this issue. It is not for the House to resolve it in the course of legislation; it should be resolved at the appropriate 327 time. I think that the appropriate time for the House to resolve it is not now but once the new House is constituted. It is for the new House to decide the appropriate privileges to give.
In those circumstances, we think the amendment is misconceived, is not in the right form and is not a matter to be dealt with on the Floor of the House.
§ Lord Waddington
My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, what is his authority for the proposition that it is only the sons of Peers who sit here who are entitled to sit on the steps of the Throne?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, has a better source than the Companion, no doubt he will tell me.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, could he reply to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Ferrers about Privy Counsellors? Can they sit on the steps of the Throne when they are former hereditary Peers?
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, as far as concerns privileges in the future, those matters should be decided by the House and not in the course of legislation.
My Lords, I am disappointed with the noble and learned Lord's reply—not only with what he said but, if I may say so, with the manner in which he said it. He displayed no sympathy for this very real problem; I am not saying sympathy for hereditary Peers. He said that this is a matter for the new House to consider. I do not think that it is. When the Government are producing a Bill such as it is, with radical effects, it is quite right that the effects should be considered by your Lordships. It is, all very fine for the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity—who has been here for all of two years—to say that it is fairly undignified—
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I think that we are all a little exhausted by the very personal references being made this afternoon. I referred earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. He then explained that he had not had time to acquaint the noble Lord, Lord Boston, with what he was going to say about him personally. Presumably the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, may say the same.
My Lords, the Lord Privy Seal seems also to be fairly touchy. I told the Chairman of Committees that I would refer to this. I see nothing wrong with that. I did refer to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity—as one does refer to speeches of other noble Lords—and he did say that he thought it was fairly undignified and that, as the Government had given 328 the Weatherill amendment a run, we ought therefore—not his words; my interpretation—swallow the rest. I do not think that that is so. I think that what upset the noble Baroness was my reference to him having been here for all of two years. That is not particularly insulting; it is merely a fact.
§ Lord Davies of Coity
My Lords, the noble Earl is absolutely right; I have been here two years. But I am here because I am qualified to come here by what I have done, rather than by who I was born to. As far as concerns good manners and civilised behaviour, it is a two-way Floor; they should come from that side of the House as well.
My Lords, I am bound to say that I am beginning to agree with the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal. This is becoming a little personal on the part of the noble Lord.
There is a problem here. I am disappointed that the Government have not accepted that there is a problem and have just kicked it into the long grass and said that it is for the new House to consider. I do not think it is. When your Lordships are considering a Bill that will have very radical effects, it is right that we should consider what the effects of that Bill are. I do not disagree with the noble and learned Lord if he says that it is not right to put the amendment on the face of the Bill. There are plenty of people who would use that argument. However, it is right that it ought to be considered and it ought to be considered by the appropriate committee.
I wrote to the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees. He said that he was not considering doing so at the moment. I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord did not feel it appropriate to ask the Lord Chairman of Committees to consider the matter earlier. I think that he should. I think that the noble and learned Lord is wrong. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 50:
§ After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ MEMBERS OF THE SECOND CHAMBER
§ (" . From the day on which this Act comes into force the members of the second chamber of Parliament shall be known as "members of the Selected Chamber".").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, perhaps we may be able to lower the temperature a little. Amendment No. 50 is joined with Amendment No. 74. They are coupled together. Amendment No. 74 changes the name from "House of Lords" to "Selected Chamber" and Amendment No. 50 says that people should be known as "members of the Selected Chamber". This will no longer be the House of Lords with its different composition and the different character of people. It will be a selected Chamber. I think it will be right for it to be so called and I think it would be correct that those people who are members of it should be called Members of the Selected Chamber. I beg to move.329
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, Amendment No. 59 has been grouped with Amendment No. 50. I have written to my noble friends on the Front Bench, to the noble and learned Lord the Minister who is to reply and to my noble friend Lord Ferrers to say that we want to decouple it.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, I rise to oppose this amendment for two reasons. The first is a serious historical reason why it should be opposed and the other is a purely aesthetic one. Our constitution has evolved over the years. The Bill as it now stands is completely different from how it was when it first came here. The Government, in spite of slight stroppiness over access rights and one or two other things, have behaved with considerable good sense throughout the proceedings on the Bill. That is my serious reason.
My not quite so serious but in some ways more important reason is that we could not possibly have the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, not called Lady Jay. There she is. She looks just like the best 18th Century Duchess of Devonshire and we could not under any circumstances not have her called the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, because she is the noble Baroness, Lady Jay.
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, intends Members of your Lordships' House to be called Members of the Selected Chamber and also Members of the Lords. In Committee a number of attempts were made to change the name of your Lordships' House and the style of address for Members of the House. I think the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, wanted Members of this House to be known as "members of the Appointed Chamber" and styled as "Lords of Parliament". We did not agree then and we do not agree now. As was said in Committee, there is no reason for change. Even after this Bill becomes law there are nearly 100 hereditary Peers among us who will remain in the House of Lords. This place should therefore continue to be known as the House of Lords. Members of the transitional House will be Members of the same Chamber of Parliament, carrying out the same functions, with the same roles and responsibilities, terms and conditions as they presently have. The majority of them will be the same individuals. There is quite simply no need to change the name used to describe them. To change our style of address for the short period before the second stage reform gets under way would be unnecessary and confusing. I urge the noble Earl to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, that was a good way of shutting up my noble friend. I did not frankly think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, would accept the amendment. It is funny how the Government want to change everything except the style and the title. The fact is that it is a selected Chamber. There may be 100 Peers, and we keep on being told that that still may not 330 come to pass. There may still be 100 hereditary Peers but they will all be selected. It will not be the same as the House of Lords as it used to be. However, I do not see a great head of steam over this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 51:
§ After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ MEMBERS OF THE SELECTED CHAMBER: STYLE
§ (" . From the day on which this Act comes into force the members of the Selected Chamber of Parliament shall be styled as "Members of the Lords", with the initials "ML" appended to their name but without reference to their rank in the peerage.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a different kettle of fish altogether. We have already discussed this matter. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said that I referred at Committee stage to "Lords of Parliament". That is perfectly true. I have altered the amendment this time to describe them as "members of the Lords". That should please the noble and learned Lord. Perhaps he is not replying to the amendment.
The noble and learned Lord is to reply. Ah, a change of bowling. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, was to reply because he did so last time.
My Lords, I have no doubt that the ball will get caught anyhow.
I put down this amendment to try to help the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal because—I am mindful to rehearse the fact again just to remind your Lordships—back in August she wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph. It stated:Baroness Jay, the new Leader of the Lords, wants life peers to be stripped of their aristocratic titles and called MLs—Members of the Lords. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, she said she was keen to remove the elitism of the names used in the Upper Chamber. 'I am not sure that I would not like to move to a situation where you had ML after your name, Member of the Lords, rather than being called Baroness Jay of Paddington', she said. She went on to say, 'I would not mind not having the title although some of my some of my colleagues might think it terribly sad to get rid of them'.She then said that it was important to create a way of differentiating between Peers who are born with their titles and those who have won a seat in the Lords on their merit, which of course would include the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity.
The amendment seeks to put into the Bill exactly what the noble Baroness the Leader of the House wants. I therefore thought that it would be good to have it down and to help her.
During the course of the debates on the Bill we have listened to the hereditary Peers being vilified and told that they have no place in the constitution and that they are undemocratic. All that was before Weatherill came in and then the Government rather changed their tack 331 because they said that some hereditary Peers are desirable. The fact is that those in another place have always disliked the House of Lords because they feel that when they pass a Bill the House of Lords should accept it, and of course they become upset when we do not accept it. Therefore, the Members of the Commons have always disliked Members of the Lords, and none more so than Labour Members of the House of Commons.
The curious thing—I have had occasion to say it before—is that they all queue up to come here. They do come here and the curious thing daily is that, having come here, they have, as I have suggested once, acted rather like cuckoos and tried to chuck out of the nest the very eggs that have given the place its character, its style and possibly its attractiveness. The hereditary Peers are, after all, the people who have over the years given the place the character, the courtesies, the practices, the ambience and the civilised behaviour. We are now going to get rid of all of them and all the life Peers will say, "We do not want hereditary Peers here at all but we are quite happy to be called Lords and take all the trappings of being a Lord". I began to think that that was a little strange. If you are against everything, why is it that you then come up and take on the mantle of what you have cast off?
Therefore, it seems to me that the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was actually entirely right over this: that you ought in fact to put "ML" after your name and not call yourself "Lord". My noble friend Lord Onslow said that she is glorious as the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and of course she is. She might be Margaret Jay, ML, and she might be Mrs Michael Adler, ML. That is not quite such a glorious title.
Of course it is a glorious title, but in a slightly different way. After all, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, would be perfectly happy to be called Falconer ML. He does not want to be called "Lord" or anything like that. But what will happen when a Prime Minister asks someone to serve in the Upper House? He will say, "Will you go and serve in that Upper House? You have to be there every day; you have to"—as your Lordships may know, particularly if you are a member of the other party—"sign in and sign out when you have arrived there so that they know what is happening; you have to be there most clays to vote; you will not receive any payment but you get a hit of expenses; but you can call yourself a Lord". Then, of course, they will all say, "Yes, we would love to go to the House of Lords". But if you say, "Will you go to the second Chamber? You will not be paid; you have to be there the whole time; you have to vote; and you cannot call yourself a Lord either", no one will want to go. Of course they will not. So why do they all come—because they want to call themselves Lords; and, if I may suggest it, because their wives like to call themselves Ladies.
In this great egalitarian day and age, I think it is quite right that people who are life Peers who will be Members of this great, new body that will be far more 332 democratic than ever was the one that preceded it, of which we happen to be the lucky Members, should be called "members of the Lords". For once, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House is right. I commend the amendment to your Lordships.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, my noble friend goes through the most delightful moods—between self-immolation and teasing; and I think we enjoy both very much. In the days of unegalitarianism one used to hear the phrase, "It takes three generations to make a gentleman and clogs to clogs in three generations". I do not know how many generations the noble Earl thinks it takes to make a Lord. Presumably, if there were logic in his amendment—I do not suppose for a moment that he assumes there is because it is based on the rather amusing words used by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House in the Spectator or Tribune article, whichever it was—he would feel that hereditary Peers of the first creation should never have been called "Lord" and, indeed, that life Peers, since 1958, should never have been called "Lord". I should be interested to know at what stage he thinks the blood changes sufficiently for the epithet to be added.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is slightly too hasty. I wonder whether the House would agree that few more beguiling amendments have come before the House than this one. Perhaps the most entertaining part of our depressing proceedings in Committee was when the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, suddenly expressed a deep sense of the value of continuity and tradition with regard to the past and the future of this House. That was, as noble Lords may remember, when it was suggested that the titles of the peerage should be separated from the right to sit and vote in the House.
If I may paraphrase the noble Lord and indeed other noble Lords opposite, "No, we see no need to change. We like being called 'my Lord'. We just want the older Lords to be tipped out of here". Yet there was one exception to that somewhat contradictory position, and that was the principled position taken by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. In her interview, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers indicated, she expressed her distaste for some of what she felt was the flummery surrounding the House. In a modern era a modern title should suffice and the idea was floated that Members of your Lordships' House should be known simply as Members of the Lords. That inspired idea was floated in the air by the noble Baroness and it has today been plucked down from the air by my noble friend Lord Ferrers. It is inevitable that at some stage the title "Lord" must be separated from membership of this House. Equally, as I have said, I see some merit in keeping the name of the House of Lords itself. The simple description "ML", parallel to that of "MP" for another place, as proposed by the noble Baroness and my noble 333 friend is logical. I congratulate my noble friend on his amendment and I would be very surprised if the noble and learned Lord the Minister did not accept it.
§ Lord Falconer of Thoroton
My Lords, so beguiling is the amendment that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has broadly repeated the same speech that he made in Committee for those among your Lordships who missed it on the first occasion. The Companion suggests that arguments fully deployed in Committee of the Whole House should not be repeated at length on Report.
In answer to a previous amendment on Report, I made the point that it seems sensible, if we continue to be called the House of Lords, that we continue exactly as before. My noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington has authorised me to tell the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that she will be writing in a personal capacity to the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, to put her own suggestion to him. In the meantime, the sensible course is to continue as before. I urge the noble Earl to withdraw his amendment for the second time.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is in a bellicose mood. He is always telling one to stop making speeches, that they have been made before and that they must not be repeated. Of course I made the same speech as I made before because, rather like the noble and learned Lord when he comes to answer, he says the same thing as he tends to think that he is right. The reason I said what I said is that I altered the amendment. I altered the amendment to make it even more gracious to the noble Baroness. I thought that your Lordships might therefore not know the complete reasoning behind the amendment.
I was surprised that the noble Baroness put up her junior to speak, if I may so describe the noble and learned Lord, although not in an offensive way. The noble and learned Lord knows perfectly well that in his profession a junior is very senior and is a capable and able person. The noble and learned Lord is very senior, very capable and very able. The fact is that I moved the amendment in order to try to help the noble Baroness to get through what she obviously wants.
Perhaps I may be allowed to say it again: that the Government think that what the noble Baroness wrote was a whole lot of "All my eye and Betty Martin". The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, was not certain quite what that meant as it was Latin. I looked it up in Fowler's Dictionary of English Prose. "All my eye and Betty Martin" is all nonsense, bosh and rubbish. I suppose that that is what the Government think of the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay.
I think that the noble Baroness was right over this. I come back to the same point. The reason people will come here in the future when they will not be paid, when they will receive only a small amount of expenses and when they will have to be here the whole day is that they will be able to call themselves "Lord" and their wives will be called "Lady". I think that is a bad reason. Therefore, I fear that we must have a vote on the amendment in order to test the opinion of the House. I 334 think it would be quite fun to see all the noble Lords go through the Lobby to call themselves "Lord" and to see which way the noble Baroness goes. I beg to move.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 51) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 66; Not-Contents, 153.335
|Division No. 3|
|Ailsa, M.||Kintore, E.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Kitchener, E.|
|Annaly, L.||Knight of Collingtree, B.|
|Banbury of Southam, L.||Knutsford, V.|
|Bathurst, E.||Liverpool, E.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.|
|Boardman, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Cadman, L.||Mountevans, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Mountgarret, V.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L||Moyne, L.|
|Clanwilliam, E.||Murton of Lindisfarne, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Nelson, E.|
|Eden of Winton, L.||Nelson of Stafford, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Newall, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Ferrers, E. [Teller.]||O'Cathain, B.|
|Fisher, L.||Park of Monmouth, B.|
|Fookes, B.||Pilkington of Oxenford, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Gray, L.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Hankey, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Hawke, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Torrington, V.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Trefgarne, L. [Teller.]|
|Inchcape, E.||Tryon, L.|
|Jeffreys, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Jopling, L.||Warnock, B.|
|Kenyon, L.||Wise, L.|
|Kinnoull, E.||Wynford, L.|
|Acton, L.||Chatteris of Amisfield, L.|
|Addington, L.||Chorley, L.|
|Ahmed, L.||Christopher, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Clarke of Hampstead, L.|
|Alli, L.||Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.|
|Amos, B.||Clement-Jones, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Clinton-Davis, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Cobbold, L.|
|Bach, L.||Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.|
|Barnett, L.||Crawley, B.|
|Bassam of Brighton, L.||Currie of Marylebone, L.|
|Blackstone, B.||David, B.|
|Blease, L.||Davies of Coity, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Davies of Oldham, L.|
|Borrie, L.||Dholakia, L.|
|Bragg, L.||Diamond, L.|
|Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.||Dixon, L.|
|Brookeborough, V.||Donoughue, L.|
|Brookman, L.||Dormand of Easington, L.|
|Burlison, L.||Dubs, L.|
|Carew, L.||Dunleath, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Evans of Parkside, L.|
|Carter, L. [Teller.]||Exmouth, V.|
|Falconer of Thoroton, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Morris of Manchester, L.|
|Gilbert, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Glanusk, L.||Newby, L.|
|Glasgow, E.||Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.|
|Glenamara, L.||Nichol, B.|
|Goodhart, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Gordon of Stralhblane, L.||Orme, L.|
|Goudie, B.||Paul, L.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Peston, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L||Pitkeathley, B.|
|Grantchester, L,||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Grenfell, L||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Hacking, L.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Hamwee, B.||Randall of St. Budeaux, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Rea, L.|
|Hardy of Wath, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Rendell of Babergh, B.|
|Harris of Haringey, L.||Richard, L.|
|Haskel, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Hayman, B.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Hilton of Eggardon, B.||Rogers of Riverside, L.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Russell, E|
|Holme of Cheltenham, L.||Sandberg, L.|
|Hoyle, L.||Scotland of Asthal, B.|
|Hughes, L.||Serota, B.|
|Hughes of Woodside, L.||Sharp of Guildford, B.|
|Hunt of Kings Heath, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Jacobs, L.||Simon, V.|
|Janner of Braunstone, L.||Simon of Highbury, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Jeger, B.||Strange, B.|
|Judd, L.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B.|
|Kirkhill, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Lester of Herne Hill, L.||Thomas of Walliswood, B.|
|Linklater of Butterstone, B.||Thomson of Monifieth, L.|
|Lockwood, B.||Thornton, B.|
|Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.||Thurso, V.|
|Ludford, B.||Tomlinson, L.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L [Teller.]||Tope, L.|
|Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|McNally, L.||Uddin, B.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Varley, L.|
|Marlesford, L.||Walker of Doncaster, L.|
|Marsh, L.||Wallace of Saltaire, L.|
|Mason of Barnsley, L.||Warner, L.|
|Merlyn-Rees, L.||Weatherill, L.|
|Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.||Whitty, L.|
|Milner of Leeds, L.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Mishcon, L.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Winston, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 52:
§ After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—
§ NUMBER OF MEMBERS OF HOUSE OF LORDS
§ (" . The maximum number of persons entitled to receive a writ of summons to the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House is 659.").
§ The noble Lord said: I hope that this amendment will go with the grain of government thinking. It has been joined with Amendment No. 55, in the name of my noble friend Lord Caithness. The only thing that 336 distinguishes the two amendments is the numbers: my amendment has a maximum of 659 and the maximum number in the amendment of my noble friend is 830.
§ The principles behind the amendment are twofold. The first relates to the specific number and the second to the notion of an overall limit.
§ So far as concerns the specific number, it does not take a great brain to recognise that the figure of 659 was drawn from the number of Members currently in another place. I readily admit, however, that the recent list of life Peers makes that figure no longer realistic.
§ There are, as I understand it—or were, before the announcement in June—499 life Peers, and 26 Bishops. If we add to that the 92 so-called Weatherill Peers and the new list of 38, which derives from the list of 33 working Peers and the five life Peers whose names appeared in the Honours List, we arrive at a figure of 655.
§ Clearly, a margin of manoeuvre of four is inadequate when it is considered that the Government have the principle of overall parity between themselves and the Official Opposition in mind, and will have to appoint between 30 and 40 life Peers to match the 92 Weatherill Peers. I see the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal nodding. So it is clear from the figures that we are talking about a cap of somewhere between 700 and 725, or perhaps a slightly higher figure, to allow both for the principle of parity which the noble Baroness has explained to the House on several occasions, and to give the Government an overall margin to make a modest number of new life Peers.
§ I readily accept, therefore, that the specific number in my amendment is inappropriate and, for that reason alone, shall not move it this evening. However, I urge upon the Government in general, and the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal in particular—I give way to the noble Lord.
§ Lord Acton
My Lords, is the noble Lord in order in speaking to an amendment that he does not intend to move at this stage?
§ Lord Kingsland
My Lords, the noble Lord, justifiably, makes a fair point. I do not intend to press the amendment to a vote. I do intend to move it. I apologise. He is quite right to intervene and I beg the pardon of the House.
§ Lord Kingsland
My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Peston.
What is important about this amendment is the notion of an overall cap on numbers in this House. We have had, on a number of occasions from the Government Front Bench, an undertaking that the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister is keen to limit his powers of patronage in relation to this House. A number of related undertakings of an informal nature have already been given in that respect.
337 Therefore, it is my submission that the Prime Minister and the noble Baroness the Leader of the House should have no difficulty in accepting an overall cap on numbers. It seems to me to correspond with the Government's wishes. With an overall cap, it will be impossible for the present Government, or any future government, to manipulate numbers in this House in order to obtain a particular result. If the Government really mean what they say about their wish to limit their powers of patronage, it is difficult to see how they can have any difficulties with this amendment. I beg to move.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, the amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Stanley is grouped with this one. It is therefore appropriate that I speak to it. Our amendment is also a serious attempt to define a limit to the number of Members in this House. Otherwise, it is on an exponential curve, depending on which government is in power, with unlimited patronage, to be able to create as many new Peers as they want in order to see their business through.
On 11th May, the noble Baroness Lady Jay said:Let us say that we have agreed that x will be the number … That is a guarantee of the overall ceiling".—[Official Report, 11/5/99; cl. 1194.]What the Government have not said is what x should be. There have been rather confusing statements on what it is likely to be. Therefore I hope that this time we shall receive a more satisfactory answer.
In our amendment I have put forward a figure of 830. That has been carefully calculated. I have sent my workings to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I have also given them to my Front Bench. I was about to place them in the Library for the convenience of the House when the new list of life Peers came out, which distorted my figures, so I thought it best not to do so.
The question of Conservative and Labour Peers is fairly easy to address because the idea is one of broad parity. I disagree with my noble friend about the precise figures. I think it more likely that 64 Labour life Peers will be needed to bring the number up to parity with the Conservatives when the Weatherill amendment is taken into account—which not all of us have accepted as the right solution to the future of this House.
The Cross-Benchers are more of a wild card. I calculated that their influence would be reduced from 28 per cent of the House to 17 per cent. Then, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, confounded my figures even further. On 22nd of this month, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, he said (at col. 896) that the Government's intention was to keep the Cross-Bench Peers at about 26 per cent.
I then come to the Liberal Peers. My noble friend Lord Kingsland did not mention them, but they seem to me to be the party that should bear the best in terms of new creations, if statements in the Labour Party manifesto and answers to questions put to the Government are correct. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor stated in a Written Answer on 9th June 338 (col. WA 157) that the number of Liberal Peers would be proportional, and referred to the manifesto. It states that the number of Peers should be proportional to the number of votes cast at the last election, and the Liberal Party received 17 per cent of the vote. So, in my figures, I allowed the Liberals 17 per cent in the revised House, which brought them an increase of some 90 Peers—hence my figure of 830. I also had to include the other parties which received 7 per cent of the vote at the general election. They, too, were to be represented according to the Government's manifesto. That was my serious attempt to arrive at a figure of 830. Clearly we need to set a limit. I do not want to reiterate what my noble friend Lord Kingsland said on that point, as he put it far better than I ever could.
What concerns me is what exactly the Government mean when they refer to proportionality with regard to the Liberals. That is one of the unanswered questions. I reiterate a point that I have made previously. In the revised Chamber, unless a cap is set on the numbers, the ability of the interim reformed House to ask the executive to think again will be seriously reduced.
§ Lord Acton
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should be grateful if he could help me. I am more than slightly confused. Is he putting forward the figure of 830 or is he not?
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, when I tabled the amendment, that was the closest I could get to an accurate number on the information I had received from the Government, both in this House and through Written Answers. I have now said that that figure is wrong because of the new list of life Peers. As the noble Lord knows, four Conservative life Peers were created in the last list, which means that, to match those for broad parity, on top of my total there need to be a further four Labour Peers.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Acton
My Lords, is the noble Lord therefore saying that this is in effect a probing amendment at Report stage?
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, far from it. There are two strands to this amendment. One is the need to set a limit. I thought that it would be helpful to the House to work out, to the best of my ability, what that number should be. I have tried to explain to the House. I am sorry if the noble Lord has not fully understood me; that is entirely my fault. I sought to put in a figure as close as I could to what I think would be the realistic figure, given what I have been told so far.
§ Lord Peston
My Lords, I think it is probably still in order to address noble Lords as "my Lords", although pace the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, some of us have titles which we think are rather superior to "Lord".
We have strayed yet again into the debate which I hope we shall have next year and beyond on constructing the new House of Lords. Something is clearly bewitching noble Lords opposite in that they 339 would rather debate that matter than the Bill before your Lordships' House, a point which has been made several times.
It is clear, in my judgement, that when, next year, we get on with the business of constructing the new House, we must talk about its size. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, will find that he will have no difficulty persuading noble Lords on this side that we must have a view on that matter. It happens that, in my view, the numbers we are talking about are not very sensible; I would go for a much smaller Chamber. However, I do not think that this is the occasion to discuss that matter.
The only point I want to make is the singular inappropriateness of the number 659. It is one of a class of numbers—namely, the prime numbers—which one would not choose in setting up a legislative assembly because of the difficulty of dividing it. I know that the amendment refers to "the maximum number"; none the less, I utter this word of warning: when the time comes, we should accept a number which has many divisors. Six hundred is the kind of number I have in mind. The noble Lord said that he would not test the opinion of the House on this matter. I should like to encourage him to come back to topics of this kind next year or the year after; I shall certainly want to do so. I hope that he will agree with me in due course that we should go for a number with many factors so that we can divide the parties and the Cross-Benchers in a sensible way.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, I recall that on 11th May we considered Amendment No. 70 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and others which proposed a new clause. The figure contained in that amendment was 615. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, explained carefully how that figure had been reached. Few Members of your Lordships' House agreed with him. I put the figure higher than that; the noble Lord, Lord Desai, added in the Bishops; I think it was the Leader of the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, who said that the figure should be 630; and my noble friend Lord Newby also came up with some good figures. We all knew that we were not very good at mental arithmetic, and it was a jolly but rather pointless occasion. At the end of the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, agreed that he must have got the figure wrong. That is where we left the matter.
We now have another amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and others. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, has said that they have got it wrong again and that 659 is not the figure to which we add up.
I should like to go through all the figures which I believe the House should consider.
§ Lord Kingsland
My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that I freely admitted that I had got the figure wrong; but, at the time the figure was selected, we did not anticipate that there 340 would be such a long list of new political Peers. It quite took us aback. We chose a figure quite innocently but arithmetically mistakenly.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, again I find this very good fun, and we all enjoy it, but the noble Lord could have withdrawn the amendment and put another in its place. He had aeons of time to do so.
I shall read out the figures but not explain what they are: 174; 179; 51; about 130; 92; 26 and eight. 'They do indeed add up to 659 or thereabouts. But, as the noble Lord said, that does not allow anything at all for balancing, which the noble Lord indicated was the policy of his party. As the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, helpfully said, these figures do not allow for the important consideration of proportionality as it applies to members of this party.
In the debate last Tuesday, the noble Baroness. Lady Jay, the Leader of the House, reiterated the Government's position about proportionality. She said nothing new but defined again what the White Paper said. I have not heard anything at all from the Conservative Benches about proportionality. I should be pleased to give way if the noble Lord would like to rise to tell me what his party's policy is. If he is not going to rise and tell me whether he supports the figures in paragraph 7 of Chapter 6 and paragraph 19 of Chapter 3 of the White Paper, is he prepared to tell the House whether he agrees with proportionality as defined in the White Paper?
§ Lord Kingsland
My Lords, I listened to, and subsequently read very carefully, the speech of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House on the last occasion. As I recall, she was not prepared to go further than to talk about general parity between the Government and the Official Opposition. I am simply repeating what she said.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, that is not the case. If the noble Lord looks at Hansard, he will see that the noble Baroness referred to proportionality. The word "proportionality" was mentioned in her speech last Tuesday and it is the word which appears in the White Paper. I was asking the noble Lord whether, on behalf of his party, he would declare that it was the policy of his party to accept proportionality as well as a rough parity between the two main parties in the transitional House.
§ Lord Kingsland
My Lords, I do not want to extend that debate. If the noble Lord means proportionality in the sense that the numbers in this House should reflect the most recent numbers in a general election, my response—I say this without authority—would be emphatically "No". The whole purpose of your Lordships' House is to provide a counterpoint to another place. If it simply mirrored the political forces in another place, there would be no point in having your Lordships' House.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, I am grateful; that is a very positive statement and a major 341 advance. Although it was a very unsatisfactory reply, I now recognise the importance of having this short debate.
I shall not bother the House further with the figures which would be necessary to achieve broad parity between the two principal parties in terms of numbers and proportionality for Members on these Benches. I simply remind the House that the problem has been greatly aggravated by the Weatherill amendment, which has added a disproportionate number of Peers to the Conservative Benches. The total effect is likely not to be 92 further Members of this House but something like 150 if the point about broad parity and proportionality is carried through.
However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I do not think we should bother ourselves about these figures. Whatever they are, they are rather smaller than the figure of 1,290 with which we have apparently lived very happily for many years. I do not believe that we should consider any other fixed figure for the transitional House. I would rather look ahead, when the time comes, to stage two. In those circumstances, I share the view expressed by others that a House of 200 or 300—perhaps 350—would be about right. The Commons is far too large today and should not have more than 500 Members, and your Lordships' House should be rather smaller.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, like many noble Lords and others outside your Lordships' House, I suspect that the interim House that we are creating by virtue of this Bill will last rather longer than has been suggested. Be that as it may, it is right that there should be a cap on the size of the House. My noble friend Lord Kingsland suggests one figure and my noble friend Lord Caithness suggests another. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, suggests a rather smaller figure. However, there must be a figure. I hope that the Government accept that principle. If they have a figure in mind I daresay that a manuscript amendment to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Kingsland will be allowed so that the matter can be settled.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, I and I am sure my noble friend Lord Caithness agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that it is much better to have 600. I would rather have 300, but that is neither here nor there. As my noble friend points out, the Government have put on record that the House should be made up as they have said and its composition will be our figure of 830. I should like the Leader of the House to explain how the figure can be less than 830, bearing in mind her past comments.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I agree with an upper limit in principle. However, does the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, agree that even 659 working Peers would give us one of the largest upper Houses in the world? We do not have 659 working Peers at the moment. I believe that that answers the point raised by the noble 342 Lord, Lord Rodgers. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, could confirm that the proposal would make this one of the largest Chambers.
§ Lord Rotherwick
My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Kingsland. I strongly believe that we should define the upper limit of the membership of your Lordships' House. I tabled a similar capping amendment in Committee. I have taken the liberty of looking at the bicameral systems of other countries, such as Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium. In those cases one finds that the numbers of the upper houses are either half, or in some cases one quarter, of those of the lower houses. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, and others who believe that the ultimate revised Chamber will have a lower number.
§ Lord Islwyn
My Lords, the noble Lord quotes other countries and suggests that their second chambers have lower numbers. Will he take into consideration population? Our population is far greater than that of the countries he cites.
§ Lord Rotherwick
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comment. However, my point is that the numbers in the upper houses in proportion to those in the lower houses are always lower by half or a quarter. I found one exception, Italy, whose population is almost precisely the same as the UK's. In that case there are 315 members in the upper house and in the lower house. That is less than half the present number. I do not think that that detracts from the argument that the interim House should have a cap on its numbers. We have an opportunity to ensure that the future House has a better framework, not one that for ever worries the Opposition that the government of the day will get their way by flooding your Lordships' House, or a revised version of it.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Acton
My Lords, since the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, appears at the top of the amendment, perhaps I may ask him and the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, whether, if they decide to bring this matter back at a later stage—it having turned into a probing amendment at Report stage, which I find astonishing—they will put down on paper their final figure and stick to it.
§ Lord Coleraine
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Caithness, I am anxious to probe further—with all apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Acton—the question of the proportionate creation of Liberal Democrat Peers. I hope that my noble friend will succeed in obtaining further information from the Leader of the House. At Report stage I tabled an amendment to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Kingsland that dealt with the appointments commission. I hoped at that stage to discover why the amendment did not provide for the commission to report on criteria related to the nomination of Liberal Democrat life Peers. When I saw that my noble friend had increased the cap from 615 to 343 659 I hoped that between the two figures I might find the proportionate creation of Liberal Democrat Peers. However, that seems to have disappeared into thin air.
If my noble friend on the Front Bench is listening, perhaps he can say where he finds the proportionate Liberal Democrat creations and what he meant when he said in reply to my amendment (before I had moved it) that,it would be wise not to resile from what I might describe in this case as the robust common sense of the Government's proposal".— [Official Report, 22/6/99; col. 825.]At the moment, I am not aware of the Government's proposal.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am not very good at figures and, listening to this debate, it does not seem to me that a lot of other noble Lords are much better either. What puzzles me—perhaps it is a ridiculous puzzle—is that if there is to be a cap of any number a decision must be made on the principle as to how to arrive at the maximum. If one has a maximum and all the time one has more life Peers entering the House that maximum is a floating figure that is not definable. To me, the whole matter appears to be almost beyond definitive resolution, unless from time to time the question is referred to the usual channels, a Standing Committee or whatever to arrange what is right. Perhaps I am wrong but, listening to the debate, I do not see how, on any logical basis, there can be a cap.
With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, quite unwittingly he did my noble friend Lord Caithness an injustice. My noble friend was referring to the numbers in this House of Lords, and the use of that term includes the transitional House. We are not concerned at all with the successor House.
§ Lord Barnett
My Lords, I do not speak to the figures, which do not appear to be very relevant. I would prefer a maximum of 600 Members of what is called the transitional House. I have a simple solution. If we scrapped the Weatherill clause—noble Lords will be aware that I was not madly in favour of it to begin with—there would be 92 fewer Peers and we would get very much nearer the 600. Without intending to upset my noble friends, I had it in mind to table an amendment to remove the Weatherill clause. I believe that that is a sensible way out of the problem, particularly as noble Lords opposite do not appear to be able to understand their own figures. I shall not move an amendment at this stage because I should like to hear my noble friend Lady Jay reply to the debate, if that is possible.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, the amendment contains a serious point—unlike the previous amendment. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said, the new House is likely to last a considerable time. It is not for the Opposition to give a figure. It is perfectly legitimate for my noble friends to press for a figure which should be on the face of the Bill. I realise that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will be unable to produce a figure tonight.
344 The life peerage system began in 1958. Therefore on an actuarial basis over the next few years there is likely to be a considerable diminution in the number of life Peers. That may enable the figure to be lower than it otherwise would be.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I have to regard this debate as somewhat unsatisfactory. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, was kind enough to discuss privately with me his concerns in general terms. I was happy to do so. But for the Front Bench of the Opposition and another noble Lord to put down amendments at Report stage, the substance of which they state in their opening sentences to be incorrect, is rather strange.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was slightly irritated when we pointed out at Committee stage that his figures were wrong. However, as has been pointed out, he was sensible enough to say that he knew his sums were wrong but that it was a probing amendment to consider the general principle. We discussed the general principle at some length. The Government's position on the general principle is unaltered. The noble Lord has tabled an alternative amendment which his noble friend says is again inaccurate for the reasons he explained clearly. The noble Earl has also suggested that his figures are inaccurate. To be honest, I am not sure what we are discussing. We are discussing points made by several noble Lords about the need, as my noble friend Lord Peston rightly put it, to think about the longer term. He also helped us greatly by trying to achieve a substantive number which was appropriately divisible in the way he described.
The noble Lords who moved and spoke to Amendments Nos. 52 and 55 seemed to suggest that they are unworthy of consideration. In those circumstances, my position is somewhat extraordinary.
However, for the purposes of the record, if nothing else, let me say that it is true that the Government accept that there are potentially 519 life Peers in this House, 27 Law Lords, and 26 Bishops. To those figures, as has been mentioned several times this evening, 92 excepted Peers will be added as an integral part of the agreement by which we achieved Clause 2—although, as my noble friend Lord Barnett said, that is not necessarily immutable if he were successfully to move an amendment to take out the clause.
However, let us agree on the figures as they stand at present. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, reminded us that the Government have stated explicitly in their White Paper—I repeat it again, as was noted by the noble Lord in previous debates—their pledge to a proportionate creation for the other parties. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that those numbers add up to something over 700 on the existing predictions of numbers. So the suggestion that we should stop at 659 is as inappropriate as he suggested. For that reason alone the amendment runs counter to the whole of the Weatherill agreement. On that basis alone, it would be unacceptable.
345 The noble Earl stated that his figure is more generous. But the 830 referred to would require an extra 140 life Peers. I assume that the purpose of achieving the target which he states is theoretical is to do what has been discussed again in different contexts today; to challenge the rights of the Prime Minister and to seek to create a statutory framework around the scope of patronage. Even if all those 140 extra life Peers were Labour Peers—and that would run counter to every commitment we have given, and every commitment made by the Prime Minister and the Government in the course of these extremely long-drawn-out proceedings—the number would be 360. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that that is still less than an overall majority in this House.
Again we are in very theoretical realms. In a sense we are achieving nothing. Noble Lords are probably exhausted by my repeating the commitments in the White Paper, the manifesto and speeches on this Bill. But as there are noble friends on this side of the Chamber who are somewhat exhausted by the arguments from the Benches opposite, I intend to repeat the commitments. I shall do so quickly. These are the commitments on which we believe that the power of the Prime Minister should not remain unfettered and on which we have given explicit undertakings. We have said in the White Paper that no political party should seek a majority in this House. There should continue to be a significant independent Cross-Bench element. Respective party strengths should at the most, and over time, reflect the votes cast in the preceding general election and for the time being only broad parity between the two main parties is sought, with the proportionate creations of life Peers which the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, mentioned today.
We have said also that there should be an independent mechanism for identifying Cross-Bench Peers. On the basis of our proceedings at an earlier stage, I understand that those rules are now so attractive to the party opposite that they want to see them in statute. We did not see them abiding by them in their previous period of government.
As my noble friend Lord Peston stated clearly, and he was supported by other Lords, we are talking here about a transitional House. We are talking about a House much of whose membership is already fixed for life. We are talking about a House where there is no provision for retirement or resignation. Noble Lords complained in earlier debates when they sought to make a different point that the House, as it results from the Bill, will be too small to carry out its functions properly. Which argument do they stand by tonight? We on this side of the House do not think that that is right.
We believe that the numbers I have described are more than adequate to fulfil all the functions of the second Chamber in the appropriate way for the transitional period. But let us suppose that they are right. Let us suppose that it proves necessary to increase the nominal size of the House, taking into account the 346 principles I have outlined yet again. A statutory limit on the size of the House which would allow enough headroom to accommodate that possibility would also provide the headroom for an unscrupulous Prime Minister—this bogeyman who sits at the corner of all our debates—to fill the House with a disproportionate number of his or her own supporters. And once that ceiling was reached, it would still be open to the Prime Minister of the day to adjust the numbers in his or her party's favour. So a ceiling high enough to accommodate legitimate options would have to be high enough to accommodate illegitimate options, and, frankly, we should be no better off.
As I have said before, I do not think that an amendment on these lines would improve the Bill. I do not think that the amendment would deliver the intended results. I cannot conceive a scenario where any amendments with such positive, precise figures would achieve the intended results. The figures on the amendment are wrong, as the movers admitted.
The amendments add nothing to the pledges that the Prime Minister and the Government have made, although I realise—it has been said on many occasions today—that undertakings by the Prime Minister and the Government are regularly disregarded by your Lordships. I of course do not accept that position. I repeat what my noble friends on the Front Bench have repeated several times today. I ask the House to take this issue seriously. Arguments deployed fully in the Committee of the Whole House should not be repeated at length on Report. That is in the Companion.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I should be grateful if she would answer the specific point I raised. I found her answer disappointing because I indicated well over a week ago to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, how I calculated my figures. For the noble Baroness to say what she did was out of line with what is normal in this House. I remember as a Minister regularly answering amendments of the party of the noble Baroness where the principle of the amendment was what mattered. I come back to this principle of the definition of "proportionate". What does the noble Baroness mean?
§ 7.30 p.m.
The Earl of Caithness
Yes, my Lords, but I am speaking to an amendment that has been grouped with this one, which I shall not have another opportunity to do. The noble Baroness did not answer the question.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, I have indeed spoken, but I did preface what I said before the noble Baroness answered. Will she answer the question I 347 asked her? What does she mean by "proportionate" for the Liberal Democrats? Is it proportionate to the numbers appertaining to the House as it is now, or is it proportionate to the number of votes at the general election?
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I have made that absolutely clear this afternoon and on many other occasions. Perhaps for the record the noble Earl would care for me to read out the section in the White Paper which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and by my noble friend Lord Peston and others who have contributed. Let me read it again. Paragraph 7 on page 32 of the White Paper says:We set out in our manifesto the broad principle which we believe should govern the appointment of life peers but our present intention is to move towards broad parity between Labour and the Conservatives. The principle of broad parity and proportionate creations from the Liberal Democrat and other parties would be maintained throughout the transitional period
§ Lord Kingsland
My Lords, I should like to say first of all, in answer to my noble friend Lord Coleraine and in response to what the noble Baroness has just said, that one of the reasons why it is essential to have a cap on the number of Members of the House is the principle of proportionality. If the proportions of the parties in your Lordships' House are adjusted every time there is a general election, there will be no limit on the numbers. They will simply go up and up. This is an additional reason for having a cap.
I should also like to make it clear to the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal that there is no intention whatsoever by the Opposition to call into question the sincerity of the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister in respect of his intentions with regard to this House; but I share the doubts of many of your Lordships that the arrangements which are likely to ensue as a result of the passage of this Bill will be short term.
History suggests that they will be far from short term. If that is so, no doubt in the course of time one government will follow another and, constitutionally, in my submission it will be highly desirable to have a specific restraint on the behaviour of governments to appoint Peers to your Lordships' House in such a way as to ease the passage of business in another place.
It is for that reason, above all, that I think it would be prudent to have an overall cap. The noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal said that she did not think it would add anything. If she does not think it would add anything, I would in turn say that it certainly would not subtract anything from the position of the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister—and for that reason, although I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, I shall also reflect upon reintroducing it at Third Reading.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.348
§ Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
My Lords, I think this will be a good moment to break for dinner. I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In doing so, I suggest that Report stage begin again not before 8.35 p.m.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.