HL Deb 30 June 1999 vol 603 cc363-420

8.36 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 53:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(" . Nothing in this Act affects the power of the House of Lords to entertain a petition from a claimant to an hereditary peerage to succeed to that peerage or the provision made by that House for such a petition to be referred to the Committee for Privileges.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the effect of the Bill as presented to your Lordships' House is to eliminate hereditary Peers from your Lordships' House. But it is not—and never has been, as I understand it—the declared aim of the Government to have eliminated the hereditary peerage itself. So long as there is a hereditary peerage there has to be some way—a legally authoritative way—of determining disputed rights of succession or contested claims. Hitherto these disputes have been determined in the Committee for Privileges of your Lordships' House, where the authority of noble and learned Law Lords has been available to guide your Lordships' House.

The Crown is the fount of honour. But the Crown has delegated the role of determining questions of a claim to a title, or proving succession to a title, to your Lordships' House. This amendment touches on a matter which is important to the integrity of the hereditary peerage. It affirms that present arrangements should remain intact. We hope for a categoric assurance from the Government that they have no intention of advising the Crown on, or proposing to the House, an alteration in present procedures. If they have, it would be helpful to your Lordships' House to have some insight into their alternative thinking now for members of the hereditary peerage. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am happy to give that assurance. We have no intention of changing any of the rules of succession and inheritance of the hereditary peerage. We do not intend to remove any of the rights or attributes which do not relate to membership of Parliament. I am grateful for the way in which the noble Lord has expressed this matter. I can assure the House that this amendment is not necessary because the Bill does not affect the rights of either the House or the Committee for Privileges in this matter. They will continue to have their present jurisdiction in relation to all hereditary peerages, just as—I hope to add this as a word of comfort—they retain it in relation to Irish peerages, even though the latter have no right to be Members of this House.

Lord Kingsland

I thank the Minister for his extremely helpful and constructive reply. In those circumstance, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Torrington moved Amendment No. 54:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(" . The Secretary of State shall petition the Sovereign as to the striking of a commemorative medal to be awarded to peers who have received a writ of summons to attend the present Parliament and who become disqualified by this Act from attending any Session of Parliament after the Session in which this Act is passed in right of an hereditary peerage.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving the amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Liverpool, I must at the very outset admit—for those of your Lordships who have not yet twigged—that it is a device to raise a slightly more serious subject.

While some of your Lordships who may possibly be forced into early retirement by the passing of the Bill may enjoy or appreciate a long service medal, there is the bones of a case for something just a little more tangible or at any rate more useful. The connection between that and the medal of the amendment is simply that medals struck and awarded on the Sovereign's orders can, and sometimes do, I understand, carry an entitlement to a pension or stipend.

As far as I know, this subject has not previously raised its head in our formal debates on the progress of the Bill. I know that it has generated a little heat outside this Chamber and to give it an airing today might, as it were, clear the air a little. There is an argument which usually runs along the following lines. Since Peers receive only expenses and not remuneration, if they lose the right to sit in the House they no longer incur the expenses of coming here, and therefore they are not in need of any compensation for loss of their rights to sit here. I believe that is a slightly disingenuous argument.

I wish at the outset to get away from the use of the word "compensation", whether for loss of rights to sit, loss of office or whatever. Yes, of course, there is a respectable argument that hereditary Peers are losing a valuable right, a right which, if assignable, could command a very substantial value. Lloyd George proved this in the early part of this century in spades double vulnerable, and I think there have been one or two cases since. There is even an arcane argument which runs that the right of hereditary Peers to sit in the House is a form of real property.

I do not wish to advance either of those arguments, I promise your Lordships. Even I can see that to advance the idea that the taxpayer should, in effect, have to buy back rights from people who are perceived—not always correctly—as members of a wealthy and privileged class is clearly an argument which will not go very far.

My proposal is that those who are being forced into premature political oblivion by the passing of the Bill should perhaps be entitled to some modest recompense for past services in the form of a little assistance, where needed, for the future. As I pointed out in Committee a short while ago when my noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare raised the idea of a compulsory retirement age for life Peers, the Labour Party's own evidence to the Royal Commission shed some interesting light on this matter. That evidence, in paragraph 6.10, states: The Labour Party is not in favour of a retirement age for existing life Peers who were appointed for life and who may have organised their affairs accordingly".

In my opinion, in coded language that means that many life Peers probably have not made very effective pension arrangements and probably expect to rely on their attendance allowance to maintain, or at least supplement, their lifestyles. I asked the other day, if life Peers have organised their lives that way, is it not reasonable to expect that many hereditary Peers have organised their lives in the same manner. Clearly it would seem that the Labour Party believes that its life Peers must be financially protected but that the Tory hereditaries can be thrown to the wolves.

The ending of the right to attend and the loss of allowances that go with it will in quite a few cases lead to dislocation and the need for expensive rearrangement of Peers' personal affairs. Some will need to sell London flats or houses, the outgoings on which have been funded by the overnight allowance; others will have to seek employment for which they have no particular skills or suitability; yet others will simply have to accept a greatly reduced lifestyle, being past employment age.

As I have frequently heard admitted on the Benches opposite, many hereditary Peers have given distinguished service to this House, and thereby to the country, out of a sense of duty over many years. Accepting that duty, that obligation to serve, which hitherto went hand in hand with the right to a seat, has often been a burden and a restriction on the proper development of an alternative career. Now these same people are about to be unceremoniously slung out, with their financial receipts reduced and their source of day-to-day intellectual interest cut off. I particularly mention "intellectual interest" because your Lordships are noted for your longevity. I am sure that it is a sense of continuing involvement, however peripheral, in the great affairs of state which accounts, at least in part, for that longevity. It is quite conceivable that some of your Lordships will die younger than they otherwise might as a result of the Bill. I will not push the point, but it is a possibility.

Members of the other place live with the ever-present possibility that their political careers may be long or short. Either way, as I understand it, they earn the right within a single Parliament to a pension entitlement. Peers are awarded no such consideration.

All of those points seem to suggest that some form of readjustment allowance, relocation expenses, terminal bonus, modest pension—call it what you will—based perhaps on length of service, for forcibly retiring hereditary Peers would not be unjustified. My amendment does not set out to say what it should be or try to quantify it; it merely provides a conduit through which some modest largesse could be delivered. Those Peers who are particularly wealthy could give it to charity; those who are in need of it will at least have some recompense for their past services.

If adopted, my amendment will do the Bill no harm whatever. At worst, from the Government's point of view it would cost a few pounds to run up some cupra-nickel discs with the polite version of "Good riddance" on the back. Much better, it would provide the Government with a chance and a way to show a little magnanimity in victory and that they have a caring heart; to be merciful, as the noble Lord. Lord Howie, said earlier on the subject of ancillary rights.

Of course the easiest and most painless way to deal with this matter would be simply to leave all Peers here and adopt the format of the 1968 Bill or the system proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of St. Budeaux. Sadly, I feel that the latter is too mathematically complex, even for my noble friend Lord Ferrers—I am sorry that he is not in his seat—and too much of a sensible British compromise for the Government Front Bench; it is insufficiently cataclysmic or macho. But it has merits and should be considered. I beg to move.

The Earl of Liverpool

My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment, to which I have added my name. I support his speech in totality.

I wish to focus on his point about recompense. It is important that we understand why we, as hereditary Peers, attend the House. We do not attend because we have an hereditary Peerage; we attend because we are summoned by Writ. That Writ is sent under the seal of the Queen's most Excellent Majesty and is personally addressed to us by name. I should like to read the wording of the main passage of the writ because it is important. It reads as follows: Whereas Our Parliament for arduous and urgent affairs concerning Us the state and defence of Our United Kingdom and the Church is now met at Our City of Westminster We strictly enjoining command you upon the faith and allegiance by which you are bound to Us that considering the difficulty of the said affairs and the dangers impending (waiving all excuses) you be personally present at Our aforesaid Parliament with Us and with the Prelates Nobles and Peers of Our said Kingdom to treat and give your counsel upon the affairs aforesaid And this as you regard Us and Our honour and the safety and defence of the said Kingdom and Church and dispatch of the said affairs in nowise do you omit". I quote that because at the age of 24 I was in receipt of that summons; that is 31 years ago. I took that Writ most seriously. It came from the highest authority in the land. It may not therefore surprise your Lordships to know that I regarded it as my duty to attend this House. There were privileges and duties and this was a duty which I believed it was incumbent upon me to discharge.

The point I want to make is that I do not know where my career would have gone if I had not responded to the Writ. To say that I could possibly have landed up being chairman of ICI may seem preposterous to some noble Lords and I might actually agree with them. I did respond to the Writ: my life took a course as a result of that. In fact, there are many noble Lords who attend this House on a regular basis to whom this point applies equally.

I think my noble friend's argument that some recompense should be provided to those hereditary Peers who will be denied a place in this House if this legislation passes is wholly relevant. Indeed, I think a good case could be made to the Court of Human Rights at The Hague. I await with interest the Minister's response to this amendment, which I support completely.

Lord Newby

My Lords, I hope I shall not disappoint the noble Viscount, Lord Torrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, too much by not talking about points they have just raised in respect of the Writ of Summons, on which we have had at least five debates which must have lasted at least 10 hours, and the other questions relating to recompense which are not mentioned at all in the amendment. I shall speak to the amendment.

I have an admission to make. This amendment has split the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. Some of my colleagues are very hard hearted and believe that the principle by which people who do not stand for election or get defeated in election then receive a medal is alien to the tradition of British democracy. I do not support that contention. However, although having considerable sympathy with the concept of striking a commemorative medal for those hereditary Peers who will no longer be Members of your Lordships' House after autumn, I feel that I must enter a caveat. I could not support a proposal to strike a medal for those who are no longer here unless a similar medal, possibly in several classes, were struck for those Members of your Lordships' House who have sat through the debates on this Bill.

In my view, there is an overwhelming case for having a special class of medal struck for those very few Members of your Lordships' House who have voted on every Division called by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. Those Members of your Lordships' House who were not here at 1.15 in the morning when we voted on an amendment as to whether there should be an "a" or an "an" in the Bill in relation to the phrase "hereditary Peer" may not realise why I feel so strongly on this issue. I hope therefore that in responding to this debate, the Government look not only in detail at the terms of the amendment, but will consider the points which I have made in terms of extending its scope to deal with those of us, life and hereditary Peers alike, who have sat through the entire deliberations on this Bill and helped to develop a more modern constitution in this country.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I too rather share the view that a medal would be a nice thing. I am not so concerned to support the financial proposals that I have heard raised, but I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that a medal in different classes would be appropriate. Speaking for myself, I rather fancy one with oak leaves and something to hang around my neck. I think that would look rather good.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, the contributions of my noble friends Lord Torrington and Lord Liverpool range rather wider than one might have suspected from the subject matter of the amendment. I hope that the Government will reflect on the content of those speeches. Meanwhile, as to the question of a commemorative medal, for the first time in my life, I find myself in sympathy with the views expressed by the Liberal Front Bench and I think the medal ought to be confined to those who have served throughout your Lordships' many debates during the Committee and Report stages. I am quite sure that both of my noble friends would receive medals of the highest class as a result of their own contributions.

Lord Carter

My Lords, in responding to this amendment, it is quite clear that the noble Viscount, Lord Torrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, are not aware of that injunction in the Companion which says that a debate should be relevant to the Question before the House. The Question before the House is the issue of a commemorative medal and, as I understand it, the intention is that those hereditary Peers who are to be excluded will receive this medal. This question of the pension, stipend or whatever was then introduced. I do not think I could have put the answer to the question about expenses any better than did the noble Viscount: that is, if the costs are not incurred, the expenses will not be paid. It is as simple as that and I think that is the attitude that the Revenue would take.

I was also intrigued by the idea that the hereditary peerage has an assignable value. How would you handle it? Would you auction it at Sotheby's?

Viscount Torrington

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I never suggested that it had an assignable value; I was merely asking whether it had an assignable value. Perhaps Lloyd George gave us some idea of what that assignable value might have been.

Lord Carter

My Lords, my noble friend has just said that they could pawn it. I am not entirely clear whether noble Lords want the money or the medal or both. That is something we shall have to find out.

We have made it clear on a number of occasions that we greatly value the input of some hereditary Peers to the work of your Lordships' House. However, we do not think the effect of this amendment is the right way in which to show our gratitude to those among us who will be leaving at the end of this Session; certainly not in the form of a pension or a stipend. I was interested in the remark about the loss of the day-to-day intellectual interest of your Lordships' House. That has been particularly marked during the passage of this Bill, I have to say.

I think that there are many among us who would think it unfair that medals should be handed out to all who leave this House under the provisions of the Bill. It would be invidious to name names but there are some Peers, hereditary and indeed life, who in the previous Session failed to attend your Lordships' House for even a single day, despite the injunction in the Writ of Summons asking them to be present, which was read out. There are also Peers who not only attend regularly but also contribute effectively to the work we undertake in this House. This amendment will, of course, give all such Peers a medal and presumably a pension, irrespective of their attendance level and, more importantly, irrespective of their contribution to the effective running of your Lordships' House.

What of the hereditary Peers who will remain in your Lordships' House? What should they get besides the "Iron Cross with Bar" that all of us should get from sitting through this Bill? It seems that the 92 who stay will not be entitled to a commemorative medal although I have to say that I doubt very much whether this factor will have them refusing to stand for election.

We should really take this seriously. I could not help wondering what the inscription on such a medal might be. Reflecting on the number of defeats this Government have suffered since the election, your Lordships should be interested to know that, in the first Session, the Government were defeated 38 times. On the votes of life Peers, they would have been defeated five times. In this Session, the Government have been defeated 15 times. On the votes of life Peers, they would have been defeated once. So, the defeats since the election have been roughly three times the level of defeats of previous Conservative governments. I think the appropriate inscription might be, "Conservative hereditary Peers rampant on a Government Chief Whip couchant".

The sentiment behind this amendment is kind but misplaced. Of course there should be something to mark the departure of the hereditary Peers, but it is not as though we are removing their peerages. Those hereditary Peers who will leave once this Bill becomes law will retain their peerage. I would argue—I am sure they would agree—that that, rather than a medal, shows far more clearly the service that they and their forebears have given to the nation. I would therefore ask the noble Viscount to withdraw the amendment.

Viscount Torrington

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I was about to say I think it is an achievement to have split the Liberal Democrats, but then the Liberal Democrats came about as a result of a number of splits, so that perhaps is not such a great achievement.

I was hoping for, and I suppose I have just had, some warm words from the Government, but clearly they have a cold heart. I should like to thank my noble friends and other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I had slightly hoped that perhaps the noble Baroness the Leader of the House would have replied to this debate because I have been considering what my ideal medal would look like. I was thinking in terms of a nice piece of ribbon attached to something about the size, for those of you who are old enough to remember it, of a silver thruppenny bit, something that was called a "tickey" in my South African upbringing. Naturally, on the obverse side would be her Majesty's head. On the other side, I thought we needed a nice device, something heraldic, possibly the Royal Coats of Arms. I think it is called the Privy Seal. Then I began to think that perhaps the Keeper of the Privy Seal, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, herself might have made a very attractive "tail" for this medal. However, I fear that it is not to be. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]

Lord Trefgarne had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 56:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(" . The expressions "Lord of Parliament" and "Peer of Parliament" shall not include any person who is disqualified by Section 1 from attending, sitting or voting in the House of Lords.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have been told that we need to get on a little. I shall therefore not move Amendments Nos. 56 and 57.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 not moved.]

9 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 58A:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(" . Hereditary peers who cease to be members of the House of Lords by virtue of this Act shall retain their right to use the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns those hereditary Peers who will have to relinquish their rights to use the Crypt Chapel if and when the Bill becomes an Act. To approach the Crypt Chapel, one goes through Westminster Hall. One has no need to go into any other areas of the Palace of Westminster. The Members of your Lordships' House who utilise the Crypt as a private sanctuary and for christenings and weddings have done so for many years. Many of your Lordships' families have used the prescribed hereditary rights for generations. That is the main difference from the rights that are used by Members of another place.

The Crypt Chapel is in the authority of the Lord Great Chamberlain. I suspect that it will not be possible to put the amendment on the face of the Bill. I suppose that I should apologise for bringing the amendment forward at this stage. Perhaps it would have been more fitting to have brought it forward at the Committee stage. However, I think there is merit in having a small discussion on it. I hope that the Government will see fit to offer some sympathetic words and not give that as a reason for a short answer.

I have brought forward the amendment in order to clarify the consequences for hereditary Peers if and when the Bill becomes an Act and to gain perhaps a small amount of support and sympathy from your Lordships for that dilemma. I am optimistic that your Lordships will slim some compassion and express a feeling of sympathy for those hereditary Peers. It is to be hoped that their expression of feeling will be such that they will wish to see the retention of those prescribed rights of access to the Crypt for religious worship and for the continuity of their families who have worshipped there for generations.

The future reformed House, I suspect, may well wish to say something on this matter at a later date but I think it is important to stress that if the hereditaries were allowed to continue to use the Crypt Chapel it would in no way infringe on any accesses, rights or privileges in the rest of the Palace of Westminster. I have also taken the opportunity to approach various appropriate authorities of the Crypt Chapel. They have indicated that there would be little difficulty in its ability to accommodate the present practice. I shall listen with interest not only to what other noble Lords have to say on the amendment but also to the Government's response. I beg to move.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

My Lords, my name is attached to the amendment and I have to declare an interest. My three children and my three grandchildren have all had religious services in the Crypt Chapel and it is very much my desire that my son and my grandson, if not myself, should continue to have the opportunity.

As my noble friend said, this is in the gift of the Lord Great Chamberlain. The only thing I would ask the Government Front Bench to offer is a statement that they would not intend to impede the Lord Great Chamberlain in his desire to accommodate those hereditary Peers who wish to use the Chapel for their services.

Lord Monson

My Lords, there is a great deal of merit in this amendment. One can understand the argument that dispossessed Peers, so to speak. would crowd out the Library, the bars and the dining rooms if they were allowed to continue to use them, but that argument does not apply to the Crypt Chapel. I shall be interested to hear the Government's response.

The Earl of Liverpool

My Lords, I support the amendment. As I said when we were debating Amendment No. 54, I have had the privilege of being a Member of your Lordships' House for 31 years. It has also been my privilege regularly to attend services in St Mary Undercroft. I very much hope that the Government will be able to look with some sympathy on the amendment, despite the fact that this is in the gift of the Lord Great Chamberlain. I hope that I shall not be denied being able to seek spiritual guidance in St Mary Undercroft and being able to use it as a place of sanctuary and as a place for quiet reflection and worship.

Lord Annaly

My Lords, I have not spoken on the Bill since the Second Reading debate. I wish simply to add my words of support to my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. At the same time I declare an interest in that my father, after my mother had died, married a second time in St Mary Undercroft in about 1960. I had a sister who was christened there. After my father had died, I led one of my sisters up the aisle of St Mary Undercroft. So I declare three interests on that score.

If one happens to live in a village and have connections there one can make arrangements to have one's children christened or whatever it may be in the village church. This is a slightly different situation from the Library, restaurants and other facilities. I hope that the powers that be, in the form of the Government or the Lord Great Chamberlain if it is his prerogative, will consider this matter favourably.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, although we do not think this matter should appear on the face of the Bill, we think that the principle behind it is laudable and hope that noble Lords opposite, both Government and Back-Bench, will do everything they can to ensure that when it comes to dealing with the arrangements of former hereditary Peers, should we reach that stage, this matter will be dealt with with the utmost sympathy.

Lord Carter

My Lords, I am afraid that however sympathetic any of us might be to the thought behind the amendment it is out of the hands of Parliament. The Chapel of St Mary Undercroft is ecclesiastically part of the Royal Peculiar of Westminster Abbey, as has been said. It is located physically within the Palace of Westminster. Control of its use is the responsibility of the Lord Great Chamberlain. It is nothing to do with the House of Lords or indeed the House of Commons. In practice, the Chapel and access to it are managed by Black Rod, in consultation with the Speaker's Chaplain. This is not a matter for legislation to decide, or indeed for the Government to express a view on. It is for the authorities of the Palace of Westminster. If there were to be a proposal for any change in the arrangements, it would be a matter for the Lord Great Chamberlain to discuss with the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Lords.

For those reasons, we obviously cannot accept the amendment. We understand the thought behind it, but it is not a matter for this Bill or this Chamber.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who supported my amendment. I suppose that I should also declare an interest, in that I am a godfather to the grandson of my noble friend Lord Clanwilliam.

I detected a slight hint of sympathy from the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and I hope that if various mechanisms take place at a later stage others of your Lordships will express sympathy then. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh moved Amendment No. 58B:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(" . Section I shall not apply in respect of any proceedings in the House of Lords on a constitutional bill or a bill including constitutional provisions, and any person who was the holder of a hereditary peerage and who was entitled to a writ of summons to attend that House on the day before this Act comes into force shall continue to be entitled to sit and vote on such proceedings.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg the House to reflect on our responsibilities—I say this as a Cross-Bench Peer—as politicians, not party punching politicians. Many Peers have sought legal advice from counsel and counsel's opinion. Some of your Lordships have already received that advice. I am sure that they are aware that it was obtained as a result of private finance. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, talks of the legal advice given to the Government. Where is it? As it has obviously been financed by the public, surely it should be in the public domain.

I do not think the House will find the rationale for my amendments—we are considering Amendment No. 58C with Amendment No. 58B—at all obscure or surprising, since they follow the logic of comments from most parts of the House over past months. Most of us started on these reforms with the intent of arriving at a more legitimately balanced House, as part of a Parliament that can represent the people in controlling the executive. Probably most of us think that we are not achieving that, least of all with the Bill as it stands.

Let us make no mistake. This is not a party matter of a compromise to be agreed through the usual channels, however strangely used, that is not negotiable, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor thinks—and says throughout. If that were true, the whole House would be compromised. For the argument is between Parliament and the Executive, and what executive ever relishes a parliament that can control it? Nevertheless, any government, like every man, can become wise only by taking into account what others say and believe.

In the Bill we have to deal with the interim House, and it may be a very long interim. So of course the ideal would be for the interim House to mirror the House as we hope it will become so far as it is in our power— that is, without legislation—to achieve it. But legislation should at least not stand in the way of that, especially as the Bill does close out both now and for the future the best that the House has shown itself capable of. That is why the watchword of this House has for so long been "No stage one without stage two". Have we now truly forgotten ourselves?

We must take into account the contributions of my hereditary colleagues, especially in the developing system of committees in the field of government. This development, ranging from Europe to science and technology, interest rates, deregulation and so on, has been the startling but undramatic achievement of the House over the past decade. No one can seriously maintain that a suggested limit of 90 hereditary Peers could do anything but damage that. In fact, the compromise is worse than having no hereditary Peers at all. To have none would be plainly seen at once as the work of a self-serving Executive.

This House must not unduly hamper the Government in getting their proper business through. On the other hand, it cannot allow the Government, for their own convenience, to dismember Parliament. All Peers have a duty to ensure a better successor House. Therefore, I have proposed two new clauses which I hope will be seen as a fair compromise between this House and the Government. The clauses do not hamper the Government in getting their business through, unless it is business related to constitutional matters. Perhaps I may remind the House that we spent 18 days debating the Scottish devolution Bill; 10 days on the Bill to set up the Welsh Assembly; eight days on the Northern Ireland Bill; eight days the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill; two days the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill; and we have dedicated our time, thought and effort to the Jenkins voting system in five separate debates.

Of hereditaries, only the Cranborne-Weatherill 90—if they do not make the Bill hybrid—stay both to sit and to vote on ordinary business. Under my proposals, other hereditary Peers will be unable to vote at all against the Government on non-constitutional matters. So the Government will have for the first time the chance to see what the life Peers really think of them, unmasked by any hereditary vote. That should be revealing and salutary.

But hereditary Peers should always be able to attend and speak. They will have the chance to show what the power of logic can do, even unsupported by a vote. The duty to "advise and counsel" is what this House is here to perform. But conversely, the House should remain as it is in the interim for the purpose of ensuring its effective successor—in a Division if need be. Sadly, we have all learnt that this is not a listening Government. The overall result of the new clauses would be a better balanced interim House, better able to build on the best of what we already have and to hold the Executive to account.

The Executive is not compelled to listen to Parliament as things are if it does not want to. It merely repeats itself, throughout. As a Cross-Bencher and independent, I can now reveal one hereditary right to which throughout our debates no one has yet referred. It is this. Every government inherits from their predecessor, of whatever colour, the interest to evade or weaken the power of Parliament if they can. It is that hereditary interest—to evade and weaken the power of Parliament—which, above all, this House must continually eject. All governments are "born to rule"—but only through a Parliament that can control them.

Amendments tabled previously—and perhaps I may mention to the Minister that I have still not received the Standing Orders for the Weatherill-Cranborne amendment in Clause 2, for which I asked on 25th May—have had similar underlying aims. I refer, for example, to those tabled by noble Lords who want, before the legislation takes effect, a referendum on reform proposals and/or a sight of they Royal Commission's findings. One good way at least of achieving those and further aims is embodied in the new clauses. I commend the amendments to the House. I beg t o move.

Lord Richard

My Lords, the noble Lord wished us to approach these amendments as parliamentarians and not as party politicians. I accept that. Let me try to do so. As I understand the two propositions, all existing hereditary Peers should continue to have the right to sit in this House and participate in debates, but that on constitutional matters, however they may be defined, not only should they have the right to sit and debate, and argue and present their point of view; they should also have the right to vote. I cannot accept that. The object of this reform which the Government have set their hand to, presaged with great precision in the manifesto upon which we won the last election, was not to ameliorate the position with regard to the anomaly of the hereditary Peers' parliamentary rights but to remove it.

I can perfectly well see that, if I were in the position of the noble Lord as a hereditary Peer, I should be saying that, by my contribution, my argument, my powers of persuasion and my force of character, I should be able to persuade all those who had a vote that they ought to do what I urge them to do. I do not know—I have never been in the position of a hereditary Peer—but I suppose that, if I were, when it comes to infringements of the constitution of the country it is only the hereditary Peers that can be relied upon to behave with independence and propriety in order to safeguard the constitution, the Monarchy and the Crown—I nearly said "the Empire": I am sure that a few decades ago that would have figured in the speech too.

With great respect, what the noble Lord proposes may seem to him a reasonable compromise between the existing position of the hereditary Peerage and extinction, but from my point of view—and I hope I am speaking in as parliamentary way as he would like me to—we have not come here in order to produce a compromise for the hereditary Peers but to remove their constitutional and parliamentary rights to participate as hereditary legislators in the United Kingdom. I cannot accept what the noble Lord urges.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has done the House a great service in bringing forward these amendments. He is right in much of what he says. But, sadly, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has laid out what the Bill is about: it is to remove the right of the noble Lord, of myself and of many others to sit and vote in this House. Therefore the arguments that the noble Lord has put forward so cogently have fallen on deaf ears. I suspect that the Government will repeat, more or less, what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said. It is because the Government are so stubbornly refusing to consider the case for "no stage one without stage two", about which they have been remarkably consistent over the course of the past two years, that I think these amendments are dcomed to fail. I, for one, regret that.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, perhaps I may first say to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, that I am sorry that he has not discovered the draft Standing Orders in the Library of this House; they have, in fact, been available since 31st March and have obviously been read by a number of your Lordships.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has taken an assiduous interest in the Bill. Having been slightly cross with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, earlier when he made personal remarks about other people's attention, I hesitate to say that some of the arguments put forward by the noble Lord would suggest that he has been equally inattentive. II is certainly the case that the principle and burden of these amendments have been discussed on Second Reading and in Committee and the principle has been discussed many times in ancillary debates on other amendments.

I recognise that the noble Lord has taken account of comments which were made in earlier debates on his and other amendments and has changed his proposal to one that includes only existing Members of this House and not their heirs. However, in my view and that of the Government, it suggests in principle that there is a danger to our fundamental constitution if the hereditary Peers do not continue to be Members of your Lordships' House in such great numbers as they are at present. This does not address two of our fundamental problems with the present situation and the proposals we are putting forward, as my noble friend Lord Richard put it so elegantly a few minutes ago.

To follow the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, I do not need to repeat my own arguments on this subject; I can simply quote from the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, who, in debate on a similar amendment put forward by Lord Renton of Mount Harry on 29th April, raised the issue: as to how sensible it is to imply that any group of people outside the membership of either House of Parliament should have a reserved constitutional role which acts as a sort of guardian for Parliament … this is the sort of question which properly belongs in Parliament … I find it constitutionally odd that Parliament itself should not be trusted to perform one of its central functions in its control of government".—[Official Report, 29th April 1999; col. 466.] That is, current Members of the Houses of Parliament. I agree entirely with the noble Viscount: Parliament is the guardian of our constitution.

As I am sure the noble Lord is aware—I shall not weary the House by repeating our arguments on this particular point—the Government also reject the implication that only hereditary Peers, whether current Members of your Lordships' House or those who will not be excepted Members of your Lordships' House in the transition, can be trusted to be independent. The amendment contains the fatal flaw, which was pointed out last time this matter was discussed, that it does not define what is a constitutional Bill, let alone one that contains constitutional provisions that are supposedly the subject of these particular exceptions to the terms of the Act. The amendment is fundamentally at odds with the scheme of the Bill, as my noble friend Lord Richard explained; and, with the commitment to which Clause 2 gives effect, the amendment is doubly at odds. I urge the House to reject it.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, will forgive me if I deal briefly with Amendment No. 58C. It proposes that hereditary Peers should retain the right to sit and speak in this House but vote only in the circumstances described in Amendment No. 58B. We have debated the idea of the so-called "two-Writ system" many, many times but, beyond debate, it is one of the very few issues that have been put to the vote. The House has already decided twice that it is not interested in this approach. It decided it once positively on the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, on 27th April, and it decided it again, by implication, on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, on 11th May when the House voted overwhelmingly to include what is now Clause 2. This approach really is exhausted, and I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

My Lords, I thank the very few noble Lords who have spoken to my amendments, most of whom are on the Government side. It is sad that, predictably, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is inflexible in his approach to this matter. None the less, everyone has the right to an opinion, and I respect that. I must correct one observation of the Leader of the House. I did not ask for the draft Standing Orders—I was well aware that they had been available since March—but the Standing Orders.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, the Standing Orders have not been agreed because the Procedure Committee that has been summoned to consider them has not yet met. I understand that arrangements are being actively pursued through the usual channels to do that, but the Standing Orders per se cannot appear until the Procedure Committee agrees them.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

My Lords, perhaps if a letter had been sent to me to explain that, I would not have brought up the matter this evening.

I did raise the constitutional question to some extent. I spoke about the various elements of devolution and election in relation to particular parts of the United Kingdom, once upon a time, and with regard to Europe. Perhaps the Leader of the House will forgive me for correcting her on that.

My amendment promotes the idea of reform as proposed by Her Majesty's Government. It does not disagree entirely with the amendments to Clause 2 which were moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and my noble friend Lord Weatherill, but it amends fairly an amendment which was passed by about 300 Peers. Nearly 1,000 did not take part in that mandate. It strikes me how similar those figures are to the proportion of the electorate who gave the present Government a majority of 179 in another place.

Just as the majority, almost 70 per cent, should have attended the polling booths at the general election, I feel that this House should not feel embarrassed if asked to "adjust the helm" just a little further for the sake of this country and others affected by our Parliament's constitutional practices.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and passed by a majority in excess of 100, related to guarding our constitution. Amendment No. 58B relates closely to the same matter: a balanced constitution and a fair Parliament. I understand the comments on the amendments standing in my name. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 58C not moved.]

9.30 p.m.

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 58D:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(" .—(1) Notwithstanding subsection (2) of section 2, at any one time no more than 90 peers by succession shall be excepted from section 1 by this section in accordance with Standing Orders of the House, and they shall be entitled to sit but not to vote in the House or in any Committee of the House.

(2) Standing Orders shall provide that the 90 hereditary peers so excepted shall consist of the following categories—

  1. (a) no more than 2 peers elected by the Labour hereditary peers;
  2. (b) no more than 42 peers elected by the Conservative hereditary peers;
  3. (c) no more than 3 peers elected by the Liberal Democrat hereditary peers;
  4. (d) no more than 28 peers elected by the Cross-bench hereditary peers; and
  5. (e) no more than 15 peers elected by the whole House.

(3) A person may be excepted from section 1 by or in accordance with Standing Orders made in anticipation of the enactment or commencement of this section.

(4) Any question whether a person is excepted from section 1 shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments, whose certificate shall be conclusive.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is more modest than Amendment No. 58C to which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, spoke. It allows 90 hereditary Peers to remain in the interim House with the right to sit and speak in the House or any Committee, but not to vote.

This is not a matter which has been disposed of in earlier debates on the Bill, nor in Divisions, whether actual or implicit. At the cutting edge, the amendment is intended to include the right to move amendments and to ask for the opinion of the House or any Committee but to exclude the right to give voice on "Question put", or to take part in Divisions.

There is a parallel here with the procedures already adopted in this House over the past decade when a Public Bill is referred to a Select Committee called a Public Bill Committee. The right to speak, but not to vote, on legislation is not a new concept.

The amendment envisages that the speaking Peers will be elected by the same electoral colleges as will elect the Weatherill 90 and in accordance with Standing Orders to be made by the House. There is the crucial distinction of which I am much aware. I am in no position to prescribe the Standing Orders. I cannot gridlock the House. There is a certain amount which can and should be on the face of the Bill, including the substance of this amendment which, if agreed to by the House, would, in accordance with the advice of the Clerks, make the Bill prima facie hybrid. But if I seek to press the amendment, I shall surely be met by some such rejoinder as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor uttered on an earlier occasion at col. 818 of the Official Report of 25th May. He said: So far as this Chamber is concerned … whether the relevant provisions are in the Standing Orders or on the face of the Bill makes no difference. However, there is the signal advantage of having these provisions in the Standing Orders; namely, that it excludes the possibility of the other place not only having views on these subjects—which it certainly does—but also having the opportunity to assert different views".

There is also the problem of hybridity which dogs the amendment. If I do not press the amendment today, it will be because of this matter and because I wish to test feelings on various aspects of the concept of speaking Peers—that has not yet been addressed—and because I shall have decided to bring back an amendment at Third Reading which would commit the House to include speaking Peers but would leave the detail to be worked out by the Procedure Committee and the House itself.

When I was young there were tales of a bird, until quite recently thought to be extinct, the mugwump. It had the unique characteristic that it would sit on the fence with its mug on one side and its wump on the other, and it would magnificently keep this up for months at a time.

The last time that we had a full debate on the matter of speaking Peers was in Committee on the 27th April. My noble friend Lord Ferrers moved his amendment to keep all hereditary Peers here on an hereditary basis for the interim House but without voting rights. All that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde had to say from my Front Bench (col. 271) was that my noble friend Lord Cranborne had made some very interesting points on the issue of sitting and voting, speaking in an earlier debate, with which he, Lord Strathclyde, speaking as a former Chief Whip, had every sympathy.

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend some questions. Others on these Benches may be as interested as I am to hear his replies. Does he agree that to have 90 speaking Peers is in no sense at all an affront or an alternative to Weatherill? However, it is sometimes described in that way. It is in fact a supplement. The proposal would supplement Weatherill without affecting the political balance of the House. The fact that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not dealing with this debate tonight is surely an indication that this amendment has nothing to do with Weatherill, because the Weatherill amendment is the particular baby of the noble and learned Lord whom I once referred to elsewhere as the Pied Piper.

Does my noble friend agree that there is a bank of experience among hereditary Peers which would be of value to the interim House? The 42 Weatherill Peers to be elected from these Benches would most desirably, from the point of view of those on these Benches, be committed to the House on a full-time working basis. Other hereditary Peers would not wish or would not be able to assume that commitment, perhaps because they are elder statesmen, perhaps because they are relatively young and work full time, perhaps again because they would only wish to participate in regard to their particular concerns and interests and from their special parliamentary experience. Does my noble friend see no advantage in having these people here? These are important questions.

Before I conclude, may I add that at present I hold no particular brief either for elections or for any particular form of election of speaking Peers. The method of selection I presented in this amendment is really no more than a convenient and familiar starting point. In my opinion it also makes sense. With that, I beg to move.

Lord Richard

My Lords, until the noble Lord spoke I am bound to say that I had not appreciated the full flavour and grandeur of the amendment that he is proposing. As I understand the position, if this amendment were to be carried there would be 90 so-called Weatherill Peers who would be elected by their various constituencies and who would have the full rights that hereditary Peers have at present in the House. In addition to that there would then be another 90 to be elected from the same electorate. I am not quite sure whether the electorate would then include the 90 that had already been elected or whether it would not, but there would be another election from the same electorate which would produce another 90 hereditary Peers who would continue to sit in the House but who would not have the right to vote.

If the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, were to be accepted, we would end up by having 180 hereditary Peers permanently in the House, 90 of whom would have the right to vote and 90 of whom would not have the right to vote. I see the noble Lord is shaking his head in agreement. I am obliged for that. If that is seriously being suggested tonight, I can only repeat, but I will not for the sake of brevity, what I have said on a number of other occasions. It would seem to me to run totally contrary to the purpose and the objectives of this Bill. As such I would find such proposals profoundly and totally unacceptable.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I agree in principle with a great deal of what my noble friend, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has said in support of his two amendments moved just now. I did not rise to support him because I thought there was not the slightest chance of his amendments being accepted. However, the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, are very much more modest and I think that they do deserve serious consideration.

It is not always appreciated what a tiny proportion of our time we spend in this House trooping through the Division Lobbies. Many a week goes by without a single Division taking place. But during those weeks a great deal of work is done both in the Chamber and in Select Committees. A great many novel or insufficiently understood ideas and propositions are expounded, some of which are subsequently taken up by the Government or one of the Opposition parties. Non-contentious drafting errors in Bills are drawn to the Government's attention. Penetrating Questions, Starred and for Written Answers, are tabled and asked. Voting is only a small part of the constructive work which this House does. Indeed, tonight, some Members of the Government Benches may believe that voting is very far from constructive.

Noble Lords who have been Members of this House for a few years know in their hearts, even if they will not admit it openly, that if only 92 hereditary Peers remain, a great deal of expertise will be lost to Parliament. Permitting an additional 90 hereditary Peers to continue to contribute verbally, although not otherwise, would ensure that Parliament would continue to benefit from that expertise without upsetting the political balance.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Coleraine challenged me to answer a few questions and I am delighted to be able to do so. First, perhaps I may say that if I were sitting on the Government Front Bench, seeing this kind of amendment would immediately urge me to rush along to whoever I had to obey and recommend acceptance of it. It deals with so many of the objections which have been made by noble Lords opposite during the course of the debates. It is very humble in its attempts to deal with the problem that a number of Peers who have enormous experience and knowledge outside this House will be excluded and that experience and knowledge will be lost. That is the answer to the question which my noble friend asked me.

Furthermore, the proposal is not an alternative to the Weatherill amendment. It is a complement to it and can work side by side with the amendment, which is now Clause 2. The comments I made at an earlier stage related to the general principle of the entire hereditary peerage returning to sit but not to vote. As a former Chief Whip, I would have found it tiresome to listen to many Peers speaking on an issue and delaying the vote. But under the terms of this amendment, there would be so few sitters but not voters—"Coleraine Peers", if I may christen them that—and I believe that it is acceptable.

It would be nice to hear the Government suggest that this may be a way forward. I do not know the answer to the question of hybridity, but no doubt the Minister will have a reply. I hope that we shall hear a positive reply.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, urged me to rush along to the person I have to obey. I have done that and she told me not to accept the amendment! It is interesting that the passionate support which the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, gives to the amendment does not extend to calling on his troops to vote for it. But we have become used to that during the past weeks.

As always, the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, put his points most moderately, courteously and persuasively, but he failed to persuade me. He suggests that there should be another 90 Peers in addition to the Weatherill Peers who would be entitled to speak but not to vote. Bearing in mind that we spent eight days in Committee on a one-clause Bill, I thought that there might be some attraction in stopping them speaking and just letting them vote! I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, was putting his two questions to me. Obviously he was putting them to the noble Lord. Lord Strathclyde, so I need not trouble to answer them.

This is now at least the eighth time—one forgets; time goes so quickly when one is having fun—that we have debated the idea that there should be some Peers with different voting rights to other Peers. We have had at least 16 different amendments. That is in addition to the rather truncated debates we had on Clause 2 and other alternative schemes. It is right to say that after all this time we have decided very few things. We have decided two at least: first, that the House does not wish to see a two-Writ system, which is what the noble Lord, in effect, contemplates; and, secondly, that the House does not wish to alter the numbers in Clause 2.

I therefore cannot support the amendments. I invite the noble Lord—as I believe he has indicated—not to put them to the vote.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Coleraine

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend on the Front Bench for his response to my amendment. He called it a humble amendment. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred to it as having a certain grandeur. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, realised that I was trying to double the number of hereditary Peers in this House for the period of the interim Chamber.

As regards the suggestion that the amendment is contrary to the intention of the Bill, nothing could be more contrary to the intention of the Bill than the Weatherill amendment. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that possibly the reason my noble Leader did not invite his friends behind him to join me in the Division Lobby was that he sensed I would not divide tonight. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 58DA:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(" . Before the end of the Session of Parliament in which this Act is passed the Secretary of State shall confirm to both Houses of Parliament that full consultation about the impact of this Act has taken place with the relevant authorities in the United Kingdom Crown Dependencies, in Britain's Overseas Territories and in the countries in which the terms of the Statute of Westminster 1931 may apply.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 58DA I shall speak also to Amendment No. 63A and its listed schedules and Amendments Nos. 78A to D tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.

In my previous speeches on the Bill and with my noble friend Lord Chesham I introduced the matter of the Commonwealth in relation to a reform of this House. I do so again because of the concerns about the apparent lack of consultations with the 53 governments of the Commonwealth states. I have widened the amendment to take into consideration the needs of the United Kingdom Crown dependencies and Britain's overseas territories. I do not believe that their views will be taken fully into account.

For Commonwealth states, the purpose of the amendment is to reflect the spirit and intent of the Statute of Westminster and the various Acts following that Statute so that this Bill does not become law until consultations with all the Commonwealth states, Crown dependencies and overseas territories have been concluded.

The amendment is introduced also in recognition of the courteous and friendly understanding by which each nation respects the laws of others, without prejudice to its own rights and interests; that is the Comity of Nations. It is also designed to uphold the constitutional rights of those hereditary Peers who are citizens of the Commonwealth states other than the United Kingdom as well as those of the Crown dependencies and Britain's overseas territories.

There has been some acrimony in the debates, both in and out of Parliament, about the effect of the Bill on the sovereign's hereditary rights. Much of that focuses upon the effect of the Act upon the sovereign's rights and titles. Some Commonwealth citizens in authority now complain about the pressure exerted on them to extract consent to the changes that the Act would make to the sovereign's rights and titles.

There seems to be a weaving of webs—of distraction and confusion—about the interpretation of simple facts. However, I cannot regard pronouncements made by Ministers as given law. Therefore I continue to challenge and differ with them. I see that the lack of support for many of the amendments proposed, designed to improve the Bill or to acknowledge existing laws and international commitments, allows the Government seemingly to ignore the legal rights of Commonwealth states and citizens. Perhaps I should be content to leave these matters to the courts.

However, perhaps I may draw your Lordships' attention to some basic facts about the Commonwealth. It has a population of 1.7 billion; that is one-third of the world's total population. The composition of its peoples is overwhelmingly not Caucasian. This Parliament is representative of less than 3.5 per cent of the Commonwealth population, yet it now legislates on matters concerning more than 96 per cent of the Commonwealth peoples who are certainly ethnic majorities. That is not a democratic credential for the Bill.

In my speech at Committee stage, I stated that this Bill purports to remove the sovereign's hereditary right to create hereditary Peers with rights to attend this House. It is clear that the sovereign's right to create hereditary Peers as they now exist, will not be precisely the same if this Bill is enacted into law.

Allow me to draw an analogy to illustrate my issue by use of a question; namely, that as citizens we are generally all entitled to leave our unencumbered property and possessions to whomever we wish. However, if Parliament enacted a law which changed that right by saying that we may not leave our property to a political party, would that right be precisely the same after such a Bill was passed, as it was before? The answer is clearly "No". Thus, removing from hereditary Peers the right to attend and sit in this House, also removes the sovereign's right to create a hereditary Peer who has such a right. The former right is not the same as the latter. Thus there would be a change to the sovereign's hereditary titles and rights. That being so, we must look to the statutes which protect the sovereign's rights; in this instance, to the Statute of Westminster 1931.

Several eminent counsel have advised that this Bill cannot be lawfully presented for the Royal Assent unless and until the consent to the changes to the sovereign's titles have been given by the Commonwealth states. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, will wish to expand on that matter. It has been well argued that the sovereign's hereditary title as Duke of Lancaster has been changed by the Act because as a Royal Duke, the sovereign is barred from attending and sitting here. That surely is a change to the sovereign's title. That dukedom's rights would no longer be what they were before the Act. Thus a specific hereditary right of the sovereign will be removed by the Act.

The Statute of Westminster 1931 is of immense and profound importance in our constitution. It represents, indeed enacts, a solemn promise made by our United Kingdom Parliament and a former sovereign not to legislate unilaterally on matters touching upon the Crown and the succession. The Government have not reported to Parliament, despite requests in this House, concerning any discussions, consultations or dialogues with any Commonwealth country concerning the effects of the Act. It is claimed that there is considerable disquiet among Commonwealth countries about this Bill. If that is unfounded, surely the Government can assist to allay concerns and fears by reporting to Parliament about their dialogues with the Commonwealth concerning this Bill. I ask that for a second time.

It is of equal importance to recognise that this Bill seeks to remove specific rights of Commonwealth citizens who are hereditary Peers, and in so doing it also seeks to legislate for states such as India, Canada and New Zealand. That being so, the Act would breach the Commonwealth principle of equality between nations incorporated in the Indian Independence Act 1947. That is just one example.

Both amendments provide recognition for the "comity of nations", designed to ensure proper respect for the constitutional rights of those hereditary Peers who are citizens of Commonwealth members other than the United Kingdom. The Commonwealth has a proper and legitimate interest in the Bill. As one example, for the 16 Commonwealth countries of which the sovereign is also head of state, their interest is that the Act would remove their sovereign's hereditary rights and those of the heir.

There are many hereditary Peers who live in the Commonwealth and who are citizens of Commonwealth states. This Parliament, by its own enactments, does not have the power to legislate for the removal of the rights of Commonwealth citizens without their consent. So, from the heroic island of Malta to the solitary St. Helena; the far-distant Pitcairns; the rich prairies of Canada and the teeming cities of the Indian sub-continent, all Commonwealth members are equally to be involved in consultation and consent. That is an enormous but dutiful task to be accomplished. To proceed further with this Bill in its present form without seeking and obtaining the consent of all Commonwealth members would be an affront to those sovereign states.

It is already regarded as yet one further stealth manoeuvre away from the Commonwealth towards a so-called more democratic and perfect Union, an exclusively European one upon which British voters have recently thrown doubt, to say the least. The stealth is revealed as a step into the new Euroland and away from the Commonwealth, to the members of which we owe so much.

Are we really confronted by the spectre of a Government who are so determined to exercise their parliamentary majority and pass laws clearly in violation of international obligations? What example would this give to other states about violating international obligations and laws? What example would it be to our fellow citizens?

Finally, I am most conscious of my oath of allegiance to our sovereign. It is my personal belief that by supporting this Bill without amending it as I am proposing, I would violate that sworn oath which requires me to uphold the rights and titles of the sovereign and her heirs and successors. If my amendment is not accepted, the Act will change and diminish the sovereign's rights. That being so, I will keep my oath to uphold those rights, and I recommend the same view to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

My Lords, it will be well nigh impossible to match the speech presented by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. He has certainly set me a difficult task, but it is not insurmountable. The task is to remind your Lordships of the significant passages in the Coronation Oath, Letters Patent, the 1926 Report on the Inter-Imperial Relations Committee of that year and the 1931 Statute of Westminster II.

We have been reminded that we have seven hereditary peers who are Canadian. We also have, as a matter of interest, four New Zealanders, 11 Australians and several others from the other countries that your Lordships will see. From St. Lucia, we have one; from South Africa, four; from Zimbabwe, one. That is just to add a few. I am delighted to see the number of life Peers who represent the culture, the ethnic feelings, the beliefs and the talents of the Commonwealth countries so closely associated with the monarchy.

On 2nd June 1953, Her Majesty the Queen laid her hand on the Holy Gospel and solemnly promised to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon (as it was then known), and of the possessions and other territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective law and customs – the Comity of Nations.

Whether we be hereditary or life Peers, the opening lines of our Writ of Summons reinforce the dignity and the status of our monarch: Elizabeth II by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of our other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth. Defender of the Faith". The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, spoke of the number within the stated Comity of Nations—53. As your Lordships will see, these are listed in Schedules 78A. B, C and D. At the 1926 Imperial Conference, it was stated, We think it should be placed on record that the Constitutional Practice is that legislation by the Parliament of Westminster applying to a Dominion should only be passed with the consent of the Dominion concerned". This was the basis for Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster II in 1931, which provides: No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend or be deemed to extend to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion unless it is expressly declared in that Act that the dominion has requested, and consented to the enactment thereof—. Our foreign policy, our defence policy and our policy relating to international trade are promoted by our monarch and debated in our Parliament (in this House) and take account of views expressed by Commonwealth Peers; Peers from the Comity of Nations. How can that Comity of Nations have any confidence in the monarch's position, her sovereign status as stated in the Coronation Oath, when Her Majesty's Government propose agreements, legislation, which are tantamount to contradicting her Oath, and ours for that matter?

During the previous government's tenure of office it was proposed to share the governance, the sovereignty of Northern Ireland, between Dublin and Westminster. No one knows what will happen to the sovereignties of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man with a Government who surrender so much to Europe: corpus juris now replaces habeas corpus; the pound sterling is an endangered species.

We admire the way that the Gurkhas volunteer as members of Her Majesty's forces and the way that the Government have safeguarded and guaranteed financial support to the families of the Gurkhas recently killed in Kosovo. Nepal is not part of the Commonwealth.

Please let us riot forget what our Commonwealth friends—that Comity of Nations, our family—did for our monarch in the last two World Wars. Please let us not surrender our long-term friends piecemeal. To avoid conflict within the Commonwealth as a result of failure to consult before presenting the House of Lords Reform Bill, exacerbated should the Bill be passed, Her Majesty's Government must surely consider re-phrasing the Coronation Oath, revising the Statute of Westminster II and reviewing the Oath of Allegiance taken by every Peer.

I should like the House to remember the lines of J.M. Edmonds who, when reflecting on our commitment to the Commonwealth, said: When you go home tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow we gave our today. Went the day well? We died and never knew, but, good or ill, Freedom, we died for you". The monarchy, the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are the living history of us all and the heritage that assures our future. All Members of this House, as an integral part of Parliament, are to a large measure their custodians. That living history this House must continue to protect. I support the amendment.

10 p.m.

Lord Newby

My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, sits down, perhaps he could answer a question which might clarify his amendment. If a parliament of any of the members of the Commonwealth set out in later amendments, say, in subsection (1A) of Amendment No. 63A—that is, Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is not head of state—put down a resolution opposing the Bill and stating that it should not come into force, is the noble Lord really saving that, on a wet Friday afternoon in Vanuatu, Kiribati, The Gambia or Fiji, there may, so to speak, be a Private Members' debate on the Bill? That is implausible but not impossible. We know from what the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has said that there is considerable disquiet on this issue across the Commonwealth. But is the noble Lord really saying that if the Kiribati Parliament passed a resolution that it wished this Bill not to pass, this Bill should not pass?

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh

My Lords, I can probably help the noble Lord—he is quite right to ask me that question—by asking him to read Hansard tomorrow. He will understand that I was talking about the courtesy—the diplomacy most of all—of alerting all of the nations in the schedules of what is the intention of Her Majesty's Government on such matters as a constitutional change of this nature. I hope that will help the noble Lord to a degree—I can see that it will not help the noble Lord the slightest bit—and of course I quite understand that there are certain dominions which are quite respectful (in fact most respectful) of this Parliament. They will obviously not try to interfere, but they should be alerted to what we are doing. That is why I read out the Statute of Westminster et al.

Lord Ashbourne

My Lords, I rise to support these amendments because they re-emphasise the importance of the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom Crown dependencies and British overseas territories. Perhaps at this stage I should declare an interest because I was born in Malta more years ago than I care to reveal to your Lordships. I commend these amendments to the House.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, consultation at any time is always a useful and worthwhile step. In this case, with so much at stake, I believe that it is an absolute imperative. A way forward must be identified which commands the wholehearted support of all sides.

The issues are indeed complex—I refer in particular to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie—and raise in my mind unanswered questions. If the Statute of Westminster relates only to those territories named as dominions in 1931 there might be no case to answer. If, however, the relationship since 1931 with our dependencies, realms and the wider Commonwealth has so evolved as to create serious knock-on effects in capitals across the Commonwealth, clearly we have a duty to scrutinise closely and to consult.

What are the implications for the realms, for instance, those independent countries where the Queen is head of state, whose final court of appeal is the Privy Council and whose legislation is closely, if not inextricably, linked to ours? Clearly changes for us must signify changes for them at least. This is not to suggest that any kind of veto power is inherent in our relations with the Commonwealth family. Rather I believe that in the interests of maintaining and fostering the vital "partnerships" which Britain has carefully developed over the decades, one can do no less than to support the calls for consultation—always with Britain's best interest in full view.

Lord Chesham

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Norrie has mentioned my name in connection with this group of amendments and I am grateful to him for that. I am slightly surprised to note that when we are discussing something like the Commonwealth we do not have a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister present. I think that perhaps that is an indication of the Government's attitude towards it. I believe that the Government have been totally discourteous as far as the Commonwealth is concerned. I cannot understand why the Commonwealth countries were not consulted—that is not too difficult a task—unless the Government believe that the Commonwealth is not important. I do not believe that it is too late for consultation to take place. I ask the Government to take steps to repair the damage that is being caused by their attitude. There is conflicting legal advice as to the requirement for consultation; however, common decency should require the Government to do so.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I wish in a few words to support from my heart the amendment. This is not a question of "the Act shall not pass"; it is a question that the Act should not pass before there has at least been consultation with the Commonwealth. The question was asked but the difference is fundamental. All one is asking for is consultation. Having served alongside forces of the Commonwealth, I feel that that is something for which one should be entitled to ask. The Government should take this on board. The speech of my noble friend Lord Norrie was reasoned, well researched and worthy of the serious attention of the Government. I ask that that is given.

There are occasions when a government—any government—seem to forget or omit something of consequence in the drafting of a Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will remember, that happened during the human rights legislation. I tabled an amendment on the ecclesiastical aspect, which had not been considered. That matter was resolved amicably and went to sleep. Then I tabled an amendment on the impact on the Armed Forces. I was not supported by my own Front Bench; I never am. I do not expect to be; I am an independent Conservative. In the result, I received a letter from the Ministers and they set up the very kind of court which I had hoped and expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, might perhaps be set up.

The point is not whether one won or succeeded, or whether one was supported by any political party, on a question such as this. It is not a political question; it is not a question for a political party. The point is that in the drafting of a Bill any government can fail to appreciate a matter of fundamental importance. I respectfully ask the Government to take the speech and the amendment of my noble friend on board.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I expect that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, having heard what has been said, is rather wishing that he had asked a Minister from the FCO to come and answer this particular debate.

I commend the tremendous amount of work and research that my noble friend Lord Norrie has put into this subject and the eloquent way in which he introduced the amendment. He made a plea to the Government—perhaps "plea" is too strong, but certainly a request—that the questions he posed should be answered. He gave the impression that they have not been answered before. Perhaps I may urge on the Government Front Bench that I fully endorse the questions of my noble friend Lord Norrie. If he does not get a proper reply, I suspect that he will want to bring the matter back at Third Reading. I do not know whether or not noble Lords opposite want that to happen, but that is what I suspect my noble friend will do.

Amendment No. 58DA asks for something very simple, an element of consultation with the countries of the Commonwealth. If, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway pointed out, a mistake has been made in the drafting of the Bill, the Government do not necessarily have to accept the amendment to put that right. They could simply give a commitment to consult. I can see that there is no harm in doing so.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, we have had this debate on a number of previous occasions and the same points have been raised again. They obviously cause concern so I will go through each of the points and indicate what seems to me to be the answer to them legally. I should also make it clear that there is obviously no intention on the part of this Government to do anything in any way to undervalue the Commonwealth or to insult it. Any suggestion to that effect is, with the greatest respect to the noble Lords, Lord Norrie and Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, completely misconceived.

Perhaps I may deal with the three points that have been made which are said to give rise to legal confusion and on which apparently the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has the advice of eminent counsel that they require consultation with the Commonwealth countries.

First, Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster, which is the foundation of these amendments, says, as the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, said: No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion unless it is expressly declared in that Act that the dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof—. This Bill, if it becomes an Act, does not extend to any dominion. The fact that certain Members of this House may have dominion citizenship does not mean that this Act extends to that dominion.

I give two examples which demonstrate the point. We pass Acts in this country which affect the criminal law. They will affect Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians in this country. We do not consult the dominions about that. We are not required to by Section 4.

Another example is that we make laws in this country about the ownership of property in this country. The fact that there is an Australian citizen in Australia who might have a right under that law in relation to property in this country does not lead us to consult these legislatures before we pass those Acts. There is no difference between those situations and this situation. Therefore, Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster does not provide the foundation of the case which the noble Lord has sought to put.

A secondary point has been raised. It is said that there is a debate between lawyers—eminent counsel—about what is meant by the word "dominion" in Section 4. According to Section 10 of the Act: The Dominions to which this section applies are the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and Newfoundland". As far as I am concerned, that is pretty clear. Despite that, the amendment refers to 13 countries and 16 provinces and states. I cannot think what possible debate there could be about the scope of Section 4 though I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, that eminent counsel has advised that there is some debate about what this means.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. It is an important point as regards Section 4, but the House may have noticed that I did not take that point. I am not an eminent counsel. I am taking the point of the fundamental relationship between the Commonwealth and our country and I am asking only for consultation. I am not interested in legalistic arguments. I am arguing on the basis of a relationship which is of enduring importance.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, these amendments are based on the Statute of Westminster. The noble Lord is suggesting that we consult our friends in the Commonwealth about changes to the composition of the second Chamber in our legislature. Are there other allies that we would consult as well? With the greatest of respect, it is a matter for this country to decide. It is not a matter on which we should consult our allies, take into account their views and then proceed. With the greatest respect for the sincerity and passion with which the noble Lord put forward his point of view, I think it is misconceived.

Perhaps I may go on to the legal position on which the two noble Lords rely. Their last point relates to the position of Her Majesty. I assume that the position is that they are relying on the Preamble to the Statute of Westminster because there is no other part on which they could rely. It states: it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well as of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom". The Bill, as is obvious, does not affect the succession to the throne; nor does it affect one jot the Royal style and titles. Her Majesty's title as Duke of Lancaster is not affected in any way by the Bill. I should say in parenthesis that that title is not the title which gives Her Majesty the right to sit in the House.

I have dealt with all of the points raised in relation to the Statute of Westminster. With the greatest respect to the noble Lords, Lord Norrie and Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, both of whom have carried out immense research in relation to it, I suggest that there is nothing whatever in the points they have made in relation to the Statute of Westminster. There has been no disrespect to the Commonwealth in relation to the passage of the Bill. There is no legal requirement with regard to any of the matters that they have raised. With the greatest respect, I suggest that they withdraw the amendment and do not proceed with it at Third Reading.

Lord Chesham

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, does he not understand the difference between courtesy, disrespect and a legal requirement?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, I have explained what the legal position is and I have explained what is our position as a matter of substance in relation to the passage of the Bill. With the exception of what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, said in his speech, until now the position has always been put on the basis of the Statute of Westminster. That is how it has been argued. With the greatest respect, there is no foundation for the amendment in that. Equally, I have dealt with the arguments advanced that we should consult our Commonwealth colleagues in relation to something which, in my respectful submission, affects only this country.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord mentioned my name. By leave, may I ask him whether he will accept that I accept wholly his analysis that it is for us to decide? All that I am suggesting is that it would be reasonable and appropriate to consult. That is all.

Noble Lords


Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am not out of order.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords. I accept that the noble Lord accepts my legal analysis of the position.

Lord Norrie

My Lords, if the Government are not prepared to insult, why will they not consult?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I thought that I had explained painstakingly to the noble Lord why there is no legal obligation to consult and why, separately from the legal position, we take the view that it is not appropriate to consult. I could deliver my speech all over again—

Noble Lords


Lord Falconer of Thoroton

But I detect that the House would not be enthusiastic in that respect.

Lord Norrie

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for explaining that yet again, but at this stage I reserve the right to bring the matter back on Third Reading, if I have to do so. I am in consultation with High Commissions, and I should like to see what they say about it. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Repeals]:

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 58E:

Page 2, line 1, at beginning insert—

(".—(1) The enactments mentioned in Schedule (Amendments) are amended as specified there.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 59:

After Clause 4, insert the following new clause—


(" . 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 Interim Chamber" and shall be styled as "Member [surname]" in any proceedings of the House.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment was, for very good reasons, decoupled from Amendment No. 50, and the House was notified of that. Many of the arguments that I was going to deploy were used on Amendment No. 51 by my noble friend Lord Ferrers. Therefore, I can be very brief. I do not expect any great response from the Government, because we divided on that amendment.

I say only that the reason why my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley chose the interim House was to remind those who will be in the successor Chamber that it is the hereditary Peers who are going this time, but on the next occasion it will be the life Peers. If the Government really believe that a long time is being taken with this Bill, they will find when it comes to the stage-two Bill that they have a considerably longer programme ahead of them because of the number of life Peers that will need to be appointed on a working basis in order to fulfil what the Government have said.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, again, this is an amendment about names. I said last time that we are the "House of Lords"; let us keep on calling ourselves that.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 60:

After Clause 4, insert the following new clause—


(" . The salaries payable to the members of the second chamber of Parliament shall be payable only to those office holders who were eligible to receive a salary on the day before this Act comes into force.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I may not be quite as brief as on the last amendment, but I shall be brief. We had a very good discussion on this amendment in Committee, when I was particularly taken by what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, although his amendment was more restrictive as to future emoluments than is this amendment, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley.

I seek a little further clarification from the Government as to exactly what their intentions are. As I understand it, at present the only salaried Peers are Ministers with departmental responsibilities, and they are funded from the departmental funds. The Opposition Leader and Chief Whip are funded from the Consolidated Fund, and the House pays a percentage of the salary of the Lord Chancellor and the Chairman and Deputy Chairmen of Committees.

Without question, there will be a larger regular attending House than we have now. I have no doubt that the time of the Back-Bench part-time Peer is coming rapidly to an end. The number of life Peers that will have to be created to fulfil the Government's commitments which we discussed earlier will mean that regular attendance will increase. Already it is quite difficult to find somewhere to sit in order to take part in Question Time if one is not here immediately after Prayers. Many of the debates are now so long that it is becoming increasingly difficult to try to do something outside the House and take part in the work of the House. Even debates at Committee stage, which were normally long lasting until the matter had been fully discussed, are being arbitrarily curtailed.

Yesterday, those of us who served on a committee found trying to find the appropriate committee room rather like playing musical chairs. That was because of the number of committees sitting, which meant that we were moved from one committee room to another. Those problems will only get worse.

In Committee, in response to Amendment No. 73, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, referred to the fact that we should need to examine the facilities of this House to enable it to operate in an effective way. Clearly, those facilities are already stretched by the number of regular attenders, and will be stretched considerably more in the future.

This House is cheap to run in comparison with another place and the European Parliament. Many of us do not wish to see costs increased as a result of further salaries being paid. I should like confirmation from the Government on that point. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, my Amendment No. 71 is coupled with this one. It makes a slightly different point. First, perhaps I may comment briefly on the remarks of my noble friend Lord Caithness. This is an inexpensive House to run—I shall not say "cheap". The average cost per Peer is something like £35,000. That is 10 per cent of what an MP costs, at £350,000; and an MEP costs nearly £1 million. So the taxpayer receives extremely good value from this House. Last year, some 4,000 amendments were sent back to another place, and most were agreed.

What is the Government's view on the longer term financing of the interim House? When I say "longer term", that is not to interfere with a possible stage two House. At what stage will they wish to involve the Senior Salaries Review Board in regard to the salaries, expenses and allowances paid to the groups mentioned by my noble friend?

The point behind this is that, as 50 per cent of the active House will be leaving, a certain amount of pressure will be brought to bear on those who are left behind. Since most Members of this House are, by definition, part-time, what adjustments will be necessary to compensate Peers for possibly giving up more lucrative work outside this House in order to do the valuable work of this place?

I shall be grateful to hear the noble and learned Lord's response, both to this point and to my noble friend's amendment.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I can tell my noble friend Lord Caithness that there is not the slightest likelihood of the Government accepting this amendment—first, because they do not accept amendments of this genre; and, secondly, because it is obvious that in due course Members of this House will be paid. Otherwise the Government would never get anyone to do the work. What will happen is that they will be paid, they will want more secretaries and research assistants, and then bigger premises, and so on and so forth. What is a very inexpensive Parliament, as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde described it, will become an expensive parliamentary building. I should be interested to hear from the noble and learned Lord who will reply whether it is the intention in due course to pay Members of this House.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I have taken the view for many years that the great value of Back-Benchers in either House is that they are not whole-time Members, but they bring to the work of the House the experience that they gain outside in various occupations—in the professions, in business, in farming or whatever else it may be. If Members of this House are to become salaried whole-timers, the value of the work of the Back-Benchers will be diminished. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I totally support the remarks of my noble friend Lord Renton. I hope that the Back-Benchers will never be paid anything more than their attendance expenses. We should get the wrong sort of people. They would not be worth the light.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, the concerns raised by these two amendments are similar and our response to both is effectively the same. Noble Lords have made it clear that they believe that the existing system of remuneration works perfectly well for the present House and will continue to work in the transitional House. We agree. The Government have no intention of making any changes in this respect for the transitional House. This is not the appropriate moment to change the financial arrangements of the second Chamber. The Bill as it stands leaves those arrangements completely untouched. In the light of what I have said about the Government's intentions, the amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, appear to me to be unnecessary.

The question of remuneration is one for the longer term. The Royal Commission, in the consultation paper it issued in March, sought views on this specific issue. The Labour Party, for its part, made clear its views in its submission to the Royal Commission, as was explained in Committee. In the context of the wider examination of the role and functions, as well as the composition, of the fully reformed House, obviously it makes sense to look at remuneration, and the Labour Party therefore welcomes the Royal Commission's interest in those matters. But in the shorter term, the Bill does no more than remove hereditary Peers from your Lordships' House. The role and functions of the House will remain unchanged in the transitional phase, and so will the terms and conditions of its Members.

With those assurances, and bearing in mind that redundant provisions give legislation a bad name, I hope that the noble Earl will agree to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, for his reply and for further clarifying the Government's position as set out in Committee. As was pointed out by my noble friends who were kind enough to support my amendment, as long as there are part-time Back-Benchers who can contribute fully to this House, and as long as the House is organised to enable them to do that, I think the noble and learned Lord need have no fear. My fear is that the Bill will alter the composition of the House and drive out the part-time Back-Bench Peer. It is through the revised composition of the House that pressure would be put on the Government to pay salaries, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers pointed out.

I am grateful for the statement on government policy as regards the interim House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Perth moved Amendment No. 61:

After Clause 4, insert the following new clause—


(" . 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.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, your Lordships will be glad to know that I shall be brief on this amendment, which was grouped with Amendment No. 46. There was a long debate on the two amendments and Amendment No. 46 was passed by a considerable majority.

Both amendments are concerned in different ways that the life of a Parliament should not exceed five years without the House of Lords so agreeing—if the House of Lords uses its power of veto on this point. I know that my amendment is not watertight but it provides time for public opinion and the all-powerful media to focus on what is happening. The amendment provides for a statutory declaration written into the Bill which, it is to be hoped, would make the government of the clay hesitate and think again before trying to extend a Parliament's life.

I look upon Amendments Nos. 46 and 61 as one and the same; they provide a belt-and-braces defence against an unknown future—perhaps another Cromwell. I absolutely accept the word of the Government that they have no intention to seek to extend the life of a Parliament. That has been made clear in writing by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for which I am grateful, and in other ways. Remembering the passing of Amendment No. 46, I very much hope that the Government will also accept Amendment No. 61, which is linked with it.

Lord Renton

My Lords, the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is of very great value and guidance. It may well be that he does not intend to divide the House upon this matter tonight, but if the amendment can be regarded by the Government as valuable guidance for the future the noble Earl will have performed a good service. The amendment is much wider in effect than Amendment No. 46; indeed, I would have voted for it had there been an opportunity at this late hour. It is very important that the Government understand that it is the will of the House within the terms not only of Amendment No. 46 but Amendment No. 61 that there should be no attempt to extend the life of a Parliament.

Viscount Bledisloe

My Lords, I spoke in opposition to Amendment No. 46 and voted against it. On the other hand. I support this amendment. If it is the intention of the Government—as I vaguely suspect it may be—to reverse their defeat on Amendment No. 46 at a later stage, I very much commend to them Amendment No. 61. I suspect that whoever is to reply to the debate will say that the amendment is unnecessary because it already exists in law. In technical terms, I accept that that answer would be correct, but there is no great harm in occasionally enacting something that is merely declaratory of present law. There is undoubtedly suspicion, whether or not justified—I do not believe that it is—that the consequence of this Bill may be to make it easier for the Septennial Act, which is now quinquennial, to be repealed. That suspicion may be fortified by the reversal of Amendment No. 46 either at a later stage or in another place. I commend to the Government the idea that if they accepted Amendment No. 61 nobody could be suspicious of their intentions if thereafter they deleted Amendment No. 46. It may be unnecessary, but it is wholly desirable and totally harmless.

Lord Monson

My Lords, this amendment is much neater, more easily comprehensible, and therefore much more user-friendly so far as concerns the general public, than Amendment No. 46, which was passed earlier today by a majority of 106. Unlike Amendment No. 46, this amendment is not open to the objection that it creates two classes of Peer. I trust, therefore, that it will be accepted without hesitation, but if by some mischance it is not I hope that my noble friend will press it to a Division.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, as always, I wish to support my noble friend, kinsman and clan chief.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I support the amendment. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that the arguments on Amendment No. 46 and on this amendment are disparate. Let us not go into the details.

On Amendment No. 46—and the question goes to both amendments—the noble Lord, Lord Graham, asked a perfectly reasonable question: "Why, suddenly, do you, the Conservative Party, ask for a fundamental constitutional safeguard when you did nothing for 18 years, and now the Labour Party have arrived on the scene?" I think that is the question he asked. I longed to answer it but there was not time and no one wanted to listen.

The answer is quite simple. Although we did nothing for 18 years, at least we did nothing. What the Labour Party has done is to upset totally the constitutional apple cart with devolution, this Bill, and no doubt other things. There is a new drive to alter the whole constitutional structure. It is because of that that I respectfully suggest that it is reasonable to ask for a fundamental constitutional safeguard along the lines of these amendments.

I accept that the arguments in support of both amendments are disparate, but I support the argument on this amendment.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, noble Lords on the Government Front Bench will be relieved to hear, I trust, that I shall not engage in a robust defence of Amendment No. 46, although it well deserves it. Nor shall I rise to the fly so deftly cast over me by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. I simply say that the Opposition believe that Amendment No. 61 happily complements Amendment No. 46; and we shall be very pleased if the Government will agree to include that on the face of the Bill—as a declaratory statement but one that the Bill thoroughly merits.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I cannot support any of my noble kinsmen in this House because I have none. But I have an argument, which may sometimes be of greater assistance.

Quite simply, this amendment, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, accepted, has no effect. It simply declares that the Bill does not affect the power of the House of Lords to veto the amendment or suspension of the Septennial Act, as it originally was. Since the Bill says nothing about powers, self evidently the Bill as it presently stands does not affect your Lordships' powers.

It is not true that apparently meaningless expressions in legislation are always necessarily harmless. They are not. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, asked for a fundamental constitutional safeguard. One can have that, as I said earlier, in a written constitution which is not able to be amended except with certain majorities. But a bare statement of the self evident, such as this, is neither fundamental, nor a safeguard, nor particularly constitutional.

The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, said that he did not feel able or inclined to defend Amendment No. 46. I paraphrase what he said. The amendment has been described as a belt and braces provision. If Amendment No. 61 were the braces alone, the trousers would fall down, because it is utterly and completely valueless.

Lord Monson

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, is it not the convention in this House to accept amendments in the same grouping as the first amendment which has been agreed?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

No, my Lords, and that is why the noble Earl, Lord Perth, scrupulously developed this theme and his argument on Amendment No. 61, which is different. That is why I have responded in this way. The noble Earl was correct and I am correct.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, I thank all those who have supported my amendment. It may well be that it has no effect in the sense of having a statutory right or preventing something happening in relation to the duration of a Parliament. However, it will undoubtedly ensure that people think again. "What is all this about?". If Parliament wants to extend its life, it is important that the country as a whole and the media know what is happening. The amendment is designed to achieve that.

Even if the amendment has no effect, in the light of the support that I have received I should like to test the opinion of the House.

10.51 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 61) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 83.

Division No. 4
Annaly, L. Liverpool, E.
Berners, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Bledisloe, V. Monson, L.
Boardman, L. Mountevans, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mountgarret, V.
Carnock, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Chalfont, L. Norton of Louth, L.
Coleraine, L. Perth, E. [Teller.]
Craigmyle, L. Renton, L.
Cross, V. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Ferrers, E. Shannon, E.
Gray, L. Shaw of Northstead, L.
Iveagh, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Kenyon, L. Strange, B. [Teller.]
Kinnoull, E. Swansea, L.
Kintore, E. Trefgarne, L.
Leigh, L. Wise, L.
Acton, L. Blease, L.
Addington, L. Borrie, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Bragg, L.
Alli, L. Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Amos, B. Brookman, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Burlison, L.
Bach, L. Carlisle, E.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Carter, L. [Teller.]
Berkeley, L Chandos, V.
Blackstone, B. Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Judd, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Kennet, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Lockwood, B.
Crawley, B. Lofthouse of Pontefract. L.
Currie of Marylebone, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
David, B. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Monkswell, L.
Dixon, L. Morris of Castle Morris. L.
Donoughue, L. Newby, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Nicol, B.
Dubs, L. Pitkeathley, B.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Goudie, B. Rea, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Richard, L.
Grantchester, L. Sawyer, L.
Grenfell, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Hampton, L. Shepherd, L.
Hardy of Wath, L. Simon, V.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Simon of Glaisdaie, L.
Harris of Haringey, L. Simon of Highbury, L.
Hayman, B. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hoyle, L. Thornton, B.
Hughes, L. Tomlinson, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Tordoff, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. [Teller.] Turner of Camden, B.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.] Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly

11.1 p.m

[Amendment No.62 not moved.]

Clause 5 [commencement and transitional provision]:

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 64A:

Page 2, line 3, leave out from beginning to ("shall") and insert ("Sections 1 to 4 (including Schedule (Amendments) and the Schedule)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords. I must inform the House that if Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 are agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 66A.

Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 65: Page 2, line 3, after ("shall") insert ("not").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 65, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendment No. 66. I understand that some of my noble friends may want to speak to Amendment No. 66A at the same time, bearing in mind the strictures of the Chairman of Committees with regard to my amendments and the ones that follow.

These amendments are not tied to a specific date but require the commencement of Clause 1 to be deferred until after the Royal Commission has reported. I believe, as do many others, that this Bill is being brought into force with too much haste, without time being given to consider the implications both for this House and the other place.

The effects of the Bill will not only touch on this House; they will inevitably lead to a change in the relations between the two Houses of Parliament and that change needs to be carefully thought through. The Government have not suggested that any such consideration has taken place; certainly, we have heard no suggestions as to what the future legislative relationships are likely to be. Are we not entitled to be given some idea of how things are likely to develop? It must be right that, having set up the Royal Commission, the Government should allow time for due consideration to be given to its recommendations before doing anything so fundamental as turning out so many of your Lordships who have served so well over so long a time.

I understand that the Government envisage a Joint Committee of both Houses being set up to consider the recommendations of the Royal Commission. When is that to sit? How long will it take? Perhaps consideration should be given to delaying the operation of this Bill before those reports are available. I beg to move.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, perhaps the Minister who is to reply to the debate will be good enough to remind the House on how many occasions we have debated this specific issue. Is it four, five, six or a great deal more?

I will say one thing to the Leader of the House: when the interim House comes into operation, one urgent matter which should be put before the Procedure Committee is a measure to prevent episodes of this sort taking place again and again. It is an abuse of the procedures of this House and should be opposed with all the energy at our command.

Lord Boardman

My Lords, with regard to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, it is strange, or perhaps not so strange, that those Benches do not appear to be interested in what is going to happen at the end of this contretemps. They are going on blindly. In Amendment No. 66A, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and I are both inquiring as to what future lies ahead. The amendment is designed to allow Parliament to obtain a view of what is proposed for this House before this House is constitutionally radically altered. It is a logical move. Frankly, we all want the same thing. We want a House of Lords which is sensible, rightly composed and has the right powers. I am sure that that is the ambition of us all. We may have different thoughts about how it may be achieved, but that is our ambition.

The Royal Commission will put suggestions to us. The intention of my amendment is that when the Royal Commission has done that, a Joint Committee will be set up—that proposal appears in the Labour Party manifesto and other documents—to look at the Royal Commission's proposals. When it has looked at these proposals and recommends that this Bill, which will become an Act, should take effect, the trigger will be pulled. We shall move on to stage two, in the knowledge of what is before us and the prospects that lie ahead.

I suggested a Joint Committee of both Houses. That suggestion was not part of my amendment previously but did appear in that of my noble friend Lady Blatch. I believe that it is sensible and right to have a Joint Committee of both Houses that can take a balanced view of the issues and a balanced view of the Royal Commission's findings and can say, "You now have the proposals before you; go ahead". The amendment provides that when this Bill becomes an Act, it will not take effect until the Joint Committee has seen the Royal Commission's report and has said "Fire!"

I believe that the amendment is sensible; I believe that it will avoid the messy period of an interim House, which presents many complications and many uncertainties. It would be very nice to do what many of us have always wanted to do; that is, to get on to stage two without waiting too long for stage one. Yet we meet stage one, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has previously stressed to me, which implements the manifesto commitment relating to the alteration in the number of hereditary Peers, although a limited number of hereditary Peers will remain in the House.

I therefore hope that the Government will see the merit of a delay while the Royal Commission looks at this, after which the Joint Committee can say, "This is all right for you all to look at", and we can then pull the trigger to enable the Act to take effect. We have been looking at this problem since 1911 without finding a solution. We can now provide the House with an opportunity to look at the Royal Commission's report, pull the trigger and say that this Act will now take effect. I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, not for the first time we are entering into the argument on whether to have one or two stages. I recall a number of speeches made over the past six months during which this matter has been before us at one level or another. One speech that I will always remember was the cogent argument of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, who reminded the House that he had an important position in the government in 1968 when they attempted to do that which Members opposite are urging should be done on this occasion. I am a little suspicious in thinking that this amendment is intended to achieve the same end. In 1968, the then Mr Callaghan said that he was convinced that they were wrong in trying to do everything.

The main principle to which Members on this side of the House cleave, as I believe do many people outside the House, is that it is constitutionally and morally wrong to have a legislative Chamber which contains Members who are here not as a result of what they did but of what their ancestors did. I am not being offensive; it is a statement of fact. What we have seen today and on other days are the efforts of those who profess to want to take the two stages together but who, in my view, do not want any stage at all. They are using this opportunity to try to delay.

Let us look at the practical aspects involved. The noble Lord, Lord Boardman, says that we all want to get on to stage two and that there is not much difference between us. I can tell him that, if both he and I sat down with a piece of paper, we would probably come to substantially the same view as to what the second stage should contain. The Royal Commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, may very well produce the same recommendations and the Joint Committee may well recommend to us what we should do.

We may, individually, have a view on what the second stage should contain but rather than contaminate the freedom of the commission of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and of the Joint Committee—or, indeed, of anyone else—by prejudicing what recommendations are made and by telling them what we want at the beginning, the Government have said, "Let those who have a view express it unfettered by saying in the back of their minds, know what the Government want, but there is going to be a battle on the Royal Commission, and in other ways'".

I sincerely say to my noble friends on the other side of the House that I recognise that they are trying to use the opportunity, which they are entitled to do both parliamentarily and procedurally, to delay the implementation of stage one. I say to them very kindly that if they are really serious about having a better House of Lords or second Chamber, better shaped in their view and in that of others, the best way to achieve that is to agree not to oppose the implementation of stage one. I can assure them that Members on this side of the House will support them in getting a better stage two.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, for myself, although I think I do include my noble friend, I can say that there is no question of opposing the implementation of stage one. The Government have entered into a so-called, "free-standing", as they call it, stage one, process, without any idea so far as to what will follow. That seems unbelievable not only to us on this side of the House but also to many people outside. Indeed, I was interested to meet some strangers only last week who were in the Gallery Listening to our debate. They simply could not believe that the Government had embarked on this kind of constitutional change without at least a strategic view about what should follow.

Perhaps I may answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris Greenwich, who was, not for the first time, exasperated. Indeed, it is entirely characteristic of him to be in a bit of a lather about such matters. I can tell the noble Lord that the reason we have a First Reading, a Second Reading, a Committee stage, a Report stage, a Third Reading and then a Bill do now pass stage as regards each of the Bills that we consider, is so that arguments can be made and revisited. It also allows new points to be introduced and enables the Government to do what we had to do when we were on that side of the House when the very same people, including the noble Lord, who complained today about procedures, produced amendments, withdrew them, brought them back, argued about them again, withdrew them again and, indeed, brought them back on Third Reading.

However irksome I might have found it as a government Minister, I always felt at the end of the day that the arguments had been tried and tested and that we had been called to account. We had to defend the arguments. I have no conscience whatever in ensuring that the present-day Ministers defend their arguments. In this particular case, I do not think that they defend them terribly well.

Time and again, the noble Baroness has talked about this so-called, "free-standing", one-off, Bill. Yet, at the same time, we are constantly being reminded that there is to be a stage two and that stage two will follow on from stage one very quickly. If that is the case, neither the amendment in the name of myself and my noble friend Lord Boardman nor indeed that in the name of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne poses any threat whatever.

If, as some of us are predicting, stage two will last rather longer, I believe that our amendments act as an impetus to make sure that the House addresses the importance of thinking through properly the formulation of the composition, powers and role of a second Chamber more quickly. Either way I believe that one of these two amendments—I have no strong feelings whether it is my amendment or that of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne—should be accepted.

Further, if we take the noble Baroness at her word—I have no reason to doubt her word—the Royal Commission will report within about 10 weeks of the end of this parliamentary year. We do not know exactly when the parliamentary year will end but we know that there will certainly be an overspill if we are to cope with the business of the House that is yet to come before us, unless we are to sit in August and September. We know that there is a narrow gap here. We are not talking about great delays. If the Royal Commission is to report by December, the Joint Committee could do its work in January and could report by early spring and both Houses would have an opportunity to express a view about the work of the Royal Commission.

Therefore I do not believe that these amendments prejudice the Bill at all. The Government know that they will get their Bill in its present form. We are simply talking about the implementation of stage one when at least a strategic view is taken about the powers, roles, function and composition of the second Chamber in stage two. I support my noble friend and I support my amendment. I would not go to the barricades to say that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne should not be accepted. However, I think the Government would do well to take one of these amendments seriously.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, this is not the first time that I have heard this argument; I think it is about the seventh so far. I am reminded of the Congressman in America who was sitting through a long, filibustering debate. He turned to his neighbour and said, "But everything has been said". His neighbour replied, "Yes, but not everyone has yet said it". With great respect, that is what is going on here. There is nothing new to be said on this amendment. We have heard it all before and indeed we have heard it all from the same people.

As the argument has been raised again I wish to make three brief points. First, the Labour Party's strategy for the reform of the House of Lords could not have been more specifically set out before the election. We said that we would do it in a number of stages. We said that we would have a freestanding Bill which would result in the removal of the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in your Lordships' House. That is what we said. We then said that there would be a public consultation exercise either in the form of a joint—the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, insists upon shaking her head at me. The previous time she did that, I said that the only effect of that is that her head shakes. With great respect—

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the Government have not delivered their manifesto pledge. They are not removing in stage one the hereditary Peers' right to sit and vote in this House.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness is now nodding her head at me while standing up. I should have thought she would be pleased. As I understand the position, the Benches opposite stood up and cheered the Weatherill amendment. If anyone has the right to complain about the Weatherill amendment it is this side of the House, not the Benches opposite.

What are we presented with tonight? Let us look at this amendment. The amendment suggests that this Bill, which was telegraphed in advance as a freestanding reform to be followed by subsequent reforms—I trust that there is no argument about that, not even from the noble Baroness—should not be introduced until, the date fixed by a resolution of a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament which is appointed after the Royal Commission on the reform and composition of the House of Lords has reported". Let us suppose we went along with what has been suggested. Let us just think what would happen. The Royal Commission reports, the Joint Committee reports, and then what would happen? The noble Baroness, the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, the Conservative Front Bench, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, would all say in this House, "You must not remove the hereditary peerage from this House until you have implemented the proposals of the Royal Commission. What is the point of doing it in two stages? We now know what will happen; let us do it in one gulp rather than in two". This is a transparent recipe for delay. I do not accept for one instant the somewhat lofty proposals which are put forward as the motives for this set of amendments.

We have debated the matter, I think, seven times before. I do not have anything particularly fresh to say about it; I hope the House does not have anything particularly fresh to say about it; I hope it will come to the same conclusion tonight as it did on the last occasion.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, it is all very well for the noble Lord to refer to the Labour Party manifesto and so on, but that was the basis upon which the Government supported the Bill—until they made a massive U-turn in total breach of the manifesto. After that, to have to listen today about the manifesto commitment and the will of the people is really, with respect to the noble Lord, a bit rich. He knows as well as I that the wish of two-thirds of the people is that there should be no stage one until they know what on earth is going to happen. The Government said, "We have a manifesto commitment, so we can override that"—and then they took a U-turn. They said, "Never mind. We like the Weatherill amendment; it suits us for various reasons. We have drafted it to our instructions and now we will do a U-turn". All right, one has to accept it. The House has accepted it. I have never accepted it; I defer to it.

I support the amendment. I have never masked my opinions or my own personal views. I am not using it for some novel or strange purpose. I commend to the House the way it has been presented by my noble friend; I could not have presented it better. However, I maintain that the Government should defer to the wishes of the people. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that this argument was raised, explored and defeated on my referendum amendment; it was fully explored at the Committee stage; it requires no repetition. I defer to the House, but I still think that the argument is right—and I am sure that the people think the argument is right. The Government should defer to the wishes of the people. I support the amendment.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. I am one of the few Members who have not before taken part in this discussion, but I have looked back to see what my noble friend Lord Boardman said. There are not many people, in either House, with such a wealth of parliamentary experience as my noble friend. I respect the fact that he has consistently argued the valid, logical point that when one is dealing with a large constitutional change every effort should be made.

We have now gone a long way with the Bill. It started probably as a monster and has got better and better. We are now getting towards some conclusions—which is good—but when it is possible that the Royal Commission will report even before the Bill reaches the touchline, it seems rather strange that we cannot stop, hold back and not let the Bill come into force until the constitutional changes have been properly examined. I see no harm in that.

I was disappointed with the skilful, dazzling Welsh words used by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, on the last occasion. In dismissing my noble friend's amendment, he said that the Bill was a desirable objective. I am sure that that came at the end of a long discussion. I am sure that he did not mean it in any wrongful spirit though it was said in a slightly dismissive way. The truth is that the Bill is a desirable political objective which is not really worthy of constitutional change of this nature.

Lord Norton of Louth

My Lords, it is sometimes necessary to return to an issue four, five or six times simply in order to obtain a proper response from government. It strikes me that, when it comes to the quality of Ministers, the Government are better served in this House than they are in the other place. In the other place, Ministers quite simply do not answer questions. In this House they quite cleverly do not answer questions. During the passage of the Bill, the Government have hardly responded to any of the points I have raised and I am not living in any great optimism that it will be any different this evening.

I rise strongly to support Amendment No. 66, which strikes me as eminently reasonable. The amendment does not prevent the Government from getting their Bill nor, to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, does it prevent there being a two-stage process. It simply allows Parliament to lead the country and to see what is proposed for the second Chamber before this measure takes effect.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham, claimed that this was a delaying amendment. Any delay deriving from this amendment is entirely the fault of the Government. They could have appointed a Royal Commission two years ago. We could by now know the proposals for stage two. The fact that we do not should be laid at the door of the Government. It is not the responsibility of this side of the House. We know where we are moving away from but I think it is eminently reasonable to argue that, before we make the move, we should know where we are going. I think that responsibility rests on the Government to explain why that is not a reasonable claim to put forward.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I rise very briefly to say that one aspect of the debate has puzzled me and it has perhaps been encapsulated most in the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Harris of Greenwich. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, seemed to take the view that there was something wrong in trying to amend the Bill because it was against the principle of the Bill and the whole philosophy and concept which lay behind it. This seems to ignore the fact that many of us believe that this is a thoroughly bad Bill anyway. Whether it was in the Labour Party's manifesto or not is a matter of total irrelevance. Many of us believe it to be a bad Bill and we want to amend it and improve it in every way we possibly can.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, seemed to be exasperated that we were spending so much time in returning to arguments that have been deployed and developed before. That is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said, exactly what the proceedings of this House are about. We have stages of the Bill which enable people to come back to arguments which may have been deployed before and may have been dismissed before, but to put them forward again in the hope that they may throw some new light upon the proceedings and give people an opportunity again to express their views.

It is understandable that it may be irksome for some people to sit late at night and hear arguments deployed again and again. Of course it is irksome. The whole system of conducting the parliamentary business of this country can sometimes be irksome. When we are involved in a constitutional transformation—a constitutional revolution—of the kind which the Government are now proposing, I do not think we should be too worried about sitting late at night once or twice and even hearing arguments deployed once or twice or even three times.

I believe we would be very unwise indeed if we were to think that what we are doing with the Bill was a waste of time or pointless. We have, as one noble Lord has said, improved the Bill enormously already. We have in Clause 2 caused the Government to make a complete U-turn and to do something which was in direct conflict with their manifesto commitment. I believe there is much more that can be done to amend the Bill and I hope that we shall not shrink from doing it because we have been kept up late on a few nights debating the issue.

I support the amendment. However, I want to make the point that all that we are doing in this House on the Bill is very, very necessary if we are to discharge our proper responsibilities as the Upper House of the British Parliament.

11.30 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I was going to hold my fire until we reached my amendment but I cannot resist supporting what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has just said. I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, who, after all, as a former Leader of your Lordships' House has held one of the highest offices in the land, should descend to such comments as that there are those on various sides of the House who want to filibuster and delay the Bill. That really is the most terrible accusation to make. The Bill will have enormous consequences but what it proposes is tied up in a few pages. The Government cannot in a few pages summarise and bring together all the ramifications relating to the Bill.

Amendments have been moved about noble Lords being able to host charity events. What about all the parliamentary activities that go on? What about the Parliamentary Golfing Society? What about one of the oldest cricket clubs in England: namely, the Lords and Commons Cricket Club? Will Peers be eligible? Such points have not been addressed. They may seem to be de minimis to those who wish to get the Bill through but they nonetheless should have been addressed. If noble Lords wish to produce amendments in order to try to have these matters addressed, it is only fair and right that they should do so. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, feels that there is an element of filibustering. As far as I am concerned, there certainly is not.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, so many eloquent and pertinent speeches have been made in the debate on this amendment that it has made my task very easy. At various stages of the Bill members of the Opposition Front Bench have given full support to the principle that lies behind the three amendments in this group. The Opposition support the amendments this time for, among others, the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Boardman.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, for his extremely brief response. Does that mean that if these amendments are put to a Division the Opposition Front Bench will support them?

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, we shall wait to see what happens.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I have to say that it is one of the elements of repetition in the discussions on the Bill, which is of some frustration to my noble friends, that noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench are inclined regularly to explain to your Lordships how enormously important they find the measure proposed to them and how much they support the underlying principle of it but that they do not intend to support it in the Lobbies.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way with her customary courtesy. The fact of the matter is that the Opposition Front Bench has been entirely consistent in its approach to the matter. If the noble Baroness wishes, the Opposition Front Bench will vote on every amendment with which it agrees. I am sure that she would not wish for that. So do not tempt us too much!

Baroness Jay of Paddington

Well, my Lords, that was an interesting intervention which I am sure will be noticed by all hereditary Peers who sit in the House at present and presumably wish to continue to do so under the regulations of the transitional House which have been agreed by Clause 2 of the Bill. I am sure that if the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, were present, he would be interested to hear that intervention.

I should like to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, as he directly asked me how many times I had personally debated this issue, that I agree with him. I think it is seven. We have debated this issue on every single occasion on which your Lordships have considered these points. I accept what the noble Baroness says, that it is legitimate to bring back points at different stages. However, I would re-emphasise to the noble Baroness, since she tried to draw a contrast between her behaviour in government and the behaviour of the Government Front Bench at present, that the Companion of the House states that, as we have repeated on several occasions in the course of debate this afternoon—the noble Baroness may not have been present all the time, and there is no reason why she should have been—arguments fully deployed in Committee of the Whole House should not be repeated at length on Report. The Government Front Bench has stuck courteously but firmly to that guidance in the Companion. We intend to continue to do so.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, is the noble Baroness suggesting that I have breached the rules of the House? Is she suggesting that the length of time I took to make the points this evening was also in breach of the rules of the House?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

No, my Lords. What I am suggesting to the noble Baroness is that the Government Front Bench does not have to repeat at length arguments which it has deployed at Second Reading, in Committee, in debates on the White Paper, at the earlier stages of Report and so on. I shall reply to the points which have been raised in a new form on this group of amendments, and not to the Second Reading debate points which have been made on several occasions by noble Lords who have contributed this evening.

With regard to Amendments Nos. 65 and 66, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has changed his wording from that of the amendment he moved in Committee. He has dropped his insistence that the findings of the Royal Commission should be accepted by resolution of your Lordships' House before the Bill comes into force. I am afraid that although he has made that change in response to some of the points we made in Committee it does make the amendment any more acceptable to the Government.

The amendment now does not require your Lordships' House to debate the findings of the Royal Commission, nor even to agree to them. The Royal Commission's report must merely be laid before the House, and that would be the trigger, as I understand it, for the Bill to take effect; it would take effect whatever the Royal Commission said. Several noble Lords responded vigorously when it was suggested that simple delaying tactics were their motivation, and such tactics seem to be the motivation here, because if it does not matter what the Royal Commission says in order to trigger the stage one Bill, then it really is not relevant whether or not the Royal Commission has reported.

This is simply a delaying tactic in terms of the implementation of the Bill. It could mean, for example, that the provisions of the Bill would take effect in mid-Session. We have heard today at great length, and I think with genuine concern, from noble Lords around the House that they feel there is disruption to their lives. The amendment could mean that laying the Royal Commission's report before the House on, say, a Wednesday would immediately trigger implementation of the Bill, and all the hereditaries would be out on Thursday. I cannot imagine that that was really what was intended in terms of easing the transition from one stage to another, but that is the effect of the amendment.

The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is equally unacceptable, for the simple reason that, as I am advised, it is impossible for a Joint Committee of both Houses to provide for the commencement of an Act of Parliament. The amendment is therefore technically defective.

As I have said, we have been round this course on six, now seven, separate occasions. The Government wish and intend, and have pledged themselves, to proceed with reform of your Lordships' House in two stages. We intend to continue on that course. We do not accept that we need to delay in doing so. As my noble friend Lord Graham of Edmonton pointed out in the course of his remarks on the amendment, it is not sensible to do that, for all the reasons which those who spoke about their experience in earlier attempts at reform have expressed most eloquently.

One noble Lord referred to the comment of my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn at an earlier stage that the Bill was a desirable objective. The Government stick precisely by that position, and we seek to move ahead with it as quickly as we can.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I should like most respectfully to ask her whether she could reconsider the charge she made that the amendment is a delaying tactic to delay implementation of the Bill. Does she accept that if the Royal Commission reports by December, January or February, concern about time really cannot be fairly considered as a delaying tactic? Certainly, it is not my intention to indulge in that.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I should always accept the contribution of the noble Lord in regard to his own intentions and motivation, as I hope he would equally with me. I was not making the broad point that this was a delaying provision, merely that that would be the effect. Whether or not it would substantially delay is a point that we could discus more generally. I was responding to the precise points of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, which, because they do not require any consideration of the Royal Commission's report but simply that it should be laid before your Lordships, have the effect only of creating a time difference between the implementation of the Bill at the time that the Government would wish to see it and the time proposed in the amendment. Therefore, all the proposal achieves is to delay implementation.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. It is not my intention to inject significant delay into the process. The reason why I changed the terms of the amendment that I moved at an earlier stage to the terms that I have placed before the House today was to respond to the points that had been made by Ministers when we discussed the matter in Committee. I am sorry that I have not gone far enough.

As to the point made by the noble Baroness that the Royal Commission report might be laid before the House on a Wednesday and the Bill come into force on the Thursday, it would of course be in the hands of the Government as to when the Royal Commission report was laid before the House. It could be done sooner or later, as the Government preferred, once it was in their hands. I am sorry that the noble Baroness does not think that that would be a good way to proceed.

I resented the intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. I care for this House. I care for the institutions of Parliament. I am sorry that the noble Lord appears not to.

Lord Harris of Greenwhich

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down in a paroxysm of feigned anger, or indignation, is he aware that the noble Baroness read out the terms of the companion? The speeches that we have heard this evening are totally contrary to the spirit of the Companion. If the noble Lord is worried about the reputation of this House, he might at least at some stage read the Companion himself.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I hope that I may be allowed to respond. My anger is not feigned; it is genuine. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Allenby of Megiddo)

My Lords, I have to inform the House that if either Amendment No. 66 or Amendment No. 66A is agreed, I cannot call Amendment No. 67 or Amendment No. 67A.

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

Lord Boardman moved Amendment No. 66A:

Page 2, line 4, leave out from ("force") to end of line and insert ("upon the date fixed by a resolution of a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament which is appointed after the Royal Commission on the reform and composition of the House of Lords has reported.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Baroness said that this. debate had taken place seven times. This amendment came up in Committee. I kept careful note of the points that were made from various parts of the House, and I withdrew it. Amendment No. 66A was therefore constructed to take account of the previous debate. It is only the second time that the amendment has appeared on a Marshalled List.

I am grateful to all noble Lords who took part in that debate. They were unanimous in their feeling that an amendment of this nature is necessary. I am deeply sorry that the Government do not appear to have taken any notice of that. We are looking towards the future of this House—a future in which we all share a belief. It would be a tremendous advantage if we had before us the findings of the Royal Commission. I am sorry that the noble Baroness has preferred to remain blind to that. It is all too often the trend of this Government that they start something without looking forward to see where the objective may lead. It is an unfortunate trend, and one that I regret.

In view of the importance of this issue and the fact that I do not want to raise it again, I beg to move and I believe it is right that I should now test the opinion of the House.

11.44 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 66A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 32; Not-Contents, 81.

Division No. 5
Annaly, L. Bridgeman, V.
Attlee, E. Caithness, E.
Berners, B. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Biddulph, L. Carnock, L.
Blatch, B. Chalfont, L.
Boardman, L. [Teller.] Chesham, L.
Coleraine, L. Mountevans, L.
Courtown, E. Mountgarret, V.
Cross, V. Norrie, L.
Effingham, E. Northbrook, L.
Ferrers, E. Norton of Louth, L.
Gray, L. Rennell, L.
Kenyon, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Kinnoull, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Leigh, L. Trefgarne, L. [Teller.]
Monson, L. Wise, L,
Acton, L. Harris of Greenwich, L.
Addington, L. Harris of Haringey, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V, Hayman, B.
Alli, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Amos, B. Hoyle, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Hughes of Woodside, L.
Bach, L. Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Berkeley, L. Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L. Judd, L.
Bragg, L. Kennet, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L, Levy, L.
Brookman, L. Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Burlison, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Carlisle, E.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Chandos, V. Milner of Leeds, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Monkswell, L.
Clement-Jones, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Newby, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Nicol, B.
Crawley, B. Pitkeathley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
David, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Rea, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Dixon, L. Richard, L.
Donoughue, L. Sawyer, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Dubs, L. Shepherd, L.
Falconer of Thornton, L. Simon, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Simon of Highbury, L.
Gilbert, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Goudie, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Thornton, B.
Grantchester, L. Tomlinson, L.
Grenfell, L. Tordoff. L.
Hacking, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Hampton. L. Uddin, B.
Hanworth, V. Whitty, L.
Hardy of Wath, L. Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

11.55 p.m.

Viscount Mountgarret moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 2, line 4, leave out ("Session of").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 68 because the amendments are intertwined.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the amendment is in some way a delaying factor. I recognise that the Government have a mandate to introduce such legislation as is necessary during the lifetime of this Parliament. But I do not think that the manifesto went so far as to state that these measures had to be introduced by the end of the second Session of Parliament. I see little difference between the first, second or third Sessions, or however many Sessions one wishes. The reference is to Parliament. Therefore to terminate the hereditary element in your Lordships' House by the end of this Parliament would be entirely in keeping with the election manifesto.

I tabled similar amendments at Committee stage. At the risk of incurring your Lordships' wrath, I have to say that I was ill on the day that they were called. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, kindly made reference to the fact that I was not present. I wish to make some points which are not repetitive; and I ask the indulgence of the House.

If the Act were to come into play at the end of this Session of Parliament, it would be interesting to know when that will be. With the number of amendments being debated, I smell a rat or two. I have a suspicion that this Session of Parliament could go on for some time in order to get the Bill passed. It is a matter of regret that we do not have a fixed date for the end of Sessions of Parliament—but that is another matter. If the Bill is enacted at the end of this Session of Parliament there will be a period of time when noble Lords who are not entitled to attend this House will not be represented effectively in Parliament. That is a point which should be borne in mind.

My underlying concern relates to the Writ of the sovereign to noble Lords to attend this Parliament. It says nothing about attending this Session of Parliament. I understand and accept that Parliament is omnipotent. Parliament can, and from time to time does, control—if that is the right word—the sovereign. It calls the sovereign to account and keeps the sovereign within the bounds of our accepted constitutional procedure.

Having said that, and I have said it before in your Lordships' House, if one wields such tremendous power, that power should be exercised with courtesy and discretion. Otherwise the only way that one can govern is by consent. If one does not govern by consent one cannot govern unless it becomes a dictatorship where one dictates what will happen.

The people of this country have accepted the way in which our Parliament, sovereign and constitution work. I am not sure that people would rest content if the heat were turned up and respect for the sovereign were undermined. There is the question of a precedent which may be created.

I am concerned that in enacting the Bill by the end of this Session of Parliament instead of at the end of this Parliament, we shall be going against the command of Her Majesty and Her Majesty's Writ to your Lordships. That is not satisfactory.

I want quickly to refer to something which happened about 15 years ago: the abolition of the Greater London Council. The Conservatives were in power and we got ourselves into a terrible muddle because they said that the Bill would be enacted 11 months after the local elections in May. Councillors were to be elected for only 11 months before everything was abolished. The Government then said, "Look, it is the most frightful waste of money to have all these elections and therefore we will make appointments.". That did not go down too well simply because the appointment of councillors would have been politically tainted and where there were Labour elected councils, for some reason a Conservative majority would have replaced them. That was totally undemocratic and I said so at the time.

I came forward with a suggestion which The Times kindly called the "Mountgarret amendment". I have it here, but I shall not bore your Lordships. I said, "Surely, the sensible thing to do is to allow the existing councillors to continue in office for another 11 months until the thing is disbanded and we can all get on.". The long and the short of it was that, broadly speaking, the proposal was accepted.

I feel the same about this amendment. Why not allow our present composition in this House to continue until the end of this Parliament instead of rushing this Bill through at the end of the Session? I try, but I simply do not understand why. I shall be interested to listen to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and to know whether she can tell me why it is so necessary to kick us out on the street in July or perhaps November. On that basis, I beg to move.


Lord Richard

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, said that he hoped he would not incur my wrath. Of course, he does not. I remember well that he was not present in Committee to move then the amendments which he has moved tonight, so of course he is entitled to move them. But let us be under no illusion: the issue has been discussed previously on a number of occasions. Whether the Bill should take effect at the end of the Session or at the end of the Parliament is not a new issue for the House, although the advocacy of it by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, is a Few factor in our debates.

What is the effect of the amendment? There is nothing about waiting for the report of the Royal Commission, for the Joint Committee to report or anything of that kind. It is straight, pure delay. During the previous debate, noble Lords heard me say that the effect of the amendments moved by the noble Lords, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Boardman, was delaying and they thought that I had bitterly offended them all personally by saying that. There can be no other description of this amendment other than that it seeks to delay the implementation of the Bill from the end of the Session to the end of the Parliament. It is a very short, very simple issue.

I thought it just a little rich of the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, to complain that we have not put the proposal in the manifesto. For months we have been sitting here listening to torrents of abuse poured on the manifesto from the other side. The first was that the manifesto does not matter because no one reads it. It is said that only 2 per cent of the population pay any attention to it and apparently 70 per cent of the population disagree with it. Although we were elected on it with a somewhat substantial, indeed comforting, majority, now the noble Viscount says, "Ah, you can't do this because it isn't in the manifesto". There seems to be a slight inconsistency in the general approach, if I may put it in that way, without dreaming of trying to offend the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret. This is a delaying amendment. As such, I cannot support it

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is always fun to listen to. It is interesting to note that when he says, "We've heard all this time and time again", he then makes another similar speech and we have to listen to his speeches time and time again. It is rather like a gramophone record on which the same old music is played. The noble Lord may find it rather boring listening to us, but we are fascinated to listen to him, even if it is a little repetitive.

Lord Richard

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may remind him that some records are more worth listening to than others, and more often.

Baroness David

Oh, get on with it!

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, the noble Baroness is, in this case at any rate, being rather unfair. The amendment tabled by the noble Viscount Lord Mountgarret, and Amendment No. 68, might have the effect of delay, but there is a real issue behind it. As your Lordships may know, a Motion has been tabled in my name to refer the question of the status of the Writ of Summons to the Committee for Privileges. It is the view of the Opposition Front Bench that there is genuine doubt about the legal effect of the Writ of Summons.

A Noble Lord


Lord Kingsland

My Lords, perhaps I may finish what I was saying. There is genuine doubt in the view of the Opposition about the status of the Writ of Summons. Therefore, there may well be great weight behind these amendments tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret. It would be wrong to say that they simply reflect an intention to delay, even though they may have that effect.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, said that the purpose of the amendment was to bring about delay. I entirely recognise what he said. It had the virtue of clarity and, in that particular context, absolute brevity. I quite understand his point. He wants delay because he would prefer that the Bill, as an Act, had effect at the end of this Parliament rather than the end of this Session. That is really the purpose and the point of the amendment; to leave out the words, "Session of". We do not want delay beyond the inevitable delay that has subsisted since 1911. I cannot enlarge upon that.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, that is not a very good argument put forward by the noble Lord. 'Too much play is put on the word "delay". The fact is that delaying, if that is the word which the Labour Party wish to use, enables the sovereign's writ to be honoured. That is far more to the point. It is with that that we are concerned. I have heard nothing to persuade me that it is anything but entirely correct to wait until the end of this Parliament before the Bill is enacted.

Having said that, I have listened carefully to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland. It would be far better for a layman such as myself to try to bring these points to the fore at this stage but to allow experienced and professional politicians to put their point, with the assistance of everything they have at their disposal, to the Committee for Privileges. I can only say, from the bottom of my heart, that I wish them well.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, for giving way. I have a sense of resistance to the description of being a professional politician. I regard myself as very much a part-time politician and hope that the noble Viscount will accept that.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. It was a bad description. He is an experienced Member of your Lordships' House who understands the workings infinitely better than I, though I have been here for a long time. I am rather like the Bourbons; I have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 67A:

Page 2, line 4, leave out ("it") and insert ("this Act").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 68A:

Page 2, line 6, at end insert ("unless it has been issued to a person who, at the end of the Session, is excepted from section 1 by virtue of section 2").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness could explain a little of the purport of this amendment. I have looked at it. I do not expect her to speak at any great length, but a little clue as to what it means would be greatly appreciated.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I spoke to this amendment at an earlier stage of the Report proceedings. I can briefly explain to the noble Lord that Amendment No. 68A ensures that an excepted Peer, identified as such by the end of this Session, will not need a new Writ of Summons. His current one will remain valid. However, any Peer who is excepted after the end of this Session of Parliament needs to receive a new Writ of Summons.

There is no reason to delay this amendment until Third Reading. It is internally consistent with the Bill, including Clause 2, and it is necessary to keep it in the Bill to maintain that consistency. Not to have it in the Bill would leave the Bill in an inconsistent mess?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, does that mean that the Bill is in an inconsistent mess?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, I said precisely the opposite. I said not to have the amendment in the Bill would leave the provisions around the excepted Peers in an inconsistent mess. I thought that was clear.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, perhaps I too can ask a question. Has the noble Baroness taken advice on hybridity, given that similar classes of Peers are being treated differently in the course of this Bill and with the introduction of this amendment?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, we have taken a great deal of advice on this subject and my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn replied on several occasions to points made about this.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

My Lords. I must point out to the House that if Amendment No. 69 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 70.

[Amendments Nos. 69 to 73 not moved.]

Clause 6 [Interpretation and short title]:

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 74A:

Before the schedule, insert the following new schedule—




Peerage Act 1963 (c.48)

1. In section 1(2) of the Peerage Act 1963 (disclaimer of certain hereditary peerages) for the words from "has" to the end there shall be substituted the words "is excepted from section 1 of the House of Lords Act 1999 by virtue of section 2 of that Act".

Recess Elections Act 1975 (c.66)

2. In section 1 of the Recess Elections Act 1975 (issue of warrants for making out writs to replace members of the House of Commons whose seats have become vacant), in—

  1. (a) subsection (1)(a), and
  2. (b) paragraph (a) of the definition of "certificate of vacancy" in subsection (2),
for the words "become a peer" there shall be substituted the words "become disqualified as a peer for membership of the House of Commons".

3. In Schedule 1 to that Act (certificate of vacancy), for the words "has become a peer of Parliament" there shall be substituted the words "has become disqualified as a peer for membership of the House of Commons".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule [Repeals]:

[Amendment No. 75 not moved.]

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I must point out that if Amendment No. 76 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 76A and 78.

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 76A:

Page 3, line 4, column 3, leave out from ("1") to ("(3)") in line 7.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I must point out that if Amendment No. 77 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 78.

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 3, column 3, leave out line 18 and insert ("Section 5").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment has already been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 78A to 78D not moved.]


The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I must point out that if any of Amendments Nos. 79 to 80A are agreed to, I must put those matters differently.

[Amendments Nos. 79 to 80B not moved.]

In the Title:

[Amendments Nos. 81 to 83 not moved.]

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 84.

Line 4, after ("Commons;") insert ("to establish an Appointments Commission with functions in relation to the conferment of life peerages under the Life Peerages Act 1958;").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential upon one that was moved and carried earlier. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter past midnight.