HL Deb 13 May 1999 vol 600 cc1393-442

9.25 p.m.

House again in Committee.

[Amendments Nos.76 and 77 not moved.]

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare moved Amendment No.78:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


(". —(1) No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a life peerage conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958, other than—

  1. (a) 338 holders of peerages conferred under that Act who are elected in accordance with subsection (2) or at a by-election in accordance with subsection (7), and
  2. (b) 16 holders of peerages conferred under that Act who have declared to tie Clerk of the Parliaments that they are ready to serve as Deputy Speakers of the House of Lords or in such other office as the House may require and who are elected in accordance with subsection (3) or at a by-election in accordance with subsection (7).
(2) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) shall be the holders of peerages conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958. (3) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) shall be the members of the House of Lords at the date on which the election is held. (4) A person elected under this section shall continue to be entitled to receive a writ of summons to the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House throughout his life; but if he does not fulfil the attendance criterion in subsection (5) his entitlement ceases and any writ of summons issued to him for that Parliament shall not have effect after that Session. (5) The criterion is that in each Session the number of days on which he attended that House or a committee of that House is greater than 50 per cent of the total number of days on which the House sat. (6) The Clerk of the Parliaments shall certify—
  1. (a) the number of days of attendance of each member, and
  2. (b) the total number of days on which the House sat, referred to in subsection (5).
(7) On the death of a peer elected in accordance with this section or his failure to fulfil the attendance criterion in subsection (5) the Clerk of the Parliamenis shall—
  1. (a) publish that fact, together with an announcement of the date of a by-election to fill the vacancy, in the Minutes of Proceedings of the House of Lords and in a notice in the London Gazette,
  2. (b) send to each holder of a peerage conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958, or to each member of the House of Lords (as may be appropriate in accordance with subsections (2) and (3) above) a Form of Return listing the names of those peers who have previously signified their wish to be considered for election.
(8) A person to whom a Form of Return is sent is to return the Form, indicating on it the name of the person or persons he wishes to elect, to the Clerk of the Parliaments within 21 days of the date on which it is sent, and. the Clerk of the Parliaments shall publish the name or names of the persons elected in the Minutes of Proceedings of the House of Lords and in a notice in the London Gazette. (9) Standing Orders of the House of Lords may make further provision relating to the holding and conduct of elections and by-elections under this section. (10) Any question whether a person is elected under this section shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments. (11) A certificate or decision of the Clerk of the Parliaments under this section shall he conclusive.")

The noble Lord said: I bring this amendment before the Committee because, after seven years of sitting in this Chamber, I have, to put it mildly, been disappointed by the attendance of some Members who describe themselves as working Peers.

However, before I begin, perhaps I may express my slight puzzlement as to why Amendment No.78 and Amendment No.93D have been grouped together. Although I do not have a great deal of experience in parliamentary drafting, the amendments do not seem to have any connection with each other. When a Minister replies, I hope that he will be able to explain to me why these two amendments have been placed together.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I believe it is well known that groupings are offered; in other words, they are not mandatory. Indeed, any noble Lord who wishes to de-couple a grouping is at liberty to do so.

Lord Coleraine

I take my noble friend's point. Amendment No.93D has been tabled in my name. We do not seem to have a full Committee at present, but it may be for my noble friend's convenience and indeed that of Members of the Committee if I say that I will let his argument go well forward before I think of starting the argument on my amendment.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I am grateful to my noble friend.

My amendment shadows the Weatherill amendment in its terms. It has been tabled because, as the Minister well knows, I have never been against the removing of hereditary Peers from this House; in fact, I have been an advocate of it for many years. I supported the noble Lord, Lord Richard, at every stage and made it clear that I did. However, at the same time, I have never been in favour of removing from the House hereditary Peers who do work while leaving in the Chamber working Peers who do not work. That, in good old House of Lords terms, strikes me as just unfair and simply wrong.

The Minister is a QC. In the law of this land. I have always thought that judges and QCs believed that, in the end, fairness was the basis of any argument placed in legislation, as well as obviously what is common sense. I cannot see an argument for removing people who have given 20 or 30 years' service, who appear regularly, who serve on committees and indeed who serve this country, and just throwing them out overnight while others who take a peerage, and never turn up at all, hold the title of Lord and serve this House in no way.

I should like to make it known that I see a clear distinction between a working Peer and the great and the good. In the Queen's Birthday Honours and in Her Majesty's New Year's Honours are placed men and women who have served this country with great distinction. I hope I may mention the example of Field Marshal Bramall, who is so obviously one of the great and the good. When we have a debate on defence he speaks on that subject and I am sure that all of us listen with rapt attention. Another example might be the noble Lord, Lord Porter, a Nobel prize winner. When there is a debate in this House on science or on education we all listen to the noble Lord speak with rapt attention.

Those noble Lords have been made Peers of the realm for the service they have given their country. I find that most noble Lords who fall into that category attend the House to speak on the subject on which they are expert. I on the other hand received a letter from the former Prime Minister John Major inviting me to become a working Peer. I took this letter seriously and asked for an appointment with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robin Butler, now the noble Lord, Lord Butler. I asked Sir Robin for a definition of a working Peer. He told me that he felt one should serve the Prime Minister who had put one in the Lords for the period of time that he was Prime Minister. I asked what service meant. Sir Robin thought that it meant attendance for 75 per cent of the time and voting for 75 per cent of the time while we were in government. He thought that that was appropriate. I have a record of 75 per cent attendance, or well above that. My record of voting when the Conservative Party was in power was also well above 75 per cent. Since we have been in opposition there has been a different situation because, as all noble Lords know, we have not voted anywhere near as much as we used to.

I also feel that the working Peers do a real job. It is not some casual agreement one makes with the Prime Minister of the day. It is a job much like being a director of a great company. How many great companies who invite someone to be a director and find that that person turns up, say, twice a year would find it appropriate for that person to continue to be a director of that company? How many people out there doing a job, on hearing the expression "working Peer ", would be surprised to find that some working Peers on both sides of the Chamber do not attend regularly? This is not a political point. I have never named anyone in this respect but the guilt, as I regard it, is pretty even. The point concerns how the Chamber works as a working body. If the Prime Minister of the day invites people to join the Chamber as working Peers and they accept and then make no attempt to be working Peers, I do not feel that they have honoured their agreement.

I note that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, has entered the Chamber. I must inform him that I mentioned his name earlier in my speech and cited him as an example of the great and the good and not as a day-by-day working Peer like myself. I say this to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, because I am very aware that I am neither great and certainly not good!

I ask the Minister to take this point seriously. I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, considers the duties of the Royal Commission he will consider that if we are to have the expression "working Peer " it should mean something and that it will allow the Prime Minister of the day, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party to make it clear to anyone who is offered a working peerage what that means.

Perhaps the days have passed when one can casually call in at the Prime Minister's office to be told that one is being offered a working peerage and reply, "Yes, of course, you can rely on me. I shall do my bit". Perhaps, sadly, the day has come when we need to spell out what that means and to define it now that the hereditary Peers, with the exception of 90 plus two, will no longer be with us. So although I accept that it is not practical to hope to divide the Committee and to win the amendment, this does give the House and me the opportunity to realise that, if we are to have a new interim body for two years and then a new body after that, which will presumably be in existence for a long time before reform is considered, we will not spend years kidding each other that "working Peer " means that one need not bother to turn up. I beg to move.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton

The whole of the noble Lord's contribution has related to the question of attendance rather than participation. It seems to me that someone who perhaps attends less but whose participation is of great value is better than someone who attends for 100 per cent of the time but does nothing.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I heard the slight sharpness at the end of the noble Baroness's sentence. It was not necessary; I agree with the noble Baroness.

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps I may ask for some guidance from the Leader of the House. Earlier during the course of the Committee stage I sought to move some amendments which referred to the Law Lords. The noble Baroness advised me—reflecting, I believe, the advice of the House officials—that my amendments were outside the scope of the Bill because it deals only with hereditary Peers and not with any other kind of Peer. That was, I believe, the view of the House officials which the noble Baroness reflected in the advice she gave me. As a result of that advice, I agreed that I would not move my amendments. I am in favour of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Archer; but it does not deal with hereditary Peers; it deals with life Peers. How is it that his amendment passed the scrutiny of the Clerks and mine did not?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

Perhaps I may briefly intervene and reply to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. He will be aware, I am sure, that a number of amendments have been moved today which dealt with life peerages, all of which have been ruled in order by the Table and to all of which we have replied. The point about the amendments which the noble Lord was proposing to move at an earlier stage of the Committee is that the Clerks took the view, and we accepted the advice, that the Bill was about the political composition of the House; that is, about the hereditary Peers and the life Peers under the Life Peerages Act. On a political basis, I have had some concern about the relevance of some of the amendments which have been moved this afternoon in terms of the attempt to impose regulations on the transitional House. However, I have accepted the guidance of the Clerks, which was that the amendments refer to the forthcoming political composition of the House. The earlier amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne—I believe they were Amendments Nos.7 and 8, which were tabled on the first Committee day—related to the retired Law Lords. It has been explained to me by the Clerks that that is something different from the concerns about life peerages in the future and hereditary peerages in the present—although in commonsense and political terms. I have made the point on several occasions today that I do not think that the Bill is about the future of life peerages either.

Lord Trefgarne

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation. I confess I am as baffled as ever. I shall no doubt want to return to the matter at a later stage.

Viscount Tornington

My noble friend Lord Archer, in a sense, does himself a disservice with the amendment. It seems to imply that no working Peer can reasonably transit into being—how can I call it?— "an amateur contributor ". That is the great sadness of removing the hereditary Peers from the House. As many have said today, it will have to become a much more professional House. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Archer, having ceased to be a working Peer, is still a valuable contributor to the House. I do not see how the mechanism in the House for calling on the expertise of occasional contributors can be preserved by any of the proposals in the Bill, nor, I am afraid, by my noble friend's amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham

When the Minister replies to the debate, and if the amendment is accepted, will he indicate whether one approach could be that certain kinds of role played in the public sector would necessarily inhibit someone from being considered an active. Member of the House of Lords? At present I chair a government quango, the Further Education Funding Council. If the amendment is accepted, would the Government say, "We cannot see how we can allow you to be on a government or public payroll and also expect you to play a full part in the House, even if you attend every day and vote frequently ", as I do.

Would the Government adopt the same attitude towards an important post like the Mayor of London, who would be paid a substantial salary, well above the figure I quoted? II looks as if it would be a full-time job. Would it automatically be proscribed with the implementation of the amendment?

Lord Goodhart

The Bill is about hereditary Peers, not life Peers. I can understand an argument for saying that at any rate the working Peers whom I described earlier as the "galley slaves ", like the noble Lord, Lord Archer, and myself, should be required to turn up for a certain proportion of sittings. However, that is ultimately a matter for the Royal Commission and stage two, not this stage.

There are many life Peers who are not galley slaves. They are here because of distinguished service in the other place or altogether outside Parliament. Their attendance is probably well below 50 per cent, but nevertheless they are valuable contributors. I refer to one whom the noble Baroness the Leader of the House might be reluctant to mention: the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. I am sure he does not attend 50 per cent. of the sittings of your Lordships' House but when he comes here and speaks he does so with immense wisdom. His contribution to the House is extremely valuable.

Lord Desai

I am sorry that I was not here when the noble Lord, Lord Archer, introduced his amendment, and I beg his pardon. One of the problems is that it would make it difficult for people who are not based in London or the Home Counties to become working Peers. We are unpaid and unless the noble Lord also proposes that the category of working Peers should be full-time paid Members of Parliament—and I do not see why we should not do that—it would be difficult for someone living a great distance from London, railways being what they are, to guarantee that he or she would come here in time to attend sittings.

I can understand the spirit of the amendment. Before I came into the House, the Chief Whip subjected me to an investigation as to whether I would attend regularly. As it happens, I am lucky, in that my job allows me flexible working and I can come here. but not many other people can do so. The amendment would restrict membership not only to people in the Home Counties but to people with certain kinds of job who have flexi-time. There are not many occupations like that and the provision would be restrictive. So it should be broadened and toned down, but I welcome the spirit of the amendment.

The Earl of Limerick

This is the first time I have had the opportunity to intervene in the proceedings on the Bill, but my interest is none the less for that. My father was a wise man who made few interventions in the House, but when he did, to my perception, they were wise. He brought me up on the precept that this House should function and did so at its best as a revolving committee. Those who had an interest in matters and a contribution to make from experience came and made it; those who did not made no contribution, whether or not they attended.

As a Member of this House who has revolved more than most others here, on any test of attendance I would fail. But there comes a time in people's lives when they have accumulated some experience and they have a little more time to contribute. That point might be considered alongside the remarks of my noble fiend Lord Archer. It is not merely a question of the number of times people attend; it is what they are able to contribute that will be relevant to the consideration of this amendment.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Northbrook

I support the amendment. At the same time I disagree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Torrington. I apologise to my noble friend Lord Archer for being late and not hearing all of his initial speech on the amendment. I did not quite understand his figure of 338 holders.

I wish to make a point relating to the election process under subsection (3) of the amendment. I wonder why my noble friend Lord Archer did not consider using the process of the Weatherill amendment, by which each party would elect a proportion of the 338 life Peers. The process in the Weatherill amendment was different for the equivalent of 338 holders and 16 Deputy Speakers. The same process might have been adopted in this amendment: the whole House might elect the 16 and the 338 could be elected by the individual parties concerned.

Lord Trefgarne

Any distinguished person who accepts a peerage ought to be able to play as much of a part as he or she reasonably can in the affairs of this House. If that person is a so-called working Peer, he or she will be expected to do a great deal more than the so-called good and great who come here towards the end of a long and distinguished career. Having accepted a peerage on one basis or another, they should do their best.

What has particularly bothered me recently is that a small number of noble Lords have run for and sought election to either the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly. I do not know whether or not the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, was appointed as a working Peer, but I do not suppose that we shall see much more of him now that he will be running the Scottish Parliament. No doubt the Scottish Parliament will be the better for it, but we shall not have the benefit of his appearance quite so often. One noble Lord was elected to the Welsh Assembly. No doubt we shall not see a great deal of him either.

I am not in favour of noble Lords offering themselves for election to other parliaments. One or two noble Lords on this side of the House have offered themselves for election to the European Parliament. I am not in favour of that either. If one accepts membership of this House, or, as my noble friend Lord Henley says, the House of Commons, one ought to concentrate on that. I should have thought that being a Member of one House of Parliament or another was enough. I hope that that consideration will also guide the discussion on this amendment.

The Earl of Onslow

I am afraid that I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. This must be only the second time in 30 years that that has happened. I believe it is an excellent idea that the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, is a Member of this House, and that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, is a Member, because they bring extra experience of the Assemblies in which they sit.

I hope that this House never becomes too professional. The point is that we turn up when we wish; we contribute when we wish. We either make a good contribution or we do not, but we normally notice whether or not people are listening. The whole point is that this House has been an assembly of the powerful and the influential; it has been an assembly of people from all over the place. It has got out of kilter now, which is why it has to be reformed. To say that one attends rather like rota duty in a tea-shop in Scunthorpe strikes me as really rather odd. One of the strengths of this House is that it is not like that. Its strength is that it is varied; there are interests from all over the place. People appear when they have something valid to say, as my noble friend Lord Limerick has just said. There are others who appear and make equally valid points. One should not exclude people just because they do not come every day. That goes totally against the spirit and history of your Lordships' House.

The Earl of Northesk

Perhaps I may make a small contribution and in so doing clarify one point. I am slightly confused. Many of us have in our hands copies of the Labour Party's submission to the Royal Commission. I ask the Government Front Bench to what extent that submission illuminates government thinking. I quote paragraph 6.4 of the submission: The Labour Party does not believe that the House of Lords should be a small full-time body. This would threaten the role of independents and experts who might find it difficult to comply with such an obligation. A balance has to be struck between high levels of participation and the participation where relevant of those who speak with genuine authority ". Obviously, that reflects Labour Party policy and I hope that it illuminates the Government's thinking on this issue.

Lord Marlesford

I apologise to my noble friend for not being here at the beginning of his speech. I have some sympathy with the sentiment behind the amendment, but I do not think that there is anything very practical about it. My noble friend himself probably does not regard it as very practical. I believe that there is a problem but it is very limited. A much better way to approach it is to recall how, some years ago, when various diplomatic missions in London failed to pay their parking fines, Written Answers appeared in another place with a league table showing the number of parking fines attributable to various embassies. The tabloids got hold of it and the league table became an annual event and gained a lot of publicity. If one looks at the league table today it is very different from what it was some years ago. Where in a few cases Peers either do not fulfil the obligations that they have accepted or in some other way abuse the system, a little gentle and discriminate publicity will soon deal with the problem.

Viscount Trenchard

I apologise to the Committee for intervening at this stage in the debate not having spoken at Second Reading, when, unfortunately, I was unable to be present. I rather like my noble friend's amendment. It reduces the discrepancy in treatment between hereditary Peers and life Peers. However, I believe that the hurdles which life Peers must surmount are rather easier than those for hereditary Peers. Does my noble friend believe that all 338 holders of life peerages will comply with the requirement of subsection (5) that they sit on more than 50 per cent of sitting days? Can my noble friend say why he did not adopt the Weatherill proposal and vote for life Peers in party blocks? However, basically I am very positive about the amendment.

Lord Coleraine

Perhaps the time is right for me to speak to Amendment No.93D in my name, which is grouped with my noble friend's amendment. The amendment was tabled after lunch on Tuesday when I had had a chance to look at the Labour Party's submission to the Royal Commission. For the benefit of the Government, the amendment seeks to take a little further the debate on the composition of the House of Lords that is to follow when I am gone. We on these Benches remain united—if I may be so bold—in our determination that the House will be a better House from the moment of our departure.1 am sure most of your Lordships will agree with the view, with which I sympathise but which I do not entirely share, that this objective has been partially achieved by the incorporation into the Bill of the Weatherill amendment. The ideas that I am seeking to develop are for the transitional House. They are sketched out in the amendment and,. in an uncanny way, track the Labour Party's proposals. They seem to point in a realistic direction.

The paradox that I offer to the Committee is that House of Lords reform should not be difficult to achieve, but may prove impossible. It may prove impossible if too much is attempted at the second stage, or if what is attempted is too complicated.

In one important respect, the Labour proposals are simple and realistic. It seems to me self-evident that the Labour Party, having been forced by this House to set out on a path leading to stage-two reform, has realised, perhaps only subconsciously. that there will have to be a stage three eventually to deal with Parliament itself. That is why I welcome the fact that the proposals are essentially conservative and start with the preservation, in its entirety, of the existing corpus of life Peers. That is exactly the starting point that I would have chosen for stage two and which my amendment would begin to implement in the transitional House.

I am in favour of an appointed Chamber, rather than being a follower of the noble Lord, Lord Richard or, indeed, of many colleagues in another place and others who are true democrats in, as I see it, the worst sense of the word. Yes, I am for an appointed Chamber, but as may be pointed out, the devil is in the detail. Earlier debates on the appointments commission today have made that clear. Therefore, I have in a constructive and positive way left some of the detail of my amendment to be worked out later.

After reading and re-reading the Labour proposals, I must confess that I had to ask myself: how can I be sure that the proposals are indeed meant to nudge the Royal Commission towards an appointed House? The proposals are vacuous; mostly directives telling the Royal Commission the aims of the Labour Party and asking for ways of achieving those aims.

In support of this contention, I quote paragraph 5.2 of the submission which reads: It is not the role of the Labour Party to prescribe for the Royal Commission a blueprint for the composition of the reformed House of Lords. This is the responsibility which the Royal Commission has been asked by the government to undertake. It is, however, appropriate for the Labour Party to outline the constitutional context within which any reforms will operate, and to propose a framework of principle which in our view should guide the process of reform ". We do not appear to have moved very far forward from that earlier stage when the Government were asked whether they would make a submission to the Royal Commission. They said no, but that the Labour Party would. What we have now seen is really no more than an appendix to the White Paper, hardly a submission at all.

It is in paragraph 6.10 on page 32 that I believe that one finds the intention to have an appointed House. It 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". Surely, as in the White Paper, you have there the nod that is as good as a wink in anyone's currency. I say "excellent" to that.

However, there is a problem. The problem is numbers, and the Labour Party seems to have some awareness of that. I shall try not to fall into the trap that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde set for himself and fell into on Tuesday. He half-forgot that his amendment, and the supporting statistics, unlike the Labour Party proposals, had not been prepared and published before the Weatherill amendment was passed, on the assumption that the Weatherill amendment was already in the Bill. I may or may not be better at the numbers game than my noble friend, but undoubtedly I shall fall well below the standard set by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, whose facility is quite admirable and who is available tonight to help the Committee if I go astray.

I have a note of 170 Conservative life Peers, 157 Labour, plus 15 more to give present broad parity, plus 42 to give post-Weatherill parity; 44 Liberal Democrats, 122 Cross-Bench, 27 Law Lords (because they also may organise their affairs on the basis that they may be here, if not for ever, for a long time) and that makes 527. To those 527, I add the five "other party" life Peers, and eight first creation hereditaries on the recent House of Lords briefing, which makes 540. To that, I add the 42 which my Benches will need to maintain parity when the unthinkable happens at the start of stage two and the hereditaries leave. That, I think, makes 582. The exact figure does not matter. I suspect that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde—I see that he is not on the Front Bench—and I share the knowledge that simple arithmetic and property valuation are not exact sciences.

I thought that I had reached a realistic figure of about 600 life Peers when I realised what I had forgotten. Paragraph 8.3 of the proposals tells the Royal Commission that the House of Lords should endeavour to accommodate representation from or by the Scottish Parliament. Whatever that means, that must surely lead to further life Peers. There are, of course, the usual other groups mentioned in the proposals which one would expect to find needing accommodation in this Chamber.

One way or another, a body of more than 500 thoroughly legitimate but inevitably ageing life Peers, will have tenure for life, in addition to an expanding body of other created Peers. I would not be so indelicate as to call it a problem, if the Labour Party did not hint that it had detected something a little amiss here. The proposals tell us, in paragraph 6.10, that, Rather than a retirement age, the Royal Commission should consider whether there ought to be some means for those unfit or unwilling to continue to indicate a willingness to stand down". I can offer the Labour Party and the Royal Commission a solution. It not only gets over the question of how life Peers can indicate their willingness to stand down, which I am sure the Royal Commission can answer without my help, but allows life Peers to stand down. I hope that the Government will accept the disclaimer proposals contained in Amendment No.99 in the name of my noble friend Lord Lamont.

This is where my amendment would be so helpful to the Government, if taken in conjunction with the amendment of my noble friend Lord Lamont. It provides for a dual-writ system to operate in the case of future life peerages. There will be no dashing of legitimate expectations of life tenure in the case of such peerages. I shall not now go into the other consequences which might follow from such a dual-writ system. That is another argument. I simply wish to point the way in which the Labour Party's aim to create an appointed life peerage to inherit this Chamber can be brought about in a practical way without the problems which paragraph 6.10 exposes. It can be set in motion for the first stage by the incorporation in the Bill of a fully fleshed-out version of my amendment. That would clear the decks and make it quite clear that although future Peers would be appointed for life, and might have organised their affairs accordingly, they would not thereby achieve life voting tenure.

Subsection (3) of my proposed new clause, imposing a retirement age but one which applies only at the end of the Session in which the Peer reaches the age of 75, is what oils the wheels of the whole operation. I await with interest the views of the Committee and the Minister.

10 p.m.

The Earl of Dundee

I support my noble friend's amendment. As he said, it envisages an appointed second Chamber which is wholly appointed, with life Peers, and seeks to accommodate certain inconsistencies arising.

Two differing cases may be inferred, if not stated by my noble friend, each representing irregular attenders. The first case is that of elderly life Peers who are extremely effective when they attend but who may not always be able to do so. The second case is that of a great many other life Peers who are also good contributors but for reasons other than age or infirmity equally do not attend all the time. The question is whether such patterns of irregular attendance undermine the desired balance and function of a reformed second Chamber.

One aim of reform is to achieve approximate voting parity between the main parties. Clearly, at the same time reform of the second Chamber must preserve its present quality of deliberation. Yet the party political voting functions may require Members to be here practically all the time. The deliberative function does not. It includes questions and debates, the highly regarded Lords' European Select Committee reports and the work of Lords' delegations overseas, including the Council of Europe, on which I had the honour to serve for seven years. It is not necessary to be here every sitting day. And, conversely, part-time attendance is even deceptive as many of your Lordships are often researching and spending time on parliamentary work when they are not here.

The amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Coleraine accommodates those considerations. It does so by enabling some life Peers to sit and vote and other life Peers to sit and speak only. Thus, first, it resolves the anomaly whereby otherwise life Peers attending irregularly are inconsistent with life Peers who come here much more. Secondly, there is the allegation, perhaps against my noble friend's suggestion, that the contributions of non-voting life Peers would be ineffective simply because they could not vote. My noble friend's amendment, by implication, refutes that. That is because Members of this place have never made much impression anyway in the Lobbies with their feet. Our votes are easily overturned. What has always been much more difficult for the other place is to resist our reasoned arguments.

That connects with the third main consideration with which my noble friend's amendment is consistent. That is, if a reformed second Chamber is to be appointed with life Peers, it need not conform to party politics anyway, and certainly to no greater extent than it does now. Therefore, it is up to the appointments commission to ensure this and also to lay stress on the deliberative function. Meanwhile, if we have a new voting parity between parties and a new House of life Peers, all with voting rights, regarding part-time attendance then two things follow. First, part-time attendance becomes inconsistent with a new voting function expected of its Members. Secondly, part-time attendance would hardly be recognised as the backbone, which it is, of the deliberative function. Instead, it would be seen to breach the terms and trust of the appointment as a life Peer in the first place.

In my view, my noble friend's amendment provides a useful solution through the two categories of life Peer. Not least does it echo the cross-party agreement of the Labour government's 1968 Lords' reform proposal, whose architects included the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, my noble friend Lord Carrington and the late Lord Home of the Hirsel.

Viscount Torrington

I wonder whether the Committee will forgive me for intervening a second time. My noble friend Lord Coleraine raises an interesting point. Paragraph 6.10 of the Labour Party's submission to the Royal Commission 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 ". Is it not reasonable to suggest that many hereditary Peers in this House thought that they were here for life and might have organised their affairs accordingly?

Lord Trefgarne

Perhaps I may raise a small point in connection with the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Archer. As your Lordships know, we have the benefit of the draft Standing Orders which will apply to the election of hereditary Peers now that the Weatherill amendment has been agreed. Those draft orders provide an important role for the Clerk of the Parliaments. I have no doubt whatever that the Clerk of the Parliaments will discharge his duty with care, skill and complete impartiality when he comes to do so, but I suspect that from time to time he will have some tricky decisions to make. I am not sure that we ought to put the Clerk of the Parliaments in that position. I hope that that aspect of the Standing Orders can in due course be reconsidered.

My noble friend Lord Archer also includes a role for the Clerk of the Parliaments in his amendment. Although I agree with much of what he said, I believe that that aspect of his amendment bears re-examination and I hope that he will give it that.

Earl Attlee

My noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, introduced a very important amendment but it is not perfect, and it did not take long for the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, to insert an intellectual stiletto into it.

There was a reference to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment. When I first met the noble and gallant Lord I addressed him as "Sir ", and I meant it. The noble and gallant Lord turns up on a regular basis, and recently he has been turning UD on a more frequent basis. He gives me very valuable counsel and the benefit of his wide military experience. The last time he did so was 45 minutes ago, at dinner. He is great. He is good. If he is not a working Peer. he is a part of the House of Lords that works.

My noble friend Lord Trefgarne referred to Members of the House of Lords who are also members of another assembly. I cannot support him. He spoke of the position of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament. I have regular contact with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. He does not attend the House of Lords regularly, but I find my contact with the noble Lord extremely valuable. So there is much to be said for being a member of more than one assembly at the same time.

Lord Northbrook

I should like to make two remarks about the amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine. Subsection (1) of the proposed new clause would make the system much more complicated than my noble friend Lord Archer has suggested. Secondly, subsection (3) provides that any writ issued to a voting member would not have effect after the end of the Session of Parliament in which he attains the age of 75. I do not understand why the age should be 75 and why from that point he should become a non-voting Member, as if suddenly he had lost possession of his marbles. It seems a rather strange cut off point.

Lord Coleraine

Subsection (1) of the new clause proposed in my amendment says effectively that any new life Peer created after the day when the Bill becomes an Act will receive either a Writ of Summons to attend the House of Lords to speak or a Writ of Summons to attend the House of Lords to vote.

The Earl of Northesk

The amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine has somewhat fired my imagination. There is a degree of tension between that amendment and the amendment of my noble friend Lord Archer. The Committee will be aware that one of my greatest criticisms of the Bill is that I cannot help feeling it has a political intent. Occasionally it is important to remind ourselves that above all else the House of Lords is a legislative Chamber and, indeed, a Chamber of revision. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine reflects that rather intelligently.

As a sideline, there is an extraordinary comment that I picked out in flicking through the Labour Party's submissions to the Royal Commission. At page 30 we find the words, if the House of Lords is to be fully modernised so that it can more effectively serve the political needs of this country ". I should have thought that what is important is that the House should serve the legislative needs of the country.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

The two amendments grouped here have one or two factors in common. Perhaps I may start by saying a few words about the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Coleraine. What it does in a way is offer a solution to the problem of differentiating between working Peers and Peers whose peerage has been given as an honour, perhaps in the New Year's Honours List or the Birthday Honours List, and who are not really expected to come to the House of Lords on anything like a frequent basis, but who, when they do attend, can make major contributions to debates.

I am not entirely sure on what basis the noble Lord, Lord Haskins, came here. He has not taken part much; he is a very busy man. However, he made a very interesting speech yesterday. I would have thought that he comes into the category of someone who may deserve the honour but perhaps will not be exactly defined as a working Peer.

The amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine gives the Government, the honours committee and Her Majesty the opportunity to send to the House Peers of considerable eminence but Peers occupied to such an extent in their own field that, although able to make valuable contributions on an important subject, they would not be frequent attenders or participators in debates and business. If I paraphrase it correctly, my noble friend is trying to offer the Government a way to deal with that problem.

My noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare is attempting a rather wider solution to some of the problems, but some of those problems arise from exactly the same position: that there are life Peers who were not sent here to work and who do not attend very often. My noble friend was trying to differentiate although I am rather puzzled. He said that his amendment would differentiate between those who came to this House by way of the New Year or Birthday Honours lists and those who came on lists of working Peers. I may be missing something, but I cannot see that differentiation in the text. No doubt my noble friend will help me later on that.

My noble friend envisages a House which is considerably smaller than that which we have now. There would be 499 Members, if I have calculated it correctly. We all know that there are many more than that in your Lordships' House. Even if we take the people who attend very occasionally and leave out the people who never attend or attend on only one or two occasions, the membership of the House is considerably larger than 500. But generally, on high days and holidays, there is likely to be an attendance of about 400 and for ordinary days, the attendance will be between 300 and 350. Therefore, I believe that a non-professional House, which I indicated earlier is my preference, always needs a little headroom because not all Members will be able to be here on anything like a regular basis, unlike, for example, the other place where the Whipping system ensures the fairly regular attendance of Members.

My noble friend's amendment replicates, very cleverly and with subtlety, the Weatherill amendment for hereditary Peers which we passed on Tuesday. It sets out to create a representative group of life Peers who would be elected by their fellows.

That should be attractive to the Government because those life Peers, elected by their fellows, would obviously have more legitimacy than we all have as the totality of life Peers. I quote no less an authority than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. When discussing the Weatherill amendment and the fact that 90-odd Peers would be elected from the totality of the hereditaries, the noble and learned Lord said: Also, the hereditary Peers who remain temporarily will be here not just because they are hereditaries but because they have been elected by their fellow hereditaries. Therefore, they will have greater authority ". —[Official Report, 11/5/99; col.1094.] I listened to that and then, lo and behold, the noble and learned Lord repeated it. I suppose he thought that I had not heard it the first time. In his concluding remarks, he said: It gives the 90 excepted Peers, whose election will have given them greater authority and shows that they have the confidence of their colleagues, a say in the deliberations of this House about its long-term future ". —[Official Report, 11/5/99; col.1096.] So, no less a person than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—and who greater an authority can I quote?—indicates that if one has elections for 92 hereditary Peers from the whole group of hereditaries, that will give the 92 more legitimacy. The amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Archer will give the life Peers who are elected more legitimacy. I should love some more legitimacy so long as it does not come at the cost of too much electioneering. Just in case the Government are minded to accept the amendment, I had better be kind to all my life-Peer colleagues in all my other comments.

I notice that my noble friend makes provision also for by-elections, which is very important. But he addresses the problem also that life Peers are expected to work. My noble friends Lord Torrington and Lord Limerick have pointed out, I think rightly, that there are life Peers, as I mentioned earlier, as there are hereditary Peers, who do not come terribly often but when they do come, they participate in our deliberations on subjects which are of great interest to them and on which they are serious experts. I do not want to embarrass anybody by going round and naming them or to take up the time of the Committee.

I think that both noble Lords are right and if they were suggesting to my noble friend Lord Archer that his 50 per cent cut-off is a bit high, I would agree with them. I think it is far too high. Even if the Government do not accept my noble friend's amendment, we should perhaps look at a way of applying a one-off test to those life Peers who are here now so that only those who have shown any interest in your Lordships' House will be able to continue in the transitional House and perhaps—who knows?—into the stage-two House when it comes about.

On page 32 of the Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission—it has almost become the most quoted document, second only to the manifesto, and presumably I will shortly be told that it was a best seller, with queues lining up in the streets to buy it—

Baroness Jay of Paddington

I do not think that the noble Lord will necessarily be told that, but I suspect we may continue to remind him that that evidence relates to the Royal Commission and its proposals for the second stage of reform. It does not relate to the present Bill.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

It may not relate directly to the present Bill, but it gives us an indication of what the Government are thinking in the matter of the composition of your Lordships' House.

Noble Lords


Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am sorry, I mean the Labour Party. There seem to be two distinct organisations in this country. One is the Government and the other is the Labour Party. I suppose it is a bit like the two distinct governments that we shall have in this country: the Labour Government in Scotland and the Labour Government in the United Kingdom. But I had better not trespass on the patience of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House by going into any more detail about the goings-on north of the Border, to which I hope shortly to return in order to get closer to them over the weekend for my enjoyment. On Monday I shall report my findings to your Lordships.

To get back to the evidence, page 32 states: The Royal Commission should also consider whether membership of the reformed House of Lords—

Lord Shepherd

Can the noble Lord say which train he will catch?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Perhaps one a good deal earlier than that which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will manage to catch.

Lord Carter

I think the noble Lord may find the early flight tomorrow morning more convenient!

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Ah well, we shall see, we shall see. I shall continue to give that quotation: The Royal Commission should also consider whether membership of the reformed House of Lords should carry with it a minimum obligation in terms of attendance and participation in the work of the chamber ". I think the noble Baroness will agree that that is relevant to this particular debate. The quotation continues: A large number of members currently attend very infrequently and play little part in the work of the House of Lords. If there is to be a minimum attendance obligation, the Royal Commission should also consider how it could be enforced ". I agree with the Labour Party that that is a fair thing to say to the Royal Commission. I also think, for reasons which we have put forward on a number of occasions, that we should also address it to the interim House because who knows how long the interim House may last. If we are improving the interim House by keeping back 92 of my hereditary colleagues, may I suggest that we might improve it even more if we try to concentrate our life Peer Members on those who do attend and play some particular part? My noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare has raised some interesting points, as has my noble friend Lord Coleraine, and I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has to say.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, referred to the fact that there were two thriving institutions: one, the Labour Party and, two, the Labour Government. I do understand how discomfiting that may be for him as the Conservative Party has neither a government nor, as far as I can detect, much of a party at all. Certainly in Scotland and Wales, the Conservatives managed to succeed in having no directly elected Member of either the Parliament or the Assembly.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I would hate to allow the noble Lord the Minister to stray into error, especially with regard to Wales. We old manage one first-past-the-post seat in Wales. But I have to say that just south of the Scottish Border we had a magnificent victory in the home town of my noble friend Lord Henley in that we won control of Carlisle.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

In principle, all Peers, whether they are here on merit or by virtue of an hereditary peerage, have a duty to take seriously their responsibility as Members.

Earl Ferrers

I thought I misheard the noble Lord. Did he say "an hereditary peerage"; and if he did, why did he not accept my amendment?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I did say "an hereditary peerage ". I fell into solecism and error in exactly the same way as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, did when he said "a hereditary peerage " on Tuesday.

Earl Ferrers

I did not fall into error at all. I was merely doing what I thought was correct in so far as the Bill refers to "a hereditary peerage "; and, as I said earlier, when you are in Rome you do what Rome does. I therefore referred to "a hereditary peerage ". It was only the noble Lord's automatic judgment which made him go to "an hereditary peerage ", which is what he should have accepted.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Being Welsh, I do what Welsh people do in Rome and I stick to "an hereditary peerage ". But that is a matter of personal taste. Personal taste is not always coincident with present government policy.

In principle, all noble Lords have a duty to take their responsibility seriously. In practice, we know that not to be so. Frequency of attendance is not the appropriate criterion on which to base judgments. The noble Lord, Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, indicated that fairness is a useful lodestone—I agree—and so is rationality. I do not accept his constitutional doctrine that if one is asked to come here as a working Peer by a particular Prime Minister one's duties as a working Peer are limited to the incumbency of that Prime Minister. I have not heard that suggested before and I do not believe it to be correct. Indeed, both my noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington and I were invited here by letters originally from Mr. Major—of course it was Her Majesty who actually determines these matters—but there was nothing in my letter, or I think in the postcard of my noble friend Lady Jay, that required us to do anything.

In fact, had we been required to serve only during the incumbency of the person who had originally suggested us, neither of us would have to have turned up at all, because Mr. Kinnock was never Prime Minister. If the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, has a claim for back pay of £30 million and compound interest, my noble friend and I have a similar claim, because we have attended here selflessly for so long, to the entire satisfaction of your Lordships—and certainly to our own entire satisfaction—that I think that we ought to have been properly remunerated.

The Earl of Onslow

Can we have an undertaking that, in the unlikely event of a Conservative government, both the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, will continue their presence selflessly and ad nauseam in your Lordships' House?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Unless there is a retirement age of 95, certainly.

I understand the reasons behind the noble Lord's amendment but it confuses quantity and quality. The quality of a Peer's record is not really to be judged on attendance alone. Many of those who attend frequently make a considerable contribution. Many who attend frequently make no contribution that is readily detectable. As the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, said, even making a contribution in the sense of joining in a debate does not necessarily or indeed at all advance the argument, as we have recently been able to note.

We cannot accept the amendment as a matter of principle. The Bill is about the removal of "the " hereditary Peers as a class from membership of the House. We have accepted the compromise—a generous one, as was said earlier—to allow 92 hereditary Peers to remain. The position of the life Peers is not in question in stage one of the reform. I have to say yet again what was said a moment or two ago by my noble friend the Leader of the House. We are discussing this Bill at this stage. I beg the Committee's pardon. We ought to be discussing this Bill at this stage.

We have said that people can conscientiously differ and we do, in the same way as some believe the world is flat and others insist it is round. We believe that it is not right for anyone in this legislature to have an automatic right by virtue of heredity. There is no similar argument for removing life Peers. All life Peers, by virtue of the Act of 1963, are here for life. I do not believe that a system of elections would work. I may have misunderstood the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Archer. I did not understand how he arrived at the figure of 338.

The noble Lord says that his amendment is directed to so-called working Peers who do not work. However, it does not deal with the question of those who were put in here on a purely honorific basis. Indeed, a more fundamental criticism which he might accept is that the amendment would allow working Peers, on the noble Lord's definition, to be removed if they were not elected. Even in the terms of his own approach, I believe that would be a significant defect.

There is no mention of a proportionate breakdown of life Peers between the parties. After the initial election, on the basis of previous attendance figures, the Labour Party would do considerably better than the party opposite. If we take the figures for the latter Session, the proportion of Labour life Peers—I exclude those on official leave of absence or those who have not taken the oath—attending over 220 times out of a possible 228, that is on over 88 per cent of possible occasions, was almost twice that of Conservative life Peers.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

The Minister cannot have a great deal of spare time. He has pointed out how hard he is working. However, I wonder if he would be kind enough to look at the figures in the days when the Conservative Government were in power. The simple facts are that when in Opposition one does not have the problem of having to vote on every single issue and being present the whole time. My attendance and voting record was much better when we were putting Bills through than it is at present.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Whether that is right or wrong, the noble Lord has just destroyed his own argument. That means that if noble Lords are in opposition and not liable to turn up, they are liable to be dispossessed of the opportunity to come here at all simply because they are in opposition and do not bother to turn up. That is the necessary, inevitable and logical conclusion of the observation made by the noble Lord. Whether he intended it to be the conclusion on which I focused, I am not sure.

The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, asked about the relationship of the Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission. It is precisely that; that is, evidence put forward by the Labour Party. It will be supplemented by oral evidence. I repeat again the comments so often made by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. When we have the recommendations of the Royal Commission, a joint committee of both Houses will consider them and the Government will come to a view. There are practical difficulties deriving from the amendment.

The Earl of Northesk

I thank the Minister for giving way. I sought to clarify one simple point. The Labour Party submission exists, it is a public document. The point of clarification I seek is that surely we are entitled to believe that in some way it informs current Government thinking.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I can only repeat what I hoped I had said plainly earlier. It is the Labour Party submission. It will be supplemented by oral evidence. The Government will come to a concluded view in a rational way after seeing what the Royal Commission has said—that is why one sets up a Royal Commission—and listening carefully to the deliberations of the committee of both Houses. There is no provision in the amendment—

The Earl of Onslow

Perhaps I may ask if the Prime Minister saw that evidence and approved it. If he did, it must therefore be Government policy.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

There is an internal fallacy there. The fact that the Prime Minister has seen and approved something does not necessarily make it government policy in every conceivable circumstance. He may have views of his own about a wide range of matters. Of course the Prime Minister saw the evidence before it was submitted. We are going about this in the proper way and we shall not be deviated from the proper course.

If one sets up a Royal Commission, one ought to be prepared to attend to its conclusions. If one invites a committee of both Houses, which, by definition, will have an authoritative composition, one ought to have the courtesy and ordinary sense to listen to what it says; and, thereafter, come to one's concluded view.

In this amendment, contrary to the Weatherill amendment, there is no provision for elections to be held in advance of the rest of the Bill coming into force. That would mean that elections could not take place until the Bill was in force and, if the Bill was in force, all life Peers would already have been excluded by virtue of this clause.

There is a specific question from my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham to which I must now attend. He asked whether or not the mayor of London could be a Member of your Lordships' House. I am not sure who the Labour candidate will be, but when he or she is successful I do not see any impediment to the mayor of London being invited to come here by a grateful nation and a thankful Prime Minister.

Lord Davies of Oldham

I apologise for interrupting my noble friend, but the question that I was really asking was whether that was likely to be compatible with the attendance criteria envisaged in the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

That would depend on the degree of flexi-time in the London assembly. It is possible that the mayor of London would be able to pop into the House for Prayers in order to secure his or her attendance allowance, which I believe is what some noble Lords do, and then depart for happier climes immediately down the road.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Perhaps I may paraphrase Stanley and ask whether this is a case of "Lord Livingstone, I presume? "

Lord Williams of Mostyn

In fact, Stanley was not his real name at all. It was John Rowland from North Wales, born in the workhouse at St. Asaph! The noble Lord is relying on an impostor who had to change his name—of course, quite unlike some of your Lordships.

If one wants to look at this "in the round ", as people will keep saying, one would have to consider the position of the Bishops. They do not attend every day. But, despite the fact that they represent only one section of the Christian Church, I am sure that most noble Lords would recognise that their contributions are valuable. Indeed. I would make the same point about the Law Lords. Both the Law Lords and the Bishops have, if I may use the phrase, held on to the day job. Nevertheless, they do attend and provide contributions which are extremely important. They are listened to with great care and are generally effective.

Lord Richard

I trust that my noble friend will forgive me, but I should like to raise a point regarding something he just said about the Joint Committee of both Houses. I take it that the Government will not express their views on the shape of the second-stage Chamber until after the Joint Committee has reported. Alternatively, is the position—as I have understood it to be—that the Government will express their views on the shape of the second Chamber after the Royal Commission has spoken and that, thereafter, the matter will go to the Joint Committee for implementation? Can my noble friend help me in that respect?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

Yes. It is the second alternative. I said that the Government would come to their concluded view after we had taken account of the view of the Joint Committee. There is no point in setting up a Joint Committee of that prospective virtue, value and weight unless one is going to listen with great care to its advice.

I turn now to Amendment No.93D. tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine. We do not see a place for this proposed new clause in the Bill. It would create two separate distinct classes of life Peer. It would include enforced semi-retirement for those over the age of 75 and would separate into classes those who could attend and vote and those who could not. I cannot see how that would work in practice. Once one got to the age of 75—just approaching the prime of life—one would then be disentitled to vote.

So, on the proposal of the noble Lord, a Peer could attend and speak but not vote. But would he be able to table an amendment to a Bill? I do not find provision for that in the noble Lord's amendment. I am simply raising a question. Would such a Peer be able to ask questions? The noble Lord nods his head. Would he be able to introduce legislation? The noble Lord remains silent. There are difficulties involved. I give way to the noble Lord. Lord Coleraine.

Lord Coleraine

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. A noble Lord who is not a voting Lord would be entitled to introduce legislation, but not to vote on it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I think that illustrates the bizarre nature of the proposal. One could have an impassioned Second Reading speech from a noble Lord of 75 years and one day. By the time he got to be 77 years and one day he might have got to Third Reading and he might be able to speak on all those occasions but not discharge the elementary duty of voting. I recognise that this is a genuine attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, to improve matters but I think that, once one teases out the detail, it does not.

In summary, therefore, I hope the Committee will recognise that I have once again in the best tradition of this Chamber approached all these amendments with an entirely open mind before advising the Committee to reject them.

Lord Northbrook

Before the Minister sits down, I hope I may clarify a point. I understood him to say that life Peers were appointed for life in this Chamber. However, I understand—if I am correct in this—that the Labour proposals to the Royal Commission suggest that, if there is an appointed Chamber, not all life Peers will be part of it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I do not immediately recognise that as an accurate quotation from any evidence that has been given. However, I repeat, at the risk of tedium—at least to myself, if not to everyone else present—that we are dealing with a Bill that attends to the first stage. The evidence is given to the Royal Commission, which is to make recommendations for a succeeding stage.

Lord Coleraine

I return to my amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has kindly dealt with certain of the lacunae in my amendment. He will obviously be aware from the way I spoke that it was a probing amendment, or perhaps a sighting shot. I am grateful to him for pointing out where he feels I may have gone wrong on the technical drafting aspects. However, as regards the question of the dual writ and voting and speaking Peers, of course I recognise that the analogies with 1968 are not sure in all cases and cannot be taken too far. But one thing is certain; namely, that in 1968 it was well accepted in all parts of the Chamber that there was no particular difficulty about having life Peers or hereditary Peers; and that hereditary Peers were speaking Peers who could introduce amendments and ask questions but could not vote. No difficulty was envisaged with that at that time. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his attention to my amendment and to the others who have spoken on it. I shall certainly not return to it in its rightful place in the Marshalled List.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare

I too am grateful to the Minister for his serious response. I am equally grateful to those Members on both sides of the Committee who joined in this debate. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, that I think the mayor of London should certainly be in the House of Lords and it would perhaps be convenient for him to be there at the beginning rather than immediately after he is elected.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that the overriding purpose of this amendment is to try to make people think about what the new Chamber should look like. I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould. It is hard to find a wording that includes reference to the number of times one attends, the number of times one speaks and the amount of work one does. I have wrestled with this matter and I know that it is not easy. I just wanted to place firmly on the record how much I disapprove of people who take the honour that this House offers, and the great distinction with which it is viewed by the rest of the nation, and then make no attempt to give back benefit to that nation by attending this Chamber or working for it. That was the purpose of this amendment. I thank the Minister for taking it in that vein. With that in mind, I shall withdraw my amendment but I may bring it back on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas moved Amendment No.79:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


(". —(1) There shall be an Appointments Commission. (2) The Appointments Commission alone shall make recommendations to Her Majesty for the conferment of life peerages in accordance with the Life Peerages Act 1958, and shall determine various matters in relation thereto. (3) The Appointments Commission shall consist of eight members, one to be nominated by each of—

  1. (a) the Prime Minister,
  2. (b) the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons,
  3. (c) the Leader of the second largest opposition party in the House of Commons,
  4. (d) the Convenor of the Cross Bench peers in the House of Lords,
  5. (e) the Leader of the House of Lords, and three members, known to be independent of any political party, to be nominated by the House of Lords and approved in each case by a majority of two thirds of those voting.")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No.79 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos.80 to 83. I may be able to be quite brief. I was very impressed by what the Leader of the House said in answer to Amendment No.75. I thought she set out a thoroughly commendable approach to the way in which Peers would be selected in the future. However, I am sure she will recognise that that is subject to executive discretion and that it has no statutory underpinning. I am sure she will also recognise that I and many other Members of the House feel that that is not good enough. There has to be something in the Bill that gives us a greater sense of security that the arrangements she so ably outlined could survive a change of government or a change of opinion by a government, something that gives us a stage better reliance.

If the Leader of the House will agree to meet a group of noble Lords between Committee stage and Report stage to discuss how we might moderate our demands and how we might find some way of satisfying our justifiable fears in a way that is acceptable to the Government, I, and I hope other of my colleagues, will feel able to leave discussion of these amendments to another day, or perhaps not at all. I beg to move.

Lord Henley

Before the noble Baroness replies, perhaps I may take this opportunity to ask either the noble Baroness or the Government Chief Whip about their intentions as to how late we should sit. There has been a general understanding that we should not sit too late on such a major constitutional Bill. I appreciate that we have a great deal to get through; I also appreciate that we have Monday and possibly other days for debate. I think at this stage it is important to know the Government's plans. Obviously that will influence us as to how we deal with certain of our amendments, particularly those amendments that we wish to deal with on Monday.

Lord Carter

We have been sitting for almost exactly seven hours. We are just starting on the seventh group of amendments. I do not think that we have made enough progress on an important constitutional Bill. I wish to make more progress tonight.

Lord Henley

Is the Government Chief Whip suggesting that we sit for another seven hours tonight? I am not sure that he would have agreement from his own Back Benchers—certainly he would not have it from ours—that we sit for another seven hours.

Lord Carter

11 am finding it hard to restrain my enthusiasm. It certainly will not be for another seven hours.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

Perhaps I may reply to the Amendment No.79, which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. The noble Lord was gracious enough to say that he would not speak in detail to these amendments if I responded favourably to his suggestion. I am grateful to him for saying what he did about my response to the earlier amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Waddington, and Lord Crickhowell.

We agree that what the noble Lord has attempted to do in his series of amendments—I think there are five altogether—is impressive. But it is fairly lengthy. I would suggest that that illustrates the particular problems of trying to put into a statute the issues which we discussed at some length before the break for dinner. He has graciously suggested that, rather than going through the details this evening, we might discuss the matter privately. I am happy to pursue that course. I draw his attention and the attention of the Committee to the letter which I wrote at the beginning of the Session to say that: Ministers were always anxious to meet other Members of the House and to try to accommodate their concerns, particularly at this stage of proceedings. If that is the way the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, wishes to proceed, I am happy to do so.

Lord Lucas

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. If the Committee is agreeable, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment Nos.80 to 83 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No.84:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


(". —(1) A member of the Scottish Parliament is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords.

  1. (2) Where an individual is disqualified under this section, the disqualification ceases on the day he ceases to be a member of the Scottish Parliament.
  2. (3) No writ of summons shall be issued to a person who is for the time being disqualified under this section.")

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No.84, I shall speak also to Amendment No.85. I am a bit apprehensive about doing this because, when the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, last spoke about hereditary Peers, I think he said that they make no contribution; and if hey do make a contribution it is of no noticeable effect. That is rather like the bully at school who asks: "Why don't you say something? " and, if you do, says: "Shut up ".

With these amendments we enter slightly sensitive ground and I hope the Committee will not mind my doing so. I should let Members into a secret, I may have sat next to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, at dinner, although I did not realise it, and I found my glasses had been smashed. I thought he might have done it, but I was not sitting next to him, so it must have been a poltergeist.

Amendment No.84 proposes the following: A member of the Scottish Parliament is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords ".

Amendment No.85 states: A person who is entitled to vote in elections for membership of the Scottish Parliament is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords ".

They are two fairly modest amendments with clear objectives. In the early stages of the Bill we heard much about the manifesto and what it said. I remind the Committee of what was said in the Government's White Paper on House of Lords reform. On the very first page it states: Parliament is the central element of Britain's democracy. Britain needs a two-chamber legislature ".

Having said that, what do the Government do? They devolve powers to Scotland and make a single-chamber legislature. So there is a single-chamber legislature in Scotland and a two-chamber legislature in England. That does not bode well for the unity of the United Kingdom.

The Earl of Errol

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Earl. This is not the English Parliament, it is the Parliament of the UK here. I wish to point that out, it is a misconception which I have noticed entering the debate from time to time.

Earl Ferrers

It is kind of the noble Earl to remind us that it is a United Kingdom Parliament and he has courteously drawn me on to the next part of my remarks. If a Bill is passed in the Scottish Parliament, concerning health, education or social security, it goes through the Scottish Parliament and that is that. If you pass a Bill on education, health or social security in the House of Commons, it has to go through your Lordships' House. So there is a two-chamber system here and a single-chamber system in Scotland. I suggest that that is wholly divisive. The Government have constantly refused to address their minds to the point and that is what we are left with. We have the position of a single chamber in Scotland.

Some noble Lords have thought it desirable to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament and some have succeeded. All credit to them. The noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, has been successful and achieved what I understood to be his ambition, becoming the Presiding Officer, the equivalent of being Speaker of the Scottish Parliament. That is fine.

Using him as an example, why then should he come to your Lordships' House and decide on what your Lordships and England should do on matters respecting England? If he does, should he sit as Lord Steel of Aikwood or as Sir David Steel, as he intends to do in Scotland? Alternatively, does he sit as both Sir David in Scotland and Lord Steel in England? If he sits in your Lordships' House, will he sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches, where we are used to seeing him, or on the Cross-Benches? Can one imagine Madam Speaker in another place leaving the House of Commons going to the Scottish Parliament and sitting as a Labour Member of Parliament, giving Labour views? Of course not. Lord Steel has sanitised himself by becoming a Speaker, therefore theoretically he ought to sit on the Cross-Benches.

Then there is the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. It is curious how they all come from the Liberal Democrat Benches. The Liberal Democrats try like mad to get positions of authority in the United Kingdom Government and always fail. Having failed there, they try Scotland, where they seem to be successful, or Wales, where they are also successful. Now the other part of my glasses has gone, so the noble Lord, Lord Williams, need not worry too much!

The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, has been successful in Northern Ireland. What does he do? Does he come and sit on the Cross-Benches, or the Liberal Democrat Benches? There is quite a difficulty here. Why should people who have stood for a regional parliament and been elected to that parliament, and have in some cases become administrators of the regional parliament discussing regional matters, in which this House has no part, then come to this place and discuss and take part in matters which are outside their region but reflect the rest of the United Kingdom—England for example? It is the old West Lothian question. It has gone completely unanswered and unaddressed by the Government. That is a great pity.

People have climbed up rather like a monkey going across the trees in the rain forest, swinging from branch to branch, and they have swung from another place into this House and from this House to the Scottish Parliament. They have succeeded in doing all that. Why do they still continue to come to this House and discuss English matters?

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank

Will the noble Earl be kind enough to give way? Perhaps I may ask him a question. I understand his argument that it would be inappropriate, and I do not pass judgment on this, for Members of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly to participate in matters concerning mainly England. But as the noble Earl will recognise—and this is enshrined in legislation passed by this House—neither in Scotland nor in Wales, or in Northern Ireland, is there any jurisdiction over trends in international affairs. Will the noble Earl recognise the entitlement of those who sit in those parliaments at least to come to this House, and at least to participate in debates and decisions on those matters?

Earl Ferrers

The noble Lord is entirely right. He asks whether I recognise "at least" that they should do that. Yes, of course I do. But the trouble is that it is not a question of "at least". In fact they come and discuss everything. They have a right to discuss everything and participate in everything. I am sorry to return to this, but that is the dichotomy that the Government have failed to address. How do you devolve various matters to different parliaments and keep some for Westminster, yet allow people to come to Westminster from regional parliaments and discuss the totality? That is what I believe to be wrong, and the Government have not come to any conclusion.

With my spectacles now in a state of total disarray, I now turn to Amendment No.85, which is marginally more controversial. It proposes that, A person who is entitled to vote in elections for membership of the Scottish Parliament is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords ". If people have the right to vote for their own parliament, which they have, and they secure the parliament of their compatriots' choice, why should those same people then be allowed to come down to the United Kingdom Parliament and discuss United Kingdom matters?

This provision would be quite severe. It would knock out the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who comes from Wales; it would knock out the noble and learned Lord. Lord Falconer; it would probably knock out the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor; it would knock out my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish—who is so terrified that he has vanished already—and a number of other people. I believe the noble Baroness wishes to intervene.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

From a sedentary position I was merely repeating the conversation that my noble friend the Chief Whip had with the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, about the time of his train.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may assist the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal. My noble friend has had to catch a train. He has returned north on the sleeper. That is why I remarked earlier on the timing of this debate.

Earl Ferrers

That is of course the difficulty that these poor people who live in Scotland have.

All these people who have the right to vote for whom they want to represent them in the Scottish Parliament equally have the right to come and speak in your Lordships' House, and to vote upon matters—not the hereditary Peers, no, the life Peers—which reflect entirely the interests of England, and on other matters. This is a sensitive area; it is the West Lothian question unresolved. The only reason I have tabled the amendment is to discover the Government's thinking on this matter.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn (if he is the Minister courteous enough to reply), will address this very serious point. I am all for a few flippant jokes. I do not mind if he also makes some jokes. However, I hope that he will be able to say why people who have been elected to a devolved Parliament can come down to this Parliament and speak to matters in which they do not normally interfere, and equally why those who vote for their own Parliament have the right to vote in the second Chamber. I beg to move.

11 p.m.

Lord Elton

My noble friend's amendment draws attention to the desirability of the Government perhaps not pursuing stage two as quickly as they have repeatedly assured us they will because the West Lothian question remains unresolved. I suspect that the relationship between the two Parliaments and the Assembly will not be fully understood until it has been working for a number of years. The Government may tonight propose a resolution of the West Lothian question. However, as matters now stand, Members of another place who are elected in Scotland will have the sole say over Scottish affairs in education, social security, health and so on—a range of matters—whereas Members of another place in this Parliament will have no say over those affairs in Scotland. Members elected in Scotland will have a say over those affairs in this kingdom, but will have no constituency interest whatever in them. My noble friend's amendment does something in gesture politics to redress the balance. In so doing, it illustrates the importance of seeing how the system works before we press ahead too fast.

The Earl of Onslow

I do not like to disagree with my noble friend Lord Ferrers, but on this occasion I do so for the following reason. Your Lordships' House is not a House of territoriality, but of either individuals or power. Therefore, the West Lothian question, serious and horrid as it is, is not addressed by saying that because an individual comes from a certain part of the United Kingdom, he should be barred from its upper House. The West Lothian question is a brutal and very dangerous one as yet not addressed by the Government. If we were to debar from this House Members who live north of Hadrian's Wall, or Members of the Scottish Parliament or of the Welsh Assembly, it would be even more damaging to tie Union than the present, rather half-baked devolution experiment that is taking place. I urge my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Mountgarret

I take issue with the noble Earl, Lord Onslow. I disagree most profoundly with his observations. I always thought that we operated on the principle of one man. one vote; but here we move into the realm of one man, or one lady, two votes. Frequently, my wife has received electoral papers to be completed in order to vote in both the north of England and London by virtue of two residences. That is illegal. If she had voted in both places there would have been great trouble.

I think the same objections apply to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. It is quite wrong. He will recall that some time ago we had quite a ping-pong match over the question of Summer Time in what was then the United Kingdom, but alas is no longer. The trouble was that, although the Bill passed through: your Lordships' House, the Scots were unhappy because, quite rightly. they said that things were different in that part of the world than in our part of the world. They have a point. They are absolutely right. Therefore, why should they be able to vote in Westminster on matters relating to England—it is no longer the United Kingdom—and not contain their views to Scotland and to the Parliament to which they have been elected? I support the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

Lord Goodhart

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has tabled a lot of rather entertaining amendments to this Bill which, from time to time, have brought some light relief to this debate. In his Amendment No.85 I believe that he is taking the joke a bit too far.

I have a confession to make to the Committee. I had a great-grandmother whose maiden name was Mackay. Therefore, it would be quite impossible for me to vote for any amendment which would have the appalling result of excluding from your Lordships' House those who, I suppose, I must describe as my noble kinsmen, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Mackay of Clashfern and Lord Mackay of Drumadoon. Amendment No.85 is plainly absurd and not one that is worth taking much trouble over.

Amendment No.84 raises, as I understand it, the West Lothian question. It seems neither appropriate nor indeed possible in this Bill to answer the West Lothian question, which is something that has been troubling us all for decades. In any event, the matters raised in Clause 84—not only the West Lothian question, but also the dual mandate—are matters that are not appropriate for this Bill. Once again, as with so many of these amendments, this is a matter for the Royal Commission and stage two.

The Earl of Erroll

I think that noble Lords forget that this is still the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It passes laws that affect Scotland and it is able to repatriate to itself powers which are currently devolved to a Parliament in Scotland, which is not a sovereign parliament. Therefore, English Peers and English MPs in this Parliament vote on issues that affect Scotland. That is a matter that works in both directions at the moment.

I recommended and supported the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, earlier because it is essential that there is Scottish representation in this Parliament and not the other way round. The suggestion in Amendment No.85 that Scottish voters should be disenfranchised totally from the sovereign Parliament in this country is quite ridiculous.

On the point of multiple votes, one votes for everything from parish councillors, to district councillors, county councillors, if you are in Scotland a Scottish Parliament Member, an MP and an MEP. So we all have multiple votes.

Lord Northbrook

With due respect to the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, I did not quite understand his point about repatriating powers to the United Kingdom Parliament.

The Earl of Erroll

I stand to be corrected, but I think it is still within Westminster's power to take power back from the Scottish Parliament because the Westminster Parliament is a sovereign Parliament, which the Scottish Parliament is not. That may happen over tuition fees. In fact, I believe that has already been mooted in Scotland.

The Duke of Montrose

Returning to the question raised by Amendment No.85, if there is any seriousness in it, has the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, thought of phrasing it the other way? On the question of elections to the other place, neither Peers, nor minors, nor bankrupts are allowed to vote. If he wishes to introduce the fact that the same rules should apply to elections to the Scottish Parliament, that would allow Peers to come to this House without having voted for another Parliament.

Lord Henley

I do not intend to get on to the subject of tuition fees. I suspect that that is a problem that the Government will have to address in due course; no doubt the Scottish Parliament will address it.

I begin by again offering an apology on behalf of my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. He has had to catch the last train north because he had commitments in Scotland. The fact that my noble friend has left underlines how unwise it is that this House should continue debating these matters at such a late hour. Perhaps some time after our discussion on this amendment has concluded, I may wish to have further discussions through the usual channels.

I also offer my comnuserations to my noble friend Lord Ferrers on his problems with his spectacles. We saw the further disintegration of them during the course of his speech. We noted that he was missing one lens. I noticed that the lens alleged to have been smashed was the left lens rather than the right lens. I do not know whether he was blaming the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for that destruction. If the noble Lord is addressing these matters, perhaps he will come to that in due course.

I also take time out briefly to correct, I think, my noble kinsman Lord Onslow on his remarks about those living north of Hadrian's Wall. I remind him that I am one who lives north of Hadrian's Wall. A great many of us who live north of Hadrian's Wall are English, remain English and always will be English. The Border, quite rightly, is considerably north of Hadrian's Wall. No doubt the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate could confirm that important legal matter should he wish to respond in this debate.

My noble friend Lord Ferrers raised some interesting points. He returned to the West Lothian question. In Amendment No.85, which he describes as being somewhat more controversial, he raises even more points that it is important the Government should address. The points he has put forward have been, as my noble friend put it, somewhat controversial. They have not received unanimity on the Benches behind me. I shall be circumspect in my remarks and careful about what I say. I shall wish to think about them carefully before we offer support from this Front Bench.

However, it is important to remember that three Members of this House have been elected to the Scottish Parliament. All three parties—if I may ignore on this one occasion the Cross Benches—have gained one Member. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, as he is called in this House, whom we understand is to be called Sir David Steel, MSP, elsewhere; the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, from the Benches opposite; and my noble friend Lord Selkirk of Douglas, have all been returned to the Scottish Parliament. We wish them luck. We shall be grateful to hear from the Government about the relationship of what they do there to what they do here. We shall be grateful to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Williams, how the Government consider that these matters should be addressed.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

I did not sit next to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, at dinner. I did not sit on his spectacles. I sat next to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, and if he were still here, he would be my alibi witness.

This pair of amendments pre-figures a pair of amendments relating to Wales in, I think, virtually identical terms. Amendment No.85 has some curious consequences. It states: A person who is entitled to vote in elections for membership of the Scottish Parliament is disqualified for —I think that the word should have been "from " sitting and voting in the House of Lords ". That means that the mere fact of being registered on a local government register in Scotland, which is the necessary precondition for voting in elections for the Scottish Parliament, would disentitle any Member with that incubus from sitting in this House. As soon as one analyses the provision in that way, its manifest nonsense is thereby disclosed. It is not even a requirement that one should have exercised the vote, but simply that one should have registered to vote.

Exactly the same point arises in the subsequent pair of amendments further down the list about Wales. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that it would disqualify me because I am Welsh. I am, but I am registered to vote in the Cotswolds. I should therefore escape and I am sure the noble Lord who tabled the two subsequent amendments had that position in mind. However, I must say that if I had been disqualified, I should have been the first to ask your Lordships whether it would be possible for me to retain my club rights.

We decided the question of Amendment No.84 a short time ago. It seems a very long time ago, not least for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, the Lord Advocate, and myself, who sat here during the passage of the Scotland Bill. As your Lordships well know, Section 16(1)(a) of the Scotland Act makes express provision that Members of this House are eligible to be Members of the Scottish Parliament. That was what we determined a short time ago. Can it be said—I ask rhetorically, hoping for no reply—that no one had thought of the West Lothian question at that time?I think not.

On that occasion, we decided that there was no need to bar any of your Lordships from membership of the Scottish Parliament, or vice versa. We do not bar any of your Lordships from membership of the European Parliament, or vice versa, provided the electoral qualifications are met.

I know that the noble Earl raised the issue partly to tweak, but it is not a very successful tweak. With due deference to him, Amendment No.85 is not sustainable, which is the kindest description I can give it, and Amendment No.84 we decided in the context of the Scotland Act by virtue of Section 16(1)(a). I am sorry about the noble Earl's spectacles, but perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, he now realises that both his amendments were misconstrued.

11.15 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

If you have no spectacles, how can you have hindsight? I can only say to the Minister that I think I must have done him a credit by saying that he must have been sitting next to me at dinner. I knew perfectly well that he was not. The fact that my glasses were in a smashed state after dinner made me think that I must have been sitting next to him. The person he sat next to. my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, did not have his glasses smashed; he merely vaporised out of the scene and I cannot think what the Minister said to him to make him disappear so quickly. However, sitting next to or near the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is a terrifying experience for all of us.

I tabled the amendments as probing amendments. The Minister will be glad to hear that I had no intention of pressing them; I wanted to know what the Government thought about the issue. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, was kind enough to say that they were entertaining amendments. I do not believe that they are entertaining at all; I believe that they are very serious amendments. The fact is that the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, will be coming here as speaker of the Scottish Parliament and taking part in the affairs of your Lordships' House. Where is he going to sit? Is he going to sit on the Cross Benches or the Liberal Democrat Benches? I cannot see how he can sit on the Liberal Democrat Benches and all of a sudden become a political animal, white up in Scotland he is a sanitised animal because he must be neutral. Perhaps he will sit on the Cross Benches. But all this is very curious stuff.

I believe a great deal of thought ought to be given to how people can go from one parliament to another and still, fortunately, come back to the first. It seems a very curious arrangement.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that Amendment No.85 was not worth taking much trouble over. He said that it was not appropriate to the Bill but was a matter for the Royal Commission. I can understand that. I repeat that what I wanted to do was to find out how the Government considered this problem, because it is a problem.

With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, glasses or not, he did not satisfy me that the Government have really addressed the matter. It is not a party matter. It is not a question of being a hereditary Peer, a life Peer or anything else. It is question of what happens when power is devolved to different parliaments, and yet not all power is devolved: some is retained. When those who find themselves climbing up the ladder of the devolved parliaments then also find themselves part of the current Parliament, it is quite a serious problem.

However, for the moment I am quite happy to withdraw the amendment, as I know the noble Lord will be glad to hear. I will, of course, excuse him from any responsibility for the fact that my glasses have completely decapitated themselves.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos.85 and 86 not moved.]

Lord Cobbold had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No.87:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause-—

MEMBERSHIP OF HOUSE OF LORDS (". Nothing in this Act prevents the holder of an hereditary peerage from being a member of the House of Lords other than solely by virtue of that hereditary peerage.")

The noble Lord said: Acceptance of the "Weatherill amendment " has dealt with most of the issues I wished to raise with this amendment, and therefore it is not moved.

[Amendment No.87 not moved.]

[Amendment No.88 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No.89:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


—(1) The Prime Minister shall draw up and publish a of relevant interests. (2) The Prime Minister shall ensure that persons representing those interests are recommended to Her Majesty for conferment of life peerages under the provision of the Life Peerages Act 1958. (3)In making recommendations under subsection (2), the Prime Minister shall consult representatives of those interests.")

The noble Earl said: I raise this amendment because I want stage one, or whatever stage we are at now, to work. I want the House of Lords to have authority; I want the House to have authority to argue with the executive; I want the House to have authority to argue with the Commons.

When Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, managed to control the Tory majority in the House of Lords, he did it by the use of ruthless patronage of the Bench of Bishops, who were all paid-up Whig Members. He managed by that method, and that method alone, to overcome an inbuilt Tory hereditary majority.

The House of Lords has always been a House of power and influence, and the reason it can be reformed is that we, the hereditary peerage, do not represent the power and the influence that we did even 50 or 60 years ago. We are but small cogs in an enormous machine. Therefore, in some ways I wish the Government well in their efforts at reform. They could have got it more easily, they could have got it quicker, and they could have got it with a great deal more consent. I also think that there is a gradual emergence of quite a lot of consensus about what will happen in the future.

I have put down the amendments because they have precedents in British history. They have the precedents of self-election, in the Scots and the Irish peerage, for those of the hereditary peerage who will stay under the Weatherill amendment, and those who are appointed have precedents in the Bishops and the Law Lords.

Those precedents should now be widened. Whenever I put forward this view, people ask me, "Who do you think it ought to be?" Basically, being rather idle by nature, I thought it would be easier to suggest that somebody else should do this, but that there should be a published list of people who will become Members of the House, who will represent powers and interests. Therefore, the Prime Minister can say "These are the sort of people I will accept, or would recommend, for the House." This would make the process of arriving at the House more transparent.

The more transparency appears in an appointments system the less easy it is to accuse anybody of packing the place, or behaving like Walpole with the Bench of Bishops. Therefore, this is a plea that, when things change—and they are obviously going to change—transparency in the appointments to even stage one of this reform should be as great as possible.

Lord Monkswell

There are only a couple of amendments in this whole Committee stage on which I feel moved to speak. This is one of them. While I cannot support the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I must support the sentiments about which he spoke in moving the amendment.

The text of the amendment is flawed in terms of how it may work in relation to the Bill. But the sentiments about which the noble Earl speaks are perfectly valid. The idea that Members of your Lordships' House should represent power in the land is significant. He mentioned that the hereditary peerage does not represent power. I believe that he was wrong in that, because there are Members of the hereditary peerage with seats in this House who do represent power. There are others of us who do not. There are also members of the life peerage who represent powerful interests in the land and there are members of the life peerage who do not.

One can look carefully at what is meant by power; for example, someone who is wealthy or who has a very significant position in terms of business has power. One can see that those are powerful people. But there are other forms of power. The power of knowledge and intellect is commanding in this day and age.

This is really just a marker for the Royal Commission and I am sure that is why the noble Earl has tabled the amendment. In future, we must think of the House of Lords representing different interests from the other place. The other place represents the power of the people but there are other powers in the land, whether they be money, commercial interests or the media. Those should be reflected in Parliament. So I agree with the sentiments behind the noble Earl's amendment although I cannot agree with the text of the amendment.

Viscount Cranborne

I am one of those who has, in the past, been very tempted by the seductive arguments which have seduced my noble friend Lord Onslow when he advocates an ex officio House. The arguments are very much as he put them forward.

After all, your Lordships' House really originated as an ex officio House. Anybody who has read the late Mr. Enoch Powell's history of the mediaeval House of Lords will see how clear it is that it became convenient for the monarch to have the great powers of the land under his eye and to separate the great powers of the land from the burgesses in the House of Commons.

That was convenient for all sorts of reasons. Partly, as your Lordships will know better than I, it was convenient because it did not suit the monarch to give an opportunity for the great powers in the land to make common cause with the burgesses of the House of Commons. Equally, it was convenient, if possible, to make sure that the great powers of the land were able to exercise some influence in a peaceable manner rather than to go out and do battle in the street or rebel against the Crown.

It seems to my that my noble friend has perhaps been seduced by his well-known love and study of history into thinking that the same principle could apply today. Superficially, of course, it might. But you only have to look at what actually happened to the mediaeval House of Lords. I put forward my own analysis with some diffidence because there are many far better historians in this Committee than I. I seem to remember, however, that the basis of power as perceived at the time was that power really resided among those who owned land. Indeed, that was at least part of the reason why so many princes of the Church were Members of your Lordships' House—abbots and bishops—because, as we know, the Church owned an enormous amount of land. It is true that in those days they had great moral authority—perhaps rather more moral authority than right reverend Prelates have today, dare I say it. None the less, the basis of their power was not only a moral authority but also, as Lady Bracknell described it, "really solid assets" as well.

It is therefore attractive to think that the monarch's reasoning was right. But the difficulty is that, if you are going to make a judgment about who deserves to be in such an ex officio House for the reasons that my noble friend set out, you also have to make a judgment about who exercises power in the land. Is it not significant that, just as this principle was beginning to be established at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, that was the very time when it was becoming more than apparent that the ownership of land was no longer the exclusive repository of power that people took it to be? The middle classes were beginning to appear even then—rich merchants and so forth—and therefore this rather cosy and happy arrangement which has so seduced my noble friend was out of date even before it became current. Like all institutions, as your Lordships' House became established, your Lordships preferred to lose power rather than change the House's membership in order to satisfy the original purpose of your Lordships' House.

The only point 1 wish to make—and I apologise to the Committee for what I know is an inadequate and rather unattractive analysis to an expert House from a very amateur historian — is that the same inconvenience of the ex officio House applies in spades today. Not only is it very difficult to see who is going to decide who will be a member of the ex officio House but, because of the rapid nature of developments in the modern age and because, as we see more and more frequently, the gap in time between cause and effect is becoming increasingly narrow—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Desai, can con firm that this is particularly evident in the economic field, perhaps largely because of the march of technological development and communication—it therefore becomes apparent that, if it was not possible to have an adequately representative ex officio House representing the great powers in the land in mediaeval times, it is even less possible today and we would always be—as the military so charmingly put it—a long way behind the curve.

We can see this Ferhaps with the ebb of trade union power. The trade unions undoubtedly would have been very powerful in an ex officio House in the 1970s but less powerful in the 1980s. They are actually rather more powerful today as, with the help of the European Union and, to a lesser extent, the Labour Government, they begin to claw their way back into everyday management considerations in British industry and commerce.

What I would say with the greatest regret to my noble friend is that, while I am seduced momentarily by the charm with which he has introduced his amendment, in practical terms, charming though this may be as a historical analysis, I do not think that even in mediaeval times it worked in practice and I do not think it would today.

Lord Henley

My noble friend Lord Onslow has long argued logically that this House, which arose as a place where the great interests of the country—the Church and the land—were represented, should continue in its revised form to be a House of interests. There is some force in that argument, although I also agree with the line put forward by my noble friend Lord Cranborne that it is somewhat misplaced. But there is some force in that argument, not least because it would mean that the inevitable representation in the House of forces outside the political parties, something which most observers of the House have always seen as one of its great strengths, would continue.

My noble friend has been very skilful in putting forward a probing amendment at this stage of the Bill, although I have no doubt that he will want to return to this matter to tease more information out of the Government at later stages. The Government have made much of their intention to create what they call a more "representative " House or what my noble friend described as a more "transparent " House. Indeed,"representative " was one of the words that survived on the cover of the Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission. The word "democratic ", which featured so highly in earlier policy documents, including the manifesto, has, as my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out yesterday, been removed from that front cover. Indeed, I regret to say that it disappeared very swiftly in the wake of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, when he was replaced as Leader of the House by the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal.

The word "modern" is still there on the front cover of the evidence of the Labour Party to the Royal Commission. How could it not be on a document from this Government? But when I saw the gleam in the eye of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, earlier as he said he said he was going to clutch onto his title of "Lord "—I am not whether he did: perhaps the noble Lord said that he was quite keen to give that up—I thought that it would be very interesting to know how long "modern " will be with us.

The word "Independent" is still with us on the front cover. However, after the earlier debate (in which the Government were unable to offer more comfort than they offered about the early creation of an independent appointments commission), one wonders how strong is the commitment to independence. There is room for legitimate scepticism and inquiry about the meaning of the word "representative". The Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission gives the following suggestions for what "representative" might mean. It suggests possible representation from newly devolved bodies and the English regions. But in our consideration of an earlier amendment, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, said that the Government were riot attracted to a fixed degree of representation from Scotland. Perhaps I may therefore ask the Government directly this question—and I do of course expect a reply to it. If the noble Lord rules out what he described as a quota of Scottish Peers, how can there be representation in this House from devolved bodies? That can only be done by sending a specific number of representatives from Scotland and other devolved bodies.

I turn to other interests that might be represented, according to the evidence from the Labour Party. We find reference to age, gender and ethnic composition. That is obedience to political correctness and is only to be expected. But as yet we have seen no firm proposals except the proposition to expel the likes of myself arid other hereditary Peers, from whom most of our younger Members are drawn.

Finally, coming closest to the kind of interests that my noble friend Lord Onslow perhaps has in mind, we find reference in paragraph 5.5 of the Labour Party's evidence to a list of interests that might be represented. They are business, labour, education, science and the arts. Those are some fairly broad classes. I should be grateful if the Minister could clarify what that means. By "business " does he mean the CBI or some other representative of the entire business community? By "labour" does he mean the TUC or other bodies? By "education" does he mean a committee of vice-chancellors and principals or is there a whole range of other representatives within the educational field, whether the National Union of Teachers or any other union? If so, it would seem to be far from modern in its representation of interests.

It would be helpful if, when the Minister replies, the Government follow the thinking of my noble friend and give the Committee more information about the kind of interests they would consider important in the House and how they feel they might be included.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

I am extremely happy to follow the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in the arguments he put forward in his generally eloquent way. He did not specifically address Amendment No.90 but I assume he is concerned that we should reply to Amendments Nos.89 and 90. I do not intend to respond to the points made just now by the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip. They are yet again comments on the second stage of reform; comments on a document designed to facilitate the second stage of reform; and comments about the long-term future of this House. Tonight we are considering the Bill before us and the amendment of the noble Earl to which I shall now try to respond.

We applaud the general points made by the noble Earl about the representative nature of this House. It is precisely that reason—I believe the noble Earl agrees with us on this point—which leads us to one of the basic positions that we take about the abolition of the automatic right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote.

We are not convinced that the approach proposed in either of the amendments is the correct one. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, spoke of being seduced by the arguments. Perhaps I may say to the noble Viscount and to the noble Earl that the only other time I have been relatively seduced by the arguments put forward in both amendments in the context of what I think is colloquially known as "functional constituencies " has been at the fringe meetings of various conferences I have attended which have been sponsored by the Charter 88 group. That is not a group I would necessarily have associated with support from the noble Earl.

However, moving away from the provenance of these ideas on functional constituencies, perhaps I may examine briefly the details of Amendment No.89. The first issue is that of drawing up a sufficiently definitive list of the interests which should be represented. If the noble Earl has followed the discussion about functional constituencies with the attention I am sure he has, I expect he is aware that such lists tend to fall into economic categories. That obviously leaves out certain clear-cut bodies of opinion and bodies of interest who would not fall into specific economic pigeon holes.

I am interested in the proposal in Amendment No.89 given the length of our discussions on objective and transparent methods of appointment. The proposal leaves the choice entirely to the Prime Minister with no indication of what might happen if the list proposed by one individual aroused opposition. The proposal also compounds the difficulty of deciding on the interests by adding the requirement to identify formal representatives of the groups in question. Who is to say who those might be? Who would therefore say that the provisions of subsection (3) of Amendment No.89 had been fulfilled? Would a claim, for example, by a group that it was representative of a particular interest be justifiable in court? We have spoken often in the course of debates on the Bill about the potential for judicial review of individual proposals, but this is one instance where it might be more obvious than others.

However, there are other more general dangers in an attempt to make the House a collection of representatives of specific interests. It is self-evident that there is a difference between a representative body and a body of representatives. Everyone in your Lordships' House is expected to consider and debate on the basis of his or her own opinion and expertise. However, I am sure I can say without any fear of it being in dispute that noble Lords are not delegates. Even the right reverend Prelates do not regard themselves as delegates. I believe that such a scheme, if included in the Bill, could well risk setting up a system of delegates where the interests of the body or the industry, for example, being representative of the constituency of interests, might take precedence over the general personal interests of individual Peers.

I have to point out to the noble Earl that we might get into the situation where Peers could be mandated to speak or to vote in a way which was a representation of the group that they were supposed to be representing. To me, that would smack, surprisingly, of extreme Left-wing organisations and concerns that I would not normally associate with the noble Earl.

I turn briefly to Amendment No.90, which takes the concept of representation even further by developing it through ex officio membership. Here again, we have the particular problems of looking at organisations which may or may not have the capacity to release individuals for ex officio representation here. I believe that many of the offices which might appear superficially attractive for inclusion in this amendment are actually only held for relatively short periods of time; indeed, they may even rotate annually. So the amendment could lead to the rather odd anomaly that there would be large numbers of life Peers who were former Members of this House floating about because their term of office had come to an end. I give way to the noble Lord.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Elton

Does the noble Baroness exempt from her strictures the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain who, I understand, have been proposed as ex officio Members of this House?

Baroness Jay of Paddington

They are ex officio Members, but precisely not life Peers nor representatives of any particular body. I thought that the noble Lord might be raising the question of the ex officio membership of the Bishops' Bench which, in itself, is another area where we might have this discussion.

However, having dealt with that somewhat extensively on an earlier amendment, Amendment No.72—indeed, it seems very much earlier now—in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, I thought that I would not return to the issue. I am sure that the noble Lord will be grateful for that fact.

However, perhaps we can consider further the question of ex officio membership of people who had a leading role in their organisation and who might be released to take up a temporary position as a life Peer in this House. I think that one could look at it from the perspective of the institution itself as well from that of the individual. We could have a situation where we had such a statutory requirement to provide a Member for this House from a senior executive body, such as the chairman, or whoever it may be. But would an institution then, rightly, be annoyed that someone elected or chosen to work for the interests of the organisation per se was being distracted by his duties in your Lordships' House? For example, could bodies which control "relevant" offices actually decline to have them included in this list? Indeed, where would we get to at that point?

We would need to think through all these questions very carefully before we embarked upon such a proposal and before we took on the concept of functional constituencies, whether derived from ideas put forward by the noble Earl or, indeed, from groups like Charter 88. If the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, rises to say that this is not a relevant consideration for this Bill, I would have to say that I broadly agree with him. This Bill does not seek to make any changes to the terms and conditions of service of life Peers. For that reason alone, I do not feel particularly seduced by the amendment.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

Before my noble friend rises to reply, perhaps I could ask him to deal with one problem which I see in these two amendments; namely, that the best do not always float to the top of whatever their interest or association happens to be. My own experience in this matter concerns, acutely, Lloyd's of London, but I can also think of the Stock Exchange and, generally, most of the trade bodies and associations that come to mind. Indeed, one might even mention the universities. Of course, I would have to exclude the Armed Forces from this question.

Very often, it seems that those who represent the interests which my noble friend promotes are not necessarily in touch with the up-to-date feelings of those whom they represent. I say that because the best often tend to stay doing their job—for example, making money, teaching, being a good doctor, or whatever. So one really would not want your Lordships' House to be flooded or even strongly influenced by those who knew how to climb the particular club tree, and so on, but who were not really representative of the best of the trade or interest that they purported to represent.

The Earl of Onslow

I am not capable of changing human nature or the way that human affairs work and how people climb "trees ". I hope I shall not be seduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, as I might get a certain amount of stick for that!

The point I think I was trying to make is that I want a peculiarly broad appointment of new Peers into the new Chamber. I accept the arguments produced by my noble friend Lord Cranborne up to a point because I would say that the peerage power started to go about 400 years after he suggested, but that is a historical argument in which we amateur historians can get involved later. However, we did certainly—and have historically—represent power. It seems to me that all the powers in the land are not necessarily economic. That seems to me a totally Marxist argument. There are intellectual powers and there are spiritual powers. As has been said, one has only to see how powers wane. Twenty or 30 years ago, Harold Macmillan could say that the two things you do not take on are the Brigade of Guards and the mineworkers' union. The Brigade of Guards still exists but the mineworkers' union does not. Fifty or 60 years ago, shipbuilding, heavy engineering and coal were the great powers and influences in the land. Therefore, I take the point strongly made by my noble friend Lord Cranborne; namely, that powers change now much more rapidly than they ever have.

Earl Ferrers

If I may interrupt my noble friend, I think there was a third person that one should not take on—and that was the Pope and he too is still with us.

The Earl of Onslow

What is it that Macaulay says about the Pope in an essay about New Zealanders under a bridge? I cannot remember the quote which is absolutely majestic, but I accept my noble friend's addition to the list.

I shall, of course, withdraw this amendment. One of the reasons I shall withdraw it is because I simply could not define the list either of interests or of ex officio Members that it should contain. All I hope to do is to ensure that the Government make their appointments procedure as transparent as possible and explain why they have recommended to the sovereign someone for inclusion in your Lordships' House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos.90 and 91 not moved.]

Lord Northbrook moved Amendment No.92

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—


(". —(1) A member of the Welsh Assembly is disqualified for sitting and voting in the House of Lords. (2) Where an individual is disqualified under this section, the disqualification ceases on the day he ceases to he a member of the Welsh Assembly. (3) No writ of summons shall be issued to a person who is for the time being disqualified under this section.")

The noble Lord said: My Amendments Nos.92 and 93 were originally coupled with amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, but knowing that I did not have the same humour and rhetoric, I detached them. I am glad to say that my spectacles are still intact!

In moving Amendment No.92, I should like also to speak to Amendment No.93 in my name. My amendments are not deliberate acts of bias against the Welsh, or the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. They essentially follow Amendments Nos.84 and 85 in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, which, as already stated, seek to disqualify Members of the Scottish Parliament from sitting and voting in the House of Lords, as well as persons entitled to vote in Scottish parliamentary elections. The principle of my amendments is the same except that they apply to Wales.

Amendment No.92, as has already been stated, seeks to correct the anomaly by which a Peer may sit and vote in two separate parliamentary bodies within the same nation. That seems to me too great an extension of the democratic principle. I should be interested to know whether there are any other nations where it is possible to sit in two parliaments or assemblies at the same time. Of course, my Amendment No.92 does not preclude those hereditary Peers who are excluded (because they do not qualify as one of the 92 Peers in the Weatherill amendment) from sitting and voting in the Welsh Assembly.

It is not my scope here to contrast the functions, powers and responsibilities of the Welsh Assembly with those of the House of Lords; nor do I plan to go through the areas mentioned in the Act which are subject to the executive powers of the Assembly. However, I should like to make a new point. There could emerge a conflict of interest when a Peer sits and votes in both Wales and London. He might find himself promoting legislation or seeking financial aid for Wales which would impact unfavourably on, or with unfavourable financial consequences for, the rest of the United Kingdom.

As The Financial Times said in an editorial only yesterday, there is a need, for preserving a constitutional balance between the newly devolved government of Scotland and Wales and the House of Lords ".

It is immediately apparent that that balance may he disturbed when there is a potential conflict of interest. In order, I hope, to give a clear example of how such a conflict might arise, I set out the following scenario. A major government contract is to be awarded and tenders are received from companies both in Wales and in the rest of the United Kingdom. The tender, say, from a Welsh company proves to be more expensive than those from other parts of the country but the contract will give employment to workers in an unemployment black area. A Peer involved in the matter at the Welsh Assembly department who also happens to be in the same department in the House of Lords could therefore find himself with a conflict of interests. Should he, wearing his Welsh Assembly hat, recommend the Welsh tender, or should he back one of the other bids which gives better value for money for the taxpayer? It could be a very difficult decision. Amendment No.92 seeks to avoid that type of situation by not allowing Peers to sit in the Welsh Assembly and the House of Lords at the same time.

Amendment No.93 seeks to disqualify those Peers who are entitled to vote in Welsh Assembly elections from sitting and voting in the House of Lords. As English Peers are unable to vote for their own assembly, it seems unfair that Welsh and Scottish Peers should have the advantage of double voting rights. I am sure that by the time the Government have finished their constitutional reforms there will be an English assembly. If the Minister were to give me that assurance I would reconsider my position on the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Richard

As a Welshman and a Member of your Lordships' House I have some interest in the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook. He said that he could not think of an example of another country where such a situation arises. I give him Germany. It is perfectly possible for someone to be a member of a German Lander and sit in the second house of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat. As we know, the Bundesrat is designed to reconcile the clashes of interest that might occur between the Lander and the central government. Not only are members entitled to sit in both houses; it is highly appropriate that they should.

We do not yet have a federal system of government in this country—I do not know if we ever will—and I am a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament. As a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament it seems to me that my function is to appear here and to debate such matters as come before the House whether they originate in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. As such, if I were to be a Member of the Welsh Assembly, I would not see any conflict whatever between my duties as a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament and my duties as a Member of the Welsh Assembly.

I should perhaps point out that, unlike the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly has no responsibility for primary legislation. Its sole responsibility is secondary legislation. As such there is not even the argument that Members of the Welsh Assembly who came to this House would somehow or other be speaking on matters here on which they would be debarred from speaking in Cardiff.

The jurisdiction of this House in relation to Wales is precisely the same as it is in relation to England. I have not yet heard it argued that an English Peer who might become a member of the London assembly, if it is set up next year, should be disqualified. The Committee should be happy to reject this amendment.

Earl Ferrers

When it is a question of hereditary Peers going, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is all in favour of them going. When it is a question of his own position being affected, he says that of course he ought to be able to take his seat, it is absolutely right. There is a conflict of interest insofar as members of the Welsh Assembly can discuss matters relating to Wales with which English people cannot be involved. Members of your Lordships' House can discuss English matters and those involved with Wales can also discuss them, but it cannot work the other way round.

Lord Richard

I am sorry to follow the noble Earl again, but he attacked me in the mild manner he has when he feels particularly aggressive. He said that I was only concerned with protecting my own interests. I regret to tell the Committee that I am not a Member of the Welsh Assembly. I confess also that I do not have a house in Wales and do not have a vote for the Welsh Assembly, so it does not affect me at all.


The Earl of Kin tore

We need not argue about where the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly is to sit because the noble Lord, Lord Ells-Thomas, very sensibly, has already taken the precaurion of sitting on the Cross-Benches.

Lord Kingsland

The noble Lord, Lord Henley, spoke to identical amendments in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. Although I did not hear the speech, I am sure I would have agreed with everything the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, had I done so.

I shall be daring enough to agree with one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. The situation of Welsh representatives is different from that of Scottish representatives because of the nature of devolution to Wales. The Welsh Assembly has no power to deal with primary legislation.

There is a further distinction to make between those Members who have constituencies and those who are elected on the list. It was notable in the European Parliament that those who were both Members of the House of Commons and members of the European Parliament quickly discovered that it was an unworkable combination. That would also prove true in the long run, if not the short ruin, of representatives in the Welsh Assembly who have constituency responsibilities. However, it may not be true of representatives who are on the list. That must remain an open question.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, has already demolished the point of the amendments. We decided the question recently in Section 13(1)(a) of the Government of Wales Act. The same flaw in the second amendment appears as in the second amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers.

The disentitlement arises on this amendment simply from being registered to vote. I cannot think that that can possibly be a sensible approach to legislation.

Lord Northbrook

I am grateful for the reply from the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and his comments on the German situation and the ability to sit in two assemblies. I also noted with interest the comments of my noble friend Lord Kingsland on the European Parliament and the problems of sitting in both assemblies at the same time. I might wish to return to my amendment in a different form at Report stage, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No.92.

Earl Ferrers

Before the noble Lord withdraws the amendment, perhaps I may make an intervention.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

The noble Lord asked to withdraw his amendment.

Earl Ferrers

I wished to say something before he withdrew it.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

He has requested to withdraw it. If the noble Earl wishes to object, he may do so. Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Earl Ferrers

No. I merely wished to ask the noble Lord, Lord Williams, whether he would be good enough to expand on his reply. He gave a very short, technical answer which did not respond to the point that my noble friend made.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

It was not a technical response; it was a response that focused on the drafting. The disqualification is simply the presence on the register. Whether one votes or not, one is disqualified. The same defect appeared, and I pointed it out, in the noble Earl's second amendment. There is nothing technical about that. It is just a hopelessly, fatally flawed amendment. I did not want to put it quite so plainly when I replied earlier, but I am happy to do so now.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos.93 to 93E not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos.94 to 99 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers: had given intention of his notice to moved Amendment No.100

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(". Any person who is the holder of an hereditary peerage and who would but for this Act be entitled to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House shall be entitled to continue to exercise the same rights of access to, and use of, the House of Lords and any premises occupied by that House to which he would have been entitled but for the passing of this Act.")

The noble Earl said: I shall not move this amendment now. I shall return to the matter on Report.

[Amendment No.100 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos.101 and 102 not moved]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No.103:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(". No-one who holds a life peerage conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958 shall be entitled to receive a writ of summons to the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House unless he has attained the age of 50 years.")

The noble Earl said: I move this amendment with even more hesitancy. Perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No.104. I wish to retain some friends in this House, although I realise that the lateness of the hour will prevent my retaining many. I fancy that if the two amendments were accepted, I should have even fewer.

Amendment No.103 proposes that, No-one who holds a life peerage… shall be entitled to receive a writ of summons … unless he has attained the age of 50 years ".

Amendment No.104 suggests that he ought to give up his position at the age of 70.

If this is to be an appointed Chamber, who will be appointed? Will the appointees all be meritocrats? If you are a meritocrat, presumably you are a person who has done a certain amount in your life and you therefore deserve the peerage you have been given, or you will have earned your passage to being a Member of the appointed Chamber. In that case you are bound to be a person of more mature years. That would effectively exclude anyone who is young.

On the other hand, as stated earlier, if this is an appointed Chamber, people should not be able to stay on until they are 80 or 90, or, like my noble friend Lord Renton, 91, or, like the noble Earl, Lord Longford, 93. In fact, those Members contribute a great deal to this House and it would be a pity to remove them, to use the term employed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer. I therefore propose the amendment to find out what is the Government's intention. Are they saying that they will appoint anyone, even someone who is 25 or 26? Or will they even appoint someone who is 85? Is there to be any form of cut-off point or any age under which people are not appointed? I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart

The amendment moved by the noble Earl. Lord Ferrers, reminds me of the story of the American senator who lost an election having been in office for some years because his opponent had accused him of being a practising sexagenarian. This amendment will limit membership of your Lordships' House to those life Peers who are quinquagenarians and sexagenarians. I find it remarkably difficult to take this idea seriously. Wisdom does not begin only at the age of 50 or cease at 70. I hope that we do not end up with anything as remotely rigid as this. Although at stage two there may be a case for considering a retirement age, that debate is for the future and is not part of this Bill.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, the combined effect of these two amendments is to limit the age at which life Peers can serve in this House to those between 50 and 70 years of age. Even in the annals of the noble Earl's tweaks, this one comes close to taking the biscuit. On 8th June I shall be happy to be the first to say to him,"Happy 70th birthday ". Were the noble Earl to be a life Peer or, as we all hope—I am electioneering on his behalf—one of the elected hereditaries who remain, it would be absurd that he should not stay and give us the pleasure of his company and the benefit of his wisdom and humour.

If the real point is to flush out what we shall do at stage two, I revert to the recidivist in me; namely, stage two is not what we are discussing, but we shall be looking for a representative House in terms of age and ethnic and social background. Excluding the hereditary principle, we want all sections of society, including women, to be properly represented. The noble Earl has flushed me out, but it is wrong that he should go simply because of the accident of his birth being almost 70 years ago. I should not be willing to put my hand to such a device.

Earl Ferrers

I am deeply touched and flattered by the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, as I am by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. The latter said that he found it very difficult to take the amendment seriously. He is quite right. If we take both amendments seriously, it will be a farce, because then no one will be able to be a Member who is under 50 and over 70. The point of the amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, so graciously put it, was to flush out the Government's intention.

I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that wisdom did not begin at 50 or end at 70. However, I started here when I was 25. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Williams, on having done his homework very well. He has discovered that I shall be 70 on 8th June. Therefore, I would be a victim of my own amendment, which would be bad luck. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, would join the Conservative Party. If he was made a hereditary Peer, he would be able to vote for me, which would be a great encouragement. However, that is not possible. I must bask in the fact that he would like me still to remain as a Member of your Lordships' House.

The point of the amendment was to find out what the Government intend. As I understand it, in the good old modernising tradition of the Government, everything is to go on just as before and the temporary House will contain Members young and old; it does not matter which. However, when they come to consider the second Chamber it is a different matter.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his few words of enlightenment and for the encouragement that he has given me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos.104 and 105 not moved.]

12.15 a.m.

The Earl of Erroll moved Amendment No.106:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


(". Nothing in this Act affects the powers of the House of Lords, and in particular the power 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: At the request of my noble friend Lord Perth, who is in Scotland, I beg to move Amendment No.106. I have a significant question about the quinquennial legislation.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Perhaps I may point out that the amendment has already been debated.

Lord Henley

However, it is still open to the noble Lord to speak to the amendment. As the noble Lord will remember, the groupings are informal.

The Earl of Erroll

I have one question on the quinquennial legislation and the powers to overthrow legislation. If the 1949 Act established the fact that one can modify the constitutional protections enshrined in the 1911 Act, presumably another Act can be passed to remove the other powers reserved to this Chamber in the 1911 Act.

The Government have been using Pepper v. Hart arguments to gloss over any drafting defects that may or may not lie elsewhere in the Bill. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, can I use the Pepper v. Hart argument, given the Minister's definitive statements about the Government's intentions not to allow the quinquennial provisions to be overthrown, to overturn any future Acts of Parliament that might be introduced by a future government, possibly from a different political background? Does the Pepper v. Hart argument apply?

Lord Carter

I believe that the noble Earl is referring to a remark that I made when dealing with this group earlier. The remark that I made about Pepper v. Hart was in the context of this Bill, not in the context of the Septennial Act. The Pepper v. Hart point refers only to a Bill that is in front of the House and not to previous legislation.

The Earl of Erroll

Perhaps I may seek clarification as regards the next stage. Is there any way in which we can reassert that the quinquennial provisions still apply unless they are reaffirmed in this Bill?

Lord Carter

That is a technical point with which we should deal by correspondence.

The Earl of Erroll

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos.107 to 110A not moved.]

Lord Carter

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at seventeen minutes past midnight.