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Lord Richard: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will allow me to correct one point. I do not move the Motion on behalf of the Government. I made it very clear that I am moving it as Leader of the House on behalf of the House, the Select Committee having been set up.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal for the typically genial and fair-minded way in which he introduced the Motion standing in his name. I fully understand the point which he has just made. This is essentially a House of Lords matter. He has carried out his proper duties as Leader of the House. But whatever views we may have and whatever advice we may give to our noble friends, it is for us individually to make up our minds as to what we wish to do.
There are those--and we should acknowledge this--who may think it a curious order of priorities to be discussing the ceremony of introduction today. This is a very busy parliamentary time and the House was kept until after midnight on two occasions earlier this week. With late nights and a heavy programme of legislation,
Perhaps I may say, in advance of dealing with the main substance, which is the report of the committee, that if your Lordships are disposed to support the Motion before the House and the following resolutions, I can see no reason for postponement of the implementation of the proposals. I listened with great care to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree. I heard what he said about making no informed judgment in advance of wider changes. But I do not regard the ceremony of introduction as a high constitutional matter. It is a matter of concern to this House, and very properly, as noble Lords have shown. But beyond that, we should not extend its importance.
For a moment, I thought that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, was hoping that his amendment might be a wrecking amendment and that, in effect, no change in the ceremony of introduction would take place. If that were the assumption, it has proved to be false. Whatever the case, I do not believe that there is any point in supporting either his amendment or that of the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, to whom I shall also listen extremely carefully, if it merely means delaying for a short while the decision which your Lordships' House has made.
I am relaxed about the amendment of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. I agree with the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal that the noble Duke's evidence to the committee was robust; I enjoyed it; and perhaps that has made me softer or more sympathetic to a role for Garter. I am relaxed on that matter if the House took that view, although I can see the argument of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal that it is better not to start unravelling the recommendations of the report before the House.
My starting point is not one which may be shared by all noble Lords. However, this is primarily a place of work in partnership with the House of Commons in constituting Parliament. We sit for 140 or so days in a year, many of them long days filled with the detailed scrutiny of legislation. Many of your Lordships are regular attenders and contribute substantially in debate and in Committee. We all acknowledge the special role of the Cross-Benches, bringing to the House, as they do, men and women with distinguished careers outside the political mainstream.
I make those obvious points because your Lordships are rightly upset when newspaper reports and especially television programmes dwell on what they seek to portray as our infirmities, eccentricities and archaisms, making us sometimes rather like a Sotheby's by the Thames. Whatever others may suggest, we know that we are not part of the heritage industry. But if we are to take our presence here seriously and uphold public respect for the role of the House, then the ceremony of introduction
I am not over-impressed by two arguments, although very sincerely held, put forward for retaining things as they are. First, there is the family and friends argument. That is simply that the ceremony of introduction provides a nice day out for a new Peer and his guests. Indeed it does and I begrudge nobody any such pleasure. I am sure that my own family and friends enjoyed the occasion. But that can hardly be a serious test of whether the ceremony is justified in its present form and at its present length. We are not joining a club or winning a race. We are starting a new stage in our careers. At least, the House will be respected if that is how the world sees it.
Then there is the argument that the present ceremony, at its present length, enables us to identify new Peers and recognise them later. I respect that point, but do not share it. I may be in a minority, but I find that the ceremony and the wearing of robes disguises as much as it identifies and I am happier spotting and getting to know my new colleagues in the Lobbies and corridors.
There is also the contrary point, made as I understood it in the report, that hereditary Peers taking their seats for the first time do so without ceremony and without robes. I acknowledge the historical basis of that, that their faces were well known to their peers before they arrived here. But that does not stand up today and does not carry sufficient weight to justify such an exemption making the rule that the present ceremony should remain unchanged.
Listening to the debate last October and reading the evidence to your Lordships' committee, I found that almost all the arguments for retaining the ceremony in its present form convinced me of the reverse. The best argument for so doing seems to me to be the simplest one, and the one put by, among others, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers: "it is part of the history of Parliament, it doesn't harm anyone, why all the fuss?"
I return to my starting point, that this is a place of work and is becoming more so. The ceremony should not take up more precious time than is necessary. It should be business-like and, as far as possible, relevant. The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, in his evidence said that the ceremony should be much the same as that for the House of Commons. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, while not sharing that view, described the by-election procedure in another place as: bow to the bar, march three paces, bow again, march to the Table, bow again, swear the Oath and shake hands I found that an entirely adequate ceremony nearly 40 years ago and would not have felt let down by something similar when I arrived here. I am against copying the House of Commons but not against doing something similar on merit if circumstances justify.
But a majority of noble Lords are clearly not happy with such a functional approach and at this point, I confess that I begin to waver myself. Businesslike and relevant: I have said it once, I have said it again and, yet, I hope so. But every institution has its rites of passage to help give it a sense of unity, coherence and loyalty. Where tradition does not exist it is often invented. In this House we have no need for invention. Our traditions have
I am also prepared to believe--it may be too far fetched, it may be a form of wish fulfilment--that a ceremony taking at least a little time and trouble and embodying a degree of continuity may modestly contribute towards the more consensual approach of your Lordships' House that makes it a calmer and less rhetorical place than the other Chamber.
As we shall see during the course of debate, there are probably almost as many shades of opinion on this matter as there are active Members of your Lordships' House. What your Lordships' committee has proposed--and proposed, as the Lord Privy Seal says, unanimously--is a reasonable compromise. It is not precisely what I might have preferred, but I am very happy to commend it to my noble friends for their favourable consideration.
Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I have sat in your Lordships' House for the best part of six years, so I thought that today was the day when I might come out in my true colours. I do that because I signed this report, as it were, from the radical perspective. I shall rehearse the radical argument in order that those who might not be so radically persuaded might understand that this was a very delicate and difficult consensus, reached with much labour. I pay tribute to both our clerk, Dr. Tudor, and our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, for having reached that consensus.
I should like to ask three questions. First, what is this House? Quite simply, for me it is the second Chamber of a European legislature. Unfortunately, I do not have a full experience of all European legislatures, but I have not yet met one whose rites of passage quite match this place. That is the first question.
The second question is this. We shall hear in the course of this debate much of tradition--and I shall speak for only four minutes, or try to speak within that time. Tradition only exists in the present. I would argue that for a tradition to be meaningful it has to be targeted to the future. To repeat a set of social signs in the present because they happened in the past is no longer meaningful. I see muttering historians on the other side, but I would expect that. The meaning of a tradition is in the present context.
We must ask ourselves what sense the present extended ceremony of introduction has. Speaking personally, I found it demeaning, difficult and objectionable. It was a rite of passage which I did not enjoy passing through. I am a kind of Welsh democrat, and therefore to be dressed up, cross-dressed and doing all these things was not meaningful. It is put to me, when I say these things, that because I happen to be a high Welsh Anglican--which is very high, even for your Lordships' House--I should support the notion of ceremony, but the ceremonial of the Church is designed for the participation of believers. I do not know how many true believers in this Chamber or outside see our ceremony as conveying a meaning of belief in democracy to the outside world.
The other issue we have to discuss is to what extent the notion of representation here is enhanced by the ceremonial. Those of us who come here come nominated through a specific process. Why do we need further induction or introduction or enhancing of our positions when we come here? Surely we are all representatives of a particular context. We represent a profession, we represent an experience of public life or, in my case, we represent a political nomination. When we come here we are all equals and, therefore, I agree with my noble friend Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank.
The ideal ceremony here would be an introduction on a similar basis to the House of Commons, where unrobed, naked into the conference chamber, we become accepted equal peers--well, not quite naked--suitably dressed in proper Armani or Crombie suits we become part of this Chamber. That would give the sign that this building is not about amateur theatricals; it is part of a post-modern democracy.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for long. A good starting point for this discussion is the amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. I remind your Lordships that Garter is the person delegated by the Crown to introduce a new Peer. That is how Garter described his own functions in evidence to the committee. In his evidence to the Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the Government Chief Whip, certainly did not suggest that the Queen's representative of all people should be excluded from the ceremony. The suggestion that Garter should no longer have a role of any sort, not necessarily in the placing of the new Peer, is so odd that I am reminded of the 13th stroke of the crazy clock which was not only erroneous in itself but cast doubt on everything that had gone before.
I do not wish in any way to be critical of those who served on this committee and the way in which they laboured. However, one is tempted to think that a committee capable of coming up with such a completely bizarre recommendation--that the most important person in the exercise apart from the new Peer himself should not be present in some capacity or other--should not expect to be taken quite as seriously as the noble Lord, the Leader of the House suggested.
The next point is the length of time for which the present ceremony has been in existence. Of course, the fact that a ceremony has lasted for nearly 400 years does not mean that it cannot be improved. That is not my argument. However, it is a very strong argument against precipitate change. If people have for hundreds of years been prepared to accept a ceremony as an appropriate way of marking someone's elevation to the peerage, there is certainly no need to rush into change. There is certainly no reason for telling those who may be created Peers during the remainder of this Session that, somehow or other, they will not be treated the same as those introduced earlier, that they are not going to be introduced in the traditional way, and that their ceremony is to be downgraded.
As regards the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree, I shall not rehearse the arguments which he advanced. But I shall just remind your Lordships of the wording of the Labour manifesto which talked of,
I now revert to my amendment, which, of course, I hope will fall on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Dean being carried. It merely provides that the new ceremony should not come into effect until the beginning of the next Session. What on earth will be lost by such a delay? Are noble Lords opposite really prepared to tell the country that, while not prepared to turn up for major debates like the one last week on the reserve forces, they begrudge spending just a few minutes listening to a new Peer being introduced into the House in the way in which new Members have been introduced for hundreds of years?
To sum up, the Government are proceeding with indecent haste. They are putting the cart before the horse when they ask us to decide on the ceremony for entering the House before telling us what sort of House it is to be; and they are asking us to endorse a fundamentally flawed report. I shall hazard one guess today: there will be very little support for the recommendation of the committee that the second most important person at the time of an introduction--namely, Garter himself--should be excluded from the Chamber.
Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, of course, as a member of the Select Committee I support the report and its recommendations. However, I also support the Motions tabled in the name of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal. Although the Committee did not consider the changing of the introduction ceremony for Bishops, we nevertheless invited the Bishops to give evidence and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich appeared before us. I must say that that was most helpful from many points of view. Indeed, it was from the right reverend Prelate that we learnt that the wearing of hats probably dated only to the 19th century. We also based many of our recommendations on the more simple procedure of the introduction of Bishops.
In a way, it was a strange Select Committee. When we started every member had his or her own views, ranging from the complete abolition of any ceremony at all to the suggestion that the present ceremony not only remain intact but also should be extended to Peers by succession. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that we ended up with a unanimous report and recommendations. Here I, too, should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, for his chairing of the committee and to our Clerk, Dr. Philippa Tudor, who produced for us some most fascinating historical information.
All that gave us a balanced and historical context for the inquiry. But, in the end, it was a matter of judgment and consensus because, as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said, there was a great deal of give and take in the committee. What we were looking for was a dignified and purposeful ceremony in keeping with the role of a hard-working and distinguished legislative Chamber at the end of the 20th century and one that would do justice to the eminence and achievements of the new Member being introduced. Moreover, we had to bear in mind that the ceremony could be witnessed not only by those present in the House at the time but possibly also by the entire world through the services of television and other media.
We had a number of considerations in mind. They included the sense of occasion for the new Peer and his or her family. Unlike the House of Commons, the new Peer would not have been through the public process of an election, nor an investiture at the Palace. So it had to be an occasion to be remembered. But we did not think that, because there is a possibility that the House will be reformed in the future, this should delay our consideration of immediate reform while the House is in its present state and probably has a lot of work to do before it is reformed.
Secondly, the new Peer was being introduced to the House and the House to the new Peer. As we were no longer concerned with a small group of families, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, indicated, who had probably known each other from birth, but with a large legislative Chamber composed of people from all walks of life who were not likely to know very many people before they came here, we decided that the ceremony should not be too short and peremptory, as, I must say, is the case with current Peers by succession.
I believe that our recommendations take account of these considerations. The procession, led by Black Rod with two sponsors, all robed, gives that sense of occasion. The procedure we recommend is simple and dignified. It retains the reading of the historic Letters Patent which are unique to the Peer being introduced. All this process will last sufficiently long to enable the new Peer to be seen by the House--and perhaps better seen if hats are not worn.
The placing appears to be one of the most controversial aspects of the report. The placing that we recommend in effect comes after the introduction, with at least one sponsor being required to conduct the new Peer to the appropriate Benches. Such placing will no longer require the presence of Garter in the House, although of course--as was recognised by the committee--he will still have the important role of preparing the title and arranging for the new Peer to be introduced. I shall be interested to hear what the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, has to say about this when we discuss his amendment.
I believe that the other amendments that have been spoken to this afternoon have little to do with the fundamental recommendations of the committee and the fundamental thrust of the committee, which is that this is a busy, important and effective legislative Chamber and we need changes now. I believe that this simplified introduction procedure serves the traditions of the House. I hope that the report and its recommendations will be supported by the House.
The Duke of Norfolk: My Lords, I reiterate the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, who has just said that we need changes now. As regards the two amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Dean of Harptree and Lord Waddington, respectively, I hope that your Lordships will reject them. I think that we should tackle the problem. Who knows what will happen in the future? It appears that more life Peers will be introduced. I think the time has come to update the procedure of their introduction. We should deal with that now and shorten it, as the committee has said.
I turn to my amendment. I say, with humility, that I want to take your Lordships back into history. All your Lordships know that a peerage is the greatest honour that a monarch can confer on any subject. It is a greater honour than the Order of the Garter or of the British Empire. In medieval times a monarch conferred that honour himself or herself. In the reign of James I too many Peers were created. That is a subject on which one can read all kinds of stories. It is a period before the Cromwellian revolution. It was then decided--I imagine
On 29th August 1621 the Earl Marshal was told to organise a ceremony to take place in this House. That was organised by the Earl Marshal with Garter, or one of the other "kings" representing him. I see the three "kings" in Black Rod's Box now listening to the debate. Black Rod has kindly allowed them to be present. It was then agreed that this ceremony should take place here. However, it is a royal ceremony. It is the Crown who confers the peerage, not the government. With the permission of the government the Crown confers the peerage. This great honour to a subject of this Kingdom takes place now in this House.
Once the Crown decides to confer a peerage, the Crown must be represented in this Chamber when it takes place. The person who represents the Crown is Garter--the principal King of Arms. He has already had a big hand in the creation of the peerage in question. The new Peer goes to see him. The Garter consults the records and says, for example, to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, "I can make you Lord Richard, the Lord Privy Seal, because there is no other Lord Richard. You cannot be called Lord Howard because there are 10 other Lord Howards in existence". The noble Lord cannot be called Lord Howard of Glossop, like my great-grandfather. One of the Howards in my family led the defeat of the Armada. I just mention that quietly. Garter must reach agreement with the new Peer as regards the name the latter is to adopt. Then Garter, with the Home Office, writes the Letters Patent. He produces the Letters Patent and at the introduction of a new Peer he comes to the House and gives the Letters Patent, which he has framed and written, to the new Peer who gives them to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Garter is a vital person in this ceremony. Without him the Crown would not be represented.
Black Rod is also an important person in this House. His function in this House at the moment is to represent the Lord Great Chamberlain. The Lord Great Chamberlain runs this House but not the House of Commons, which has asserted its authority to run its own House. However, the Lord Great Chamberlain still runs this House. His deputy is Black Rod. Black Rod joins the procession of a new Peer to organise the administration of the little ceremony. But the Crown is represented by Garter.
I end simply by saying that the placing of the new Peer--which will be abolished according to the excellent committee of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh--is not, as the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal said, the most important function of Garter. It is unimportant. When the House sat by seniority it was of some importance but the House no longer sits by seniority; it sits by opposition, government and so on. Garter's ceremony and function is to represent the Crown. Our constitution consists of the Crown, the Lords and the Commons. The Crown is the fount of honour.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, before giving evidence to the Select Committee, I consulted the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the 10 most senior Bishops in the House of Lords. They appreciated the arguments for simplifying the ceremony of introduction for life Peers, but saw little need to change the ceremony for Bishops, mainly for two reasons. Our ceremony is already shorter and simpler than that for temporal Peers, since there is no reading of the Letters Patent and we conduct the ceremony ourselves without the aid of Garter King of Arms. Because we are used to taking part in ceremonies on a weekly basis, not to mention the fact that two of us were trained at Sandhurst, we believe that our ceremony is conducted with precision, and I think that on the whole people enjoy it. It is also the case that the introduction of a Bishop is a relatively infrequent occurrence. The year 1997 was a record year, without precedent in living memory; it saw the introduction of eight Bishops. The average is two or three introductions each year.
We believe that the changes proposed to the ceremony for life Peers are minor and sensible. The simplified movements that are proposed do not in our view detract from the proper dignity of the occasion. I am entirely in agreement with the argument that hats are unnecessary. (That may sound a strange thing for a Bishop to say.) They form a relatively modern feature of the ceremony. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, noted, they have been in existence for probably no more than 150 years. I also agree that we should do away with the three bows. There has been much discussion about the significance of the three bows, and speculation that they symbolise the three persons of the Trinity. That is a worthy and pious suggestion, but almost certainly has no basis in fact. It is of course always open to us to put interpretations on ceremonies, or indeed to invent new ceremonies if we wish. One of my brother Prelates suggested that we should increase the number of bows to 10 in commemoration of the Ten Commandments, which would serve as a reminder to Lords Spiritual and Temporal of their ethical priorities. It was not an entirely flippant suggestion. It would surely be approved by that high Welsh Anglican, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas.
We believe that it is also reasonable for the Clerk to read the Letters Patent only, and to omit the Writ of Summons. In the case of Bishops, the reverse would happen. Because we receive our Letters Patent before our entry into this House, we shall continue to have the Writ of Summons read.
The Select Committee proposes the abolition of "placing". The reasons why the committee did that are understandable. However, we wish to make known our conviction that the notion of placing has symbolic importance, and its total disappearance would mean the loss of something significant. In ecclesiastical ceremonies a Bishop is placed in his throne. Deans, cathedral canons, and incumbents are all "installed" in places from which they will exercise their ministry and authority. The same is true of the sovereign; and placing is important in military ceremony for similar reasons. The logic in this House would be that a Peer, temporal or spiritual, would be placed, during his or her introduction, based on the same principles. But that is more difficult here. Placing in the rear row of the Barons' Bench has become meaningless in terms of the place from which authority is exercised. That is not so in the case of the Bishops. We are the only Members of this House, apart from the sovereign and the Lord Chancellor, whose places have continued unchanged for centuries. The placing of a Bishop at his introduction, particularly in the second row rather than the rear row, would mean that the placing ceremony had very obvious meaning.
We felt that quite strongly, and a number of my brethren urged me to table an amendment to exempt the Bishops' ceremony from any change until we had had time to arrive at a common mind. Because we were in general agreement with the proposed changes, I thought this a bit cumbersome. I told them that, as their representative, I was not prepared to go to the stake about it--not least because, in their reforming zeal, the Government might use that martyrdom to reduce the number of Lords Spiritual. But then the Lord Bishop of Chichester, the Father of the House of Bishops, came to my rescue with an elegant compromise, which has allowed us to make our point and at the same time to support the Motion proposed by the Lord Privy Seal.
At the end of the ceremony for the Introduction of temporal Peers, the Select Committee recommends that the newly introduced Peer, with his supporters, after removing his robes outside the Chamber, should return immediately and sit in his normal place. It has been agreed that something similar should happen with the Bishops. Because we do not need to leave the Chamber to remove our robes, immediately after the Lord Chancellor has greeted the new Bishop, he will, with his supporters, take his place in the second row of the Bishops' Benches. This will not officially form part of the ceremony of introduction, but will follow it immediately. This little piece of variety is a positively good thing because it will serve to remind members of an ancient ceremony which used to apply to all but has been kept as a residual ceremony for the small number
A few weeks ago I was in hospital for an operation on my knee. At the same time an eminent Norfolk parishioner, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was in another London hospital for an operation on his hip. We used our bedside telephones to commiserate with each other. I assured him of my prayers. He sent me champagne. It seemed to me a model of what a good relationship between Church and state should be. We hope that he will soon be fully recovered and restored to his place in this House, fighting fit. I am glad to say that relationships between these benches and the Government Front Bench are equally cordial, though I have yet to receive champagne from them. The Lord Privy Seal has been immensely helpful to us over the question at issue, and I want to express our gratitude for his willingness to accept the compromise we have proposed.
Lord Denham: My Lords, the committee of which I had the privilege of being a member represented in its composition the whole range of views, from making no change at all in the ceremony of introduction to its total abolition. A committee formed in this way has its disadvantages. If, for example, we had sought to address ourselves to the main question--namely, was any change necessary or even desirable?--our discussions would never have got off the ground. On the other hand, the committee was very well equipped to achieve a working compromise. If your Lordships want a change--and it is not yet clear whether the House as a whole does--I believe the package that we have suggested is the one that is most likely to achieve general support.
The first is whether any change in procedure that we might agree to now is likely to have any adverse knock-on effect on other ceremonies and traditions of your Lordships' House and even beyond. After all, this House runs on traditions and one should change them only by deliberate intent, when it is beyond all question that it is right to do so. I tried to raise this when the committee first met but I was told by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, the chairman--and this was reinforced by Dr. Philippa Tudor, clerk to the committee--that it would not be proper for us to discuss anything other than the introduction ceremony itself. Of course I accepted that ruling without further question, but if the committee were to be debarred from considering the wider future effects of any of their recommendations, the corollary must also be true: that it would be equally wrong for anyone to cite any of them as a precedent in support of other changes that he might in the future wish to make.
My next concern is that it has long been my experience that political compromises are liable to be regarded by one side as a binding agreement and by the other as a stepping stone towards going the whole way. If this should happen in this case, gone will be the protection of the validity afforded by unbroken usage of over 300 years. I think therefore that the House should only accept this package if it is prepared to regard it as sacrosanct for at least a considerable number of decades and that, if noble Lords are not so prepared, we should retain the status quo.
My third concern, and I touched on this at the beginning, is whether your Lordships may not be drifting involuntarily into accepting a change that perhaps the majority do not in fact want. When this suggestion was last debated 23 years ago, the House rejected any change by a majority of over three to one. This time, your Lordships accepted the proposals for a Select Committee without a vote, out of courtesy to the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the House, which is the master of its committees and has not yet had the opportunity of expressing itself on whether it really wants this or any other change.
But whatever the solution we accept this afternoon, it must be seen to be the genuine wish of the House as a whole. In that connection, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde has authorised me to say that noble Lords on these Benches have a free vote. I hope that when the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal comes to reply, he will confirm that similar freedom will be allowed to his noble friends.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I rise to support the Select Committee recommendations. I believe that it has managed to arrive at a ceremony which is befitting the honour being bestowed on any individual, while removing the less dignified aspects of the ceremony which, coincidentally, are the ones that the new Peers dread the most. I think that the Members of the Select Committee have achieved their aim of arriving at a dignified, simplified and sensible procedure.
It is also important to stress that the supporters of change are not trying to throw away the inherited traditions of the House. The ceremony has a long and complex history behind it, one that should not be forgotten or treated with contempt. But it has to be in keeping with our developed role as parliamentarians. We have to acknowledge that, irrespective of whether we are hereditary Peers, Peers who came in through the honours system or mere working Peers like myself, we are legislators and a fundamental part of the enactment of legislation in this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, and my noble friend Lady Lockwood said, your Lordships' House is a working House.
There are, however, arguments in favour of change that I reject. I do not believe that these proposals have anything to do with the concept of modernisation--a much over-used word. Nor do I believe that the time argument and the consequent boredom of some Peers is
Another common theme that has run throughout the debate has been that of dignity, which I believe is absolutely essential. It is why I make the next few comments. It is in that context that I want to consider briefly and examine the placing ceremony. I maintain that there is nothing dignified about the awkward business of climbing the steps to the rearmost Benches in unaccustomed robes, often too long or sometimes fastened with safety pins. There is nothing dignified in Members of a parliamentary legislature bobbing up and down three times--sometimes in unison, more often not. Nor is there anything dignified in the often unco-ordinated sweep of hats by male Peers. It is remarkable that a team of three Peers manages to produce such eccentric movements.
Much has been said about the origins of that part of the ceremony and clearly the placing of Barons is understood. But why do we have to doff three times? That was a question asked frequently in the Select Committee itself and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. There are many different explanations and I appreciate that the number three has its place in history, that it is often perceived as a magic number. But in reality, as Garter told the Select Committee, on page 16, at paragraph 95 of the report, nobody knows the reason. There is no better argument for elimination of something than not knowing why we are doing it.
Equally, while there was a logical reason for the placing of Peers in order to distinguish their rank, that is no longer the case, for two reasons. First, the Barons' Benches as such no longer exist. In 1954 the House abandoned its seating arrangements as laid down in the Act of Henry VIII. Secondly, it is often said that one of the great assets of your Lordships' House is that we are all equal, although of different rank. So not only is that part of the ceremony open to ridicule, lacking in dignity, it has also ceased to be relevant. But as the noble Duke the Duke of Norfolk said, that does not necessarily mean that there is not a role for Garter King of Arms as the Queen's representative. We should give that further consideration.
Now to the positive, my Lords. I believe that the Select Committee is right to retain the wearing of robes. I believe that they add to the dignity of the ceremony and, importantly to my mind, they distinguish us from the other Chamber. Equally, they add to the sense of occasion and pride, not only for the new Peer but also for family and friends. I am, however, glad to see that it is proposed that hats be no longer worn. I can only speak from a woman's perspective. I have always been in constant dread that my hat will fall off, to my consequent embarrassment. If a ceremony is to be truly dignified, there should be no part of it that can be potentially embarrassing to its participants.
I wish to make one further point before my conclusion. It relates to the taking of the Oath. The taking of the Oath and the signing of the Scroll are crucial and rightly retain their place as the core of the ceremony. But also of great significance is the need for your Lordships' House to acknowledge the Peer's right to sit and vote as a newly created Member of your Lordships' House by the reading of the Letters Patent. I believe, although I note from the Select Committee Report that not everyone agreed, that they should be in their original language.
As has been said, it is the document by which the peerage is created. It is only received once and is distinctive to the individual Member. That does distinguish it from the Writ of Summons which is in common form to Peers by creation and by descent and which is issued before each Parliament. However, the Writ is a vital document in the peer-making process and while it is not necessary for it to be read out, there should be within the procedure some means for it to be handed to the Lord Chancellor.
In conclusion, I do not believe that there has been any logic in the argument put in favour of delay. If it is felt that the introduction procedures warrant change, why should we delay? It is important that we act instantly.
The proposals before us satisfy the criteria identified in the documents issued to the procedure committee last October. They have due regard to the needs of the sovereign, the House and the new Peer. They improve on the dignity of the occasion; they retain the sense of ceremony and are befitting for a working parliamentary legislative Chamber. I therefore have pleasure in supporting the Select Committee report.
Baroness Young: My Lords, though I listened with admiration to the Members of the Select Committee who spoke in support of their recommendations, and in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, unlike everyone else who has so far spoken, I am unhappy with the recommendations with which the committee has come forward. I have always made it perfectly plain that I do not see a need for a change in the introduction ceremony at this time.
I should make it clear at the start of my remarks that I very much support the view of my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree. I agree with his main argument: why change now? The Government have said, time without number, that it is their intention to reform this House. If that is indeed the case, the time to look at all these matters is at the moment of reform.
What it means--my noble friend Lord Denham put it far more eloquently than I can--is that we are seeing a kind of death by a thousand cuts: "First get rid of one thing and then we shall get rid of another". Put inelegantly, it is a kind of constitutional "dumbing down". I see no advantage in doing this at this particular time.
The only real reason adduced by the report for the suggestion that we need a change is that we have had exceptional circumstances--59 new Peers being introduced in the past year. But, in my experience of public life, legislation introduced because of exceptional circumstances is usually bad legislation and one comes to regret it. I am bound to say that the analogy which the Leader of the House--I am sorry he is not in his place at this time--made with the changes recommended by the Jellicoe Committee are not exact. We were there talking about the administrative procedures of the House, which is quite different.
On the detail, I should like to say this. Of course we can all make jokes about ceremonies. There is not a single ceremony, whether it is in the Church, the state, the services or anywhere else, which one cannot regard as funny and therefore mimic. Many people have done that very well. I was particularly entertained by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. I feel that he should be put into a glass case and kept as something special!
Everybody referred to the question of hats. As someone who spent a large part of her life in the academic world, I can say that one only needs to attend a degree ceremony to see how often hats are doffed. There can be few, if any, Members of your Lordships's House who have not experienced such a ceremony--many on more than one occasion--particularly if they have received an honorary degree, and who therefore know how often hats are doffed. We can laugh at that too. Academics above all love dressing up in robes--the most magnificent of robes; often far more magnificent than those worn in your Lordships' House.
If one asks oneself the simple question, "Why does all this happen?", the answer is because, in universities, it is felt to be a serious matter. It is a serious matter to obtain a degree. It is a great honour to receive an honorary degree and I do not see why, if we accept ceremony under those circumstances, one should think it funny here. It is only funny if one is trying to downgrade the House of Lords, and that is what I suspect is behind this. The Leader of the House may believe me to be quite wrong. However, I suspect that there is a hidden agenda about which we do not know.
The other point I should like to make is that I was very moved by the remarks of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. Like my noble friend Lord Waddington, I find the suggestion not only bizarre but, more than that, offensive that the Garter should not be included in the ceremony. I find it incredibly offensive that, as a House of Parliament, we should be prepared to agree to a report in which that conclusion is reached. I was glad to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, that she believed it was something which should be looked at
I believe that at this time we should not change these procedures. I stand by what I said. It will lead to a gradual taking away of parts of your Lordships' House which have existed for hundreds of years. It in no way detracts from the House as a working Chamber. It is because the House is a working Chamber and is of significance in the constitution--it is now recognised outside Your Lordships' House by the British people as being one of the few parts of the constitution where issues are discussed properly and effectively--that we should keep its procedures to indicate how important it is as a House.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, your Lordships will be happy to know that I will be briefer than I intended because almost everything I wanted to say has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. However, perhaps I can begin, as I have on previous occasions in your Lordships' House, with a text which I regard as being almost sacred in these contexts; that is, a comment made many years ago by the Viscount of Falkland, an ancestor of the noble Viscount who sits in the House today. The quotation may be familiar to many Members of your Lordships' House. He said,
I believe that that is the position with which we are now faced. I have heard nothing either from the members of the Select Committee or from the Lord Privy Seal to persuade me that change now is necessary. It may be a good idea for the further modernisation of our society, of our habits and our ceremonies. But is it necessary? The answer clearly is that it is not. I therefore follow the Viscount of Falkland in saying that it is necessary not to do anything about it at all.
However, if we are going to do something about it, I hope that better arguments can be adduced than those put forward by the Select Committee. The Lord Privy Seal spoke about a ceremony appropriate to the present time. We do not necessarily need ceremonies appropriate to the present time. We have traditions which have stood us well in this country, not just for decades, but for centuries. Why do we want something that is appropriate to the present time? I should not have thought that the present time was all that admirable.
In that context, the Lord Privy Seal went on to speak of the ceremony--I am not sure whether he was referring to the ceremony or other aspects of this House--as "quaint" and "irrelevant". There are many things that could be characterised as quaint and irrelevant. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, that is usually the language of people who want to downgrade, ridicule and undermine something. I believe that is what is being done with the change to the ceremony in this House.
The Lord Privy Seal went on to say something which also appears in the report of the Select Committee and with which I wholeheartedly agree; that is, that the ceremony of the introduction of a Peer is a great day for the Peer, for his friends and for his family. For me, when I first came into this House and was introduced by the present ceremony well over 30 years ago, it was a great day. What was great about it was the sense of history that I felt coursing through me as I came into the Chamber with my supporters and went through the ceremony. It is a sense of history which I still get when I walk into this House every day, and I think it would be a great shame if we were to do anything to remove that sense which I think most of us have when we sit in your Lordships' House.
If I may, I will briefly refer to the question of Garter, because I share the views that have already been expressed. It is shameful--I use that word advisedly--that we should be recommending the removal of the Garter King of Arms from the introduction ceremony. I think it is especially ironic that this document, The Origin of the Introduction of Peers in the House of Lords, is written partly, indeed largely, by Sir Anthony Wagner, who was the Garter King of Arms when I was introduced into this House. It does seem strange that the man who has produced the definitive history of the origin of the introduction of Peers should now be on the verge of being "sacked" because he should no longer be part of this quaint and irrelevant ceremony.
My real point is again one that has already been made, and it is this: if we ask is any change necessary, my answer is no. But I would refer specifically to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree. Why is it necessary now? What is there so magic about this time that requires us suddenly to be fiddling around with the ceremonial of this House? I would like to know, as many other noble Lords would, I think, what the big picture is in the minds of the Government. I do them the honour of accepting that there is a big picture in their minds and that they must know--somebody must know--what sort of House this is going to be in the future. What they have in mind I do not know. We know from the manifesto of one project which they have in mind--a project which we are moving quietly towards--but I should like to know what they think this House will look like when they have finished its reform.
It may be of course a House in which ceremonial of any kind is totally quaint and irrelevant so that later on we can do away with it altogether; but I do not know what kind of House this will be and, quite frankly, I do not believe that they do either. Therefore I would strongly resent and oppose any form of piecemeal change in which single measures are brought forward without anybody knowing what is going to follow. I shall not sit idly by--and I think many of my noble colleagues will share my view--while stage one is first dealt with and then in due course and in good time we will move on to stage two. It is for that reason that I support wholeheartedly the view of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, in saying that until we know what kind of a House this is going to be--and none of
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, this ceremony affirms affinity with the Sovereign, as described by my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. It also acknowledges allegiance and it replaces personal investiture. I do not share the concept of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, that your Lordships' House is just a second chamber of a European Parliament. I stand wholly behind what has been said by my noble friends Lord Harptree and Lord Denham, by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and just now by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who asked what kind of a House it will be.
The argument I deploy is that, notwithstanding broad approval of the recommendations, subject to the retention of the attendance of Garter always, implementation should be delayed until the substance of the proposals of Lords reform has been considered by your Lordships. Such is the purpose of this speech. And why so?--because nobody has any idea as to the nature or the purpose of the proposed modernisation, reform and reconstitution of your Lordships' House, save as regards this stage one abolition of the hereditary entitlement.
It is accepted that stage one, as such, would not render implementation inappropriate. But what about stage two? Is there ever going to be a stage two? This could well involve some new constitutional settlement for consideration of both Houses. What sort of a House are we to become?--a repository of patronage for political placemen? Is our ethos and independence to be slighted as guardians of the constitution and as a curb on Executive power? Shall we, for all one knows, become a subservient mirror image of another place to nurture some form of unicameral government? We simply do not know. And, if so, the spirit of affinity with the Sovereign would evaporate. The purpose of the symbolism would no longer subsist and the retention of this ceremony would not be appropriate.
Implementation as proposed in the Motion is no mere matter of domestic concern relating to changes in our procedures, as is the opinion, with respect, of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. With respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, it was not within the remit of the terms of reference for the Select Committee to consider whether proposed reform of your Lordships' House could render implementation of the recommendations wholly inapposite. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, referred to an initial conversation at the Select Committee, and I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, when he comes to speak, could clarify not only that this was not within the terms of reference but that the Committee did not and could not have taken this aspect of implementation into account, that being wholly a matter for the business of your Lordships' House.
It is all very well. But on 20th April the noble Lord, Lord Richard, informed your Lordships that the substance of proposed reform would not be known when the stage one abolition Bill came before your Lordships' House; that there would be no better informed debate; and there would be no option paper on alternatives for reform. Without knowledge--
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