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Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, surely the noble Baroness will not make a law on the basis of letters which are said to have passed between herself and my noble friend Lord Steel?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, indeed not, but that was the point I should have liked to make to the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, at the stage at which he was waving his letter at me. I am talking about the fact that the Bill makes clear that the title is "presiding officer".

We shall see what happens in the case of Northern Ireland. However, the crucial point--and this really is the most important point that I wish to make to the House--is that there is no difference on that point of titles between the Northern Ireland Bill and the Scotland Bill.

The matter was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood. He said:

There is no difference between that and what I said in reply to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, when I said that,

    "it would be possible for the parliament in its standing orders to make provisions about the forms of address to be used in the proceedings of parliament if it so wished. It may choose to use terms other than those prescribed in the Bill within its own proceedings".--[Official Report, 18/10/98; col. 2024.]
I then said that the parliament would no doubt wish to consider whether it was appropriate to address someone other than by the legal title and it would also doubtless take account of what became common public usage. I ended by saying that,

    "Ultimately that usage would be a matter for the parliament to decide".--[Official Report, 18/10/98; col. 2024.]

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We have tried to strike a balance throughout the Bill between prescription and flexibility. Noble Lords will have noted that our general approach has been to prescribe the minimum. It is not always easy to agree where a line should be drawn. However, that is one area where we consider that it is important that there is neither vagueness nor confusion. Therefore, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I suspect that the noble Baroness may be alone in believing that there will be no vagueness or confusion. The problem with these debates is that they do not seem to be very important in themselves but they have all to do with the status of the Scottish parliament, the Welsh assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, although I am not discussing Wales and Northern Ireland. The problem is that in my view, the Government are at sixes and sevens.

Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, is not here, but he said when he discussed the letter:

    "I have in my hand a letter with beautiful headed paper from the special adviser to the Speaker".--[Official Report, 22/10/98; col. 1669.]
My recollection of seeing the letter is that the word "speaker" was written in green print. It was not type; it was part of the headed notepaper. He went on to say:

    "The draft Committee on Standing Orders in the Northern Ireland Assembly provides in paragraph 2 that the presiding officer of the Assembly shall be called Mr Speaker or Madam Speaker and shall be addressed by Members".
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Steel, was wrong about that, but I have no reason to believe that he was. I am sure that he is absolutely right.

Just to confuse your Lordships, in answer to my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, said:

    "A partial direct answer is that the parliament would not be able to change these titles by standing orders. However ... it would be possible for the parliament in its standing orders to make provisions about the forms of address to be used in the proceedings of the parliament".--[Official Report, 28/10/98; col. 2024.]
I should not be surprised if your Lordships were lost by this time because I am fairly lost myself.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, perhaps I may assist. As I understood the Minister, in Wales, the advisory group has advised the use of the term "presiding officer", but of course she concedes that the assembly can call the presiding officer by what ever name it chooses. Is it any different for Scotland? If it is not, that is clear.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I was just about to deal with that. It appears that in any legal documents, those people must be referred to for all time as "presiding officer" and, "First Minister". However, they can be called by everybody--indeed, the media already do so with regard to Wales--"Prime Minister" or "Premier" and "Speaker". If that is not a recipe for confusion, what is? It seems to me that those two gentlemen or ladies will wear two hats: one will be an official hat and the other will be an unofficial hat.

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All around the English-speaking world, people are perfectly happy to use the titles "Speaker", "Premier", and "Prime Minister". I am so dissatisfied with those answers and the thought of having the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, and myself, in the same Lobby makes me believe that I should test the opinion of the House.

3.55 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 99; Not-Contents, 113.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Ampthill, L.
Balfour, E.
Blaker, L.
Blyth, L.
Boardman, L.
Borthwick, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. [Teller.]
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruntisfield, L.
Calverley, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Cuckney, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Davidson, V.
De Freyne, L.
Dearing, L.
Denham, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dunrossil, V.
Ellenborough, L.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Ezra, L.
Fookes, B.
Forbes, L.
Gainford, L.
Geraint, L.
Gormanston, V.
Grey, E.
Harlech, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harrowby, E.
Hayhoe, L.
Headfort, M.
Holderness, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Hooper, B.
Inchyra, L.
Kintore, E.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Leigh, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Ludford, B.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mersey, V.
Milverton, L.
Monson, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Mountevans, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Munster, E.
Newall, L.
Newby, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Renton, L.
Renwick, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Selborne, E.
Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Stair, E.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wharton, B.
Wigoder, L.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Christopher, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dixon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fitt, L.
Gallacher, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gregson, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardie, L.
Hardinge of Penshurst, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ilchester, E.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Jeger, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Kilbracken, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Molloy, L.
Monk Bretton, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Northfield, L.
Peston, L.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Richard, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shannon, E.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stallard, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Weatherill, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9 Nov 1998 : Column 522

4.3 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, before we move to the Statement on the humanitarian crisis in central America, I should like to take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to comments and questions for clarification. Peers who speak at length do so at the expense of other noble Lords.

9 Nov 1998 : Column 523

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