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Lord Haskel: From the speeches that we have already heard, it appears to me that if we do agree to a purpose clause it will just open the floodgates and there will be an unstoppable flow of purposes. After all, up until now, my noble friend has suggested that the purpose clause should contain references to socialism; the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, suggested that we should refer to independence; and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, suggested that the purpose clause should refer to democracy. If we accept some sort of purpose clause, it seems to me that we will never agree on what it should be. I feel that the Bill itself is absolutely clear in that respect and does not require such a clause. Therefore, I do not support the amendment.
The Earl of Caithness: I am a firm supporter of a strong second Chamber. Whatever may be the complexion of a second Chamber, it must be able to defeat the government of the day in another place in order to ask them to think again. I agree with much of what my noble friend Lord Onslow said about a revised Chamber: it may well cause a Conservative government more trouble. Goodness knows, this House caused me enough trouble in the 1980s and early 1990s. Indeed, if it had caused me any more trouble, it might have shortened my life considerably more than it did.
It is for that reason that I think a purpose clause is necessary. Having read the excellent report of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, it seems to me that he has set out some very cogent reasons why a purpose clause is necessary for a revised second Chamber. It is also important because the revised Chamber that we are discussing will last for a considerable length of time. Although remarks have been made about it by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, when speaking to the first amendment, there is no doubting the fact that there has never been a problem in this Chamber with reforming this House; indeed, the problems have always occurred in the other place. I believe that the Government will be pleasantly surprised by the attitude of hereditary Peers when we come to discuss reform. Any trouble with phase two reform will not be here but in another place, as has always been the case. For that reason, this Bill must be as perfect as possible because I can see it lasting many years into the future. That is why, to my mind, a purpose clause is essential.
Of the three purpose clauses now before us--and there is of course a fourth one, as set out in Amendment No. 9--I prefer the one suggested in Amendment No. 4. I was surprised by what the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, said. I have agreed with him so much in the past and I am sure I will do so in the future. I should have thought that he would have liked Amendment No. 4. I say that because in the future I foresee this House scrutinising European legislation much more thoroughly than it has been able to do in the past. I give way to the noble Lord.
Lord Bruce of Donington: I thank the noble Earl for allowing me to intervene. If he reads the amendment carefully, he will see that it refers to "Parliament" and not specifically to the House of Lords.
The Earl of Caithness: Indeed, the noble Lord is right. I prefer Amendment No. 4, and was dealing with the independence point because I wish to stress the fact that this House should be more independent and should be able to take a more independent view on Europe. However, that will depend very much on how its composition is made up in the future. I believe that that will be the key amendment on which we will need to spend some time in the days to come. However much we would like to have a strong and independent second Chamber, we shall not get one unless we ensure that we get the composition right. For that reason, I believe it most important for us to have a purpose clause of some sort.
Lord Bach: When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, moved what he described as a probing amendment, I did not feel that his heart was really in it. If ever a Bill did not require a purpose clause, it seems to me that it is this short, unambiguous and straightforward Bill. Moreover, if one is looking for its purpose, it is clearly set out in the Long Title. Perhaps Members of the Committee will forgive me if I remind them that the Long Title refers to the fact that this is a Bill:
Lord Bach: I look forward to the discussion of Amendment No. 31 just as much as the noble Earl. However, we are not discussing that today. We are discussing this amendment early in this Committee stage. It seems to me that it would be quite wrong to have a purpose clause for so straightforward a Bill as this. I am delighted that there is support for my view from someone as distinguished as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. He, if anyone, should know which Bills require purpose clauses and which do
Lord Northbourne: Before the noble Lord sits down, does he not agree that the Government's manifesto stated that this would be the first stage in a process of reform to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative? If it is the first stage in a process of reform, it is part of that process of reform. Therefore the word "democratic" is perfectly legitimately used in all these amendments, if I may say so.
Lord Bach: I am grateful for that intervention. I believe that the important words are "first stage". This is a distinct first stage in the long overdue reform of this Chamber. It would be quite wrong therefore to confuse it with the second stage which, of course, will come later and I hope quite soon. I hope that I stick by the convention in saying that in my opinion it would be wrong to make a simple, short Bill such as this have a purpose clause. Where on earth would it end? I believe that would be a mistake.
Lord Crickhowell: I understand why the noble Lord who has just spoken does not particularly like this probing clause as it exposes the total vacuum at the heart of this short and simple Bill. As so often, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, gave us a powerful reason why we should perhaps not have a clause of this kind written into the Bill. However, my noble and learned friend who moved the amendment moved it as a probing amendment. As a probing amendment it has already proved extremely valuable. A little earlier we heard from one of the great independent figures in either Chamber; namely, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, who added to his desire that the Bill should proceed speedily on its way, the hope that other things might then happen. However, the trouble is that we have absolutely no evidence that something will happen which will put a sensible constitutional settlement on the table.
Clearly the Government cannot object to a statement that this Bill is designed to create a more legitimate Chamber because they have repeatedly given that as a reason for introducing this simple Bill. One would like to think that they perhaps favoured a more democratic Chamber. However, it has already been pointed out that this will certainly not be in the interim a more democratic Chamber. Some of us who sit in this Chamber have at least on frequent occasions fought and won elections and served in government. But even we are here because we have been nominated. There are others I see in this Chamber who have frequently fought elections but never won them. However, they have also come to this Chamber because they have been nominated. There are others, who are perhaps more worthy than any of us, whose breadth of experience, contribution to public life, wisdom and skill have led them to be appointed to this Chamber. However, I believe that none can claim to be here as representatives of an
As for the suggestion that we should increase the independence of Parliament and enhance its ability to scrutinise legislation, that, I believe, is one of the key objectives that we should have, as I said during the Second Reading debate. The trouble is I am not sure that the Government like independence and I am pretty certain that they do not much care for the close scrutiny of their legislation. We have seen that time and time again.
There are those who argue that the best solution would be a wholly elected Chamber. I profoundly disagree with that assertion because I fear that we would finish up with a mirror image of the present House of Commons, with all its shortcomings, and a Chamber which would be far from independent and would lack the breadth of wisdom, skill, knowledge and experience that is the great strength of this Chamber at the present time.
I think the best solution will probably be a Chamber that contains a part elected element but a considerable number of others who come here because of their breadth of skill, wisdom and experience. However, that is for debate on a later occasion. That is the problem that we confront throughout our debates on this Bill. We have a phase one that leaves us in a vacuum and with no idea of what is to come in phase two for the good reason that the Government do not have the smallest idea of what is to come in phase two and are desperately hoping that the Royal Commission will come up with some solution that they will find acceptable and which will be widely accepted by others.
It seems to me that in moving this amendment my noble and learned friend has done a great service because he has exposed the extraordinary futility of this piece of legislation. Indeed there would be some case for pressing at least one of these amendments because it would then enable us to move a succession of amendments to make this interim Bill a workable Bill, a Bill with a purpose and a Bill which would be of service to the nation rather than leaving us with a Chamber--which we may be left with for a long time--which would be a considerably weaker and less effective Chamber than the one we have at present. I hope that my noble and learned friend will not entirely drop the idea of pressing this amendment, if not today then on some other occasion. For the moment I, for one, am extremely grateful that he has moved it and exposed the futility of the Government's solution.
Viscount Cranborne: Not for the first time I am delighted to follow my noble friend Lord Crickhowell because I too find myself extremely grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon for his splendid idea of moving a probing amendment. Like my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, I believe that the whole Committee may have found, like me, that the past 50 minutes or so have not been exactly a waste of time; they have been extremely revealing.
Of course I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for putting down his probing amendment. However, I find myself in somewhat greater difficulty as to whether I can necessarily agree with at least the terms of Amendment No. 3. Like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, I find myself slightly more able to support Amendment No. 4. Before I state the reasons for that, when the Minister replies I hope that he might care to consider two matters. The first is the following. Even if he rejects the need for a purpose amendment--for some obscure reason I believe he may feel inclined to do that--I hope he may feel able to follow an example which is very much deprecated by parliamentary draftsmen in the modern age; namely, of considering a preamble.
During a previous debate this afternoon my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway was kind enough to give a puff to a Private Member's Bill I introduced into your Lordships' House. At the risk of wearying the Committee even further on that admirable piece of legislation I draw attention to the fact that it has a rather old fashioned preamble. I venture to suggest that the merits of the preamble are that it enables the framers of a Bill to set the legislative provisions of the Bill concerned within a wider context.
If I have gathered one thing from the debate today, it is that a number of your Lordships find it difficult to discuss the narrow terms of the Bill without reference to the much broader context of the Government's wider misguided constitutional reforms but in particular what we hope will be the probability of a stage two. It may well be difficult for us within the context of this narrow Bill to refer in a purpose clause to stage two, but it may perhaps be possible to meet the point made so eloquently by a number of your Lordships by thinking in terms of a preamble. In my experience, preambles are rather fun to compose, if only because they enable one to make all kinds of tendentious remarks without getting into trouble with the parliamentary draftsman.
The second point that I should like the Minister to address is on a hypothetical plane. As a number of noble Lords opposite have already pointed out, the Bill in its present form does not include Amendment No. 31. I hope and believe that by the time it leaves your Lordships' House the Bill will include Amendment No. 31, but, as I keep saying, that is for your Lordships to decide. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me that the Long Title of the Bill, which begins with the words,
In Amendment No. 3 it is suggested by my noble and learned friend that the purpose of this Act should be to create a more legitimate and more democratic House of Lords. Again, not for the first time I find myself fully in agreement with the reservations expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. It is at least possible to argue--I put it no higher than that--that it might be desirable for there to be a democratic element in a future upper House. Indeed, I can see myself arguing for at least a partially democratic element in a reformed upper House if by "democratic element" one means at least some of the Members of your Lordships' House or its successor being elected by universal franchise.
My quarrel--I use the word perhaps rather bravely with my noble and learned friend on the Opposition Front Bench--is that nowhere in the Bill as presently drafted-- and that is how we must look at it--can I see anything remotely democratic about its provisions. I can therefore only suppose that, with his usual extraordinary perspicacity, my noble and learned friend is trying merely to make the Bill at least consistent with the record of the Government, who, in my observation, have managed with an extraordinary degree of consistency to declare that they were doing one thing and proceeded to introduce provisions in their legislation and their foreign policy action to bring about exactly the opposite. For that reason I can sympathise with my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon when he introduces the word "democratic" because it would at least be consistent with the Government's previous record, although I fear that for your Lordships to introduce that degree of consistency would not be serving the purposes of your Lordships' House as a proper revising Chamber.
Equally, I am not entirely clear why a nominated Chamber, even one at least partially nominated by the kind of commission that the Prime Minister has trailed before us for Cross-Bench Peers, is necessarily any more legitimate than a hereditary Chamber. During the course of previous debates I have often ventured to suggest to your Lordships that one could argue that it was rather less legitimate for the purely pragmatic reason that at least people like my noble friend Lord Strathclyde owe their positions here to someone who is dead rather than someone who is still alive. Unless one believes particularly in ghosts, someone who is dead would be unlikely to twist my noble friend's arm in the same way.
That brings me to the question of independence. If I were to introduce yet another smidgen of criticism into what my noble and learned friend has brought forward in Amendment No. 4 and venture extremely nervously to disagree just a little with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, it would be over the assumption implicit in Amendment No. 4 that a
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me a brief trip down memory lane. When I had the great honour and privilege of being the Leader of your Lordships' House I remember that an inordinate number of people out there seemed to believe that I had some say in who was to become a Peer. I need hardly add that I never in any way attempted to disabuse them of that illusion. That would have been unwise for a highly ambitious politician like myself. I am sure that those of your Lordships who have also enjoyed the privilege of being thought to be in a similar position would have found the same. In spite of being warned that that would happen, I was astonished at the virulence with which the very great, good and respected people who wished to become Peers made it clear that that was the best way in which they could continue to serve the best interests of the country. They did not usually enjoy queueing outside the Leader's room; it was perhaps a little too public. But I have to tell your Lordships that in the Privy Council Office they queued. Not only did they queue; they made it clear that it would be an absolute outrage if they were not made Peers.
Noble Lords may think this unworthy, but I must confess that, when confronted with such a person, male or female, great captains of industry, leaders of thought and opinion from every part of the political spectrum, so I thought, inevitably one's tongue found itself creeping somehow uncontrollably towards one's cheek. One found oneself saying, "Sir (or madam), if you were to sit on the Cross-Benches, which undoubtedly in your position you might feel you had to, how could we rely on your vote?". And, mirabile dictu, almost without exception these people used to say, "Ah, of course, I have always been a Conservative". And they would say, "You know that, don't you?".
Noble Lords will recognise that I knew nothing of the kind. I was astonished at the extraordinary "brass neck" that so many of them displayed, when I knew perfectly well, as they did, that they had never been anything of the kind. I would then say, "But then, if you were to become a Peer, how could I know that we could rely on your vote, particularly if you found yourself sitting on the Cross-Benches?". Not all, but a surprising number, said to me, "Would you like it in writing?".
I shall not distress your Lordships by continuing this descent into anecdotage. I hope and believe that not one of those people received a peerage--not because I had any say in the matter, but because those who did have a say had a great deal of judgment. I am absolutely certain that the same rigour has been applied by the present Government, although I must confess that there are
However, Prime Ministers are subject to great temptation, particularly when confronted with the possibility of being able to pack their own Benches, and indeed some of the Cross-Benches, with compliant Peers. In an entirely nominated House, there will be a standing temptation to any future Prime Minister to ask a person to make a commitment before he or she becomes a Member of this House, rather than afterwards. It is a sensible principle that all legislation should be framed in such a way as to catch the possibility of dishonourable, as well as honourable, Prime Ministers succumbing to temptation.
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