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Lord Elton: Is there any source from which we can be told about the availability of the Standing Orders? I know that it is wide of the amendment, but I can think of no other occasion on which we can ask for the assurance. When we come to that debate, we should then be briefed.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I am not in a position to give an answer one way or the other.

Lord Gray: I am grateful for the contributions we have had on the amendment. I shall not detain the Committee long. Before I withdraw the amendment, perhaps I may offer the following information. At present, so far as I can work out, some 41 Peers could vote but not stand in the election that I propose, and about 40 could stand for election. My mathematics are not necessarily very good, but I have done some research. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Boardman moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 1, line 5, at beginning insert ("Subject to section 4(1) and (1A)")

The noble Lord said: This is a paving amendment. I shall speak to Amendment No. 112. The effect of the amendment is to put off the date at which the Bill comes into effect until each House of Parliament has passed a resolution that it will do so; and that it will not do so until the report of the Royal Commission has been considered by this House.

I believe that the amendment is attractive to the Government for many reasons. I think that it is somewhat difficult for the Government to oppose. It makes no attempt to change the underlying theme of the Government's alteration of this House. It does not attempt to argue against their manifesto commitment. It merely proposes delaying the Bill coming into effect until the Royal Commission has reported. I believe that all Members of this House, the public and the press think that that is right: that there should be no stage one

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without stage two. The amendment proposes that the Act takes effect only after the Royal Commission has reported and each House of Parliament has voted on the matter.

The only concession required by the Government is that the amendment allows hereditary Peers to stay in office slightly longer than they would otherwise have done. As there have been Peers in office for many hundreds of years, I do not think that that is a severe penalty to bear. The prize is that the Government will receive the wise advice and views of the Royal Commission in making this major constitutional change. If the Government do not accept the amendment, or an amendment along this line, the penalties are that they will create a vacuum for this House which will be stripped of all hereditary Peers and with a flood of new life Peers to balance the Labour ranks with those Peers who are left.

Is it right that this House should agree to pull down so rapidly a structure which is dependent upon centuries of history, and one which has worked reasonably well, with no plans for its reconstruction? We accept that the Government have a mandate to make these changes. We accept that changes are desirable in many respects. But they wish to do so at a speed which destroys the present structure with no idea of what they will put in its place. It is left to a Royal Commission. It is hoped that the Royal Commission will report at the end of this year. We are talking about a break of a few months in order that a wise body can bring forward suggestions for this House and another place to consider before finally sacking hereditary Peers.

One of the hallmarks created, rightly or wrongly, by the Government since they have been in office is the starting of schemes without seeing them through to the end. One can think of a variety of matters which they have started. The Government have then scratched their heads and have been unsure what to do. I ask that they agree to wait until the Royal Commission has reported before the Act comes into effect.

Baroness Blatch: My amendment, Amendment No. 113, is grouped with my noble friend's amendment. It will not have gone unnoticed that they are similar. However, my amendment has a slightly tougher ending. Having spoken with my noble friend, I think that there may be a preference for Amendment No. 113.

At Second Reading, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor threatened the whole House that if the Government were displeased by amendments that we may pass, or any delay that may be incurred, or some other as yet unnamed displeasure that we may cause, we may or may not have--depending on the whim of the Government or the Lord Chancellor of the day--a Bill with the Weatherill amendment. So I wish to make clear at the outset that my amendment is predicated with or without the Weatherill amendment.

I pray in aid the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth. Earlier he slightly chided the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, for not coming armed with some basic statistics for previous amendments on the number of people who would be available to the interim House.

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I find it extraordinary that the Government not only do not know what stage two will be, but are not in a position to make an intelligent guess as to the size of the interim Chamber.

There is nothing in the Bill or the White Paper or from any of the discussions we have had which suggests to the House or the outside world that Members of the interim or stage two Chamber will be remunerated for their efforts here. So I do not know what pressures the Government believe that they can bring to bear on those Members who habitually do not attend this place, sometimes for very good reason. There may be reasons of health. It may be because work outside the House precludes them from attending here, or the logistics of getting to and from this House on a daily basis make attendance difficult. We have a number of Members of this House who attend infrequently, but when they attend they bring to bear a specialism, a specialty, a point of interest which is extremely valuable to the work of this House.

I do not write off the importance of the number of attendances. But as an interim Chamber, with or without the Weatherill amendment, we have an obligation to do our work properly. We have a scrutiny obligation. We have an obligation to man (as I prefer to call it, in the universal sense) the committees of this House. The work of those committees is extremely important to the work of Parliament. At the very least, the Government should be able to say with some confidence that the size of the interim Chamber, and the likely daily attendance of Members during the interregnum, will meet all those obligations regarding the quality expected of a second Chamber without too onerous a duty on individual Members.

Some of us are sceptical about stage two. Will it come at all? How long will it take? How difficult will it be to reconcile the different viewpoints about its shape, nature, role and functions? It is likely that the interregnum could continue for some time. However, if one takes the Government at their word, they are saying that they do not expect a delay between stages one and two. I suggest that they cannot have it both ways. If the second stage will follow quickly after the first, what is the point of an interregnum? If the second stage is not to follow without undue delay, it is important that we have a strengthened interregnum, against which the Government have set their face, or that we do not commence stage one until both Houses have seen the report of the Royal Commission and discussed it. It is then that with some confidence we shall have a better understanding of how long the interregnum will be and can move on to that stage and the definitive second stage.

I do not argue the finer detail and that the Bill should have gone through both Houses in order to implement stage two. However, I believe that at least we should see the report of the Royal Commission. There should be a discussion in both Houses, and a resolution should be determined by both Houses that it is timely to commence stage two. For that reason, I believe that the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Boardman and my amendment should be given serious

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consideration, even at the risk of offending the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and his colleagues in government.

I really am delighted that we are not cowered by those threats. This is important business; it is a serious constitutional change. However threatened we all may be--and we now know that we are all threatened, not just our hereditary colleagues--we have a duty to scrutinise this legislation. We have a duty to make it better, if that is possible and I believe that it is, and we have a duty to strengthen the interregnum arrangements or to delay their implementation until both Houses are satisfied that stage two lives up to the criteria laid down by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. It should be consistent with an independent, strong second Chamber that is able to keep the executive in check and balance.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: Before the noble Baroness sits down, can she help me on the following point? Not for the first time, reference has been made to the deprivation the Chamber will suffer with the absence of hereditary Peers. Many of my colleagues are unable to serve on committees because of the political complexion of the House. By agreement, the number of members of a committee is based on the proportion which the parties enjoy in the House. Can the noble Baroness tell us from where she gets the idea that in a House deprived of hereditary Peers there will be a shortage of Members who are willing to serve and to carry out its work?

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