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Baroness Jay of Paddington: Perhaps it would save the noble Lord time if I say that I was perhaps being excessively generous with a form of patronage which is certainly not within my power. I apologise for that. All I was suggesting was that there was no way in which a future, present or, given the discussion earlier this afternoon, any Leader of the Conservative Party would not be able to suggest and nominate life Peers in precisely the same way that they do at the moment.

Lord Marlesford: Provided the generosity-- I regarded it as characteristic rather than excessive--of the noble Baroness is in due course able to be translated, that would probably meet the case. At any rate, I have no doubt there can be further discussions on the matter in the next few weeks and, if necessary, we can come back to it on Report. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 30A:


Page 1, line 6, at end insert--
("(2A) The personal and property rights to enter, sit and speak in the House of Lords as granted by Letters Patent and existing in customary and common laws, shall not be changed by this Act.")

The noble Lord said: I wish to move Amendment No. 30A in order to refute some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and the Minister. I have read Hansard with great diligence and would like to set the record straight.

In the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, responding to mine on 27th April, he challenged the entire concept and the practicality of hereditary Peers having rights of property in this House. He relied on the

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grant of Letters Patent as the sole source of those property rights. He explained that hereditary Peers' rights of property could not exist once hereditary Peers were no longer in receipt of a Writ of Summons and thus unable to swear the Oath of Allegiance. He therefore claimed that my amendment was flawed.

I believe the noble Lord ignored the argument which I brought forward, with good supporting authority, concerning property rights in the House acquired by hereditary Peers under customary and common laws. Thus property rights in this House are acquired by both Letters Patent and by common law. They are separate causes for which there are well recognised, established legal precedents.

I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, that his argument cannot possibly lead to the conclusion that my amendment was flawed. He ignores the fundamental fact of rights in property acquired by usage. This Bill removes those rights.

The noble Lord also stated that Amendment No. 30A was flawed because it did not include all hereditary Peers. Again, I have to correct that view. All peerages, whether created by writ, charter, Letters Patent or according to the Life Peerages Act, have a claim to property rights in this House. The common law right to enter these premises applies to all Peers. In the case of hereditary Peers, their property rights are to be removed.

I refer the noble Lord to the fact that the descent of peerage in England is, and from time immemorial has been, governed by the common law rules of inheritance. This is a principle of the peerage law in England. A peerage, with rights created prior to 1397, as was the noble Lord's opposite, has the same hereditary rights in this House as all those created by Letters Patent. In that sense there are not two classes of peerage. Those prior to 1397 were created by writ, some by oral grant of the sovereign, some by Act of Parliament and some by charter. In all cases, rights were granted which have been and are passed on according to the common laws of inheritance.

It is settled law that if a Writ of Summons is issued and the summoned person takes his seat in the House of Lords, he has thereby acquired a hereditary peerage with the right to sit in the House. Creation by writ is ancient and, to quote Lord Coke,


    "A man shall gain an inheritance by writ...but the writ has no operation until he sit in Parliament". Once a Peer exercises the right to sit, it is passed on by common law. It is not my amendment which seeks to circumvent the Bill, as the noble Lord clearly stated; it is the Bill which not merely circumvents the customary laws of property, but seeks to destroy them.

Perhaps I may express my concern at an unfortunate comparison made by the Minister--who is not present this afternoon--in his response to my amendment on 27th April. He referred to Peers who were deprived of their rights under the Titles Deprivation Act 1917 if they supported the enemy in the Great War. It seems from his remark that the noble Lord considers that hereditary Peers, especially those who fought our enemies in wars, are also to be deprived and thus to be classed with those

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who were traitors in 1917. I hope the noble Lord was not, albeit unintentionally, revealing the attitude of the Government concerning hereditary Peers. Perhaps the noble Baroness will ask the Minister to withdraw that comparison which he made.

Finally, in response to the Minister's remarks about Letters Patent, I have acknowledged in my several speeches to the Bill that Letters Patent can be changed by statute. However, the principle does not provide any authorisation from the electorate to remove property rights acquired by custom under common law. That effect was never even hinted at in the Labour Party's political manifesto.

The Minister stated in his remarks that I made a claim to personal property rights in this House, under provisions in the statute of Westminster. I did not. I stated that the statute required the Government to obtain the consent of all Commonwealth Parliaments, since the Bill touches upon the sovereign's inherited titles. I believe the Minister was confused. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi: The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has clearly had another go. It is not usual to speak again on a consequential amendment, though there was another occasion the other day.

I do not understand his speech. I did not understand it last time and I do not understand it now. He seems to argue that a Peer has property rights transcending anything else and the sovereignty of Parliament. It seems to me to smack of the ancien regime and I do not believe it has any validity at all.

The noble Lord also says that peerages by writ were created by the sovereign. They are not created; they stem from the fact that their ancestors sat in Parliament and signed the Parliament roll. That gradually became a peerage. They were not necessarily always peerages for life. They could be taken away by the King if he did not summons them to a subsequent Parliament, and they were not always hereditary. That evolved over the centuries.

As I said, I do not agree with the noble Lord. His argument is specious. It assumes that Parliament is not sovereign and that the nobility have rights over and above Parliament. That may have happened in the 18th century in France, but it does not happen in 20th century Britain.

Viscount Torrington: In refuting what the noble Lord said, surely Parliament is in fact a collection of those who received a writ to attend. It is not the bricks and mortar of this building.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I can hardly improve on what my noble friend Lord Strabolgi said, but perhaps I can make two preliminary points.

My understanding as a complete novice in this House is that when people agree to a grouping, although they clearly have a right to come back, there is not much point if they just ignore the grouping when we discussed

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all the issues on the first occasion. Having said that, I shall deal with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie.

First, I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn is not here. Knowing him as I do, I know perfectly well that he would never have intended, nor did he say anything which could possibly suggest, that he was comparing the present hereditary Peers to traitors of the country. That was made absolutely clear. If and in so far as anybody could possibly have got that impression, it was never intended. I know that my noble friend would never have intended that.

I shall now deal with the substance of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie. At its heart it has two propositions which, with the greatest respect, seem to me to be greatly misconceived. The first is the nature of a hereditary Peer's right to sit in this House; but, uniquely, it is not subject to the sovereignty of Parliament. Whereas every other single right, whether property or not, can be changed, the noble Lord argues that the right to sit in this House by a hereditary Peer can never be changed. That is absurd; indeed, the moment one states the proposition one can see that it must be wrong. The fact that it is wrong is demonstrated by the fact that both the Committee for Privileges and this House have treated it as wrong in the past.

The Committee for Privileges treated that proposition as wrong in the Viscountess Rhondda case in 1922, and the legislative House treated it as wrong in Section 6 of the Peerage Act 1963 when it allowed Letters Patent to be changed to allow Peeresses to take their seats. Quite separately from the legal connotations which those two points indicate, the idea that of all rights in all the world that of an hereditary Peer to sit in this House is the only one that can never be changed is absurd.

The second point is what underlies the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie; namely, that a right to sit in a Chamber of Parliament is a right of property. Is it the only right of property that cannot be sold? Indeed, every other right of property can be sold on the open market. Is the noble Lord seriously suggesting that a hereditary peerage comes into that category as far as concerns the right to sit here? Again, merely stating the proposition seems to me to suggest its absurdity. Although I respect the sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, I believe that his propositions are founded on completely absurd and misconceived notions.


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