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Baroness Jay of Paddington: I can agree with two comments that were made by those who have opposed the question that Clause 1 should stand part of the Bill. I can agree with the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that this clause goes to the heart of the Bill; indeed, that is the case. I can also agree with the noble Earl, who seems no longer to be in his place--although I thought he was opposed to the inclusion of the clause--that the passage of the Bill becomes ever more extraordinary.
As the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said, this clause goes to the heart of the Bill. Therefore, as the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip seems to find it somewhat peculiar that I should be sitting on these Benches without support, perhaps I should respond to him in the most friendly fashion and say that, if it is the heart or the centre of the Bill, it is surprising that neither his noble friend the Leader of the Opposition nor the Deputy Leader, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, are here to take part in the debate.
Lord Henley: I appreciate that the noble Baroness was supported soon after the debate began, but I was merely expressing doubt because she seemed to lack legal support at the beginning. I have my noble friend Lord Kingsland with me. He is not learned in terms of this House but is, nonetheless, very learned in the law; and I need him.
I should just respond to those noble Lords who have complained, if I can use that rather strong word, about the attitude of the Government Front Bench to the amendments which have been tabled; and, indeed, about our facial expressions, as was the case with the suggestions made by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. We are now on the 24th group of amendments on the Bill. We are at the end of the third day of the Committee stage. In practice, in the proceedings on most normal Bills--and I have taken the advice of my noble friend the Chief Whip on this--one would expect that to be an average day's business in this Chamber. As I say, we have reached the third day of the Committee stage of this Bill and we have considered 24 groups of amendments.
Lord Henley: I remind the noble Baroness that she is the Leader of the House, not the leader of her own group. I hope that she is not in any way accusing this side of the Committee of a filibuster. If she is, I remind her--there has been no filibuster--of the activities of her party back in 1971 on the Industrial Relations Bill that had a Committee stage which lasted for some 21 days.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I had no wish to raise the heat of this discussion. I simply pointed out to those noble Lords who accuse the Government Front Bench of not taking the detailed consideration of this Bill seriously that we are indeed making progress. However, it has been slow progress because the Committee has properly considered the detail of this Bill. That is why the Government Front Bench feels it is an inaccurate observation to say that this Bill is not being taken seriously.
I return to the heart of this Bill, which is indeed Clause 1. Everything in this Bill flows from it and without this clause the Bill has no meaning. I gather from the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Northesk--who has now returned to the Chamber--that he does not intend to divide the Committee on this Clause. Were he to do so, that would be a complete breach of the conventions of this Chamber. It would indeed be the equivalent of a vote against the Bill on Second Reading. The effect of this clause--
Baroness Jay of Paddington: That is why we accept it. However, I shall reply in precisely the way that I hope the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, will feel is an appropriate response to the detailed points that have been made on Clause 1. Perhaps it will be helpful if I first of all repeat what the intent of this clause is, as there appears to be some confusion here.
The effect of this clause is that no one in the future shall be a Member of your Lordships' House by virtue of a hereditary peerage. I shall return later to the question of the Writs and the points that were addressed by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. I emphasise to the Committee--I hope this meets the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who again mentioned the case of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington--that that is not necessarily the same as saying that no hereditary Peer shall be a Member of the House of Lords, as they, like everyone else, will become eligible to receive life peerages. I am happy to confirm that, as I did in the debate on Amendment No. 6 of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and today in the debate on Amendment No. 30 of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is not present at the moment.
As is explained in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, the effect of the clause is comprehensive. I appreciate that the Committee well understands that, given the terms of the amendments which we have discussed. However, for the purposes of clarity--and, I hope, finality on this point--I repeat that this clause applies to all hereditary Peers, whether in the peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom, and whether they are male or female, Royal or non-Royal, Peers by succession or Peers of first creation, holders of Baronies by Writ or in possession of a Patent of Creation, or sit by virtue of a Writ of Acceleration or by a peerage called out of abeyance. This clause marks once and for all the end of any automatic connection between a hereditary peerage and membership of the House of Lords.
Earl Ferrers: I ask a question for clarification. The noble Baroness was kind enough to say in response to my remark about people such as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, not being able to come here that such people could be offered life peerages. Who is eligible for life peerages and who grants the life peerages?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Noble Lords who at present sit by virtue of their hereditary peerages will, like every other citizen of this country, be eligible for life peerages. As I said in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, who sought to include Privy Counsellors as hereditary Peers sitting in the reformed House, of course it would be entirely appropriate for any political leader who wished to recommend to the Prime Minister particularly distinguished Members of his Benches who sat previously as hereditary Peers-- I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, would fall into that category--as suitable candidates for life peerages. It is a fairly straightforward point. It means that no one is excluded from the possibility of becoming a life Peer.
Perhaps I may answer another of the points of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. If as a result of the deliberations on the amendments to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, some hereditary Peers temporarily retain their seats in your Lordships' House, their right will no longer flow from their peerage but from their peerage in combination with a vote by other Members of the House.
There is a sense on these Benches--I hope that noble Lords will not feel that it is either discourteous or dismissive--that we see a certain degree of--can I use the word?--"humbug"in trying to improve the Bill as noble Lords have suggested. For noble Lords sitting on the Opposition Benches to argue that they are seeking to make the exclusion of hereditary Peers more effective would seem to go against some of the arguments they have made in other cases.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. As she has effectively accused me and other noble Lords of humbug in putting forward our arguments, I wonder whether she would answer this question: what would be wrong, what would be inexpedient, in expressing the purpose of the Bill in terms stating that no one shall be entitled to sit and vote in the House of Lords unless he or she has received a Writ of Summons? What would be wrong or difficult in adjusting Clause 4 to make it work--if that be the will of the Government, there is no question of parliamentary sovereignty--and making it retrospective? What would be difficult about that? That would meet the difficulties that we have seen, the difficulties that Mr. Lofthouse has seen and the difficulties that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Jauncey, has seen. We have never had an explanation as to why that would be difficult, except that it would mean a change to the Bill.
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