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Lord Rees: I have a question which I directed to a degree to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor

29 Apr 1999 : Column 540

on Tuesday but I did not receive a satisfactory answer. If Clause 1 is effective and deprives our hereditary colleagues of a seat in this House, what is the point of Clause 4(2)?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: I am sorry if I did not make that clear. I made the point that that was in order to enable the hereditary Peers, who were prevented from membership by virtue of their hereditary peerage, from assuming their citizens' rights and enfranchising them.

The Earl of Erroll: Before the Lord Privy Seal sits down, I feel that she has not answered the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Grantley. Noble Lords keep quoting Pepper v. Hart. I understood that before Pepper v. Hart, the exact wording mattered in British law. In other words, the manifesto could not be put into the Bill because at this moment I am not sitting and voting; I am standing and speaking. Therefore, this situation would literally not have been covered.

I understood that Pepper v. Hart--this is a serious point--allowed one to take into account the debates that took place on both sides in deciding the intention of legislation when we were trying to comply with European legislation. In that case, can we rely on Pepper v. Hart to interpret all debates and ministerial replies in the way in which the Government would like? If we get it wrong, it will be wrong. That is what worries me.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: I say to the noble Earl, as I said in my reply, that the Government have taken legal advice on this matter. Some contributions by noble Lords seem to suggest that we sat down in a restaurant and wrote this Bill out over a cup of coffee or something stronger. This Bill was constructed in the usual way, with enormously valuable legal advice. It is regarded as effective by my noble and learned friend and many others whom he consulted and whom the Government consulted. As neither the noble Lord nor I is a lawyer, I am prepared to stand on that legal advice and to defer once again to the sovereignty of Parliament.

Lord Trefgarne: I suggested, together with my noble friend Lord Northesk, that we have the debate on Clause 1 stand part. It is now time to bring that debate to a close. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her long and detailed reply to many of the points raised. Clearly she has not convinced very many noble Lords.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Trefgarne: If noble Lords opposite are convinced, then I am happy. Perhaps I may make one point. The noble Baroness referred to the fact that hereditary Peers are here by accident of birth. She should know that my mother takes great exception to that remark!

Clause 1 agreed to.

House resumed.

        House adjourned at two minutes before ten o'clock.

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