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Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I must take issue with the noble Lord's judgment on that. Institutional shareholders have a genuine interest in seeing good governance and acceptable relationships between pay and performance. After all, they are judged

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on their ability to make sound judgments on where to allocate their investors' funds. A haphazard market- place is of no interest to them.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, is the Minister aware that my suggestion to overcome that problem was to have a show of hands?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord asked whether a show of hands would be the right methodology at a meeting. That does not take into account the issue of how to handle proxy voting.

Medicines: Advertising

2.59 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they are making in setting up an independent panel to review decisions on advertisements to be made by the Medicines Control Agency under the new Medicines (Advertising and Monitoring of Advertising) Amendment Regulations.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Medicines Control Agency issued a consultation letter to a wide range of professional, consumer and industry bodies asking for nominations of suitably qualified members for the panel. The closing date for nominations is 28th May 1999. The Government are aiming to have the panel in place by July.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, the Minister is no doubt aware of the strongly held view that these regulations are a classic case of gold plating which gives the Medicines Control Agency and the Department of Health new powers without any evidence at all that they are needed. Does the Minister accept that whatever the eventual composition of the panel, the regulations will not comply with the Human Rights Act? If he does not accept that, will he undertake to publish the legal advice that the department has received; or, perhaps, is the Minister relying on the fact that it seems from recent reports that the Act will not be brought into force until the year 2001?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the amending regulations make explicit those powers which were implicit in the principal regulations and in the Medicines Act 1968 which provided for health Ministers to be responsible for the control of advertising of medicines. During the drafting of the regulations Ministers sought counsel's advice on the compatibility of the regulations with the European Convention on Human Rights. Ministers were assured that the regulations, even without the review procedure which we have introduced, comply fully with the relevant principles of the convention. In relation to the publication of that legal advice, I understand that that

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was debated in another place a week or so ago and that Ministers are considering the point at the moment. The noble Lord's point will be communicated to them.

Earl Howe: My Lords, does the Minister accept that pharmaceutical companies believe that they are entitled to an independent appeal mechanism on decisions made by the Medicines Control Agency and that the proposed review panel will not provide that mechanism? How do the Government intend to make the process transparent and fair?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I believe that the Government have made this a fair and transparent system. Let me make it clear that the system underpins self-regulation by making the procedures clearer than was the case in the past. Most of the cases dealt with by the MCA will, I believe, be dealt with through negotiation. Only a relatively small number of cases will be dealt with formally. Companies of course have the right to make written representations before final decisions are taken. Those representations will be considered by the independent review panel. In taking the final decision Ministers will pay scrupulous attention to the review panel's recommendations. If Ministers depart from those recommendations, their reasons will be given in writing. The whole process is, of course, open to challenge by judicial review.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, in clarification of his assurance that consumer, professional and industry interests will be represented on this new panel, can the Minister give the House an assurance that consumer interests will be properly represented?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, my Lords. In line with the Nolan recommendations, we are consulting with industry, professional and consumer interests on the nomination of suitably qualified people. As regards the consideration of individual cases, advice will be given by three independent people, comprising those with experience in the practice of human medicine or pharmacy; in the law, with particular reference to medicines or advertising; and a lay person with particular interest in medicines, public health or consumer affairs. I hope that that meets the point that has been made.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there is considerable concern among the complementary medicines associations that the MCA is liable to confer medicinal status on herbal products? Will he ensure that this does not occur?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I suspect that the noble Earl refers to what are known as "borderline issues"; namely, the proposals which are currently being considered to clarify the borderline between medicines and other products. That is a separate and distinct issue from the Question on the Order Paper. A review and a consultation process have been undertaken. Ministers will announce a response on this as soon as possible.

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House of Lords Bill

3.3 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Weatherill moved Amendment No. 31:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Section 1 shall not apply in relation to anyone excepted from it by or in accordance with Standing Orders of the House.
(2) At any one time no more than 90 people shall be excepted from section 1; but anyone excepted as holder of the office of Earl Marshal, or as performing the office of Lord Great Chamberlain, shall not count towards that limit.
(3) Once excepted from section 1, a person shall continue to be so throughout his life (until an Act of Parliament provides to the contrary).
(4) A person may be excepted from section 1 by or in accordance with Standing Orders made in anticipation of the enactment or commencement of this section.
(5) Any question whether a person is excepted from section 1 shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments, whose certificate shall be conclusive.")

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 31 stands in my name and that of my noble friends Lord Marsh, Lord Carnarvon and Lord Tenby. I confess that it is over 30 years since I last moved an amendment. In 1966 I moved an amendment to the selective employment tax legislation. It was the only amendment to be accepted by the government on that occasion. I hope that the amendment I propose this afternoon will meet with similar approval.

I intend to err on the side of brevity, which is normally a safe course of action in this Chamber. The amendment has already featured prominently in our discussions and we shall have further opportunities to debate the detail of it later. At one stage I thought it would be appropriate for me simply to get up and say, "I beg to move". However, I must go into rather more detail this afternoon.

Our purpose is to provide a means of easing the transition from the present Chamber to a fully reformed second Chamber by providing for 92 of your Lordships who at present sit in the Chamber by virtue of a hereditary peerage and who would otherwise be covered by the provisions of Clause 1 to be excluded from those provisions and so continue to sit in this Chamber until it is fully reformed.

My task now is to describe how the amendment will work. I shall not go into all the detail of the scheme behind it as that is to be provided for by Standing Order. The Committee will be aware that the Clerk of the Parliaments has produced a paper with proposals for that. Our amendment should be read in conjunction with that paper. The details of the full scheme will be decided

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only after consideration by the Procedure Committee and a report from that committee. I am of course happy to discuss how it is envisaged that the system will work but it is an important detail that arises at a later stage.

The Committee will be aware that it has been agreed that the Bill should be recommitted, if this amendment is accepted, to allow for consideration of amendments to the amendment. Subsection (1) of the proposed new clause provides for exclusion from the provisions of Clause 1 of the Bill to which I have already referred. Subsection (2) sets the number to be excluded. The Committee will see that the amendment specifies the figure of 90, excluding the holders of the offices of Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain: hence the overall figure of 92. How did we arrive at this figure? First, we believed that it would be appropriate if the hereditary Peers of each of the main political parties, and of the Cross-Benchers, were able to elect a proportion of their number who would continue to sit. The proportion is fixed at 10 per cent of the whole. That seemed appropriate given that by no means all hereditary Peers attend the Chamber on a regular basis.

The total number of hereditary Peers is 750: therefore the total to be elected under this heading would be 75. We suggest that the Labour Party elect two, the Conservative Party, 42, the Liberal Democrats, three and the Cross-Benchers, 28. These figures reflect the proportions of the hereditary Peers who support each party or sit on the Cross Benches at present.

Secondly, as the Committee knows, some hereditary Peers serve the Chamber as Deputy Speakers or Chairmen. At present the number of hereditary Peers who are Deputy Speakers is 15. We believe therefore that that would be an appropriate number to add to the 75--hence the 90 specified in subsection (2). With the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain added the number becomes 92.

Subsection (3) provides that all those excepted from subsection (1) shall sit for life or until a further Act reforming the House removes that right. Any proposal for retirement for any reason would change the very nature of the peerage, and that is beyond the scope of the Bill.

Subsection (4) provides for the new clause to operate by means of Standing Orders which may be made before the Act receives Royal Assent or comes into force so that we can get on with the process in the meantime.

Subsection (5) gives the Clerk of the Parliaments the power to make the necessary certificate and for that power to be conclusive. The proposed Standing Order would provide for the Clerk of the Parliaments to refer any question relating to the propriety of the process of election to the Committee for Privileges. The subsection therefore simply gives the Clerk of the Parliaments the necessary powers to act as the returning officer for us.

I hope that that is clear. Some Members of the Committee will no doubt wish to ask questions during the course of the debate.

I can perhaps deal with three further points. First, why have we left so much to Standing Orders? We did so because we envisaged that the arrangements would be

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temporary and that this would be the most convenient way of making provision. This method has the advantage that more detailed provision on the face of the Bill would have to be agreed by another place, which would therefore have as great a say in determining the process as the House of Lords. Of course, another place could be trusted but in this way we order our own affairs in the matter.

I hope that the Committee will agree with me that the system of election set out in the papers of the Clerk of the Parliaments is transparent and appropriately dignified. We are, after all, disposing of seats in Parliament. That is why we felt there should be one system by which all parties and the Cross-Benchers elect their respective hereditary representative Peers, the system to be supervised by the Clerk of the Parliaments and through him by the House as a whole.

Secondly, the Committee will note that subsection (2) specifies a maximum, not an absolute, number of hereditary Peers who would continue to sit in the House under the provisions of the new clause. There is nothing sinister about that. Our intention is that there should always be 92 while the system lasts. That is, I think, everyone's intention, but I would be grateful if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would confirm it on behalf of the Government. The maximum is there because we wished to avoid any danger of doubts arising as to the validity of proceedings in the House if the number of excepted Peers fell temporarily because one of them had recently died.

That brings me to my third point. If the number of 92 is to be maintained, we clearly need a method of replacing any of the original 92 if one dies. The proposal embodied in the papers of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the draft Standing Order is that the replacement should be the nearest runner-up in the relevant category in the original election. That is undoubtedly the simplest solution, and that is why it is proposed. It is a robust solution for a few years at least, and everything we are discussing in relation to the Bill is predicated on that timescale. If other provisions needed to be made, the Standing Order could be amended to that end.

One other point remains. The Committee will have noted Amendment No. 152 in my name and in the names of some of my noble friends, which is an amendment to the Long Title. If the Committee agrees to Amendment No. 31 today that technical amendment will be necessary.

I commend Amendment No. 31 to the Committee. We hope that it will provide a means by which the Bill, which the Government assure us is itself a stage towards a wider reform of the House, may be amended in such a way that it commands wider support among the Members of the House of Lords and in the country and thus provides a better first stage of a promised reform. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I hope it will be of assistance to the Committee if at the outset of what I am sure will be a long and interesting debate I state the Government's position on the amendment. It is the

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most significant amendment to the Bill, significant because it represents an inspired way forward by consensus towards major constitutional change.

The possibility of consensus arose last December when the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and others put forward the proposal to which the amendment and the accompanying draft Standing Order would now give effect. This debate will, I hope, confirm that there is widespread acceptance of that proposal among many Members of the Committee on all sides.

I first thank all noble Lords who have agreed to withdraw amendments they had tabled to this amendment on the basis that they will table them again for future debate if, as a result of today's proceedings, the amendment is accepted and recommitted to the Committee as a clause in the Bill itself. Their co-operation is responsible, well-judged and much appreciated. It has enabled a full and detailed examination of the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, without the distraction and possible confusion that might have been caused by attempting to debate the 26 amendments so far tabled to it.

I am also grateful, as, I am sure, is the whole Committee, to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, for his lucid exposition of the purpose and effect of his amendment, to which the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, the noble Earl, Lord Carnarvon, and the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, have also put their names. This has set today's debate off on a firm footing. No Member of the Committee, having heard the noble Lord's speech, can be in any doubt as to what the amendment is intended to achieve. Some may disagree with that intention. No doubt, if the amendment is agreed, they will seek to return to their criticisms on recommittal, but at least today's debate will have been informed by absolute clarity.

I explained at a little length on Second Reading why the Government had said they were attracted by the scheme to which Amendment No. 31 would give effect. As the noble Lord said, we considered that it offered a way to achieve the Government's policy, but in stages and by consensus. We know that it is a compromise, and none the worse for that. It does not give perfect satisfaction to my party. It is not the complete fulfilment of our manifesto commitment, on which the Government are entitled to insist. But the best compromises often do not give complete satisfaction to anyone. That is the nature of compromise.

What the Government seek from this compromise is that the progress of the Bill, as amended by the "Weatherill amendment", will not be unreasonably impeded and that the rest of their legislative programme will not be unreasonably impeded.

Members of the Committee will well understand that the Government cannot both agree a compromise which amounts to a material reduction of its manifesto commitment that the right of hereditary Peers--that is, all hereditary Peers--to sit and vote in the House of Lords will be ended by statute and at the same time accept unreasonable obstruction in the delivery of their legislative programme.

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A great deal of work has been done on the detail of the amendment and the accompanying Standing Order. They fit together as a coherent policy which I am satisfied is technically deliverable. Many Members of the Committee may wish today to focus on the detailed mechanics for how the scheme for identifying hereditary Peers to be excepted from the general exclusion from the House will work in practice. The clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, makes no mention of the system for identifying excepted Peers beyond pointing us in the direction of the Standing Orders. The detail is contained in the draft Standing Orders. The noble Lord explained clearly why he had decided to adopt that approach and why it would not be appropriate to set out the mechanics in the statute itself.

The transitional House which will be created as a result of the Bill will be exactly that: transitional and not permanent. The Government are absolutely committed to moving to stage two in the reform process. Press speculation that that may not be so is fanciful and without any foundation at all. The notion that the Government would even contemplate the notion of the Weatherill amendment becoming a permanent settlement, as distinct from a short-term compromise, is fanciful. I make it absolutely plain that stage two reform will take place and when it does the hereditary Peers who remain, if the Weatherill amendment passes, will cease to be Members of this House. Then and only then will the Government have delivered 100 per cent on their manifesto commitment.

It really is to stand logic and experience on its head to imagine that this Government, with their great popular majority and their manifesto pledge, would tolerate 10 per cent of the hereditary peerage remaining for long. The 10 per cent will go when stage two has taken place and their presence is a guarantee that stage two will take place. Also, the hereditary Peers who remain temporarily will be here not just because they are hereditaries but because they have been elected by their fellow hereditaries. Therefore, they will have greater authority.

Not only have I made plain the Government's intention to secure 100 per cent delivery of their manifesto commitment but it is, incidentally, reflected in the Weatherill amendment, which provides in subsection (3) that:

    "Once excepted from section 1, a person shall continue to be so throughout his life (until an Act of Parliament provides to the contrary". Nothing could make plainer the intent of further reform.

From a drafting point of view, there is no need to include those words on the face of the Bill. An Act of Parliament can always override preceding legislation. But the words reflect the message which I sought to convey unequivocally; namely, the Government's absolute determination to deliver on the entirety of their manifesto commitment.

If this amendment is accepted, we shall no doubt discuss the arrangements for the proposed scheme currently set out in the draft Standing Order in the context of Amendments Nos. 61A and 144A and on the subsequent occasion, when the 26 amendments which

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have been tabled to this amendment come to be considered. I do not propose to go into such detail now other than to endorse the view of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and say that we too believe firmly that such detail is a matter for the Standing Order and not for the face of the Bill.

If the amendment is accepted, I should point out that the mechanics of the scheme will be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny by the Procedure Committee and brought back to the House for final decision.

I do not underestimate the significance of the operational detail of the scheme and I appreciate the sensitivities about the distribution of the hereditary Peers who will remain in the transitional House among the four groupings in the House about the electorates and the electoral arrangements. But I believe that it is important at this stage to focus the debate on the fundamental point of policy and principle at the heart of the amendment itself; that is, that 90 hereditary Peers will be allowed to stay on in the transitional House in accordance with whatever mechanism for their identification is set out in the Standing Order; that the two hereditary officeholders--the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain--will also remain; and that excepted Peers will remain Members for life or until stage two of the reform of the House takes effect; that it will be possible to have the elections before the Bill itself is enacted to allow a seamless transition to the next Session; and that the outcome of those elections will be certified by the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Before concluding, I address one specific point in relation to subsection (2) of the amendment which provides that no more than 90 people shall be excepted from Clause 1. I am aware of the general concern on the Benches opposite about there being a ceiling of 90 rather than a fixed number. As the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, explained earlier, there is nothing sinister--I use his word--about that provision. It does not break faith with the terms of the agreement. There is a perfectly straightforward and rational explanation for drafting the amendment in terms of a maximum; that is, the practical and legal complexity of providing for an absolute number.

The obviously practical difficulty is that an absolute number would not take account of the fact that any excepted Peer may die. For purely administrative reasons, there may well be a short gap in time before the number could be brought back up from 89 to 90 to allow the necessary arrangements to be made to fill the vacancy. If the number 90 were fixed in the Bill, what would be the consequence of there being fewer than 90 if the statute provided that there had to be 90?

Amendment No. 45 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, proposes a time limit for filling the vacancy. But even that has its practical difficulties as we shall see when we come to the debate on his amendment on recommittal. So to provide a maximum of 90 and to rely on the settled intentions of the House to make the necessary arrangements in Standing Orders, as well as on the parties to fulfil them, is the best way

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to deliver the policy. The draft Standing Order makes it quite clear that should a vacancy arise due to the death of an excepted Peer, that place will be filled.

I respond to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, by saying quite unequivocally to the House that that figure of 90 will be honoured by the Government throughout the period of the transitional House.

So I recap. As I announced on Second Reading, the Government would be prepared to accept the inclusion of this amendment in the Bill. Acceptance of the proposal is an earnest of our good intention. It is a guarantee to those who fear that we shall not press ahead with stage two that we shall do so. It is a guarantee also that we shall press ahead to full delivery of our manifesto commitment to remove all hereditary Peers. It gives the 90 excepted Peers, whose election will have given them greater authority and shows that they have the confidence of their colleagues, a say in the deliberations of this House about its long-term future.

What the Government expect in return is that there will be no unreasonable obstruction of the progress of the Bill or the rest of the legislative programme beyond proper scrutiny of legislation in accordance with the conventions of the House. On that basis I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, that the Government will support him if the Committee divides on the amendment.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: At the outset I join the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and others who have proposed the amendment. I also congratulate the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on the tone in which he accepted the principle behind the amendment. If I may say so, it makes a stark contrast to the "Irvine the Terrible" that we have heard in the past; it makes way for something entirely different and is very welcome.

Let me say at the very start that it is a pleasure to be allowed to debate the Bill that has been in being since last November--in being but not in Parliament--and today is the first time that the Government have begun to accept that their Bill is flawed. Perhaps it is here that the real debate about the future begins. After all, there was something rather odd about taking through another place a Bill which everyone knew was not the Bill the Government intended to pass. But then there has been something odd about the whole process. We are still being compelled forcibly forward on a journey to an undeclared destination; the train rattles on and behind us the wrecker gangs move in to jemmy up the railway tracks, leaving nothing in their place. This has the authentic ring of the Blair government; a restless, headstrong rush into new projects without any clear view of what the outcome will be. Time after time we have seen the castles built of rhetoric, and time and time again they are found to be just castles in the air.

The Government are good at starting things--I give them that--but not so good at finishing them. We have always suspected that, but now we have the proof. Let us take devolution. The confusion and in-fighting in

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Government ranks that is already following the creation of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly show how thoroughly the party opposite have failed to think those policies through. Who now, for example, in the light of last Thursday, thinks that the House of Lords was wrong to take the stand that we did on tuition fees in Scotland? Who now thinks in the light of Falkirk and Carmarthen that the House was wrong to take the stand it did on the issue of handing down to the people candidates in closed lists from on high. The Government would not listen; they had not thought it through. It is exactly the same in the case of the future of the House.

If we turn to the Labour evidence to the Royal Commission, what do we find? Once I had gone beyond the cover, with its yellow star floating over a new millennium like something out of Mao's millennialist New China 1949, I was struck by the air-brushing out of the word "democratic"; the word "democratic", which had figured so prominently in the manifesto, had disappeared. I was also struck at how significantly the report failed to engage at any point with the authoritative report of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. When it came to a conclusion, what did I find? The press statement said:

    "It would not be right for the party of Government to make detailed, specific recommendations". Does that not defy belief? First, the Government are driven to set up a Royal Commission they never wanted; then they use the Royal Commission they never wanted as a cop out for stating they must not reveal a policy they have not decided. They say that it would not right for the Government yet to express a specific detailed view, and meanwhile the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor makes a commitment to stage two.

Last week the Government had the best possible opportunity to lay out their thoughts for the future and they ducked it. How can it be right for the Government to present the Bill, a blueprint for the demolition of half of Parliament, without even a back-of-the-manifesto pencil sketch of what will be put in its place? If it is not yet right to express a view on the future, is it not then the time to stop the Bill, to set it aside until a proper consensus for reform can be built? Consensus is required and, I have always believed, is achievable.

The Labour Party evidence declares that the Bill before your Lordships today is,

    "a source of genuine pride and pleasure". It goes on:

    "It is a matter of particular pleasure that the Bill should be in Parliament this year, as we celebrate our 100th anniversary". So that is it: the Bill we are debating today is the centenary gift for the members of the new model Labour Party.

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