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The Earl of Erroll: The noble Lord mentioned jurisdiction. I give an illustration of how an hereditary Peer notices these things. I raised it with the Lord Lyon King of Arms when I saw him at the weekend. He pointed out something which worried me. The Weatherill amendment mentions the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain. There are no such people. There is the Earl Marshal of England, where his jurisdiction extends. It does not extend to Scotland. There is also the Lord Great Chamberlain of England. That is something which hereditary Peers notice which may be missed by others.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I take that point. However, as the noble Baroness said, it is still a question of jurisdiction. I should have said earlier that the committee specified in the amendment of the noble Lord also determines claims to Irish peerages which do not carry the right to a seat in this House. If one looks for perfect symmetry the question of the hereditary peerage will not operate.

Lord Nickson: Before the noble Lord sits down, with great diffidence perhaps I may question his normal infallibility. I point out that for once he has made the tiniest of errors. My noble friend on my right is a noble Lady, not a noble Baroness.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I am properly rebuked. I am sorry that I am not infallible. In this world only one person is infallible, and I was not attempting to speak ex cathedra.

The Earl of Northesk: I noted that at the beginning of his remarks the noble Lord had some sympathy for the thrust of the amendment. Good advocate that the noble Lord is, he then promptly demolished the amendment. While I have no difficulty with that,

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I inquire very gently whether the Government have any plans to reflect their sympathy for the thrust of the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I thought that I had dealt with it by saying that I understood the concerns and wanted to address them in the way that I did. I hope that I have done so.

Lord Trefgarne: I am very disappointed by the reply of the noble Lord. He said that a burglar could not expect to be tried by a jury comprised of burglars. However, no man is a burglar until he has been convicted. Therefore, he is entitled to be tried by a jury of good men and true. I believe that it is right for hereditary Peers, whose interests may well come before the Committee for Privileges despite the fact that by then they will not be Members of this House, to have proper representation on that committee. I do not believe that it is sufficient as the noble Lord suggests that they should simply attend to give evidence. No doubt that is possible. However, if it were possible for hereditary Peers who were unable to sit in this House to be co-opted on to the Committee for Privileges perhaps it would go some way towards dealing with the problem. I understand that at the moment that is not possible and only Members of this House can sit on the Committee for Privileges. That is not good enough. I commend the amendment to the House.

9.27 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 55) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 126.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Annaly, L.
Bell, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Brentford, V.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Chesham, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clinton, L.
Effingham, E.
Gray, L.
Jopling, L.
Mills, V.
Montrose, D.
Newall, L.
Northesk, E. [Teller.]
Nunburnholme, L.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Strathcarron, L.
Torrington, V.
Trefgarne, L. [Teller.]
Vivian, L.
Young, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Barnett, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brightman, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carlisle, E.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Devonport, V.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gilbert, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hampton, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of King's Heath, L. [Teller.]
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Kennet, L.
Kintore, E.
Kirkhill, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
McNair, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Newby, L.
O'Neill of Bengarve, B.
Orme, L.
Parry, L.
Paul, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Russell, E.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thornton, B.
Thurlow, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Walpole, L.
Warner, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

11 May 1999 : Column 1166

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 56:


After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

WRIT OF ACCELERATION

(" . Nothing in this Act shall exclude a peer who is, on the day before the coming into force of this Act, a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a writ of acceleration from continuing to be a member of the House.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 56 on behalf of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, in whose name the amendment stands. Perhaps I may start by saying what a privilege it is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, particularly in the light of his interesting remarks about "a" and "an" hereditary Peer. I do not know whether he will be following me in

11 May 1999 : Column 1167

this particular amendment, or am I to have the privilege, as I would take it, of being followed by the Leader of the House? The noble Lord, Lord Williams, said that he preferred "an". I took it to be government policy now that "a" was the accepted word but obviously I am wrong. There is some division, as always, on the Government Front Bench on these matters and I will leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to sort this out at some later stage, or perhaps the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will do that.

I think the intention of this amendment is fairly clear. There have been some four cases since 1896 in which Peers have come to sit in this House by virtue of a Writ of Acceleration. Two of those have belonged to what I think I can describe as the ancient House of Cecil. One of them was with us earlier today and I hope that he will still be around later in the person of my noble friend Lord Cranborne.

I believe everyone will agree that there can be little doubt that by any measure my noble friend is one of those whose wise counsel would be much missed by the House were he to be expelled when the tumbrels start rolling, along with myself and others. Noble Lords opposite, including the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, have said as much at various stages. But that is not what their Bill intended. I say "intended" because it is by no means clear to me whether my noble friend is a hereditary Peer.

Were my noble friend to die--heaven forbid--his son would become Viscount Cranborne in name, but his title, Lord Cecil of Essenden, would not be inherited. In any event, there is considerable doubt because conflicting cases over the years have resulted in different findings.

According to my reading of the Bill, my noble friend does not sit by virtue of a hereditary peerage but by virtue of a Writ of Acceleration, which we discussed earlier. Therefore, he would not be caught by the Bill, although there is some doubt about that.

A number of peerage experts have taken the same view. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord has read the views of Mr. John Lofthouse and has considered them. Indeed, we discussed them on an earlier occasion. Those experts--I do not know whether they include Mr. Lofthouse--held that my noble friend is in a position akin--dare I say it?--to a life Peer and would therefore have the right to continue to sit after the passage of the Bill. I understand that that is the appropriate interpretation, but there is some doubt about it.

Therefore, it was somewhat surprising to turn to the Notes on Clauses prepared for the Bill presumably under the direction of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and see that my noble friend was specifically targeted by the Bill. Indeed, in what must be a rare departure, my noble friend was specifically named in the notes as a candidate for exclusion.

Will the noble Baroness the Leader of the House tell the Committee whether those notes were approved by her and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor?

11 May 1999 : Column 1168

Are they the views of the Government? Is this the wish of the Government? Do they wish my noble friend, despite his considerable services to the House, to be thrown out along with others such as myself when the tumbrels start to roll?

The fact that he is specifically mentioned in the notes shows that thought must have been given to the issue and therefore it is important that the Committee is given an appropriate answer by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. Is that why the Bill has been framed in such a loose and possibly ineffective manner? Is it designed to trap my noble friend Lord Cranborne? Is that why the Government are resisting attempts to clarify the Bill to meet the doubts raised by Mr. Lofthouse? Is it all designed to keep my noble friend Lord Cranborne in the trap?

Another category of Peer included in the Bill is one which was not envisaged during discussions between my noble friend and the Prime Minister; these are Peers of first creation. It is extraordinary that the Bill sweeps out hereditary Peers of first creation; recipients of an honour which all of us would recognise as the highest this country can bestow and exactly equal to a life peerage.

I understand that the Government have recognised the bizarre nature of that case and as a result the Prime Minister has written to the eight Peers of first creation. The Government have quoted the letter on more than one occasion. He wrote:


    "The Government recognises, however, that in many important respects, the first holders of hereditary peerages are akin to life peerages and that the more controversial features of peerages by succession certainly do not apply to them. I am therefore writing to let you know that I will, if you desire it, recommend to Her Majesty that She should award you a life peerage to enable you to remain a Member of the House of Lords". Those are the words of the Prime Minister.

Is not the honour that the previous Prime Minister, through Her Majesty, accorded to my noble friend Lord Cranborne also something akin, in the words of the Prime Minister, to life peerages? Was he not singled out for a specific and rare distinction? Has he not shown how well that distinction was noted? Again, I refer to his years both as Leader of this House and as Leader of the Opposition.

Can the noble Baroness the Leader of the House therefore inform the House as to whether my noble friend has received such a letter; will he be receiving such a letter or is it the intention of the Government that he should go, along with myself and others, when the tumbrels begin to roll?

If the Government do not want to execute quite so distinguished a former Leader of the House by way of what one might describe as a precisely targeted rifle shot, I hope they will be able to give positive consideration to the amendment. If they do wish to carry out that execution of my noble friend, perhaps I may hope that in replying the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will make it clear to the House that its former

11 May 1999 : Column 1169

leader must go. We may then determine when and in what manner we may press the issue in the amendment. I beg to move.


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