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Lord Campbell of Alloway: Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may ask a question. Leaving aside for a moment the position of my noble friend Lord Cranborne, which is a special position, can one have a Writ of Acceleration unless one is entitled to a hereditary peerage by succession?

Lord Henley: My understanding is that Writs of Acceleration are only available to the eldest sons of certain peerages. That is a question which the Government will no doubt answer in due course. The fact is that my noble friend was in such a position that he could be offered a Writ of Acceleration. However, I believe that many of us would argue that the honour he received was, as I put it, akin to a life peerage. That is why I raised this particular question in relation to my noble friend.

Lord Strabolgi: Perhaps I may say a few words about Writs of Acceleration. We must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for tabling the amendment. It enables the House to discuss the position of these particular writs and for the Government to give their views on them.

The Writ of Acceleration is really the third way to a seat in this House, the others being by way of Writ of Summons or Letters Patent. The position is uncertain, and that is why the constitution unit, who were working on a Lords reform Bill a few years ago, had a special clause in a three-clause Bill to take care of the holders or, I should say, holder, of Writs of Acceleration.

The first writ was granted in the reign of Edward IV. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley stated, there have been 94 since. Charles I summoned eight sons of Peers in 1641 in an attempt to secure a helpful House. That is rather reminiscent. By 1900 there had been 94 cases of Writs of Acceleration. During this century there have been four cases: two being to Cecils. One was to the grandfather of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. He came to this House in 1941 and later became the 5th Marquess and a very distinguished Leader of this House. He was always very kind to new Members such as myself, when we first came here. Then, of course, we remember the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, as a fine Leader of the House.

What is a Writ of Acceleration? I look forward to hearing the views of my noble friends on the Front Bench in that regard. It does not create a new peerage as the barony is still held by the father. As a peerage is inalienable, it cannot be transferred to a son. What a writ of this kind must be doing is granting to the son one of the attributes of a barony; that is, a seat in this House. But the right stems from a hereditary barony and is held,

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Another point arises in that regard. One of the consequences if this amendment were accepted would be that the father would go, but the son would remain. Also, it could lead to other claims for similar writs as a device to try and stay in. We have seen all kinds of ingenious ways of trying to get round the provisions of the Bill. But if that happened, it would be a long and lengthy process, no doubt with a reference to the Committee for Privileges, which was discussed in detail on the previous amendment, and would take a great deal of time. After the report of the committee to the House, a final decision would rest with Her Majesty, so it is not a course to be recommended.

The only holder of the peerage of a barony by Writ of Acceleration is the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. He has not been able to stay. He knows I intend to refer to him in my speech and gave me authority to do so, though he cannot be present. If it is not presumptuous of me, it would be better if the leader of the Conservative Opposition in this House proposed the noble Viscount for a life peerage. That would be the best solution. It would be well deserved and better than the solution proposed in the amendment which is not necessary and, I hope, will be either withdrawn or rejected.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: In replying to this brief but authoritative debate I too am sorry that the noble Viscount is not present. As Members of the Committee made clear, at the moment there is potentially only one beneficiary from this amendment; that is, the noble Viscount. Indeed, it was suggested that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, might have called his amendment, "Save the Salisbury One".

As the Government have made clear on several occasions, and as I tried to do in my response to the debate on Clause 1 stand part, the wording used in Clause 1 is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, described it, "loose"; it is comprehensive in that it excludes membership of the House by virtue of a Writ of Acceleration. As I said on that occasion--for the benefit, I hoped, of clarity and finality--this was because the Government intended to ensure that all the varied ways in which hereditary Peers might arrive in your Lordships' House were equally covered. And of course Amendment No. 56 deals with one of the rarest. While we on the Government Benches recognise the rare contribution of the noble Viscount--the person who could be the beneficiary if this amendment were to be accepted by the Committee--we do not accept that, as the unique contemporary user of this rare procedure, he should be singled out, nor that this rare class to which he belongs should be accepted.

It was also made clear on Clause 1 stand part--and the point has been made again by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi--that there is nothing in the Bill which prevents the holder of a hereditary peerage being proposed to take a life peerage in any subsequent activity by his political friends or by others who wish to propose him or her in that way.

As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said, it could be claimed that the Writ of Acceleration was a personal honour and therefore that the holders should be treated as contemporary life Peers. However, as has been

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pointed out--notably by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway--it is our advice that the holders of these Writs of Acceleration sit by virtue of a hereditary peerage. I recognise that the amendment applies only to existing Members of the Chamber and therefore is consistent with the Government's wish to ensure that this route into the House of Lords can be blocked off in the future. On the other hand, the whole point of Writs of Acceleration is that they are issued to the son in a peerage of his father.

However, in the Government's view--it is the view of our legal advisers and, although I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, as regards the contradictory views held by legal advisers, we stand by the view we have received--Members of this Chamber who sit here as holders of an accelerated peerage do so as the holders of a hereditary peerage, although that peerage may be held by one of their relations. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, pointed out, that view is reflected in paragraph 6 of the explanatory notes. As I said just a minute ago, the noble Viscount was mentioned because he is the only person at the moment who is a contemporary example of this particularly rare class.

We can always rely on my noble friend Lord Strabolgi for an authoritative opinion on the background to this matter. He mentioned a particular historical example. The fact that the holder of a peerage by virtue of acceleration is the holder of a hereditary peerage is confirmed by the case in 1689--I am sure that will attract the Committee's attention and support--of Charles Boyle, the eldest surviving son of the Earl of Burlington, who was summoned to Parliament in 1689 in his father's barony of Clifford. He died in his father's lifetime, leaving a son. On the death of the Earl's son in 1694 the grandson claimed and received a writ of summons in the barony. This illustrates that the effect of an acceleration is to hasten the descent of the dignity but not to change its nature.

The point has been well made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and others that there is nothing--as I have said on several occasions--to prevent a holder of the hereditary peerage, or indeed someone who is in receipt of a writ of acceleration, being proposed for a life peerage. This amendment is not one that the Government are willing to accept although we of course recognise the rare and distinguished service of the one person who exists at the moment who falls into this class. However, we do not think such a measure would be an appropriate way of using the statutory powers of this Bill. I hope that the Committee will not accept this amendment.

Lord Trefgarne: We have listened to the noble Baroness's response to this amendment, which was not unconvincingly delivered, if I may say so. However, the fact is that, with regard to the issue that has been raised by this amendment, there is more than one respectable legal opinion. The Government rest upon theirs, as they are entitled to do. However, I submit that it is no more respectable than some of the other views that have been expressed. We have come across this problem in connection with earlier amendments where there has

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been more than one respectable view. Why is it that this Bill has been drafted in a way which in a number of areas leaves its provisions open to more than one respectable interpretation?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: If you consult more than one doctor you will get more than one medical opinion and if you consult more than one lawyer you will get more than one legal opinion. In the Government's view, the legal advice that we, and in particular, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, have taken on this Bill is sufficient for us to proceed in the confident assertion that the advice we have is correct.

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