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The Earl of Kinnoull had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 58:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Section 1 shall not apply in relation to any one excepted from it ("a working hereditary peer") by or in accordance with Standing Orders of the House.
(2) At any one time no more than 150 working hereditary peers shall be excepted from section 1.
(3) A working hereditary peer shall be entitled to be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of that peerage until the day on which he attains the age of 75 years or that on which he certifies his wish to retire by notice given in writing to the Lord Chancellor.

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(4) On the death, retirement or resignation of a working hereditary peer, a new member of the House of Lords shall be appointed from amongst the number of members of the hereditary peerage who had previously been entitled to sit and vote in the House of Lords for a period of at least five years, or who meet such other qualifications as may be set out in Standing Orders.")

Lord Trefgarne: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and at his request, I rise to speak to the amendment. Having studied the amendment rather more carefully now after my noble friend asked me to deal with it, it seems to be very close to those which most of us withdrew because they related to the so-called Weatherill amendment to which your Lordships agreed. I think it would be better if my noble friend moves his amendment when the so-called Weatherill amendment is recommitted. I shall therefore not move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 58 not moved.]

The Earl of Kinnoull had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 59:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) There shall be an Appointments Committee whose function shall be to make recommendations to Her Majesty for the conferment of life peerages in accordance with the Life Peerages Act 1958, and for appointment of working hereditary peers to the House of Lords.
(2) The chairman of the Committee shall be a retired Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.
(3) The members of the Committee shall include the Leader of the House of Lords, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, the leader of the next largest party in the House of Lords, the Convenor of the Cross Bench peers in the House of Lords, the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords, and five other external members appointed by the Privy Council.
(4) In considering its recommendations under subsection (1) the committee shall take account of a person's availability and willingness to serve actively as a member of the House of Lords.")

Lord Trefgarne: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, this amendment concerns a slightly different matter. It refers to the independent appointments committee. I understand that the amendment has not been linked with other amendments and, on reflection, I think it should be. But I am not certain whether other noble Lords with amendments with which this amendment might be linked are ready for that. Therefore, it might be better if I do not move the amendment provided the matter can be discussed with the subsequent amendments, Amendments Nos. 79 and 80, when we reach them.

[Amendment No. 59 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 60 to 61A not moved.]

Clause 2 [Removal of disqualifications in relation to the House of Commons]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): I should point out to the Committee that, if Amendment No. 62 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 63 to 68 inclusive.

[Amendments No. 62 and 63 not moved.]

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The Earl of Clanwilliam had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 64:

Page 1, line 7, after ("peerage") insert ("who is not a member of the House of Lords by virtue of section 1(2)")

The noble Earl said: This is a consequential amendment to Amendment No. 26, to which I have spoken previously and to which I will return at a later date.

[Amendment No. 64 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 65 to 69 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 70:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) During the period while this Act remains in force, the number of members of the House of Lords shall be no greater than the number of members of that House on the day this Act comes into force.
(2) The Appointments Commission may, on the death of a member of the House of Lords, recommend to Her Majesty the appointment of a person to fill the vacancy.")

The noble Lord said: Since my noble friend is not here and I have discovered that we have an amendment, Amendment No. 91, which is grouped with this amendment, and since it is the last grouping of the evening, so we shall have an early night when we have disposed of this matter, perhaps I may take over my noble friend's amendment and move it on his behalf and also speak briefly to mine.

I do not want to second guess the intentions of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick, but the thinking behind this amendment is to probe the Government's thinking as to what they feel about the total size of the transitionary House. As has been debated on earlier amendments, the Bill creates a new House, a House which will exist largely on the basis of patronage--although, I am glad to say, not entirely--and the Prime Minister of the day will be able to decide who comes to the House to sit and vote. Before noble Lords on the Government Front Bench get excited, I am aware that there is a vague idea floating around that there is to be an appointments commission. I have seen no evidence of it and I must assume that it certainly will not be in existence when the Bill comes into force. While, in theory, there is currently an ability for Prime Ministers to increase the number of Peers substantially, in practice, because of the overall number of existing Peers, it is extremely difficult to appoint enough to the House to work up a majority.

That situation will not apply when the Act comes into force. Some 650 Peers will be removed and, with the Weatherill amendment, we will have a House of some 550 to 600 Members. We have reached a figure of 615 as being roughly the figure that the Government will need if they are to move towards broad parity. The purpose of the amendments is to probe the Government's thinking about the size of House they want as a transitional Chamber. They are not concerned with the fully reformed House, the House post the Royal

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Commission. The Labour Party has given its views on that and I do not want to dwell on that territory more than I have already.

It is an important issue. In moving my noble friend's amendment, and in the light of our Amendment No. 91, I reserve the right to consider what has been said. In the meantime, I beg to move.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick: I apologise for being late. Being rather inexperienced, I got caught on the hop.

As my noble friend Lord Strathclyde has said, the purpose of the amendment is to put a cap on the size of the House of Lords after the Bill comes into force as an Act in order that no Prime Minister of a future government can flood the House by creating an unlimited number of new Peers. As the Government have told us on numerous occasions, they have a mandate to bring forward this major constitutional change. I wish to ask the Government for some clarity about the transitional stage and why there has not been more depth of thinking about what the transitional or interim House will be.

Many people have likened this stage of the transition to a train leaving a station. We have a train leaving a station and--after Amendment No. 31 was agreed to--we know that the train has 90 seats for hereditary Peers. If, for one reason or another, one of those seats is unfilled, then another hereditary Peer will fill it. But it seems extraordinary that we also have a large number of seats which are to be filled by appointed Peers, but we do not know how many of those seats there are. Here we have different rules for different passengers. One set of passengers has a set number of seats; but we simply do not know how many seats the other set will have, or, more importantly, how many seats they may need in the future. This is an extraordinary train. It does not run to a timetable. It is not like an old-fashioned train that huffs and puffs slowly along the line and tends to be reliable. This is a rather modern diesel train. It has a "smelly taste"; it makes little noise to tell us what is happening; and it could be unreliable.

We know that the Government seek broad parity in the interim transitional House. We know that if there are, let us say, 100 or so Peers on the Benches of the main opposition parties, 100 or so Peers would be sought to provide parity on the Government Benches. We also know that there will be additional Liberal Democrat Peers, Cross-Benchers and Lords Spiritual. But we do not know what the composition of the House will be.

What bothers me is a suspicion about what will happen to this House. It may not happen under this Government. But the Government may have a problem in the near future. They may lose control and a coalition may be formed. There is suspicion about what a future government might do with the interim House. Power is intoxicating, and too much will eventually lead to abuse of power. The amendment seeks to ensure that the interim House is stable and that there is no temptation for a Prime Minister of the day to produce a political poodle.

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The noble Lord, Lord Carter, has said that the Government have made their intentions clear. But I am a slow learner. Like many noble Lords, I am unclear as to what will happen. The noble Lord also said that the Government have given assurances regarding what will happen. Why, if the Government have said all that, can they not enshrine it in the Bill? Why can they not make matters clear and assure us regarding what will happen? It would be much easier to judge the Government by their deeds rather than their superb rhetoric.

The argument is not unreasonable. We have only to look at the recent case of beef on the bone and the question of devolution of power to the Welsh Assembly. On 2nd June 1998, the noble Lord, Lord Williams, gave the House an assurance that legislation relating to beef on the bone would not be devolved. Yet in April this year we discovered that that was wrong and that the order would be devolved. What we are seeing is a government giving assurances at one time and then saying what they want legislation to mean later.

It is therefore important to crystallise what the interim House will be. It would be terrible if the final version was the result of a metamorphosing of the interim House by the Prime Minister of the day adding more Peers to it rather than legislating properly for the final version.

That is what the amendment is about. I seek clarification from the Government as to what the interim House will be and to give assurances about it. If they cannot do that, then all I can say is that it breeds a suspicion of what will happen. I beg to move.

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