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Lord Davies of Oldham: I did not think that at any stage in this debate I should be substantially in agreement with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, but let me assure the Committee that the amendments that they propose commend themselves to some of us on these Benches.
Let us be absolutely clear about the situation. Many of us believe that we are involved in the Bill's passage as a small step towards improving what is, inevitably, an imperfect democracy in this country. All democracies are imperfect and can be changed by intelligent reform. Our democracy is less perfect than some. It certainly remains imperfect while such a substantial role is played in our deliberations by the hereditary peerage. That is why the Bill is before the Committee and why we support it.
But many of us who are Members of this House and who play our part in advancing democracy have no pretensions at all to joining the aristocracy or to glorying in the title that we now enjoy. I use the word "enjoy" in this sense: I have my title because it is the only way in which I can participate in the work of the upper Chamber. I had to become a Peer. I did not take the title because I had any wish to be associated with the attributes of the aristocracy through the ages--quite the opposite: the whole of my political life has been dedicated to challenging so many of those values. I am well aware of the element of affection that gave rise to the expression, "Everybody loves a Lord". I have not noticed it a great deal in my own particular circumstance, but that may be because I do not have the hereditary quality which is a crucial dimension. However, I assure the Committee--
Earl Ferrers: Perhaps I may intervene briefly. The noble Lord's remarks are fascinating. If he had such a huge dislike of coming to the House of Lords, why did he do so? Why did he not go to the House of Commons?
Lord Davies of Oldham: I did not say that I arrived in the House of Lords in preference to the House of Commons. I have had a series of opportunities to serve in the lower House. I should certainly have welcomed
The only reason why the amendment is possibly misjudged is that the real change that is to be effected must surely follow the Royal Commission's report and the establishment, not of an interim House but of the new second Chamber. That will be the time to consider this. I hope that the Royal Commission will receive endless representations regarding this matter.
Whatever happens, the Second Chamber needs its name changed from "House of Lords". I am by no means convinced that that should apply to the interim Chamber. I fear that if we give a semblance of radical change to the interim Chamber precisely the anxieties expressed so often on the Benches opposite, that the interim Chamber will appear to be a sound enough reform for no further progress to be necessary, may come to pass. For that reason I am not sure that the amendment should be applied to the interim House. But I assure the noble Earl that if he is not part of our counsels in the future--I wish him well with regard to the interim Chamber--very many of us on this side of the House will argue the very case that he has made today.
The Earl of Erroll: It is important not to pretend that the transitional Chamber will be a continuation of what is here now; it will not. It will be a complete break from the present situation. To rename it at this stage will be to highlight the great constitutional change that is taking place. I find some inconsistency in the approach of those life Peers who wish, as if by association, almost to take on the cloak of the hereditary peerage that is about to disappear.
I agree and disagree with my noble kinswoman Lady Saltoun. I agree that there is a problem in the use of the term "Lord of Parliament". It would cause great confusion in Scotland if one had lairds and Lords of Parliament. That expression means something very different. However, to add "MS" after one's name may have sclerotic connotations. I tend to think of it as denoting an unfortunate disease from which certain friends suffer. I would hate that to be associated with the interim or transitional Chamber, or any future Chamber for that matter.
Lord Marlesford: The Government have done a most wonderful job. At last, beneath that aristocratic exterior I find in my noble friend Lord Ferrers a Maoist spark burning deep down. I remind your Lordships that for the first 20 years or so after the liberation of China all ranks were abolished and officers wore exactly the same clothes as everybody else. For a while badges of rank did not change but the cut of the uniform began to change. As the cut became better one realised that the rank was higher. Now they have gone back to the gold braid and everything else that everyone so much enjoys.
I was grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, at whose feet in matters of political philosophy I used to sit many years ago as an undergraduate, referred us to the more relevant example of the period of the French Revolution. It is terribly important that we give proper due to those of our hereditary brethren who have served so well and who may be leaving us. I believe that we should reflect what they have done. The French had a very good system. I suggest that those who are departing should use the French prefix--or perhaps suffix--"ci-devant". The term "Lord of Parliament" is correct and those who are departing should have it but should be known as "ci-devant LP".
The Earl of Strafford: I do not want to be a party pooper, but I disagree with almost everything that has been said in this debate, particularly by hereditary Peers. I believe that much of what has been said is sour grapes. We are dumbing down the status of the upper House. I believe that the titles, including those of life Peers, are very important. One is selective about how one uses one's title, whether one has a hereditary or life peerage. For instance, when the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, writes in The Times he does not write as Lord Rees-Mogg but as William Rees-Mogg because it is appropriate to that situation. But, given the background to this House, to change the name would be crazy. People understand the House of Lords and like it.
I believe that life Peers are worthy followers of all hereditary Peers. After all, all hereditary Peers way back--it does not matter when the title was bestowed--did something which was considered worthwhile at the time. I had an ancestor who was rather good at fighting the French and that was how he got his title. The great thing about life Peers is that they are a slice of the meritocracy. When one comes here one takes part in ceremony and is clothed in ermine. One takes on the mantle of all others who have served here. It would be a great mistake to ditch all of that and adopt a Maoist approach or the method adopted by the French during
The Earl of Dudley: Without disrespect to the Committee, I believe that this debate serves to remind us that this House is and has been for many centuries very much like Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It is a wonderland that has served this nation well over many generations. Some of the suggestions made this afternoon will do nothing but take away the magic of this wonderland. That magic should remain as part of the whole tradition of this institution and should not be lost even when we hereditaries go. Any hereditary Peer who believes that outside this House in this computer age he has control over how he is described needs his head examined. As a computer cannot cater for more than eight bits I am variously described as "Mr. Earl", "Lord Dud" and, fortunately, both as far as the Inland Revenue is concerned. I hope that we disabuse ourselves of the thought that we can go around insisting on being called "Earl of Dudley" or whatever it is. The odds are very much against it, particularly as the computer age develops.
The Earl of Caithness: On this amendment I was a little slower in getting to my feet than on the previous one, and I have been able to follow my noble friend Lord Ferrers. I have one difficulty with my noble friend's Amendment No. 101 which refers to "Members of the Appointed Chamber". As a result of the Government's U-turn it will not be just an appointed Chamber; it will have 90 hereditaries. Whoever they are, I am not sure that they will wish to be cast as "appointed" because they will not be so.
I prefer Amendment No. 74 in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Stanley. It is important to differentiate the second Chamber from the first. Doubtless there will be a differentiation when it comes to the third Chamber. If one is to excommunicate the vast majority of hereditary Peers, the successor Chamber to this one must change its name to reflect its different role and the different personnel sitting in it.
I was interested that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, was quick to criticise but did not have any solution to the change in name--at least not that I heard. I would be very interested if he would come forward with a proposal. He was very keen to get rid of ermine. I believe that he will have a lot to say about stage three, but as to stage two he does not appear to have any ideas.
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