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Baroness Gould of Potternewton: The whole of the noble Lord's contribution has related to the question of attendance rather than participation. It seems to me that someone who perhaps attends less but whose participation is of great value is better than someone who attends for 100 per cent of the time but does nothing.
Lord Trefgarne: Perhaps I may ask for some guidance from the Leader of the House. Earlier during the course of the Committee stage I sought to move some amendments which referred to the Law Lords. The noble Baroness advised me--reflecting, I believe, the advice of the House officials--that my amendments were outside the scope of the Bill because it deals only with hereditary Peers and not with any other kind of Peer. That was, I believe, the view of the House officials which the noble Baroness reflected in the advice she gave me. As a result of that advice, I agreed that I would not move my amendments. I am in favour of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Archer; but it does not deal with hereditary Peers; it deals with life Peers. How is it that his amendment passed the scrutiny of the Clerks and mine did not?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Perhaps I may briefly intervene and reply to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. He will be aware, I am sure, that a number of amendments have been moved today which dealt with life peerages, all of which have been ruled in order by the Table and to all of which we have replied. The point about the amendments which the noble Lord was proposing to move at an earlier stage of the Committee is that the Clerks took the view, and we accepted the advice, that the Bill was about the political composition of the House; that is, about the hereditary Peers and the life Peers under the Life Peerages Act. On a political basis, I have had some concern about the relevance of some of the amendments which have been moved this afternoon in terms of the attempt to impose regulations on the transitional House. However, I have accepted the guidance of the Clerks, which was that the amendments refer to the forthcoming political composition of the House. The earlier amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne--I believe they were Amendments Nos. 7 and 8, which were tabled on the first Committee day--related to the retired Law Lords. It has been
Viscount Torrington: My noble friend Lord Archer, in a sense, does himself a disservice with the amendment. It seems to imply that no working Peer can reasonably transit into being--how can I call it?--"an amateur contributor". That is the great sadness of removing the hereditary Peers from the House. As many have said today, it will have to become a much more professional House. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Archer, having ceased to be a working Peer, is still a valuable contributor to the House. I do not see how the mechanism in the House for calling on the expertise of occasional contributors can be preserved by any of the proposals in the Bill, nor, I am afraid, by my noble friend's amendment.
Lord Davies of Oldham: When the Minister replies to the debate, and if the amendment is accepted, will he indicate whether one approach could be that certain kinds of role played in the public sector would necessarily inhibit someone from being considered an active Member of the House of Lords? At present I chair a government quango, the Further Education Funding Council. If the amendment is accepted, would the Government say, "We cannot see how we can allow you to be on a government or public payroll and also expect you to play a full part in the House, even if you attend every day and vote frequently", as I do.
Would the Government adopt the same attitude towards an important post like the Mayor of London, who would be paid a substantial salary, well above the figure I quoted? It looks as if it would be a full-time job. Would it automatically be proscribed with the implementation of the amendment?
Lord Goodhart: The Bill is about hereditary Peers, not life Peers. I can understand an argument for saying that at any rate the working Peers whom I described earlier as the "galley slaves", like the noble Lord, Lord Archer, and myself, should be required to turn up for a certain proportion of sittings. However, that is ultimately a matter for the Royal Commission and stage two, not this stage.
There are many life Peers who are not galley slaves. They are here because of distinguished service in the other place or altogether outside Parliament. Their attendance is probably well below 50 per cent., but nevertheless they are valuable contributors. I refer to one whom the noble Baroness the Leader of the House might be reluctant to mention: the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. I am sure he does not attend 50 per cent. of the sittings of your Lordships' House but when
Lord Desai: I am sorry that I was not here when the noble Lord, Lord Archer, introduced his amendment, and I beg his pardon. One of the problems is that it would make it difficult for people who are not based in London or the Home Counties to become working Peers. We are unpaid and unless the noble Lord also proposes that the category of working Peers should be full-time paid Members of Parliament--and I do not see why we should not do that--it would be difficult for someone living a great distance from London, railways being what they are, to guarantee that he or she would come here in time to attend sittings.
I can understand the spirit of the amendment. Before I came into the House, the Chief Whip subjected me to an investigation as to whether I would attend regularly. As it happens, I am lucky, in that my job allows me flexible working and I can come here, but not many other people can do so. The amendment would restrict membership not only to people in the Home Counties but to people with certain kinds of job who have flexi-time. There are not many occupations like that and the provision would be restrictive. So it should be broadened and toned down, but I welcome the spirit of the amendment.
The Earl of Limerick: This is the first time I have had the opportunity to intervene in the proceedings on the Bill, but my interest is none the less for that. My father was a wise man who made few interventions in the House, but when he did, to my perception, they were wise. He brought me up on the precept that this House should function and did so at its best as a revolving committee. Those who had an interest in matters and a contribution to make from experience came and made it; those who did not made no contribution, whether or not they attended.
As a Member of this House who has revolved more than most others here, on any test of attendance I would fail. But there comes a time in people's lives when they have accumulated some experience and they have a little more time to contribute. That point might be considered alongside the remarks of my noble friend Lord Archer. It is not merely a question of the number of times people attend; it is what they are able to contribute that will be relevant to the consideration of this amendment.
Lord Northbrook: I support the amendment. At the same time I disagree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Torrington. I apologise to my noble friend Lord Archer for being late and not hearing all of his initial speech on the amendment. I did not quite understand his figure of 338 holders.
I wish to make a point relating to the election process under subsection (3) of the amendment. I wonder why my noble friend Lord Archer did not consider using the process of the Weatherill amendment, by which each party would elect a proportion of the 338 life Peers. The
Lord Trefgarne: Any distinguished person who accepts a peerage ought to be able to play as much of a part as he or she reasonably can in the affairs of this House. If that person is a so-called working Peer, he or she will be expected to do a great deal more than the so-called good and great who come here towards the end of a long and distinguished career. Having accepted a peerage on one basis or another, they should do their best.
What has particularly bothered me recently is that a small number of noble Lords have run for and sought election to either the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly. I do not know whether or not the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, was appointed as a working Peer, but I do not suppose that we shall see much more of him now that he will be running the Scottish Parliament. No doubt the Scottish Parliament will be the better for it, but we shall not have the benefit of his appearance quite so often. One noble Lord was elected to the Welsh Assembly. No doubt we shall not see a great deal of him either.
I am not in favour of noble Lords offering themselves for election to other parliaments. One or two noble Lords on this side of the House have offered themselves for election to the European Parliament. I am not in favour of that either. If one accepts membership of this House, or, as my noble friend Lord Henley says, the House of Commons, one ought to concentrate on that. I should have thought that being a Member of one House of Parliament or another was enough. I hope that that consideration will also guide the discussion on this amendment.
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