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Viscount Torrington: I wonder whether the Committee will forgive me for intervening a second time. My noble friend Lord Coleraine raises an interesting point. Paragraph 6.10 of the Labour Party's submission to the Royal Commission states:
My noble friend Lord Archer also includes a role for the Clerk of the Parliaments in his amendment. Although I agree with much of what he said, I believe that that aspect of his amendment bears re-examination and I hope that he will give it that.
Earl Attlee: My noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, introduced a very important amendment but it is not perfect, and it did not take long for the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, to insert an intellectual stiletto into it.
There was a reference to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment. When I first met the noble and gallant Lord I addressed him as "Sir", and I meant it. The noble and gallant Lord turns up on a regular basis, and recently he has been turning up on a more frequent basis. He gives me very valuable counsel and the benefit of his wide military experience. The last time he did so was 45 minutes ago, at dinner. He is great. He is good. If he is not a working Peer, he is a part of the House of Lords that works.
My noble friend Lord Trefgarne referred to Members of the House of Lords who are also members of another assembly. I cannot support him. He spoke of the position of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament. I have regular contact with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. He does not attend the House of Lords regularly, but I find my contact with the noble Lord extremely valuable. So there is much to be said for being a member of more than one assembly at the same time.
Lord Northbrook: I should like to make two remarks about the amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine. Subsection (1) of the proposed new clause would make the system much more complicated than my noble friend Lord Archer has suggested. Secondly, subsection (3) provides that any writ issued to a voting member would not have effect after the end of the Session of Parliament in which he attains the age of 75. I do not understand why the age should be 75 and why from that point he should become a non-voting Member, as if suddenly he had lost possession of his marbles. It seems a rather strange cut off point.
The Earl of Northesk: The amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine has somewhat fired my imagination. There is a degree of tension between that amendment and the amendment of my noble friend Lord Archer. The Committee will be aware that one of my greatest criticisms of the Bill is that I cannot help feeling it has a political intent. Occasionally it is important to remind ourselves that above all else the House of Lords is a legislative Chamber and, indeed, a Chamber of revision. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine reflects that rather intelligently.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The two amendments grouped here have one or two factors in common. Perhaps I may start by saying a few words about the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Coleraine. What it does in a way is offer a solution to the problem of differentiating between working Peers and Peers whose peerage has been given as an honour, perhaps in the New Year's Honours List or the Birthday Honours List, and who are not really expected to come to the House of Lords on anything like a frequent basis, but who, when they do attend, can make major contributions to debates.
I am not entirely sure on what basis the noble Lord, Lord Haskins, came here. He has not taken part much; he is a very busy man. However, he made a very interesting speech yesterday. I would have thought that he comes into the category of someone who may deserve the honour but perhaps will not be exactly defined as a working Peer.
The amendment of my noble friend Lord Coleraine gives the Government, the honours committee and Her Majesty the opportunity to send to the House Peers of considerable eminence but Peers occupied to such an extent in their own field that, although able to make valuable contributions on an important subject, they would not be frequent attenders or participators in debates and business. If I paraphrase it correctly, my noble friend is trying to offer the Government a way to deal with that problem.
My noble friend Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare is attempting a rather wider solution to some of the problems, but some of those problems arise from exactly the same position: that there are life Peers who were not sent here to work and who do not attend very often. My noble friend was trying to differentiate although I am rather puzzled. He said that his amendment would differentiate between those who came to this House by
My noble friend envisages a House which is considerably smaller than that which we have now. There would be 499 Members, if I have calculated it correctly. We all know that there are many more than that in your Lordships' House. Even if we take the people who attend very occasionally and leave out the people who never attend or attend on only one or two occasions, the membership of the House is considerably larger than 500. But generally, on high days and holidays, there is likely to be an attendance of about 400 and for ordinary days, the attendance will be between 300 and 350. Therefore, I believe that a non-professional House, which I indicated earlier is my preference, always needs a little headroom because not all Members will be able to be here on anything like a regular basis, unlike, for example, the other place where the Whipping system ensures the fairly regular attendance of Members.
My noble friend's amendment replicates, very cleverly and with subtlety, the Weatherill amendment for hereditary Peers which we passed on Tuesday. It sets out to create a representative group of life Peers who would be elected by their fellows.
That should be attractive to the Government because those life Peers, elected by their fellows, would obviously have more legitimacy than we all have as the totality of life Peers. I quote no less an authority than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. When discussing the Weatherill amendment and the fact that 90-odd Peers would be elected from the totality of the hereditaries, the noble and learned Lord said:
"It gives the 90 excepted Peers, whose election will have given them greater authority and shows that they have the confidence of their colleagues, a say in the deliberations of this House about its long-term future".--[Official Report, 11/5/99; col. 1096.] So, no less a person than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor--and who greater an authority can I quote?--indicates that if one has elections for 92 hereditary Peers from the whole group of hereditaries, that will give the 92 more legitimacy. The amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Archer will give the life Peers who are elected more legitimacy. I should love some more legitimacy so long as it does not come at the cost of too much electioneering. Just in case the Government are minded to accept the
I think that both noble Lords are right and if they were suggesting to my noble friend Lord Archer that his 50 per cent cut-off is a bit high, I would agree with them. I think it is far too high. Even if the Government do not accept my noble friend's amendment, we should perhaps look at a way of applying a one-off test to those life Peers who are here now so that only those who have shown any interest in your Lordships' House will be able to continue in the transitional House and perhaps--who knows?--into the stage-two House when it comes about.
On page 32 of the Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission--it has almost become the most quoted document, second only to the manifesto, and presumably I will shortly be told that it was a best seller, with queues lining up in the streets to buy it--
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