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Lord Goodhart: The amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, reminds me of the story of the American senator who lost an election having been in office for some years because his opponent had accused him of being a practising sexagenarian. This amendment will limit membership of your Lordships' House to those life Peers who are quinquagenarians and sexagenarians. I find it remarkably difficult to take this idea seriously. Wisdom does not begin only at the age of 50 or cease at 70. I hope that we do not end up with anything as remotely rigid as this. Although at stage two there may be a case for considering a retirement age, that debate is for the future and is not part of this Bill.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: As the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said, the combined effect of these two amendments is to limit the age at which life Peers can serve in this House to those between 50 and 70 years of age. Even in the annals of the noble Earl's tweaks, this one comes close to taking the biscuit. On 8th June I shall be happy to be the first to say to him, "Happy 70th birthday". Were the noble Earl to be a life Peer or, as we all hope--I am electioneering on his behalf--one of the elected hereditaries who remain, it would be absurd that he should not stay and give us the pleasure of his company and the benefit of his wisdom and humour.

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If the real point is to flush out what we shall do at stage two, I revert to the recidivist in me; namely, stage two is not what we are discussing, but we shall be looking for a representative House in terms of age and ethnic and social background. Excluding the hereditary principle, we want all sections of society, including women, to be properly represented. The noble Earl has flushed me out, but it is wrong that he should go simply because of the accident of his birth being almost 70 years ago. I should not be willing to put my hand to such a device.

Earl Ferrers: I am deeply touched and flattered by the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, as I am by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. The latter said that he found it very difficult to take the amendment seriously. He is quite right. If we take both amendments seriously, it will be a farce, because then no one will be able to be a Member who is under 50 and over 70. The point of the amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams, so graciously put it, was to flush out the Government's intention.

I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that wisdom did not begin at 50 or end at 70. However, I started here when I was 25. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Williams, on having done his homework very well. He has discovered that I shall be 70 on 8th June. Therefore, I would be a victim of my own amendment, which would be bad luck. I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, would join the Conservative Party. If he was made a hereditary Peer, he would be able to vote for me, which would be a great encouragement. However, that is not possible. I must bask in the fact that he would like me still to remain as a Member of your Lordships' House.

The point of the amendment was to find out what the Government intend. As I understand it, in the good old modernising tradition of the Government, everything is to go on just as before and the temporary House will contain Members young and old; it does not matter which. However, when they come to consider the second Chamber it is a different matter.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his few words of enlightenment and for the encouragement that he has given me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 104 and 105 not moved.]

12.15 a.m.

The Earl of Erroll moved Amendment No. 106:


After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

DECLARATORY (NO. 2)

(" . Nothing in this Act affects the powers of the House of Lords, and in particular the power to veto any bill introduced by a Minister of the Crown providing for the maximum duration of Parliament to be extended beyond 5 years.")

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The noble Earl said: At the request of my noble friend Lord Perth, who is in Scotland, I beg to move Amendment No. 106. I have a significant question about the quinquennial legislation.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Perhaps I may point out that the amendment has already been debated.

Lord Henley: However, it is still open to the noble Lord to speak to the amendment. As the noble Lord will remember, the groupings are informal.

The Earl of Erroll: I have one question on the quinquennial legislation and the powers to overthrow legislation. If the 1949 Act established the fact that one can modify the constitutional protections enshrined in the 1911 Act, presumably another Act can be passed to remove the other powers reserved to this Chamber in the 1911 Act.

The Government have been using Pepper v. Hart arguments to gloss over any drafting defects that may or may not lie elsewhere in the Bill. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, can I use the Pepper v. Hart argument, given the Minister's definitive statements about the Government's intentions not to allow the quinquennial provisions to be overthrown, to overturn any future Acts of Parliament that might be introduced

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by a future government, possibly from a different political background? Does the Pepper v. Hart argument apply?

Lord Carter: I believe that the noble Earl is referring to a remark that I made when dealing with this group earlier. The remark that I made about Pepper v. Hart was in the context of this Bill, not in the context of the Septennial Act. The Pepper v. Hart point refers only to a Bill that is in front of the House and not to previous legislation.

The Earl of Erroll: Perhaps I may seek clarification as regards the next stage. Is there any way in which we can reassert that the quinquennial provisions still apply unless they are reaffirmed in this Bill?

Lord Carter: That is a technical point with which we should deal by correspondence.

The Earl of Erroll: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 107 to 110A not moved.]

Lord Carter: I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

        House adjourned at seventeen minutes past midnight.

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