Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Elton: My noble friend may find it easier to support me in my amendments. I ask the Committee's permission to speak to Amendments Nos. 131, 132 and 133. It is apposite that I should ask such permission now, because my noble friend Lord Eden has laid such weight upon the temporary nature of the arrangements that will follow the departure of most of your Lordships from this House.

Noble Lords will see that precisely that feature is drawn attention to in Amendment 131, which states:

I agree with my noble friend Lord Gray that it is proper that this organisation should change its name when it changes its nature. Indeed, it would be possible to call it the House of Lords, or approximately half the House of Lords. However, that is not what it will be. It will be either "temporary", or in the language of the Government "interim", or, to use the phrase frequently used by the noble and learned Lord, the "transitional House of Parliament". I regret that I had not included that in my list of alternatives as I had not considered the use of the phrase used by the noble and learned Lord. I hope that it will commend itself more strongly to him at the next stage.

The third alternative is to use the title, "Appointed House of Parliament". In one sense or another, every Member hereafter will have been appointed and that will draw the attention of the public to the nature of this House as distinct from the elected House of Parliament, which is the House of Commons.

17 May 1999 : Column 33

It seems to me sensible to give the new arrangement a descriptive name that will have the effect of focusing the attention of the Government and the public either on its transitory nature or on its appointed nature and its difference from the House of Commons.

I do not propose to press any of my three amendments but I give notice that I am minded to return with the word "transitional" rather than any that are on the Marshalled List at the moment.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: Before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may ask him whether he will be known as the "temporary Lord Elton" or the "interim Lord Elton" if he were lucky enough to be one of the 75?

Lord Elton: From what I have said, I believe that I should be the "transitional Lord Elton".

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: An encouraging feature of the submission of the Labour Party to the Royal Commission was that it quoted, with approval, a Member who said that there should be an element of continuity. I venture to endorse that strongly. It would be entirely consonant with our constitutional procedures. There have always been Peers who have not been Lords of Parliament; there have also been Members of Parliament who have not been Peers, so there is nothing strange in what is proposed for the interim House.

So far as concerns that House, to my mind what is proposed is a very valuable element of continuity in that a number of hereditary Peers are continuing to be Members of your Lordships' House. All of us who have been life Peers would, I think, admit that we have learnt a great deal in our time from our colleagues who are hereditary Peers. All those reasons seem to me to speak against the amendments, however attractively they may have been presented.

The Earl of Caithness: I am always concerned when I rise to challenge the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I have done this on regular occasions in the past and each time it is with some trepidation, because he is so well versed in these matters. But I would take issue with him on one point. When he said that there have always been Peers who were not Lords and Lords who were not Peers he was of course talking of very small minorities--

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: If the noble Earl is challenging me on that, perhaps I might mention two classes: one is minor Peers and the other is Scottish and Irish Peers, who are not representative but who are nevertheless Peers though not Lords of Parliament.

The Earl of Caithness: I totally agree with the noble and learned Lord on those points and I am grateful for that clarification, but I think it adds strength to my argument that they are minorities. There are a very small number of people who fit into those categories.

What will happen here is a mass exodus of a great number of hereditary Peers, the majority of this House. That is why I support the amendments of my noble

17 May 1999 : Column 34

friend Lord Gray. I was sad that my noble friend Lord Eden was not with us when we discussed Amendment No. 74, the very amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, spent five days waiting to debate because it was such an important amendment. As regards that amendment we discussed whether the names of the people who sit in the interim House should in fact be changed. I believe that if we are to change the names of the people who sit in the interim House, the name of the interim House ought to be changed as well. It is for that reason that I believe that these two changes ought to take place.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Monson: This is a very interesting and worthwhile group of amendments. I think that "senate" would be an appropriate designation after stage two has been agreed to, depending on just how senatorial the finished product turns out to be. It is a little premature for an interim House, I would suggest. For that reason I would gladly support Amendment No. 132 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I hope that he might consider reintroducing it at a later stage.

Baroness Castle of Blackburn: I can well understand the male Members of this House wishing to retain the title, the "House of Lords". It has been so satisfying to their subconscious sexism all these years. I have raised these matters before. I urge all Members of the House to put themselves in the place of the female Members. We are Peers of equal status and yet we have to be subsumed in the title "my Lords". Of course I shall be told, "That does not mean anything: it has always been done and it has always been recognised that the male embraces the female".

I ask Members to consider this quite seriously. What would they feel like if it was called the House of Ladies and if every time anyone got up to address the House they were expected to say "my Ladies"? They would feel a diminution of their sexuality: there is no doubt at all about it. So the sooner we can move to a "neuter" title the better. It is surely part of the first stage of the cleansing of anachronisms on which the Government have embarked. The title does matter. The form of address does matter. If we are to become part of a modern parliament and a modern country, for heaven's sake let us bury this historical nonsense as soon as possible.

If we look at it from that point of view, we might think, OK, perhaps the Government do not like the word "senator" because they might think that would commit them to an elected second Chamber--I happen to believe in that, incidentally--when I understand they prefer to have an appointed Chamber. So let us find a title which does not commit anybody. Surely if we set our minds to it, it would be easy to find the right word. For example, for the time being, what about adopting the term "the upper House" or "the second Chamber" or something of that kind? But for heaven's sake let us bury the word "Lordships" as soon as possible.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: I cannot resist! First, I would like to support very warmly both the

17 May 1999 : Column 35

amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Gray. That will not come as any surprise to those who heard my views last Thursday evening. I cannot resist telling your Lordships, in the wake of the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, a tiny brief anecdote. Many years ago my father referred to the late Lady Summerskill as "the noble Lord". She protested vigorously and my father replied that he was very sorry but that this was a House of Lords and not a "House of Ladies".

Viscount Cranborne: I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, that she has quite a strong point in view, in my experience, of the disproportionate effect exercised by the power and vigour of the women Members of your Lordships' House. I suspect that it would be no more than an accurate reflection of their disproportionate influence if we were to call ourselves a House of Ladies. I think your Lordships might feel that the male Members of us would benefit from association with what is clearly becoming the stronger sex.

We have had debates, as my noble friend Lord Caithness has pointed out, on what Members of your Lordships' House should be called during the transitional phase to stage two. It seems at least logical that we should go on to debate what this place itself is called, as well as its Members. It has been said in other contexts that a genius of this country is to pretend that everything is the same while, under cover of that pretence, changing everything so that nothing is the same. It may well be that if your Lordships' House were to continue to call itself the "House of Lords" that rather agreeable and self-deceptive habit would be continuing.

I have always felt that in a period of change there was an argument for pretending that everything is the same while in fact changing the reality is a way of ensuring continuity and that the body politic evolves rather than being subject to revolution. However, I wonder whether that applies under present circumstances. After all, we are undergoing a constitutional revolution and the Government glory in that fact. They do not pretend for a second that we are indulging in evolution. They regard change and modernisation as the very essence of their new regime and therefore it seems to me rather perverse if your Lordships' House should decide during the course of debates on this Bill that it should continue to call itself the "House of Lords"-- not only for that reason, but also for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Elton adduced when he suggested that it might be sensible for a constant reminder to be available to the country at large that this House is intended to be a transitional House rather than a permanent stage-one House. After all, the transitional nature of the existing House was buried in the preamble to the 1911 Act. Although it is the daily reading of all Members of the Committee, I suspect that the remainder of the body politic and those who sup in the "Dog and Duck" do not spend their days and nights reading the preamble to the 1911 Act and have therefore forgotten the transitional nature of the 1911 House, with the consequences of which we are all aware.

17 May 1999 : Column 36

I suspect that there is a great deal to be said for changing the name of this place as well as the names of the people who inhabit it. It will be a standing reminder of the need to proceed to stage two in exactly the same way as I suspect the existence of the 92 hereditary Peers in the transitional House will also be a standing reminder--and the more standing reminders we can have under the circumstances, the better, particularly in view of my suspicions that the stage-one House may prove to be rather more long-lasting than many of us would like.

A change of name, therefore, would be a good idea, just as my noble friend Lord Ferrers thought that changing the title of those who sit here would be a good idea after this Bill has passed. In spite of my attraction to the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, which I do not withdraw in any way, it may be more equitable for us to call ourselves something which we are already called; indeed, something which Gilbert and Sullivan called us in the 19th century--the "House of Peers". Everybody would know what that was referring to and it has all the merits of continuity as well as innovation.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page