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Baroness Jay of Paddington: I am afraid that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, will probably be disappointed because it is not a lawyer who is to reply to the debate but a lay person. However, I suspect that my noble and learned friends are content for me to lead on this amendment because it is so simple that they feel that their learned opinions can be reserved for more complex issues.

I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, that I entirely agree with him about the importance of the Commonwealth. Although the noble Lord is probably right to chide us indirectly for the scarcity of our length of experience in this House, I would challenge many noble Lords, though not him personally because I know that his experience is long and very varied, as regards having the personal and work connections with the Commonwealth that I have. Indeed I cherish them and should like to continue with them. I should like, very informally and in every possible way, to make it quite clear, certainly on this side of the House and certainly as far as I am concerned, that there is no institution that is any more important, valuable and valid in the world today than the institution of the Commonwealth.

However, that does not affect the relevance of the Statute of Westminster. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, that we are talking about the Statute of Westminster (No. 2) in relation to this Bill. There is no requirement to seek the consent of the dominions. Let us not forget that the Statute of Westminster (No. 2) refers exclusively to the dominions and not to the Commonwealth, and that the dominions only comprise New Zealand, Australia and Canada. We are not legislating for the dominions. Indeed, the Statute of Westminster is only relevant to Acts which extend to the dominions as part of the law of the dominions. Our Bill does not do this, even though, as noble Lords have rightly pointed out--and

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the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, explicitly asked this question--it extends to citizens of Commonwealth countries.

Perhaps I may explain to the Committee in my lay language that the Statute of Westminster is relevant to laws which purport to make law for the dominions. The statute is not relevant to UK laws concerning citizens of these countries which do not extend as part of the law of those countries. I give way to the noble Lord.

Lord Northbrook: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. If the law affects the citizens of those countries, how come it is not pertinent to the law of that country?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: As I say, to a lay person that is quite obvious. Individual citizens of those countries may be affected by the law of this country but that does not affect the laws of those dominion countries which the Statute of Westminster governs.

In addition, perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord that there is no such thing as representative Peers from the Commonwealth. It is not the same as the historic situation with Peers of Scotland. Peers are not representative Peers of the Commonwealth merely because they happen to be hereditary Peers who are citizens of New Zealand or Australia.

I believe that both the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, and the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, appeared to argue that the consent of the Commonwealth--or the dominions, as it is more precisely put--was required because the Bill affects the composition of this House. But neither the Life Peerages Act 1958 nor the Peerage Act 1963 was subject to these strictures; indeed, neither the Commonwealth nor the dominions were consulted on those occasions. That was not out of a lack of courtesy or because of a lack of respect for the Commonwealth or dominion countries but simply because it was irrelevant. If the principle that a law which has the effect of altering the composition of the House of Lords needed the consent of the dominions was accepted, frankly, this should apply with equal vigour to Bills which affect the composition of the other place. I think noble Lords will understand that that would not be something which, even in commonsense terms, would be acceptable.

The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, and I exchanged some uncharacteristically sharp words, given our normal friendly relations, about the point he made that the consent was required because the Bill was altering the style and title of the Queen as the Duke of Lancaster. Perhaps I may simply re-emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, in the most friendly possible way something that I thought I had said on a previous occasion; namely, that the Bill does not have that effect. Although after the passing of the Bill it is the case that the sovereign will no longer have the power to grant a hereditary peerage which carries with it a place in this House, that does not in any way alter the style or title of the sovereign. That was the point

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that I was trying to make in my earlier interventions while the noble Lord was speaking. Nor does it give rise to any obligation under the Statute of Westminster to seek the consent of the dominions to this Bill. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, based his argument on the preamble to the statute which recites that,

    "any alteration in law funding the Succession to the Throne or Royal Style and Titles shall require the assent as well as the Parliaments of the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom".

I speak as a lay person simply quoting lawyers, but as I understand it the convention has changed. Halsbury's Laws (Vol. 6, paragraph 826) refers to the fact that the convention now is understood to be that each of the dominions is free to alter the Royal style and title provided the common element of Her Majesty as "Head of the Commonwealth" is retained and there is a reference to "Her other realms and territories". I am sure the Committee would agree that that is not particularly relevant to this Bill. I hope that on that basis of a lay person seeking to explain a legal position--but one that is sufficiently clear and straightforward for lay people to understand--the noble Lords will not press their amendment.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Selsdon: Before the noble Baroness sits down I wish to say how much I appreciate her support for the Commonwealth. I know that she is genuine in that. However, I still feel that there may be a few bridges to mend. Perhaps they will be mended by the comments in Hansard. Many people in these countries are oversensitive. However, we should also recognise that the Commonwealth is getting better and better at cricket!

My favourite letter was addressed to: "The Right Honourable Lord Malcolm Selsdon Esquire, House of Lords, MCC London". I am not suggesting that the MCC has more problems than your Lordships' House, but I thank the noble Baroness for her comments by using the old-fashioned Scottish expression, "Thank you, Hen".

Baroness Jay of Paddington: I only hope that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, with regard to sensitivity do not extend to an expectation that England should be beaten by Sri Lanka.

Lord Northbrook: I thank the noble Baroness for her detailed replies on the legal aspects of the Statute of Westminster. They have given me good cause for thought. I shall consider the comments that she has made.

Lord Norrie: I too am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the statute in great detail. I shall read Hansard with great interest and care tomorrow morning to see whether it is necessary to come back to this matter at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 111B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

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Lord Boardman moved Amendment No. 112:

Page 1, line 13, leave out from ("Act") to end of line 14 and insert ("shall not come into force until each House of Parliament has come to a resolution that it should do so.
(1A) No resolution under subsection (1) may be made until the Royal Commission set up to consider the reform of the House of Lords has reported.")

Lord Carter: It appears as if the noble Lord intends to move Amendment No. 112. I believe that it is grouped with Amendment No. 113 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. Although procedurally the noble Lord and the noble Baroness are not out of order, it is extremely unusual to return to an issue at Committee stage in the way that the noble Lord intends. The amendment was clearly debated on 27th April. The noble Lord and the noble Baroness spoke several times. At no stage did they indicate that they would reopen the debate later in Committee. The Chamber decided against the amendment with which this amendment and Amendment No. 113 were grouped. It would be wholly in order to return to this matter at Report stage, although not at Third Reading. However, it would be extremely unusual to speak to it tonight. If I did not know the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, better I might assume that they are trying to extend today's debate for reasons which are best known to themselves and the Opposition Chief Whip.

Lord Henley: Before my noble friend responds to those comments I take the opportunity to ask the noble Lord the Chief Whip about a small matter. As the noble Lord quite rightly pointed out, Amendments Nos. 112 and 113 have already been debated. The list of groupings states:

    "House of Lords Bill: Committee (6th day)". Then the groups of amendments are listed. In the past we used to see a little mantra which suggested that the amendments which had been grouped could always be ungrouped if noble Lords wished. I noticed today and last Thursday that we no longer have that mantra. By what authority did the Government Chief Whip or others remove it? It was not discussed with me and I am surprised that we can no longer see it today. We can no longer see the explanation--which all Back-Benchers, whether our own or Government Back-Benchers find useful-- that the groupings are informal and can be ungrouped at any stage. Can the Government Chief Whip assist on that matter?

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