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The Earl of Northesk: I am mindful of the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, yesterday, and I cannot resist quoting it:

That said, the amendments in this group are concerned with the distinct issue of commencement of the Bill. My opinion is that, viewed objectively, Amendments Nos. 116 and 118 are reasonable and could even assist the Government in so far as it is wholly credible that, notwithstanding the Labour Party's submission, from which we are advised we should not deduce too much about current government thinking, the report of the Royal Commission will undermine and make redundant most of the intellectual objections that so many noble Lords have to their current strategy.

What all the commencement amendments offer in their varying ways, had the Government thought it through, is the best of all worlds. Acceptance of any one of the alternatives would get their Bill enacted at the same time as maintaining the manifesto commitment intact and unpolluted. The price to pay would be to endure the presence of the hereditary peerage for, at best, a few more months and, at worst, a little over three years. Instead, the Government have set out their stall for the new Clause 2, the duration of which, whatever may be said about it from the Government Front Bench,

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is a matter for speculation. This situation confuses me. It is a curious case for the Government to argue. However, they have committed themselves to their abandonment of the manifesto commitment. That being so, I do not suppose for a moment that any of our attempts at helpfulness will inspire any sympathy in the mind of the Minister.

Lord Elton: My noble friend Lord Waddington put his finger on the problem when he pointed to the concern of some noble Lords that there should be a voice from the hereditary Benches on the arrangements which are to follow phase one. Both the tone and the content of what the noble and learned Lord said last night from beside the Woolsack and not, thank goodness, from the Woolsack, casts some doubt as to how that is now to be treated. The Weatherill amendment secures a voice for a small proportion of the hereditary Members of your Lordships' House on proceedings into phase two. If that can be withdrawn, then clearly Amendment No. 118 would be of very much more interest than at present. It may be useful in eliciting a statement of opinion as to where we stand on the issue.

Lord Gisborough: I would have thought that the Government would welcome the amendment or one of the other sunset amendments. Stage two must either have hereditary Peers or it must have elected Peers who would be competing with the House of Commons and would therefore be totally unacceptable, as in 1968. If Peers are to be appointed, there is the quango problem. I do not see any chance of stage two coming about. The great advantage to the Government would be that they could bring pressure on the other place to accept some form of stage two, whatever that might be. If there is not strong pressure on the other place to accept something, they will not accept anything.

Earl Ferrers: I wish to refer to Amendments Nos. 119 and 121, to which I have put my name and which are part of this group of amendments. The name of the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, is also attached to the amendments. He asks me to tell noble Lords that he is indisposed today and unable to attend.

These are important amendments. Amendment No. 119, proposes that the Act should come into force at the end of the Parliament and not at the end of the Session. That may seem a trivial point, but I recall the peerage renunciation Bill in 1958 when an individual by the name of Anthony Wedgwood Benn did not want to become Lord Stansgate and a Bill was produced allowing him and others who were already Members of your Lordships' House to renounce their peerages. The Conservative government of the day brought forward the Bill which stated that it should operate to the end of the Parliament, and there was then an amendment saying that it should come into effect at the end of the Session. The point was argued backwards and forwards, with all the possibilities and peculiarities that could arise, but it never occurred to anyone that, once the amendment had been accepted and within two months of it having been brought into existence at the end of the session, Prime

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Minister Macmillan would become ill and would have to give up. That gave the opportunity to my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham and also Lord Home to renounce their titles and go to another place. The whole of history may have been changed as a result of such a small event.

It is therefore important whether the Bill should come into operation at the end of the Session or the end of the Parliament. Despite what has been said to date, I hope that the Government will consider bringing it into operation at the end of the Parliament for the reason contained in Amendment No. 121. The amendment proposes leaving out subsection (2), which states that,

    "any writ of summons issued for the present Parliament in right of a hereditary peerage shall not have effect after that Session."

I turn to the point made earlier which is fundamental to the Bill. As the Committee will remember, in Clause 1 the Bill refers to the fact that no one shall be a Member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage. As was stated very early on, we are all here not by virtue of a hereditary or life peerage but by virtue of a Writ of Summons. That is what brings us all here. Once the Writ of Summons has been obeyed and your Lordships, individually, have appeared, then the Writ ceases to have any effect; it is spent; and it is done.

I cannot see how a government can then say that for some people, the Writ will last for a Session and for others, it will last for a Parliament. If we are to follow that line, we shall be entering the deep, muddy waters of hybridity. The Government would be extremely vulnerable if that issue were to be taken to a court with the Bill as it is drafted at present.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor says that everyone knows perfectly well what is meant. But the great legal issues are never decided on the major scheme; they are decided on the minutiae and the detail. I suspect that the Bill is likely to prove hybrid and the Government would find themselves in jeopardy in relation to that.

If the Government will agree that the provision of the Bill should be brought into force at the end of the Parliament as opposed to the end of the Session, there would be no difficulty. There would be no doubt and everyone would be in the clear. It would also resolve the problem which we discussed yesterday to which the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, referred, in relation to disenfranchisement. If hereditary Peers can no longer be Members of the House of Lords and cannot vote for Members of another place, then they are disenfranchised. But if these provisions are brought into force, in the common jargon--which I hate--there would be a seamless transition. That is what would happen. I hope that the Government will consider the amendments.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: As the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said, the minutiae are extremely important. They are more important to some Members of your Lordships' House than they are to others. I do not object at all to those who are affected deeply by the loss of

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their hereditary title using every opportunity which can be devised to try to ameliorate what the Government intend to do. There is no objection to that and no personal animosity at all. In other circumstances and on other Bills, I have been involved in attempting to thwart the will of the Government in one way or another.

But there persists the argument that the Government started off on the wrong foot by having a two-stage scheme and that all matters should be dealt with in one stage. My experience is that if one stage had been proposed, those very same people would have argued that there should be two stages. That is the politics of the matter.

I understand that people speak with sincerity about why they are here; what drives them; what reward they receive. All of us who sit here share one bond; that is, that we are politicians. At the end of the day, we are motivated by decisions as to how we believe our political choices are best served.

The Government went to the country on 1st May and said that as a first, self-contained stage, they intended to remove the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in this House. Some Members of the Committee opposite seem to believe that somehow, that is negotiable. It is not. It was thought out very carefully. Members of the Committee may have heard my noble friend Lord Callaghan refer to his experience in 1968. He had a powerful position then. He explained why he had reached the conclusion that the stages had to be separated. There can be no doubt that from a practical political point of view, we are going about this reform in the right way.

Members of the Committee opposite persist in trying to devise delaying tactics. They are entitled to do that. But Members of the Committee on this side remember that for two or three years before the last election, the Labour Party made it quite plain what its intentions were. Members of the Committee opposite--for example, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne--made notable contributions by addressing conferences before the last election. We are now being invited to consider devices which will help to delay the implementation of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, said that the hereditary Peers would be denied a voice after the passage of the Bill. He corrected himself later, but he started by saying that the whole basis of the Weatherill amendment is to take account of the fact that in order to make progress with the Bill, it would be helpful to have the hereditary Peers here when those matters were being resolved.

I do not speak at all for the Government but it is in our interests, as a Government, to proceed as quickly as possible to demonstrate to the doubters not only that we mean business in relation to the first stage but also in relation to the second stage.

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