Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Monson: Any of these amendments would be an improvement upon the wording of the Bill as it stands because they describe accurately what is happening. Being aware that governments of all political persuasions always opt for brevity in the Titles of Bills, I favour the amendment spoken to by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I calculate that I have spent 46 hours, 28 minutes happily listening to our debates in Committee. My reward is to answer this group of amendments.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, returns to a consistent theme of his; that is, the name of the House of Lords. In Committee we have heard different suggestions for names--Appointed Chamber, Half House of Lords, Transitional House, a Chamber of Peers, Upper House, Second Chamber, Senate and House of Peers, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, suggested yesterday in adding a Gilbertian touch to our proceedings. He did not get it quite right since the long title of "Iolanthe" was "The House of the Peer and Peri". As every schoolchild knows, peris appeared originally in Persian mythology and came to be used as a term for women generally. I can only suppose that W.S. Gilbert anticipated the remarks of my noble friend Lady Castle yesterday in calling for a non-sexist title for your Lordships' House.

What does that indicate? I suggest that it indicates little consensus and many different opinions about what the House should be called in its second stage. Those remaining in the transitional stage will be Lords. There will be no change in the function of the House. As the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said yesterday, it would be confusing if the House changed its name during the interim stage.

Surely, this is a matter for the Royal Commission. As I understand, the Royal Commission has said that it would welcome suggestions for a possible new name for your Lordships' House to reflect the changing role, functions and composition of the Second Chamber. I do not believe that this is a matter for us, nor should it be so.

I turn to Amendment No. 142 and the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, which seeks to change the title of the Bill to the "Parliament Act 1999". The Bill deals with the first step in a long overdue reform of your Lordships' House, the House of Lords. That is why the Bill is known as the "House of Lords Bill" and that is why we consider it more accurate to call it the "House of Lords Bill".

The noble Lord mentioned the Parliament Act. It is certainly true that the reform Bill in 1968 was called the Parliament No. 2 Bill, but the Bill dealt with the

18 May 1999 : Column 234

composition and the powers of the House of Lords and, in particular, replaced Section 2 of the Parliament Act 1911.

I turn to Amendment No. 142A tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard. We believe that this amendment is unnecessary. The Committee's acceptance of the Weatherill amendment ensures that alongside the substantial reduction in the number of hereditary Peers in membership of your Lordships' House in the interim phase, the broad categories of Members remain the same. We shall still have life Peers, the Bishops and the Law Lords and a proportion of hereditary Peers. However, the size of one element of the membership, the hereditary Peers, will change.

As we discussed earlier, the Bill also provides provisions about the disqualification from voting at elections to and from membership of the House of Commons. So the Bill is not just about membership of the House of Lords. I hope that I have satisfactorily answered the points raised and that noble Lords will withdraw their amendments.

8.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers: When the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, said that he had been waiting for 48 hours and 36 seconds, or whatever, I thought that he was about to please your Lordships by accepting one amendment. Alas! that was not to be.

The noble Lord made one mistake. He said that this is a matter for the Royal Commission, but it is not. We are dealing with the interim Chamber and the Royal Commission will deal with the subsequent Chamber. Therefore, I believe it is a matter for this House to decide what it should be called. I thought "Appointed Chamber" would be an excellent name as the Bill would read "This Act may be cited as the Appointed Chamber Act 1999". That is what it is. However, I knew I would not get very far. I am happy to withdraw the amendment, with deep gratitude to the noble Lord for having spent so much time here and for putting so much thought into answering the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 142 and 142A not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 143 and 144 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 144A not moved.]

Schedule [Repeals]:

The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 145.

Page 3, line 3, at end insert--
("15 Edw. 2.Revocation of the New Ordinances 1322.The word "earls" in the last place where it occurs.
31 Henry 8.The House of Lords Precedence Act 1539.In section 4 the words from "above all dukes" to the end.
section 7.")

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 145 is intended to clarify the effect of the Bill. I hope that the Government will accept the spirit in which it is offered.

18 May 1999 : Column 235

The first part of the amendment is to an ancient ordinance of Edward II and seeks to repeal the reference to "earls", appropriately, in the last section of the ordinance. The side note to the section states:

    "Ordinances or provisions concerning the King and the realm made by subjects shall be void and none such shall be made except by the King, Lords and Commons in Parliament".

I feel that that is a fundamental constitutional document of our parliamentary democracy. It establishes for all time that the only legislative authority in the country is the sovereign in Parliament which is the Lords and Commons. In the text of the ordinance we find the words:

    "By our Lord King and by the assent of the Prelates, Earls and Barons and the commonality of the realm". At that time there were no Dukes, Marquesses or Viscounts, only Earls and Barons. Now we are contemplating changing the composition of the Lords Temporal who may assent to laws so as to validate them. They are no longer to include Earls, Dukes, Marquesses or Viscounts, but only Barons.

Therefore, it seems necessary to amend that ancient ordinance, to delete the reference to Earls so that it will state the position correctly for the future. I believe that there is no need to state expressly that the repeal is not to be retrospective. It is not, and Section 16 of the Interpretation Act 1978 would remove any doubts.

The second part of the amendment repeals some provisions of the Act of Henry VIII which determines the precedence in which Lords may take their places in this House. Perhaps it is not surprising that the other place has not concerned itself with this matter. The words in Section 4 of that Act which are to be repealed are those that provide that,

    "The great office holders of state, the Lord Chancellor being the premier, shall sit and be placed as well in this present Parliament as in all other parliaments hereafter to be beholden on the left side of the said Parliament Chamber on the higher part of the form on the same side, above all Dukes, except only such as shall happen to be the King's son or the King's brother, the King's uncle, the King's nephew or the King's brothers' or sisters' sons".

As Dukes will not be allowed in the Chamber once the Bill is enacted, no matter whose son or uncle they may be, it seems appropriate that the references to Dukes and the King's relations should be repealed.

It is also proposed to repeal Section 7 of this old Act as that provides:

    "That all Dukes not aforementioned, Marquises, Earls, Viscounts and Barons, not having any of the offices aforesaid shall sit and be placed after their ancienty as it has been the custom".

As in future there will be only Barons, this setting of precedence becomes unnecessary and accordingly needs to be repealed. I beg to move.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The noble Earl has raised two interesting new points. To that extent, this is a refreshing amendment. I congratulate him and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne--who is not in his place--on finding another issue for the Committee to debate. Today we are invited to consider the particular position of 168 Earls. Perhaps that is an improvement on the one or two noble Lords whom we were asked to consider in

18 May 1999 : Column 236

relation to by-elections which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and others, discussed so animatedly earlier today and yesterday.

As the noble Earl has pointed out to the Committee, the amendment proposes deleting the references to "earls" in the final part of--I apologise for my inaccurate classical pronunciation, if it is so--the Revocatio Novarum Ordinationum 1322.

In considering the provision, my expert advisers, in preparing the Bill, concluded that there was no need to exclude those references from the Bill and that they took precise notice of the terms of that arrangement. They decided that was not relevant to the Bill because the Bill before your Lordships will, impliedly, amend that Act of 1322 and, therefore, it will not be open to the courts to find a construction that is inconsistent with the Bill.

My expert advisers were conscious that it may be argued that the reference to "earls" required that some Earls be Members of the House of Lords, or that it required that Earls be voting for a measure before it can be passed. However, that argument was not considered valid.

Secondly, we were supported in our approach not to amend the 1322 Act by the Parliament Act 1911 which envisages the passing of Acts of Parliament without the assent of this House at all. The Parliament Act, as perhaps the noble Earl is aware because he is well versed in these matters, did not explicitly modify the 1322 Act. Thirdly, it is worth noting that neither of the two Houses of Parliament is giving consent according to the custom existing in 1322.

The second amendment to which the noble Earl spoke proposed to repeal a large part of the House of Lords Precedence Act of 1539. We also considered that Act in preparing the Bill and decided against repealing any of it, in particular because in practice the Act only has an effect on three relatively minor aspects. The noble Earl mentioned some of them. The matters on which it has an effect are the question of the Lord Chancellor moving to the left when he speaks; that the Bishops sit on the side of the House designated for them; and that the Crown Office follows the order of precedence for officers in drawing up certain documents.

Without wishing to minimise or underrate the concerns which these matters reflect, we took the view that significant changes in these areas might be more appropriately dealt with in the long-term reform of the House. Therefore, I hope that I have convinced the noble Earl both that the Government were aware of, and also took cognisance of, the points he raised. We did not believe them to be immediately relevant and felt that those matters which might become relevant in the long term could be dealt with in the long term. I hope that the noble Earl will not seek to press his amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page