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Lord Harris of Greenwich: I do not wish to persist with the point but the noble and learned Lord will recall that a group of representatives of the various parties met under the chairmanship of an official from the Cabinet Office. As I understand it, those draft Standing Orders reflected the agreement that was then entered into. Am I right in that assumption? I assume I am.

The Lord Chancellor: Not entirely. There was certainly a group which met under the chairmanship of Sir Quentin Thomas from the Cabinet Office. All interests were represented. Its specific remit was to give practical effect, through Standing Orders, to what had been agreed and not to seek to vary what had been agreed.

Lord Lucas: I am most grateful for that enlightenment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 7:


Page 1, line 8, at end insert--
("( ) No person shall be excepted from section 1 in accordance with this section if he has had conferred on him a peerage under the Life Peerage Act 1958 or has agreed to accept such a peerage.")

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8. Their purpose is straightforward. They seek to clarify whether it is the intention of the new Clause 2 that hereditary Peers elected to office within its terms could or should be, as it were, upgraded to life peerage status.

The Government have indicated their preparedness to make the concession on a temporary basis, and, on pain of good behaviour, to retain a hereditary element via the mechanism of the new clause. It would run against the tenor of that bargain to seek to reduce the guaranteed number on its face by any subsequent elevations to the

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life peerage. Such individuals should be in receipt of a Writ of Summons in their own right and not as a result of the electoral process embodied in the clause.

Indeed, it is worth noting that the paper from the Clerk of the Parliaments endorses that view at paragraph 2(e) which states:


    "Vacancies ... are to be filled by hereditary Peers". That necessarily begs the question with respect to clause 7(i) of the draft standing orders and paragraph (q) of the electoral arrangements section of that paper. The latter states unequivocally that vacancies will occur only through death but while it may be unlikely, and acknowledging that it is the Government's intention that the arrangements should not persist for too long, it is not impossible, as implied by our amendment. Vacancies could occur as a result of an elected hereditary Peer being granted a life peerage. Surely that occurrence should be allowed for in the Standing Orders.

In that context, I am tempted to suppose that in keeping with the underlying purpose of Amendment No. 6, which we debated in Committee, there remains uncertainty as to whether members of the hereditary peerage will be entitled, upon grant of a life peerage, to receive a Writ of Summons after enactment of the Bill.

I recognise that it would be more appropriate to return to the substance of this matter on Report and we have every intention of doing so. That said, I cannot resist citing the observation of the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal. She said:


    "There is nothing in this Bill which removes the right of hereditary Peers to be Members of the House of Lords".--[Official Report, 20/4/99; col. 1113.] That is a surprising statement; the more so because it is in such stark contrast to the insistence of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in our debate on Amendment No. 10A that the Bill's purpose is,


    "to remove the totality of the rights and duties which members of the hereditary peerage have in their capacity as Members of the House of Lords".--[Official Report, 27/4/99; col. 166.] Bearing in mind the relevance of this issue to the amendment before us today, I simply ask: which interpretation of the position is correct?

Be that as it may, we believe that the principle of the amendment is sound. While I accept that it need not necessarily appear on the face of the Bill, I none the less hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor can at least offer some comfort on the point. I beg to move.

Lord Kingsland: These are sensible clarifications of what we took anyway to be the situation. However, one point flows from the amendment. It would be extremely helpful if, before elections under the Weatherill system took place, your Lordships' House could know which hereditary Peers had been offered life peerages so that they could be excluded ab initio from the process.

Earl Ferrers: I hope that when the noble and learned Lord comes to reply he does not fall into the trap that my noble friend fell into of saying that if hereditary

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Peers are made life Peers, they would be "upgraded", as if they were in an airline cabin and moving up from business class to first class.

Lord Kingsland: I am appalled if I gave my noble friend that impression. Of course, I withdraw the part of the statement which misrepresented what I really believe to be true.

Earl Ferrers: I apologise. I was not referring to my noble friend who has just spoken; I was referring to my noble friend Lord Northesk.

Lord Trefgarne: Perhaps I may make a small point. The amendment stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Northesk. My noble friend briefly mentioned that there is some doubt arising from the provisions of the Life Peerages Act 1958 about the legality of offering life Peerages--or at least Writs of Summons--to hereditary Peers who will be dispossessed from membership of the House by the Bill and who might subsequently be offered life peerages. It is an important matter. As my noble friend said, it is a matter to which we intend to return on Report. It is a matter to which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor may wish to give his attention.

Lord Acton: I am rather puzzled by the wording of the amendment:


    "No person shall be excepted from section 1 in accordance with this section if he has had conferred on him a peerage under the Life Peerage Act 1958". The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres first became a Member of this House as a life Peer with the title Lord Balniel, and Viscount Younger of Leckie first became a Member of this House as a life Peer with the title Lord Younger of Prestwick. Surely it is quite simple: the Bill does not apply to them; they are life Peers. I cannot make sense of this exception to an exception to an exception. This Bill does not apply to life Peers.

Lord Trefgarne: Perhaps I may clarify the position. My noble friend and I had in mind the situation where a hereditary Peer had been accepted and duly elected under the Weatherill amendment and was subsequently offered a life peerage.

Lord Acton: That is not what the amendment says.

The Lord Chancellor: I was not aware that there was any division in the views expressed by my noble friend Lady Jay and myself on any of these subjects. As I recall it, the noble Baroness said--it accords with my understanding--that an excluded hereditary Peer could in the future, if it was thought right, be offered and accept a life Peerage. If there is any problem in the statute about that, I shall certainly undertake to look at it. I certainly never thought that there was a problem. It appears to me to be obviously right that if a hereditary Peer is excluded from participation in the life of the House, he would be as much entitled to return as a life Peer as anyone else.

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As to the amendment, the Government believe that it is unnecessary. As the Committee will know, offers of life peerages have already been made to hereditary Peers of first creation and some of them have already agreed to accept the offer. But, with the exception of hereditary Peers of first creation, we have no intention of offering to recommend to Her Majesty for appointment to the life peerage any other hereditary Peer in advance of the coming into force of the Bill. Under the Clause 2 arrangements, many of those who might have been offered a life peerage under the original Bill on the basis of their individual merit, may now, because of the deal, have a strong expectation of becoming one of the number of excepted Peers. Their strengths will be recognised by their colleagues in the elections.

Apart from Peers of first creation, there will be no life peerages for hereditary Peers in advance of the coming into force of the Bill. Therefore, the problem that the amendment addresses will not arise.

6.15 p.m.

The Earl of Northesk: Perhaps I should, first, apologise to my noble friend Lord Ferrers. I should have used the word "downgraded".

Secondly, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor although I am not entirely certain that our particular concern about the issue has been fully addressed. None the less, in the meantime, I am quite happy and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 10 not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Strabolgi): I have to point out that if Amendment No. 11 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 12 to 19.

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 11:


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