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Lord Trefgarne: Perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 16 standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Northesk. I must confess that my noble friend and I did not embark on the detailed numerical analysis so eloquently articulated by my noble friend Lord Vivian and again from the Liberal Benches. Our intention was simply to probe the Government to ascertain how it was that the numbers now incorporated in the Weatherill amendment were arrived at.
The noble and learned Lord said at an earlier point in the proceedings that it was a deal. That is a fair thing for him to have said. I was not present. No doubt my noble friend Lord Cranborne began by suggesting a much higher number; the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor suggested a much lower number; they split the difference and ended up with the numbers that are now incorporated in the amendment. If that is what happened, I do not necessarily disagree with the process, although it could hardly be described as a rationale.
In response to an earlier amendment, the noble and learned Lord said that if the number allocated by the proposed Standing Order to the Labour Party dropped below two, he would have some difficulty in selling the Weatherill deal to his honourable and right honourable
The Earl of Dundee: I speak to the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Coleraine. The test is whether it assists the aims of Lords reform. Those may be agreed to be: approximate voting parity between the main parties; restriction on the parliamentary rights of hereditary Peers; and the preservation of the present quality of the deliberative function in this House.
The allocation proposed by my noble friend between speaking and voting Peers achieves those aims. However, not without some justification, stage one and the Bill have an agenda of their own. It reflects the setback in 1969 in another place. That occurred in spite of the solid backing given by this House to the then Labour government's Lords reform proposals. This House had no part in the failure of that Bill. It was entirely due to the actions of another place.
The proposal for two stages as the mechanism for Lords reform now seeks to avoid a repeat of that failure. As a result, many of us hope, and expect, that there will be constructive all-party talks between stages one and two. Meanwhile, with the two stages as currently planned, it might be difficult for the Government to adopt my noble friend's amendment at stage one and within this Bill. Nevertheless, his amendment mirrors the Labour government's formula for Lords reform in 1968. I believe that it should be given serious consideration again through all-party talks between stages one and two.
Lord Howie of Troon: I agreed very much with the speech of my old friend Lord Marsh. I begin by reassuring him that I did not put down the amendment in order to cause trouble with another place. I wish to speak to both my amendments together, Amendments Nos. 15 and 19.
I wish to make two points. First, I am told that the amendments come under the disadvantage of hybridity so I shall not press them. In any case, they are intended to be purely probing amendments. The purpose is not to change Clause 2 but to give guidance to those who are working out the Standing Orders which I believe now exist in draft.
As I said at Second Reading, I welcome the Bill, especially stage one. I also welcome Clause 2 as a means of easing its passage into law. That is what Clause 2 is for, and it is a perfectly proper and reasonable device to use in parliamentary terms. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, who spoke earlier, I have no objection to hereditary Peers. I am not a purist, as he is. I have friends among them, and many do extremely good work. My noble friend Lord Shepherd is not present but the Committee will agree that both he and the noble Lord, Lord Denham, on the other side, have rescued this House from procedural difficulties over and over again. If they were to go, it
There is a second aspect to the problem of hereditary Peers. I often speak on matters pertaining to the engineering profession and related topics. There is a respectable number of engineers in the House, but it so happens that the great majority are hereditary Peers. It is not usual for an engineer to be appointed to this place as a life Peer. Sometimes engineers arrive because they are industrialists, captains of industry or something similar, but they do not come here as engineers. Those who are here are mainly hereditary Peers. Three of them sit on our Benches: my noble friends Lord Ponsonby, Lord Berkeley and Lord Monkswell. I can recall two on the Liberal Democrat Benches, the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Kirkwood. They are hereditary Peers who represent a part of our society which is poorly represented in Parliament. It is better represented in this House than the other place. I do not wish to see those hereditary Peers vanish entirely from our deliberations.
I turn to what I call the "Cranborne accord". It was agreed among a small group of people and we are told by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor that it was binding only on the people who put their thumbprints on it. Some of us are giving him advice on how to proceed from here on. As I understand the accord, it is seriously flawed. Apparently it gives the figure of 42 Conservative hereditary Peers, Labour two, Lib-Dems three and Cross-Benches 28. That totals 75. In addition, there are 15 deputy chairmen, producing the magic figure of 90. Casting an eye over the deputy chairmen, it seems to me likely that at least 10 would be Conservatives. So the Conservative figure would not be 42 but 52 or even more, and the other five would be scattered among the other parties.
At Second Reading, I drew attention to a table published by the Evening Standard dealing with the 91 most active Peers--a rather odd figure, compared with the 90. The table showed that of the 90 most active Peers, 49 were Conservative, 12 Labour, 12 Liberal Democrat and 18 Cross-Benchers. The figure of 49 Conservatives accords quite well with the proposals put forward in the deal. The Labour proportion is much higher than the deal would give, so is the Liberal Democrat proportion. The Cross-Benchers' proposed figure is, surprisingly, much lower than the deal would give them, only 18 against 28.
There are other figures for activity which other Members of the House would achieve, based on a larger sample. They show 14 Liberal Democrats and 14 Labour being particularly active and larger numbers of Conservatives and Cross-Benchers because the sample was bigger. I might add that in the last two complete Sessions before the general election, the attendance record of the Labour hereditary Peers was the highest of any group in proportion to the numbers.
The agreement or deal, whatever it is called, is wholly unfair to Labour hereditary Peers and also to the Liberal Democrats, despite the apparent logic of taking 10 per cent. That seems a crude way of going about things. It was done that way for ease, but it does not
I proposed leaving the Conservative number, despite the addition of most of the 15 deputy chairmen and I left alone the proportion for Cross-Benchers. That is purely because I did not want to rock the boat much. I do not mind giving the boat a little shoogle, but I do not want to rock it in a serious way. The amendment carries the disadvantage of hybridity and in any case I have no intention of pressing it. In the meantime, I beg to move.
Lord Monson: Perhaps this is the moment to speak to my amendment, Amendment No. 17, and in doing so to say how glad I am to be following the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. So often in the past I have found myself in considerable agreement with him.
Lest it be thought that my figure of 140 was plucked out of thin air, or has some kind of arcane ideological basis, or was gauged so as to split the difference between the proposals of the noble Lords, Lord Howie and Lord Vivian, let me assure the Committee that that is not the case. The figure of 140 was carefully arrived at by means of essentially pragmatic calculations.
At this point, I unreservedly pay tribute to my noble friends Lord Weatherill, Lord Marsh and others for the enormous effort and ingenuity they put into achieving the Weatherill compromise. Having said that, it cannot be denied that removing all but 90 hereditary Peers means that the House will lose many good people. By "good" I do not mean good in the social or party political sense, but in the sense of having contributed to the good governance and well-being of the nation at large.
As the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, said, apart from anything else the Labour Benches would lose a dozen excellent, hard-working people. There have been heavy hints of transforming a number of hereditaries into life Peers, but that is not something on which one can rely. Heavy hints are not binding on anyone. In any case, what is the point of going through all the rigmarole of creating life Peers if the Royal Commission recommends a wholly or mainly elected House and most of the existing "lifers" found themselves out on their ear in two or three years' time?
Having gone through the list with a reasonably fine tooth-comb, I concluded that there were at least 204 hereditaries whose services the House could, with profit, retain. They comprise both regular attenders and those whose professional commitments make regular attendance impossible but who possess specialised expertise--geographical, scientific, legal, artistic and so on--which the House can ill afford to lose. It was because, sadly, the Government could clearly never accept such a large number that, with difficulty and considerable heart-searching, I then pared down the number to 170. But even that would be too high from the point of view of political balance. Hence, I arrived at 140, as the maximum number that would allow a greater
The essence of my amendment, which would not be on the face of the Bill, envisages that the additional 50 hereditaries should not be elected on a pro rata basis like the original 75 but be chosen broadly on their merits. I do not mean their merits overall, but in the context of the House. Based on the records of the individual hereditaries who attend this House today--which may be different from the position five or 10 years ago, but that is not the point--the 50 would comprise the following additional hereditary Peers: 12 Labour; 12 Liberal Democrats; 16 Conservatives; and 10 independents.
Despite the first Division this afternoon, effectively we have a Lib-Lab coalition at the moment, which is likely to last at least until the implementation of stage two. In addition, I believe that not even the noble Lord, Lord Richard, would claim that all, or nearly all, Cross-Benchers consistently support the Opposition. Of the additional 50, on balance at least 26--12 Labour, 12 Liberal Democrats and at least two independents--will tend to support the Government, while no more than 24--16 Conservatives and an absolute maximum of eight independents--will tend to support the Opposition. Therefore, so long as the Lib-Lab pact holds, the Government would be better off in the Division Lobbies than under the Weatherill proposals.
Assuming that the Deputy Speakers remain unchanged, which I believe to be a reasonable assumption, the Conservative hereditaries would drop from 57.8 per cent to 48.6 per cent of the total; the independents would drop by a lesser proportion, from 34.5 per cent to 29.3 per cent; the Labour hereditaries would rise more than two-and-a-half times, from 4.4 per cent to 11.4 per cent; and the Liberal Democrat hereditaries would rise more than three-fold from 3.3 per cent 10.7 per cent. In other words, every single Labour hereditary would be included, apart from one who rarely turns up nowadays, together with a substantial majority of the Liberal Democrats.
There would still have to be a considerable culling of Conservative and Cross-Bench hereditaries. However, the fact that the culling would be a little less drastic means that the selection could be extended to noble Lords whose other commitments made it impossible for them to attend regularly but whose expertise is highly valued by the House. I give three examples: my noble friend Lord Lytton, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. What a tragedy it would be if the House lost the benefit of their counsel. My amendment involves no breach of principle from the point of view of the Government. If it is doctrinally pure to retain 12 per cent of the hereditaries--because 90 is 12 per cent of 750--it cannot be doctrinally sacrilegious to retain 18 2/3 per cent as this amendment proposes.
Inevitably, my statistics delivered verbally are hard to follow, but if the Committee is able to peruse my reasoning in Hansard tomorrow, I hope that it will see the force of the argument. Some noble Lords may agree to return to this matter at a later stage.
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