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Lord Monson: Will the noble and learned Lord accept that if the figure of 90 is adhered to the House will lose the services of many expert people on both sides?

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: I fully accept the possibility that that may occur. However, moving into the world of reality, in which we must remain, we all know that life Peers will be created. I should like to think that those who are to advise the Prime Minister or others on the creation of life Peers will take account of anyone who falls into the category to which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has rightly drawn attention.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: Before the noble and learned Lord the Chancellor replies, perhaps I may hook onto this debate about numbers an issue which relates to our previous discussion. I do so not in anticipation that the noble and learned Lord will give me an immediate reply, but so that he may reflect upon it over the dinner hour.

I refer to our discussion about whether there should be a first-past-the-post method of electing Peers, whatever the number may be. I understood the noble and learned Lord to say when pressed that the modified first-past-the-post method was part of the agreement he reached with the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. I have looked at some papers, in particular at one that I have in front of me which was circulated by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on or about 15th February. It was a paper prepared by the Constitution Secretariat to the Cabinet Office and it dealt with material for a resolution of Standing Orders. Item 4 states that the method of election may be

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determined by each party group. That was the understanding of the noble and learned Lord on 15th February; in other words, it could not have been part of the original agreement.

I see also in a paper circulated by the Clerk of the Parliaments on 24th February on the conduct of elections that he states that there are two approaches. One is that each party should conduct its own elections according to its own rules and the other is that there should be common rules. I am not arguing about what method ought to be used, but I ask the noble and learned Lord to be kind enough to look back. I believe that all the evidence points to the fact that there was no agreement of the kind implied. It is for this House, or for the Procedure Committee and then this House, to decide which method of election should be chosen.

I make the point because I believe that we all accept the extent to which the noble and learned Lord's hands are tied by what he agreed, but his hands are not tied by what he did not agree. If the House is not tied by that either, there is room for further discussion and amendment later.

The Lord Chancellor: In this range of amendments, noble Lords are seeking to contrive an auction with many bids. So let me deal with the amendments as best I can in the order in which they were debated. I believe that what lies behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, is the notion that the transitional House will not be able to function at more than a basic level without the accumulated wisdom and experience of no fewer than 180 hereditary Peers. I disagree with that. With the greatest respect, it does not begin to recognise the worth of the 500 Members of this House who are life Peers and implies that they are not capable of sustaining the work of the House at more than merely a functional level.

Lord Coleraine: My view is that this House would function well without the hereditary Peers, but it would function better if it carried through into the new House a number of speaking Peers who had experience outside the House, were not full-time politicians and would bring to the House what they bring today.

7.15 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: Let us turn to that point. There is the issue of whether some hereditary Peers should retain their sitting rights, so losing their right to vote. The two-Writ issue, perhaps better called the two-tier issue, was debated at some length on a previous occasion. It was overwhelmingly rejected in the context of Amendment No. 22, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, to which the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, added his name. Your Lordships' House was then persuaded by the force of the arguments of principle and practice against such a proposal.

The argument of principle is that the fundamental purpose of the Bill is to sever the link between the hereditary peerage and membership of this House. To allow nearly 50 per cent of the hereditary peerage to retain their membership, although with only limited rights, would undermine the purpose of the Bill. The

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argument of practice was put most cogently by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, who said that realistically the House could not function properly if there were a two-tier membership with certain Members enjoying different rights and privileges from others. I entirely agree and do not believe that there is anything more to be said on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, then sought the leave of your Lordships to talk to his Amendment No. 12. Many of the amendments which we are addressing seek to ensure that more than 90 hereditary Peers are retained. Here, the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, explained that he believes that 172 is the number required to ensure that the House can carry out its functions properly. But we believe that the life Peers alone would have no difficulty in carrying out the work of the House to the same standard as today without the aid of any hereditary Peers at all. Therefore, I do not propose to go into that debate again.

I return to Amendment No. 14, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I must confess that I was puzzled about how he arrived at the number of 56 and I shall have to study Hansard closely tomorrow in order to ensure that I wholly understand. The way in which the distribution was arrived at as regards the compromise is that the appropriate shares were calculated by examining the party groups. Therefore, the proportions which each party group bore to the total of the party and Cross Bench membership was taken in relation to the figure of 75, which is 10 per cent of the total hereditary membership of this House. Of course, one can approach the issue from other standpoints and produce other outcomes.

It must be recognised that Members on the Liberal Democrat Benches were not party to the agreement.

Lord Goodhart: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for giving way. I am sorry that he has some difficulty in understanding the figures and am sure that he will read Hansard carefully. Perhaps I may assist further by giving him a copy of the official figures which I obtained from the Library of the House to show exactly the present composition of your Lordships' House.

The Lord Chancellor: I have no doubt that different figures can be arrived at by starting from different premises. I have described the way in which we arrived at them, the methodology of our compromise, and I entirely accept that others would prefer a different methodology if it would give rise to a better outcome for them.

The position is, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, admitted when we debated the new schedule to the Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that although, as he believed, the agreement was flawed there is a need on our side to honour and accept it; that it may be a perfectly reasonable position to adopt, however difficult that may be for many of us. That, I believe, was a fair way of putting it. We intend fully to honour the agreement. We would not be willing, by supporting the amendment, to seek to renegotiate the 90.

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I turn to the amendments tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon. It is interesting to note that his proposals would preserve, admittedly only in a transitional House, 15 more hereditary Peers than the Weatherill amendment allows, although he would give more to his own party and to the Liberal Democrat Party. However, in fairness to him, he acknowledged that he was perhaps out of step with his party and perhaps more agnostic about the hereditary principle than the rest of us.

The noble Lord then spoke to Amendment No. 19. Again, I have to tell him that this amendment is not acceptable to us. There is, of course, every opportunity for more Labour hereditary Peers to be successful in the election for Deputy Speakers.

Lord Howie of Troon: I thank the noble and learned lord the Lord Chancellor for giving way. I quite take the point about the hereditary Peers making up the number in that way. However, I do not see the sense in giving somebody a title when he already has one.

The Lord Chancellor: I am afraid I do not follow that. I find that puzzling. The hereditary Peers who are Peers of first creation are to be offered life peerages because if a hereditary Peer is to be excluded, of course he retains his title as a hereditary Peer, but a life peerage gives him a seat in this House of Parliament. Therefore, there is a very considerable advantage in that.

I do not believe that I need to say anything further to explain why the figures of 140 canvassed by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and of 230, the top of the range, canvassed by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, are not acceptable. Basically, I say the same thing throughout that, so far as concerns the Government, a compromise agreed is not negotiable.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: I thank the noble and learned Lord for giving way. I think perhaps he misunderstood what I said. If he reads Hansard tomorrow morning, he will understand that I may not have asked for any more than 90 hereditary Peers.


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