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The amendment has considerable merit. If we do not have the provision in the Bill, I hope that he will be elected at least as one of the 15 hereditary Peers who will be able to sit on the Woolsack. There is an elegance to the amendment which deserves considerable thought and sympathy.
Lord Sempill: I support my noble friend. Perhaps I may put a question to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I am struck by an interesting anomaly. Following the clear disposition of the case, perhaps we can address the issue: is it or is it not an anomaly?
Lord Gray: My noble friend is to be congratulated on bringing forward the amendment. It is interesting that it has taken a Scot to point out the references to the Earl Marshal and the Lord Chamberlain. I hope that he will receive a favourable response with regard to the office of Lord High Constable of Scotland. I commend the amendment.
Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: Now that the amendment has the support of my noble friend Lord Onslow, it may be unnecessary for me to say much more. I could be provoked into one of my longer speeches. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will be aware, I am capable of a 45-minute speech with just minor provocation!
This is a different issue from the one with which the Scots were possibly accused of boring the House when the last grouping was debated. It refers to the role of a very senior position in Scotland. With respect, the matter merits further consideration.
It has struck me as somewhat strange when observing the ceremonial in this Chamber, both at the Introduction ceremony and, more importantly, at State Opening, that it is English officials and holders of great high office who take part, and not their Scottish counterparts. Garter attends at the State Opening with English Heralds, but not Lord Lyon with the Scottish Heralds. English High Court judges are invited to sit on the Woolsack, but Scottish High Court judges are not; nor are High Court judges from Northern Ireland.
While taking into account the point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about the importance of avoiding any English backlash, it is equally important to continue to recognise that this is the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Many of us are very keen that that should be steadily and tactfully reinforced. The amendment moved by my noble friend the Duke of Montrose draws attention to that anomaly, but one cannot expect a positive response at this stage to such highly sensitive issues. However, I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will agree that this matter merits serious consideration not only as regards the Lord High Constable's position in this
Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, offered to take a bet, which I think is very improper behaviour in your Lordships' House. It is well known that the hereditary aristocracy is a role model to the younger generation in this country and anything that induces them into the path of addictive gambling is wholly to be deprecated.
The Earl of Onslow: I cannot let that kind of challenge go totally by me. The life peerage in the form of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, has got a hundred quid on with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, that the House will not exist like this for 10 years! I am only following the example of what can only be classed as the "modern jumped-up peerage". It is as simple as that.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: That is entirely my point! The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, has not had the benefit of centuries of exquisite inbreeding, and therefore one could not expect him to be able to discharge his public responsibilities as a role model in the way of which one would have been confident when looking to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow.
It is true that the shorter speeches of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, normally extend beyond 45 minutes--mainly, I have to say from my recent recollection, on the Government of Wales Bill.
Turning first to Amendment No. 21, our advice is that the term "Earl Marshal" is quite sufficient to place beyond doubt the identity of the office-holder in question. The same observation applies to the subject, or object, of Amendment No. 22, with regard to the Lord Great Chamberlain.
The substantive amendment moved by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, is Amendment No. 23. I do not believe that loyalty to the United Kingdom or to the Crown depends on a, or an, hereditary representation in this House. There is no recent Duke extant in the Principality of Wales, so far as my present researches indicate. But tomorrow I shall attend the opening of the Welsh Assembly, which is to be opened graciously by Her Majesty the Queen in the company of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales. These things do not depend on historical representation.
I ought to say why on the Weatherill compromise, two hereditary office-holders, the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain, were included. As your Lordships know, the office of Earl Marshal is held by the Dukedom of Norfolk and the office of the Lord Great Chamberlain revolves on a kind of flexi-time basis between the Marquessate of Cholmondeley, the Earldom of Ancaster and the Marquessate of Lincolnshire.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Certainly I believe the noble Duke left out "of that Ilk". One should be scrupulous about such matters. It often takes a grammar school boy from North Wales to reflect on such historical resonances. If I remember correctly from my childhood talks with my father, Sir Ian Moncreiffe of that Ilk is the father of the present Lord High Constable of Scotland, the noble Earl, Lord Errol, who is, I believe, again reflecting dimly, the 28th hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland. One needs to bear such matters in mind. He has no role to play in your Lordships' House. He sits in this House as a Member, pure and simple, with no additional, specialised role.
An important point has been prefigured in what I was hoping to put as my marshalled arguments upon this occasion. Earlier today, a number of noble Lords in discussing whether the number of the Weatherill relicts should be 92, 46, 180, 120, 207 and so forth, quite rightly made particular reference to the Act of Union 1707. I now produce my trump card. There is no reference at all anywhere in the Act of Union 1707 to ensure the Lord High Constable a seat in this House. Need I say more? I shall.
Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He will correct me if I am wrong, but is there any reference in the Treaty of Union, which I respectfully suggest is the important document, as to whether either the Earl Marshal or the Lord Great Chamberlain should be Members of this House?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Of course not; nor would the informed mind expect there to be. It is well known to most of us--I hope it is well known to all of us--that the function of the Lord High Constable of Scotland is to defend the person of Her Majesty north of the Border. It has nothing to do with any duties he might have in your Lordships' House. Therefore, although the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, rightly brings these matters to our attention, as always, his amendment is misplaced because the true functions of the Earls of Errol as hereditary Constables lie north of the Border. I could go further and expand a little, but I think that perhaps my argument is so overwhelming that no further contribution is needed.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation of the Government's point of view on the issues I raised. My point was not that the Lord High Constable had a duty currently in Parliament here, but merely that by widening those involved to cover the full scope of the officers of state within the United Kingdom, it became more of a United Kingdom Parliament than it currently appears to be to some observers.
The question of whether or not there is any duplication in these titles is a slightly difficult one. If one consults with somebody like the Lord Lyon in Scotland, he would see that there was a possible duplication in these matters. If one consulted the Garter King of Arms, he perhaps would not see it in terms of a Parliament of England.
The question to which I am trying to find an answer is this. Considering that this is the Parliament of the United Kingdom, who can lay down whether or not there is a possible confusion? But rather than keeping the Committee any later tonight, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.