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The Lord Chancellor: No. There are by-elections in the other place; indeed, it is an entirely different state of affairs.

Lord Strathclyde: I sense that the noble and learned Lord is trying to be helpful and I am grateful to him. I suspect that what happens in another place is that a Writ is issued for a by-election and that that is how they get around it. It is possible that we may be able to find a similar system in this Chamber. The solution to this situation may be found when we discuss my amendment, Amendment No. 32, which deals with by-elections because that is also part of dealing with replacements.

The noble and learned Lord started by saying that he does not have a closed mind. We shall examine what he said to see whether there is a way round the problem. In parenthesis, I should point out that this is not an issue of trust or mistrust between the noble and learned Lord

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and everyone else. However, the noble and learned Lord may not always be with us. He may be replaced by someone who is far less considerate than himself. Of course, that would never do. Therefore, I hope that we shall be able to find a way to deal with this problem which is mutually acceptable to the noble and learned Lord and ourselves, and which actually renders a service to the House. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Newby moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 1, line 12, at end insert--
("( ) If any persons are to be selected for exception under subsection (1) by reference to a connection with any group or political party, they shall be elected by all peers recognised as provided by Standing Orders as members of that group or party in the House of Lords, unless such peers resolve that the electorate shall consist only of hereditary peers recognised as such members.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment states that the 75 Peers to be elected by the parties and the Cross-Benchers may be selected by all Peers, hereditary and life, if the group so decides, or by the hereditaries only, if that is how the group equally decides.

We went over much of the ground covered by this amendment earlier in the day when we discussed the group of amendments headed by the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke. I do not intend to detain the Committee long with the arguments that many Members of the Committee will already have heard. I say only that that debate demonstrated that there are two views on the nature of the Weatherill Peers. The view that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, clearly expressed was that they should be representative Peers. I believe we would accept that if you take that view it is logical that they would simply be elected by other hereditary Peers in their group. They are literally a sub-sect of the hereditaries elected by the hereditaries to preserve a hereditary principle in this Chamber.

The other view, which I believe many of my colleagues would hold--and which I think is shared, at least in part, by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe--is that we hope that the Weatherill Peers would represent those Peers who make the greatest contribution to the work of this Chamber. Although there would obviously be a great overlap in numbers, we are looking at a slightly different concept here. If you accept our view--which I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, described as the elitist view rather than the representative view--it seems to us that it is logical that all Peers in a group, life and hereditary, should have the opportunity to decide which of their number remain.

This amendment simply states that the groups would have the option to choose whichever system they wished. The Conservatives and the Cross-Benchers may decide to go down the representative route. We might decide to go down the other route. The provision does not preclude any group from adopting its preferred route. I believe that we would thereby avoid the nightmare scene depicted by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, of a plethora of options because one group would have only one system to operate and another

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group, meeting elsewhere, would operate a separate system. What we seek here is some statement from the Government that the detailed provisions for the election of the Weatherill Peers will be permissive in the options that they allow groups to follow rather than forcing a single option on all groups. I beg to move.

Viscount Cranborne: I do not intend to repeat the arguments so elegantly laid out by the noble Lord. I say merely that I entirely subscribe to his version of what I said and the reasons for it. I emphasise that the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble Lord who has just spoken both acknowledge that if the Peers who are to be elected are representative, the logic must be that those whom they represent must elect them. I stand my argument on that logic, validated as it has been by the noble Viscount and the noble Lord. That is my argument.

Therefore it seems to me that if that is right, it is difficult for individual groups--even for the Liberal Party which we know is sui generis in a way which most other political parties are not--to be an exception if that is the logic that prevails. For that reason alone, I find it extremely difficult to support the amendment.

Lord Monson: I think it is a very good amendment. Until about a year ago we never mentally divided ourselves into life Peers and hereditary Peers. It was a happy state of affairs. It was possible to see a fellow Peer every working day for a year or more without being certain whether he or she was a life Peer or a hereditary Peer. I should like to revert to that, but unfortunately it will not be possible. However, the spirit of the amendment is good. As was said earlier today, the life Peers know well which hereditary Peers are the right people to be elected, and such an amendment should be supported in principle at any rate.

Lord Kingsland: I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Newby, will forgive me if I express some wry amusement over this amendment. I seem to recall that for years and years my party was heavily criticised by the Liberal Party in European parliamentary elections for opting for a system of election which was different from that of all the other member states: the first-past-the-post system. I now find that, instead of endorsing the principle of uniformity and equality which was so wished for by his party in the European Parliament, in the House of Lords the Liberal Party wish for a devolved system whereby each party can choose its own method of election. Such an approach is totally contrary to the traditions of equality in the House of Lords, so eloquently expressed this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Peston.

Viscount Bledisloe: I share the view that has just been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that it would be wrong if different parts of the House of Lords had different systems.

The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and I had a discussion earlier on the principle of whether the election should be by hereditary Peers or all Peers. It amuses me to find the Cecil family criticising a system on the grounds that it is elitist. That is at least unusual.

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The noble Viscount and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor suggested that it was contrary to the deal done to suggest that the election could be done by all Peers. Of course, I know not what went on in the inner sessions of the noble Viscount and the noble and learned Lord over their whiskies. The only contemporary record of the deal they did is contained in the press announcement made by my noble friend Lord Weatherill and others, which is wholly equivocal upon the question of whether the election should be done by the hereditaries or otherwise. It may have been locked in the intentions of the noble Viscount that it should be done by hereditaries. But that intention has not manifested itself in any way until now.

We lawyers know full well that very often a party to a negotiation thinks that he has made something plain and it is not. Certainly, if we look at the written record of that agreement we see that the matter is wholly equivocal. I suggest that it would be entirely open to the House at the proper stage to consider this matter, namely, upon the report of the Procedure Committee.

The Earl of Onslow: I hope that we shall keep to the principle of representation. This principle of representative hereditary Peers is deeply in our history. It goes back to the Act of Union 1707. It was followed by the Act of Union of 1801, admittedly in a different form. But there is good, sound historical precedent. I am an Englishman. I like to use our history to advance reform. Therefore, we should stick solely to this method of the representatives.

I hope that when my noble friend Lord Wakeham reports on the findings of his Royal Commission he will extend the principle of representation to other groups and other sections of society, because it is a principle which has served us well. Therefore, let us not get muddled up with Liberal Party ideas of messing up the constitution. It has had so much time to do it and, one hopes, it will go on failing.

Viscount Bledisloe: Before the noble Earl sits down, does he not recognise that this Bill, in its content, abolishes the concept of what we have done for many years in the past? Therefore, it is a little curious to suggest that we should be dictated to by what Scotland did in 1707 when the whole concept of the hereditary peerage is being abolished by the Bill. It is rather odd to invoke in support of clauses in this Bill any principle of long-term history.

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