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Lord Lucas: The words of which my noble friend complains are a gratuitous insult. However, I have a difficulty with the amendment. The Bill provides for an elected upper House with a continued, appointed element of life Peers. Therefore the coming into force of the Bill would immediately extinguish we hereditary Peers as an elected element of the House. I have difficulty as to whether that destroys the Bill entirely, or whether it means that we go round in circles being appointed and disappointed in rapid succession.

Lord Kingsland: I congratulate my noble friend on tabling the amendment. The proposal builds imaginatively on the 1911 Parliament Act which sought to retain the hereditary peerage until some popular and democratic new House was put in its place.

Considering Clause 2(3), it is hard to understand how "provides to the contrary" could mean "provides a nominated substitute for the transitional House." In my submission, "provides to the contrary" must mean some kind of elected House although not necessarily a wholly elected Chamber. The great value of my noble friend's amendment is that it challenges the Government to come up with their own ideas about stage two. As we have done on many occasions from this Dispatch Box, I again invite the noble and learned Lord to speculate a

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little further than he has been prepared to do on what an Act of Parliament which "provides to the contrary" might contain.

The Lord Chancellor: The noble Earl, Lord Dudley, expressed a little concern at the outset of his observations that my taking a deep breath might signal that I was running out of energy. I can assure the noble Earl that I was not. It is always my practice to take a very deep breath in order to steady myself for whatever may be about to come from the noble Earl.

The amendment strays into matters which are not the proper territory of the Bill. The composition of a fully reformed second Chamber is an issue for consideration by the Royal Commission which we have set up and which is due to report by the end of the year. We have said time and again that we are not willing to pre-empt the deliberations and findings of the commission. That would not be right. It would be equally wrong for the Bill to seek to pre-empt the recommendations of the Royal Commission by enshrining a particular outcome in statute.

I was asked earlier to give an assurance that the Bill did not seek to cut down the terms of the remit to the Royal Commission contained in its terms of reference. I gave that assurance subject to the obvious recognition that the Royal Commission would wish to make recommendations that would promote a smooth transfer from this House to a fully reformed House.

Conversely, it would be wrong for this Bill to seek to pre-empt the commission's recommendations by attempting to enshrine in statute a particular outcome for stage two. That would not be consistent with the consultation process on which the Royal Commission is currently engaged. It is a wide-ranging exercise which aims to seek the views of the public, not just those of politicians.

The White Paper makes it perfectly clear that an elected House is one of the options that the Royal Commission ought to consider, but there are other options, too, which are highlighted in the White Paper. Contrary to various recent press reports, the Labour Party's own evidence to the Royal Commission did not express a preference for an appointed second Chamber over an elected one. The evidence set out the underlying principles which we believe should determine the nature of the second Chamber. It should be representative in the sense that it should represent the groups which make up today's society and the nations which make up the United Kingdom. It should be distinctive from the House of Commons both in its function and composition. And it should have an independent element which brings experience and expertise to this House. Shortly put, it should be a House of all the talents of the nation and it should ensure that no one political party has an overall majority.

However, these are all matters for the Royal Commission. It will recommend what in its view the actual composition of the reformed House should be

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and how it should be chosen. Meanwhile, we could not conceivably accept the amendment because it strays substantially into stage two.

10.30 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow : Will the noble and learned Lord then explain why there is a necessity for the bracketed words? They seem to me totally tautological. Any Act of Parliament can say what it likes and it can enact what it likes when it likes. That is called the doctrine of supremacy of Parliament. Therefore, it is totally tautological to have the words in brackets in the amendment.

The Lord Chancellor: In a sense, the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is right. Until an Act of Parliament provides "to the contrary" is probably unnecessary because an Act of Parliament can always provide as it chooses for the reason he gives. However, in my frequent exchanges with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who unhappily is not with us tonight--

Noble Lords: He is!

The Lord Chancellor: He is here! I have made a double error because I may be encouraging him to rise to his feet on a subject dear to his heart. I have occasionally been lured by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, into accepting that there is a possibility that words are surplusage and that would be a red rag to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, were he not so restrained at this hour. But the reason for the emphasis in "to the contrary" is to make plain to all concerned that what is provided for by the accepted Peers is a transitional, temporary arrangement.

Earl Ferrers: The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, may feel restrained at this late hour, but such restraint does not prevail itself upon me. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is always enormously persuasive. He said earlier that he could not conceivably advise the Committee to accept the amendment. I wonder whether he could tell us what amendments he could conceivably advise the House to accept, because it seems that the briefs which he and his Front Bench team have given themselves are to accept no argument and accept no amendment.

It is pretty depressing, after seven days of debate full of minutiae of great importance, irritating though they may be to the Government Front Bench, to be told that it is impossible to accept any amendments and they are completely wrong. We have already seen the Government go through a tautological hoop of first saying that the Bill will reject all hereditary Peers and then accepting 100. Not everything therefore can be right. What makes the noble and learned Lord so

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convinced that everything the Government have said is right and everything the Opposition have said is bound to be wrong?

The Lord Chancellor: I have heard nothing that has persuaded me!

Earl Ferrers: Presumably his brief is, "Accept no amendment; accept no argument". Would the noble and learned Lord care to say whether that is so?

The Lord Chancellor: That is not so.

The Earl of Dudley: I was careful to say that I was not pre-empting the Royal Commission and careful to try to direct my words not towards the problem of an elected second Chamber, but to the problem of the terms on which the hereditaries remain in this House. I do not believe, in that respect, that I was straying beyond any bounds, even those set by the "Cranborne convention/Weatherill amendment", which is now Clause 2.

However, it is late at night. I understand that we are in a period of armistice and that what we say is said for effect rather than for result. In that sense; knowing that the noble and learned Lord and I share one thing in common, of which he may not be aware--our mothers were born in Sutherland--on that spirit of hands across the ocean, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 1, line 14, at end insert ("unless, by instrument of disclaimer delivered to the Lord Chancellor, he disclaims the right to sit and vote as a member of the House of Lords.
(3A) The holder of a peerage who exercises the right of disclaimer conferred by subsection (3) shall retain rights of access to, and use of, the House of Lords and any premises occupied by the House.
(3B) If the holder of a peerage exercises his right of disclaimer conferred by subsection (3), arrangements shall be put in hand to replace the vacancy created within twenty sitting days.")

The noble Earl said: My mother was not born in Sutherland. My grandmother always said that she was born on the groundsheet of a grenadier, but we shall leave that aside.

I sincerely hope that this amendment is not incorporated in the Bill. My purpose in tabling it is solely to receive information from the Government and to put down markers for the Standing Orders about our successors. We must assume that the Bill will last longer than the Government said it would. I do not necessarily believe that it will, but we must assume that it will and act as if it will.

Therefore, there must be a method whereby hereditary Peers can not only be replaced but are able to resign if they become old, incapacitated or totally disreputable. It surely is a sensible arrangement that somebody should be able to resign from a position of authority or privilege. Life Peers cannot do that, but they need not attend. However, because of the representational

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element of the 90 "self-elected" Peers, I suggest that there must be arrangements for them to be able to resign and be replaced.

I have hardly read the details of my own amendment. I went to the Public Bill Office and explained what I wanted to do and the parliamentary draftsman wrote it down in legal jargon. All I ask is that when we come to the Standing Orders that recreate the re-electoral principle, we build in a provision on ability to resign. I beg to move.

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