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Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, sock it to them!

Lord Carter: My Lords,--

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the Government Chief Whip was extremely quick on his feet. I was still wondering whether my noble friend Lord Clanwilliam was going to say something else; clearly not.

This is clearly an important and interesting amendment. It deals with issues that the Government Front Bench must resolve and answer. At Committee the noble Lord, Lord Carter, said that this Bill would end the rights of hereditary Peers to sit and vote. A few days later that was changed. I very much welcome that change.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, in speaking in support of the Weatherill amendment, said that the election of hereditary Peers as proposed under Weatherill would have the result that they would have greater authority. If we follow that logic through, how much more so would the election of Peers from high office. Would not the House benefit from the services of my noble friends Lord Stockton, Lord Inglewood and Lord Bethell and others when they finish their long and triumphant service in the European Parliament?

It is said that your Lordships are not representative. Is not election to high office and service in that office for a period of seven years, which must imply that they have been re-elected, the mark of someone who has

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been judged worthy by the people to represent them? It is said that they are not legitimate, but has not the fact of the election given them authority, as the noble and learned Lord conceded, and that authority will be given to representative Peers in respect of the Weatherill amendment? This amendment would retain in the House Peers who have been elected to a range of democratic bodies. That is a good thing. The Government are falling into the danger, in a fit of ideological abandon, of clearing people out of the House whose experience is of value, not just to the House but to the whole nation.

There is a small group who have had the legitimacy proclaimed by an election, an election incidentally from which the Front Bench team opposite have not benefited. Might it not be right for the Government to consider this small number of people who might be included on the list that my noble friend proposes? It may be that the amendment is too widely drawn and that my noble friend would want to reflect upon that before he brings it back at Third Reading. I hope that the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip who is clearly going to answer on this, will give an encouraging and constructive reply to my noble friend.

Earl Ferrers: Before the noble Lord, Lord Carter, rises again, I hope he will give this consideration and not do what his noble friend behind suggested that he should do when the noble Lord, Lord Carter, rose before. I do not know whether he was aware but the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, said, "Sock it to them". That is neither a very agreeable nor a very friendly expression coming from the noble Lord behind. It was rather like a schoolboy with a catapult. This expression comes out once every other meeting on this Bill. I do hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, will give a considered answer and a respectful answer and will not sock it to us.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, he is rattled.

Lord Carter: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, said that he was chided by me at Committee. I have to tell the noble Earl that I propose to continue the chiding. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, appeared a little reluctant to come to the Dispatch Box and, having heard his speech, I can understand why. My noble friend Lord Graham always says "Sock it to them" when a Front Bencher rises.

A very similar amendment was tabled in Committee and one of the criticisms levelled at it then was that it was unclear as to whether a Peer who met the criteria would sit for life in the House of Lords or just for the duration of a Parliament. This amendment removes this ambiguity by stressing that the entitlement to sit in the House of Lords is for life, which makes the amendment more curious than it was in Committee. It will allow hereditary Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords as of right after serving on another specified elected body for seven years. This continues to contradict the manifesto commitment because it continues to afford preferential treatment to hereditary Peers on the basis of

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their birth. No other individuals who serve as elected representatives for the necessary period will be admitted to the House of Lords as of right.

In Committee, the noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, said the purpose of this amendment was to retain an element of the hereditary principle. Notwithstanding the acceptance of the Weatherill amendment, your Lordships' House will by now fully understand that we are unable to accept this amendment and why we are unable to accept it. It directly contravenes the principle of ending the automatic right of an hereditary Peer to sit and vote.

In Committee, we pointed out the effects of the similar amendment and they remain in the amendment before us today. I ask whether it is only the hereditary Peers who will be able to prove their democratic legitimacy. This scheme is extraordinary because hereditary Peers who have been elected to other bodies have the automatic right to return to the House of Lords. I ask why they should be favoured over other members of those elected bodies who may be considered for membership of the House of Lords. The same argument against including people in the legislature because of accident of birth rather than because of individual merits applies.

In allowing the bodies listed in this amendment to act as types of workplaces where hereditary Peers can spend a seven year apprenticeship before entering this House insults the standing of all those worthwhile chambers. If hereditary Peers wish to continue their public service and stand for election to another body, then all well and good. But to suggest that once they have completed the seven year stint, they can then by right return to this place, is, I am afraid, unacceptable.

The noble Earl, Lord Clanwilliam, wants this amendment passed, in his own words, as a memorial to the service that the hereditary Peers have provided. I am second to none in acknowledging the public service of many hereditary Peers. This amendment is not the way to acknowledge that service. Therefore the noble Lord will not be surprised to learn that the Government are unable to accept this amendment.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: I am most grateful for the support which I have received from the Front Bench and from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. Certainly I cannot accept the contention of the Chief Whip. I know that the Government's requirement is the elimination of all hereditary Peers. However, I suggest that the Government should respect the valuable service which they have offered. If this is the only way to do that, then they should accept the amendment.

However, we shall later deal with Amendment No. 21 which provides for the retention of the hereditary principle in the Weatherill amendment. Therefore, I shall await our discussions on that. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

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Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 10:

Leave out Clause 1

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not intend to speak at any great length to this amendment. As your Lordships know, Clause 1 provides that no one shall be a member of your Lordships' House by virtue of a hereditary peerage. However, there is a respectable view to the effect that none of us is here by virtue of hereditary peerage or, for that matter, a life peerage either. Rather we are here because of the Writ of Summons which we receive at the beginning of each Parliament.

The advice goes on to say that the Writ of Summons, once answered at the beginning of the Parliament, is valid for the whole of that Parliament. Those of us who have already in this Parliament answered the Writ cannot be required to leave, at least not in the terms of the Bill as presently drafted, until the end of the Parliament.

By contrast, those of us who have not yet attended this House in this Parliament would not now be able to do so if the Bill is passed in its present form. I recognise that this is a highly technical matter relating to long-established law of great complexity. I do not, for one moment, claim to be an expert in those matters. A number of other noble Lords have expressed a similar view to mine and perhaps some of them may speak again this evening.

Indeed, my noble friend Lord Kingsland has tabled a Motion to refer this matter to the Committee for Privileges, although he has not yet decided when he may do that. I hope that even at this late stage, the Government will recognise the doubt that there is surrounding this matter. In the meantime, I beg to move.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, as we have argued from these Benches more than once, we need to be sure that the Bill does, as intended, exclude hereditary Peers effectively. Mr Lofthouse has given his opinion that the clause is ineffective. If that is so, it can add nothing to the Bill. Therefore, it will have to go.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor asserted, while admitting he did not feel able to enter into what he called arcane questions of peerage law, that the clause is effective. Even if it is not, he has declared that what he wants is clear enough to your Lordships' House.

It is well known that there are many in your Lordships' House who believe that a declaration of intent from the Government Front Bench on any Bill which comes before the House is not enough, especially as, in the case of this Bill, it started with the premise that the purpose of the Bill was to exclude all hereditary Peers. Now we are told that it has a different purpose altogether-- namely, to exclude some hereditary Peers, while investing others with what the noble and learned Lord has said is the greater authority of election. It is not peerage law which is arcane; it is the wheels within wheels, within wheels behind which rests what I will flatteringly call the Government's constitutional strategy.

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The Clause 1 that went through another place and which was introduced in this House is now vitiated by the Clause 2 that the Government voted against in another place, voted for in your Lordships' House and have pledged to vote for in another place, but now warn they might vote against in another place if your Lordships do not behave. Do I make myself clear? If not, that makes my point. What I have described is government policy on Clause 1 of the Bill in a nutshell.

The way forward is to clarify the matter in what I hope I can modestly say is a Motion, which I intend at some stage to put before the House, to refer the effectiveness of this Bill to the Committee for Privileges. This matter has to be determined in some way or other. Either the Government accept amendments which unequivocally, and beyond all doubt, achieve the declared purposes of the Bill--an approach with which we said in Committee we would co-operate--or it must go to the test. There is no third way. As the Government have said that they will not withdraw and re-write this clause in a way that will clarify it, and I fear that my noble friend will not persuade them to do so tonight, we must therefore look to the Committee for Privileges.

In his reply, I hope that the Minister will assure the House that the Government will not seek to resist the reference of this matter to the Committee for Privileges; indeed, to the contrary, I hope that that they will confirm that they will support my noble friend's amendment to clarify the ambiguities of Clause 1 by reference to the Committee for Privileges.

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