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Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has been extremely logical. Would he not say that he desires a number of Scots in this House?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I desire a number of Scots in this House.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble and learned Lord counts himself in the number of Scots. While they may no longer be domiciled or obey the terms of Amendment No. 31, I think that the noble and learned Lord obeys the domicile definition as regards birth. I suppose he is an honorary Scot to that extent.

We have had assurances from the Government which I am certain all governments in the future will heed. However, I am sure that he appreciates, especially with devolution and the considerable powers moving to the Scottish Parliament, there is the slight danger that in times to come the Scottish position will begin to wither a little at Westminster. It is that position that my noble friend Lord Gray and I seek to guard against.

I do not know what my noble friend wishes to do, but I am content to withdraw Amendment No. 29 having had those assurances from the noble and learned Lord. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 30 to 32 not moved.]

22 Jun 1999 : Column 891

Lord Gray moved Amendment No. 33:


After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

MEMBERSHIP OF HOUSE OF LORDS: SCOTTISH PEERS (NO. 6)

(" . To continue the effect of Article XXII of the Treaty of Union of 1707 Standing Orders shall provide that the minimum number of persons domiciled in Scotland and entitled to sit and vote in the House of Lords shall be sixteen; but Ministers of the Crown and persons appointed under the provisions of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 shall not count towards that minimum.")

10.16 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 33) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 40; Not-Contents, 123.

Division No. 3

CONTENTS

Annaly, L.
Berners, B.
Blackwell, L.
Caithness, E.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Clinton, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L.
Coleraine, L.
Dundee, E.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Forbes, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Gray, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Kintore, E.
Lauderdale, E.
Mancroft, L.
Monson, L.
Montrose, D.
Mountevans, L.
Norrie, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rowallan, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. [Teller.]
Selsdon, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stockton, E.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Swansea, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trenchard, V.
Waddington, L.
Willoughby de Broke, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Alderdice, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carter, L.
Chorley, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gladwyn, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grantchester, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hanworth, V.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haslam, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. [Teller.]
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Judd, L.
Kennet, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Listowel, E.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
Maddock, B.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nelson of Stafford, L.
Newby, L.
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Nicol, B.
Northbourne, L.
O'Neill of Bengarve, B.
Orme, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rogers of Riverside, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sandberg, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Somerset, D.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tordoff, L.
Uddin, B.
Warner, L.
Weatherill, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

22 Jun 1999 : Column 892

10.26 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 34 to 39 not moved.]

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 40:


After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

INDEPENDENT PEERS

(" .--(1) From the date of the coming into force of section 1 of this Act the Prime Minister shall within two months of his commencement of each session of Parliament ensure (if necessary by recommending the creation of additional life peers) that the number of independent peers entitled to speak and to vote in the Second Chamber is at least as great as the number who take the whips of the largest single party.
(2) For the purpose of this section "independent peers" shall mean any member who is entitled to speak and to vote in the Second Chamber and who does not owe allegiance to, is not a member of, and does not take the whip of any political party.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 40, I should like for a moment to take the debate away from party politics and cross-Border politics. The amendment relates to the proportion of independent Peers in the second Chamber. Unlike the Opposition earlier today, I do not seek to place the amendment on the face of the Bill; I want the Government to make a clear commitment.

My concern--and the Government are not going to like it--extends not only to the interim House but to the stage two House. I believe that the proportion of independent Peers in the House is a crucial question. It

22 Jun 1999 : Column 893

is important because the Government are prepared to tell us so little about their proposals for the future of this House. We have to wonder why they are so reticent.

For those of us who believe that the second Chamber should be an effective revising Chamber and a check on the executive, an effective independent presence is crucial. Without enough independents, the second Chamber will tend to be either a pale shadow of the first Chamber or in constant conflict with it.

The Government have already given a commitment to broad parity between the two main political parties. They have already given an indication that they consider a significant independent presence in the future House is important. Indeed, today the noble Baroness the Leader of the House referred to a very significant presence, which notched it up one. It would be but a small step for the Government to go a little further and to put to rest the fear held by many of us that the power and aggressiveness of the political parties will be allowed to whittle away this significant independent presence over time.

In Committee, I suggested that the Government should give a commitment to at least 30 per cent of the House being independent. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House said that she could not commit herself to a specific number--though, in truth, 30 per cent is not a number but a proportion. This amendment, therefore, suggests using the same form of words for independents as the Government have already used in their commitment to the major Opposition parties. The noble Baroness made the point earlier this evening that there is a need to define more clearly the meaning of the word "independence". She referred to the ambivalence of the position of the Law Lords, but it could easily be defined.

I believe that the Government should make the same commitment about the proportion of independents as they have made about the proportionate relationship between the Government and the main Opposition party. To my mind, it is no good the Government saying that it all depends on the Royal Commission, because it does not. The Government have not given a commitment to accept all or any of its recommendations. The reality is that it is the Government who will decide and therefore it is only they who can make the commitment.

That raises another important point. Earlier in these debates the Government Front Bench argued that the future of this House is no business of those of us who, if this Bill is passed, will no longer be Members of it. I absolutely reject that view. I believe that as long as those of us who are hereditary Peers have a seat and a voice in this House, we have an absolute responsibility and a duty to consider the effects of this Bill on the future of parliamentary democracy and on the future of this country.

The Government have intentionally left us very little room in which to exercise that responsibility. It is for that reason that the choice which all of us will have to make at the end of Third Reading--whether to pass this Bill or reject it--becomes so important. At that time, each of us will have to ask ourselves which way of exercising our responsibility on this critically important

22 Jun 1999 : Column 894

issue is most likely to lead to the best outcome for this Chamber and for the future governance of the country. That is the issue. It is not about what happens to the hereditary Peers who are going. This Bill is about the future constitution of this country. For some of us, this may be the last opportunity we have to exercise our responsibility in this matter.

In my experience, there are only two ways in which an organisation can get rid of people, especially those who have worked for it and given long and loyal service. They can persuade them to retire or they can sack them. I hoped--I still hope--that this Government want to follow the former route. Indeed, it seems to me that out-of-hand sackings sit strangely with a Labour Government. If the Government want my voluntary agreement to early retirement, they can have it. If they want me to endorse this Bill at Third Reading, I shall do so, but they will have to go a little further in convincing me that what they plan for the future of the second Chamber will be better for this country than the one that we already have. I beg to move.


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