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Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I believe he is saying that I have identified a problem with the Weatherill amendment which the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, now seeks to correct by virtue of Amendment No. 44A. He could simply have said that he accepts my amendment and that would have saved the noble Baroness the trouble. However, I am happy to accept that the spirit at least of my amendment has been accepted, and that is very gratifying.

In relation to Amendment No. 43, I should like to study what the Minister said in reply to that separate amendment. It is related to Amendment No. 41. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 not moved.]

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 44:


Page 1, line 24, at end insert--
("unless he is excepted from section 1.
(2) The holder of a hereditary peerage who is a member of the House of Commons is disqualified for being excepted from section 1 or for voting at any election held in pursuance of Standing Orders of the House for the exception of any person from section 1.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is designed to be helpful. However, in saying that I am conscious that I may be raising problems which cannot

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necessarily be resolved this evening. We are in danger of getting into a muddle on voting rights and rights to stand for the House of Commons. The effect of the Weatherill amendment changed substantially old Clause 2, now Clause 3. That clause would have removed the disqualification of hereditary Peers to vote for and stand for the House of Commons, as the Minister said.

It must be right that we cannot have a situation where people can vote for both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, it is logical to continue to deny the Weatherill Peers the right to vote for and stand for the House of Commons; but, on the other hand, non-elected Peers could both vote for and stand for the House of Commons. That is the effect of the first part of the amendment.

The second part of the amendment addresses a slightly different question; namely, the position of an hereditary Peer who has not been elected under the Weatherill system to be a Member of this House and who has subsequently become a Member of another place by exercising his new freedom to stand for the other place. Clearly such a person ought not to be permitted to stand for election to this House in any subsequent by-election held under the Weatherill system; nor to take part in any elections for membership of this House while remaining in another place. That point was referred to by my noble friend Lord Henley. The Government have, at least partially, reflected that view in their Amendment No. 74A. However, I feel that a hereditary Peer in another place ought to be allowed to vote in general elections while remaining a Member of another place. That is the effect of the second part of my amendment.

I believe that the amendment does address most of the questions, although it does not touch on some of the technical repeals which figure in the next batch of government amendments. But the situation may have become slightly more complicated since this afternoon as a result of the acceptance of the Government to replace deceased Weatherill Peers by election, should we reach that stage. If, as many in the House contend they should be, those by-elections are held on the basis of all hereditary Peers in the party groups, including those excluded from the House, choosing the Peer to fill the place, then hereditary Peers outside the House would have the potential right to elect to both Houses of Parliament. That was not permitted to Irish representative Peers and it is questionable whether it should be permitted as a constitutional doctrine, although I would remind the House that Irish Peers were allowed to vote for the House of Commons while they were actually Members of that place--Lord Palmerston being a famous case in point.

The amendment that I have laid would, I concede, give such people a vote to both Houses in such circumstances, which would be a difficulty and one that has intensified since our discussion on Amendment No. 21. However, if the proposal of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor were favoured by the House, then hereditary Peers excluded from the House would not have the right to vote for membership of this House

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and there would be no problem of a double mandate. But, in these circumstances, it might be possible for an excluded Peer to be a candidate in an election for either House. This was allowed to the Irish Peers. I do not think that anyone in this House would want to prevent excluded Peers from standing for the House of Commons simply because they might one day happen to be invited to join this House.

A possible solution is that Peers should be required in Standing Orders actively to declare themselves available to stand for the House of Lords. However, in that case, the Clerk of the Parliaments might have to keep a running list of those willing to be elected to this House, so that those Peers were not prevented from standing for another place. It is obviously important that these matters be got right. I have to admit to the Government that I am not sure that I have yet got my mind round all the implications of some of the amendments, especially the repeals suggested by them in the following group. The whole question would also be affected by whatever decisions the House may reach in its discussions in the Procedure Committee on the question of by-elections.

I am sure that it has already become obvious that I have no intention of pressing this amendment. That is partly because I do not think that I have solved what may well be the emerging conundrum. I am looking for an acceptance by the Government that there is an issue which needs to be resolved. Perhaps the best way would be for the Government and their advisers to get together with us, so that at least I can understand what the answers are to some of these issues. Indeed, it might to helpful to do so between now and Third Reading because these are important issues.

We should not accidentally exclude hereditary Peers who are excluded from this House House from standing for the House of Commons. Likewise, we should not exclude hereditary Peers who are already in the House of Commons--the example of the son of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham, Douglas Hogg, who is a Member of Parliament, springs to mind. Should his father, my noble and learned friend, sadly die, we want to make sure that his son would not immediately be required to relinquish his position in the House of Commons and be excluded from this House as well. I am sure that that problem will not arise but I want to make absolutely certain that no provision we are discussing today would lead to that consequence. I hope that the Minister will accept my suggestion of a meeting to resolve these matters. I beg to move.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I very much share my noble friend's concern on this matter. He has pointed to a possible difficulty relating to existing Members of the other place who might one day succeed to a hereditary title. However, it is important to mention another aspect of this matter. I think that it would be quite wrong for Weatherill Peers, as they are now called, to be allowed to stand for election to the House of Commons as well. It is a legitimate question as to whether they should be allowed even to vote for Members of the House of Commons. They certainly should not be allowed to stand for election to the House of Commons. I am not

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clear that we have achieved that by the present provisions of the Bill. When we debated this matter at some length in Committee, I became more mystified with every amendment that was proposed and with every answer that the Government provided. I very much agree with my noble friend's suggestion; namely, that there must be a getting together of heads in all of this in order for the matter to be resolved properly.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I agree with that suggestion. If there is a difficulty here--which I do not necessarily accept--it is best resolved in the appropriate way by discussions between advisers on both sides and anyone who wants to be present at any meeting. After Second Reading, my noble friend the Leader of the House said that we were perfectly happy to proceed in that way. These are technical matters. I do not think that the aim we seek to attain is entirely different, at least judging from what has been indicated this evening. I am more than happy to accept the suggestion made by both noble Lords to discuss this matter. Doubtless we can arrive at a form of words which is acceptable to all. If that is not the case, at least we shall have defined and refined our differences.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's comments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 44A:


Page 1, line 24, at end insert--
("( ) Subsection (1) shall not apply in relation to anyone excepted from section 1 by virtue of section 2.")

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 44A, I hope that it will be for the convenience of the House if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 58E, 64A, 67A, 74A, 76A and 77 as they form a package. I hope that I can elucidate some of the points that were made on the amendment that we discussed earlier, but points may arise which may need to be dealt with in the way that my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, mentioned a few moments ago.

In the Government's view these amendments have a common theme; namely, to make sure that the Bill has consistently accommodated the impact of the inclusion of Clause 2, the Weatherill amendment. The fact that some hereditary Peers will remain Members of your Lordships' House as the new category of excepted Peers, rather than simply being eligible like everyone else to become life Peers, means that some provisions of the Bill will need to be amended and some provisions of Acts which we would otherwise have been able to dispense with will now have to be retained, or amended, or both retained and amended.

Of all the amendments in this package, Amendment No. 44A is probably the most significant. It is, however, simple in its intent and in its effects. It makes sure that hereditary Peers who remain Members of this House as

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excepted Peers or who in the future become excepted Peers do not have the right to sit, stand or vote in elections for the other place. It therefore preserves the position that exists at present that Members of this House are disqualified from voting in elections to the House of Commons and being Members of the House of Commons. Hereditary Peers who are not Members of this House will have those disqualifications lifted and in that respect this amendment has made no change. The amendment merely ensures that the excepted Peers and life Peers are treated in the same way. It is a simple and, I hope, logical change, which is not adding to the confusion to which the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, referred a few moments ago in relation to these technical matters. The amendment is simple and logical; I hope that it is clear. I commend it to the house.

Amendment No. 58E concerns the schedule. As noble Lords will understand, the amendment simply introduces the new schedule of amendments which are contained in Amendment No. 74A. The present schedule to the Bill contains only repeals. However, as a result of the introduction of new Clause 2, some provisions now need to be amended rather than repealed. These are set out in the new schedule, which is Amendment No. 74A.

Amendments Nos. 64A and 67A are simply drafting amendments intended to tie in the commencement provision with the reference in Clause 2 to the commencement of that section. They create no change of substance to the operative provisions. The main provisions still come into force at the end of the Session, while the transitional electoral provisions come into force on Royal Assent.

The purpose of Amendment No. 68A is to provide for the continuing validity of Writs of Summons issued to hereditary Peers who become excepted Peers--that is, the elected Peers--before the end of the Session. The amendment ensures that an excepted Peer, identified as such by the end of the Session, will not need a new Writ of Summons; his current one will remain valid. However, any Peer who is excepted after the end of this Session of Parliament will need to receive a new Writ of Summons. I hope that that is equally clear and covers some of the points which I know we discussed in other contexts earlier.

Amendment No. 74A makes two amendments to existing legislation to ensure that it can cope in the future with the concept of excepted Peers. The first amendment, to the Peerage Act 1963, is intended to prevent an excepted Peer disclaiming his title. The second amendment, to the Recess Elections Act 1975, provides that the provisions of the Recess Elections Act should be amended so that what is required to be certified is that someone has become an excepted Peer or a life Peer, rather than simply a Peer, for the purposes of declaring that a parliamentary vacancy has been created.

As your Lordships are well aware, Section 1 of the Peerage Act 1963 states that any Peer who applies for a Writ of Summons loses the right to disclaim. Under the Bill as originally drafted, Writs of Summons were no longer relevant to hereditary Peers. We therefore

22 Jun 1999 : Column 903

propose to remove the reference to them in Section 1(2) of the 1963 Act, while retaining the 12-month timelimit on disclaimers.

However, the effect of new Clause 2 is again, in this instance, to complicate the issue somewhat. I can see that noble Lords will probably agree that in common sense it is a rather far-fetched scenario that a Peer could, all within the space of 12 months, succeed to a title; take the Oath and his seat; stand for and be elected as an excepted Peer; think better of it and disclaim the title, thus losing the right to be a Member of the House. None the less, it is not an impossible scenario. The complications of ensuring that such a Peer ceased to be counted as an excepted Peer led us to the view that the better course is to cut off the possibility at the root. That is the effect of the amendment. A Peer who chooses membership of the House of Lords will thus have to remain committed to that choice; by becoming an excepted Peer, he will put himself in exactly the same position as if, at present, he had decided to apply for his Writ of Summons. In other words, he will be unable to disclaim his title.

So far as concerns the Recess Elections Act 1975, leaving the provision unamended would have left an unsatisfactory ambiguity in the Act since, following the Weatherill amendment, a person will be able to become disqualified from membership of the House of Commons by virtue of being excepted under the Bill and the draft Standing Order, and not by becoming a Peer. Such a person will already be a Peer. It is a question of his being accepted that gives rise to the vacancy. It is therefore necessary to provide that that change of status can be clearly identified for the purposes of the Recess Elections Act. That is all that the amendment does. It is entirely consistent with Clause 3, both now and as we propose to amend it.

Amendment No. 76A is a consequential amendment. It removes the repeal of certain words in Section 1(2) of the 1963 Peerage Act. Those words have instead been replaced by Amendment No. 74A to which I have just spoken.

Amendment No. 77 initially stood only in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Gray. The Government felt that the noble Lord's intentions in tabling that amendment might have been rather different from ours, but we agreed with the wording that he used. It is another consequential amendment to the Bill as a result of the Weatherill amendment.

Our motives may be different from the noble Lord's, but we wish to continue in force Sections 4 and 6 of the Peerage Act 1963 so as to allow Peers and Peeresses in the peerage of Scotland, and Peeresses in the peerage of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England, who are elected under the Standing Orders, to become excepted Peers and to remain Members of this House.

The removal of these sections of the Peerage Act from the schedule of repeals does not mean that such Peers and Peeresses will have a right to continued membership of this House if they are not excepted under Clause 2 of the Bill. Sections 4 and 6 of the 1963 Act will in future be read subject to Clause 1 of the Bill.

22 Jun 1999 : Column 904

The Government believe that that clause is wide enough by itself to ensure that such Peers and Peeresses will have no right to be Members of this House. I particularly ask the House to note that the continuing in force of these sections does not override the terms of Clause 1 of the Bill. In particular, it would be wrong to construe the Bill as enabling Scottish Peers to have the same rights as life Peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords notwithstanding Clause 1.

However, by the same token, Sections 4 and 6 will also need to be read in the light of Clause 2. Those sections will continue to speak for the purposes of any Scottish Peers and Peeresses, and Peeresses in the peerage of the United Kingdom, Great Britain or England, who become excepted Peers. The amendment will ensure that Peeresses and Scottish Peers have the same right as UK hereditary Peers to membership of this House if they are excepted under Clause 2 of the Bill. In order to continue to be Members of this House after the coming into force of the Act, excepted Peeresses and Scottish Peers will need to have a right to membership, and at present that right arises by virtue of their hereditary peerages and Section 4 or 6 of the Peerage Act. If Sections 4 or 6 of the Peerage Act are repealed, then there would be a risk that the underlying right to membership of the House for excepted Peers would be removed and Clause 2 could not operate to confer the right to membership. Such Peers might, therefore, be doubly excluded--first by Clause 1 and then by the repeal of these sections. This amendment is therefore essential if Peeresses and Scottish Peers are to be able to continue to be Members of this House, whether as originally excepted Peers or as replacement Peers.

I urge the House to accept this group of amendments. I realise that I have spoken ahead of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, who first tabled the amendment. I realise, too, that the noble Lord's motives for doing so may have been slightly different from those of the Government. I hope that I have not followed the rather gloomy picture presented to us by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, of merely confusing the issue by introducing these more technical matters in this rather extended group form. However, if noble Lords on the Opposition Front Bench feel that it would be helpful to consider these amendments in discussions away from the Floor of the House, I should of course be happy to follow my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn in doing that. I beg to move.


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