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Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I have asked for my Amendment No. 58A to be de-coupled and to speak to it in its place in the Marshalled List. I believe that it is not appropriate to talk about religious affairs at the same time as welfare and charitable functions.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. I agree with everything that he said in support of the amendment. Charities also enjoy the proximity of the House of Commons next door and are very pleased to have MPs drop in and take part in events that are hosted in this House. There is a long tradition, which I am sure the Government foster, of support by Peers of charities in this House. It would be a pity if this change damaged that tradition.
Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, I have a good deal of sympathy with the amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, and also that relating to the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft. This is a problem. On the other hand, why should the amendment be so restrictive? Why should it relate only to welfare and charitable events?
On the other hand, the noble Earl is either a Member of the House or he is not. If he is no longer a Member I do not believe that these rights should apply. However, there can be a compromise. Bookings that go into next year have already been made; indeed, I have one myself. Is it possible for the Offices Committee to consider giving an interim period of grace of, say, six months during which these bookings can apply, but for no longer? I put that to the Government and hope that they will consider it. I am very glad that the noble Earl raises the point, which I believe requires consideration.
Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. Members of your Lordships' House perhaps come under more pressure than ordinary members of the public to accept positions as officers of charitable organisations, or at least to lend assistance to them from time to time. The general public assume that the privilege of being a Member of your Lordships' House carries with it an obligation to use that privilege in ways that assist charitable and deserving causes.
Many noble Lords clearly recognise this obligation, or feel minded to do their best to assist charities with which they have become associated. I think the public belief that noble Lords have an obligation to assist charitable organisations will not disappear with the enactment of the Bill. In order to assist those noble Lords who have agreed to help various charitable organisations to continue to discharge their duties, I hope that the Government will be minded to support my noble friend's amendment.
There is another point. We have heard from time to time about hybridity during the course of our deliberations on the Bill. I had no idea what hybridity was until I heard about it in connection with the Bill. I understand that a Bill may be hybrid if it treats the private, as opposed to public, interests of some members of a class of people as opposed to others of the same class in a different manner. It seems to me a bogus argument that if measures that invoke charges of hybridity are contained within standing orders rather than within the Bill itself, that should be acceptable. Furthermore, I believe that all Peers are a single class of people, and that legislation that treated the private interests of all hereditary Peers differently from the private interests of all life Peers might itself be hybrid.
It is argued that the rights to sit, speak and vote in your Lordships' House do not form part of your Lordships' private interests, but rather your Lordships' public interests. I am inclined to agree with that view. However, I believe that the right to act as host of charitable events within this Palace of Westminster forms part of your Lordships' private interests and I cannot understand how the Examiners could do otherwise than find the Bill to be hybrid, at least in respect of this matter.
Lord Carter: My Lords, I am extremely obliged to the noble Viscount for giving way. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, said that he was decoupling Amendment No. 58A. It is therefore not in this group. It will be spoken to later in its place on the Marshalled List.
Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I apologise. In thinking about this matter, one point which has not been raised during deliberations on the Bill is the question of who will be able to use St Margaret's Church, Westminster, which is the church of the House of Commons, but which noble Lords are also allowed to use by leave of Members of another place. If there were an amendment on this subject, I feel that it would be grouped with the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. That is also a matter that your Lordships might wish to consider in future.
Lord Mancroft: My Lords, I had not intended to speak to the amendment of the noble Earl. But he has an important point. I also understand the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I do not agree with the concept that Members of this House, after the Bill has been passed, should enjoy club rights. That would be some form of privilege. But though the hosting of charitable events may be seen by some as a privilege, it is a duty. It is not to the disadvantage of former noble Lords if that is not allowed to occur; it is to the disadvantage of the charities. It is significant that there has been a long connection between the charitable sector and hereditary Peers and life Peers. When part of that link is broken, it will be difficult for some areas of the charitable sector.
I do not take the view that after the Bill has gone through noble Lords could still hold parties here. I think that would be called part of club rights, although I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is going to have a party; I am sure it will be an excellent party.
The issue of holding charitable events is something that the Government, or the House, could look at in due course. It may be something that could not continue for ever, but if we could find a way of allowing it to fade--to wither on the vine, to use the expression that has been used in other connections--it might be quite helpful. It is not necessarily an issue that we want to have a great
Lord Newby: My Lords, I was extremely grateful when the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, wrote to me to give me advance notice that he was putting down this amendment. But unfortunately the receipt of the letter had an effect opposite to that which he was seeking. He was right in one respect, in that I am involved with a number of charities. However, unfortunately, no doubt partly because I am a relative novice, my track record in securing the booking of a room for any charity for which I have attempted to do that is dismal. Other noble Lords who have been doing it for much longer than I have have booked up months and years in advance. So when I realised that the competition for the very small number of rooms available for such events might be greatly reduced with the exclusion from your Lordships' House of the hereditary peerage, I thought that my stock with those charities for which I have so far failed to book a room would rise, and therefore I became an even greater adherent of the principles behind the Bill.
There are within the life peerage a large number of people who are involved with charities and who often find it extremely difficult to book rooms. I have considerable respect and support for what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said about the possibility of phasing out this privilege, particularly given that there are very long time factors in booking such rooms, but surely this is a matter for the Offices Committee and not for a new clause.
The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, we sympathise with the sentiments of the amendment of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. It must be admitted that an unfortunate consequence of the Bill when it is enacted will be a diminution, at least for a time, of the relationship between this House and the many charitable and welfare organisations that rely upon members of the hereditary peerage to provide connections. That will be regrettable.
Of course--and I have no doubt that the Government will seek to make this point--it is the case that over time that slack, if I may put it like that, will be taken up by the membership of the interim Chamber. But we should not be blind to the reality that this is likely to take time and that it will cause a degree of inconvenience and disruption to the charities and welfare organisations involved.
No doubt, as many other noble Lords have said, the Government will, with some justification, also suggest that this should more properly be a matter for the Standing Orders and committees of the House. I have no difficulty with that. None the less, I am tempted to suggest that it would be helpful if the Minister who replies could show some sensitivity, perhaps even charity, towards this issue.
We should take guidance from the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and his very sensible suggestion that in the circumstances a period of grace might be sensible. Bearing in mind the lateness of the hour, and with
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