Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Viscount Torrington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I was about to say I think it is an achievement to have split the Liberal Democrats, but then the Liberal Democrats came about as a result of a number of splits, so that perhaps is not such a great achievement.

I was hoping for, and I suppose I have just had, some warm words from the Government, but clearly they have a cold heart. I should like to thank my noble friends and other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I had slightly hoped that perhaps the noble Baroness the Leader of the House would have replied to this debate because I have been considering what my ideal medal would look like. I was thinking in terms of a nice piece of ribbon attached to something about the size, for those of you who are old enough to remember it, of a silver thruppenny bit, something that was called a "tickey" in my South African upbringing. Naturally, on the obverse side would be her Majesty's head. On the other side, I thought we needed a nice device, something heraldic, possibly the Royal Coats of Arms. I think it is called the Privy Seal. Then I began to think that perhaps the Keeper of the Privy Seal, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, herself might have made a very attractive "tail" for this medal. However, I fear that it is not to be. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]

Lord Trefgarne had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 56:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--


(" . The expressions "Lord of Parliament" and "Peer of Parliament" shall not include any person who is disqualified by Section 1 from attending, sitting or voting in the House of Lords.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have been told that we need to get on a little. I shall therefore not move Amendments Nos. 56 and 57.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 not moved.]

9 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick moved Amendment No. 58A:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--


(" . Hereditary peers who cease to be members of the House of Lords by virtue of this Act shall retain their right to use the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns those hereditary Peers who will have to relinquish their rights to use the Crypt Chapel if and when the Bill becomes an Act. To approach the Crypt Chapel, one goes through Westminster Hall. One has no need to go into any other areas of the Palace of

30 Jun 1999 : Column 371

Westminster. The Members of your Lordships' House who utilise the Crypt as a private sanctuary and for christenings and weddings have done so for many years. Many of your Lordships' families have used the prescribed hereditary rights for generations. That is the main difference from the rights that are used by Members of another place.

The Crypt Chapel is in the authority of the Lord Great Chamberlain. I suspect that it will not be possible to put the amendment on the face of the Bill. I suppose that I should apologise for bringing the amendment forward at this stage. Perhaps it would have been more fitting to have brought it forward at the Committee stage. However, I think there is merit in having a small discussion on it. I hope that the Government will see fit to offer some sympathetic words and not give that as a reason for a short answer.

I have brought forward the amendment in order to clarify the consequences for hereditary Peers if and when the Bill becomes an Act and to gain perhaps a small amount of support and sympathy from your Lordships for that dilemma. I am optimistic that your Lordships will show some compassion and express a feeling of sympathy for those hereditary Peers. It is to be hoped that their expression of feeling will be such that they will wish to see the retention of those prescribed rights of access to the Crypt for religious worship and for the continuity of their families who have worshipped there for generations.

The future reformed House, I suspect, may well wish to say something on this matter at a later date but I think it is important to stress that if the hereditaries were allowed to continue to use the Crypt Chapel it would in no way infringe on any accesses, rights or privileges in the rest of the Palace of Westminster. I have also taken the opportunity to approach various appropriate authorities of the Crypt Chapel. They have indicated that there would be little difficulty in its ability to accommodate the present practice. I shall listen with interest not only to what other noble Lords have to say on the amendment but also to the Government's response. I beg to move.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, my name is attached to the amendment and I have to declare an interest. My three children and my three grandchildren have all had religious services in the Crypt Chapel and it is very much my desire that my son and my grandson, if not myself, should continue to have the opportunity.

As my noble friend said, this is in the gift of the Lord Great Chamberlain. The only thing I would ask the Government Front Bench to offer is a statement that they would not intend to impede the Lord Great Chamberlain in his desire to accommodate those hereditary Peers who wish to use the Chapel for their services.

Lord Monson: My Lords, there is a great deal of merit in this amendment. One can understand the argument that dispossessed Peers, so to speak, would crowd out the Library, the bars and the dining rooms if

30 Jun 1999 : Column 372

they were allowed to continue to use them, but that argument does not apply to the Crypt Chapel. I shall be interested to hear the Government's response.

The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I support the amendment. As I said when we were debating Amendment No. 54, I have had the privilege of being a Member of your Lordships' House for 31 years. It has also been my privilege regularly to attend services in St Mary Undercroft. I very much hope that the Government will be able to look with some sympathy on the amendment, despite the fact that this is in the gift of the Lord Great Chamberlain. I hope that I shall not be denied being able to seek spiritual guidance in St Mary Undercroft and being able to use it as a place of sanctuary and as a place for quiet reflection and worship.

Lord Annaly: My Lords, I have not spoken on the Bill since the Second Reading debate. I wish simply to add my words of support to my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. At the same time I declare an interest in that my father, after my mother had died, married a second time in St Mary Undercroft in about 1960. I had a sister who was christened there. After my father had died, I led one of my sisters up the aisle of St Mary Undercroft. So I declare three interests on that score.

If one happens to live in a village and have connections there one can make arrangements to have one's children christened or whatever it may be in the village church. This is a slightly different situation from the Library, restaurants and other facilities. I hope that the powers that be, in the form of the Government or the Lord Great Chamberlain if it is his prerogative, will consider this matter favourably.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, although we do not think this matter should appear on the face of the Bill, we think that the principle behind it is laudable and hope that noble Lords opposite, both Government and Back-Bench, will do everything they can to ensure that when it comes to dealing with the arrangements of former hereditary Peers, should we reach that stage, this matter will be dealt with with the utmost sympathy.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I am afraid that however sympathetic any of us might be to the thought behind the amendment it is out of the hands of Parliament. The Chapel of St Mary Undercroft is ecclesiastically part of the Royal Peculiar of Westminster Abbey, as has been said. It is located physically within the Palace of Westminster. Control of its use is the responsibility of the Lord Great Chamberlain. It is nothing to do with the House of Lords or indeed the House of Commons. In practice, the Chapel and access to it are managed by Black Rod, in consultation with the Speaker's Chaplain. This is not a matter for legislation to decide, or indeed for the Government to express a view on. It is for the authorities of the Palace of Westminster. If there were to be a proposal for any change in the arrangements, it would be a matter for the Lord Great Chamberlain to discuss with the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Lords.

30 Jun 1999 : Column 373

For those reasons, we obviously cannot accept the amendment. We understand the thought behind it, but it is not a matter for this Bill or this Chamber.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who supported my amendment. I suppose that I should also declare an interest, in that I am a godfather to the grandson of my noble friend Lord Clanwilliam.

I detected a slight hint of sympathy from the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and I hope that if various mechanisms take place at a later stage others of your Lordships will express sympathy then. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page