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Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I thank the very few noble Lords who have spoken to my amendments, most of whom are on the Government side. It is sad that, predictably, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, is inflexible in his approach to this matter. None the less, everyone has the right to an opinion, and I respect that. I must correct one observation of the Leader of the House. I did not ask for the draft Standing Orders--I was well aware that they had been available since March--but the Standing Orders.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the Standing Orders have not been agreed because the Procedure Committee that has been summoned to consider them has not yet met. I understand that arrangements are being actively pursued through the usual channels to do that, but the Standing Orders per se cannot appear until the Procedure Committee agrees them.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, perhaps if a letter had been sent to me to explain that, I would not have brought up the matter this evening.

I did raise the constitutional question to some extent. I spoke about the various elements of devolution and election in relation to particular parts of the United Kingdom, once upon a time, and with regard to Europe. Perhaps the Leader of the House will forgive me for correcting her on that.

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My amendment promotes the idea of reform as proposed by Her Majesty's Government. It does not disagree entirely with the amendments to Clause 2 which were moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and my noble friend Lord Weatherill, but it amends fairly an amendment which was passed by about 300 Peers. Nearly 1,000 did not take part in that mandate. It strikes me how similar those figures are to the proportion of the electorate who gave the present Government a majority of 179 in another place.

Just as the majority, almost 70 per cent, should have attended the polling booths at the general election, I feel that this House should not feel embarrassed if asked to "adjust the helm" just a little further for the sake of this country and others affected by our Parliament's constitutional practices.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and passed by a majority in excess of 100, related to guarding our constitution. Amendment No. 58B relates closely to the same matter: a balanced constitution and a fair Parliament. I understand the comments on the amendments standing in my name. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 58C not moved.]

9.30 p.m.

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 58D:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Notwithstanding subsection (2) of section 2, at any one time no more than 90 peers by succession shall be excepted from section 1 by this section in accordance with Standing Orders of the House, and they shall be entitled to sit but not to vote in the House or in any Committee of the House.
(2) Standing Orders shall provide that the 90 hereditary peers so excepted shall consist of the following categories--
(a) no more than 2 peers elected by the Labour hereditary peers;
(b) no more than 42 peers elected by the Conservative hereditary peers;
(c) no more than 3 peers elected by the Liberal Democrat hereditary peers;
(d) no more than 28 peers elected by the Cross-bench hereditary peers; and
(e) no more than 15 peers elected by the whole House.
(3) A person may be excepted from section 1 by or in accordance with Standing Orders made in anticipation of the enactment or commencement of this section.
(4) Any question whether a person is excepted from section 1 shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments, whose certificate shall be conclusive.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is more modest than Amendment No. 58C to which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, spoke. It allows 90 hereditary Peers to remain in the interim House with the right to sit and speak in the House or any Committee, but not to vote.

This is not a matter which has been disposed of in earlier debates on the Bill, nor in Divisions, whether actual or implicit. At the cutting edge, the amendment is intended to include the right to move amendments and

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to ask for the opinion of the House or any Committee but to exclude the right to give voice on "Question put", or to take part in Divisions.

There is a parallel here with the procedures already adopted in this House over the past decade when a Public Bill is referred to a Select Committee called a Public Bill Committee. The right to speak, but not to vote, on legislation is not a new concept.

The amendment envisages that the speaking Peers will be elected by the same electoral colleges as will elect the Weatherill 90 and in accordance with Standing Orders to be made by the House. There is the crucial distinction of which I am much aware. I am in no position to prescribe the Standing Orders. I cannot gridlock the House. There is a certain amount which can and should be on the face of the Bill, including the substance of this amendment which, if agreed to by the House, would, in accordance with the advice of the Clerks, make the Bill prima facie hybrid. But if I seek to press the amendment, I shall surely be met by some such rejoinder as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor uttered on an earlier occasion at col. 818 of the Official Report of 25th May. He said:

    "So far as this Chamber is concerned ... whether the relevant provisions are in the Standing Orders or on the face of the Bill makes no difference. However, there is the signal advantage of having these provisions in the Standing Orders; namely, that it excludes the possibility of the other place not only having views on these subjects--which it certainly does--but also having the opportunity to assert different views".

There is also the problem of hybridity which dogs the amendment. If I do not press the amendment today, it will be because of this matter and because I wish to test feelings on various aspects of the concept of speaking Peers--that has not yet been addressed--and because I shall have decided to bring back an amendment at Third Reading which would commit the House to include speaking Peers but would leave the detail to be worked out by the Procedure Committee and the House itself.

When I was young there were tales of a bird, until quite recently thought to be extinct, the mugwump. It had the unique characteristic that it would sit on the fence with its mug on one side and its wump on the other, and it would magnificently keep this up for months at a time.

The last time that we had a full debate on the matter of speaking Peers was in Committee on the 27th April. My noble friend Lord Ferrers moved his amendment to keep all hereditary Peers here on an hereditary basis for the interim House but without voting rights. All that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde had to say from my Front Bench (col. 271) was that my noble friend Lord Cranborne had made some very interesting points on the issue of sitting and voting, speaking in an earlier debate, with which he, Lord Strathclyde, speaking as a former Chief Whip, had every sympathy.

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend some questions. Others on these Benches may be as interested as I am to hear his replies. Does he agree that to have 90 speaking Peers is in no sense at all an affront or an alternative to Weatherill? However, it is sometimes described in that way. It is in fact a supplement. The

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proposal would supplement Weatherill without affecting the political balance of the House. The fact that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is not dealing with this debate tonight is surely an indication that this amendment has nothing to do with Weatherill, because the Weatherill amendment is the particular baby of the noble and learned Lord whom I once referred to elsewhere as the Pied Piper.

Does my noble friend agree that there is a bank of experience among hereditary Peers which would be of value to the interim House? The 42 Weatherill Peers to be elected from these Benches would most desirably, from the point of view of those on these Benches, be committed to the House on a full-time working basis. Other hereditary Peers would not wish or would not be able to assume that commitment, perhaps because they are elder statesmen, perhaps because they are relatively young and work full time, perhaps again because they would only wish to participate in regard to their particular concerns and interests and from their special parliamentary experience. Does my noble friend see no advantage in having these people here? These are important questions.

Before I conclude, may I add that at present I hold no particular brief either for elections or for any particular form of election of speaking Peers. The method of selection I presented in this amendment is really no more than a convenient and familiar starting point. In my opinion it also makes sense. With that, I beg to move.

Lord Richard: My Lords, until the noble Lord spoke I am bound to say that I had not appreciated the full flavour and grandeur of the amendment that he is proposing. As I understand the position, if this amendment were to be carried there would be 90 so-called Weatherill Peers who would be elected by their various constituencies and who would have the full rights that hereditary Peers have at present in the House. In addition to that there would then be another 90 to be elected from the same electorate. I am not quite sure whether the electorate would then include the 90 that had already been elected or whether it would not, but there would be another election from the same electorate which would produce another 90 hereditary Peers who would continue to sit in the House but who would not have the right to vote.

If the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, were to be accepted, we would end up by having 180 hereditary Peers permanently in the House, 90 of whom would have the right to vote and 90 of whom would not have the right to vote. I see the noble Lord is shaking his head in agreement. I am obliged for that. If that is seriously being suggested tonight, I can only repeat, but I will not for the sake of brevity, what I have said on a number of other occasions. It would seem to me to run totally contrary to the purpose and the objectives of this Bill. As such I would find such proposals profoundly and totally unacceptable.

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