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Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I feel sorry for the poor noble Lord, Lord Peston, who no longer has the confidence of his noble friend, at least in this debate. Meanwhile I am deeply indebted to the noble Lord because if I have been able to give him any pleasure at all, I am glad. He said I had because he was able to agree with something that I had said even though I have not yet said anything.
I am singularly excited at the fact--which I thought would never happen--that I should be on the side of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I always reckoned I was on the side of the angels in the matter,
The matter is, I believe, relatively simple. I do not agree with the amendment but with the Motion. I say with the greatest of respect that I do not think it matters what the "deal" was or whether we are supposed to agree with it. We have to agree with the Motion or the amendment. The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, made a persuasive speech, along with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. That surprised me a great deal. They said that they could not understand why life Peers should be excluded from voting for hereditary Peers. It seems to me there is a perfectly obvious reason; namely, that the life Peers are here and the hereditary Peers are being--to use the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer--thrown out. Therefore the hereditary Peers are quite right to vote for those people whom they would like to see remain as hereditary Peers.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said that he could not understand why, if life Peers were excluded from voting for hereditary Peers, they should vote for the 15. The answer is perfectly simple; namely, because the 15 hereditary Peers are being voted for as servants of the House, or rather Members of the House who occupy positions which facilitate the running of the House, such as deputy chairmen. There is a perfectly logical argument for two forms of votes. However, what is illogical--here I agree with my noble friend Lord Strathclyde--is that the Labour Party could use one form of voting, either hereditary Peers, or hereditary and life; the Cross-Benchers could use another; and the Conservative Party another. We must have a similar thread running through the whole lot.
Earl Ferrers: Dear, oh dear. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has not been following all this very well. The 15 are supposed to be deputy chairmen of committees and chairmen of other committees, whereas the other people are what you might call the PBI in old-fashioned language. I do not propose to translate what that means because it might be unparliamentary language.
However, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he said that he hated the whole Bill. He is absolutely right about that; I hate it too. The trouble with the Bill is that it is rather like going to a tenpin bowling alley. Every time a new ball gets thrown, about six perfectly good upstanding skittles get knocked over. That is what is happening here. Now we are all getting into a muddle as to how people should be elected and who should vote for them. This situation has never arisen before. It has arisen because of this jolly old Bill which is perfectly awful.
I believe that we should stick with the Motion and vote with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. It will be fun seeing each other in the same Lobby. It will no doubt be a day he remembers for as long as he lives. I believe that we should vote against the amendment so ably put by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
I was concerned about one or two things in the report. Reference was made to people producing CVs--curriculum vitae. We must be very careful that this does not turn into people giving election addresses. Can one imagine a noble Earl, with his coat of arms and wearing a nice Earl's coronet--on the front of which is a message? As one goes down the scale, a Viscount might have a less glamorous coronet; and when one comes to the Barons, they are like all the rest except that their papers and coats of arms are usually more flamboyant than anyone else's. That would be pretty disagreeable.
What will be put in this election statement? "I will be a regular attender; vote for me"; "I will be a loyal party member"; or "I will use my nous and I will vote not for the party when I want to but in my own way"; or "I will guarantee not to speak too long and so keep your Lordships from dinner". I know your Lordships cannot be that hungry. It really is pretty awful. I bet that, if we are not careful, some noble character will start producing an election statement. I hope that will not happen.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, spoke about jeroboams of champagne. I agree with him. What will happen if a Peer seeking election is seen giving a drink to a Peer who might be a voter, or taking him out to dinner? What will happen if he takes him to the ballet? Where does sleaze start and common sense end? Or has it already ended? It is a frightful thought.
I had a great deal of sympathy for the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, when he said that he did not like the idea of voting for all 42 Peers. I was told that all one had to do was vote for oneself and then get off; that one had more likelihood of getting in that way. But of course the powers that be have seen through that trick and they now say that we have to vote for 42. I do not know whether we all know 42 Members for whom we would like to vote. What happens if a noble Lord does not know 42 Members? That is a pretty curious thing.
I am thankful that the replacement for what somebody described rather grotesquely as the "dead Weatherill Peers" is to be established by a vote and not by going back to the old system of who will be the 12th man. It is obviously much better that it should be done in that way. I hope that we vote for the Motion and not for the amendment.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were to make something of a summing up before the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, winds up on his amendment.
After the speech we have just heard from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I find myself in very great difficulty; I cannot possibly match that at all. He has not only pleased the noble Lord, Lord Peston, but he certainly pleased me with the exuberance and humour of his speech and, I suspect, the whole House.
That brings me to another relevant point in connection with the noble Earl. I would not dream of entering into any question of--or indeed revealing--whom I might support among those who will stand for election; I have my own personal thoughts. After the noble Earl has brought me such great pleasure, I am not sure that I can bring him excessive pleasure because if your Lordships reject the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and accept, as the noble Earl has suggested, my Motion, I will not be in a position to vote for him anyway. I shall reveal no more.
After a debate such as this--which has been very thorough even though a comparatively limited number of your Lordships contributed to it--I think the House will forgive me if I do not refer to all the points that have been made. Your Lordships will forgive me even further if I do not refer to all those who have taken part in the debate. It is right to make clear that I do not feel it would be for me anyway, doing the job that I try to do for your Lordships, to enter into the substantive arguments of either one side of today's debate. The arguments emerge from policy matters and they are not matters in which, traditionally, a Chairman of Committees gets involved. So I will not deal with those points.
However, there are one or two subsidiary matters which it might be thought I am required to answer. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, mentioned that those who stand for election for the Deputy Speaker and chairmanship posts will not be required to undertake to carry out the duties of a Deputy Speaker. I paraphrase his words, I hope without inaccuracy. We grappled with that difficulty in the Select Committee. It would be very difficult to compel anyone to undertake any particular work. In accepting the services of those people who serve us so well as voluntary Deputy Speakers and as chairmen of committees and sub-committees of your Lordships' House, we must rely on good faith, as we always have. That is all we can do. I hope that reliance will be sufficient.
Perhaps I may comment on the speech and the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. He clearly put in a tremendous amount of work on the paper that he submitted to the Procedure Committee. He and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, put forward their proposals--as they have today--with great clarity, cogency and moderation. I know that those attributes are always acceptable to your Lordships' House.
I can say, without going into the substantive matters which it discussed and which have been discussed this afternoon, that the Procedure Committee came forward to your Lordships' House with a very clear recommendation. It came forward with that recommendation on the basis of a substantial majority within the committee in favour: 18 to 4. However, in
This matter was discussed very thoroughly and at considerable length within the Procedure Committee, as I hope your Lordships will have seen from the transcript of the proceedings. At the end, there was a substantial majority within the committee for the recommendation which is before the House. On behalf of the Procedure Committee, I ask that your Lordships bear that very much in mind.
That is all that I propose to deal with. On behalf of the Procedure Committee, I ask your Lordships to decline to accept the noble Viscount's amendment and to accept the Motion before the House.
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