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Noble Lords: Bushwhack!

Earl Ferrers: --Bushwhack, to repeat the word used by my noble friend Lord Cranborne, hereditary Peers for having interfered with the Government's programme. Those outside the House would not understand what was going on. However, even if that could be overcome, once the Bill had overshot the parliamentary Session the Government would say, “All right, we shall deal with that by bringing forward the present Bill under the Parliament Act without the Weatherill amendment". We would get nowhere.

It is my conclusion, even though I regret it because my natural feelings are with the two noble Lords who have put forward the Motion before us, that for those reasons it would not be wise to submit this to the Examiners. Although I think it deserves to be submitted and my heart goes with them, I shall not be able to support my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Clifford.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that these Motions have come before us far too late, not merely for the practical reasons just advanced by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, but because of a matter of basic principle.

Noble Lords should bear in mind one important fact: the practice of referring Bills which are thought to be hybrid to a Select Committee is a matter of the practice of the House and not a matter of basic law or statute. Thus the House can always decide that, although a Bill appears to be hybrid, it is not to be referred to a Select Committee but is to be dealt with in the same way as an ordinary public Bill.

If it was thought by anyone that the Bill before us was hybrid in its original form, it has been open to that person to move that fact ever since the Bill received its Second Reading in the other place 10 months ago. If anyone thought that the Bill was not hybrid originally but became hybrid by reason of an amendment such as the Weatherill amendment, it has been open to them to move that ever since the amendment was passed over five months ago. Neither of those actions have been taken until today. Instead, the House has proceeded, even though it is clear that hybridity has been mentioned at every stage.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has said in all frankness that he has always thought the Bill was hybrid. For that reason, it has always been open to him to move a Motion to that effect. However, instead of any Motion for referral being brought forward, the Bill has, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said, been considered at some length during its subsequent stages. Because the House went on with its consideration of the Bill, notwithstanding the fact that hybridity was in the air, in my view it is absolutely clear that the House has decided by implication that it wishes to proceed with the Bill in the normal way it

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would proceed with a public Bill, regardless of the question of hybridity. It is far too late to change that now and these Motions should therefore be rejected.

Like many of your Lordships, I consider this to be a mistaken and a bad Bill. I have always considered that it was wrong to introduce a measure that dealt only with abolition without any proposals of what should be put in its place. I venture to suspect that in the hidden closets of their homes, members of the Government may now share that view, although I am not optimistic enough to expect the noble Baroness the Leader of the House to confess that when she comes to reply. But whatever view one has of the Bill, surely it is wrong to suggest that this House should misuse the procedures of the House by introducing Motions of this kind at this late stage to get rid of or to embarrass a Bill merely because one heartily dislikes it.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, Motions have been moved with obvious sincerity and conviction by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, and the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. It is a matter of courtesy to consider their arguments, even if one does not believe in them.

The noble Duke referred to the definition of hybridity in Erskine May, and I shall not repeat it. I say only that I find it impossible to see how anything in the Bill falls within the definition. For one thing, I do not believe that any Member of your Lordships' House has a private interest in that membership. In legal theory, I believe that attendance in your Lordships' House is a duty rather than a right. That is certainly the wording used in the Writ of Summons, which is a command and not an invitation.

It is also a recognised fact that Members of your Lordships' House who are unable to attend for a long period of time are supposed to ask for permission to be absent. Rights such as the right of access to the Chamber or access to the Voting Lobbies are ancillary to the duty to attend and participate in the work of the House. If that duty is discharged, the ancillary rights fall with it. However, whether participation in the business of the House is a right or a duty, it is plainly not a private interest, but a public one. No Member of your Lordships' House has a proprietary interest in the right or duty, whichever it may be, to sit here.

I believe the contrary was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, but in my view that is not a sustainable argument. Those who attend your Lordships' House by command of Her Majesty are here to perform a public function as members of the legislature and have no private interest in doing so.

Nor do I believe that hereditary Peers and life Peers are simply members of one single and indistinguishable class. There is a clear distinction. That distinction was applied in the Peerage Act 1963 when existing Peers by succession were entitled to disclaim their peerages, but life Peers and hereditary Peers of first creation were not. No one suggested then that for that reason the Bill was hybrid.

The Officers of the House have a duty to report to your Lordships' House if, in their view, a Bill is hybrid. That is a duty they must perform when a Bill is

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introduced. In this case they have not so reported. That clearly indicates that they believe the Bill is not a hybrid measure. The procedure adopted today is undoubtedly technically in order, but if this issue is to be raised, I must respectfully agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. If this point was to have been raised, it could and should have been raised at a very much earlier stage. The fact that it has been raised less than a week before the date fixed for Third Reading suggests that at least one of the motives is to delay and obstruct the further progress of this measure. It is completely wrong at this late stage to try to override the views of the Officers of the House and to refer this matter to the Examiners.

4 p.m.

Lord Brightman: My Lords, I agree with every word said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. In my respectful opinion, the Bill is not hybrid. Dare I say that I think it is as plain as a pikestaff that it is not hybrid? I say that because a Peer does not sit in this House in order to enjoy personal rights granted to him. He sits here in order to perform duties imposed on him. The rights which he enjoys as a Member of the House are exclusively to enable him to perform those duties. I say that because Standing Order 20 states:

    “Lords are to attend sittings of the House or, if they cannot do so, obtain leave of absence".

That is the fundamental position of a Lord of Parliament. He is here to perform a public duty. I find nothing in Erskine May which says that a Bill is hybrid because it relieves some members of a class from a public duty. The effect of the Bill is that certain Peers are to be relieved of a public duty which is imposed on them. It is a total misconception to speak of a Peer as exercising a right when he sits, speaks and votes. He is not doing so; he is performing a public duty. I therefore respectfully ask your Lordships to take the view that the Bill is not hybrid.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, as someone who may or may not be here in a month's time and someone who is not privy to the closet thoughts of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, I should just like to say that I so completely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said. I am here by accident of birth, because my forebears got drunk with either Walpole or Pitt--probably both. I am here because I am summoned to do my duty. If and when Parliament says that I should not be here, then I go. I am not a corner shop in Scunthorpe. I am supposed to be doing my duty to the nation. Whether that duty is good or bad, I leave to your Lordships. But it would be absolutely wrong for us to pretend that we were corner shops in Scunthorpe.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am troubled by this debate. Some noble Lords may remember that I and several others proposed amendments to the Weatherill amendment when it was debated in July. We were juggling the figures, I suppose one might say, which were implicit in the Weatherill amendment. We were informed by the Clerk of the House--it was

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announced in the Chamber--that our amendments were hybrid. I found it difficult to understand how our amendments could be hybrid whereas the Weatherill amendment was not hybrid. So I incline towards the view that there is just possibly a hint of hybridity about this entire episode. I may well be wrong in that respect. But since my amendments were hybrid I have come to that conclusion.

I do not think that that really matters. We are at a late stage of the proceedings on the Bill. We are not actually dealing with constitutional niceties or things like that. We are actually dealing with brute politics. The brute politics are that this House is unbalanced politically--whether or not it is a matter of hereditary or life peerages--and the Bill before us is intended to sort that out in some way. I think that it has been badly handled right from the beginning. There might well have been attempts to reach some kind of agreement between the various parties involved, as was done in 1968. I suggested that at Second Reading some time ago. No one listened then and I dare say that no one will listen now. This is a matter of brute politics. My intention is to vote with the brutes. I shall support the Government.

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