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Lord Monson: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, for his solitary support.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has missed the point. With 751 hereditary Peers, it does not matter too much if a few, through no fault of their own, drop out and become inactive. There are plenty more where they came from, so to speak. However, it is extremely important where there are only 90. Every diminution in numbers has an effect.

As regards the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, it is right to say that Standing Orders would have to be changed. That is a point that I believe I tried to make at the beginning of my speech. I am sorry if I did not make it with sufficient clarity. Of course they would have to be changed. There would have to be a belt and braces

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arrangement to ensure that nothing could happen without the consent of the Procedure Committee, which is absolutely as it should be.

For obvious reasons, I am not privy to the Government's innermost secrets, but I assume that they held one of two attitudes to the Cranborne and Weatherill amendment. The first is, "We do not like the idea that 90 active hereditary Peers should remain in this House, but we agreed in order to get the Bill through and will therefore abide both by the letter and by the spirit of the agreement". The alternative attitude was, "We do not like the idea of 90 active hereditary Peers remaining in this House, but we are obliged to stick by the letter of the agreement. However, the spirit is expendable. If there is any loophole via which the agreement could be effectively watered down so as to reduce the number of active hereditary Peers, we will exploit it to the full". Sadly, it seems that the Government have opted for the second alternative.

If I had had more support, I would have divided the House without hesitation. As I have not had such support, unless other noble Lords indicate otherwise, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 1, line 14, at end insert--
("( ) Standing Orders shall make provision for filling vacancies among the people excepted from section 1; and in any case where--
(a) the vacancy arises on a death occurring after the end of the first Session of the next Parliament after that in which this Act is passed, and
(b) the deceased person was excepted in consequence of an election,
that provision shall require the holding of a by-election.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Coleraine moved Amendment No. 7:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Notwithstanding subsection (2) of section 2, section 1 shall not apply in relation to 90 people who are holders by succession of a hereditary peerage and who satisfy the condition set out in subsection (2), who shall be entitled to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in accordance with this section and by or in accordance with Standing Orders of the House, which may be made in anticipation of the enactment or commencement of this section.
(2) The condition referred to in subsection (1) is that such person had received a writ of summons at any time before the day on which this Act is passed.
(3) Any question whether a person is entitled to receive a writ of summons in accordance with this section shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments, whose certificate shall be conclusive.
(4) A person entitled to receive a writ of summons in accordance with this section shall not be qualified to vote--
(a) on any question to be determined by the House or by any Committee of the whole House; or
(b) subject to subsection (5), as a member of any other committee of the House appointed to consider any Bill, Measure or instrument.

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(5) Standing Orders of the House may provide that a peer entitled to receive a writ in accordance with this section shall be qualified to vote in any such committee as is referred to in subsection (4)(b) in such circumstances as Standing Orders may prescribe.
(6) In this section "vote" means to give voice upon question put or take part in a division.
(7) A peer entitled to receive a writ of summons by virtue of this section shall continue to be so entitled throughout his life (until an Act of Parliament provides to the contrary); and in the event of the death or disqualification of such a peer no vacancy shall arise.
(8) Nothing in this section affects the validity of proceedings of the House of Lords or of any committee of that House conducted before this section is commenced or before provision is made by virtue of it for the exception of peers from section 1.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment would permit 90 hereditary Peers to remain in or, perhaps I should say, return to this House as speaking Peers. We have discussed the merits and demerits of speaking Peers on many previous occasions. I do not propose to go over that old ground; nor do I propose to dwell at length on Amendment No. 58 which I moved on Report on 30th June (col. 378) and for which this amendment largely stands. On that occasion I moved a similar amendment. However, I provided in the amendment that the 90 Peers should be divided between political groups. Because that amendment would make the Bill hybrid, I did not press it. It therefore does not fall to me to make any strong suggestions to the House as to how the 90 should be divided or elected. That would have to be left to the House itself on the advice of the Procedure Committee.

Having considered the debate in June, I have looked again at my amendment and made certain adjustments to it. The first is that the right to come in as one of the speaking Peers would be limited to those who, as stated in subsection (2),

    "had received a writ of summons at any time before the day on which this Act is passed",

whenever that may be.

In subsection (4) I have provided that hereditary Peers who had speaking rights could also, Standing Orders provided, vote in Select Committees and the like (off the Floor of the House) to which they happen to be appointed.

Finally, in subsection (7), I have made it clear that this is intended to be a one-off arrangement and that the death of any Peer who remains in or comes back to this House will not generate further returns or by-elections.

When the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General, Lord Williams of Mostyn, replied to the debate, it was quite clear that the Government could not accept the amendment because they did not, under any circumstances, want any further representatives of the ancien regime in this House. He said:

    "It is right to say that after all this time we have decided very few things. We have decided two at least: first, that this House does not wish to see a two-Writ system".

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That question has not been decided. A two-Writ amendment allowing all hereditary Peers to remain was, I believe, rejected or withdrawn at an earlier stage. This amendment bears no resemblance to that amendment. The noble and learned Lord went on,

    "secondly, that the House does not wish to alter the numbers in Clause 2" [Official Report, 30/6/99; col. 382.]

This clause stands entirely apart from Clause. 2 and would have no possible relationship to the Weatherill amendment. I suggest that it should be considered on its merits. I beg to move.

Lord Richard: My Lords, as I understand the amendment, it has two elements, as has been underlined by the noble Lord who has just spoken. The first is that there should be an extra 90 hereditary Peers as part of the transitional House. The second is that those extra 90 hereditary Peers should have the right to speak but not the right to vote. Both of those elements have been considered almost ad nauseam in the course of the passage of the Bill.

As far as concerns the first element, I had thought that the House had made it perfectly clear that while it was prepared to accept an extra 90 hereditary Peers in the transition, it was not prepared to go beyond 90. That is certainly my position, and I suspect that it is the position of many of those who sit on these Benches.

As regards the issue of speaking but non-voting Peers, my recollection is that this was first raised at the very first Committee sitting on this Bill. The question that this would be a desirable importation into the Bill has been raised on every single occasion since then, and on each of those occasions it has been defeated. At this stage in the Bill's passage, I firmly believe that we should not revert to two fundamental issues which have been discussed a great deal and upon which the House has already made a decision.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I very much admire the careful thought that my noble friend Lord Coleraine has given to this amendment. I deprecate the Government's habit of saying that this or that amendment has come too late. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, has again suggested that we have debated this in full in the past. Perhaps we have. However, it is never too late for your Lordships to improve a Bill. Therefore, I will not follow the line that has been taken by the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

My difficulty with this amendment is rather more fundamental. Although the concept of non-voting Peers is one that found favour with your Lordships in 1968, it is not one which is, rightly or wrongly, on the table today. I understand that it would need quite a shift in government thinking for it to be taken on board, and I have difficulties with it in any case.

I have always been opposed to the idea of two categories of Peer. As I said only last week, this is a poison that the Government have injected into this House by this Bill. But in creating a class of non-voting Peers, we would be including in our number a class of second-class Peers. I suggest that that would be

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demeaning to them and unhelpful to the House. Are we to listen to protracted debates while those who have no vote feel compelled to express their opinion in voice? I do not believe that that is a way forward.

It may be argued that this is a way to keep available to us the advice of some people who this House would always want to hear but who we might otherwise lose because they are hereditary Peers. If we want to keep the wisdom of hereditary Peers among us, let us keep them as full Members of our House, as the Bill now provides--albeit, not enough--and not propose the kind of half life which will over time prove unsatisfactory to all.

Although I admire my noble friend for bringing the amendment to us one more time, I am sorry that on this occasion I cannot support it or commend it to the House.

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