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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask one question. The noble Lord said that Clause 3 would inhibit or delay the setting up of the commission. Why should that be so?

Lord Carter: My Lords, I have been given to understand that there is an incompatible provision present in the Bill which concerns the way we intend to set up the appointments commission. We were advised that it would be constitutionally inappropriate to proceed with a different approach while Clause 3 remains in the Bill--a Bill which is before Parliament and which has not yet received the opinion of the other place.

Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, including the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I did not agree with him because I had already said that I like party hacks just as much as I like the noble Lord.

I am touched and flattered by the remarks made about me. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is not moving the amendment with me because he would have then had the pleasure of destroying his own arguments, as he has done in the past.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 15:


After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

LIFE PEERS

(".--(1) No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a life peerage conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958, other than--
(a) 400 holders of peerages conferred under that Act who are elected in accordance with subsection (2) or at a by-election in accordance with subsection (5), and
(b) 16 holders of peerages conferred under that Act who have declared to the Clerk of the Parliaments that they are ready to serve as Deputy Speakers of the House of Lords or in such other office as the House may require and who are elected in accordance with subsection (3) or at a by-election in accordance with subsection (5).
(2) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) shall be the holders of peerages conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958.
(3) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) shall be the members of the House of Lords at the date on which the election is held.
(4) A person elected under this section shall continue to be entitled to receive a writ of summons to the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House throughout his life.

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(5) On the death of a peer elected under this section, a by-election shall be held for the filling of the vacancy.
(6) Standing Orders of the House of Lords may make further provision relating to the holding and conduct of elections and by-elections under this section; and a person may be elected under this section by or in accordance with Standing Orders made in anticipation of the enactment or commencement of this section.
(7) Any question whether a person is elected under this section shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments, whose certificate shall be conclusive.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 15 is associated with Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 21. It is a fairly simple amendment in so far as it enables life Peers also to be elected. After the Bill has passed, we shall be in the curious position that hereditary Peers will be the only ones who have been elected to your Lordships' House. It is a pity, therefore, that life Peers are not elected too.

Throughout the passage of the Bill we have heard a lot about the "legitimacy" or otherwise of hereditary Peers. It is a strange kind of word. It is rather like other Civil Service words such as "coherent", "cohesive", "effective" and "efficient". I never know what they mean. Now we come to "legitimate". The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said:


    "The presence of the hereditary peerage has weakened the legitimacy and the effectiveness"--

those are two of the words--


    "of our second Chamber".--[Official Report, 20/1/99; col. 583.]

The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General said,


    "We believe that the House which will result from the passage of the Bill will be more democratic, more legitimate".--[Official Report, 20/4/99; col. 1082.]

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said that the Bill,


    "will have the effect of providing a more legitimate House".--[Official Report, 20/4/99; col. 1149.]

The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General even talked about "illegitimacy", which is always a sensitive subject. He said:


    "the present privilege of hereditary connection is illegitimate in our House".--[Official Report, 30/3/99; col. 42.]

"Illegitimate" means "against the law". There is nothing remotely illegitimate about hereditary Peers being in Parliament when the law allows them to be there. That does not mean to say that there is not an argument--even if it is a rotten one--for changing the law. That is another matter. There is no question of hereditary Peers being illegitimate when they attend your Lordships' House. When Ministers talk about illegitimacy in this context they are using fine-sounding magisterial words which are wholly inappropriate.

I hate to pick on the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General again, particularly when he is not here--he has got plenty of people with howitzers to support him, if necessary--but he said that the House which will result from the Bill will be more democratic. With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, what he says is complete nonsense. There is nothing remotely democratic in the way noble Lords are appointed by a Prime Minister, whether that is

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because one is his friend, one has contributed to party funds or any other cause. Then of course one may happen to have got onto the elevator that takes one up to the attention of the Prime Minister. What on earth is democratic about that? The answer is nothing.

However, to use the Government's own terminology, when the 90 or so hereditary Peers have been elected they will be the most democratic and the most legitimate Members of the House, far more so than the life Peers who have arrived in the House by appointment. I simply ask noble Lords: why should not life Peers also be appointed? I beg your Lordships' pardon; elected. The word "appointment" trips so easily off the tongue nowadays because everyone is appointed.

After some thought, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General stated that he had once been elected to the Bar Council. That is a start, and I am sure that the noble and learned Lord would top the poll in any election in which he stood. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has also gone through that particular election. I do not know. However, I am sure that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has not because that is not her forte; in that her forte is not being a barrister rather than not in being elected. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, may well have passed that hurdle and have been elected, because he is a legal gentleman.

If all life Peers were subject to election, as they have forced upon the hereditary Peers, then the Attorney-General and all the other life Peers would have the legitimacy--I use that lovely government word--of having been elected. It would be a democratic process, and what is wrong with that?

Plenty of Peers are given their peerages, but then never come to your Lordships' House. I shall not embarrass those noble Lords by rehearsing their names--

Viscount Cranborne: They are not here to be embarrassed!

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, my noble friend has shown his usual intelligence and perspicacity by pointing out that they are not here to be embarrassed. However, I shall refer to one noble Lord who was also referred to by my noble friend on the Front Bench. He mentioned the previous Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Robertson. He has been given a peerage but understandably has said that he has no intention of attending here, because he holds an important job in Europe as the Secretary-General of NATO. However, he will be able to come here when eventually he leaves that position. However, others have held that post before him. My noble friend Lord Mackay referred to my noble friend Lord Carrington. A few years ago my noble friend occupied that post with distinction, but what will happen to him? Unless he puts down his name for election--I understand that he has not done so--he will be ejected from your Lordships' House. However, when the noble Lord, Lord Robertson,

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retires, he will be able to come here. Where is the fairness or the legitimacy, or indeed the democracy, in that?

It would be better if life Peers were also elected. That is the purpose of my amendment. As my noble friend Lord Kingsland said in his carefully argued speech on Amendment No. 8, to which I listened with fascination, the time will come when the House of Lords may well be elected, and most life Peers will then go too. I do wonder whether life Peers will want to go on to the hustings to seek the votes of the proletariat. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will visit B&Q to find out whether he can secure some votes there?

One also wonders whether the voting proletariat will wish to vote for the life Peers. I am sure that many will, but then many will not. I do not believe that the life Peers should smile so widely--I see that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, is smiling very cheerfully now--because the time will come when it will be their turn to be on the end of this greasy pole. The fact is that once the hare has been let out of the bag--namely, reform of your Lordships' House--you do not know where it will run. It would be better for the life Peers to get dug in to your Lordships' House, as it were, by seeking election now, rather than to wait for Boadicea's chariot to come round a second time with those long knives and chop them up as well. For all those reasons, I suggest that noble Lords approve this amendment. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Peston: My Lords, the noble Earl is following the lead of his noble friends Lord Stanley of Alderley and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in keeping our debating society going rather than discussing serious matters. However, he is right in saying, as was his noble friend Lord Kingsland, that when we come to build the new House of Lords, the life Peers will have to face up to their positions and their destinies. I look forward to that happening soon, and I say only that compared to the behaviour of the hereditary Peers, some of us will do that in a much more correct and proper fashion.


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