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Page 3, line 19, leave out ("Session of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be convenient to the House if I say that Amendment No. 25 has been degrouped from this group of amendments, which leaves solely Amendment No. 18 and those which are consequential upon it, if that is correct. That is what I understand.

I have not taken very much part in the proceedings on this Bill since it came to your Lordships' House. I felt at the very beginning that I had a fairly clear idea of how things would go. I felt that I did not have too great a chance of changing those things. I also felt that at times I might well be at odds with some of my colleagues on the Front Bench in my approach to the Bill. Therefore, I have not joined in many of your Lordships' debates until this stage.

A similar amendment was discussed at about midnight on 30th June and was withdrawn by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. In reply, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, observed that it would delay the Bill and that he was against delay. That was the totality of his argument against the amendment. I have to say that I am in favour of delaying the Bill. A century or two would suit me reasonably well, but if I could have a little less I should have to be content.

Delay for its own sake is not the purpose of the amendment. The first point I want to put to the House, and the prime reason for tabling the amendment, relates to the interests of justice and what we now

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regard as common human or democratic rights. Every man and woman has the right to be represented in this Parliament. Those who are not Peers are able to stand for, and to vote in elections to, the House of Commons. Peers are not in that position. None of us, unless we have been recently ennobled, was able to vote for the present House of Commons. Now, the hereditary Peers are to be thrown out of this House. It is a breach of the understanding that Peers did not vote in general elections or parliamentary elections because they had the right to sit and vote in this place, because no hereditary Peer voted for the present Parliament.

If the Bill is enacted and comes into effect at the end of this Session of Parliament, for up to two and a half years hereditary Peers will have no representative in the Commons and they will not be represented by their own voice in this House. That is the change that is being undertaken and, in my judgment, it is a breach of faith. As the Bill was originally drafted, it was an absolute breach for there were to be no hereditary Peers elected by their colleagues to continue to sit here. Now there are to be 92. Are there, my Lords? It would be most helpful if the Minister in replying to the debate could be clear in giving an undertaking that the so-called "Weatherill amendment" will not be reversed in the House of Commons.

The Minister may say that Ministers here cannot give guarantees about what happens in the other place. I know that, but I recently heard the Prime Minister himself giving what he called a "guarantee" that while he was Prime Minister he would not allow to pass any legislation outlawing fishing or shooting. The fact that he does not have the power to do that, because the Scottish Parliament can do it, is beside the point. He says that he can give those guarantees. Presumably it has been discussed in government and a decision has been made. Perhaps we should have it clearly set before us tonight, if necessary on the Motion that the Bill do now pass, whether or not the Government will resist and vote down an attempt to tamper with the Weatherill amendment.

There is a second thought here. As the Bill is presently drafted, there will be no time to receive the report of the Wakeham commission or for the Government to make their position clear on it. Of course, the Government claim a mandate for expelling the hereditary Peers, but they have no mandate for stage two. They say that they do not know what stage two will be. It seems to me that it would be for the better health of our democracy if the Bill did not come into effect until the proposals of the Wakeham commission, the Government and the other political parties were made known. It would seem sensible that the delay should run up to the general election. All the parties will then be able to put forward proposals for stage two after a reasonable period in which they have been considered, discussed internally and put to the electors.

We do not know whether the Government intend to hasten through another House of Lords Bill for stage two. Again, it might help if the Minister would give an

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assurance about a second Bill. It would help if he gave an assurance about how long the 92 hereditary Peers will remain.

I was made even more uneasy today by what we were told of the Government's attitude towards Clause 3 of the Bill. There may be some drafting defects in the proposals in the Bill for a commission, but to leave a hole there would be an even greater defect. Will there be put into the Bill in the other place the Government's intention on that aspect so that when it comes back here we may hear their proposals; or will they simply be by order, done in what was referred to as an independent and non-statutory manner?

Recently, we had a glaring example of the Government's idea of what shape an independent, non-statutory commission should take. They set one up in order to select the Labour Party's candidate for the London mayoralty. It gives us little confidence in the way the Government behave towards such matters. I remember that not long ago it was one man, one vote. It still is; and we know the one man, we know where he lives and we know that he casts his one vote!

The matter could be eased for him by something that I read about in the newspapers the other day. It appears that a company is manufacturing robot dogs. It was claimed that they could be trained in three weeks. Well, we have until May for the mayoral elections. That is ample time to produce a dog called Dobbo which will roll on its back and put its legs in the air whenever it is commanded to do so by its master.

There can be few people in this House whose confidence in the Government's commitment to the democratic process, or to the fair and reasonable selection of candidates for high office, has not been badly damaged by the events of the past month relating to the selection of the Labour candidate for mayor.

For all those reasons, it would be appropriate if we agreed tonight that this Bill should not come into effect until the end of this Parliament. What is the rush? I am told that there has been great anxiety on the part of the Labour Party to do something about this ever since 1911. That is a wait of 88 years. Would two more make any difference? Is it not better to get things right than suddenly to go hell-for-leather in a scuffle to get the Bill through at the last moment?

This is a reasonable amendment. It accepts the Bill and does not attempt to turn it over in any way. It merely says, first, that the hereditary Peers should not be deprived of their ability to vote and speak in this House until they have been given the opportunity to elect their own representatives in the other place. Secondly, it says-- I say this with some regret--that we do not trust the Government when they say that they will produce these wonderful ideas at some future time, but are not prepared to do so before the Bill comes into effect.

The noble Baroness the Leader of the House smiles her usual smile on these occasions. If she were to ask her colleague and friend from the other place, Mr Ken

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Livingstone, whether he would trust this Administration with the selection of people for high office, she would receive a clear reply.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, I have not as yet spoken in this debate, but I have often been provoked by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, over many years. I once did him the grave discourtesy of accusing him of being basically a nice man. Since then, and indeed before that, he has tried very hard to dispute the charge that I levelled against him. On this occasion he has made some very strange statements. He said that the Bill we are debating tonight is a "breach of faith", despite the fact that a majority of 170 in the elected other place proposed this Bill and sent it to your Lordships.

I respect, and have always respected, the fine work done by many hereditary Peers, but that is not a justification for them to stay in a second Chamber. I equally have great respect for many life Peers, who do a great job of work in this second Chamber, but equally, that is no justification for there being a second Chamber of that kind. It is positively sensible--indeed, dare I say to noble Lords opposite, it is common sense--to start with legislation first and foremost, as we have done in the manifesto, to dispense with the rights of hereditary Peers full stop. Since then, there have been changes.

The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, asked what was the view of the Front Bench. I cannot answer for them at the second stage, but I personally am not in favour of unicameral parliament. The only serious democratic Chamber is, in my view, a wholly elected one--I make no apologies for saying so. The mixture of elected and nominated Peers, which we are led to believe might be installed, frankly might well be hybrid in the sense in which noble Lords have tried to dispute the present Bill. The trouble for the Government, and indeed, the other place, on stage two is that if there were an elected, or even partially elected, second Chamber, that second Chamber would want real powers. I make it plain that, in my personal view, that is the reason why it will not happen.

The Bill we are debating tonight was originally very simple. It became far more complex through the acceptance of an amendment which has come to be known as the "Weatherill amendment", but we all know that the author of the amendment was the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. I was surprised earlier to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, from the Front Bench say that the Government have by this Bill created two classes of Peer. With great respect, it was not this Government who did that; it was the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. That is what created two classes of Peer. It was part of the deal which we are now discussing in this Bill tonight. Previously the Bill was not at all complex. It became so when the Government were persuaded by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, in his usual charming way, to accept his proposals. I make it clear that I do not agree with them.

I should prefer the Bill without those complex clauses. I make that quite clear to your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, asked what was the rush and

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said that we could wait. If the Bill did not pass tonight and we therefore entered a new Session with a simple Bill, I personally should be very happy indeed. I assume that that is unlikely to be the case because the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has already told us that he will recommend the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and his colleagues not to vote down this Bill. For my part I hope that they do vote it down. We could then move to a simple Bill, and that is what I support.

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