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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 9.25 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 9.23 to 9.25 p.m.]

House of Lords Bill

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed on Clause 7.

[Amendments Nos. 19 to 21 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 22:


Page 3, line 24, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall, before any election or by-election is held to the House of Commons or the European Parliament,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 22, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 23, which is consequential, and Amendment No. 24, which is related but not consequential.

I do not think that this will take a great deal of time. Perhaps I might christen the amendment, at the beginning, the "Kensington and Chelsea by-election amendment" and explain to your Lordships the reason for the amendment by reference to that by-election.

If the Government get their way, in mid-November a number of your Lordships will no longer have a seat in this House either because your Lordships will decide not to stand or, having stood, will not be successful. That is a situation which some of us from another place have experienced and we know exactly how that feels. Despite no longer being Members of this House, those noble Lords--at least in Scotland--will have a large black "L" beside their names. I am not sure about the situation in England. That will indicate that they cannot vote in a general election. Any of those noble Lords who are registered in the constituency of Kensington and Chelsea and want to vote in a by-election some time between now and, let us say, January or February, will find that they are not allowed to vote. They will no longer have a seat in this House but they will not be able to vote in that by-election.

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I think that your Lordships will agree that that position is unfair. I shall not argue the point strongly because I am not a great expert in such matters, but it could also be an infringement of those noble Lords' rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. I noted yesterday that the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, suggested that depriving convicted prisoners of their right to vote is an infringement of the rights conferred by Article 3 of the First Protocol. I do not know whether that is the case. However, the noble Lord, Lord Lester--who I am sorry is no longer in his place--has told us on a number of occasions that he is a great expert. I have no reason to doubt that. I gather that he appears occasionally in those courts. Therefore, he certainly knows more about such matters than I do. If he thinks that there may be a case which suggests that convicted criminals should not be deprived of their vote, I should have thought that hereditary Peers should at least be considered in the same way as convicted criminals, if not slightly more favourably.

If any noble Lords in Kensington and Chelsea are deprived of their vote in the by-election, they might arguably be able, if they could afford it, to retain the noble Lord, Lord Lester, to look after their interests in the European Courts. I am not really relying on that argument. As the Government lay such store on the European Convention on Human Rights, they ought to be absolutely sure that they are not infringing that right.

We discussed this matter at an earlier stage. Mindful of the rebuke from the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, I return here with something of a tweak, which is due entirely to the by-election in Kensington and Chelsea. On 17th May--it seems a long time ago--we discussed this matter in general terms. I was then thinking of a by-election in the Falkirk constituency caused by Mr. Dennis Canavan resigning on his election as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. I was concerned about the rights of any hereditary Peers in the by-election. Mr. Dennis Canavan has not yet resigned. The position may still be that any hereditary Peer living in that constituency may be deprived of a vote in the by-election.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, in answer to me, said that the orders which the Government intended to bring forward would, they hoped, make sure that every hereditary Peer who lost the right to sit in this House would be on the register by February 2000. I see today that we have in his place the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I nearly said that a number of times when we discussed the Welsh Bill and various other constitutional matters. It was not then the case, but it is now a pleasure to call him properly the noble and learned Lord. I note that he is answering on this amendment. He will be aware of what his noble and learned friend Lord Falconer said on that day.

Is that still the timetable? When shall we see the regulations? Will they be in place in time for the new register? It is already being made up. The qualifying date was 10th October. I know that there is time for people to be put on the register, but we now have to be

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sure that the new regulations will be put in place in order to preserve the right of your Lordships who have lost the right to sit in this House to vote in connection with the other place.

Related to those regulations is Amendment No. 24 and in some ways also Amendments Nos. 22 and 23. I would welcome some words on the timetable and assurances about the timing of the regulations from the noble and learned Lord. It would be helpful to hear some assurances that the regulations might be in place for a by-election perhaps later this year.

Amendment No. 24 is about the regulations themselves. In the earlier debates in May I wanted to put on the face of the Bill provision for a seamless transfer from losing the right to sit and vote here to being on the electoral register. But the Government were against that. They said it was best done by regulation. That is to be dealt with by the negative resolution. I believe that it would be better to deal with it by the affirmative resolution, whatever the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee may have said. That would be best. Therefore, Amendment No. 24 asks that it be done by the affirmative resolution.

It would be as well for the Government to give in because I fully intend to pray against the regulations if only to have a discussion to make sure that they are properly carried out and put in place as quickly as possible. I should have given this amendment to my noble friend Lord Coleraine who has had much more success than I in persuading the Government to accept amendments. I still hope that the Government might treat me as kindly as they treated my noble friend earlier today.

I believe that I have made the requests behind these amendments perfectly clear to the Government. They are about parliamentary elections. European elections are included because, for some reason I have never quite understood, the Bill refers to elections to the European Parliament as well. It may be that I should have probed that earlier on. All Members of your Lordships' House had a right to vote for the European Parliament. I do not know why that matter is in the Bill, but the reason that it is in my amendment is to try to be logical with the Bill otherwise the noble and learned Lord would have reprimanded me for not being so. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I am a little surprised that the Conservatives appear to be so worried about their chances of winning the Kensington and Chelsea by-election that they are desperate to get all those hereditary Peers on to the register.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the noble Lord is being very unkind. For all I know there may be some members of his party who are hereditary Peers and who live in Kensington and Chelsea.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, having been a candidate on three occasions in parliamentary elections for the

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old Kensington constituency, I have to say that it was my impression that there were several hundreds, if not thousands, of Conservative hereditary Peers living in that constituency.

I assume that it is the intention of the Government to lay the necessary regulations for allowing hereditary Peers to vote in parliamentary by-elections as soon as possible and that that will be done in time to enable them to vote in that by-election, unless the Writ is moved extremely quickly. If that assumption were wrong, I would take a more favourable view of this amendment; but if that undertaking is forthcoming, I see no reason to doubt it.

It is not a case of hereditary Peers getting on to the register. They are already on the register and entitled to vote in both local and European elections. It is the same register. All that will need to be done is to remove the block that prevents them from voting in parliamentary elections--and that should be a simple matter.

Amendment No. 24 puzzles me a little for two reasons. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, indicated, the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, of which I am a member, decided that there was no need for the affirmative procedure here even though this is technically a Henry VIII clause and gives power to alter other legislation. In the special circumstances, the committee felt that an affirmative resolution was not necessary.

Secondly, use of the affirmative procedure would actually delay matters. As I understand it, a negative resolution statutory instrument takes effect as soon as it is laid before Parliament, but there has to be a delay between an affirmative resolution being laid in draft and being voted on in both Houses. I cannot see, therefore, why the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is so keen on the affirmative procedure.


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