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Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I apologise to the whole House for a slight misunderstanding--

Noble Lords: Order.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I want to speak as well. This is not the first that this has happened.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I think I am entitled to reply. The two are not alternatives.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: They are.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am entitled to observe that when I moved the previous Motion, I sat down to await any contributions which might or might not have come. I did nothing discourteous to any Member of this House. There was quite a substantial pause. The Question was then put and assented to. There was no question of anyone being shut out at that stage.

The Earl of Dartmouth: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the Question was put and, I repeat, assented to. I think I am entitled, as always, to look for the courteous support of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. He saw me waiting; no one intervened; and the Question was put and determined.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I must bear some of the responsibility for the confusion that has arisen. By making the few brief remarks that I had intended to make to the Motion on Lords Amendment No 4, to the Motion on Lords Amendment No. 2, I think that I inadvertently misled the House.

However, having heard the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, I wonder whether it is now in order, in regard to this amendment, to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, or whether that is out of order. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has been trying to enter the debate for a large part of the afternoon. This is the last time that he will be present in this House as he is one of the excluded Peers. I look to the Government Front Bench to make a decision which I believe will be a fair one and will receive the support of the House.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is a very reasonable approach. I think the sense is that your Lordships want to hear the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I should like to thank those on the Government Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde.

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I am wholeheartedly in favour of the amendment as a postscript to Clause 2, especially having read the reason given by Her Majesty's Government for disagreeing to our Amendment No. 4; namely,


    XBecause it is unnecessary to protect further the position of the Septennial Act 1715".

The period specified in that Act was shortened to five years in Section 7 of the 1911 Parliament Act. But just as the Triennial Parliament Act 1693 was altered and changed in 1715, and that 18th century Act altered in 1911, what is to prevent this Government, or any ensuing elected government, altering Section 7 of the Parliament Act 1911? Control of the appointments of Peers to this Chamber, and a government with a majority of 50 or 100 will have the power to change the life of a Parliament from five to seven years, from five to 10 years, or to whenever.

It is our right and our responsibility to protect the electorate. We should insist on the original Amendment No. 4 which another place considered negatively last night, as well as the new amendment proposed to follow Clause 2. I support the amendment.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord rises, we have bowled along rather briskly and he will gratifyingly find that we shot over Amendment No. 4 fairly quickly. We now come to Amendment No. 13 which is in the Long Title.

I wish to ask the noble and learned Lord why the Government have not chosen to insert the matter of the appointments commission on which they have given an undertaking. Why do they not wish to find it in the Bill? Why is it so bad, if the proposed amendment, which has gone, was put down in order to prevent some government of a future date--not the present one--importing a lot of life Peers in order to prolong the life of Parliament? As I understand it, the idea was that that should not happen. I cannot understand why the Government have refused it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, there is a little confusion in the noble Earl's mind. At the moment, so far as I am aware, we are dealing with Amendment No. 4.

Several noble Lords: No!

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I say this with trepidation, but I think there is confusion in the noble and learned Lord's mind. I believe we are dealing with Amendment No. 13.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, if the noble Earl is right--and he invariably is, most of the time--I always agree with him. He is living testimony to that; in fact, we are having lunch together next week.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the week after. The noble and learned Lord has misdirected his mind again. He will have to look not only at his brief but also at his diary.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I believe that I need leave to make a personal statement of apology for

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misleading the House. As to the questions which the noble Earl put on the appointments commission, I believe that the Leader of the House dealt with the matter as fully as the House could reasonably expect and certainly to an extent where there is nothing that I could usefully add.

A noble Lord: My Lords, I thought we were discussing Amendment No. 4.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I know that your Lordships will not take this as an observation from the Woolsack, but perhaps it is rather appropriate that this happens to be Amendment No. 13.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Adjournment

4.23 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, hoping not to extend the confusion, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn. In moving the adjournment I want to pay tribute to all those who have worked so hard to ensure the efficient running of the House and, very importantly--and I say this with great emphasis in view of the past half-hour's proceedings--the orderly completion of business; not a small feat in these last crowded days and hours.

Every year at this time we say that this has been a very busy Session. I do not believe that any noble Lord on any side of the House will challenge me when I underline that and say that this year has been no exception. A total of 35 Bills supported by the Government have reached Royal Assent and although we have avoided all-night sittings, we have often sat very late. I believe I can say that we have all spent many pleasant evenings becoming better acquainted with one another, which has been to our mutual satisfaction and certainly to the satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, and his Refreshment Committee. I do not see him in his place, but I know that he would agree.

Throughout, we have been exceptionally well served by the loyal and dedicated staff of the House. They help us to make our time in the building both comfortable and worth while. I am sure all noble Lords here today will wish to join me in congratulating them on both their professional dedication and diligence and their friendly support during this long Session.

This is the last time the House of Lords will sit in its present form. In a few minutes Royal Assent will be given to the House of Lords Bill to turn it into the House of Lords Act. A reform that has been discussed for more than 100 years will finally take effect. In the last year of the 20th century, this can only be right. The step-by-step approach towards this achievement was the proper one. By undertaking reform in that way, we succeeded where others before us have failed. Full consideration of the next steps of reform will now be possible once the Royal Commission, chaired by the

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noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, has reported at the end of this year. I am sure that we all look forward to examining his proposals with the dispassionate, detailed appraisal that characterises the best work of your Lordships' House.

Although many hereditary Peers will have left us, we should today look back as well as forwards and respectfully acknowledge that in this House hereditary Peers have served honourably and have held the highest offices of state. When he spoke on Second Reading, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor rightly paid detailed tribute to the history of those hereditary Peers who throughout the centuries have served the nation with distinction. Some hereditary Peers who have held high office most recently will continue to be Members of your Lordships' House, either as life Peers or as elected Weatherill Peers. Their role for the next transition period continues.

In future, of course, those hereditary Peers who are no longer Members of your Lordships' House and who want to continue a political life will have the chance to be elected to another place or be made Members of this House because of their own achievements. These are opportunities which I am sure will be widely enjoyed.

Away from politics, as your Lordships know, individual hereditary Peers have achieved much in their chosen professions. Again, I am sure that they and their heirs will continue to do so.

In speaking so optimistically about the future, I must repeat that the Government do not denigrate the past. We understand and appreciate the contribution of individual hereditary Peers to the Chamber and to the country over many centuries. We are simply saying that what may have been appropriate 800, or even 200, years ago is not appropriate now.

Of course, change is always a difficult process and particularly for those most closely involved. That has been true for many hereditary Members of the House. I sincerely believe that most have the grace and the realism to accept that this change is necessary. We have seen, for the most part, moderation, dignity and authority throughout this parliamentary Session. We have been given a timely reminder of the part played by the hereditary peerage in the counsels of this nation.

My earlier words at Third Reading, which some said were a little brusque, were to say: XThank you and goodbye." Let me say this afternoon that that gratitude was sincere, genuinely meant and properly merited. The friendly goodbyes we offer are also simply meant. We wish you all very well.

Moved, That the House do now adjourn.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

4.28 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, it is a rare occasion on which I rise and wholeheartedly concur with a Motion moved by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. I join her in wishing that this debate will be relatively short before the ceremony of the Prorogation.

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Noble Lords will be unsurprised to hear that I have never run a marathon. I think I never will, but this Session has been its political equivalent. It has been an enormous struggle which is now at an end. This has been one of the busiest Sessions in living memory, and yet it was this House which again sat for longer, and for more days, than our colleagues in another place.

I too join the noble Baroness in thanking the staff of the House. They have all played their part in the way that this House expects. They have showed continuous and unfailing decency and courtesy throughout the process, which sometimes has been as uncomfortable for them as for us. In particular, I pay tribute to the Doorkeepers who have served us well. Today there was an impromptu gathering of some Members of this House in the Chamber at 11 o'clock and the Doorkeepers organised it extremely effectively. I also pay tribute to those who work in the Refreshment Department who have been gathering signatures and saying final words to Peers who have become friends over the past few years. I pay tribute to the staff of the Parliament Office and the Clerks who put up with endless inquiries about the Bill and the amendments. I also refer to the Judicial Clerk who, unusually, was dragged into the debate by virtue of the legal challenge and the proceedings before the Committee for Privileges. Those who witnessed it know that it was handled superbly.

I said that this had been a difficult Session. It is certainly the most difficult Session that I have seen, and it is probably one of the most difficult of the century. But it is worth reflecting for a moment on the past. This House has inflicted no evil in its history and much good has been done by it. Many people, including the weak, the unheard and the politically unfashionable, have come to this House when the doors of another place have been shut to them by the prevailing majority--of all governments. One matter that has characterised this House in the time that I have served it has been its courtesy, humility and instinctive sense of what is just and what is false and what counts in the long term rather than the passing fashion of the hour. The reason for that lies not in the fabric of the building but the fibre of the people who have worked so hard and long in this place and given of themselves fully and freely in service to the nation. I salute those of all parties who are being excluded from our ranks today.

This is not a time for recrimination but a time for resolution that we who stay will be worthy in every way of those who go, that we shall not rest in the battle to achieve genuine and lasting reform and we shall practise the virtues of modesty, courtesy and a willingness to listen as much as we talk. Then, those of us who return next Wednesday may begin to be half-worthy of the great and ancient House that is being dismembered today.


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