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Lord Richard: My Lords, this is rather more important than the ceremony of introduction. I have never said that there would be no options paper before the stage one Bill was considered by this House. I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, whether I would produce an options paper now, and I said no.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I must not argue a point of understanding or misunderstanding. All I can tell the House is that I transcribed these notes from Hansard--I gave the noble Lord notice, as it so happens, because he is a friend of mine in another sort of way--and this is by my lights an honest representation of what he said. It certainly represents what I understood him to say.
Against what the noble Lord has said, however one interprets it, without the knowledge of the substance, how can we implement the trappings? My noble friend Lord Denham has put it so clearly. If it is to be a short-term exercise, if the recommendations are to have mere interim effect, why not retain, as my noble friend Lord Denham put it, the status quo?
Lord Annan: My Lords, I rise after these speeches as somewhat of an anomaly in that I am in favour of the recommendations made by the Select Committee. They are sensible. A dignified ceremony has been proposed. It is one which would give pleasure both to the recipient of the peerage and to his kinsmen or family and it would also enable the House to have a look at him. The only possible problem is the one raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, who, as Earl Marshal of England, I was so pleased to see in support of the main proposals of the committee. The only question that he raised was the status of Garter.
When I was made a Peer I wrote to Sir Anthony Wagner, at whose father's school I was when I was aged seven, and asked whether he could help me. He said, "I am very sorry. I cannot do anything to help you because you are, by Scottish descent, a matter for Lyon King of Arms to attend to". I got in touch with Lord Lyon and he said to me, "What do you intend to call yourself?". I said that I hoped to be able to call myself Lord Annan, as to the best of my belief there
At this point my family intervened. My 13 year-old daughter said, "Do you realise that pop records on the gramophone have an A side and a B side and that I shall call you Lord Annan of B side if you accept this?". So I went back to Lord Lyon and said that my family was very unhappy. He said, "Your family is a very foolish lot". However, when I pressed the point it appeared that there was no problem at all. I did not have to change my name, though I had the great honour of being allowed to be Lord Annan, of the Royal Burgh of Annan. But that did not mean that I had to sign my name in a different way.
I say this because there is an element of something ludicrous in our procedures as they have been until this date. There is something ludicrous in the idea that you become a different person, a different class in society, someone superior to the hoi polloi in the rest of the country. That is what I do not like and that is what I think the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, dislikes, although he has been ridiculed for holding these views.
The problem we are facing is one of how to make a dignified second Chamber slightly less absurd. I say that because I know it is difficult for noble Lords to accept that this may be true. We know how hard the people in this House--the working Peers (not people like myself)--work, the hours they keep and the little recompense they get for it. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, talked about how the rest of the country regard this House as a splendid place and as one of the few bulwarks of liberty left since the decline of the other place. That is a view which I understand many of your Lordships will hold but it is not a view which is held in the country at large. In the country at large we are still a slightly absurd body because of these eccentric customs. That is why I think this modest move to make our introductions less eccentric but still dignified is a move in the right direction.
The noble Lords, Lord Dean of Harptree and Lord Waddington, asked why we should do it now. On that small point, whether or not we should do it this Session or next Session, it seems to me absurd to have the debate today and then go over the whole thing again in a few months' time. Why delay the matter, which is not essential to any part of the business of the House, and then consider it again? On the question of whether we should do it today or tomorrow, I think it is clear that it should be today.
Then we come to the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that we should never change anything until we know everything that could possibly be said about
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, he misunderstood those of us who are speaking along the same lines. We are saying that it is not a question of today or tomorrow: not that we must know every little thing, but the substance of the reform, and that it ought to be debated in both Houses. Surely that is not an unreasonable suggestion.
Lord Annan: My Lords, I agree that the reform is bound to be debated in both Houses, but the matter which we were discussing is not a matter of substance. If I may use the medieval scholastic term about Transubstantiation, this Motion concerns mere accidents and not the essence or substance of the House of Lords.
Baroness Platt of Writtle: My Lords, rather like many other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, I would not have instigated this change. However, there are some good recommendations in the report. I particularly agree with the Select Committee's opinion on page 8 that affirms its belief,
As many other noble Lords have said, this is a hard working House. It is also important that new Peers appreciate the fact that they are taking on duties and responsibilities. It is not at all obvious from the reports of our work in the media. That is why I particularly want the Writ of Summons to be read out, as it will continue to be done for the introduction of Bishops. I would be happy if it were read only once if two Peers are to be introduced. The words,
"we shall attend and speak", certainly emphasise for me, together with solemnly taking the oath, the historic nature of the ceremony and therefore my future duty for playing a responsible part in the work of this House.
Each new Peer will continue to receive the Writ and Standing Orders. I am glad that in future they will also receive a leaflet explaining the significance of the ceremony to their future role as Members of a legislature. New Members also now receive an induction seminar which is very helpful. In another
I am glad that robes will continue to be worn, but I do not mind particularly about hats or their doffing or kneeling to the Lord Chancellor on what are often well-worn knees. As all new Peers go to the College of Heralds to agree with Garter their title, and possibly their coat of arms, I feel deeply that Garter should take part in the ceremony particularly, as has been said by noble Lords, he is the present representative of the Crown. I agree with the amendment of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk which I support wholeheartedly. I hope that it will be agreed by the whole House.
The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, wishes to delay the new ceremony until the House has had the opportunity to consider Her Majesty's Government's further proposals for Lords' reform. The more I hear suggestions for possible root and branch reform in place of the hereditary peerage, the more I believe that this matter should receive much deeper, further consideration than has been accorded so far before any action is taken. These suggestions include a fully elected House, fewer Bishops, a fully-paid House--and there will be many others.
These possible alterations will affect in a complex way many other long-accepted traditions of our country. They might--and almost certainly will--cost a great deal more and would certainly affect fundamentally the balance of power between the two Houses. I believe that a commission should be set up consisting of Members of both Houses, of all parties or none, to consider all the full implications of change before any change is made in the composition of our House. I would therefore prefer the amendment of my noble friend Lord Waddington so as not to delay this change in the introduction ceremony too long, as my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk said earlier, but at the same time giving much fuller consideration to the whole question of the composition and powers of the two Houses. That is bound to take a much longer period of time and must not be carried out in stages. I believe that that is vital before any further decisions are made for change.
Lord Chesham: My Lords, much of what I had intended to say has already been said and I will therefore not repeat it. However, I did note that the Government Chief Whip, as the sole Government representative to address the Select Committee, stated,
The report is not, therefore, to be considered as a stand-alone situation, as has been argued. It should be part and parcel of a review of all the existing customs, practice and fabric of Parliament and should be
In the context of reform being considered--and this ceremony is part of that consideration--I fully support my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. In his evidence to the Select Committee, Garter stated that the first aspect of the ceremony was that it is the ceremony of introduction, not the ceremony of taking the seat or of taking the oath. It is therefore a Crown matter. The Crown has created a new peerage and Garter is delegated by the Crown to introduce that new Peer into the House. That should obviously continue.
Incidentally, in sifting through the evidence given to the Select Committee I can find no suggestion that Garter should be totally excluded from the ceremony. I therefore wonder why the Committee has included that in its recommendations. It was certainly not apparent from any evidence given to it. None of us should forget that the horse designed by a committee ended up a camel.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, here is one camel who is not going to take the hump. It has been a good humoured debate and a very serious one. Divisions have occurred because there are those who feel that after 350 years there is no need to change the ceremony of initiation to this much respected, much valued and much treasured second Chamber.
Many of us are members of clubs, institutions and associations. I cannot believe that they have not taken part at least in looking at ways in which the process of initiation can be changed or improved. That is what we are doing now. When the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the Leader of the House, said last year that he felt it was time to look at our procedures, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, was quite right in that, out of respect to the Leader, the Motion was not interfered with. The committee was set up and comprised noble Lords from the various Benches and it was ensured that among its members there were those with long experience and those with less. I believe that it has done a very good job. It has certainly unearthed a lot of facts and background which I appreciate very much.
Like everyone in this House, I would not have missed the introduction ceremony for the world--as it was then. I valued it, as did my family and friends. However, that is not to say that I did not feel that, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, we need a procedure which is dignified but less eccentric.
We all know that the process by which this House was peopled heavily--in fact, peopled solely--with hereditary Peers is a medieval anachronism. It is less than 50 years since Harold Macmillan brought about a tremendous change in the composition of this House by recognising the need for life Peers. I sense that noble Lords opposite are uneasy about the speed or undue haste of any proposed changes.
My predecessor as Labour Chief Whip was right. This change may not stand alone. It may or may not be part of a grand plan. However, we must consider exactly what we are being asked to do. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, summed it up very well. There are those who would proceed to do nothing until they have everything. We know that that is a ploy. It is a device that we have all used. If the first stage cannot proceed until the details of the second stage are known, once those second-stage details have been produced, the argument, "Is there any more?" is raised.
Those words are in our manifesto. It is all very well for noble Lords opposite to argue about this point, but they had 18 years in power, absolute power, to bring forward changes--any change--but they brought forward nothing. So, it is all very well to say to the Labour Government, these Benches and others that we are acting in haste, but experience tells us that if a government have a strong point of view, now is the time for them to act.
It has been argued that we have no right to make changes to what I have referred to as a medieval anachronism in terms of our composition. I believe that we are entitled to put that change not only before this House and the other place, but also before the people of this country. That is what we did on 1st May. If there is any value in the doctrine of the manifesto commitment, there it is. I believe that all noble Lords recognise that there are times for change and, as has been said, this is a modest change.
I hope that those Members of your Lordships' House who feel that too much is being attempted too quickly will remember 1621, that no substantial changes have been made since then in the method of introduction and that what has been proposed is modest. I support my noble friend Lord Carter in saying that the link between this House and the Crown is something that we should not abandon lightly. There is merit in that argument. The report merits the support of this House. I believe that there are times when change is right and I believe that the time for these changes is now.
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