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Lord Waddington: It is with some diffidence that I enter this debate; indeed, I shall not detain Members of the Committee for very long. However, there are some general points affecting all of us which must be made. I do not know how many noble Lords have given evidence to the Royal Commission on the reform of the House of Lords, but I imagine that many of them who have been thinking about the possible shape of a reformed second Chamber will have wondered what part such a Chamber might play in strengthening the Union. In other words: how, in a reformed second Chamber, could we have proper representation of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom? How, by having proper representation of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions, could we meet to some extent the demands of people living in more remote parts of the UK for as strong a voice as possible at the centre?
Of course, we have returned to our old difficulty. I must be forgiven for beating the same drum, but I have mentioned these points on many occasions and rarely received even the beginnings of a reply. As a result of the way in which the Government have decided to proceed, we all now know that a Chamber will be created which will either be composed of wholly nominated Peers or of largely nominated Peers with some representation from the hereditary Peers as a result of the Government's acceptance of the Weatherill amendment.
However, whether or not the Weatherill amendment is accepted, one thing is absolutely plain: no one in this place can, with his hand on his heart, say that the Chamber created by this House of Lords Bill will only be with us for a short time. Indeed, it may or it may not. As I mentioned the other day, there is certainly not the beginnings of a consensus yet as to what shape the new Chamber should take. We really must face up to what happened back in 1968 and recognise that the Chamber which will be created by this Bill may be with us for three, five, 10, 15 or even 20 years.
Therefore, with that background, I think it is a great pity that the Government have not already addressed their minds to a very real problem. How can this second Chamber be so constructed to ensure that there will be proper representation of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom? It is not too late for the Government to consider amendments which would graft on to the Bill specific provisions to allow for directly or indirectly elected people from the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. It is not too late for that to happen; indeed, the matter is entirely in the hands of the Government. It will be a great pity if they decide not to do so.
However, if they will not accept such amendments, I hope that they will take the opportunity of debates of this kind to lift the veil a little and tell us which way their minds are working. For example, do they envisage that, as soon as possible, the second Chamber will perhaps to a large extent be a Chamber designed to keep the kingdom united--a second Chamber which really will make sure that each constituent part of the United Kingdom is properly represented? I hope that on this occasion the Minister who is to reply to the debate will not brush all this aside. I want to know what the Government's thinking is with regard to the possibility of this so-called transitional House being with us for 10, 15 or 20 years. If it is to be with us for such a long time, the Government ought to think of amendments along the lines that I have suggested. If they are absolutely confident that the provisional House will not be with us for long, I want to know the reasons for that confidence. I do not have it myself. I have listened to the debates in the House of Commons. I cannot see for one moment the Labour Members in the House of Commons agreeing with what appears to be the majority view on the Conservative Benches; namely, that there ought to be a wholly elected second Chamber. Where is the beginnings of a consensus? If there is not the beginnings of a consensus, how on earth do the Government think that either immediately before or immediately after the next general election they will get a second Bill through Parliament? I believe they will have an uphill struggle.
If I am right in my thinking, the Government should explain to us why they think the framework for a second Chamber which is contained in this Bill is anything like adequate. I believe it is plain to most of us that it is far from adequate. It does not contain any of the constitutional safeguards which I have urged upon the House on previous occasions ought to be in a Bill of this nature. It is inadequate because it does not provide specific representation from the various constituent parts of the United Kingdom.
I do not say that I am in favour of this particular amendment as I do not really understand all this business of representative Peers. That is not my object. However, it has given us an opportunity to ask the Government to explain their thinking as to how the constituent parts of the United Kingdom can be properly and clearly represented in a transitional House and finally in a reformed House.
Lord Elton: As I understand it, the Act of Union was the placing into legislative form of a bargain which took the form of the Treaty of Union. The bargain has not been reneged on. It has not been unstitched so completely as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Steel, suggested in his brief intervention because it was a bargain between two sovereign parliaments. The Parliament being created in Scotland is not in all matters sovereign. In any case that can be regarded from the point of view of governance as being an advance on the position achieved by the Act of Union as far as concerns the Scots.
The Act of 1963 was an advance on the Act of Union because it increased from 16 to a much larger number the number of Peers attending from the Scottish peerage. Had the Bill proposed merely to reduce the representation of the Scottish peerage to the level at which it had originally been instituted in this House, that would not have affected the treaty rights of the Scots. However, the Bill proposes to wipe out a particular benefit in a bargain contractually arrived at between sovereign parties and embodied in a treaty. Presumably either that was provided for in advance and there is a mechanism in the treaty and the Act for dealing with such differences--in that case I hope that the noble and learned Lord will enlighten me as to what it is--or else there was none, this was not foreseen and this measure is a breach of that treaty. It seems to me that this is an unfortunate point in history to embark on such a breach when in a year or two's time we will get the new Parliament in Scotland up and running, the Royal Commission will have reported and both Houses will have debated what the proper relationships between Westminster and Edinburgh should be. But at the moment it is, I think, a not unimportant symbolic reneging on a bargain entered into many years ago with no indication of what restitution is available.
Lord Baker of Dorking: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Gray, for introducing this amendment as it has given us the opportunity to have a short but interesting debate upon the representative elements of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. I cannot support this amendment because patently it is unfair that Scottish Peers should be allowed to elect from themselves a certain number to sit in this House when English, Welsh and Northern Irish hereditary Peers do not have that right.
I should preface those remarks by saying that I was a member of the committee of Alec Douglas-Home that reported back in the mid-1970s and recommended a membership of this House which was half elected, a quarter appointed and a quarter of all hereditary Peers elected from among themselves. I thought that was quite an attractive composition, but it is no longer on the table. Clearly that cannot be done selectively for one part of the United Kingdom although I recognise entirely the tremendous contribution that Scottish Peers have made both under the old elected system and under the non-elected system. I remember an amusing story told by Alec Douglas-Home of the process of election. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, will be able to confirm that this is how it happened. Alec Douglas-Home said that the hereditary Peers of Scotland were summoned to Edinburgh--I believe they were summoned to the Assembly House--and the senior Peer of the day did a roll call (I believe it was Lord Stair) and voices were raised in favour "yea" or "nay" as the names were called. Occasionally Lord Stair would come across a name--it may have been Macpherson of Dundee--and would say, "We cannot have him. This chap did a spell at Eton", and struck the name out. I do not know whether that happened to the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, but certainly it produced a system which served this House well, but which is no longer on the table.
I believe it would be useful to know the following. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, has just said in this regard. I hope that at some stage during the Committee stage Ministers will reveal some inclination as to how the different parts of the United Kingdom are to be represented not only in the interim Chamber but also in the eventual Chamber. If Ministers cannot do that on behalf of the Government, I hope that they will reveal their own personal feelings on the matter.
My own views are fairly clear. I want the eventual Chamber to be part appointed and part directly elected. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, comes from Wales. It would be interesting to hear him say how he would like to see the Principality of Wales represented in the interim House or in the eventual reformed House so that the interests of the Welsh people can be properly represented in this House. After all, they will soon have an Assembly--virtually a Parliament of their own--which is unicameral. After all, within a month Scotland will have a Parliament of its own which to all intents and purposes will be virtually independent. It will have a Prime Minister of its own and a Cabinet of its own and they will meet in Edinburgh within a month. In terms of the United Kingdom constitution, that represents a huge imbalance. There has to be some balancing feature which has not been expressed at all by the Government.
I express the hope that several others of my noble friends have expressed; namely, that at some stage during the proceedings of this Bill some Members of the Government Front Bench might indicate just a little of their feelings. As I say, if they cannot do that on behalf
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