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Lord Rotherwick: Everybody appears to have a terrible hang-up about these handles. One remembers being told most carefully that as an officer one is saluted not because of one's position but because of the
It would be very confusing if people called themselves "Sir Something" in one part of the country and "Mr. Something" in another part. We should try to inform people what we are about. As we have a historical name here, it is appropriate that people hold that name of Peer or Lord.
Lord Lucas: It is important that we recognise that we are making a substantial change to this House, as the Government would no doubt claim and agree. Symbols are important and we should recognise this change and the way in which people look on the House when considering a change of name.
Clearly, a change in this House that will remove about 90 per cent of those of us who sit by succession, but have the informal style of "Lord" is likely to create some confusion in terms of those who remain and those who do not. It is clear that the separation of the privilege of peerage from the right to sit in Parliament, which is the explicit aim of the Government expressed from time to time, is a deliberate policy and must have the logical effect at some point of detaching the style of "Lord" from the right to sit in this place.
As is made clear by Clause 2, Members of your Lordships' House will be able to sit in another place in the full flower of their title should they so wish. I wonder, in passing, whether my right honourable friend, the current chairman of the Conservative Party, may wish to reapply his proper name. If some of us seek election to another place, I wonder whether we would want to call ourselves by the names that we have held in this House.
My great-grandfather sat in another place as an Irish Peer, but always called himself Lord Henley. I once speculated in the local press that I may stand for election to my local constituency, Carlisle, should we be abolished, to which the response from the PPS of the Lord Privy Seal was that Carlisle was not ready for a "toff". Since then, Carlisle has returned to the Conservative fold after 23 years. If I were to stand for
Earl Ferrers: I see that the noble Lord takes great pride in his name. He really should not do so because the only reason that his predecessor was made Lord Henley was to ensure that my predecessor was executed.
Lord Henley: My noble friend is correct in saying that it was a direct forebear of mine who was ennobled as Lord Henley so that he could preside over a trial of a forebear of my noble friend Lord Ferrers. The forebear of my noble friend in that trial made the rather odd mistake of defending himself--by not employing counsel--on the grounds of insanity, which meant that if he did a good job he was not insane and he would go down, but if he did a bad job he would go down anyway. I can assure the House that my noble friend's forebear did go down and was hanged, in due course, with that privilege of peerage, by means of a silken cord.
I am descended from another Lord Henley, of different creation, a son-in-law of that first Lord Henley. I do not sit as Lord Henley in this House, as the title of "Lord Henley" relates to an Irish peerage. I sit as Lord Northington, a name that I have to remember once every five years when I take the Oath.
Returning to the amendment, it may be disappointing to some noble Lords. It is not disappointing to many noble Lords on the Benches opposite, as was made clear by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham. It seems inevitable that the title given to Members of this House must change at some point after reform. Whether that is after an interim stage or another stage is a matter for debate.
Three suggestions have been put forward, one from my noble kinsman Lord Stanley and my noble friend Lord Caithness, and another two from my noble friend Lord Ferrers. I would not wish to be the one to adjudicate between those suggestions. No doubt the Government will have a number of responses to those and they will give us, no doubt, their views as to the appropriate one. I presume that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn will respond, or should I say the right honourable Gareth Williams LP or LS or MS, or whatever he will be called in due course. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Williams, will be able to assist us in terms of what would be the appropriate name.
At this stage, I do not want to judge between the different suggestions made by my noble friends. Having heard what the Minister has to say, I am sure that my noble friends may wish to return to this at a later stage of the Bill.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I have waited, with mounting indignation and impatience, throughout these five days, to get to the only point of this Bill that really matters. We have spent hours on trivia such as the Weatherill amendment and the question of the appointments commission instead of getting on with what really matters!
The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, the soul progenitor of the "West Cranborne" question, told us that the behaviour of this House had always been modelled on the habits of the hereditary peerage. I wonder which particular defined habits he had readily in mind. I thought of illegal immigration in 1066, followed by theft, pillage and usurpation over the succeeding centuries.
Viscount Cranborne: I rather anticipated that such a crack might be forthcoming from the noble Lord, so I was careful to differentiate between the medieval period, which was not hereditary, and the later medieval period and the subsequent period, which were. I am the first to admit that in subsequent centuries the habits of the hereditary peerage outside your Lordships' House were rather less elegant than they were inside.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I continue. The alternatives put forward are fascinating. This is a serious question of importance to the public, the outcome of which the world is awaiting. Our post-nominals are extremely important.
I remember prosecuting a case in Swansea Crown Court when I first became a Queen's Counsel. Afterwards, with trembling hand, I looked at the success which I would undoubtedly be accorded and which would be recorded in the Swansea Evening Post, known locally as the "Two Minutes' Silence" because that is all it took to read it. I was horrified--my mother even more so--to find the immortal phrase on the front page:
We have had interesting offers from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. We have heard references to the French Revolution. I remember Phillipe Egalite, the renegade, and I suppose that if the madly determined dash of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for the lowest common denominator continues, we shall have to call him "Robin Egalite" because beneath his Right-wing exterior there beats a radical heart.
It has been quite wrongly suggested to me that the hereditary Peers may be known as PCs, Pedigree Chums or something of that sort. The possibilities are endless. The fact is that we see no reason for change. I hope that that robust approach of no change in any circumstance commends itself in particular to the hereditary element of this House.
There is an internal contradiction to be detected by the unkind eye in the two amendments in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. Amendments Nos. 101 and 102 are mutually exclusive. Amendment No. 74, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, wants everyone to be known as "Peers". We think that there is no point in that, except as the subject for an amusing debate of this
Earl Ferrers: I am still puzzled by the noble Lord. Throughout all the debates the Government have said that we must change; we must modernise. The only times when the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, refuses change is when, first, he says that we cannot have "an" and must have "a" hereditary Peer for the good reason that the parliamentary draftsman has said that that has been so for years; and, secondly, as regards an obviously correct provision such as the amendment today. Again, he says, "No, we must not change." I wish that he had used that expression a little more and earlier in the Bill.
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