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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I apologise if I got that wrong. Of course I know perfectly well that it is the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, and I hope that I only got it wrong once, if I got it wrong.
Can the noble Lord tell us why it matters if the Bill is indeed hybrid? The last paragraph of the memoranda which I have mentioned says that were either this amendment or Amendment No. 20 carried the Bill would have to be referred to the Examiners, whoever they may be. Why does that matter? What happens to the Bill if the examiners agree that it is indeed hybrid? Can we pass it anyway or does it all have to go back to square one?
I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that the answers to these questions will help me to decide whether to press the amendment to a Division today or whether to bring it back at Third Reading denuded of the elements which might cause it to be hybrid. I must confess that, with or without hybridity, depending on what the noble Lord may say, that might in any case be the better course for the amendment. As I understand it, it would simply require subsection (4) of the amendment to omit the specific allocations to different parties within the House and to follow instead the procedure set out in the new Clause 2 of the Bill, specifically subsections (4) and (5) of that clause.
In other words, the allocations between the political parties and the Cross-Benches would be covered by Standing Orders and not placed on the face of the Bill. With that in mind, I will endeavour to put draft Standing Orders in your Lordships' Library for consideration, much in the same way as there are draft Standing Orders in your Lordships' Library for what used to be called the Weatherill amendment and which is now Clause 2 of the Bill.
In addition, I am indebted to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for pointing out to me in a letter that subsection (10) of the amendment as drafted could lead to difficulty in the event of a coalition Government in the House of Commons. It may therefore be sensible also to leave to Standing Orders the aim of that subsection, which is to ensure that the two main power blocks in the other place should have equal representation in your Lordships' House. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, so succinctly put it in his letter to me--I hope he does not mind me quoting him:
Other features of the amendment are that only those who had attended at least 10 per cent of the available sitting days in each of the two preceding Sessions would be eligible to vote, although all Peers could stand for election to become a voting Peer. Newly appointed Peers would be able to speak and vote for five years before they were required to face an election, which would decide whether they could continue to vote. The amendment suggests that elections should be held every seven years. However, new hereditary Peers would only be able to speak but not to vote unless and until they were elected in due course to do so.
That, very briefly, is what the amendment would do. I submit that it has some clear advantages over the present Clause 2 of the Bill. I put those advantages to the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal on 17th May, and more specifically to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on 25th May. It is a matter of record that neither the noble Baroness nor the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made any attempt to answer at least five important propositions about this amendment which I put as questions to the Government as reported at col. 911 of Hansard on 25th May.
I have today warned those who are advising the noble Baroness, the noble Lord and the Government that I would be returning to these questions and have to say that I hope for answers to all of them. I trust that the House will not find this hope in any way exaggerated or unreasonable. Indeed I should have thought that your Lordships would agree that it is the duty of the Government to answer pertinent questions during our debates. To refuse point blank to do so, as did the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on 25th May, seems to me to be a serious abrogation of that duty. It may well be that the Government find the answers to the questions uncomfortable, because they expose how mistaken the Government have been to support what was the Weatherill amendment and has now become the new Clause 2 of the Bill, which this amendment would replace.
By the same token, I wonder whether I may ask my noble friend Lord Strathclyde also to answer these questions when he comes to comment on the amendment. So far in our debates he has indicated that he believes that this amendment is indeed better than Weatherill or Clause 2, but for reasons which are not clear to me, he refuses to support it. Worse still, he has said that he would vote against the amendment if I were to press it to a Division, which does not exactly encourage one to do so.
Here are the questions again. First, do the Government and my noble friend Lord Strathclyde agree that under Clause 2 as drafted a number of excellent hereditary Peers will be excluded from the interim House, while a large number of less than excellent appointed Peers will remain? What does that do for the quality of the interim House?
Secondly, do they agree that one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the present composition of your Lordships' House--perhaps the most unsatisfactory aspect--is the preponderance of Conservative Peers, and that Clause 2 prolongs that
Thirdly, do they agree that by supporting Clause 2 the Government have abrogated that part of their manifesto which said that they would remove the right of all hereditary Peers to sit and vote in your Lordships' interim House?
Fourthly, do they agree that the power to legislate in your Lordships' House rests almost entirely upon the power to vote? That is a question that I put to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, during the debate raised by his noble friend Lord Randall of St. Budeaux. I did not receive an answer to it then.
Sixthly and finally, and much the most important of all, do they agree that we all share a clear duty to the nation to set up the best possible interim House, however long that House may last? Those are the six questions.
Once again, I have to point out to the Government and to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde that, if they answer those questions honestly, they will have no alternative but to agree that this amendment is far better than the new Clause 2, and that they should therefore support it.
I would also remind them that at least 18 amendments to the Weatherill amendment, as it then was, were taken off the un-marshalled list in order to allow those amendments to be taken after the Weatherill amendment became part of the Bill. That is why the Bill returned on re-commitment on 25th May. So to me it is simply not acceptable for them to turn round now and say that, as the Weatherill amendment was so strongly supported, it cannot now be improved upon or replaced.
The Weatherill amendment was indeed carried by 351 votes to 32. But, for reasons which I set out at col. 909 on 25th May and shall not repeat now, it is also clear that a number of noble Lords supported the Weatherill amendment precisely because they wished to encourage the Government to abrogate their manifesto commitment, as indeed they did.
So I look forward to the answers from the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government and indeed from my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, if he is to continue to oppose this amendment, to the six questions that I have put. I beg to move.
Lord Brightman: My Lords, I shall speak on only one point. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, began by raising questions of hybridity. According to Erskine May, it is open to any Lord who considers that a public Bill may be hybrid or has become hybrid as a result of any amendment made to it, to move that the Bill be referred to examiners. There is no such Motion
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