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I think my noble friend's argument that some recompense should be provided to those hereditary Peers who will be denied a place in this House if this legislation passes is wholly relevant. Indeed, I think a good case could be made to the Court of Human Rights at The Hague. I await with interest the Minister's response to this amendment, which I support completely.
Lord Newby: My Lords, I hope I shall not disappoint the noble Viscount, Lord Torrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, too much by not talking about points they have just raised in respect of the Writ of Summons, on which we have had at least five debates which must have lasted at least 10 hours, and the other questions relating to recompense which are not mentioned at all in the amendment. I shall speak to the amendment.
I have an admission to make. This amendment has split the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. Some of my colleagues are very hard hearted and believe that the principle by which people who do not stand for election or get defeated in election then receive a medal is alien to the tradition of British democracy. I do not support that contention. However, although having considerable sympathy with the concept of striking a commemorative medal for those hereditary Peers who will no longer be Members of your Lordships' House after autumn, I feel that I must enter a caveat. I could not support a proposal to strike a medal for those who are no longer here unless a similar medal, possibly in several classes, were struck for those Members of your Lordships' House who have sat through the debates on this Bill.
In my view, there is an overwhelming case for having a special class of medal struck for those very few Members of your Lordships' House who have voted on every Division called by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. Those Members of your Lordships' House who were not here at 1.15 in the morning when we voted on an amendment as to whether there should be an "a" or an "an" in the Bill in relation to the phrase "hereditary Peer" may not realise why I feel so strongly on this issue. I hope therefore that in responding to this debate, the Government look not only in detail at the terms of the amendment, but will consider the points which I have made in terms of extending its scope to deal with those of us, life and hereditary Peers alike, who have sat through the entire deliberations on this Bill and helped to develop a more modern constitution in this country.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I too rather share the view that a medal would be a nice thing. I am not so concerned to support the financial proposals that I have heard raised, but I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that a medal in different classes would be appropriate. Speaking for myself, I rather fancy one with oak leaves and something to hang around my neck. I think that would look rather good.
Lord Kingsland: My Lords, the contributions of my noble friends Lord Torrington and Lord Liverpool range rather wider than one might have suspected from the subject matter of the amendment. I hope that the Government will reflect on the content of those speeches. Meanwhile, as to the question of a commemorative medal, for the first time in my life, I find myself in sympathy with the views expressed by the Liberal Front Bench and I think the medal ought to be confined to those who have served throughout your Lordships' many debates during the Committee and Report stages. I am quite sure that both of my noble friends would receive medals of the highest class as a result of their own contributions.
Lord Carter: My Lords, in responding to this amendment, it is quite clear that the noble Viscount, Lord Torrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, are not aware of that injunction in the Companion which says that a debate should be relevant to the Question before the House. The Question before the House is the issue of a commemorative medal and, as I understand it, the intention is that those hereditary Peers who are to be excluded will receive this medal. This question of the pension, stipend or whatever was then introduced. I do not think I could have put the answer to the question about expenses any better than did the noble Viscount: that is, if the costs are not incurred, the expenses will not be paid. It is as simple as that and I think that is the attitude that the Revenue would take.
Lord Carter: My Lords, my noble friend has just said that they could pawn it. I am not entirely clear whether noble Lords want the money or the medal or both. That is something we shall have to find out.
We have made it clear on a number of occasions that we greatly value the input of some hereditary Peers to the work of your Lordships' House. However, we do not think the effect of this amendment is the right way in which to show our gratitude to those among us who will be leaving at the end of this Session; certainly not in the form of a pension or a stipend. I was interested in the remark about the loss of the day-to-day intellectual interest of your Lordships' House. That has been particularly marked during the passage of this Bill, I have to say.
I think that there are many among us who would think it unfair that medals should be handed out to all who leave this House under the provisions of the Bill. It would be invidious to name names but there are some Peers, hereditary and indeed life, who in the previous Session failed to attend your Lordships' House for even a single day, despite the injunction in the Writ of Summons asking them to be present, which was read out. There are also Peers who not only attend regularly but also contribute effectively to the work we undertake in this House. This amendment will, of course, give all such Peers a medal and presumably a pension, irrespective of their attendance level and, more importantly, irrespective of their contribution to the effective running of your Lordships' House.
What of the hereditary Peers who will remain in your Lordships' House? What should they get besides the "Iron Cross with Bar" that all of us should get from sitting through this Bill? It seems that the 92 who stay will not be entitled to a commemorative medal although I have to say that I doubt very much whether this factor will have them refusing to stand for election.
We should really take this seriously. I could not help wondering what the inscription on such a medal might be. Reflecting on the number of defeats this Government have suffered since the election, your Lordships should be interested to know that, in the first Session, the Government were defeated 38 times. On the votes of life Peers, they would have been defeated five times. In this Session, the Government have been defeated 15 times. On the votes of life Peers, they would have been defeated once. So, the defeats since the election have been roughly three times the level of defeats of previous Conservative governments. I think the appropriate inscription might be, "Conservative hereditary Peers rampant on a Government Chief Whip couchant".
The sentiment behind this amendment is kind but misplaced. Of course there should be something to mark the departure of the hereditary Peers, but it is not as though we are removing their peerages. Those hereditary Peers who will leave once this Bill becomes law will retain their peerage. I would argue--I am sure
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