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Viscount Cranborne: Yes, my Lords, he is. I was coming to that point. I was entering a proviso just as the noble Earl rose to intervene. The proviso is so long as those electorates are rooted outside the institutions to which they are electing representatives.
It seems to me unwise for any House of Parliament, as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde said, to elect its own membership. That is why I have been nervous during the course of previous debates, as I believe I made clear both in Committee and at Report Stage, about the whole House electing the 15. That is for similar reasons to the ones I have just tried to explain. Nevertheless, there is a stronger case for the whole House electing the 15 than the 75. The reason is quite simply due to the nature of the tasks for which the 15 are making themselves available. After all, the other place would not expect the electorate to make a judgment of those who were to serve as Chairmen of Committees there.
Similarly, it seems to me arguable that if noble Lords are to choose who is to serve as a Deputy Chairman or Deputy Speaker, then there is a case for this House to exercise its expert judgment in a way which perhaps does not apply to the broader electorate of the 75. Nevertheless, I am the first to admit that one could argue, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Rogers has, that it is inconsistent. I merely suggest that it is marginally less inconsistent for the whole House to elect the 15 than for the whole House to elect the 75.
My noble friend Lord Strathclyde was clear that we must look at the matter as a package. I should have preferred a broader electorate of hereditaries to elect candidates in by-elections, if we should come to that. However, the Government have refused to do that. In the interests of compromise--a point which the noble and learned Lord and I addressed briefly, but on which we did not come to any conclusion--I find that I am willing to accept that.
I should like to make one further point. The compromise before us, recommended by the Procedure Committee, preserves the nature of the understanding which I reached with the noble and learned Lord and with the Government; that is, that in the transitional House the hereditaries should elect themselves. If they are to do that, it seems to me consistent that they should elect themselves and continue to do so in by-elections, should they occur. It would be odd and inconsistent to change the system for the sake of by-elections when we already had a system for electing the original incumbents.
I make my next suggestion with some diffidence because I do not want it to be felt that I am singling out my hereditary colleagues. I believe, however, that I must try to make the point. As the embodiment of a wish which many hereditary noble Lords have often expressed in the House, I believe that we hereditaries should retire gracefully on completion of a full and satisfactory reform. It is, I believe, an honourable aspiration of hereditary Peers that we should hand on the baton, perhaps with some relief, but certainly with some sense of honour.
For non-hereditaries to choose which of us should become the residual element of that wish would perhaps dilute our purpose. With the greatest respect to my life Peer colleagues, it seems to me slightly odd that they should be the ones to choose which of us should discharge that obligation. For those reasons, I find myself strongly opposed to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, if only because I find it peculiar to suggest that a Member of this House should be elected on the same basis and from the same category, but nevertheless by a different system, simply by virtue of the accident of the Whip he takes. It would be a curious principle if that part of the noble Viscount's amendment were to apply.
For the reasons I have tried to explain, I strongly oppose the noble Viscount's amendment. I hope that before considering whether to support it, the House will consider carefully whether the adoption of the amendment would not in fact introduce more difficulties than those it attempts to solve.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the reflections of the noble Viscount. I recall that his great grandfather left Disraeli's Cabinet because Disraeli was introducing the vote for the working class. I shall not pursue the issue of representation today.
I remember Sir Winston Churchill was once asked which side he supported in the Spanish civil war. He replied, "Both sides". It is very easy, as an honest person, to be on both sides of the argument in relation to the amendment proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe.
On the one hand, if we are to retain some hereditary Peers, as I want to, there is a powerful argument that they should be allowed to choose their own representatives. On the other hand, it seems that some of the best opinions on the Cross Benches take a different view.
As someone who inherited a hereditary peerage--but I am glad to say I now have a life peerage--I feel profound sympathy for the devoted hereditary Peers, who have performed great work in the House, as they are being sacked. They do not like speaking up for themselves as that is not quite the gentlemanly thing to do, but I feel great sympathy for them.
I feel like someone in a hospital suddenly being told that half the patients have cancer and it is not clear what will happen to them. It is pretty certain that they will not last long. By the same token, news comes through of a wonderful operation that costs a fortune but which only a few people will be selected to undergo. Everyone, including the cancer patients, has to decide who will be the lucky people who will survive. One has to feel enormous sympathy for the hereditary Peers. I suppose I admire them dying gracefully, as I suppose the French aristocrats died gracefully when they went to the guillotine. I am not sure that is ideal.
I agree that I voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. The Chief Whip kindly helped me to vote at 3 o'clock in the morning. I voted for it and I suppose I shall have to do the same again if the facilities are still available. Nevertheless, my colleagues are disappearing; they are being sacked. It is a terrible situation.
I turn to the immediate situation. What do we do now? I had thought of mentioning a few hereditary Cross-Benchers by name, but I shall get into trouble with those I do not mention, so I had better not. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is well qualified to advise us on this. I have talked to him. There are many who work in the House, including some younger people, who I am sure will do great work in years to come. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, takes the view that the hereditary Peers on the Cross Benches who do the most work and show the most promise will benefit from the change suggested. What is good enough for the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, is likely to be good enough for me.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I oppose the Motion and support the amendment of the noble Viscount. One does not have to do so strongly or weakly. It is a question of objective argument. Whichever system of election may commend itself to your Lordships, it is in implementation of the Weatherill agreement, now Clause 2. It cannot delay the Bill and the Bill as a whole will stand, subject to consideration of certain matters on Tuesday. The great cross-party contrivance that masterminded the massive support of the Weatherill amendment, and that has ever since fretted over engaging in any activity that could engender its removal in another place, has no cause whatever to dominate these proceedings.
It is all but inconceivable that discussion on a procedural matter such as this could trigger implementation of the threat to remove Clause 2 in another place. Notwithstanding what has been said by my own Front Bench and by my noble friend Lord Cranborne, in principle it is a procedural matter on which there should be a free vote on the merits of the argument. Which system should be adopted is of no interest or concern to the Government, although the choice between the two is a matter of very serious concern to many noble Lords on all sides of the House, not only to some noble Lords on this side of the House.
The patrician system, somewhat akin to that adopted by the Doges, was agreed. It was agreed between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and my noble friend Lord Cranborne in a private agreement, hereditaries for hereditaries. That agreement was made.
Let us start at the beginning. If I may say so, there are two Cranborne deals. The first deal was brokered by my noble friend. The second deal, if it was a deal, was a private arrangement made with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Under the first deal, the Weatherill amendment has been ratified. That is all well and good. That is the end of it. If that arrangement of hereditaries for hereditaries was part of the deal that was ratified, what is the object of making it all over again with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor? My noble friend said it was, but it could not have been. The deal with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was made months after the deal was brokered by my noble friend Lord Cranborne. I see signs being made across the House.
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