Proceedings of the Committee Relating
to the Report
TUESDAY 6 JULY 1999
|B. Anelay of St Johns
||B. Jay of Paddington|
|L. Boston of Faversham||B. Lockwood
||L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish|
|L. Burlison||L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank
|L. Burnham||E. Shannon
|L. Carter||L. Skelmersdale
|L. Denham||L. Strabolgi
|E. Ferrers||L. Strathclyde
|L. Gladwin of Clee||L. Weatherill
|B. Gould of Potternewton||L. Williams of Mostyn
|B. Hamwee||B. Young|
|L. Harris of Greenwich||
|L. Irvine of Lairg (Lord Chancellor)||
with the Clerk of the Parliaments.
The Chairman informed the Committee that he had invited L.
Chalfont and V. Bledisloe to the meeting to speak to the memorandum
and letter they had submitted. He had also invited other Lords
who had written to him on the matter of the Weatherill amendment
to attend the meeting. The Committee agreed to the attendance
of these peers.
It was moved by the Earl Ferrers that representatives of
Wall to Wall television be admitted to the Committee's meeting.
The Committee deliberated.
On Question, the Committee divided
|Contents 8||Not Contents 15
|L. Denham||B. Anelay of St. Johns
|E. Ferrers||L. Burlison
|B. Hamwee||L. Burnham
|L. Harris of Greenwich||L. Carter
|L. Henley||L. Gladwin of Clee
|L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish||B. Gould of Potternewton
|L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank||L. Irvine of Lairg (Lord Chancellor)
|L. Weatherill||B. Jay of Paddington
|L. Williams of Mostyn
The Committee deliberated on a memorandum by the Clerk of
the Parliaments and a memorandum and letter by L. Chalfont, V.
Bledisloe and others.
On Question that, as proposed in the memorandum by L. Chalfont,
V. Bledisloe and others, Life Peers should in addition to hereditary
Peers vote in all the elections to be held under the Weatherill
The Committee divided
|Contents 4||Not Contents 18
|B. Hamwee||B. Anelay of St. Johns
|L. Harris of Greenwich||L. Burlison
|L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank||L. Carter
|E. Shannon||L. Denham
|L. Gladwin of Clee|
|B. Gould of Potternewton
|L. Irvine of Lairg (Lord Chancellor)
|B. Jay of Paddington
|L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish
|L. Williams of Mostyn
The Committee agreed new Standing Orders on hereditary peers'
elections and by-elections and proposals for electoral arrangements
to give effect to the new Standing Orders.
Ordered, That the Minutes of Evidence and other proceedings
of the Committee be published together with the Committee's report(The
Chairman of Committees).
The Committee adjourned.
TUESDAY 6 JULY 1999
|Anelay of St Johns, B.||Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord Chancellor)
|Boston of Faversham, L.||Jay of Paddington, B.
|Burlison, L.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
|Burnham, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
|Carter, L.||Shannon, E.
|Denham, L.||Skelmersdale, L.
|Ferrers, E.||Strabolgi, L.
|Gladwin of Clee, L.||Strathclyde, L.
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Weatherill, L.
|Hamwee, B.||Williams of Mostyn, L.
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Young, B.
The Clerk of the Parliaments, in attendance.
Chairman: We proceed to the Clerk of the Parliaments' memorandum
and I will ask him to introduce it.
Clerk of the Parliaments: Thank you, my Lord Chairman. I
do not intend to say very much about this paper because it was,
in fact, available in roughly this form from the beginning of
April. So Members of the House have had the paper available to
them for over three months. Its origins were in a group that became
universally known as the "O Group" which was chaired
by a Cabinet Office official and included representatives of all
the four sections of the House. The original draft emanated from
that group. May I draw attention to two matters where there is
a change from the paper that was put in the Library of the House
before the Easter Recess. The first is that I have excluded now
quite a long paragraph which was arguing the case for the use
of standing orders rather than putting the provision on the face
of the Bill. I believe that situation is now accepted by the House.
The second is that there is now a second standing order incorporated
in the paper which was not there when the paper was first made
available to the House and that is the one which provides for
by-elections. This follows the commitment made by the Lord Chancellor
that in the event of vacancies occurring after the end of the
first session of the next Parliament, the House should be able
to hold by-elections among the hereditary peers to fill those
vacancies. There is one further matter of detail which I will
mention at this stage, although I know that Lord Strabolgi will
refer to it in due course. There is some concern among those who
currently are Deputy Speakers that when the elections for those
15 posts are held there should be some form of identification
for the current holders of these posts. I just raise this as a
potential problem. The solution depends on what Members of the
House think would be appropriate. I think I will leave the matter
at that point and I will answer any questions that arise during
the course of discussions.
Chairman: Thank you very much. I am happy for either Lord
Chalfont or Lord Bledisloe to come in at this point, I do not
mind the order.
Lord Chalfont: My Lord Chairman, we have discussed that between
us and I would like, if I may, to make a few preliminary remarks
and then hand over to Lord Bledisloe.
Chairman: Please, Lord Chalfont.
Lord Chalfont: My Lord Chairman, if it is acceptable to you
I will first of all say how appreciative we are of the opportunity
to appear before this Committee and to underline, perhaps isolate,
some of the arguments that we have made in the papers which we
have submitted to you for consideration by this Committee. Perhaps
a word of background. This really all springs from the establishment
by the Cross Benches of a small committee which I was asked to
chair to look at the implications of this move almost as soon
as we became aware of the Government's intentions in this respect.
That small committee of nine cross-bench peers was formed. As
I say, I was asked to chair it and Lord Bledisloe was a member
of it and there were other members as well. Arising out of the
deliberations of that committee we have sent to you two papers
which we hoped the Procedure Committee would consider. One was
on the question of the electorate of what I think has now come
to be called the "Weatherill peers" and should they
be elected by the whole House or should they be elected only by
other hereditary peers. We sent you a paper on that subject, and
a second paper on the impact which the various decisions and discussions
and debates about by-elections might have on the whole of Clause
2 and the whole of the procedure surrounding the Bill. I should
emphasise at this stage, although I hardly need to before this
Committee, that any opinions we have expressed in these papers
can only be the opinions of those who have signed them. That means
that in the case of the first paper, which was the paper on the
electorate, there were nine cross-bench peers who agreed the terms
of that paper before it came to you. On the second paper, which
was the one dealing with the by-elections, by that time things
were moving so fast that only Lord Bledisloe and myself had time
to consider and to conclude a paper which was suitable for presentation
to you. I should however say that there is very good reason to
believe that there is substantial cross-bench support, more than
substantial I think, strong cross-bench support for the conclusion
of our first paper which is that the electorate should consist
of life and hereditary peers and not hereditary peers only. The
first paper, as I say, was one which advocated that positionthat
life and hereditary peers should elect the Weatherill peersand
we set out in that paper some of the reasons for arriving at that
conclusion at considerable length. I may say at this stage that
it was written on the assumption that all the other provisions
of the draft standing orders had been accepted and I think, as
I say, it will be appropriate that Lord Bledisloe who has been
responsible for most of the drafting of these papers should give
to your Lordships some of the reasons, some of the technicalities,
legal and otherwise, that lie behind this. The second paper was,
as I say, on the impact of the decision to top up by by-election,
especially the very strange impact that that would have on the
Labour and Liberal Democratic parties because of the strength
of their hereditary peerage and I would ask Lord Bledisloe also
to elaborate on that. My Lord Chairman, with that brief introduction
and with your leave and that of the Committee I will ask Lord
Bledisloe to elaborate on the two papers which have been submitted
Viscount Bledisloe: Thank you, my Lord Chairman. Principally
our submissions relate to who should form the electorate. We have
a few points on the system of voting which are inter-related.
My Lord, these are all made in papers before you and, if I may,
I shall try to speak very briefly on each chapter heading with
a willingness to answer questions if any of those chapter headings
are not clear. Our thesis is, as Lord Chalfont has said, that
for the election from each party or group the electorate should
consist of all the hereditary life peers in that party group and
we advance the following reasons for this. First of all, that
an electorate which includes the life peers in each party or group
will be both better informed and more dispassionate and should
therefore be better placed to select those who are most suited
to make in the future an admirable contribution to the work of
the House, which must presumably be the aim of this election.
If I can just very briefly mention some figures which are in the
paper we have put before you at paragraph 4.5. They relate to
Cross-Benchers because we have those details. I am sure very similar
figures will apply to the Conservative party. If, my Lord, one
takes an attendance of a mere 15 per cent of the sessions as the
minimum which should be necessary to enable one to make any form
of informed judgment, unless one is perhaps an avid reader of
Hansard daily, there are in the Cross-Benchers 85 hereditaries
who beat that 15 per cent level. It is calculated that of those
about 55 would be candidates on which basis, if only the hereditary
peers can vote, there are only 30 people who will be both knowledgeable
and have no interest in the outcome. On the other hand, if you
include the life peers that figure of 30 arrives to 88 people
who both have enough experience of the House to make an informed
judgment and have no interest in the outcome which might affect,
or be seen to affect, the way in which they vote. Our second point
is that if, as is proposed, the 15 peers are to be elected by
the whole House, including the life peers, there can be no justification
for excluding those same life peers from the other vote. If the
life peers are needed to decide who are the most apt people to
fulfil the officer roles they are also the most apt people to
decide who would make the greatest contribution under the other
head. My Lord, the third, and perhaps very important, point is
that an electorate which includes the life peers will present
a very much better public appearance and thus be more acceptable
to the House of Commons and to the general public and in particular
to those who do not look with particular favour on the Weatherill
amendment. My Lord, this seems to be a very important point in
relation to having informed voters who are not themselves candidates.
Fourthly, and we would suggest that this is obviously a matter
of speculation, if one ignores any commitment to any prior agreement,
on which I think Lord Chalfont may say a word, the suggestion
we propose is we suspect greatly more popular with the majority
of the House. There are a large number of Conservative backbenchers
who have indicated their support for it. I imagine that the Liberal
Democrats prefer it. As Lord Chalfont has said, the great majority
of Cross-Benchers seem to favour it and it should be something
which should appeal rather more to the Labour Party than the other.
My Lord, against our thesis it is suggested that the Weatherill
75, if I may so describe them, are meant to be representative
of the hereditary peerage but that, we would say, is both unjustified
and constitutionally improper. It is unjustified because once
this Bill is enacted the hereditary peerage has a special interest
which would justify special representation at the rate of one
to ten or every hereditary peer. My Lord, it is constitutionally
improper. Those who favour this system have prayed in aid the
Scottish precedent, the election of the Scottish peers, but, my
Lords, Scottish peers who are entitled to vote in that were barred
from either standing for or voting in elections in the House of
Commons. By contrast those who voted for the peers who remain
in this House are expressly in the Bill entitled to stand for
and vote in elections in the House of Commons. That appears to
contravene the very well established principle that no-one can
vote for representation in both Houses of Parliament and, therefore,
it is in our submission essential that these are not seen as representative
peers. Then, my Lord, one comes to the new point that under the
by-election system, if, as the Government has said and seems obviously
right, the by-electors are the people who are still currently
in the House, that just does not work in relation to the Labour
and Liberal Parties as Lord Goodhart made plain in the House.
If one Labour representative dies there is only one Labour representative
to choose as successor and if in the unfortunate situation he
is incapacitated there is not even one. If one Liberal Democrat
dies and the remaining two have different views nobody is ever
appointed. My Lord, that is a system more rotten than any rotten
borough ever was. In our submission the introduction of the by-election
system has very strong consequences. If that has to be done by
all the House or all the House in that group then surely that
must apply to the initial election. There is also, my Lord, the
point, and this swings to where we have to look into voting, that
if there is a larger electorate, including the life peers, the
difficulty in resolution of ties will largely disappear. If I
may just switch to voting. At the moment there is on the table
no rule as to what each candidate should do about voting for himself
and presumably there will either be a rule or at least a clear
convention that everybody must either vote for themselves as their
first choice or not vote for themselves at all otherwise, my Lords,
those with decency and self-effacement would be penalised in favour
of those who are rather more self-assertive. It would appear that
the most sensible solution would be that all candidates should
be automatically deemed to vote for themselves as their first
choice. My Lord, if that is done, and only the hereditaries are
voting, then one cannot resolve ties by counting only the first
votes cast for each candidate, which appears to be what is proposed
in paragraph 5(k) by the Clerk of the Parliaments, albeit in the
Order itself he says that ties shall be resolved by lot, but paragraph
5(k) of the memorandum suggests that it will be done by counting
the first votes and no others.
Clerk of the Parliaments: Could I correct Lord Bledisloe
on that. The version that I have in front of methe one
which was circulated to members of the Committeesays that
second preference and third preference votes will also be taken
Viscount Bledisloe: That would assist on that point although
one would still have the difficulty of the candidates putting
themselves together. I am sorry but I had not received that latest
version of the Clerk of the Parliament's memorandum.
Chairman: Lord Bledisloe, I do not want to inhibit discussion
in any way but I think that on the particular matter that we are
considering, and bearing in mind we shall be considering the adoption
or otherwise of standing order Number 1, I do not think I need
trouble you to go into too much detail on this matter.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lord, I was only praying in aid that
point as a reason why a wider electorate would solve that problem.
My Lord, those are the points we would make as to why the electorate
should include the life peers as well as the hereditaries.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
Lord Chalfont: My Lord Chairman, may I make one point in
conclusion of our presentation to you. It is suggested often I
know that what I think is generally called the Cranborne Agreement
which led to the Weatherill Amendment may determine the issue
of the electorate. It has been said that at the time when the
result of the deal was made public it was said that the electorate
would be hereditaries. So far as we can ascertain from looking
at press releases and everything else germane to this issue, we
think that was assumed rather than discussed or decided. I do
not know because, of course, I was not a party to the deal and
much has changed since that deal was made but I would make the
point that in the view of my small committee the deal as it was
made public does not pre-empt the decision as to whether the electorate
is to be hereditaries only or whether both life and hereditaries.
Chairman: On this particular matter, the Lord Chancellor
wants to make a point.
Lord Chancellor: On this narrow point only I should make
it clear to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that it was expressly
agreed between myself and Lord Cranborne that the electoral range
should be confined to the hereditaries of the relevant grouping
and exclude the life peers. I am aware of the press release to
which he refers. To the extent it gives a different impression,
it was erroneous. There may have been a failure of communication
but what was agreed between myself and Lord Cranborne is precisely
as I have said.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. My Lords, as I have
indicated, I propose that we take the two proposed new standing
orders next but I know Lord Shannon wishes to make a procedural
Earl of Shannon: I wonder if I may make a small suggestion
that might be for the benefit of the Committee. It is a good management
practice, I think, that one decides one's original objective before
one starts to deal with subsidiary questions. It seems to me that
we are being heavily lobbied for answers to subsidiary questions.
Without wishing in any way to try and advocate either answer,
could we not decide what we think the Weatherill Amendment means
and then see whether the answers to the subsidiary questions will
then fall into place. It appears that there are two different
opinions about the Weatherill Amendment. One is that it is to
continue representation of the hereditary peerage and the other
one is that it is to provide a number of hereditary workers who
will help to keep the business going. If we decide that we think
that it is representation then I think that it is a usually accepted
democratic principle that like must elect like. Once you get unlike
starting to join in an election it becomes appointment not election.
If, on the other hand, it is to appoint people to help to keep
the business going then obviously those knowledgeable about the
people standing in the election should be entitled to vote. It
really is absolutely critical that we decide what we think the
Weatherill Amendment means before we start answering any other
Chairman: Thank you very much. My Lords, I am in your Lordships'
hands obviously as to what course your Lordships wish to take
on Lord Shannon's suggestion. I do not know whether I would be
right in making this assumption but I would venture to suggest
that neither those who would support the original proposal nor
those who would support Lord Bledisloe's proposal is going for,
if I can put it in that way, what has been called representation.
If I am right in this assumption that we do not regard any part
of your Lordships' House as representative in any sense, then
I think that we can dispose of Lord Shannon's helpful suggestion
in that way. Would I be right in assuming, my Lords, that we do
not regard those proposals as involving the election of peers
in a representative capacity. I think Lord Bledisloe wishes to
Viscount Bledisloe: Lord Cranborne's entire support or propounding
of the proposition that only the hereditary peers should vote
was founded solely on the proposition that they were meant to
be representative peers. That was the entire argument advanced
by Lord Cranborne and others when it was debated on recommittal.
Representation appears to be the keystone of those who say only
the hereditaries should vote.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Can I say that we are in danger
of being distracted by this very interesting point that Lord Shannon
has introduced. Of course, the point is that we are not resting
the proposals which are encapsulated in the example of the Clerk's
memorandum on concerns about what was understood or not understood
in a press release last December. This is based on the very detailed
work of a working group on which all groups of the House were
represented, as the Clerk of the Parliaments said in introduction,
this so-called O Group, on which there were some reservations,
for example the one that is now encapsulated in the amendment
circulated around the table this afternoon. But this was a working
group which worked through all these things and we are not relying
on people's memories or understandings of what happened last December.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Lord Skelmersdale?
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lord Chairman, I was just going to
support Lord Shannon because from what the Lord Chancellor has
said he was one of the very few members of this Committee who
was party to the original agreement and he has just said that
he believed that the deal was for the election by hereditary peers
of other hereditary peers, as I understood him. By definition
then, they must be representative. If I have misunderstood perhaps
he could tell me.
Lord Chancellor: I think it is very important to understand,
is it not, that agreements are to be construed according to their
own terms as expressed regardless of what may have been in the
innermost minds of the people who agreed them. Lord Cranborne
could have one view, I could have another, but our private views
are completely irrelevant. What we agreed was the that 75 were
to be elected by the hereditary peers and I really think I have
to say to explore the rather metaphysical questions of what might
have been in our innermost minds is neither here nor there.
Earl Ferrers: I was going to follow Lord Skelmersdale's point
which is that the 75 might have been elected by the hereditary
peers but having being elected by them it does not mean to say
they represent them. Once they are elected they are here as Members
of the House the same as everybody else, they are not representative
Chairman: Thank you very much. The Leader of the Opposition?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lord Chairman, we have been sitting
for almost an hour and we have not got very far and we could spend
the rest of the evening discussing this matter of whether the
elected peers are representatives or not. The word "representative"
comes from Scottish peers, the system that was around in 1963.
I do not think it is terribly relevant but what Lord Ferrers said
is right, people have used it as a kind of shorthand without necessarily
understanding exactly what that means. I do not think we should
get ourselves bound up with that. What Lord Bledisloe proposes
is a very simple alternative: either the full House votes for
the 75 or it is just hereditary peers who vote, whether they are
all representative or not does not seem to matter. It is that
that we need to resolve here. I have to say, Lord Chairman, resolved
here or not this is going to come back again on the floor of the
House and no doubt in some detail and at some length. Again, I
do not think we should spend too much time on this, we are going
to be looking at it all over again in a couple of weeks' time.
If I can just deal with the substantive point very, very briefly.
There is, of course, a perfectly reasonable case to be made that
it should be the whole House and Lord Bledisloe said it would
be better, fairer, more popular, more acceptable to the House
of Commons and to the public, and he is entitled to believe those
things, but I do not think it is right. The main thrust of his
argument is that the whole House would make a better decision
but I do not think this is so. I think the hereditary peers can
well be trusted to make their own decisions and even on his own
figures of the Cross-Benchers, half the life peers are attenders
and half are not, and they are in the same position as the non-attending
hereditary peers; they would not have a clearer view as to whom
they should vote for. I just think that it is unnecessary to include
the life peers in the vote for the 75 when the hereditary peers
themselves would be able to make their choice extremely well.
If they do not make the choice extremely well then it would be
their fault. I support what is in the Clerk's paper and I think
that is the substantive issue and the sooner we get rid of it
and deal with it the better.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Lord Rodgers?
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lord Chairman, I take the
starting point for our discussion, and I am sure you will correct
me if I am wrong, is Clause 2 of the Bill as amended. What was
in the mind of the Lord Chancellor and Lord Cranborne at some
time is neither here nor there. Nor is it here nor there what
they decided. It was for them a matter of concern in the House
of Commons but for the rest of the House and this Committee it
is a matter of judgment how now best to implement the decisions
of the House in Clause 2. That is the starting point and that
is the gist of our decision. Given our decision I think we all
recognise the legitimacy of alternative points of view. Those
views need not be clouded either by debate in the House or what
may or may not have been agreed at some specific time by Members
of your Lordships' House present or not present. That is the starting
point. Given that starting point I do find, I have to say, the
paper produced by the Cross-Bench peers very impressive. Certainly
it raised a number of matters which had not previously crossed
my mind although I and my colleagues had been clear from the beginning
that we felt it was right that all peers should take part in this
election and it should not be limited to hereditary peers. Looking
at what I think is the crucial factor, if we are looking for the
best who should stay on to serve this House, looking at a recent
list of the voting habits, if I may put it that way, of the Cross-Bench
peers not referred to by Lord Chalfont or Lord Bledisloe, I notice
that of the Cross-Bench hereditary peers the attendance in this
House was fewer than one day a week where the life peers attended
half the sitting days. In other words, the attendance of the life
peers does suggest to anybody who understands the way that this
House works that they are more able to judge those men and women
by common consent. whether it is through the Weatherill amendment
or, as many of us would much prefer, by a route of making life
peers, by whatever route, we will get better men and women if
those who know the House and those who work here vote in the election.
You have said, my Lord Chairman, and I think this is very important,
that the hereditary peers will not be representative. I know we
had some discussion on that but I take that to be the fact that
they will not be representative and they are simply being elected,
whether by a small or a larger electorate, for their qualities
whatever they may be.
Chairman: That is certainly what my view is, on the basis
that we have never been a representative House in the sense that
we have representatives here. Unless Lord Weatherill wishes to
say something on Lord Shannon's point, perhaps I can just deal
with his point.
Lord Weatherill: Yes, Lord Chairman. I was present at most
of the discussions, although not all of the discussions, with
the Lord Chancellor and with Lord Cranborne. I am bound to say
that it was my understanding that the arrangement was that the
hereditary peers would elect hereditary peers. That was always
my understanding. Of course, as your Lordships know, it was not
possible to disclose any of this because it was all done on Privy
Council terms and when we did publish this to the Cross-Benchers
there was no doubt that the views expressed by Lord Chalfont and
Lord Bledisloe were pre-eminent. Most of them felt that we had
got it wrong. Nevertheless, I must make the point that at the
time it was considered to be a very arrangement and the Lord Chancellor
in his speech in the House said: "... the notion of the Weatherill
amendment becoming a permanent settlement, as distinct from a
compromise, is fanciful. ... It really is to stand logic and experience
on its head to imagine that this Government, with their great
popular majority and their manifesto pledge, would tolerate ten
per cent of the hereditary peerage remaining for long." It
was intended to be very . I think the problem arises only where
there is a general feeling that this arrangement may last longer
than the short-term, may last longer than originally intended.
I think that is probably what concerns some of the Cross-Benchers.
Chairman: Thank you very much, Lord Weatherill. Perhaps I
can just deal with Lord Shannon's point. I am grateful to him,
and it was clearly with the intention to help this Committee that
he put that forward. I do not think that this Committee, however,
wishes to proceed in quite that way. I now continue, we have already
embarked upon it, on the general discussion on the proposed new
standing order which is No.1 in the Clerk's memorandum, pages
4.2, and part of page five, and the main point is obviously concentrating
on whether it is to be solely the hereditary peers or hereditary
and life peers. If we can concentrate on that I think we can proceed
with reasonable expedition.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Could we not make the decision?
I think we all know perfectly well what our views are. As long
as it is quite clear that we are not discussing the by-election
Chairman: Exactly. We will come to that quite separately
next. I think there is no alternative, my Lords, but to take a
roll call vote on this issue. I will just ask Lord Bledisloe or
Lord Chalfont if they wish to say anything in conclusion?
Viscount Bledisloe: May I just say one thing in answer to
the Leader of the House. As I understand it, the drafting committee
took it as their duty to say hereditaries only because that was
what they understood the directive was from the agreement. Lady
Jay is not right in saying that they have addressed their minds
independently and come up with the conclusion de novo that
that is the right solution.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I am sorry if Lord Bledisloe
thought that was what I was saying, perhaps I am not expressing
myself clearly. What I meant was in the great detail of the ingenuous
development of the argument that he made he certainly appeared
to be drawing in support the press release from the Cross-Bench
peers in December, whereas the umbrella of the understanding about
hereditary peers was the context in which the O Group met.
Lord Chancellor: What has been said is correct, the O Group's
remit was to give effect to the agreement as made.
Lord Chalfont: May I then ask for my own information whether
it would be possible or conceivable that this Committee would
allow the decision to be left to be taken by the whole House?
Chairman: It will have to go before the whole House. I think
it is for this Committee, Members will stop me if I am wrong,
to make recommendations to the House but any recommendations which
it decides to make today will have to go before the House for
approval or otherwise.
Lord Chalfont: I understand that. My question was rather
more pointed than that. Would it be possible for this Committee
not to make recommendations and let the House alone take the decision?
Chairman: My sense is that individual Members of the Committee
know their views and would wish to express them today by a roll
call vote. If there is nothing else on this particular point I
will ask the Clerk to take a roll call. I shall put the question
in this way: That we adopt proposed standing order 1 as drafted
in the Clerk's memorandum. That is the question for the Committee
so that those who do not wish that and who wish to adopt the suggestions
in Lord Bledisloe's paper would vote against the approval of the
Clerk of the Parliaments: They could vote for leaving out
the word "hereditary" in the standing order.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: There would have to be an amendment.
Chairman: That is true, there would have to be an amendment
for the addition of life peers. I can put it in that way, my Lords,
if that would be more acceptable.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Would you clarify this. We are
not really discussing standing order 1, are we, because that makes
provision for hereditary peers to be accepted. We are not disputing
that. Are we discussing 2(1) which is the numbers?
Chairman: Just to make sure that we all have got it clear,
my Lords, this proposal would be to leave out the word "hereditary"
where it appears in the proposed standing order No 1, in paragraph
2(i)(a), (b), (c) and (d).
Earl Ferrers: In other words, that is the equivalent of voting
for the amendment.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Why are we voting on the amendment
rather than the proposal in the paper?
Earl Ferrers: Do you not have to vote on the amendment first?
Chairman: That was the proposal I put initially.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Do not let us take time discussing
this procedural matter.
Chairman: I will put the question in this way, my Lords:
That the proposal by Lord Bledisloe and Lord Chalfont that life
peers be added to hereditary peers be agreed to. I will then proceed
to the question of the draft standing order itself. I will ask
the Clerk to take a roll call vote.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Which section of the draft standing
Chairman: The question is that the Committee at this stage
are invited to agree to Lord Bledisloe's proposal. (The Clerk
proceeded to read the names and the Committee voted by roll call.)
The vote is Contents, 4, Not Contents, 18. So the Not Contents
have it. I am grateful for the useful discussion we have had on
Lord Chalfont: May I thank you, my Lord Chairman, for inviting
us to make this presentation. Obviously the vote has not gone
terribly well for us but we have been most grateful to hear the
discussion and we are grateful for the opportunity of appearing
in front of this Committee. Thank you very much.
Chairman: On behalf of the Committee I am very grateful indeed
to Lord Chalfont and to Lord Bledisloe for the obviously enormous
amount of work put into preparing their papers. My Lords, we now
proceed to the question of the first new proposed standing order
and I propose to put that to the Committee so that the question
will be that this proposed standing order be agreed to.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Is this proposed standing order
Chairman: We have been discussing the proposed new standing
order on hereditary peers and a decision has been made not on
the standing order but on the amendment by Lord Bledisloe, so
what I am now putting is a substantive motion on the new standing
order No 1 as drafted in the memorandum by the Clerk of the Parliaments,
that is to say from sub-paragraph (1) to sub-paragraph (8) on
page 4. It is the whole thing which I am putting to the Committee.
Lord Skelmersdale: Chairman, before we do that
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Forgive me, my Lord Chairman. I
thought we were only talking about paragraph 2 (1) which we discussed
and made a decision on. You are not proposing to put the remaining
paragraphs under 2 are you?
Chairman: I was proposing to put the whole of the draft standing
order No 1 on hereditary peers to the Committee now, the Committee
having decided upon the proposed amendment based on Lord Bledisloe's
proposal. That was what I was proposing to do. In other words
if I can make it clear, under the heading hereditary peers from
(1) that is to say page 3 from 4(1) over to page 4 to 4(8). That
is the totality of the draft standing order which I call number
1. So that is the question which I am putting.
Lord Strabolgi: This of course will not preclude any discussion
on the quite different election of the 15 hereditary speakers.
Clerk of the Parliaments: That is contained in the details
of the electoral arrangements, paragraph 5 of my memorandum onwards.
Chairman: Exactly. After your Lordships have disposed of
this standing order I shall next be turning to the second proposed
standing order. It is headed "Hereditary Peers: By-elections".
After that I shall be dealing with the range of matters from paragraphs
little (a) to (r) under the heading "Election arrangements".
Lord Skelmersdale: Before we do that can I just ask for information
whether 2 (ii) in the proposed standing order, namely the words
"from among those ready to serve as Deputy Speakers or in
any other office as the House may require" is synonymous
with paragraph 2 (c) of the Clerk of the Parliaments' paper "the
whole House will elect 15 hereditary peers ready to serve as Deputy
Speakers or as Committee Chairmen", because there could be
seen to be a difference.
Clerk of the Parliaments: The draft standing order is what
matters. The summary at the beginning was a mere attempt to summarise
very shortly what was proposed. The operative language is in the
proposed new standing order. It is meant to cover also those who
are available to be Sub-Committee Chairman, people like Lord Colwyn,
who is the Chairman of the Refreshment Sub-Committee, or Lord
Cranbrook or Lord Grenfell or whoever else is Chairman of a Sub-Committee,
in addition to those who are ready to serve as a Deputy Speaker
in the House.
Lord Skelmersdale: Thank you very much.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I appreciate the by-election
procedure will be a totally different matter, but could I refer
to item (7) on page 4 and ask a question with regard to that.
The fourth and fifth lines there refer to the runners up who would
fill the vacancy if they wished to and if they are otherwise available.
Can I ask whether that takes account of those hereditary peers
who may subsequent to the passing of the Bill be awarded a life
peerage and therefore in a sense already be here and be ineligible.
Does that mean that the result of the by-election would mean that
if the next person on the list to come on were a life peer by
now, then the person below them would qualify to come on to the
list and qualify. I do not know if I made that terribly clear.
Chairman: Yes, perfectly clear. Clerk of the Parliaments?
Clerk of the Parliaments: It is meant to cover that sort
of situation, but it was more particularly aimed at a hereditary
peer who may have been elected to the House of Commons and would
therefore be disqualified for this House.
Chairman: Well, if your Lordships are prepared to decide
upon the first proposed new standing order, I will put that to
the Committee. The question is that this draft standing order
be agreed to. I am told, and I am happy to accept this, that we
do not need a roll call vote: the question is that the new standing
order on hereditary peers be agreed to. (Agreed) We now
turn to page four and what I may call draft standing order number
2, that is the part in the Clerk of the Parliament's paper headed
"Hereditary Peers: By-elections" and that goes down
to (7) on page 5. I do not know whether there is anything the
Clerk of the Parliaments wishes to add on this?
Clerk of the Parliaments: No.
Chairman: Then are there any points which your Lordships
wish to make on this matter?
Lord Denham: Can I mention a drafting amendment?
Chairman: Yes, Lord Denham?
Lord Denham: There appears earlier in the first standing
order the provision that people who were eligible to sit as the
chosen hereditary peers had to have a writ of summons and have
taken the oath. Of course, with the by-elections neither of those
things will happen because they will not have a writ of summons
or have taken the oath. It is just a question of whether this
is written in the right way to take account of that?
Chairman: Clerk of the Parliaments?
Clerk of the Parliaments: Maybe it could be improved in that
respect but I believe that the Clerk of the Parliaments of the
day, and I suspect it will not be myself, will have to check very
closely whether a peer who says he is a peer can prove that he
is the proper heir to the peerage. Clearly he will not have taken
the oath; that could not possibly apply there. It may be right
that some provision
Lord Denham: Or have had a writ of summons. No, it is just
a question of whether that is worded the right way to take account
Clerk of the Parliaments: I think the Clerk of the Parliaments
can keep a register, having satisfied himself that the peer who
claims to be the heir to a peerage really is that. He may have
to conduct some investigation, as the Crown Office currently does
in order to issue a writ of summons.
Lord Denham: Thank you very much.
Lord Chancellor: As I understand it, today before a new hereditary
peer takes his place the Clerk to the Crown in Chancery determines
that he is entitled.
Lord Denham: Right.
Lord Chancellor: Plainly in the by-election situation, the
Clerk to the Crown in Chancery would, if there were any issue,
do exactly the same things as he does now in order to determine
that a hereditary peer who has fallen heir to the title is truly
entitled. It would simply be accelerating a procedure which is
Lord Denham: Thank you very much.
Earl Ferrers: I am not so sure I am clear. I thought that
what Lord Denham was saying was if there was what someone once
described as a "dead Weatherill peer" and therefore
you had to vote for another, the people voting would not be eligible
to vote because they had not taken the oath. I thought that was
the point. Therefore most people voting will not be entitled to
vote under this because they have not taken the oath.
Lord Chancellor: The only people who are entitled to vote
are the excepted hereditary peers in each grouping who ex hypothesi
are in the House already.
Earl Ferrers: In the House already?
Lord Chancellor: Yes. The only people who may vote in the
by-election under this draft are the excepted hereditary peers
within the House.
Earl Ferrers: So you invite your own muckers in?
Lord Chancellor: The noble Lord, Lord Denham's question was,
I thought, a different one.
Lord Denham: It was.
Lord Chancellor: It was how do we know somebody who stands
in a by-election is who he claims to be, namely entitled to inherit
the peerage? The answer to that is that the same procedure as
is applied by the Clerk to the Crown in Chancery today to determine
that a hereditary peer who claims to have inherited has duly inherited
obviously would equally have to be applied but at an earlier stage
to determine that such a person was entitled to stand. He would
not be entitled to stand unless, if he succeeded, he would be
entitled to take up his place.
Lord Denham: It was not quite my point but I am very grateful.
My point really was whether having specified originally that one
of thewhat is the number?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: 74.
Lord Denham: To be one of those you had to have taken the
oath and you had to have a writ of summons. I was worried whether
paragraph (6) of the standing order we are now discussing needs
to be amended to take account of the fact that of course no writ
and no oath would be necessary for that. It is a purely drafting
point. If you are happy with it, I am very happy.
Clerk of the Parliaments: I do not think paragraph (6) needs
any change at all.
Lord Denham: Okay.
Clerk of the Parliaments: To answer Lord Ferrers' point,
if you look at paragraph (2) of the standing order on hereditary
peers' by-elections you will see that those entitled to vote are
only the excepted hereditary peers in the relevant group.
Earl Ferrers: Only those actually here could vote. Could
it not be accused of being a self-perpetuating oligarchy, you
ask your friends in?
Clerk of the Parliaments: Vote for your friends, not ask
Lord Burnham: Lord Chairman, does that also apply for the
Clerk of the Parliaments: No, paragraph (3) of the standing
order applies to the 15.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Could I return to what Lord Bledisloe
raised some time ago, both about the Labour and Liberal Democrat
hereditary peers. When one Weatherill Labour peer dies you then
have an electoral college of one vote, that one person then has
the power both to nominate and elect a Member of Parliament. Is
this being seriously suggested?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: We do not expect it seriously
to arise as you will know, Lord Harris.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I know, but we are now providing
in our standing orders for the election of Members of Parliament.
I know what Ministers say about this legislation being produced
early in the new Parliament; that is presumably because some Ministers
have decided this, but as Ministers always say that they cannot
disclose the content of a future Queen's Speech, we cannot necessarily
accept that this legislation will appear in the first session
of the new Parliament. The question therefore arises how is the
question answered? An electoral college of one person to choose
a Member of Parliament, a most unusual situation. We then have
the position, as Lord Burnham rightly said, of the Liberal Democrats,
there are two survivors, they disagree as to who the successor
should be, perfectly reasonably, or maybe possibly unreasonably,
what happens then? And who, in fact, validates this process? I
can understand the position as far as Lord Bledisloe is concerned,
I have to say I am rather unclear as far as the Conservative Party
is concerned but as far as the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats
this proposal makes no sense whatever.
Lord Strathclyde: Chairman, there are several ways of skinning
this cat but when we had a debate on the amendments on the floor
of the House, the Lord Chancellor accepted itvery graciously
if I may say soon the basis that this was going to be the
arrangement. Now I can understand why that causes potentially
some trouble for the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats but
we are forgetting that the number of those who will be elected
within the parties will be two for the Labour Party and three
for the Democrats but I fully expect in practice that some of
the 15 will also come from the Liberal Democrats and from the
Labour Party. They will also form part of the electorate because
they will be accepted peers. So in practice there is every likelihood
that although it will be a very small electorate, for both the
Labour and the Democrats, there should be more of them than Lord
Lord Harris of Greenwich: This assumes a Labour or Liberal
Democrat peer is elected as a Deputy Chairman. There is no guarantee
that will happen. What happens in the extreme circumstances where
the two Labour hereditary peers get into a taxi and are involved
in an accident. You do not have an electoral college at all in
that situation? It does seem to me this is really quite an extraordinarily
fanciful proposition to put before us. We are talking about Members
Baroness Jay of Paddington: We are also talking about standing
orders and for reasons we have discussed many timesand
I do not think the Committee would wish to be wearied again by
a rehearsal of the arguments about why this should not be in statutethe
fact it is in standing orders of course creates a certain degree
of flexibility which if any of these ludicrous fantasies of Lord
Harris' were actually to come upon us
Lord Harris of Greenwich: It is not ludicrous to suggest
that one hereditary peer may die. Unhappily standing orders do
not provide for giving Labour hereditary peers the power to remain
with us forever, therefore sooner or later one Labour hereditary
peer will die.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: The position of the Labour Party
on hereditary peers is one which is very familiar. I do not think
if both of them were to be unhappily in a taxi cab accident we
would see this accelerating the position we would want to see
replicated across the House, not that anyone should die in a taxi
cab accident but hereditary peers should not continue to be Members
Lord Chancellor: Can we proceed on the basis that the noble
Lord, Lord Harris, has had some well deserved fun at our expense
but of course there is going to be appropriate legislation and
in any event if any of those situations arose then the problem
can be revisited by the Procedure Committee.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I accept that that is undoubtedly
true but of course we cannot, as I understand it, change the character
of the electorate or maybe I am wrong about that? The Clerk of
Clerk of the Parliaments: The character of the electorate
could be changed by changing paragraph (2) of the Hereditary Peers
By-election standing order.
Chairman: Lord Strathclyde?
Lord Strathclyde: I wanted very briefly to make that point
but also in the event of a tie there is provision for the drawing
of lotsand I recognise that should be avoidedbut
also if both hereditary peers die then the standing orders allow
new arrangements to be brought into effect.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Then life peers would be allowed
Clerk of the Parliaments: Not as presently envisaged.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: No, but we are talking about a
paragraph dealing with this particular possible eventuality. Surely
the position is that if you have in fact the inevitable circumstance
in which someone will die, in that situation could the electorate
be changed? As I understand it, you are saying not. Am I wrong
Clerk of the Parliaments: Standing orders are capable of
change by the House on a report from the Procedure Committee.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: In other words, the Procedure Committee
could in future in this particular situation say, not withstanding
the interesting discussion we have had earlier, that the electorate
could be changed to include life peers?
Chairman: Without a doubt this Committee could return to
that as a possible option.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I see.
Baroness Lockwood: And recommend it to the House.
Chairman: Recommend it to the House, certainly, for the House
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I hope that will be made clear
when this matter is discussed in the House.
Earl Ferrers: You would not do that the minute one Labour
peer died. You would not bring it to the Procedure Committee and
say, "Let's have all the have life peers because there is
one person to vote for the successor"?
Chairman: That is right.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: In other words, you have agreed
that notwithstanding what is said by Ministers to be the intention
of the Government at some future date as far as House of Lords
reform is concerned, we are being asked to agree that a single
person would nominate and choose a Member of Parliament. I find
that an absolutely extraordinary proposition.
Lord Chancellor: I have heard that from the noble Lord, Lord
Harris, on more than one occasion.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: You will hear it again and again
and when it becomes known to a wider public, Ministers are going
to find deep embarrassment in defending this policy.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: It is, my Lord Chairman, an
absolute nonsense. But we all know that we are bound to live with
it in the present circumstances.
Lord Denham: In the first standing order that we have already
agreed to, paragraph (7) at the end refers to the first standing
order and says: "If no such runner-up is available, the House
shall decide how the vacancy shall be filled." I am wondering
if no one appears to be available for the by-election whether
again something could not be written so that the House should
decide. Let us say there was no Liberal or Labour peer available
to be elected whether the House should not then decide again,
as in paragraph (7) of the earlier standing order.
Chairman: Does the Clerk of the Parliaments wish to say anything
Clerk of the Parliaments: Of course more detail could be
put into the by-election standing order.
Lord Denham: As a fail-safe.
Clerk of the Parliaments: It has been drafted to reflect
the instructions, so to speak, that I had as part of the "deal"
and to that extent it is a fair reflection of it. If the House
feels that there ought to be a fail-safe in the event of these
apocalyptic scenarios, that could be provided.
Lord Denham: Something along the lines of that last paragraph
in (7) in the previous one?
Clerk of the Parliaments: It would not readily fit in paragraph
Lord Denham: It would have to be adapted. If some thought
could be given to that it might save a lot of argument.
Chairman: I think the main point about this is just as paragraph
(7) in the previous standing order provides for the House to re-visit
the matter, so the House would have to reconsider the matter here
anyway, so we do have that safeguard. It would have to be done.
So perhaps it could be left as it is, bearing in mind that would
have to be done anyway. My Lords, I sense (unless there is anything
more) that your Lordships wish to move to the adoption or otherwise
of the second proposed new standing order. May that be agreed?
(Agreed) We then turn to the middle of page 5 of the Clerk's
memorandum, it is headed "electoral arrangements", and
there is the whole series which I am taking now up to paragraph
(r). I do not know if the Clerk of the Parliaments wishes to add
anything to what he said earlier on in his paper.
Clerk of the Parliaments: Not yetif something occurs,
I will try to deal with it.
Chairman: My Lords, perhaps I should pass seriatim
through the small letters and your Lordships will stop me if you
wish to raise anything. 5(a) the Clerk of the Parliaments will
be the Returning Officer. May that be approved. (Agreed)
That is agreed. Thank you very much. (b) which deals with the
register to vote, may that be agreed, my Lords? (Agreed)
That is agreed, I am obliged. (c) registry of candidates is what
that deals with. May that be agreed, my Lords? Lady Hamwee?
Baroness Hamwee: The peers wishing to stand in particular
for Deputy Speakers and other officers, I wonder if I could ask
what commitments would have to be given and made public as to
their willingness to undertake what is in fact a variety of jobs.
Chairman: Clerk of the Parliaments?
Clerk of the Parliaments: I do not know that any commitment
that was given in advance could be held to after the election
was over, but I feel sure that the 15 hereditary peers who currently
serve as Deputy Speakers would probably put their names forward
and it would be well-known that they were willing and were capable
of doing the work. If, for instance, Lord Colwyn as Chairman of
the Refreshment Sub-Committee put his name forward, he would be
known as someone who was serving as a Chairman and of course eventually
he would cease to hold that office because no one holds the office
of the Chairman of the Refreshment Sub-Committee for more than
a certain length of time. Eventually he would have to give that
Baroness Hamwee: I think there are perhaps three points,
I am sure there are others but there are three in my mind. The
good intentions of those who are currently serving was not one
of them. Point one is that those who are not known to the House
because they do not hold any of those positions at the moment
but may see this as, if you like, a way in
Lord Strabolgi: I am sorry to interrupt Lady Hamwee but would
it not be best to defer this until we come to the election of
the Deputy Speakers on which I shall have one or two things to
say. This is a detail which I think would be well worth exploring
later when we come to it.
Baroness Hamwee: I do not mind.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Surely this is the issue clearly
identified in the sub-paragraph, it relates to hereditary peers
wishing to stand for election as Deputy Speakers. "Any hereditary
peer may stand in either, or both, elections". The question
is, do they basically have to give some form of commitmentLady
Hamwee's question as I understand itthat they are prepared
to serve in that capacity? Do they make that clear to all concerned
by their name appearing on the register and basically saying "If
elected I would agree to serve the House in a capacity either
as a Chairman of a Committee or a Sub-Committee"?
Baroness Hamwee: I wonder, Lord Chairman, if I might just
continue very briefly with the point because I think what is in
my mind is inter-linked.
Chairman: I would just say, I bear in mind what Lord Strabolgi
has said but I would not want to pass over this provision. I would
want us to consider implementing or otherwise this provision in
(c) now. Lady Hamwee?
Baroness Hamwee: Another concern is about those who are serving,
for instance, as Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of some of the committees
who may not be so well known, which goes on to my third point
as to whether there are going to be any rules about campaigning
for election? One could see very different"standards"
may not be the right term"approaches" to campaigning
for this. Some people may feel they wish to spend the whole of
the summer driving around the country delivering election leaflets
or telephone canvassing, others may take a rather more "if
I am minded" view. Thank you.
Chairman: I will ask the Clerk of the Parliaments if he would
like to say something on that in a moment. Perhaps I can just
give a reaction to Lady Hamwee's fundamental point which is really
to what extent can we rely on these people to carry out their
duties? I think the only thing that can be said is that we must
accept in good faith their commitment by putting themselves forward
as candidates. I cannot see any means of compelling anyone to
do anything after they have been elected. I think we must rely
on good faith, as we have had to do in the past.
Lord Denham: My Lord Chairman, may I support that. I think
it is implicit in the fact that you put your name forward that
you obviously are making a commitment at the same time. I think
to define too much is not the normal custom of the House.
Chairman: Thank you very much.
Earl Ferrers: If I might add to that, Lord Chairman. I think
it would be intolerable to expect people to give some form of
written commitment that if elected they would do such and such
a duty. Equally I think it would be perfectly odious if people
went round campaigning. I hope they will not do that.
Lord Skelmersdale: Lord Chairman, Lady Hamwee does have a
point and it is that amongst the electorate some of the people
to be elected will not be particularly well known and therefore
it would be sensible to have some sort of mark against the existing
and past members of the brigade who are to be elected.
Lord Strabolgi: I would like to support that thought. That
was one of the things that I was going to suggest.
Chairman: Yes, indeed.
Lord Strabolgi: I think an asterisk should be placed against
the names of the current Deputy Speakers, that is the 15, on the
voting papers, and a footnote should explain that the asterisk
means that these are appointed by a Commission from the Crown.
Now there is a great difference, which I think is often forgotten,
between Deputy Speakers and Deputy Chairmen. They both do the
same job but the Deputy Speakers, who are usually Deputy Chairmen
who have done the job for a year or two and are found to be satisfactory,
are then appointed by a Commission from the Crown. That is the
list that is notified to the House when Her Majesty by commission
appoints certain Lords to discharge the duties of Deputy Speaker.
The Deputy Chairman on the other hand are appointed by the House
on the proposal of the Committee of Selection. Now as Lord Skelmersdale
said, and Lady Hamwee too, it is quite possible that if the whole
House is going to elect Deputy Speakers, both the life peers and
the hereditaries, both frequent attenders and others who do not
come quite as often
Chairman: And the Bishops.
Lord Strabolgi: and as has been said some of them
may not know one Deputy Speaker or Deputy Chairman from another.
I think they should be identified in this way I suggest. The other
question was about them committing themselves. Certainly I have
been doing this job for 12 years and I have never known a peer
who has been offered or has been appointed Deputy Speaker accepting
the offer without being well aware of what the job entails. It
is not an easy job, it is not one that everybody can do. I have
known distinguished Ministers who have not been able to do it.
They have been a good Minister but once they get into the chair
in Committee of the Whole House they get confused and they cannot
do it. I can cite cases. I think it is much better that the existing
team should be identified and it is then for the electorate to
decide whether they wish to re-elect them. I am told that the
Clerk of the Parliaments will see any extra people when they come
and explain the responsibilities of the job so that they do not
enter into it in any frivolous way. I cannot imagine that would
happen, but it might. I suggest that this distinction between
present Deputy Speakers and Deputy Chairman could be shown on
the voting paper. Perhaps the Clerk of the Parliaments could give
this matter his attention?
Chairman: Yes, he is aware of the point which is being made,
Lord Strabolgi. Perhaps I can just respond to the suggestion which
has been made by Lord Skelmersdale and Lord Strabolgi. There would
be no difficulty at all, my Lords, if that was your Lordships'
wish, to have an asterisk.
Clerk of the Parliaments: I have just been warned by the
Clerk to the Committee that the usual rules governing elections
would not normally support such a suggestion. The ballot paper
should be neutral as between candidates.
Lord Strabolgi: I was prepared for that and I have thought
about it. This has been suggestedI do not want to commit
the Clerk in any waythat the House could be circulated
with the names of all the candidates and a description given showing
the existing Deputy Speakers who are already doing their job and
who have offered themselves again. This could be done in a separate
document to be circulated.
Earl of Shannon: My Lord Chairman, I wonder if I might support
Lord Strabolgi. Having done Deputy Speaker for ten years, I think
it is a job that you have got to learn and you cannot just suddenly
arrive and think you are going to be able to take it on.
Earl Ferrers: Are we talking, Lord Chairman, about electing
Deputy Speakers or Deputy Speakers and Deputy Chairmen?
Chairman: We are talking about the election of Deputy Speakers.
Lord Strabolgi: 15 of them.
Earl Ferrers: Deputy Chairmen come from the assembled company?
Lord Strabolgi: The Deputy Speaker can act on the woolsack
and as the Chairman when the House is in committee.
Chairman: I do not think that for the purposes of our decision
this afternoon it is a distinction which we need to worry about.
Earl Ferrers: The Deputy Speaker is appointed by the Crown?
Chairman: Only when there is a Commission. I think that these
are matters which do not really affect the substance of our decision
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Could I be clear, are we talking
about Deputy Speakers/Deputy Chairmen?
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I understand that point. But as
I understand it, we are also talking about the Chairmen of some
of the other Committees of the House, am I right?
Lord Harris of Greenwich: We have mentioned Lord Colwyn who
is the Chairman of the Refreshment Sub-Committee as an example.
He has been mentioned twice this afternoon. So it is Committee
Chairmen, Sub-Committee Chairmen of the European Communities Committees?
Baroness Lockwood: Could we define which Committees we are
Clerk of the Parliaments: Any Committee of the House. Currently
there are five hereditary peers chairing Sub-Committees or Committees.
In the end it is for the Committee to elect one of those people
to be their Chairman or to be appointed by the Committee of Selection
but the current position is that we have five. There is Lord Colwyn
on the Refreshment Sub-Committee. In addition, Lord Grenfell,
Lord Cranbrook, Lord Reay and Lord Geddes are all Chairmen of
Earl Ferrers: How many Deputy Chairmen and how many Deputy
Clerk of the Parliaments: There are currently 15 Deputy Speakers
who are hereditary peers. One of them happens to be Lord Henley
who may wish to stand in a different capacity.
Lord Strabolgi: And Lord Burnham?
Clerk of the Parliaments: Lord Burnham might also stand in
a different capacity.
Chairman: May I make a suggestion about the identification
of those who have served before. As your Lordships will have seen
from the Clerk of the Parliaments' paper, the electoral arrangements
have to be subject to the guidance of experts on electoral arrangements
and that would have to come back to this Committee. My Lords,
can we do it in this way. There certainly seems to be some feeling
that existing office holders deserve some sort of an indication
and if it is possible for an asterisk to be put beside their names
that could be done.
Lord Skelmersdale: It was my original suggestion. May I just
say that my original suggestion was most definitely for existing
and former Deputies, in other words looking to past service.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lord Chairman, I am very grateful for
what Lord Strabolgi said and I understand his intention was to
flag up to the electorate who these people are. Two things arise.
The first is that on the list of current Deputy Speakers there
is no Liberal member.
Lord Strabolgi: There is a Liberal Democrat. He is a Deputy
Lord Strathclyde: None of the 15 current Deputy Speakers
are Liberal Democrats.
Lord Skelmersdale: There are two, Lord Methuen and Lord Simon.
Lord Strabolgi: There is Lord Methuen but he is not a Deputy
Speaker, he is a Deputy Chairman.
Lord Strathclyde: I was going to say if it was limited only
to the current 15 who are Deputy Speakers, that would mean that
none of those 15 would be Liberal Democrats, and in the spirit
of non-partisanship I would regard that as being slightly unfair
on the Liberal Democrats. They might wish to make that case themselves.
There is a wider issue here. I do not think there should be any
presumption that the existing Deputy Speakers should necessarily
be the ones that go forward. This Bill is a new proposal. I have
to say I regret we are going down this route in the first place,
but we are and so we are devising a new way forward, a new proposal
and therefore a new election to decide who the 15 should be. Up
until now such appointments have been cooked up in the usual channels
and when I was the Government Chief Whip I put names forward and
so did my predecessors as Chief Whip. It went to the Committee
of Selection and that was that. I do not think there should be
a presumption these people should be the ones to go through, excellent
though they may be. Let me though, offer a solution. I am a member
of a number of organisations for which elections take place. I
have not the faintest idea who the candidates are and the organisations
who run these provide a dozen or two words on each candidate.
I see no reason why this should not take place under this procedure
and that would avoid putting anything on the ballot paper. That
would make it utterly clear. We should ask each candidate to write
their own fifteen or twenty words, whatever limit the Clerk of
the Parliaments proposes, and then the electorate would be able
to decide. The point could be made by those who serve
Lord Chancellor: That is a first-class idea, a very good
Chairman: Thank you very much.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: I entirely agree with everything
Lord Strathclyde has said, including who we are electing. I do
not believe we should feel we are electing those already in office.
We should be looking for others prepared to fill the vacancy when
the time comes and not elect the Chairman of a Committee who may
only have a year to serve. That may not make good sense at all.
I entirely agree and I think there should be nothing on the ballot
paper except names and anything else agreed according to the sort
of formula Lord Strathclyde suggests.
Earl Ferrers: So long as that formula is a CV and not a manifesto!
Chairman: Lord Burnham wished to say something.
Lord Burnham: It has been for the convenience of the House
that Chief Whips and Deputy Chief Whips are Deputy Speakers so
they can fill in if the man in the chair suffers a problem. Surely
there is no reason why one of the 42 hereditary peers who have
been so elected should not be made a Deputy Speaker?
Chairman: Thank you. I think there is a general acceptance
that the formula suggested is acceptable. (Agreed) My Lords,
I am conscious that a number of your Lordships have very pressing
commitments so I am proposing to go through as rapidly as I can
the rest of the proposed electoral arrangements. May I take it
then that as a result of that discussion we approve of (c)? (Agreed)
Thank you very much. That is agreed. (d) deals with the oath.
(Agreed) Thank you very much indeed. Then (e) "...
Deputy Speakers ... before the party elections". Is that
agreed? (Agreed) Thank you very much indeed. (f) "Registration
and the initial elections...", this is providing for the
spill-over. May that be agreed, my Lords? (Agreed) (g)
"... register in person or by post during a period of two
weeks ...". Lady Hamwee?
Baroness Hamwee: Could I just ask, would fax be a useful
addition to that given we are in the middle of the summer for
Clerk of the Parliaments: I am happy to receive a fax.
Baroness Hamwee: I imagine you need a signature?
Clerk of the Parliaments: Yes.
Baroness Hamwee: E-mail would not be acceptable.
Chairman: Fax is acceptable. Subject to that then, may we
agree to (g)? (Agreed) (h), that is the ballot papers for
the election. May that be agreed? (Agreed) Thank you very
much. (i), that is the ballot papers for the party elections.
Can that be agreed, my Lords? (Agreed) (j), the postal
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, why have we got a more
limited arrangement for these elections than for parliamentary
elections? Lord Chancellor: They are not parliamentary elections.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Why could we not have more opportunities
for postal voting? I do not understand the point.
Clerk of the Parliaments: From my point of view, if the hereditary
peers are keen to participate in these elections, I would have
thought they would be keen enough to turn up to do so.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: I am sorry, I just do not accept
the validity of that argument. First of all, as I have said, why
are we having a more restrictive arrangement than for a parliamentary
or European election? I do not understand why we do not allow
people to use a postal vote.
Clerk of the Parliaments: Because we do not allow postal
voting, for instance, in votes in the House. If people wish to
vote in the House they vote in the Division Lobby. It seems to
me for this election peers could quite readily turn up to exercise
Lord Harris of Greenwich: There must be a reason why we have
this. Somebody has said
Lord Chancellor: Because we want to do it our own way.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: You want to do it your own way.
Was that part of your agreement with Lord Cranborne?
Lord Carter: Lord Chairman, is it not correct the elections
in the Commons for various offices are done in person by turning
up in a Committee room?
Lord Weatherill: Right.
Lord Denham: My Lord Chairman, if people are not going to
be bothered to come along and register their vote in person they
do not deserve a vote. This is the way to get people who are going
to know who they are voting for.
Earl Ferrers: Will they get their expenses paid if they come
from Scotland to vote?
Chairman: My Lords, I think there is a recognition that the
point has been made. I sense that the general feeling is your
Lordships wish to adopt the proposal here? (Agreed) Thank
you very much. (k), the electoral system and so on.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: On (k) on the sixth line where
it says: "... to number the candidates in order of preference
up to the total number of vacancies for that grouping...".
That can actually be interpreted in two ways. You could actually
have to use all your votes, a Conservative would have to vote
up to 42, a Cross-Bencher up to 28, or it could be interpreted
differently, "up to" could be only to vote 30 times.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am not entirely clear. I think
it is meant to be all 42?
Clerk of the Parliaments: It is meant to be all 42; if not,
it is possible that we would not get 42 elected.
Lord Denham: But would it be a spoiled vote if not?
Clerk of the Parliaments: If they did not? I was myself asking
the question, would they be disqualified if they did not.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: If the interpretation is the
one that I think it is meant to be, that in other words the Conservatives
must use all 42, the Liberal Democrats all three, Labour all two
and the Cross-Benchers all 28, that is what I think it is meant
to be. The corollary, if I can use the word, is that anybody who
would be using less than these votes has spoiled their paper.
Lord Chancellor: That is what you propose?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: That is what I think ought to
be intended, yes.
Lord Chancellor: So if it were worded "voters will be
required to number the candidates in order of preference by voting
for the total number of vacancies for that grouping", that
would meet the point?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Something like that, yes.
Earl Ferrers: Do we really want to force people to vote for
everyone, for all numbers? Is that not a bit draconian?
Clerk of the Parliaments: I think that if you did not get
at least one member of the Conservative Party voting 42 times
you might actually find that you did not fill all 42 vacancies.
Everyone should be required to vote for the 42.
Lord Denham: If you vote for only five, say, the five that
you voted for would be more valuable votes. To get a fair election
you have got to have everybody voting for the 42.
Clerk of the Parliaments: We will make it clear that it is
a rule, that if a voter does not exercise all his votes his voting
paper will be disregarded.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: You will have to make that clear
in very substantial type on the ballot paper.
Clerk of the Parliaments: We will make it clear.
Earl Ferrers: In response to Lord Harris's question, this
must be about the only place in the world where you have an election
which says you have got to vote for all the full numbers.
Chairman: As part of that, my Lords, "asked" will
be replaced by "required" to make that quite clear.
Subject to that, are we happy with (k), my Lords?
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: (k) says that we will have a
common system for all elections.
Chairman: That is right.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: That is the considered view
of the Committee.
Chairman: Yes. Agreed, my Lords? (Agreed) (k) is agreed.
(l), the ballot papers for the Deputy Speakers' election and so
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: It is me again. I actually think
there is a contradiction between the first paragraph and the second
paragraph. Indeed, I do not think that the second paragraph ought
to be there.
Clerk of the Parliaments: That is fine. It can be deleted.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: That was easy.
Clerk of the Parliaments: We may use expert assistance from
the Home Office when the elections take place.
Chairman: When I was alluding to this earlier on there were
whispers in my ear to the effect that some change was going to
be suggested. Subject to that then, my Lords, particularly on
paragraph one of (l), may that be agreed? (Agreed) Thank
you very much indeed. (m), the count, may that be agreed, my Lords?
(Agreed) (n), results.
Lord Denham: Will the near misses be recorded too so that
they know possibly within some time they may be coming in and,
therefore, able to regulate their lives accordingly?
Chairman: Yes. I think all the numbers will be available
so that will make it clear.
Clerk of the Parliaments: The numbers will be available.
I do not think that we would record in the Minutes of the House
the near misses but it would be made clear. We could announce
that x, y and z are near misses.
Chairman: Are runners up.
Clerk of the Parliaments: Or we can show the full electoral
Lord Denham: Say you were Conservative number 47 you might
know that you might be required in a certain amount of time.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: An actuary would be able to give
a pretty good estimate I should say.
Earl Ferrers: My Lord Chairman, surely you have got to publish
the votes which each person has gained, not just the near misses?
Chairman: Yes, exactly.
Lord Weatherill: My Lord Chairman, this is only on the topping
up, it is the fastest losers for the first year.
Chairman: Yes, it is.
Clerk of the Parliaments: We will make a public record of
all the votes and all the numbers. I think the Minutes of the
House will only record those who have been elected as Members
of the House and, indeed, the only names I would pass to the Clerk
of the Crown in Chancery are the ones who have been elected.
Lord Weatherill: How will we know about the fastest losers?
Clerk of the Parliaments: By publishing them.
Lord Strabolgi: How long will it take before results are
announced? Will it be a week after, when the House is sitting?
Clerk of the Parliaments: The day after in the case of the
Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party.
Earl Ferrers: It takes quite a long time to count all of
Baroness Lockwood: Can we have a list of those elected and
then a separate list of the whole of the candidates and votes
Chairman: Subject to that may (n) be agreed? (Agreed)
Thank you very much. (0), that deals with the possible irregularities.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: What are these? What is "improper
Clerk of the Parliaments: I think it is a little dangerous
Lord Harris of Greenwich: Can you give us a hint?
Clerk of the Parliaments: Bribery.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: What about the people who issue,
let us say, rather extravagantly produced election material, does
that count as improper conduct?
Clerk of the Parliaments: I do not think it is for me to
speculate on what might or might not be improper behaviour. If
there were a complaint, for instance, I think I would then have
to refer it to the Committee for Privileges to adjudicate on.
I do not think lavish election material could be said to be to
be improper electoral practice but I suppose that if it was felt
that excessive hospitality was being offered by a certain peer,
that could result in a complaint.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: So you have got to be careful whose
luncheon invitations you accept.
Earl Ferrers: Can we not ban electoral addresses?
Earl of Shannon: Is there not be a proper CV in the Library?
Every one of us has had to fill in exactly what we have done since
we have been here, what committees we have served on and that
could be made available.
Chairman: With respect, I think we dealt with that point
earlier on, it was mentioned.
Baroness Hamwee: I think that it is important that candidates
for whatever election should know what the rules are that are
going to be applied so that they know in advance what is likely
to be regarded as improper. I do not think that the rules need
to be very complicated but they would deal with things like whether
election material could be circulated, whether what we might call
"treating" just for the purposes of this discussion
were allowed or not allowed. To assess in retrospect whether something
is improper seems to me to be not only undesirable but very difficult
for the person who has to make this assessment.
Clerk of the Parliaments: I can take advice from the Home
Office about this matter; they have offered their help if required.
I can, if necessary, circulate the parties with some fairly simple
Earl Ferrers: May I suggest that we do not make a mountain
out of this, before we know where we are we will have rules circulating
all over the place.
Clerk of the Parliaments: I did say "simple rules".
If Lady Hamwee thinks it need not be complicated she could assist
me with her ideas.
Earl Ferrers: We really must not make this bureaucratic.
We are electing colleagues. The idea of people producing great
manifestos and taking you out to dinner
Chairman: I think one of the main points about this is that
we cannot create an exhaustive list of possible transgressions.
I think that the main way of dealing with this is if there is
a substantive complaint about the way in which one of us has behaved
then that may be referred to the Committee for Privileges. We
have that underlying safeguard. Thank you so much. Is that all
right, my Lords? May (o) be agreed? (Agreed) (p), the ballot
papers and overall votes and so on to be retained. May that be
agreed? (Agreed) I am obliged. Vacancies, that is (q)
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lord Chairman, I think this is
possibly an opportunity for a great deal of mockery. What if you
go and live in Hong Kong or you have a stroke or you are in prisonnone
of those are likely to happen to any Member of this House, I am
sureis it not rather odd to have this? It struck me as
being rather strange. The answer may be that it is only for a
five minute period but it seems a bit odd.
Clerk of the Parliaments: You mean that it should be scratched
Lord Henley: The same is true for life peers, they cannot
resign a seat.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: But they are not doing these jobs
in these circumstances.
Clerk of the Parliaments: This was only a paper put to the
Committee and originally put into the Library of the House, to
explain what the deal was. It can come out of whatever is now
recommended to the House, certainly. I do not think (r) need go
to the House either.
Earl Ferrers: Keep (q) in. It is very important.
Chairman: Would your Lordships be happier without (q) in?
Lord Strathclyde: I may have missed the point, but if Lord
Williams is making the point I think he is making, it is a very
important point and I just wondered if he would like to repeat
it. What ridicule does he think it would bring?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: It struck me as being a rather strange
thing to put in if we want to avoid mockery and derision of the
sort already identified by Lord Harris of Greenwich in another
context. If you are made bankrupt no vacancy arises. If you are
wholly disabled you still are regarded as having a continuing
place or if you want to emigrate to somewhere like Australiaand
I can sympathise with the feelingyou are still regarded
Lord Chancellor: It is a consequence of Clause 2(3) that
once accepted a person shall continue to be so throughout his
Lord Williams of Mostyn: I know that, but I am wondering
whether we really need to point the little finger.
Lord Chancellor: You do not need it because of Clause 2(3).
Lord Skelmersdale: Would not the point be satisfied, and
I quite agree with Lord Williams' point, if the first sentence
were just removed?
Earl Ferrers: The first sentence ought to be kept and everything
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I propose that it be taken out,
my Lord Chairman.
Chairman: Clause 2(3) covers the point anyway, so we do not
need this. I sense, although there is a slight difference, the
feeling generally is that we can do without this particular point.
Lord Strathclyde: Presumably (r) is unnecessary.
Chairman: (r) follows as unnecessary as well. If that is
acceptable to the Committee, my Lords. So we delete both of those.
I am very grateful indeed to your Lordships. That completes the
consideration of these proposed standing orders.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Can I just make absolutely clear
that the final provisions, those we have just spent some time
discussing, the electoral provisions, are not standing orders,
is that right?
Chairman: That is right. They are electoral arrangements,
not part of the standing orders. They will be put forward as part
of our report as recommendations to the House and will need to
be agreed by the House.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: Absolutely, but I think a distinction
needs to be made clear by us and we need to hold it in our heads
when that debate takes place.
Chairman: I am very grateful for that clarification.
Earl Ferrers: Could I ask a question which I am sure everyone
else knows the answer to but I do not and it is on page 2, little
(e), where it says, "Until the end of the first session of
the next Parliament, vacancies which occur in category (b) or
(c) are to be filled by hereditary peers ..." Why is it the
first session of the next Parliament?
Lord Harris of Greenwich: That was agreed on the floor of
Lord Chancellor: It arises out of an amendment put before
the House but not pressed to a Division in the name of Lord Strathclyde
and it was agreed, as it were, across the floor of the House that
by the date when that period had expired runners up would cease
to be an effective proxy for contemporary popularity.
Earl Ferrers: I am very grateful to the Lord Chancellor for
making it so clear.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.