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Lords Chamber

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 30 April 1998

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House Of Lords

Thursday, 30th April 1998.

The House met at three of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Lincoln.): The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Ec Fishing Proposals: Uk Stance

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in response to the European Commission's further consultative paper on working time restrictions, they will ensure that the present directive will not extend to British share fishermen.

My Lords, we shall be studying the Commission's proposals with interest, and any response will take into account the current arrangements in each sector. In particular, the Government recognise the important role played by share fishermen in the UK fishing industry and their unique employment status, and will endeavour to ensure that any Commission proposals take account of this.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. As British share fishermen are self-employed and do not have trade unions, are further consultations with employers and employees relevant to this industry? Will the Government oppose this extension despite the report that Labour MEPs supported it in the parliament's fisheries committee, though, from comments at Question Time yesterday, they may have been old Labour and therefore in the frame for replacement?

My Lords, I recognise the noble Lord's great experience in the matter of fishing both from another place and indeed from Scotland, which will have its own views on the fishing industry. We are still in debate with the Commission, and until the Commission has finished its consultation and has heard all the submissions from the social partners, it is premature to say what position we shall take. We will be negotiating to achieve the position I put to the noble Lord in my first Answer.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that share fishermen and other fishermen are very concerned about the way, month after month, we are told, as with quota hopping, "Discussions are going on. Wait and see"? They really do wonder, first, whether the Government understand how the fishing industry works and how ridiculous a working time directive would be and, secondly, whether the Commission understands. Can the noble Lord at least give the industry some assurance that we will come to a decision about this sooner rather than later—perhaps as soon as possible or shortly, even—and, furthermore, if we do come to a decision, that the British authorities will be as vigilant as the Spanish authorities are in enforcing fisheries-type legislation?

My Lords, the length of time negotiations take is in part stipulated by the length of time of the consultation. The consultation is not due to close until the middle of May. Whether that is "shortly" or "very shortly" I shall leave to the Opposition to decide. The period after that will be one of further negotiation for all parties. All countries will be responding to the Commission and all will have views they wish to make as firmly as we do ourselves. The Government well understand the complexity of remuneration in the fishing sector and will take that into account in arriving at a balanced solution.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Commission's attitude towards the British fishing industry and its history is not particularly impressive? Will he avoid the position, if he can, whereby negotiations are continued by the Commission ad infinitum to a point where little advantage can accrue to the British fishing industry? Will he, on reviewing the situation very carefully indeed, come to the conclusion that it is now time to stand up rigorously in defence of legitimate British fishing interests?

My Lords, the feature of the excluded sectors arrangement is that it allows all governments to reflect most carefully on the particular position of their industry. There are only eight excluded sectors, one of which is fishing. We will reflect as carefully and as rigorously as other governments in coming to a conclusion. We have no intention whatever of putting fishermen into a position where they are not well represented by the British Government in securing the balanced agreement that we need with our partners in Europe.

My Lords, the Minister says that the British Government will endeavour to ensure that the Commission and presumably eventually the Council behave in a reasonable manner. Can he confirm that the issue will be decided by qualified majority vote at the end of the day and that, if so and the vote goes against us, there is absolutely nothing the British Government can do about it?

My Lords, I think it will depend on which features of the negotiation one wishes to specify. This is an agreement about the terms in which a Commission directive passes into UK law. How we do that and the circumstances under which we do it will depend on the way the negotiations with our partners are carried out. I would not like to specify at this stage whether it will even come to votes.

My Lords, is the Minister able to say that the Government do realise that the conditions set out are quite impossible for share fishermen or any other fishermen?

My Lords, the reason for having excluded sectors was that it was well understood that some of the basic elements of the working time directive could not be applied in these defined areas. Hence the nature of the negotiation in understanding which parts of the directive can be applied sensibly in the eight excluded areas and which cannot. That is a sensible way of progressing matters and we shall negotiate accordingly.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that fishermen's fishing time is subject to the weather, which is not regulated by the European Commission but by the Almighty?

My Lords, we are aware of that, but we are working on it. One of the negotiating issues is indeed about how time is calculated in the excluded sectors. It is well understood that the special arrangements in fishing will have to take account of the fact that rest periods, in the normal sense of the phrase, are not able to be applied as they are generally throughout industry. That is certainly well understood.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that my reference to old attitudes was not intended to be flippant? It is generally too little known that the large distant water trawlers have virtually disappeared from the British fishing fleet and with them the owner companies and the payment of wages to the fishermen, who were seamen, mostly in seamen's unions. That is now all past history.

My Lords, I would not wish to comment on the change in the nature of the fleet. There must be many reasons for that because of the dynamics of the market place, fishing stock and the terms of competition. But I understand that for the 20,000 or so fishermen—it is quite difficult to get the exact numbers—who are currently being looked after in these negotiations the majority are share fishermen. Therefore, we shall have to take account of their special and unique circumstances both in terms of their fiscal treatment, their hours of work and the way in which they are remunerated.

Pensioners: Means-Tested Benefits

3.10 p.m.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many pilot schemes to extend automatic help to pensioners not claiming the means-tested income support to which they are entitled have so far been launched, where they will be sited and when they will report.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security
(Baroness Hollis of Heigham)

My Lords, from this month we are running pilot projects in nine areas of the country to find the best way of encouraging pensioners to make a claim for income support. We are also experimenting with ways of making the delivery mechanism more automatic to prevent the problem recurring in the future. The pilots which my noble friend asked me about are taking place in York, Preston, Glasgow, Stroud, East Renfrewshire, Lambeth, Torbay, South Staffordshire and Torfaen. The results should be available by the spring of 1999, after which we will consider how best to proceed nationally.

While I am grateful for the detail of that reply, could I ask the Minister whether these pilot schemes, of which she has given details, relate to automatic means of helping the poorest pensioners? I am sure that she would be the first to agree that that is not the same as encouraging people to take up means-tested benefits. Will the Minister therefore give me an answer to this question? How many pilot schemes are there into ways of ensuring automatic help, which, by definition, I would have thought means benefits as of right or contributory benefits? Are there any such pilot schemes, and if so, how many; where are they and when will they report?

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right that there clearly is a dilemma for the Government in that if one has an automatic entitlement, irrespective of income, to additions to the basic state pension, then the entire population over the age of 65, including a large number of your Lordships, would automatically benefit. I am not suggesting for one moment that your Lordships would not be meritorious, but noble Lords might regard themselves as not necessarily having the first claim on resources in this area. The moment one goes for targeting on a means-testing basis, as my noble friend said, there are real problems about take-up, given the issues of the complexity of the benefit, stigma and ignorance. As my noble friend queried, that is why in the pilot schemes we are looking to see whether we can get automaticity—an ugly word—in the passporting of benefits to elderly people. They are mostly single women over the age of 75 years. The kinds of projects that we are looking at in our pilot schemes include working with local authorities to see whether one can piggy-back, for example, off entitlement to council tax benefit and housing benefit, and whether with social services we can ensure everyone getting the attendance allowance is also claiming income support to which they are entitled. We are also developing an experiment in London for electronic claim forms. Just before someone reaches their 65th birthday they are telephoned and asked for details of their income and capital cut-off point to see whether we can get automatic entitlement to income support to them. In these ways I hope that we are addressing the concerns of my noble friend.

Does not the Minister agree that the administrative cost of helping pensioners through means-tested benefits is much greater than that of administering a state insurance contributory pension scheme? It is something like £5 per week per recipient. Therefore, this elaborate effort to get people to take up more is going to add to the cost. Could she tell us, please, what would be the cost if all the pensioners entitled to income support were now, as a result of these activities, to claim it?

My Lords, my noble friend is correct. The retirement pension costs 55p per week to administer per claimant, and income support entitlement, irrespective of age, costs something like £4.20 a week to administer. So my noble friend can see that if I million pensioners were to claim income support to which they were entitled there would be a substantial administrative cost as well as the much bigger cost of take-up. But we believe that it is important that poorer pensioners today get the money to which they are entitled. Therefore, it is a cost that we must accept.

"Shield Council" Defence Proposal

3.14 p.m.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their position on the proposals for the elimination of war between sovereign states set down in the Army Quarterly Defense Journal, Vol. 127, No. 1.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, we do not support the proposal for a so-called "shield" organisation; a supranational council with a standing military force and nuclear weapons. Such an organisation would not be effective, accountable or politically acceptable. The UK is working to improve the ability of the international community to prevent and manage conflict. The United Nations is central to this effort. Collective defence through NATO will remain the cornerstone of the United Kingdom's national security.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I believe the support given to this document by a former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, is unconditional, as is the support given by a former president of the Soviet Union, Mr. Gorbachev? I do not know what the position is as regards a former premier of France, M. Rocard, who has also added his name. But as regards my noble friend Lord Callaghan, the fourth very distinguished international person to have put his name to the document, his support is qualified and he made that very clear in a foreword which he supplied to the article printed in the Army Quarterly Defense Journal, which of itself is a document supported by distinguished military people. In those circumstances, although I do not expect the Minister to say that the Government support this, does she feel able to say, as my noble friend Lord Callaghan said, that the document is well worth consideration and discussion?

My Lords, my noble friend has been very encouraging in trying to tempt me into saying that we would consider the document. But I must be clear both to my noble friend and the House that the Government do not believe that the document could command that degree of interest or consideration. It involves the creation of another nuclear power and would be in breach of our nuclear proliferation treaties. The so-called "Shield Council" would be independent of states and the UN Security Council. Its members would have to forswear their national allegiances. Her Majesty's Government are most concerned about the accountability of such a council in those circumstances.

My Lords, while the Government may have reservations about individual aspects of this article's contribution to the consideration of international armed forces, nevertheless will they recognise that articles such as these do make a contribution to the developing debate about how we can obtain international security around the globe? Bearing in mind the current perception by a number of nations that international peacekeeping efforts appear to be dominated by the United States, does the Minister agree that every effort to ensure that international peacekeeping efforts are perceived and realised to be on behalf of the international community as a whole should be welcomed?

My Lords, I would be very concerned indeed if anything I said in your Lordships' House in any way detracted from the two answers that I have already given about the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to this particular document. As my noble friend raises other issues as well, I say to the House that Her Majesty's Government believe that the United Nations matters. For all its problems it is an indispensable institution. It is the only one we have at the moment which is capable of giving any real legitimacy to decisions taken by the international community. The Government rest on that position.

My Lords, may I briefly ask my noble friend to say that at least she agrees that this matter should be taken further? I hope that noble Lords will agree that this afternoon's discussion is only a preliminary stage. I hope that in future my noble friend Lord Callaghan of Cardiff will participate. Is my noble friend the Minister aware that I shall make it my business to ensure that an opportunity to do so is afforded to him?

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Callaghan will know how much he relishes that opportunity—or not. I hope that I have been clear and unequivocal on this point. I cannot encourage my noble friend to believe that Her Majesty's Government will consider the document further. None the less, the Government are, of course, always willing to listen to my noble friend's interesting point of view and I am sure that we shall have the opportunity to do so on this matter in future.

My Lords, is my noble friend on the Front Bench aware that having listened first to my noble friend Lord Jenkins and then to her replies, I am not sure yet which side I am on? However, I shall certainly go away and see what it was I signed. I shall then be very happy to take part in any discussions that may ensue.

Convicted Criminals: Memoirs

3.21 p.m.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they have held with book and newspaper publishers and radio and television companies about payment to convicted criminals for memoirs and related material concerning their criminal past.

My Lords, I am not aware of any recent discussions between the Government and book and newspaper publishers or radio and television companies about this issue, although I understand that my honourable friend Joyce Quin, the Home Office Minister of State, has recently written to Richard Charkin, the Chief Executive of Macmillan General Books, in her capacity as the Member for Gateshead East and Washington West, about the payment made to Mary Bell for her contribution to Cries Unheard.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has asked the Attorney-General whether anything can be done about the payments which have been made to Mary Bell. I understand that it is not clear whether the Attorney-General has any power to take action. None the less he is examining the possibility.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that when a 14 year-old child is driven from her home into protective police custody by the harassment of journalists, that is shaming and shameful to us all? Will the noble Lord assure us that the inquiry which the Home Secretary announced today into these matters will deal with the question of loopholes in the present law and whether the present law is being pursued with due rigour? Will the noble Lord also ensure that the Press Complaints Commission looks into the matter of cheque-book journalism by proxy, by which newspapers can enter into contracts with authors who can then pay convicted criminals for their stories? These are matters of great concern. Problems coming down the track mean that this issue should be dealt with with due urgency.

My Lords, I join the noble Lord in saying that it is repugnant that a 14 year-old girl should be hounded in this way. She is going through a severe trauma at the moment. I am sure that the whole House will join me in saying that our thoughts and heartfelt sympathies also go out to the parents of the child victims. We are examining the law as it stands. I refer to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1995, which was designed primarily to deal with offences which themselves generate profits. It is not clear whether its provisions would apply to Mary Bell because it can apply only within six years of a defendant's conviction if new evidence comes to light that the defendant has benefited from criminal conduct. That is why my right honourable friend is considering a review. This is a difficult area, raising complex issues. My right honourable friend has asked that the review begins immediately to see whether any steps can be taken to deal with any such cases that may arise in the future. The review will be completed as soon as possible but, as I am sure that noble Lords will agree, it is important to ensure that the issue is looked at thoroughly and that sufficient time is allowed for that.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that both payments to convicted criminals, either directly or indirectly, and harassment by journalists, are serious breaches of the Press Complaints Commission's code of conduct? I can confirm that we have received a complaint; that we are conducting an investigation and that our report will be published as soon as it is available.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that. I am sure that the whole House welcomes what he said. We look forward to receiving the Press Complaints Commission's report in due course.

My Lords, was it not unusual and perhaps unwise for No. 10 to take up this case? Was not that bound to increase the mass hysteria which has been whipped up by the popular press? Might it not have been better to have considered the consequences of raising this matter rather than going for some cheap, immediate, populist publicity?

My Lords, I reject immediately the noble Lord's comment about cheap publicity. There was no such intention. I am sure that the Prime Minister was right—he was asked a Question on this in the House of Commons yesterday—to point to the gravity of the matter and to say that it is repugnant that anyone should benefit from such terrible crimes. The Prime Minister was portraying the fact that this Government are determined to ensure that no one else can benefit similarly in the future.

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that many of us feel pleased that the Prime Minister had the courage to speak out against that vile practice? Many of us are very glad that he did. I do not consider that the Prime Minister was seeking cheap publicity.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for agreeing that the aim was not cheap publicity. This is a serious matter and it is extremely important that we consider the issue as quickly as possible to ensure that no one else can similarly benefit.

My Lords, if investigations show that nothing can be done and that no prosecution can be laid against the people who perpetrated these matters, do the Government intend to introduce legislation to correct the position?

My Lords, as I said, we are undertaking a review. Although this is a difficult area, the Government intend to try to ensure that in the future no one else can benefit from such crimes.

My Lords, when the Minister and his colleagues are looking at whether the present law or any future legislation might prevent such payments being made, may I invite the noble Lord to ensure that there is nothing in the provisions of the Human Rights Bill to prevent such a law being enforced?

My Lords, we shall, of course, consider that. This is a difficult area raising complex issues. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has asked his officials immediately to begin a review to see whether any steps can be taken to deal with such cases in the future. We shall certainly bear the Human Rights Bill in mind in such a review.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that where criminals participate in the publication of articles or the production of programmes, such publications or programmes have a strong tendency to exaggerate understanding of, and sympathy for, the action of the criminal and must therefore be seen as unfair to the victims and their families and that on that ground alone, quite apart from the question of profiteering, some law should be introduced to prevent it happening?

My Lords, the review is taking place and we shall look at all matters relating to it.

My Lords, referring to the answer given by the Minister to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, does the noble Lord agree that the Government are not under exactly the same constraints as the previous government to attempt to pacify the press in the run-up to the last election? Therefore, might not the present Government feel a little braver in approaching a privacy law in these important matters?

My Lords, the noble Lord makes an interesting point. He says that the previous government had to pacify the press in the run-up to the election. I can tell the noble Lord that the present Government do not lack courage in dealing with any issue whatsoever.

My Lords, does the Minister particularly welcome the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, since there have been attempts to dress up this exercise as an academic study when it has been hawked around Fleet Street to the highest bidder and marketed and cross-marketed very successfully by the promoting newspapers?

My Lords, like the noble Lord I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, this afternoon that immediate action is being taken in relation to this matter. We must await the outcome of the deliberations. But, like the noble Lord, it is a sorry matter that this has been the subject of a press war in relation to circulation and that this matter has been hawked around to find the highest bidder.

Whitsun Recess

3.32 p.m.

My Lords, it may be convenient for the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise for the Whitsun Recess at the end of business on Thursday, 21st May and return on Monday, 1st June.

Building Regulations (Energy Rating Information) (Amendment) Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Building Regulations 1991 and the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 1985 to secure the provision of further information to purchasers and certain other occupiers of dwellings with respect to the energy rating of dwellings; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Baroness Nicol.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business Of The House: Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 38(5) (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Wednesday, 6th May to allow the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill to be taken before the Motion in the name of the Lord Geddes; and that Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Thursday, 7th May to allow the Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.—(Lord Richard.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Consolidation Bills: Joint Committee

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Lord Razzall be appointed a member of the Joint Committee in the place of the Lord Wigoder; and that the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath be added to the Joint Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Ceremony Of Introduction: Select Committee Report

3.35 p.m.

rose to move, That this House take note of the Report of the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction (HL Paper 78).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise as Leader of the House to move that the House take note of the report produced by the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction. I begin with a few words about the procedure for this afternoon's debate. There are two Motions on the Order Paper today: one to take note of the Select Committee's report and a second to give effect to the committee's recommendations. The first Motion allows a debate to take place on all the issues arising out of the report. It is normal in your Lordships' House to take note of a report of the Select Committee when it is debated. In this case, however, in order to give effect to the recommendations of the report a further, more substantive resolution of the House is required and the second Motion on the Order Paper today has that effect. That Motion is the one to which noble Lords have tabled amendments, to which I shall return in due course. I hope that there will be one substantive debate, on the first Motion, to which I imagine the House will agree without a division. The amendments to the second Motion will then be called and decided without, I hope, further debate. The second Motion will then be put and decided.

I should perhaps explain why I am moving this Motion rather than the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, who chaired the Select Committee with such distinction. There are two reasons. The first, as so often in your Lordships' House, is one of precedent. There is a recent one in the history of your Lordships' House. In 1663 a similar Motion to give effect to a report from the Committee of Privileges entitled "Concerning the introduction of Peers by descent" was moved by the then Lord Privy Seal. As that was only 42 years after the creation of the ceremony over 350 years ago, it is a worthy precedent. The second reason is that it was on my Motion that on 27th October last year the House decided, after going through the usual procedures for a humble Address, to refer this matter to the Select Committee whose report is now before the House. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, will not mind my having first bite today; and I am very much looking forward to his speech.

Before I turn to the report itself, it is a pleasure to see the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, back in his place after his operation. We missed him and we are delighted that he is back.

Turning now to the report itself, as Leader of the House I am very grateful to the Select Committee for the efficient and speedy way in which it conducted its work. I am sure the House will join me in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, who chaired with his usual aplomb this Select Committee on which all parties and the Cross-Benches were represented, and which included both life Peers and hereditary Peers. It is a great tribute to the noble Lord's skills as chairman that the report was unanimously agreed. While it is a tradition of your Lordships' House that Select Committee reports are almost always unanimously agreed by the committee, on a subject such as this where many in the House hold strong and often contradictory views such unanimity could never have been taken for granted. I am greatly looking forward to the speeches by the members of the committee, in particular that of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, whose experience as a former Chief Whip was doubtless very helpful to the committee in forming those unanimous conclusions.

The House may allow me briefly to summarise the committee's recommendations as set out in Part 3 of the report. The Select Committee proposes that a ceremony of introduction for newly created Peers should be retained but modified. Robes would continue to be worn but hats would not, thankfully in my view. The ceremony of placing of Peers would be abolished, as would the practice of kneeling before the Lord Chancellor. The Clerk would read the Letters Patent but not the Writ. Instead of the placing ceremony, the Select Committee recommends that, following the procession into the Chamber, where each member of the ceremonial party should bow on reaching the Bar, the new Peer should move directly to the table for the Reading Clerk to read the Letters Patent and for the Oath to be sworn. Led by Black Rod, the new Peer would process behind the Clerks' chairs and, stopping at the front of the Cross-Benches, the Peer and supporters would bow to the Cloth of Estate. The procession would then move along the Spiritual side of the House with the new Peer shaking hands with the Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack.

The Select Committee recommended that Garter King of Arms should no longer play a part in the ceremony as the placing of Peers is to be discontinued and as it is in this area that Garter performs his main function in the present ceremony.

The committee made three further recommendations not directly connected with the ceremony. First, the new Peer and his supporters should return, not robed, to the Chamber after the ceremony and sit for the first time in that part of the House where the new Peer intends to sit in the future. Secondly, new Peers should be given a leaflet explaining the significance of the ceremony to their future role as members of this legislature. Thirdly, no more than two Peers should be introduced on any one day, save in exceptional circumstances.

I have no hesitation in commending all of these recommendations to your Lordships today. I believe that the report of the Select Committee represents the best traditions of the House, which takes a sensible and balanced approach to reviewing both its work and its procedures. The House has always sought sensitive evolutions from existing practices. In recent years, we have looked at a number of our procedures and have received and acted upon reports from Select Committees, notably the Select Committee under the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. That made substantial recommendations concerned with Committees off the Floor and other procedural reforms. I have in mind also the decision to televise proceedings in your Lordships' House, which was made a number of years before a similar change took place in another place, and which again followed consideration by the appropriate committee. Throughout, our aim as a House has been to maximise the efficiency with which we conduct our business while retaining the best of our constitutional practices and procedures.

The House might recall that when the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction was being established I argued that some form of ceremonial should he retained, but that it should be modified to make it more appropriate to present times. I am delighted that the Select Committee has taken this general line in its recommendations. As paragraph 21 of the report states:
"after considering all the views put to us and the need to present a solution which we believe could be generally accepted by the House, we agreed that a formal ceremony of introduction to the House of Lords should he retained, but some aspects of it should be modified".
The recommendations of the committee show a balance between retaining the dignity and traditional values of the ceremony and improving it, in line with the objective I expressed in October that the ceremony should not lead to,
"boredom in the House and disdain for our procedures".—[Official Report, 27/10/97; col. 886.]
I believe that an appropriate ceremony for modern times should provide a proper introduction for new Peers to the rest of the House; should be dignified and in accordance with the traditions of the House; and should be conducted in a manner which avoids tedious repetition and avoids bringing the House into disrepute. I am delighted to say that, in my view, the recommendations from the Select Committee admirably meet all these objectives.

The Select Committee has proposed doing away with what seemed to me to be the most arcane elements of the ceremony. The doffing of hats and bowing to the Lord Chancellor, and indeed the whole of the ceremony of placing of Peers, may have their roots in some dim forgotten past, but appear quaint and irrelevant to many today. These elements no longer carry meaning in the House—placing indeed conflicts with the doctrine that all Peers are equal—and add to the impression that the ceremonial is overlong.

Perhaps I should at this point remind the House why I have not argued, and never have, for the ceremony to be abolished. This is because it is quite clear that the day on which a Peer first sits in the House is a great occasion for the Peer, and the Peer's family and friends. I believe that a ceremony of introduction is an important part of that sense of occasion and I would oppose its abolition, as I have previously made clear.

Your Lordships will see from my second Motion that I have gone a little further than the Select Committee's report in recommending that the ceremony for Bishops should also be reformed. The Select Committee heard evidence from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, who had consulted his colleagues. The Select Committee noted (in paragraph 10) that the ceremony for the introduction of Bishops to the House of Lords was considerably shorter and simpler than the present ceremony for life Peers and that the Bishops themselves did not recommend any change. The Select Committee noted that there was no criticism of the Bishops' ceremony and made no recommendations on the grounds, I believe, that the Bishops' ceremony was outside its terms of reference.

In tabling the Motion for your Lordships today I considered this position most carefully and concluded, after discussion within the usual channels, that it would be anomalous not to allow the House today to have the opportunity of combining a reform to the ceremony for temporal Peers with a parallel reform for Lords Spiritual. After discussion with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Norwich, I am happy to say that he agrees with my Motion as it stands. It is the intention that a newly introduced Bishop will, immediately after shaking hands with the Lord Chancellor, proceed, with his supporters to the Bishops' Benches. All three Bishops will be robed. Otherwise, the changes proposed by the Select Committee will be applied to the Bishops' ceremony. I look forward to the speech of the right reverend Prelate on these points.

I turn now to the recommendation from the Select Committee that Garter King of Arms should no longer play a part in the ceremony. In this regard, the Select Committee has gone further than I suggested in my speech to the House when we debated the Motion on 27th October last year. The committee made this recommendation because of its other recommendation that the placing of Peers—the part of the ceremony in which Garter has a direct and special role—should be removed. I am sure all Members of the House would wish me to say how grateful we are for the work which Garter has done and will continue to do behind the scenes. I note that the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, has tabled an amendment to reinstate Garter. I should perhaps say that I was a little surprised to see the noble Duke's amendment on the Order Paper today, in the light of the robust evidence he gave to the Select Committee, that:
"Anything that is historical must be updated the whole time. I was appalled when I came to your noble Lords' House to see all this kerfuffle going on when a new peer comes in. I was even more appalled when eventually I was told that the Earl Marshal and Garter were responsible."
I will listen with great care to what he has to say and will listen most closely to his explanation of why he does not take this wholly sensible and consistent attitude towards the recommendation relating to Garter. I have to say that I hope the House will consider carefully before seeking to undo this element in the carefully crafted package of recommendations from the committee. However, perhaps I may emphasise that the reinstatement of Garter is a matter for the House when it votes on the noble Duke's amendment.

Two other amendments have been tabled. The first, from the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, would delay change,
"until this House has had the opportunity to consider Her Majesty's Government's further proposals for Lords reform".
I look forward to the noble Lord's speech, in which I am sure he will tell the House just exactly what he has in mind. At the moment, I have no idea what he has in mind. I also look forward to the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, in which he will no doubt make the case for his amendment, the effect of which would be to accept the need for change, but to delay change until next Session.

We have the chance today to make a small but important piece of history. It is in the best spirit of the House to look initially at itself and to modify its activities when it is right to do so. We had an opportunity only this week to see the ceremony once again, so our evidence is recent. My noble friend Lord Sheppard of Liverpool took his seat on the Government Benches on Tuesday. I know that my noble friend will not object if I say that as a result of the committee's report he may be the last person to do so by means of the ceremony as it stands at present. Since it began as long ago as 1621, it is perhaps not ignoble to be the final recipient of the honour of that procedure.

I think I have said enough. I look forward to the debate ahead and to the contributions of the noble Lords who have indicated a wish to speak. For the moment, I commend the Motion to the House and I beg to move.

Moved, That this House take note of the report of the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction.—(Lord Richard.)

3.40 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for explaining the procedure for the debate and the two Motions standing in his name on the Order Paper. My amendment is no criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, and his colleagues on the Select Committee. As the noble Lord the Leader of the House said, it is a remarkable achievement that he has managed to obtain an agreed report. Apart from the proposals regarding Garter, who I agree should not be excluded, I believe that the Select Committee has retained the essential elements of the ceremony and its dignity. We like ceremony in this country; we are good at it, none better; and life would be very drab without pageantry.

I am glad, too, that the Select Committee proposes to retain the traditional words of the Letters Patent. Such ceremonies should have phrases in them which are not in common use. The Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer have an enormous hold on the people of this country. It is partly because the language was flowering so beautifully when they were written, but it is also because they are different.

My main criticism of the Government's substantive Motion concerns timing. I invite the House to consider the question: why now? This is not a party matter. It is an important domestic issue which concerns the whole House. When the Government were first elected, they said that they would listen. That was a very welcome statement. It is disappointing that the Government did not decide to listen first to the House before tabling their substantive Motion. Had they done so, it may well be that they would have avoided some of the amendments, particularly that relating to Garter, now on the Order Paper.

My second and main point has been made before on many occasions by the Liberal Democrats, from the Cross-Benches as well as by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition. I suggest to the House that it really is not possible to reach an informed judgment on introductions in isolation from other reforms of your Lordships' House which the Government have not yet presented to Parliament. In major constitutional matters of this kind, I do not believe that a piecemeal approach is satisfactory. We need to see the whole picture if we are to take an informed view.

I give one example to your Lordships of the difficulties which may arise if we proceed now. We are told that the Government may propose an elected element in this House. If that were to happen, it would involve a completely new ceremony. Instead of the Monarch creating and summoning, electors would send. We should then need an introductory ceremony similar to that which exists at present in another place. Therefore, we should need another change. I do not believe that it is wise too often to make changes to venerable ceremonies of this kind.

My amendment would not postpone by one single day the Government's reform proposals. The noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal is a senior Member of the Government and is also the Leader of the House. I know that he listens very carefully to views which are expressed in all parts of the House. I submit to the noble Lord that he could accept the amendment in my name without in any way harming the Government's programme. In doing so, the noble Lord would earn the gratitude of the House.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will allow me to correct one point. I do not move the Motion on behalf of the Government. I made it very clear that I am moving it as Leader of the House on behalf of the House, the Select Committee having been set up.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord and I stand corrected.

3.53 p.m.

My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal for the typically genial and fair-minded way in which he introduced the Motion standing in his name. I fully understand the point which he has just made. This is essentially a House of Lords matter. He has carried out his proper duties as Leader of the House. But whatever views we may have and whatever advice we may give to our noble friends, it is for us individually to make up our minds as to what we wish to do.

There are those—and we should acknowledge this—who may think it a curious order of priorities to be discussing the ceremony of introduction today. This is a very busy parliamentary time and the House was kept until after midnight on two occasions earlier this week. With late nights and a heavy programme of legislation, there are many better constitutional, political, economic and social issues with which to concern ourselves. However, I was among those who accepted the case for a fresh consideration of the ceremony when the Leader of the House proposed his Motion on 29th October last. I, too, am grateful to your Lordships' committee and especially to the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, for the speed of the inquiry and the clarity of the report. I believe that it is now better to settle the matter.

Perhaps I may say, in advance of dealing with the main substance, which is the report of the committee, that if your Lordships are disposed to support the Motion before the House and the following resolutions, I can see no reason for postponement of the implementation of the proposals. I listened with great care to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree. I heard what he said about making no informed judgment in advance of wider changes. But I do not regard the ceremony of introduction as a high constitutional matter. It is a matter of concern to this House, and very properly, as noble Lords have shown. But beyond that, we should not extend its importance.

For a moment, I thought that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, was hoping that his amendment might be a wrecking amendment and that, in effect, no change in the ceremony of introduction would take place. If that were the assumption, it has proved to be false. Whatever the case, I do not believe that there is any point in supporting either his amendment or that of the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, to whom I shall also listen extremely carefully, if it merely means delaying for a short while the decision which your Lordships' House has made.

I am relaxed about the amendment of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. I agree with the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal that the noble Duke's evidence to the committee was robust; I enjoyed it; and perhaps that has made me softer or more sympathetic to a role for Garter. I am relaxed on that matter if the House took that view, although I can see the argument of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal that it is better not to start unravelling the recommendations of the report before the House.

My starting point is not one which may be shared by all noble Lords. However, this is primarily a place of work in partnership with the House of Commons in constituting Parliament. We sit for 140 or so days in a year, many of them long days filled with the detailed scrutiny of legislation. Many of your Lordships are regular attenders and contribute substantially in debate and in Committee. We all acknowledge the special role of the Cross-Benches, bringing to the House, as they do, men and women with distinguished careers outside the political mainstream.

I make those obvious points because your Lordships are rightly upset when newspaper reports and especially television programmes dwell on what they seek to portray as our infirmities, eccentricities and archaisms, making us sometimes rather like a Sotheby's by the Thames. Whatever others may suggest, we know that we are not part of the heritage industry. But if we are to take our presence here seriously and uphold public respect for the role of the House, then the ceremony of introduction should reflect our relevance and our practical role. At least, it should not too obviously push in the opposite direction.

I am not over-impressed by two arguments, although very sincerely held, put forward for retaining things as they are. First, there is the family and friends argument. That is simply that the ceremony of introduction provides a nice day out for a new Peer and his guests. Indeed it does and I begrudge nobody any such pleasure. I am sure that my own family and friends enjoyed the occasion. But that can hardly be a serious test of whether the ceremony is justified in its present form and at its present length. We are not joining a club or winning a race. We are starting a new stage in our careers. At least, the House will be respected if that is how the world sees it.

Then there is the argument that the present ceremony, at its present length, enables us to identify new Peers and recognise them later. I respect that point, but do not share it. I may be in a minority, but I find that the ceremony and the wearing of robes disguises as much as it identifies and I am happier spotting and getting to know my new colleagues in the Lobbies and corridors.

There is also the contrary point, made as I understood it in the report, that hereditary Peers taking their seats for the first time do so without ceremony and without robes. I acknowledge the historical basis of that, that their faces were well known to their peers before they arrived here. But that does not stand up today and does not carry sufficient weight to justify such an exemption making the rule that the present ceremony should remain unchanged.

Listening to the debate last October and reading the evidence to your Lordships' committee, I found that almost all the arguments for retaining the ceremony in its present form convinced me of the reverse. The best argument for so doing seems to me to be the simplest one, and the one put by, among others, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers: "it is part of the history of Parliament, it doesn't harm anyone, why all the fuss?"

I return to my starting point, that this is a place of work and is becoming more so. The ceremony should not take up more precious time than is necessary. It should be business-like and, as far as possible, relevant. The noble Lord, Lord Dormand, in his evidence said that the ceremony should be much the same as that for the House of Commons. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, while not sharing that view, described the by-election procedure in another place as: bow to the bar, march three paces, bow again, march to the Table, bow again, swear the Oath and shake hands I found that an entirely adequate ceremony nearly 40 years ago and would not have felt let down by something similar when I arrived here. I am against copying the House of Commons but not against doing something similar on merit if circumstances justify.

But a majority of noble Lords are clearly not happy with such a functional approach and at this point, I confess that I begin to waver myself. Businesslike and relevant: I have said it once, I have said it again and, yet, I hope so. But every institution has its rites of passage to help give it a sense of unity, coherence and loyalty. Where tradition does not exist it is often invented. In this House we have no need for invention. Our traditions have evolved through the centuries and, like most traditions, they include the initiation ceremony that we are discussing today.

I am also prepared to believe—it may be too far fetched, it may be a form of wish fulfilment—that a ceremony taking at least a little time and trouble and embodying a degree of continuity may modestly contribute towards the more consensual approach of your Lordships' House that makes it a calmer and less rhetorical place than the other Chamber.

As we shall see during the course of debate, there are probably almost as many shades of opinion on this matter as there are active Members of your Lordships' House. What your Lordships' committee has proposed—and proposed, as the Lord Privy Seal says, unanimously—is a reasonable compromise. It is not precisely what I might have preferred, but I am very happy to commend it to my noble friends for their favourable consideration.

4.3 p.m.

My Lords, I have sat in your Lordships' House for the best part of six years, so I thought that today was the day when I might come out in my true colours. I do that because I signed this report, as it were, from the radical perspective. I shall rehearse the radical argument in order that those who might not be so radically persuaded might understand that this was a very delicate and difficult consensus, reached with much labour. I pay tribute to both our clerk, Dr. Tudor, and our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, for having reached that consensus.

I should like to ask three questions. First, what is this House? Quite simply, for me it is the second Chamber of a European legislature. Unfortunately, I do not have a full experience of all European legislatures, but I have not yet met one whose rites of passage quite match this place. That is the first question.

The second question is this. We shall hear in the course of this debate much of tradition—and I shall speak for only four minutes, or try to speak within that time. Tradition only exists in the present. I would argue that for a tradition to be meaningful it has to be targeted to the future. To repeat a set of social signs in the present because they happened in the past is no longer meaningful. I see muttering historians on the other side, but I would expect that. The meaning of a tradition is in the present context.

We must ask ourselves what sense the present extended ceremony of introduction has. Speaking personally, I found it demeaning, difficult and objectionable. It was a rite of passage which I did not enjoy passing through. I am a kind of Welsh democrat, and therefore to be dressed up, cross-dressed and doing all these things was not meaningful. It is put to me, when I say these things, that because I happen to be a high Welsh Anglican—which is very high, even for your Lordships' House—I should support the notion of ceremony, but the ceremonial of the Church is designed for the participation of believers. I do not know how many true believers in this Chamber or outside see our ceremony as conveying a meaning of belief in democracy to the outside world.

The other issue we have to discuss is to what extent the notion of representation here is enhanced by the ceremonial. Those of us who come here come nominated through a specific process. Why do we need further induction or introduction or enhancing of our positions when we come here? Surely we are all representatives of a particular context. We represent a profession, we represent an experience of public life or, in my case, we represent a political nomination. When we come here we are all equals and, therefore, I agree with my noble friend Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank.

The ideal ceremony here would be an introduction on a similar basis to the House of Commons, where unrobed, naked into the conference chamber, we become accepted equal peers—well, not quite naked—suitably dressed in proper Armani or Crombie suits we become part of this Chamber. That would give the sign that this building is not about amateur theatricals; it is part of a post-modern democracy.

4.7 p.m.

My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for long. A good starting point for this discussion is the amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. I remind your Lordships that Garter is the person delegated by the Crown to introduce a new Peer. That is how Garter described his own functions in evidence to the committee. In his evidence to the Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, the Government Chief Whip, certainly did not suggest that the Queen's representative of all people should be excluded from the ceremony. The suggestion that Garter should no longer have a role of any sort, not necessarily in the placing of the new Peer, is so odd that I am reminded of the 13th stroke of the crazy clock which was not only erroneous in itself but cast doubt on everything that had gone before.

I do not wish in any way to be critical of those who served on this committee and the way in which they laboured. However, one is tempted to think that a committee capable of coming up with such a completely bizarre recommendation—that the most important person in the exercise apart from the new Peer himself should not be present in some capacity or other—should not expect to be taken quite as seriously as the noble Lord, the Leader of the House suggested.

The next point is the length of time for which the present ceremony has been in existence. Of course, the fact that a ceremony has lasted for nearly 400 years does not mean that it cannot be improved. That is not my argument. However, it is a very strong argument against precipitate change. If people have for hundreds of years been prepared to accept a ceremony as an appropriate way of marking someone's elevation to the peerage, there is certainly no need to rush into change. There is certainly no reason for telling those who may be created Peers during the remainder of this Session that, somehow or other, they will not be treated the same as those introduced earlier, that they are not going to be introduced in the traditional way, and that their ceremony is to be downgraded.

As regards the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree, I shall not rehearse the arguments which he advanced. But I shall just remind your Lordships of the wording of the Labour manifesto which talked of,
"a process of reform to make the House of Lords more democratic and representative".
We are surely entitled to know how this more democratic House is to be composed before deciding the appropriate way in which new Members should be introduced.

I now revert to my amendment, which, of course, I hope will fall on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Dean being carried. It merely provides that the new ceremony should not come into effect until the beginning of the next Session. What on earth will be lost by such a delay? Are noble Lords opposite really prepared to tell the country that, while not prepared to turn up for major debates like the one last week on the reserve forces, they begrudge spending just a few minutes listening to a new Peer being introduced into the House in the way in which new Members have been introduced for hundreds of years?

To sum up, the Government are proceeding with indecent haste. They are putting the cart before the horse when they ask us to decide on the ceremony for entering the House before telling us what sort of House it is to be; and they are asking us to endorse a fundamentally flawed report. I shall hazard one guess today: there will be very little support for the recommendation of the committee that the second most important person at the time of an introduction—namely, Garter himself—should be excluded from the Chamber.

4.12 p.m.

My Lords, of course, as a member of the Select Committee I support the report and its recommendations. However, I also support the Motions tabled in the name of my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal. Although the Committee did not consider the changing of the introduction ceremony for Bishops, we nevertheless invited the Bishops to give evidence and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich appeared before us. I must say that that was most helpful from many points of view. Indeed, it was from the right reverend Prelate that we learnt that the wearing of hats probably dated only to the 19th century. We also based many of our recommendations on the more simple procedure of the introduction of Bishops.

In a way, it was a strange Select Committee. When we started every member had his or her own views, ranging from the complete abolition of any ceremony at all to the suggestion that the present ceremony not only remain intact but also should be extended to Peers by succession. It is, therefore, all the more remarkable that we ended up with a unanimous report and recommendations. Here I, too, should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, for his chairing of the committee and to our Clerk, Dr. Philippa Tudor, who produced for us some most fascinating historical information.

Our first problem stemmed from the fact that there were no real expert witnesses in the usual sense of the term as used by Select Committees. What expertise there was we hope we tapped into; for example, the Earl Marshal, with his experience and historic connections with the Throne and with the other ceremonies of this House generally. In a sense, he encouraged us, as his evidence has clearly already suggested to Members of this House, by indicating how other ceremonies in this Chamber have changed over the years. Garter, too, gave evidence from his role and that of his historic predecessors. As has already been said, Garter is the link between the Monarch and Peers. He was also equally informative and open minded in his evidence. Then there was the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, who brought us the contrast with the introductory ceremony in the other place, which was also helpful.

All that gave us a balanced and historical context for the inquiry. But, in the end, it was a matter of judgment and consensus because, as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said, there was a great deal of give and take in the committee. What we were looking for was a dignified and purposeful ceremony in keeping with the role of a hard-working and distinguished legislative Chamber at the end of the 20th century and one that would do justice to the eminence and achievements of the new Member being introduced. Moreover, we had to bear in mind that the ceremony could be witnessed not only by those present in the House at the time but possibly also by the entire world through the services of television and other media.

We had a number of considerations in mind. They included the sense of occasion for the new Peer and his or her family. Unlike the House of Commons, the new Peer would not have been through the public process of an election, nor an investiture at the Palace. So it had to be an occasion to be remembered. But we did not think that, because there is a possibility that the House will be reformed in the future, this should delay our consideration of immediate reform while the House is in its present state and probably has a lot of work to do before it is reformed.

Secondly, the new Peer was being introduced to the House and the House to the new Peer. As we were no longer concerned with a small group of families, as the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, indicated, who had probably known each other from birth, but with a large legislative Chamber composed of people from all walks of life who were not likely to know very many people before they came here, we decided that the ceremony should not be too short and peremptory, as, I must say, is the case with current Peers by succession.

The third point that we had in mind was the fact that the Chamber, while still of an independent mind—as has been shown to many governments by decisions of your Lordships' House—is now organised on a party basis and not on the basis of a hierarchy of Peers descending from Dukes to Barons. Therefore, "placing" had to have more sense of realism. Fourthly, in keeping with the traditions of the House any changes need to be incremental.

I believe that our recommendations take account of these considerations. The procession, led by Black Rod with two sponsors, all robed, gives that sense of occasion. The procedure we recommend is simple and dignified. It retains the reading of the historic Letters Patent which are unique to the Peer being introduced. All this process will last sufficiently long to enable the new Peer to be seen by the House—and perhaps better seen if hats are not worn.

The placing appears to be one of the most controversial aspects of the report. The placing that we recommend in effect comes after the introduction, with at least one sponsor being required to conduct the new Peer to the appropriate Benches. Such placing will no longer require the presence of Garter in the House, although of course—as was recognised by the committee—he will still have the important role of preparing the title and arranging for the new Peer to be introduced. I shall be interested to hear what the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, has to say about this when we discuss his amendment.

I believe that the other amendments that have been spoken to this afternoon have little to do with the fundamental recommendations of the committee and the fundamental thrust of the committee, which is that this is a busy, important and effective legislative Chamber and we need changes now. I believe that this simplified introduction procedure serves the traditions of the House. I hope that the report and its recommendations will be supported by the House.

4.22 p.m.

My Lords, I reiterate the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, who has just said that we need changes now. As regards the two amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Dean of Harptree and Lord Waddington, respectively, I hope that your Lordships will reject them. I think that we should tackle the problem. Who knows what will happen in the future? It appears that more life Peers will be introduced. I think the time has come to update the procedure of their introduction. We should deal with that now and shorten it, as the committee has said.

I turn to my amendment. I say, with humility, that I want to take your Lordships back into history. All your Lordships know that a peerage is the greatest honour that a monarch can confer on any subject. It is a greater honour than the Order of the Garter or of the British Empire. In medieval times a monarch conferred that honour himself or herself. In the reign of James I too many Peers were created. That is a subject on which one can read all kinds of stories. It is a period before the Cromwellian revolution. It was then decided—I imagine by the House—that a curb should be put on the number of peerages that were being created.

On 29th August 1621 the Earl Marshal was told to organise a ceremony to take place in this House. That was organised by the Earl Marshal with Garter, or one of the other "kings" representing him. I see the three "kings" in Black Rod's Box now listening to the debate. Black Rod has kindly allowed them to be present. It was then agreed that this ceremony should take place here. However, it is a royal ceremony. It is the Crown who confers the peerage, not the government. With the permission of the government the Crown confers the peerage. This great honour to a subject of this Kingdom takes place now in this House.

Once the Crown decides to confer a peerage, the Crown must be represented in this Chamber when it takes place. The person who represents the Crown is Garter⁁the principal King of Arms. He has already had a big hand in the creation of the peerage in question. The new Peer goes to see him. The Garter consults the records and says, for example, to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, "I can make you Lord Richard, the Lord Privy Seal, because there is no other Lord Richard. You cannot be called Lord Howard because there are 10 other Lord Howards in existence". The noble Lord cannot be called Lord Howard of Glossop, like my great-grandfather. One of the Howards in my family led the defeat of the Armada. I just mention that quietly. Garter must reach agreement with the new Peer as regards the name the latter is to adopt. Then Garter, with the Home Office, writes the Letters Patent. He produces the Letters Patent and at the introduction of a new Peer he comes to the House and gives the Letters Patent, which he has framed and written, to the new Peer who gives them to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Garter is a vital person in this ceremony. Without him the Crown would not be represented.

Black Rod is also an important person in this House. His function in this House at the moment is to represent the Lord Great Chamberlain. The Lord Great Chamberlain runs this House but not the House of Commons, which has asserted its authority to run its own House. However, the Lord Great Chamberlain still runs this House. His deputy is Black Rod. Black Rod joins the procession of a new Peer to organise the administration of the little ceremony. But the Crown is represented by Garter.

I end simply by saying that the placing of the new Peer—which will be abolished according to the excellent committee of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh—is not, as the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal said, the most important function of Garter. It is unimportant. When the House sat by seniority it was of some importance but the House no longer sits by seniority; it sits by opposition, government and so on. Garter's ceremony and function is to represent the Crown. Our constitution consists of the Crown, the Lords and the Commons. The Crown is the fount of honour.

4.30 p.m.

My Lords, before giving evidence to the Select Committee, I consulted the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the 10 most senior Bishops in the House of Lords. They appreciated the arguments for simplifying the ceremony of introduction for life Peers, but saw little need to change the ceremony for Bishops, mainly for two reasons. Our ceremony is already shorter and simpler than that for temporal Peers, since there is no reading of the Letters Patent and we conduct the ceremony ourselves without the aid of Garter King of Arms. Because we are used to taking part in ceremonies on a weekly basis, not to mention the fact that two of us were trained at Sandhurst, we believe that our ceremony is conducted with precision, and I think that on the whole people enjoy it. It is also the case that the introduction of a Bishop is a relatively infrequent occurrence. The year 1997 was a record year, without precedent in living memory; it saw the introduction of eight Bishops. The average is two or three introductions each year.

We believe that the changes proposed to the ceremony for life Peers are minor and sensible. The simplified movements that are proposed do not in our view detract from the proper dignity of the occasion. I am entirely in agreement with the argument that hats are unnecessary. (That may sound a strange thing for a Bishop to say.) They form a relatively modern feature of the ceremony. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, noted, they have been in existence for probably no more than 150 years. I also agree that we should do away with the three bows. There has been much discussion about the significance of the three bows, and speculation that they symbolise the three persons of the Trinity. That is a worthy and pious suggestion, but almost certainly has no basis in fact. It is of course always open to us to put interpretations on ceremonies, or indeed to invent new ceremonies if we wish. One of my brother Prelates suggested that we should increase the number of bows to 10 in commemoration of the Ten Commandments, which would serve as a reminder to Lords Spiritual and Temporal of their ethical priorities. It was not an entirely flippant suggestion. It would surely be approved by that high Welsh Anglican, the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas.

We believe that it is also reasonable for the Clerk to read the Letters Patent only, and to omit the Writ of Summons. In the case of Bishops, the reverse would happen. Because we receive our Letters Patent before our entry into this House, we shall continue to have the Writ of Summons read.

The Lord Privy Seal has already referred to the Select Committee report, which makes this comment:
"The ceremony of the introduction of bishops to the House of Lords is considerably shorter and simpler than the present ceremony for newly-created temporal peers, and we encountered no criticism of it".
The section ends:
"we make no recommendations in this report about the Bishops' ceremony".
The Bishops naturally presumed that, following publication of the report, there would be no changes to the Bishops' ceremony. However, the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal made clear that changes were to be proposed. I was therefore grateful for the postponement of this debate since it enabled me to consult my brother Prelates once more. As I said, we agreed in general with the proposals for the introduction of life Peers, and we appreciate the reasons why it was thought sensible to align the Bishops' ceremony with that. My brother Prelates were reasonably content with the Motion as it affects us, except in one respect.

The Select Committee proposes the abolition of "placing". The reasons why the committee did that are understandable. However, we wish to make known our conviction that the notion of placing has symbolic importance, and its total disappearance would mean the loss of something significant. In ecclesiastical ceremonies a Bishop is placed in his throne. Deans, cathedral canons, and incumbents are all "installed" in places from which they will exercise their ministry and authority. The same is true of the sovereign; and placing is important in military ceremony for similar reasons. The logic in this House would be that a Peer, temporal or spiritual, would be placed, during his or her introduction, based on the same principles. But that is more difficult here. Placing in the rear row of the Barons' Bench has become meaningless in terms of the place from which authority is exercised. That is not so in the case of the Bishops. We are the only Members of this House, apart from the sovereign and the Lord Chancellor, whose places have continued unchanged for centuries. The placing of a Bishop at his introduction, particularly in the second row rather than the rear row, would mean that the placing ceremony had very obvious meaning.

We felt that quite strongly, and a number of my brethren urged me to table an amendment to exempt the Bishops' ceremony from any change until we had had time to arrive at a common mind. Because we were in general agreement with the proposed changes, I thought this a bit cumbersome. I told them that, as their representative, I was not prepared to go to the stake about it—not least because, in their reforming zeal, the Government might use that martyrdom to reduce the number of Lords Spiritual. But then the Lord Bishop of Chichester, the Father of the House of Bishops, came to my rescue with an elegant compromise, which has allowed us to make our point and at the same time to support the Motion proposed by the Lord Privy Seal.

At the end of the ceremony for the Introduction of temporal Peers, the Select Committee recommends that the newly introduced Peer, with his supporters, after removing his robes outside the Chamber, should return immediately and sit in his normal place. It has been agreed that something similar should happen with the Bishops. Because we do not need to leave the Chamber to remove our robes, immediately after the Lord Chancellor has greeted the new Bishop, he will, with his supporters, take his place in the second row of the Bishops' Benches. This will not officially form part of the ceremony of introduction, but will follow it immediately. This little piece of variety is a positively good thing because it will serve to remind members of an ancient ceremony which used to apply to all but has been kept as a residual ceremony for the small number of Lords Spiritual who are introduced each year. As a footnote, it is interesting that in the 17th century, when the introduction was reduced to its bare minimum, every bit of ceremony disappeared, except the placing of the new Peer.

A few weeks ago I was in hospital for an operation on my knee. At the same time an eminent Norfolk parishioner, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was in another London hospital for an operation on his hip. We used our bedside telephones to commiserate with each other. I assured him of my prayers. He sent me champagne. It seemed to me a model of what a good relationship between Church and state should be. We hope that he will soon be fully recovered and restored to his place in this House, fighting fit. I am glad to say that relationships between these benches and the Government Front Bench are equally cordial, though I have yet to receive champagne from them. The Lord Privy Seal has been immensely helpful to us over the question at issue, and I want to express our gratitude for his willingness to accept the compromise we have proposed.

4.39 p.m.

My Lords, the committee of which I had the privilege of being a member represented in its composition the whole range of views, from making no change at all in the ceremony of introduction to its total abolition. A committee formed in this way has its disadvantages. If, for example, we had sought to address ourselves to the main question—namely, was any change necessary or even desirable?—our discussions would never have got off the ground. On the other hand, the committee was very well equipped to achieve a working compromise. If your Lordships want a change—and it is not yet clear whether the House as a whole does—I believe the package that we have suggested is the one that is most likely to achieve general support.

I had three main reservations about seeking to change the introduction procedure in this way. They are still unresolved. Perhaps my mind may be set at rest over some of them this afternoon.

The first is whether any change in procedure that we might agree to now is likely to have any adverse knock-on effect on other ceremonies and traditions of your Lordships' House and even beyond. After all, this House runs on traditions and one should change them only by deliberate intent, when it is beyond all question that it is right to do so. I tried to raise this when the committee first met but I was told by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, the chairman—and this was reinforced by Dr. Philippa Tudor, clerk to the committee—that it would not be proper for us to discuss anything other than the introduction ceremony itself. Of course I accepted that ruling without further question, but if the committee were to be debarred from considering the wider future effects of any of their recommendations, the corollary must also be true: that it would be equally wrong for anyone to cite any of them as a precedent in support of other changes that he might in the future wish to make.

My next concern is that it has long been my experience that political compromises are liable to be regarded by one side as a binding agreement and by the other as a stepping stone towards going the whole way. If this should happen in this case, gone will be the protection of the validity afforded by unbroken usage of over 300 years. I think therefore that the House should only accept this package if it is prepared to regard it as sacrosanct for at least a considerable number of decades and that, if noble Lords are not so prepared, we should retain the status quo.

My third concern, and I touched on this at the beginning, is whether your Lordships may not be drifting involuntarily into accepting a change that perhaps the majority do not in fact want. When this suggestion was last debated 23 years ago, the House rejected any change by a majority of over three to one. This time, your Lordships accepted the proposals for a Select Committee without a vote, out of courtesy to the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the House, which is the master of its committees and has not yet had the opportunity of expressing itself on whether it really wants this or any other change.

But whatever the solution we accept this afternoon, it must be seen to be the genuine wish of the House as a whole. In that connection, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde has authorised me to say that noble Lords on these Benches have a free vote. I hope that when the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal comes to reply, he will confirm that similar freedom will be allowed to his noble friends.

4.41 p.m.

My Lords, I rise to support the Select Committee recommendations. I believe that it has managed to arrive at a ceremony which is befitting the honour being bestowed on any individual, while removing the less dignified aspects of the ceremony which, coincidentally, are the ones that the new Peers dread the most. I think that the Members of the Select Committee have achieved their aim of arriving at a dignified, simplified and sensible procedure.

It is also important to stress that the supporters of change are not trying to throw away the inherited traditions of the House. The ceremony has a long and complex history behind it, one that should not be forgotten or treated with contempt. But it has to be in keeping with our developed role as parliamentarians. We have to acknowledge that, irrespective of whether we are hereditary Peers, Peers who came in through the honours system or mere working Peers like myself, we are legislators and a fundamental part of the enactment of legislation in this country. As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, and my noble friend Lady Lockwood said, your Lordships' House is a working House.

There are, however, arguments in favour of change that I reject. I do not believe that these proposals have anything to do with the concept of modernisation—a much over-used word. Nor do I believe that the time argument and the consequent boredom of some Peers is relevant. What is relevant, however, is striking the right balance between the sense of history which surrounds your Lordships' House and the appropriate procedures for your Lordships as serious politicians.

Another common theme that has run throughout the debate has been that of dignity, which I believe is absolutely essential. It is why I make the next few comments. It is in that context that I want to consider briefly and examine the placing ceremony. I maintain that there is nothing dignified about the awkward business of climbing the steps to the rearmost Benches in unaccustomed robes, often too long or sometimes fastened with safety pins. There is nothing dignified in Members of a parliamentary legislature bobbing up and down three times—sometimes in unison, more often not. Nor is there anything dignified in the often unco-ordinated sweep of hats by male Peers. It is remarkable that a team of three Peers manages to produce such eccentric movements.

Much has been said about the origins of that part of the ceremony and clearly the placing of Barons is understood. But why do we have to doff three times? That was a question asked frequently in the Select Committee itself and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. There are many different explanations and I appreciate that the number three has its place in history, that it is often perceived as a magic number. But in reality, as Garter told the Select Committee, on page 16, at paragraph 95 of the report, nobody knows the reason. There is no better argument for elimination of something than not knowing why we are doing it.

Equally, while there was a logical reason for the placing of Peers in order to distinguish their rank, that is no longer the case, for two reasons. First, the Barons' Benches as such no longer exist. In 1954 the House abandoned its seating arrangements as laid down in the Act of Henry VIII. Secondly, it is often said that one of the great assets of your Lordships' House is that we are all equal, although of different rank. So not only is that part of the ceremony open to ridicule, lacking in dignity, it has also ceased to be relevant. But as the noble Duke the Duke of Norfolk said, that does not necessarily mean that there is not a role for Garter King of Arms as the Queen's representative. We should give that further consideration.

Now to the positive, my Lords. I believe that the Select Committee is right to retain the wearing of robes. I believe that they add to the dignity of the ceremony and, importantly to my mind, they distinguish us from the other Chamber. Equally, they add to the sense of occasion and pride, not only for the new Peer but also for family and friends. I am, however, glad to see that it is proposed that hats be no longer worn. I can only speak from a woman's perspective. I have always been in constant dread that my hat will fall off, to my consequent embarrassment. If a ceremony is to be truly dignified, there should be no part of it that can be potentially embarrassing to its participants.

I do not believe that so far the role of sponsors has been raised in the debate. I have always felt great pride in being asked to act as a sponsor. In my evidence to the Select Committee, I made the point that for the Peers being introduced, having sponsors whom they have personally chosen gives them an immediate sense of belonging and also gives them someone to whom they can turn for advice and support. I also said in my evidence that an important part of the sponsor's duty should be to accompany the new Peer back into the Chamber after the ceremony to their appropriate seat. I am pleased that the Select Committee supported that view.

I wish to make one further point before my conclusion. It relates to the taking of the Oath. The taking of the Oath and the signing of the Scroll are crucial and rightly retain their place as the core of the ceremony. But also of great significance is the need for your Lordships' House to acknowledge the Peer's right to sit and vote as a newly created Member of your Lordships' House by the reading of the Letters Patent. I believe, although I note from the Select Committee Report that not everyone agreed, that they should be in their original language.

As has been said, it is the document by which the peerage is created. It is only received once and is distinctive to the individual Member. That does distinguish it from the Writ of Summons which is in common form to Peers by creation and by descent and which is issued before each Parliament. However, the Writ is a vital document in the peer-making process and while it is not necessary for it to be read out, there should be within the procedure some means for it to be handed to the Lord Chancellor.

In conclusion, I do not believe that there has been any logic in the argument put in favour of delay. If it is felt that the introduction procedures warrant change, why should we delay? It is important that we act instantly.

The proposals before us satisfy the criteria identified in the documents issued to the procedure committee last October. They have due regard to the needs of the sovereign, the House and the new Peer. They improve on the dignity of the occasion; they retain the sense of ceremony and are befitting for a working parliamentary legislative Chamber. I therefore have pleasure in supporting the Select Committee report.

4.50 p.m.

My Lords, though I listened with admiration to the Members of the Select Committee who spoke in support of their recommendations, and in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, unlike everyone else who has so far spoken, I am unhappy with the recommendations with which the committee has come forward. I have always made it perfectly plain that I do not see a need for a change in the introduction ceremony at this time.

I should make it clear at the start of my remarks that I very much support the view of my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree. I agree with his main argument: why change now? The Government have said, time without number, that it is their intention to reform this House. If that is indeed the case, the time to look at all these matters is at the moment of reform.

What it means—my noble friend Lord Denham put it far more eloquently than I can—is that we are seeing a kind of death by a thousand cuts: "First get rid of one thing and then we shall get rid of another". Put inelegantly, it is a kind of constitutional "dumbing down". I see no advantage in doing this at this particular time.

The only real reason adduced by the report for the suggestion that we need a change is that we have had exceptional circumstances—59 new Peers being introduced in the past year. But, in my experience of public life, legislation introduced because of exceptional circumstances is usually bad legislation and one comes to regret it. I am bound to say that the analogy which the Leader of the House—I am sorry he is not in his place at this time—made with the changes recommended by the Jellicoe Committee are not exact. We were there talking about the administrative procedures of the House, which is quite different.

On the detail, I should like to say this. Of course we can all make jokes about ceremonies. There is not a single ceremony, whether it is in the Church, the state, the services or anywhere else, which one cannot regard as funny and therefore mimic. Many people have done that very well. I was particularly entertained by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas. I feel that he should be put into a glass case and kept as something special!

Everybody referred to the question of hats. As someone who spent a large part of her life in the academic world, I can say that one only needs to attend a degree ceremony to see how often hats are doffed. There can be few, if any, Members of your Lordships's House who have not experienced such a ceremony—many on more than one occasion—particularly if they have received an honorary degree, and who therefore know how often hats are doffed. We can laugh at that too. Academics above all love dressing up in robes—the most magnificent of robes; often far more magnificent than those worn in your Lordships' House.

If one asks oneself the simple question, "Why does all this happen?", the answer is because, in universities, it is felt to be a serious matter. It is a serious matter to obtain a degree. It is a great honour to receive an honorary degree and I do not see why, if we accept ceremony under those circumstances, one should think it funny here. It is only funny if one is trying to downgrade the House of Lords, and that is what I suspect is behind this. The Leader of the House may believe me to be quite wrong. However, I suspect that there is a hidden agenda about which we do not know.

The other point I should like to make is that I was very moved by the remarks of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. Like my noble friend Lord Waddington, I find the suggestion not only bizarre but, more than that, offensive that the Garter should not be included in the ceremony. I find it incredibly offensive that, as a House of Parliament, we should be prepared to agree to a report in which that conclusion is reached. I was glad to hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, that she believed it was something which should be looked at again should the report be carried, and I hope that that will be the case. However, I do not believe it is right for a Select Committee of this House to dismiss somebody who has had a role in this specific ceremony for hundreds of years on the say-so of a few weeks' consideration. It is offensive and I cannot possibly accept it.

I believe that at this time we should not change these procedures. I stand by what I said. It will lead to a gradual taking away of parts of your Lordships' House which have existed for hundreds of years. It in no way detracts from the House as a working Chamber. It is because the House is a working Chamber and is of significance in the constitution—it is now recognised outside Your Lordships' House by the British people as being one of the few parts of the constitution where issues are discussed properly and effectively—that we should keep its procedures to indicate how important it is as a House.

4.56 p.m.

My Lords, your Lordships will be happy to know that I will be briefer than I intended because almost everything I wanted to say has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. However, perhaps I can begin, as I have on previous occasions in your Lordships' House, with a text which I regard as being almost sacred in these contexts; that is, a comment made many years ago by the Viscount of Falkland, an ancestor of the noble Viscount who sits in the House today. The quotation may be familiar to many Members of your Lordships' House. He said,

"When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change".
I believe that that is the position with which we are now faced. I have heard nothing either from the members of the Select Committee or from the Lord Privy Seal to persuade me that change now is necessary. It may be a good idea for the further modernisation of our society, of our habits and our ceremonies. But is it necessary? The answer clearly is that it is not. I therefore follow the Viscount of Falkland in saying that it is necessary not to do anything about it at all.

However, if we are going to do something about it, I hope that better arguments can be adduced than those put forward by the Select Committee. The Lord Privy Seal spoke about a ceremony appropriate to the present time. We do not necessarily need ceremonies appropriate to the present time. We have traditions which have stood us well in this country, not just for decades, but for centuries. Why do we want something that is appropriate to the present time? I should not have thought that the present time was all that admirable.

In that context, the Lord Privy Seal went on to speak of the ceremony—I am not sure whether he was referring to the ceremony or other aspects of this House-as "quaint" and "irrelevant". There are many things that could be characterised as quaint and irrelevant. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, that is usually the language of people who want to downgrade, ridicule and undermine something. I believe that is what is being done with the change to the ceremony in this House.

The Lord Privy Seal went on to say something which also appears in the report of the Select Committee and with which I wholeheartedly agree; that is, that the ceremony of the introduction of a Peer is a great day for the Peer, for his friends and for his family. For me, when I first came into this House and was introduced by the present ceremony well over 30 years ago, it was a great day. What was great about it was the sense of history that I felt coursing through me as I came into the Chamber with my supporters and went through the ceremony. It is a sense of history which I still get when I walk into this House every day, and I think it would be a great shame if we were to do anything to remove that sense which I think most of us have when we sit in your Lordships' House.

If I may, I will briefly refer to the question of Garter, because I share the views that have already been expressed. It is shameful—I use that word advisedly—that we should be recommending the removal of the Garter King of Arms from the introduction ceremony. I think it is especially ironic that this document, The Origin of the Introduction of Peers in the House of Lords, is written partly, indeed largely, by Sir Anthony Wagner, who was the Garter King of Arms when I was introduced into this House. It does seem strange that the man who has produced the definitive history of the origin of the introduction of Peers should now be on the verge of being "sacked" because he should no longer be part of this quaint and irrelevant ceremony.

My real point is again one that has already been made, and it is this: if we ask is any change necessary, my answer is no. But I would refer specifically to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree. Why is it necessary now? What is there so magic about this time that requires us suddenly to be fiddling around with the ceremonial of this House? I would like to know, as many other noble Lords would, I think, what the big picture is in the minds of the Government. I do them the honour of accepting that there is a big picture in their minds and that they must know—somebody must know—what sort of House this is going to be in the future. What they have in mind I do not know. We know from the manifesto of one project which they have in mind—a project which we are moving quietly towards—but I should like to know what they think this House will look like when they have finished its reform.

It may be of course a House in which ceremonial of any kind is totally quaint and irrelevant so that later on we can do away with it altogether; but I do not know what kind of House this will be and, quite frankly, I do not believe that they do either. Therefore I would strongly resent and oppose any form of piecemeal change in which single measures are brought forward without anybody knowing what is going to follow. I shall not sit idly by—and I think many of my noble colleagues will share my view—while stage one is first dealt with and then in due course and in good time we will move on to stage two. It is for that reason that I support wholeheartedly the view of the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, in saying that until we know what kind of a House this is going to be—and none of us knows that at the moment—we should not start tinkering around with ceremonial or with procedures unless we know what the end result of it all will be.

5.2 p.m.

My Lords, this ceremony affirms affinity with the Sovereign, as described by my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. It also acknowledges allegiance and it replaces personal investiture. I do not share the concept of the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, that your Lordships' House is just a second chamber of a European Parliament. I stand wholly behind what has been said by my noble friends Lord Harptree and Lord Denham, by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and just now by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who asked what kind of a House it will be.

The argument I deploy is that, notwithstanding broad approval of the recommendations, subject to the retention of the attendance of Garter always, implementation should be delayed until the substance of the proposals of Lords reform has been considered by your Lordships. Such is the purpose of this speech. And why so?—because nobody has any idea as to the nature or the purpose of the proposed modernisation, reform and reconstitution of your Lordships' House, save as regards this stage one abolition of the hereditary entitlement.

It is accepted that stage one, as such, would not render implementation inappropriate. But what about stage two? Is there ever going to be a stage two? This could well involve some new constitutional settlement for consideration of both Houses. What sort of a House are we to become? —a repository of patronage for political placemen? Is our ethos and independence to be slighted as guardians of the constitution and as a curb on Executive power? Shall we, for all one knows, become a subservient mirror image of another place to nurture some form of unicameral government? We simply do not know. And, if so, the spirit of affinity with the Sovereign would evaporate. The purpose of the symbolism would no longer subsist and the retention of this ceremony would not be appropriate.

Implementation as proposed in the Motion is no mere matter of domestic concern relating to changes in our procedures, as is the opinion, with respect, of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. With respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, it was not within the remit of the terms of reference for the Select Committee to consider whether proposed reform of your Lordships' House could render implementation of the recommendations wholly inapposite. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, referred to an initial conversation at the Select Committee, and I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, when he comes to speak, could clarify not only that this was not within the terms of reference but that the Committee did not and could not have taken this aspect of implementation into account, that being wholly a matter for the business of your Lordships' House.

There is grave and justified anxiety as to the nature and purpose of the proposed reform. This Motion to implement forthwith raises untold problems of pre-emption. If we had known that such a Motion, as distinct from the "take note" Motion, would have been tabled when setting up this Select Committee was before your Lordships' House, perhaps arguments along the lines to which I have referred, and support, would have been advanced. However, would it not have been reasonable to assume that the House would merely have a "take note" Motion and that thereafter implementation could be considered in the light of such debate?

It is all very well. But on 20th April the noble Lord, Lord Richard, informed your Lordships that the substance of proposed reform would not be known when the stage one abolition Bill came before your Lordships' House; that there would be no better informed debate; and there would be no option paper on alternatives for reform. Without knowledge—

My Lords, this is rather more important than the ceremony of introduction. I have never said that there would be no options paper before the stage one Bill was considered by this House. I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, whether I would produce an options paper now, and I said no.

My Lords, I must not argue a point of understanding or misunderstanding. All I can tell the House is that I transcribed these notes from Hansard—I gave the noble Lord notice, as it so happens, because he is a friend of mine in another sort of way—and this is by my lights an honest representation of what he said. It certainly represents what I understood him to say.

Against what the noble Lord has said, however one interprets it, without the knowledge of the substance, how can we implement the trappings? My noble friend Lord Denham has put it so clearly. If it is to be a short-term exercise, if the recommendations are to have mere interim effect, why not retain, as my noble friend Lord Denham put it, the status quo?

5.11 p.m.

My Lords, I rise after these speeches as somewhat of an anomaly in that I am in favour of the recommendations made by the Select Committee. They are sensible. A dignified ceremony has been proposed. It is one which would give pleasure both to the recipient of the peerage and to his kinsmen or family and it would also enable the House to have a look at him. The only possible problem is the one raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, who, as Earl Marshal of England, I was so pleased to see in support of the main proposals of the committee. The only question that he raised was the status of Garter.

When I was made a Peer I wrote to Sir Anthony Wagner, at whose father's school I was when I was aged seven, and asked whether he could help me. He said. "I am very sorry. I cannot do anything to help you because you are, by Scottish descent, a matter for Lyon King of Arms to attend to". I got in touch with Lord Lyon and he said to me, "What do you intend to call yourself?". I said that I hoped to be able to call myself Lord Annan, as to the best of my belief there was no other Lord Annan. He said, "Who's the head of your family?". I said that I did not know. He said, "You can't call yourself Lord Annan unless you are Annan of that Ilk". At this point I became terrified. He said, "You must change your name at once". So I consulted and looked at the map of Annandale and I found a small tributary called the River Ae, which flows into the River Annan. I asked Lord Lyon whether I could then become Lord Annan of Aeside and would have to sign my name in that way. He said, "That would be so".

At this point my family intervened. My 13 year-old daughter said, "Do you realise that pop records on the gramophone have an A side and a B side and that I shall call you Lord Annan of B side if you accept this?". So I went back to Lord Lyon and said that my family was very unhappy. He said, "Your family is a very foolish lot". However, when I pressed the point it appeared that there was no problem at all. I did not have to change my name, though I had the great honour of being allowed to be Lord Annan, of the Royal Burgh of Annan. But that did not mean that I had to sign my name in a different way.

I say this because there is an element of something ludicrous in our procedures as they have been until this date. There is something ludicrous in the idea that you become a different person, a different class in society, someone superior to the hoi polloi in the rest of the country. That is what I do not like and that is what I think the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, dislikes, although he has been ridiculed for holding these views.

The problem we are facing is one of how to make a dignified second Chamber slightly less absurd. I say that because I know it is difficult for noble Lords to accept that this may be true. We know how hard the people in this House—the working Peers (not people like myself)—work, the hours they keep and the little recompense they get for it. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, talked about how the rest of the country regard this House as a splendid place and as one of the few bulwarks of liberty left since the decline of the other place. That is a view which I understand many of your Lordships will hold but it is not a view which is held in the country at large. In the country at large we are still a slightly absurd body because of these eccentric customs. That is why I think this modest move to make our introductions less eccentric but still dignified is a move in the right direction.

The noble Lords, Lord Dean of Harptree and Lord Waddington, asked why we should do it now. On that small point, whether or not we should do it this Session or next Session, it seems to me absurd to have the debate today and then go over the whole thing again in a few months' time. Why delay the matter, which is not essential to any part of the business of the House, and then consider it again? On the question of whether we should do it today or tomorrow, I think it is clear that it should be today.

Then we come to the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that we should never change anything until we know everything that could possibly be said about changing the House of Lords. That is a splendid argument: never change anything until you know what you are going to do for the whole of the rest of time; not merely in this century, but in the next. I know that is a well-known device for delaying any kind of decision about the membership of this House until the Greek Kalends. That argument has been put forward again and again by those who want to delay any major discussion of the powers and the membership of the House. I hope that we will not allow these considerations to deflect us from coming to a sensible conclusion on this matter today.

My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, he misunderstood those of us who are speaking along the same lines. We are saying that it is not a question of today or tomorrow: not that we must know every little thing, but the substance of the reform, and that it ought to be debated in both Houses. Surely that is not an unreasonable suggestion.

My Lords, I agree that the reform is bound to be debated in both Houses, but the matter which we were discussing is not a matter of substance. If I may use the medieval scholastic term about Transubstantiation, this Motion concerns mere accidents and not the essence or substance of the House of Lords.

5.20 p.m.

My Lords, rather like many other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, I would not have instigated this change. However, there are some good recommendations in the report. I particularly agree with the Select Committee's opinion on page 8 that affirms its belief,

"that a formal introduction marking the solemn recognition both of the achievement of the new member of the House and of his or her new duties and responsibilities as a member is justified".
There is no doubt that that is greatly appreciated both by the new Member and the watching friends and family, as emphasised by the Lord Privy Seal this afternoon.

As many other noble Lords have said, this is a hard working House. It is also important that new Peers appreciate the fact that they are taking on duties and responsibilities. It is not at all obvious from the reports of our work in the media. That is why I particularly want the Writ of Summons to be read out, as it will continue to be done for the introduction of Bishops. I would be happy if it were read only once if two Peers are to be introduced. The words,
"considering the difficulty of the said affairs and dangers impending, (waiving all excuses)",
"we shall attend and speak", certainly emphasise for me, together with solemnly taking the oath, the historic nature of the ceremony and therefore my future duty for playing a responsible part in the work of this House.

Each new Peer will continue to receive the Writ and Standing Orders. I am glad that in future they will also receive a leaflet explaining the significance of the ceremony to their future role as Members of a legislature. New Members also now receive an induction seminar which is very helpful. In another place the Speaker keeps order. In our House it is each Member's personal responsibility to help preserve order in the House, which in my view makes a very important contribution to the whole philosophy of this House and the regard each Member has for each other's point of view. It contributes to a greater sense of tolerance across parties, and Cross-Benchers are a very important part of our House, too, not present in the Commons.

I am glad that robes will continue to be worn, but I do not mind particularly about hats or their doffing or kneeling to the Lord Chancellor on what are often well-worn knees. As all new Peers go to the College of Heralds to agree with Garter their title, and possibly their coat of arms, I feel deeply that Garter should take part in the ceremony particularly, as has been said by noble Lords, he is the present representative of the Crown. I agree with the amendment of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk which I support wholeheartedly. I hope that it will be agreed by the whole House.

The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, wishes to delay the new ceremony until the House has had the opportunity to consider Her Majesty's Government's further proposals for Lords' reform. The more I hear suggestions for possible root and branch reform in place of the hereditary peerage, the more I believe that this matter should receive much deeper, further consideration than has been accorded so far before any action is taken. These suggestions include a fully elected House, fewer Bishops, a fully-paid House—and there will be many others.

These possible alterations will affect in a complex way many other long-accepted traditions of our country. They might—and almost certainly will—cost a great deal more and would certainly affect fundamentally the balance of power between the two Houses. I believe that a commission should be set up consisting of Members of both Houses, of all parties or none, to consider all the full implications of change before any change is made in the composition of our House. I would therefore prefer the amendment of my noble friend Lord Waddington so as not to delay this change in the introduction ceremony too long, as my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk said earlier, but at the same time giving much fuller consideration to the whole question of the composition and powers of the two Houses. That is bound to take a much longer period of time and must not be carried out in stages. I believe that that is vital before any further decisions are made for change.

5.25 p.m.

My Lords, much of what I had intended to say has already been said and I will therefore not repeat it. However, I did note that the Government Chief Whip, as the sole Government representative to address the Select Committee, stated,

"I would like to put the discussion in the context of the desire to modernise Parliament".
The report is not, therefore, to be considered as a stand-alone situation, as has been argued. It should be part and parcel of a review of all the existing customs, practice and fabric of Parliament and should be considered in the reform of Parliament en globo, not piecemeal. I therefore wholeheartedly support my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree.

In the context of reform being considered—and this ceremony is part of that consideration—I fully support my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. In his evidence to the Select Committee, Garter stated that the first aspect of the ceremony was that it is the ceremony of introduction, not the ceremony of taking the seat or of taking the oath. It is therefore a Crown matter. The Crown has created a new peerage and Garter is delegated by the Crown to introduce that new Peer into the House. That should obviously continue.

Incidentally, in sifting through the evidence given to the Select Committee I can find no suggestion that Garter should be totally excluded from the ceremony. I therefore wonder why the Committee has included that in its recommendations. It was certainly not apparent from any evidence given to it. None of us should forget that the horse designed by a committee ended up a camel.

5.27 p.m.

My Lords, here is one camel who is not going to take the hump. It has been a good humoured debate and a very serious one. Divisions have occurred because there are those who feel that after 350 years there is no need to change the ceremony of initiation to this much respected, much valued and much treasured second Chamber.

Many of us are members of clubs, institutions and associations. I cannot believe that they have not taken part at least in looking at ways in which the process of initiation can be changed or improved. That is what we are doing now. When the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the Leader of the House, said last year that he felt it was time to look at our procedures, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, was quite right in that, out of respect to the Leader, the Motion was not interfered with. The committee was set up and comprised noble Lords from the various Benches and it was ensured that among its members there were those with long experience and those with less. I believe that it has done a very good job. It has certainly unearthed a lot of facts and background which I appreciate very much.

Like everyone in this House, I would not have missed the introduction ceremony for the world—as it was then. I valued it, as did my family and friends. However, that is not to say that I did not feel that, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, we need a procedure which is dignified but less eccentric.

We all know that the process by which this House was peopled heavily—in fact, peopled solely—with hereditary Peers is a medieval anachronism. It is less than 50 years since Harold Macmillan brought about a tremendous change in the composition of this House by recognising the need for life Peers. I sense that noble Lords opposite are uneasy about the speed or undue haste of any proposed changes.

I happened to go though my papers the other day and I came across a marvellous card, which is a facsimile of a poster. It shows the House of Lords, with its doors being beaten down by a group of working men. It says, "Labour clears the way". It is a Labour Party poster of 1910, challenging the rejection by the House of Lords the year previously of Lloyd George's "People's Budget". After 90 years, we have not made much progress in terms of change. Indeed, there are noble Lords opposite—they are entitled to their view—who would not seek any change in the composition and powers of, or method of introduction to, your Lordships' House.

My predecessor as Labour Chief Whip was right. This change may not stand alone. It may or may not be part of a grand plan. However, we must consider exactly what we are being asked to do. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, summed it up very well. There are those who would proceed to do nothing until they have everything. We know that that is a ploy. It is a device that we have all used. If the first stage cannot proceed until the details of the second stage are known, once those second-stage details have been produced, the argument, "Is there any more?" is raised.

What did Labour's manifesto say? The noble Baroness, Lady Platt of Writtle, argued passionately that both Houses should be involved in change. Labour's manifesto said:
"A committee of both Houses will be appointed to undertake a wide-ranging review of possible further changes and then to bring forward proposals for reform. We have no plans to replace the monarchy".
Those words are in our manifesto. It is all very well for noble Lords opposite to argue about this point, but they had 18 years in power, absolute power, to bring forward changes—any change—but they brought forward nothing. So, it is all very well to say to the Labour Government, these Benches and others that we are acting in haste, but experience tells us that if a government have a strong point of view, now is the time for them to act.

It has been argued that we have no right to make changes to what I have referred to as a medieval anachronism in terms of our composition. I believe that we are entitled to put that change not only before this House and the other place, but also before the people of this country. That is what we did on 1st May. If there is any value in the doctrine of the manifesto commitment, there it is. I believe that all noble Lords recognise that there are times for change and, as has been said, this is a modest change.

I was very impressed by the speech of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. Reference was made earlier to the emotion in his speech. That is absolutely right. There is no disagreement about that.

When answering a question about the relevance of Garter, my noble friend Lord Carter said:
"I think it is a part of the ceremony which I do not see any particular advantage in dropping. It provides the link with the creation of the title which we know we have to agree with Garter and so forth. He is colourful and it gives that sense of occasion. I would not see any particular reason, so long as Garter himself thought that it was the right thing to do, unless he had overwhelming objections, but I would have thought, as I have said, to retain the present ceremonial file with Garter, with Black Rod and the three peers, it does give it a sense of occasion".
I hope that those Members of your Lordships' House who feel that too much is being attempted too quickly will remember 1621, that no substantial changes have been made since then in the method of introduction and that what has been proposed is modest. I support my noble friend Lord Carter in saying that the link between this House and the Crown is something that we should not abandon lightly. There is merit in that argument. The report merits the support of this House. I believe that there are times when change is right and I believe that the time for these changes is now.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he reply to a possible criticism of what he said with respect to just one word? He said that the party now in opposition enjoyed 18 years of "absolute" power. Is it not more correct that it had 18 years of "constitutional" power; otherwise does he think that his noble friends are now enjoying a power that is "absolute"?

My Lords, I hesitate to say that that is a play upon words. I am sure that the noble Earl understands what I meant by "absolute" power. The party opposite formed the government for 18 years, with big majorities that withered away at the end. Whether the right word is "absolute" or "constitutional", I do not know whether I am constitutionally absolute to comment.

5.36 p.m.

My Lords, I am privileged to have been appointed a member of the Select Committee, under the masterly chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh,

"to consider alterations in the ceremony of Introduction, and to make representations".
The House has already heard in detail from the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, about how we came to our recommendations. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, about how diverse our views were at the start and we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Denham, another member of the committee, about his serious reservations which he so effectively expressed from his great experience in this House.

I took my seat only one-and-a-half years ago, so the ceremony is still fresh in my mind. That wonderful day and ceremony brought me through those great doors, symbolically and literally, to a new life, to a new declared commitment to serve my Sovereign and my country under God. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, I believe that the great ceremonies of life allow and mark our passage. Human beings have always needed them and where they have been destroyed, they are quickly replaced by others.

Perhaps I might refer briefly to my very first ceremony, which sticks in my mind and has many significant points in common with the ceremony that I experienced in your Lordships' House. At the age of seven I became a Brownie. I stood by my toadstool, decked out in a splendid uniform, hands up in the special salute, making my Brownie promise, before Brown Owl, who was looming huge and important, with my parents and family proudly standing by. Special ceremonies, moments marked and recorded mean a life for ever changed.

Members of the committee on which I was privileged to serve came together and shelved our differences to reach a set of proposals which I hope retain a dignity, tradition and sense of occasion that will achieve general support in the House—if your Lordships are minded to change the ceremony of introduction to this House. It is a serious decision in a self-governing House, which runs on traditions which seem to serve the purpose very well. We must be aware that altering one ceremony might mean that others must perforce alter as well. If it is hats off in this ceremony, where then the ceremony of Prorogation?

In the committee meetings we were reminded quite forcefully by our chairman, amply reinforced by Dr. Tudor, that it would be improper for us to discuss anything other than the introduction ceremony itself and certainly not its content. We accepted that ruling. Alas, the ground was already moving under our feet. The context was changing. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was telling the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury to remove Bishops from Parliament, seeking to diminish the episcopal presence in your Lordships' House and leading to what constitutional changes we know not. It causes me concern, but the changes before the House today, to which I am party, will be appropriate and relevant in the context of plans and proposals for Lords' reform by Her Majesty's Government as yet not revealed to your Lordships.

For today, if it be your Lordships' wish, the protection of the validity afforded by unbroken usage of over 300 years will be gone and this House will stand exposed. Sometimes to make changes in isolation is in my experience not efficient or effective. Having in my career run production units, changes to a flow system work only if everyone on the floor knows the plan and can see how their particular functions fit in. I encourage the Lord Privy Seal to urge Her Majesty's Government to share with this House as soon as possible their proposals for reform so that the House may the more enthusiastically, to quote his words,
"look at itself and modify its activities",
confident in the knowledge that those changes will stand the test of time as well as those that they are to replace.

5.41 p.m.

My Lords, I shall certainly support the amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Harptree, but my support would have been even greater had his amendment ended after the word "introduction" so that he opposed change altogether. With the greatest respect to my noble friend Lord Marsh and the Select Committee, who had a very difficult job to do, I do not agree with their recommendations. I share all of the reservations referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, and other noble Lords who support the status quo. I cannot see that anything is to be gained by the proposed changes except a little more time for possibly nefarious government business, of which there is always too much whatever government is in power. The other reasons for changing the ceremony appear to me at best invalid or at worst frivolous, as I said in the debate on 27th October last.

Of the submissions received by the Select Committee, 11 were in favour of change and 11 were against. When in a Division this House divides 50–50 on an amendment, that amendment is disagreed to. To the noble Duke the Duke of Norfolk I say that, while I am horrified that Garter should be excluded from any ceremony, I cannot accept his amendment because it supports the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal.

The present ceremony has been in use for nearly 400 years. It is colourful and unique, like so many other peculiarly British ceremonies which have made the life of this country so rich and varied. There is a great deal of history concealed in the detail of ceremonial. If one begins to look into the origins of ceremonies one discovers a good deal about history that may otherwise be forgotten. The paper on the introduction ceremony by Sir Anthony Wagner and Sir John Sainty is an example of this. Much fascinating history also lies behind the detail of the ceremony of the Opening of Parliament and most of the ceremonial of public life. The history of almost every town in this country is perpetuated in its street names, where they have not been changed by councillors bent on erasing the past in order to immortalise themselves and their friends.

I am very worried at the present Government's passion for what they call modernising Britain. I am afraid that it is the beginning of a process of erosion of things that are rather fragile and precious which, once lost, can never be regained. Since this particular change was mooted, I have read in the papers and heard that the Government would like to modernise or abolish the ceremony of the Opening of Parliament. Goodness knows what else will be for the bin, all in aid of some nasty concept of what their spin doctors call "Cool Britannia", which seems to me to be a sort of grey, dreary, colourless, soulless, utilitarian place where speed and efficiency are the only gods.

The country is not going to gain prestige in the world, in the business world or any other world by throwing out everything that makes us special. No doubt I shall be accused of being against modernisation, but I am against the wrong kind of modernization—modernisation for modernisation's sake. That is what I believe this to be. Let us concentrate on sensible modernization—modern communications systems, the health service, etc.—and leave our lovely colourful ceremonies alone. Most foreigners are deeply envious of them anyway.

5.45 p.m.

My Lords, I begin with a general point. I believe that the Burkean distinction between another place and this House—the difference between the fulfilment of the electorate's wants and its needs—is important. If only on that basis it is justifiable that this House should have a ceremony of introduction that is quite distinct from another place. The committee's acknowledgment of this in paragraph 50 of the report is welcome.

I turn to the committee's specific recommendations. I am not wedded to the existing form of ceremony. I believe that it is very much to the credit and skill of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, that the recommendations of the committee are on balance measured and sensible. That said, like other noble Lords, I have substantial reservations about the proposals for Garter. As to this matter, I cannot help but agree with my noble friend the Earl Marshal. We should be mindful of the contents of the memorandum by the Clerk to the Parliaments to the Procedure Committee which echoed a similar paper produced in 1964. I am a little surprised that so few noble Lords have picked up the point made in that memorandum that changes in the ceremony of introduction should have due regard to the needs of the Sovereign, the House and the new Peer. I believe that the role of Garter is a potent symbol of the constitutional position of the Sovereign in our proceedings. On that basis I find it extremely difficult to justify the abandonment of this essential constitutional link.

I should like to make a few personal observations. In evidence Garter commented:
"The Earl Marshal has told us that the three bows are to do with the Trinity. I think that is a nonsense, nobody knows".
I do not dispute that. It may well be that the symbolism of the ceremony owes more to the somewhat romantic associations that we make with the occasion rather than any accurate interpretations of its original intent, but that should not blind us to the potency of the symbols at an individual level. A performance of, say, "Hamlet" will evoke in each and every one of us an entirely different, even contradictory, reaction or emotion. Every time I see the current ceremony my mind is drawn to a political "rule of three" and a constitutional trinity: the people, Parliament and the Sovereign. I find this extremely valuable in focusing my attention upon the duties that attend us, but this is very much a matter of individual interpretation, taste and preference.

Further, I have sympathy with those who find the ceremony awkward. Nor do I disagree with those who have described elements of it as being Gilbert and Sullivan in character. There is something faintly ridiculous about it. But it is a sad truth that occasionally we fall into the temptation of taking ourselves too seriously. Every now and then it pays to have small elements in our rituals that seek to remind us of the need for humility and to accept our fallibility, perhaps even to dent our egos a little. These represent a personal perspective, and on that basis I do not seek to stand in the way of the committee's recommendations, apart from the issue of Garter. Viewed in the round, they are on balance a sensible approach to the issue. But it is worth noting that in his original memorandum to the Procedure Committee the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal advanced:
"several good reasons why the introduction ceremony needs looking at".
These included such matters as the ceremony being,
"out of tune with perceptions of how Parliament should operate at the end of the 20th century";
its repetitive nature impacting upon the dignity of the occasion; the "unprecedented number of new Peers"; and the length of time it takes.

With the greatest of respect to the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal, I cannot help feeling that all these reasons owe as much if not more to the Government's proposals for reform of this House and constitutional change generally than they do to any overriding need to modify the ceremony. On balance, therefore, I find myself very much drawn to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree. It has about it the great virtues of pragmatism and common sense. It really does seem much more sensible that any new composition of this House should be the final arbiter—a la Welsh assembly or Scottish parliament—of how its procedures and business are conducted.

I feel slightly mischievous, so I shall conclude by failing to resist the temptation of citing a quotation—I concede that it is out of context—from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. Only recently, the noble Lord said:
"it would mean effectively abandoning a reputation built up over more than 300 years. It would mean an irrevocable break with the past. The risk that I see is that such a change would send the wrong signals".—[Official Report, 23/3/98; col. 965.]
My Lords, there is some food for thought!

5.51 p.m.

My Lords, I speak as a member of the Select Committee. I am one of 17 hereditary Peers who take the Labour Whip. Some people have said that we are an endangered species, but certainly not yet. I have never been through the ceremony, but I have watched it and therefore I can comment with a certain amount of objectivity.

First, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, for his excellent chairmanship of the committee. It contributed to our producing a unanimous report. I also pay tribute to the Clerk, Dr. Tudor.

I approached the task of the committee by judging the ceremony on how it is viewed from three separate perspectives: by the new Peer, by the House and by the public. It is an important ceremony to mark the appointment of a Peer to an important role in his life. The ceremony must have dignity and it must be purposeful, but it is sometimes alarming. As was said by my noble friend Lady Gould, the fear of tripping over one's robe when kneeling down or climbing up to the Barons' Benches does not make one feel comfortable. The ceremony must have dignity, and I believe that the robes bring a sense of ceremony, whereas the hats do not. However, it is a great occasion for the Peer, his family and friends.

Secondly, the House must have time to identify, recognise and welcome the new Peer. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich noted the difference between Lords Spiritual and Lords Temporal in the matter of placing. Perhaps I might remind him that at paragraph 43 the committee recommends that the temporal Peer should come back into the Chamber with his supporters and take his place on the Benches where he intends to sit in the future. The only difference is that he will not be wearing his robes. Therefore, there is a sense of placing after he has shaken the hand of the Lord Chancellor and taken off his robes outside.

The House is also concerned with the time factor. Last year I occasionally timed the ceremonies. On occasions, three introductions took 33 minutes, which is 11 minutes each. My noble friend the Chief Whip reckoned that each took nine minutes. However, half an hour is taken for three introductions. That may be all very well at half-past two in the afternoon, but by midnight, when half-an-hour has been added to the day, it is not much fun for noble Lords staying until then. This is a working House.

Thirdly, I turn to the public perception. The committee took evidence from Peter Riddell of The Times. I do not know whether colleagues believe that he represents the public—perhaps not—but he produced interesting evidence complimenting your Lordships' House on the quality of its debates. He expressed concern about the ceremony, stating:
"I felt we were in danger of getting into the territory of The Magic Flute and Masonic ritual with that".
Other noble Lords mentioned Gilbert and Sullivan, of whom I am a great fan. It is important that occasionally we laugh at ourselves, as was said by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, but we should not retain elements which cause others to laugh at us. There is a great difference between the two.

I turn briefly to the role of Garter. His role in representing the Crown through the Earl Marshal is well known. He has an essential role in finding suitable titles for new Peers. However, I have heard a number of concerns from Members on all sides of the House about his role in providing the services of the College of Arms for the production of coats of arms. Occasionally I am subject to a sales pitch asking whether I would like a coat of arms. I say, "No thanks, I have several, or my ancestors have, and I am not really interested". I sought information on that from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. He wrote to me on 13th April stating:
"It is entirely for each individual Peer whether or not to seek a grant of Arms upon elevation to the Peerage or thereafter".
It is good to see the three Kings of Arms in Black Rod's Box, but I note that they have divided up the territory as Clarenceux south of the River Trent, Norroy and Ulster north of the River Trent, Northern Ireland and Scotland Lord Lyon. Under exiting competition law, that might not be seen to be quite right. Perhaps I might quote from Schedule 4 to the Competition Bill. They have not been excluded from the Competition Bill under professional services. It lists patent agents and engineers. My noble friend Lord Howie often speaks of engineers being excluded. I suggest that it may be possible to obtain three quotes on a competitive basis. I have no strong feeling about whether Garter takes part in the ceremony, provided it can be fitted in with the new Line of Route. However, I hope that he can separate that duty from the commercial aspect of acquiring coats of arms. Several of our colleagues have expressed concern about feeling that they must spend several thousand pounds before they can enter your Lordships' House. That is a great shame.

It is easy to say about the ceremony, "Do nothing until the final role, responsibility and membership of this House are decided". But that could take several years. In the meantime, we have work to do at an ever-increasing rate. We have spent three hours debating this fascinating subject today and time is precious. The work of this House is well respected outside. Let us keep that respect and modernise sensibly to make it a ceremony not taken from "Iolanthe" but appropriate to the present day as seen by the new Member and his family, the House and the public. I strongly support both Motions standing in the name of the Lord Privy Seal.

5.58 p.m.

My Lords, I support the change in the ceremony of introduction recommended by the Select Committee and will vote accordingly. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that the changes are modest but necessary. I congratulate the Select Committee on suggesting a ceremony simpler than the present ceremony but which preserves the necessary dignity.

My noble friend Lord Dean of Harptree—and I count him as a real friend, I hope, and not just as a political one—is very persuasive, both publicly and privately. I talked to him at some length the day before yesterday about this subject and he almost changed my mind as to the force of his amendment. However, having reflected upon the matter, I have decided that I cannot agree with him.

I do not believe that a change to the composition of the House need necessarily be connected with the ceremony of introduction. Even if there were no question of a change to the composition of the House and it remained as it is at present, I should still be in favour of the proposals which the Select Committee recommended. I agree with those who have said that the present ceremony has grave drawbacks. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, expressed that aspect very well indeed.

Also, I cannot agree with the amendment in the name of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. I should not have dared to disagree with him some years ago when I was a major serving with my regiment in Germany and he was my divisional commander. However, I recognise the arguments that he has propounded so well this afternoon. I hope that the office of Earl Marshal, which he holds with great distinction, will not be reformed. His family and that position are far older than the ceremony of introduction to your Lordships' House.

One point which I do not believe has been mentioned is what the media comment would be should this modest reform be thrown out. There might not be a big headline on the subject but the media would certainly portray this House as an historic relic of little value. That would be a great pity. In conclusion, I support the recommendations of the Select Committee.

6.1 p.m.

My Lords, perhaps I might say what an incredible pleasure it is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Harding. I thought that his comments were to the point, highly intelligent and extremely welcome. They were a great morale booster and certainly at the end of this debate perhaps he might care to pass by the Bishops' Bar, where I shall be found, because one should keep one's promises.

The noble Lord, Lord Denham, the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and other noble Lords raised the issue as to whether the committee report was a sighting shot for other reforms to come. If I had at any point thought that that were the case, I would have resigned from the committee. On the other hand, it did not cross my mind because, while I obviously treasure this report, it has not been a childhood ambition realised. I have had to discipline myself not to become passionately interested in the origins of medieval ceremonies. However, we probably exaggerate the report's influence and importance if we believe that the Government—with a majority in excess of 200, with four years to run and with the ability to guillotine Bills in the House of Commons—are dependent on it to push through their proposals; and, so that there should be no misunderstanding, proposals with which I profoundly disagree. But that is not the issue facing us in this debate.

Perhaps I might say a few words about Garter, who is a very distinguished and able occupant of his office. The recommendation which we should have outlined more carefully—and it is my fault—was no reflection on him at all. It is a question of logistics. Garter's job in the ceremony is, as the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, said, an infinitesimal part of his normal work and duties. Once that moment in the placing ceremony has gone, he actually has no role in the ensuing ceremony. He is not garbed in his working clothes in a way which makes him unnoticeable. It is simply that we did not believe that that fitted in with the ceremony, because the situation is that at one point Garter and Black Rod have to change ends. That is untidy and not particularly dignified. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Black Rod is also an officer representing the Order of the Garter.

As regards the whole issue of Garter, I have now been a Member of the Privy Council for in excess of 30 years. I hope that I am fairly sensitive to the matters which would cause embarrassment arising from this House. I have no idea whatever—and for obvious reasons it would be impertinent of me to ask—of the advice which Her Majesty's advisers gave her. But it is a matter of public record, since it is listed in the evidence, that I had conversations with both her Private Secretary and with the Lord Chamberlain and they were aware of the recommendations. I do not know what views they formed on any of those matters. I simply state that as a fact.

The matter of Garter is not a major issue, any more than the recommendations as a whole are a major issue. Just as we believe that the recommendations make the ceremony tidier and more attractive to more people, in Garter's case it is simply a question of whether it fits in aesthetically with the changes. That is a matter for your Lordships to determine. It involves some quick footwork, but I am sure that they are perfectly capable of adapting to that if that is your Lordships' wish. That is not a matter for me.

At our first meeting I raised two issues with my colleagues. First, I made the mistake of asking them to do a quick Second Reading description of where they stood. I was horrified by the result. Literally, we ranged from Roundheads to Cavaliers on a rather bad day after a few drinks. Nobody came to fisticuffs in the course of the meetings but that was simply because the table was between us.

However, initially the matter was raised as to whether the time taken by the ceremony should be any part of our considerations. We had a brief discussion and agreed immediately that it was irrelevant to the issue. Saving two minutes, three minutes or four minutes is not a serious issue when dealing with such a ceremony. At no time was the ceremony timed by the committee, nor did we discuss that. Therefore, I put that out of the way.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and other noble Lords asked whether we had any right to consider the question of whether the proposed changes and reforms of this House should be taken into account. It was in fact the second issue which we discussed. We concluded that it should not be taken into account, not just because of the terms of reference but because re-organisation is a feature of modern life in every aspect. The last time I took part in serious discussion about the removal of hereditary Peers was just over 30 years ago when it was part of the Labour Party's manifesto at that time and it was prepared to put it through. If every time there was a proposed re-organisation you ceased to look forward, the Ministry of Defence, the National Health Service, local government and much of British industry would come to a total standstill. Therefore, we reached the conclusion that that was not relevant to our discussions. But I shall return later to the broader point.

There was then the question of whether any member of the committee believed that the ceremony should be abolished. Since a wider discussion revealed that there was also a strongly held view that it should not be touched at all, we decided that the sensible thing was to move on to our first witness. All the views which have been put forward in this House were expressed by members of the committee, and I say this seriously and literally. The only differences is that tonight we may not get a unanimous outcome.

At this stage I should like to pay tribute to the members of the committee. I repeat that the views on this subject—and it is difficult for people outside to understand this—are held very strongly by the people who hold them. They were argued passionately in committee, to a point at which it became increasingly clear that its seven members, representative of the three political parties, the Cross Benches and, for the first time I believe, the Welsh Nationalists with a different hat on, ranged in their views on this subject from one extreme to the other. But if they, representative of your Lordships' House, were to announce after two months of consideration that they could not reach agreement on whether the hat doffing ceremony should remain, that really would not enhance our reputation. I start from the proposition that it will not enhance the reputation of this House either, and I shall come on to that in a moment.

That is particularly true in the light of the overwhelming desire for change demonstrated by the evidence. That is the big difference with the past. On past occasions, in 1970, 1971, 1974 and before that 1964, when this matter was discussed, it was never allowed to get to this point. But now the proverbial cat is out of the bag. The evidence is published showing what people think of the ceremony in this House and, indeed, outside it. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, in evidence—and this is on the record—said:
"First of all about the wearing of hats and the doffing of hats. It seems to me that there is no reference to this before the 19th Century, there is no written reference. I have tried to read as much as I can about it. It does seem, therefore, perhaps to be a relatively modern introduction. I would doubt very much whether the custom of doffing the hat, whether it is a bicorn or a mortar board, with a very elaborate sweep and bow has always happened. I would guess it is a more modern custom and it seems rather to have derived from school productions of Shakespeare rather than an ancient thing. I rather wonder about the necessity perhaps. I cannot really see any justification for it".
The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, has always had very trenchant views of this subject and has more knowledge of ceremonial in this country than any other person. He said:
"The present system is as old as 1621. To my mind it is totally out of date and wants cutting like hell. If I might now, having given those preliminary remarks, go on to what you have said here. 'Do you think any change to the present ceremony of introduction for temporal Peers is desirable?'. Yes, most certainly, I have never seen a greater waste of time going on in your Lordships' House than that ceremony of introduction".
That is the Earl Marshal of England.

Mr. Peter Riddell, Parliamentary Correspondent of The Times, said:
"When a very old friend was introduced, I felt that the placing and the hat-wearing were faintly ridiculous in the context. They did not have any relationship at all to what the people would do otherwise, whilst the reading of the Letters Patent and the Writ were fine. That was, I thought, rather elegant, the historical, traditional aspect of it, but I remember discussing with the Peer concerned about the sponsors wearing a hat and that the particular sponsor concerned did not wear a hat, so you can perhaps work out which of your colleagues that was. That did appear to the people concerned a slight embarrassment as to whether they would get that bit right but it is not like, say, the State Opening or something like that. It is just something which is faintly embarrassing for those concerned which there is not in other parts of the ceremony, so yes, it did change my perception and I thought that there is a danger of that part of your Lordships' work being part of the heritage industry rather than perhaps what it should be".
These are people's comments which are now on the public record. These are not wild rabble-rousing revolutionaries—well, not most of them, with the possible exception of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, a distinguished former Speaker said this when one more question was put to him by the noble Lord, Lord Denham:
"You would not think it was the end of the world if this Committee, I do not say it will, were to decide that there should be no change in the ceremony?".
He replied:
"I would deeply regret it".

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would just mention what the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, said about keeping every bit of ceremonial there was in the House of Commons but being prepared to waive all our ceremonial here.

My Lords, I shall not go into the detail of who and where, but some of the evidence we took, which happens when you have an unscripted exchange of views and they are taken down verbatim, did not follow, as they say, seriatim in the logic of the argument. But I have to say that if anyone wishes to criticise and make fun of this House, these will be the references they choose, not the others.

A very short letter from the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, stated:
"I think we should definitely cut out the doffing of the hats three times on cue from Garter. It wastes time and is too Gilbert and Sullivan".
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, stated:
"If one starts from the premise that the latter (even if for only one introduction) is unduly prolonged and, to be honest, faintly ridiculous, one must surely also conclude that the former is unduly brisk and informal".
Similar sentiments were expressed on each of the earlier occasions, but there is one fundamental difference—and now I come to the amendment. On each of the other occasions it was not allowed to get onto the record. I was told it was out of courtesy to the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I am bound to say that I have known him a long time and it never occurred to me to do anything that I did not want to do out of courtesy to him, particularly on this occasion—one would be taken apart very quickly. But there was a debate in this House. There were 16 speakers. The matter was then brought back to this House, and it was announced that the usual channels, those strange creatures who lurk in the dark, had unanimously agreed to recommend a Select Committee; and your Lordships agreed with that. Your Lordships then decided to choose the people to sit on the Select Committee. The Select Committee then met.

I made a quick calculation. It spent something in excess of 400 man-hours interviewing 34 witnesses, with a not inexpensive and highly able Clerk to assist us, plus a team of verbatim recorders of the entire process. We then sat down and produced the report. Nobody came up to me and said, "Marsh, one chap to another, you're wasting your time". We were allowed to go through the whole of that. Now it is said that suddenly the Labour Party is contemplating changing the status of this House. But that was known from the very beginning. Of course it was known.

It would have been sensible to have intervened. Noble Lords who felt that way could have stopped the proceedings at any point along the line, but they did not. As they did not, either they are irresponsible in coming up with this now or, alternatively, this is just part of a Westminster jolly jape in some cases. If that is the case, I find it deeply offensive. None of us was looking for a job that involved this sort of activity.

If we decide in a Division in these circumstances, with this sort of evidence on the record, "On second thoughts we, the Second Chamber of the British Parliament, cannot make up our minds on a simple series of small propositions", I believe that we shall make this House a matter of fun and absurdity. This House is worth a great deal more than that. I beg noble Lords to think this through carefully before they vote.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he, in the interests of accuracy, invite his noble friend Lord Denham to re-read my evidence to the committee? I believe that he slightly misinterpreted what I said.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. However, in his own interests, I beg the noble Lord not to get involved in arguments with members of this committee on the subject.

6.20 p.m.

My Lords, it was predictable that a subject as fundamentally important as the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, made this subject out to be should attract such a very remarkable number of your Lordships to attend, late on a Thursday afternoon, before a Bank Holiday weekend. I am sure that more minor matters—like, for example, the future of European monetary union—would, quite rightly, not attract the attention of noble Lords in quite the same way.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, addressed your Lordships with—dare I say it?—even more than his customary passion. If I may say so, there is nothing like a young political hack watching an old political expert teach us all a thing or two about the art of leading a House of Parliament down the path that he would like it to go. In view of the more passionate final remarks with which he favoured your Lordships during the course of his peroration, I shall simply say to the noble Lord that it is open to both Houses of Parliament—and noble Lords who have more experience of the other place than I have will tell me if I am wrong, as I was only there for two Parliaments—to consider the reports of Select Committees and to decide whether or not they agree with them. No one is suggesting that parliamentary government is in any way an efficient or particularly economical process. All we know is that we would prefer to be governed by parliamentary government than any other; and we are prepared to put up with a certain amount of wasted time and money, even as regards the ablest people, so that the proper procedures of parliamentary government can be followed.

I have the greatest sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, with whom I find myself substantially in agreement more often than perhaps a former Member of a Labour Cabinet would like. However, I hope that he, in turn, will agree with me that, despite the time and energy spent by very able people like him, the members of his committee and indeed the Clerk who so ably supported the labours of that committee, it is so often their lot to find that their labours may have been wasted. That is the price we pay for parliamentary government. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I would suggest to him that that is something we would do well to remember, seduced though we may have been—and I believe we all were—by the passion with which he put his final arguments. I give way to the noble Lord.

I am grateful to the noble Viscount. The point I was making is that, of course, this House has the right to do whatever it will—and, indeed, will do whatever it wishes—with a report of a Select Committee. I was simply suggesting that on at least four previous occasions this Chamber decided to stop the process because it had made up its mind in advance, before it went through this particular process. My concern is not about the amount of time involved as regards members of the committee, but the use which will be made of the report by people who are not at all friendly to this House.

My Lords, with the permission of the House, I shall deal with the matter of ridicule in a moment. I agree with the noble Lord. However, although I do not want to prolong this personal exchange more than is absolutely necessary, it is equally possible to argue that it is only with the benefit of the evidence that has been set before us with such clarity by the noble Lord and his committee that we are able to take a balanced view. Of course, that balanced view must be influenced by the committee's conclusions. But, with the greatest respect and gratitude to members of the committee for all their work and the expense that they have incurred for the taxpayer, it is open to the rest of the House respectfully to disagree.

As I shall make clear fairly shortly, I do not wholly disagree with what the committee has said. Therefore, if noble Lords feel that my opening remarks suggest that conclusion, I have perhaps misled them. However, with the permission of the House, I should like to deal later with that aspect. Like the noble Lord the Leader of the House I am hugely grateful to the committee and to the noble Lord. Lord Marsh. I found reading the evidence as set out in the publication not only instructive but also, in many cases, extraordinarily diverting, especially as regards the evidence of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. If I may, I shall turn to the somewhat regrettable tendencies of the House of Howard a little later in my remarks.

I believe that I should also point out that, during the course of my remarks, I shall be speaking purely for myself. We on this side of the House feel that this is a matter for the House as a whole, as I believe the noble Lord the Leader of the House made entirely clear. Indeed, I associate myself with the remarks that he made and with the correction that he put in a little later in the debate. Of course, we are not whipped either to appear or to vote in a certain way, as I believe was made clear by the remarks of my noble friend Lord Harding. In fact, even if we had whipped him, I am sure that my noble friend would have voted the same way as he always does; namely, in the way that he believes. As with so many of the people sitting behind me, it is not always easy: we can get them to turn up, but we cannot always make them vote the way that we want them to—

Well, noble Lords may be amused by that, but I shall merely refer them to the number of times Members on our side of the House supported Labour amendments during the last Parliament. Therefore, let us not quibble about such matters.

In view of the signs of approval for what I have just said on the face of the noble Lord the Leader of the House, I assume that the supporters of the Government have been treated in exactly the same way in the matter of whipping and that not only has there been no assumption that they have to appear, but also they will not be induced to vote in the way that the Government would like.

I shall not attempt to repeat, because it would be more than usually tedious, all the arguments that have been put forward. However, I am extraordinarily glad, like the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal that the committee recognised the importance of ceremony. The right reverend Prelate, quite rightly as a Churchman, gave us to understand, far better than I could, not only by what he said but by the extraordinarily considered nature of his remarks, the importance of ceremony in all affairs, notably Church affairs. I should like to associate myself with what he said. It does, indeed, emphasise the dignity of an institution. I have noticed that revolutionary regimes have always recognised that their initial reaction, which is to abolish ceremonial, leaves a void in the daily life of the institutions which have replaced the ones that they have thrown out.

I well remember reading with some amusement about what the French revolutionaries put in the stead of the ancien régime in the 1790s; indeed, they introduced all sorts of ill-considered ceremonials, which were eventually laughed out of court. So new ceremonials are at least as open to charges of absurdity as old ones. Funnily enough, my memory of the other great revolutionary regime of relatively modern times—the Soviet regime—is that those involved were rather better at it, especially the military ceremonial. Perhaps that reflected above all the extraordinary sacrifice that the Soviets suffered as a result of what I believe they came to call "the great patriotic war". That is perhaps why the ceremonial that those of us who have been to Moscow and elsewhere witnessed in front of Lenin's Tomb and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has become something of a serious ceremony.

For all those reasons—however revolutionary the regime the Government may introduce—I am delighted that we are not thinking of abolishing ceremonial altogether. Noble Lords have rightly said that to have a dignified ceremonial is not only important for the dignity of this House, but that the families of new Peers also find it an important occasion. It has also been said that hereditary Peers do not enjoy that ceremony. It has been suggested—although perhaps not quite in these terms—that the reason the hereditary Peers do not have that ceremony is that they have known each other since childhood, and no doubt the playing fields of Eton and the bar at White's is enough for them! There is at least some reason for any changed ceremony to take into account the position of hereditary Peers if they are to enjoy for much longer the privilege of being Members of this House. I shall return to that point in a moment.

I believe that the main burden of those who have supported the recommendations of this report is one which we ought to take extraordinarily seriously; namely, that the present ceremonial of introduction is no longer dignified but absurd. I set aside any unworthy thought about the ability of any supporter or member of a government to judge such matters when one considers the bouncy castle they have erected in Horse Guards Parade! One wonders whether such people have a sufficiently established record of judgment in matters of dignity for us to take such judgment seriously. However, that is an unworthy thought which I set aside as soon as it occurs to me.

However, I believe it is perfectly clear that many noble Lords feel that there is something Gilbertian and faintly ridiculous—I use the expression used on a previous occasion by the noble Lord the Leader of the House—about the ceremony of introduction, perhaps particularly as regards the doffing of hats. However, I believe it is also clear that a large number of noble Lords do not take the same view. Just because someone takes one view and not another, it is curiously totalitarian to assume that the view one takes is necessarily the one that everyone else should be morally obliged to take. That is my main difficulty with the report. This House is equally divided on whether it accepts or rejects the report. We do not have a House which is unanimous in its view about the dignity of our introduction ceremony.

I said that I would discuss my personal views. Speaking for myself, I am about to say something which will confirm what a Member of your Lordships' House once said to me. In view of the content of his remarks it is important that I should not mention his name. He said to me, "I am very sorry to see Cranborne that you are exhibiting some of the regrettable radical tendencies of your family". He said that in a slightly different context from that of our debate this evening.

I have considerable sympathy with the idea that we could with advantage change the ceremony of introduction and that we should allow it to evolve. The, I suspect, determined chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, has produced the extraordinarily skilful compromise that we have before us this evening that is about as close to being accepted in this House as anything one could possibly suggest. I have some difficulty with only one part of it, which—I am sorry to say—happens to be the same difficulty as was so ably expressed by my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. I believe he used the phrase, "cut it off". I do not know why he used that phrase. In our private conversations he spends most of his time accusing me of being the descendant of a family which cut off the heads of some of his ancestors. I can only assume that this has entered his soul so deeply that that phrase rises to the surface of his discourse at every possible opportunity, particularly when I have anything to do with the subject in question. In spite of that rather regrettable historic sortie into the not always harmonious relations between the families of Cecil and Howard, I am delighted to say that in this instance at least I firmly agree with my noble friend.

My Lords, I say only that when I go to Tower Hill I shudder at what the Cecils have done to us.

My Lords, I hope that my noble friend speaks for his family and not for the nation! Were this House to remain unreformed, I would feel much happier about supporting the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh. However, as many of your Lordships have already observed, I note that the Government lose no opportunity to advise us not only that they intend to change the composition of this House at some time in the future but also that they intend to introduce a Bill in the very next Session of Parliament; in other words, this autumn. It is not a case of introducing it at some stage down the road in the indefinite future, as the noble Lord, Lord Annan, suggested.

My Lords, I said no such thing. The sooner the better, as far as I am concerned.

My Lords, I was happy to hear from the noble Lord the Leader of the House that an options paper on possible reforms of your Lordships' House may be forthcoming. If the noble Lord is kind enough to allow this House an opportunity to discuss its future before the end of the summer Recess, perhaps there will be an options paper which could act as a text for our debates. I hope that the noble Lord will refer to that matter when he replies to the debate.

I an conscious that I have spoken for far longer than I should have done. I apologise to the House for that. However, whatever one may think about the present ceremony, I cannot help but consider that despite its absurdities it substantially reflects the ethos of the present composition of the House. That was evident from the speech of my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk. Therefore it seems to me natural that a reformed Chamber would want to examine the ceremonial of this House to enable it to reflect the new governing ethos, whatever that may turn out to be. However, the Government do not appear to be entirely clear how they wish this House to be reformed. That has been revealed in a number of the speeches this evening. I hope that the Government will respond to that point. Bearing in mind the apparent imminence of reform, it is a little odd that the Government seem so keen to change these matters. That seems to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. If the House is radically reformed, its Members will no doubt want to dispense with most of the paraphernalia of the hereditary peerage—for example, the robes and other such matters. I understand that it is highly unlikely that I shall be a Member of a reformed House. However, from the outside I would cheer any reform which got rid of such paraphernalia because the reformed House will not reflect the hereditary Chamber that governs our ethos at the moment.

If we impose changes now, we do so in the knowledge that a reformed House will have to return to the matter. If we impose changes now, we shall also leave the House as at present composed as divided on this matter as it was before we accepted the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, however extravagantly we may have been in favour of them or against them. It therefore seems to me perfectly clear that the sensible thing to do is to follow the advice of my noble friend Lord Dean. Let us wait for a reformed Chamber to reform its own ceremonies. If, by some extraordinary miracle, the House were not to be reformed—and that is not necessarily a course that I advocate—then certainly I should take a different view from the one that I have ventured to take in this debate.

6.40 p.m.

My Lords, I listened with great attention to the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. There is sometimes a predictability about the noble Viscount. I do not understand, although I have tried, why it is that the hereditary peerage in this House is so obsessed with preserving the minutiae of a ceremony in which they do not take part. If they were abolished, those Peers remaining in this House would be the only people who were concerned with it.

My Lords, I apologise. Your Lordships have heard far too much of me this evening. However, I must point out to the noble Lord that the only reason we do not take part in the ceremony is that not many people seem to be creating hereditary Peers any more.

My Lords, with great respect to the noble Viscount, the only reason we are considering this proposal is that during the past 50 years life peerages have been created. Of course the country and this House could live with this somewhat arcane ceremony for 300 years—it was rarely used. Looking at the list of hereditary Peers on the Benches opposite, those peerages were created once. In the past 50 years, how many life peerages have been created? Without looking up the figures, I venture to suggest that there have been more life peerages created in the past 50 years than there were hereditary peerages created in the previous 300 years. Of course the ceremony was appropriate. People did not use it; people did not have to go through it. I say again: why the hereditary Peers who do not go through the ceremony are so fascinated with the minutiae of a ceremony which, after dissolution—after reform—

My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal to do hereditary Peers the courtesy of not assuming that we intend to vote as a block against his Motion.

My Lords, that is a very fair comment and one that I am delighted to receive. However, I return to my point that many of the speeches today, and much of the argumentation from the other side, is based on what the Leader of the Opposition was reduced to describing as the "ethos" of the present composition of the House. According to him, that ethos demands that new life Peers have to go through a ceremony which involves putting on a bicorn hat, sitting on the Back-Bench, taking the hat off and waving it at the Lord Chancellor three times. If that is the ethos of the present composition of the House, then it only underlines my determination to change that composition.

I wish to make two or three other points. We have had a fascinating debate, though rather a disappointing one. The noble Lord, Lord Dean, said that I did not listen to anyone on this issue. A full debate was held on the matter. It went to the Procedure Committee. It came back from the Procedure Committee to this House. This House decided that the way to deal with the issue was to set up a Select Committee. A Select Committee was set up. It deliberated. It took evidence. It reported. It certainly did not have anything to do with me. I did not give evidence to the committee. I did not try to influence it in any shape or form. The report has come back to this House to be debated. For it to be suggested in those circumstances that I have somehow behaved in a totalitarian or undemocratic way is, frankly, beyond me.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, in a fascinating speech, likened the ceremony of introduction in this House to the ceremony in which she took part when she was seven when she was introduced into the Brownies and went round the bonfire. That is her comparison, not necessarily mine. I am bound to say that the thought occurred to me: did she have to bow three times to Akela as she went round?

My Lords, I apologise. I am always prepared to take a factual correction.

The other point that occurs to me is this. If the noble Baroness had had to bow three times to Brown Owl, does she really think that the ceremony would have been less moving and less significant to her had she not had to bow three times? Really! What are we suggesting?

My Lords, the noble Lord gives me the occasion to be able to stand up and again declare how delighted I was to take part in the ceremony of becoming a Brownie. My point was that the ceremony has stayed with me all this time. It was an inclusive ceremony. The fact that I am able to remember it as well as I do means that it is an important ceremony.

My Lords, of course it is an important ceremony. I am not decrying it. I should not dream of taking away the rights, or indeed the duty, of Brownies to be presented to Brown Owl at a suitable bonfire. I am in favour of bonfires, Brownies and Brown Owls. All I am pointing out is that it was the ceremony that was important, not the minutiae of the ceremony. Provided that a ceremony is maintained in this House for the introduction of life Peers which is dignified, is sufficiently important for the person being introduced and his or her family and friends, which means something, and during which the House sees the new Peer—that is absolutely right. That is what we are trying to achieve. In my respectful submission that is precisely what the Select Committee has sought to achieve.

I am bound to say that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, gave us a sermon on the virtues of inertia. Its message was: do not change unless you can prove that you have to change. I think that is a fair description. With respect, that is a recipe for total inaction: the necessity has to be proved and the matter still has to be considered. It takes away your Lordships' right of initiative. It seems to me, looking at this ceremony sensibly, that things ought to be done to it to bring it more up-to-date.

The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, talked about the effect that it could have outside this House if we do not do something about the ceremony. I am bound to say, not as a party politician but as Leader of the House, that your Lordships will look slightly foolish if the House of Lords is seen tonight to reject a basic proposition that during the introduction of a Peer the doffing of hats should be abolished. That is what this debate is supposed to be about. It is not about the Labour Party's proposals to reform the House of Lords. It is not about any great constitutional argument. It is very simply about whether or not the ceremony of introduction should be reformed.

Perhaps I may say a word about the amendment of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. I have heard strong speeches today in defence of Garter King's role. I emphasise again that the noble Duke's amendment is a matter for the House. In that connection, I reassure the noble Viscount that there is of course a free vote on this side of the House. This is an issue for the House, not a party-political matter. But I wonder whether the House might feel able to decide the matter of Garter King's role by collecting the voices. If the House felt that it could decide the matter in that way, I personally should not shout, "Not-Content", when the Question is put on the noble Duke's amendment.

Finally, I say only this. This seems to be a modest, sensible proposal for producing a more up-to-date ceremony than the one that we have. The House would be extraordinarily foolish if it were to reject this Motion. I commend the proposal to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Ceremony Of Introduction

My Lords, we have had a long debate and I beg formally to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That this House agrees with the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction (HL Paper 78) and resolves that they should be implemented forthwith, and that the ceremony of introduction for Lords Spiritual should be altered in line with those recommendations.—(Lord Richard.)

moved, as an amendment to the second Motion of the Lord Privy Seal, to leave out from ("House") to end and insert ("declines to approve the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction (HL Paper 78) until this House has had the opportunity to consider Her Majesty's Government's further proposals for Lords reform.").

6.49 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 98; Not-Contents, 150.

Division No. 1

CONTENTS

Aldington, L.Glenarthur, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.Gormanston, V.
Annaly, L.Greenway, L.
Ashbourne, L.Halsbury, E.
Attlee, E.Hambro, L.
Blaker, L.Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
Blatch, B.Hooper, B.
Boardman, L.Howe, E.
Bowness, L.Iddesleigh, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L.Kingsland, L.
Bridgeman, V.Knight of Collingtree, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L.Lauderdale, E.
Bumham, L.Lawrence, L.
Butterworth, L.Leigh, L.
Byford, B.Long, V.
Campbell of Alloway, L.Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Carnock,L.Mackay of Drumadoon, L
Chalfont, L.Macleod of Borve, B.
Chelmsford, V.Mancroft, L.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]Marlesford, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Coleraine, L.Mersey, V.
Colwyn, L.Miller of Hendon, B.
Courtown, E.Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Cranborne, V.Monk Bretton, L.
Cuckney, L.Monro of Langholm, L.
Davidson, V.Monson, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.Moore of Wolvercote, L.
Denham, L.Mottistone, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Donegall, M.Munster, E.
Eccles of Moulton, B.Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Ellenborough, L.Napier and Ettrick, L.
Elles, B.Newton of Braintree, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.Northesk, E.
Gainsborough, E.O'Cathain, B.

Onslow, E.Seccombe, B.
Onslow of Woking, L.Skelmersdale, L.
Oxfuird, V.Stockton, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.Strange, B.
Rankeillour, L.Strathclyde, L.
Rawlings, B.Swansea, L.
Temple of Stowe, E.
Reay, L.Teviot, L.
Rees, L.Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Renton of Mount Harry, L.Trefgarne, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.Vivian, L.
Rotherwick, L.Waddington, L.
Saltoun of Abemethy, Ly. [Teller.]Wise, L.
Young, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.Hattersley, L.
Addington, L.Hayman, B.
Annan, L.Henderson of Brompton, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Ashley of Stoke, L.Hoffmann, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.Hollis of Heigham, B.
Barnett, L.Hooson, L.
Berkeley, L. [Teller.]Howie of Troon, L.
Berners, B.Hoyle, L.
Blackstone, B.Hughes of Woodside, L.
Bledisloe, V.Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Borne, L.Hussey of North Bradley, L.
Brightman, L.Hylton-Foster, B.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Burlison, L.
Carlisle, E.Jay of Paddington, B.
Camegy of Lour, B.Jeger, B.
Carrick, E.Jenkins of Putney, L.
Carter, L.Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Castle of Blackburn, B.Kennet, L.
Chandos, V.Kilmarnock, L
Clancarty, E.Kirkhill, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.Lockwood, B.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L.Lovell-Davis, L.
Cobbold, L.Lyell, L.
Colville of Culross, V.Mclntosh of Haringey, L.
Curric of Marylebone, L.Mackie of Benshie, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.McNair, L.
Dartmouth, E.Maddock, B.
Davies of Coity, L.Mallalieu, B.
Davies of Oldham, L.Marsh, L.
Dholakia, L.Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Dixon, L.Merlyn-Rees, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.Milner of Leeds, L.
Donoughuc, L.Mishcon, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.Monkswell, L.
Dubs, L.Montague of Oxford, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.Mountgarret, V.
Elton, L.Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Erroll, E.Nathan, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.Nicol, B.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.Norfolk, D.
Flather, B.Norton, L.
Freyberg, L.Norwich, Bp.
Gallacher, L.Pitkeathley, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.Plant of Highfied, L.
Gilbert, L.Prys-Davies, L.
Goodhart, L.Puttnam, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.Rathcavan, L.
Grenfell, L.Rea, L.
Hacking, L.Redesdale, L.
Hanworth, V.Rendell of Babergh, B.
Hardie, L.Renton, L.
Harding of Petherton, L.Renwick of Clifton, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.Richard, L. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Harris of Greenwich, L.Rochester, L.
Haskel, L.Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.

Rogers of Riverside, L.Symons of Vernham Dean, B
Runcie, L.Tenby, V.
Russell, E.Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.Thurlow, L.
St.John of Bletso, L.Thurso, V.
St. John of Fawsley, L.Tope, L.[Teller.]
Serota, B.Turner of Camden, B.
Shannon, E.Walker of Doncaster, L.
Shepherd, L.Walton of Detchant, L.
Simon, V.Warnock,B.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Simon of Highbury, L.Weatherill, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.Whitty, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.Wilberforce, L.
Strabolgi, L.Williams of Elvel, L.
Swinfen, L.Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7 p.m.

moved, as an amendment to the second Motion of the Lord Privy Seal, after ("78)") to insert (", with the exception of the recommendation to exclude Garter King of Arms from the ceremony").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

had given notice of his intention to move as an amendment to the second Motion of the Lord Privy Seal, to leave out ("forthwith") and insert ("from the beginning of the next Session of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the light of the result of the earlier Division, I do not intend to move my amendment.

[ Amendment not moved.]

On Question, Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Community Care (Residential Accommodation) Bill

7.2 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is a great privilege today for me to launch a Bill on this important subject affecting the welfare and well being of our senior citizens. I trust that those noble Lords who remain will give it their full support.

The Bill is short, simple, straightforward and, in my view, not at all controversial. Its purpose is to close a small gap in the legislation relating to the provision of residential and nursing home care by local authorities. It will ensure that anyone entering a home—the majority of whom are elderly people—will be able to safeguard a set amount of their capital assets.

It is of great significance to anyone entering residential care and to their immediate family and relatives to have any uncertainties about what will happen to their assets clarified at that stressful point in their lives. We need to make certain that elderly people know that care home fees will not completely devour their modest savings, nor swallow all the proceeds from the sale of their home. Many of those people have been saving all their lives to put something aside for the future, for their old age and, in many cases, it has been a great struggle. Many will have done without in order to buy their own homes. After having sacrificed and saved all their lives, they can endure an overwhelming sense of loss and worthlessness seeing all their prudent efforts shattered if that last small amount of savings is taken away.

This set amount of capital fixed by Parliament, which is known as the capital limit, is currently £16,000 and is set down in the Assessment of Resources Regulations for residential accommodation. Those charging regulations provide that anyone with less than that amount of capital should receive financial support from their local authority.

The need for the Bill came about because of a judicial review case which revealed a flaw in current legislation; that is, the National Assistance Act 1948—that old favourite on which so much community care law is based.

I should like, if I may, to give the background to this case. Almost two years ago a local authority—the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton—was found to be operating a policy of refusing financial support for people in residential or nursing home care, until their capital had fallen to a very low level (around £1,500—or the average cost of a funeral). That was contradictory to the government policy that anyone needing residential or nursing home care could receive financial support from their local authority if their capital came to less than the £16,000 national capital limit (as set out in the Assessment of Resources Regulations); and that the local authority should assist with the cost of care for people funding themselves in care homes once their capital falls below that level.

Sefton council was taken to court by an individual who was adversely affected by this policy, and by the charity Help the Aged. Unfortunately, the High Court found in Sefton's favour. Until the High Court judgment in this case, it had been accepted that anyone needing residential or nursing home care could receive financial support from their local authority if their capital came to less than the national capital limit. But the National Assistance Act does not expressly state that. It provides that local authorities may make arrangements for providing residential accommodation for persons,
"in need of care and attention which is not otherwise available to them".
It is only the charging regulations which refer to the "capital limits".

The High Court ruled on 27th March 1997 that the capital limits do not apply unless and until someone has actually been placed by their local authority in a home, because it is only at that stage that the local authority should assess a person's finances. The judgment sanctioned that local authority's practice of letting people place themselves in residential care and pay for it out of their own capital until it reduced to £1,500.

However, the High Court judgment was overturned on 31st July 1997 by the Court of Appeal which ruled that an authority is not entitled to assume that a person could pay the full cost of their care if they have less than £16,000 in capital. In that ruling, the Court of Appeal confirmed the Government's contention that the will of Parliament was clear and that that limit of savings should be protected.

Sefton initially petitioned for leave to appeal to this House against the Court of Appeal judgment but has since withdrawn the application, so the case is not being taken any further.

So why, your Lordships may be asking, is there still need for a Bill? Although the policy intention is clear, it is not necessarily secure in case law. There is still scope for a different view. Any local authority now operating a "Sefton type" policy could certainly be challenged by judicial review, and although the High Court would be bound by the Court of Appeal decision, it is possible, (albeit unlikely) that if the matter were to be considered by the Court of Appeal, it could depart from one of its decisions and deliver a different judgment.

I believe that until the policy intention is explicitly written into the law, social services departments feeling pressed to meet community care demands could be tempted to continue to seek new loopholes.

For those reasons I think that there is a very strong case for putting the policy position beyond doubt by amending the wording of the Act itself. It is clearly more appropriate and sensible for parliamentary opinion and government policy to be explicitly set out in primary legislation rather than left to case-law. It would ensure that this area—the balance of responsibility between the state and the individual—would not in future run the risk of being left to local policy makers. It will reassure the very many older people who feel disenfranchised and are afraid—many of them severely afraid—that they will lose all their hard-earned savings in paying for long-term care.

The Bill intends to remove further doubt about the policy intention that people who are entering residential accommodation should be able to retain a nationally set amount of their capital, as determined by Parliament. Clause 1 of the Bill will amend Section 21 of the National Assistance Act so that local authorities will have to disregard a person's capital up to the limit set out in the Regulations, when considering whether care and attention are "otherwise available" to them. Clause 2 deals with the situation with regard to Scotland and Clause 3 cites the Title.

I must reiterate to your Lordships that there are no financial implications, because the Bill is not imposing new duties or powers on local authorities: it is simply ensuring that local authorities carry out their functions under the National Assistance Act in accordance with the Government's policy intention, which will provide security and peace of mind for elderly people by ensuring that they will be allowed to retain a moderate amount of their capital and that they know explicitly what that amount is.

Finally, I would point out that there is nothing about this Bill which is party political. When the Chancellor in the previous government increased the capital limits to their present levels there was full cross-Party support and I very much hope that your Lordships will find it acceptable. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Pitkeathley.)

7.11 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to support the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, on this Bill and I hope that when the Minister comes to reply she will also welcome the Bill, as it is a necessary tidying-up measure.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, has very ably described the reasons for the Bill and the content. In this matter I am briefed by Help the Aged, who took part in the original court case and fought it through to appeal. There are, however, still major concerns about other aspects of access to residential and nursing home care by older people which concern them. Help the Aged receives calls all the time from older people and their families about the difficulties they are experiencing in gaining access to community care services and to residential services. They have analysed these calls, and believe that there are outstanding problems in some areas in the following fields.

First, local authorities have a duty to assess the needs of those older people who may require community care services under the National Health Service and Community Care Act. However, it appears to them that some local authorities do not offer an assessment to people whose assets are over £16,000. In other areas there may he considerable delays in assessment. As I understand it, local authorities have a duty to assess the needs of people who are elderly or otherwise in need of care.

Secondly, having made an assessment and agreed that residential or nursing home care should be provided, the local authority may leave it to the older person or their relatives to make the necessary arrangements, if they will be "self payers". This is a very and difficult painful decision for people to make, and few people have the experience to know what it is they should be looking for and what to guard against. I believe that people need good support and advice in making such a major decision, which could affect the quality of life for their remaining years—or possibly only months.

Even in circumstances where the local authority will be meeting the cost of care home fees, there are not infrequently delays between identifying the need for residential or nursing home care and actually providing the services. This varies from authority to authority, but Help the Aged is well aware that in some areas waiting lists for residential or nursing home placements are very considerable. Also, under the Direction on Choice 1992, people should have a reasonable say about the home in which they are to live, whether they are paying for it themselves or whether the local authority is meeting all the fees. However, it is clear that not everybody has access to a home of their choice, even if that falls within the financial parameters set by that particular authority. The reason for this seems to be that some authorities "block purchase" beds in certain homes, leaving little money available to meet the fees of people who make alternative choices.

Help the Aged receives a great deal of anecdotal information through its free advice line about the problems experienced by elderly people and their relatives in gaining access to residential and nursing homes of their choice. As a result, they commissioned research into what is happening in those areas where there appears to be a concentration of problems. The research focused over a very limited period on only five local authority areas. There is reason to believe, however, that similar problems are occurring in other areas, but there is no reason to believe that such practices are universal or even widespread among local authorities.

So far as concerns assessments, local authorities have a duty to undertake an assessment of people who may need Community care services under the National Health Service and Community Care Act of 1990. The research revealed that assessments do not always happen. If people have more than £16,000 worth of assets and are therefore self-funders, they may be sent a list of homes and told to make their own arrangements. In other instances, older people are being advised to use the benefit system to put together a package of benefits which will go some way towards meeting residential home fees, and make up the difference themselves. In both circumstances older people may not get a community care assessment.

I am told that Manchester has a confused policy. One informant told Help the Aged that people with over £16,000 would not get an assessment; another informant said that they would get an assessment but that the social services department would not arrange a placement. Last July an internal memorandum was sent out, instructing care managers not to assess people with over £16,000, but after pressure from the local Age Concern and others, this was retracted. However, a "no assessment" policy seems still to be continuing in some parts of the city. There is also some anecdotal evidence of people not getting assessments in Cambridgeshire if they have more than £16,000.

Turning now to waiting lists, most older people only consider residential or nursing home care in extremis. The noble Lord, Lord Woolf, in his Court of Appeal judgment on the Sefton case, made it quite clear that if an older person is assessed as needing residential care according to local eligibility criteria, the local authority has a duty to arrange such care. The research evidence indicates that this is either not happening in some areas or that there are long waiting lists if people require social services funding to meet residential home fees.

Turning now to the choice of a home, Direction on Choice made it mandatory for people eligible for residential or nursing home care to have a choice about which home they go into. Cultural, religious and personal preference should all be taken into account. However, in some areas such choice appears not to be available to those who require social services funding. I am told that in Liverpool beds in council homes are "block purchased" so that they are already paid for and the money is already committed. They say they can only put people in private homes when cash becomes available and then they can "spot purchase" an individual bed for a specific person in a home of their choice. People are told they can go into a council home specified by social services almost straight away, but if they want a private home of their choice they will have to wait a long time. This of course can lead to very much greater pressure on the older person and that person's family.

There is another matter, where local authorities seem to wish to maximise the income from the older person for the council. As the House will appreciate, most older people want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. One of the aims of the National Health Service and Community Care Act was to support people in the community and divert them from unnecessary residential or nursing home care. However, when people need a relatively high level of support it is financially advantageous to the council to place them in residential or nursing home care, since the people contribute their own incomes, including pensions and benefits to which they may be entitled, and the net cost to the council is reduced—the well -known perverse incentive. If residents have assets in excess of £16,000, including the value of their home, the cost to the council is, of course, nil.

I understand that Cheshire seems to have adopted a deliberate policy of increasing the use of residential care in order to reduce its own spending. On 14th January last year, in a report on special transitional grant and placement activity, it stated:
"There continues to be a gradual shift in favour of residential care associated with the Group's corrective action strategy aimed at reducing the current overspend. There is a perverse incentive to looking after people in a residential setting as opposed to their own homes as greater access to DSS benefits and statutory charges results in higher income levels for the authority when people are in residential care".
I understand that for the past 18 months the service has been delivered on a strictly cost minimisation basis and that there has been a significant negative impact on clients. I also understand that in some homes, not necessarily in Cheshire, the residents do not receive the £14 a week to which they are entitled out of their own income to spend on themselves—on soap, bath essence or presents for the grandchildren. That is disgraceful.

I am coming to the end of my speech. I am sorry that it has been rather overlong. Will the Government make certain that local authorities carry out the following acts: first, that they carry out their statutory duty to assess the needs of those older people who may require community care services, in accordance with the National Health Service and Community Care Act; secondly, that they make arrangements for the provision of residential or nursing home care for those who are assessed as needing it, in accordance with the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, in the Court of Appeal in the Sefton case; thirdly, that they minimise delays in assessment and take steps to reduce the length of waiting lists for the provision of services; fourthly, that they implement the Direction on Choice so that older people have a reasonable say about the home in which they are to live; fifthly, that they offer people support at home where their circumstances allow that and not propel people into residential or nursing home care merely because it is financially advantageous to the council to do so; and, finally, that they abide by the national regulations with regard to charging for residential and nursing home care? I support the Bill.

7.22 p.m.

My Lords, certain Bills come under the heading, which I first saw in 1066 and all that, "Basically, this was a good thing". This Bill comes under that heading. The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, deserves praise not only for bringing forward the Bill but also for doing so after we have chewed our way through so much ham in the previous debate. It was nobly done, if that is not an overly-used phrase in this House, and it is certainly a measure that should have been brought forward before now.

As the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, pointed out, the Bill is not a panacea to cure all the evils in this sector. There is still considerable diversity of quality of care throughout the sector, but giving a finite limit of £16,000, after which one is entitled to support, is a positive step forward. It stops worry and it stops stress. It means that elderly people will have a better idea of where they stand. It is probably a description of just how creaking a ship we are dealing with here that we have to have a Private Member's Bill to get a degree of clarification into the regulations. If people stop worrying about this, they will know how to plan.

I support the Bill. I hope that there will be less need for courageous Back-Benchers to bring forward Bills and that the Government will be able to give us an indication that they will take this problem away and deal with it across the board in the near future.

7.24 p.m.

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, for introducing the Bill and for the capable way in which she has done so. This is a measure designed to establish firmly in law a decision taken during the previous Parliament by my right honourable friend Mr. Kenneth Clarke, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, to improve the lot of those elderly people of modest means who are in need of residential or nursing home care. That decision to increase the relevant monetary limits which determine entitlement to state support was subsequently approved by Parliament and was widely welcomed.

It was welcomed as a recognition of the principle that those people who have worked and saved during their lives should be entitled to look to the state to support the cost of their care in old age without, as a pre-condition of that support, having to forfeit all of their private capital. Unfortunately, as the noble Baroness has explained, the legal position surrounding the changes to the means test is unclear.

It was placed into doubt by the decision of the court to uphold the actions of Sefton Borough Council, which took it upon itself to ignore the thresholds that had been laid down and to refuse assistance to a considerable number of people whose entitlement to it should have been indisputable. While, as we have heard, the Court of Appeal reversed that decision, it is unsatisfactory to have a situation whereby another hard pressed local authority might perhaps seek to pursue the matter in the courts at the point where Sefton Borough Council left off and, in the meantime, cause a great deal of stress and anxiety to a further group of elderly people. It is not right that the law should be ambiguous or that it should not fully reflect the clear wish of Parliament. From these Benches we have no hesitation in supporting the Bill whose purpose is to put those defects right.

I should very much like to believe that our worries on the matter could end here. It strikes me that in any area of the law it is always possible for an ingenious lawyer or an ingenious local authority to find a way round inconvenient obstacles. Indeed, worries were voiced in another place, and again today by my noble friend Lord Swinfen, that a local authority, if so minded, might deliberately delay assessment of an individual for community care services. When the Minister comes to reply, I should be very grateful if the noble Baroness will say whether any sanctions are available against a local authority seeking to evade its responsibilities by adopting deliberate delaying tactics. Will she also confirm that once a person has been assessed as needing residential care and as being entitled to such care at public expense a local authority is not able to delay or refuse that care on the grounds that it has insufficient resources to do so? In other words, are there rules in place which are sufficient to close off those avenues?

I have a further question to which I should be glad of an answer. The Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum make clear that the capital thresholds which determine an individual's entitlement to care are as laid down in regulations from time to time. Will it be necessary to bring forward regulations under the National Assistance Act 1948, as amended by the Bill, prescribing the new thresholds; or is it the case that Parliament is being asked in this measure to accept an element of retrospection which will render a further statutory instrument unnecessary?

The Minister in another place, Mr. Boateng, described the Bill as modest and uncontroversial. That is so. But it is nonetheless necessary for that. The Government have declared their support for it. The only puzzle perhaps is why they have not brought it forward as a government Bill. Whatever the arcane reasons for that decision, I believe we should all acknowledge that great credit is due to Help the Aged for its role in pursuing these issues in such an assiduous way. I am very pleased to offer the noble Baroness my support for the Bill and I wish it well in its passage through your Lordships' House.

7.30 p.m.

My Lords, I would like to congratulate very warmly my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley on bringing forward this Bill and to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate for their general support for her measure. The Bill has the complete support of the Government and I commend it to the House.

One of the reasons why the Bill has not come forward as a government measure is largely the pressure on the legislative time that we have before us. I support the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in thinking that perhaps if this House spent more time on these sensible measures and not on some of the things that we have discussed at length this afternoon, it might not have been such an issue. But at this point in the evening I do not wish to be controversial. As my noble friend said in introducing the Bill, it is a simple measure but of considerable importance, particularly to elderly people seeking to safeguard a fixed amount of their capital assets. Nonetheless, it is a tightly focused Bill on one specific issue.

Although I heard, for example, the extremely authoritative list of proposals which the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, suggested to improve access to and assessment of residential care, the Bill is designed, as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said, simply to deal with the loophole created by the so-called Sefton decision. I would very much welcome the opportunity to discuss some of the broader points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on general policy in this area, but tonight I shall confine my comments to the specific matter of this Bill.

Like the noble Earl, I would like to take the opportunity—since the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, said that he, too, was briefed by Help the Aged—to acknowledge the important role that the voluntary sector plays not simply in providing the great care that it does but in advising and helping us in Parliament on some of the broader issues.

As your Lordships will be aware, the treatment of capital in the residential charging system, which is the point of this tightly focused Bill, has in recent years been the subject of considerable controversy. But safeguarding a set amount of capital is of great importance to everyone who enters residential or nursing home care and indeed to their families. Most of the people entering such care are, as one would expect, very elderly and sometimes quite vulnerable and many of them have saved all their lives to prepare for their old age. We owe it to these senior citizens to protect a modest amount of their life savings and/or, for example, the proceeds from the sale of the family home which might indeed be passed on as a nest-egg either to grandchildren or children or simply kept by themselves for small luxuries in the way that has been described.

I know that there are those who question, in strict fiscal policy as it were, why it is that someone at this stage of their lives and whose primary needs are presumably entirely catered for in a residential home should be allowed to keep this amount. But I do not believe that this provision is based on need but on a humane and reasonable approach, which I believe has support all round the House, towards those people who may have worked for many years and often struggled to save in modest circumstances to pay for a mortgage or to buy their own home. We believe that for those people there should be a reasonable balance between the state and the individual in paying for their social care.

As your Lordships have heard, last year the Court of Appeal upheld the view that has been taken by successive governments and decided that this level of saving should be protected. But the very fact that at least one local authority had sought before to ignore the capital limits and had to be taken through the legal process showed that the position was not secure. As my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley pointed out, even with a Court of Appeal judgment some unequivocal statutory provision seemed to us to be needed.

We turn now to the very important example that the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, introduced about waiting lists. It has come to our attention recently that, despite the Court of Appeal judgment, some local authorities are ignoring the capital limit by establishing waiting lists for residential care. As the noble Lord said, that can result in elderly or disabled people being forced to put themselves into a home and use up their capital savings until they reach the £16,000 level in order to receive the care that they need.

Unfortunately, it has become clear that until the policy intention is explicitly written into primary legislation, some social services departments will continue to side-step the law, and that is why the loophole needs to be closed.

I would like to respond to the noble Earl's point about the loopholes. I am advised that all the legal loopholes about personal capital assets are covered by this provision. But the questions about guidance and regulation to local authorities become slightly more tenuous, shall we say. It is based on guidance rather than primary statute.

We believe that the guidance to local authorities which is binding and which is issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act should meet the concerns about some of the issues which were raised. That will be monitored by local social services inspectorates. As regards the issue of personal capital assets, I am advised that those legal loopholes have now been closed.

The noble Earl also raised the question of the element of retrospection in this law. It was raised in another place, too. I believe that, although it might normally be regarded as unacceptable and bad practice as far as law-making was concerned, there was a general understanding that concerning this very specific measure covering the small area of revising and improving the statute, the element of restrospection would be agreed. I very much hope that that will also be the attitude of your Lordships' House—to approve what I believe we have agreed is the uncontroversial and simple purpose of the Bill, simply to enforce the current capital threshold, which was the original intention of Parliament, so that it is applied equally to anyone in the United Kingdom needing residential accommodation. Therefore, I reiterate the Government's support for this excellent Bill. I am grateful to my noble friend and those noble Lords who support it. I commend it to the House.

7.36 p.m.

My Lords, I am most grateful for the contributions tonight and for the general agreement that the Bill is a good thing. It emphasises, as noble Lords' contributions have done, the cross-party nature not only of the support for this Bill but of the concern about general community care issues. As someone who has spent her working life working and campaigning on these issues, it is pleasing to have that support confirmed and emphasised.

This Bill is modest, as has been pointed out, but its provisions will be of great importance in offering clarity to older people and their families about what they can expect and in setting their minds at rest about how much of their capital they may retain. Anxieties about this run very high, as noble Lords have pointed out. I am particularly grateful to the Minister for re-affirming the Government's support for the Bill and the original policy intention to safeguard modest savings.

The Bill will most certainly not solve all the problems faced by older people and their families when it comes to residential care or waiting lists and whether the current capital limits are adequate or the current system for funding long-term care is right. It will not address any of those things. But the wider issues are being considered by the Royal Commission on long-term care which is due to report at the end of this year. The fact that the Government made a manifesto commitment to set up a Royal Commission shows that they recognise, as do all your Lordships, how important the provision and funding of long-term care for older people is. This Bill makes a small but important contribution towards the development of policies which will be clearly set out so that everyone will know what they can and, equally important, cannot expect from long-term care provision. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Ec Chocolate Directive: Ecc Report

7.39 p.m.

rose to move, That this House take note of the Report of the European Communities Committee on The EC Chocolate Directive (19th Report, HL Paper 85).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as a life-long, confirmed chocaholic, a category known, I believe, to the supermarket manager as an "indulgence-oriented customer", it gives me particular pleasure to introduce this debate.

Sub-Committee D interrupted its inquiry into the Commission's Agenda 2000 proposal—an inquiry which has subsequently been completed with the resulting report awaiting debate in your Lordships' House—in order to conduct in parallel a much shorter inquiry into the Commission's chocolate directive, because of the indignation with which certain amendments introduced by the European Parliament to the Commission's proposals have been received in this country and because of the threat that those amendments, if they passed into law, would pose to British chocolate manufacturing interests.

The issue between this country and other member states on the subject of chocolate consists of two elements, both of which have their origin in differences in traditional manufacturing methods. If I may, I shall follow the example of most of the report in dealing with their respective histories in turn. One concerns the use of non-cocoa vegetable fats in the manufacture of chocolate; the other concerns the percentage of milk in milk chocolate.

I shall take the non-cocoa vegetable fats first. When the UK and Ireland joined the European Community in 1973, we were the first member states which permitted the inclusion of non-cocoa vegetable fats up to a limit of 5 per cent. in the manufacture of chocolate. Perhaps I may say in parenthesis at this point that non-cocoa fats, for example, palm oil or oil from shea or illipe nuts, are valued in chocolate for imparting hardness and other qualities, and are widely used in other foods.

In 1973 the Council then adopted a directive which permitted chocolate with a 5 per cent. non-cocoa fat content to be manufactured and traded within the European Community, but it also allowed those member states which did not permit the inclusion of vegetable fats in the manufacture of chocolate also to forbid the import of chocolate containing them, even from other member states. So no single market for chocolate existed. No further progress was made until 1996, when the Commission brought forward a new directive which set out to introduce this single market. By then, five other member states which allowed non-cocoa fat in the manufacture of chocolate had joined the EC.

The 1996 directive sought to open the market fully by requiring both sorts of chocolate to be allowed to circulate freely throughout the Community, but would have required chocolate containing non-cocoa fat to carry a label containing a
"clear, neutral and objective statement"
to that effect, in addition to the list of ingredients.

The European Parliament then, in the autumn of last year, adopted its amendments to the Commission's proposals—amendments which caused so much alarm—one of which introduced the requirement that this label should be "conspicuous", and that it should appear on the front of the product.

The Commission then in March produced a revised proposal, which rejected most of the European Parliament's amendments, but took over the European Parliament's wording that the statement should be "conspicuous", although not the proposal that it must appear on the front of the product.

In the course of our inquiry, we received written evidence from several sources, and oral evidence from the BCCCA, the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate & Confectionary Alliance, which is the British industry's chief representative body. The industry does not welcome extra labelling requirements, as they involve expense, especially if they are introduced without adequate warning.

However, for the sake of obtaining an agreement that would open up new markets for its products, it appeared that the industry would be willing to accept a measure of double labelling, provided it could be given sufficient notice, and provided any statement additional to, and separate from, the ingredients list should not have to appear on the front of the product. Front-of-package labelling in its view and in our view bears too much similarity to a health warning, and would not be acceptable. We take the view that any double labelling is inherently unnecessary and undesirable, and that a requirement for it in this case should only be temporary.

The Commission's revised proposal was only published after our report went to press, but in a subsequent letter to the Government we drew attention to the danger of the Commission's revised double labelling wording leading indirectly to a requirement for the statement, in order to be "conspicuous", to appear on the front of the product. To counter this danger, we have suggested that where the label is placed is a matter that should be left under the directive to the discretion of the manufacturer, not of the importing member state.

As far as milk in chocolate is concerned—the second area of contention—Ireland and the United Kingdom have both traditionally used a higher percentage of milk, up to 20 per cent., in chocolate than have all other member states even to this day. For them, the limit is 14 per cent.

The 1973 directive placed the two types of milk chocolate in separate categories, and required the British and Irish type to be sold as
"chocolate with a high milk content",
although this was in practice in the directive at the time translated into other Community languages as "household milk chocolate". At the same time, the UK and Ireland were given a derogation which permitted
"milk chocolate with a high milk content"
to sell as "milk chocolate" on their own markets.

The 1996 directive proposed no change to the 1973 directive so far as concerns milk chocolate. The European Parliament, however, when it came to consider the matter, amended the directive so as to remove the Irish and UK derogation, with the effect that milk chocolate would no longer be able to be sold as such, even on their own markets. The Commission, in its revised proposal, has restored the derogation.

The industry believes that the pejorative way, in its eyes, in which the description
"chocolate with a high milk content"
was allowed to be translated in the 1973 directive into other member states' languages, has led to it being sold among groceries rather than confectionery, and must be held at least partly responsible for the negligible sales of UK milk chocolate in some Community markets. We record our surprise that the industry seemed willing to accept a directive that did not address this issue. This may be due to its assessment that as only the UK and Ireland are affected, support in Council for the changes desired will be difficult to obtain.

In the long run, we see no good reason why there need to be two separate products, "milk chocolate" and,
"milk chocolate with a high milk content",
and why both products cannot be allowed to compete against each other under the description "milk chocolate" although I think that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, may give a different view and I look forward to hearing what he has to say. If there is to be a separate description for British-style milk chocolate in our view it should at least be neutral in all languages.

A new directive along the lines of the present one, if and when it comes into effect, may highlight this issue of derogatory labelling because the opening of the Community market to chocolate containing non-cocoa fats will also mean that more British-style milk chocolate will have the chance to appear on other member states' markets. Any discriminatory treatment may then be both more noticeable and more damaging. That is the reason why we describe the issue of milk chocolate as an unresolved issue which may need to be revisited in the future.

There, in a nutshell, are, I believe, the two issues at stake. I shall leave it to other noble Lords taking part in the debate to supply the adjectives that properly reflect the indignation felt by them and others at the attempts made in some quarters, notably in the European Parliament, to restrict by unfair means the sale in other markets of the Community of traditional, good quality British products.

As far as the interests of developing countries are concerned—and they tend to be prayed in aid in argument by those seeking to preserve the status quo—any increase in the sales of non-cocoa fats is likely to help those developing countries that produce the raw materials for those fats, and any comparative reduction in the use of cocoa is likely to be more than offset by the continuing growth in the consumption of chocolate in Community markets. Cocoa is currently in short supply, and as a result, has been rising in price. In any event, in the eyes of many, the artificial distortion of natural trade patterns is an unsatisfactory method of providing aid to under developed countries.

In their recent pronouncements on this subject, Her Majesty's Government have been admirably robust in their stated determination to defend British manufacturing interests. I hope the Minister will be able to reassure us this evening of their continuing resolve to obtain justice for this important, traditional British industry, and will be able to report to us significant indications of progress in this long campaign.

It only remains for me to thank all those who provided the committee with written evidence, the BCCCA for its most useful oral evidence, the members of the sub-committee for their essential help and assiduous attendance and our admirable new clerk, Mr. Andrew Mackersie, for his diligent organisation of the inquiry and preparation of the report. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House take note of the Report of the European Communities Committee on The EC Chocolate Directive (19th Report, HL Paper 85).—(Lord Reay.)

7.50 p.m.

My Lords, I am a member of the Select Committee on the European Communities. However, I am not a member of Sub-Committee D which did all of the real work in taking evidence and writing the report. I hesitated therefore before tabling my name for this debate. I very much respect the work carried out by the noble Lord, Lord Reay, and his colleagues, but this evening I venture to put forward a view somewhat at variance with their conclusions.

The noble Lord, Lord Reay, has already said that there are two key elements in this directive. Unlike him, I shall simplify the matter by ignoring what the European Parliament has said. I believe that I am entitled to do that and to make the point that when considering this subject the Commission itself ignored the Parliament's basic and rather extreme comments.

The first element in the directive is that chocolate containing up to 5 per cent. non-cocoa fats—the United Kingdom industry norm—should be allowed free circulation in the Community. This is marvellous; this is something that has not existed for some time. As the report states, it is a welcome measure. After 25 years the Community is at last helping to implement the single market. Certainly, it is helpful to UK chocolate manufacturers since it will apply even though the domestic legislation of eight member states, including all six original members of the Community, banned the use of non-cocoa fats in the manufacture of chocolate as manufactured by their own industries.

However, the directive states that the presence of non-cocoa fats should be indicated not just in the list of ingredients but also by a clear, neutral and objective statement. In principle, the report is against what it calls double labelling as an unnecessary burden on industry, but it goes along, perhaps reluctantly, with the directive's proposal that so long as it has a strict end in point of time—an end date—and does not have to be on the front of the package that is acceptable.

The other element of the directive relates to milk chocolate where the directive proposes no change in the current position whereby the type favoured on the Continent, which is 25 per cent. cocoa and 14 per cent. milk, and the type favoured only in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which is 20 per cent. cocoa and 20 per cent. milk, are treated as distinct products, the latter having to be sold as "milk chocolate with a high milk content". That is translated into other European languages in a variety of ways as "household milk chocolate" and similar terms. The directive allows the derogation for milk chocolate sold within the United Kingdom and Ireland. Such chocolate can continue to be labelled simply "milk chocolate".

The report sees no reason why there should be two separate products: milk chocolate and milk chocolate with a high milk content. It strongly objects to what it calls misleading translations of the phrase "milk chocolate with a high milk content" because it has a discriminatory effect. As the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has pointed out, such chocolate is sold among groceries rather than confectionery. Paragraph 36 of the report is particularly robust—if I were unkind I might even say that it was tendentious—when it says:
"Those who argue for two separate denominations are attempting to restrict competition within the Community".
I believe that if there are perceived by consumers to be significant differences between products then consumers, whether in the United Kingdom, Germany, France or anywhere else, are entitled to accurate and reasonably full information on which to decide what to buy based on what they like from their experience.

I believe that there can be true and fair competition between producers only if consumers are enabled to make well informed choices based on clear, consistent and useful information from competing suppliers. I note that the report favours the view that in respect of chocolate with up to 5 per cent. non-cocoa fats it should at least for a period of time have some form of additional labelling apart from the ingredients list. The report recognises
"that to consumers in eight Member States chocolate containing non-cocoa fats will he a new and unfamiliar product".
I am not sure why this greater clarity of information should have a strict end date. After all, there are new consumers of chocolates coming along all the time. For example, children become purchasers of chocolate and so on. I am not sure why it should be only on the back of the packet where it may be less likely to be seen.

In my experience, the phrase "burden on industry" is one that trips very easily off the tongue of those giving evidence. It is less easily justified. To be fair to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, he said that manufacturers could not really object to changes to the packaging given that they were making those changes themselves every so often as long as they were not required to incur the additional expense of a special change at a particular point in time without much or any notice.

I am sorry that the evidence of the Consumers' Association given to the sub-committee was so limited. For reasons best known to the association, it claimed that the subject was not a high priority for it. It did not deal at all in its written evidence with the subject of milk chocolate. Contrary to the report, I believe that United Kingdom-style milk chocolate is a different product. It is a sweeter, more milky product. I agree with the report that misleading or pejorative translations of the phrase "milk chocolate with a high milk content" should not be permitted by the European Community authorities. We want a description that indicates the difference but which is neutral in all languages, is clear and distinct.

7.58 p.m.

My Lords, as a member of the sub-committee that produced this report, I begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Reay for his exemplary chairmanship of the sub-committee during its inquiry. I join him in thanking our clerk for his organisational abilities. My noble friend has already put the sub-committee's views very clearly and I shall not weary the House by repeating those in detail now. There are however a few points that I believe are worth underlining.

I begin by congratulating the Commission—a somewhat rare event—on its first unamended directive in 1996. If one must have a chocolate directive, which is highly questionable, at least that directive was adequate, in that it proposed that chocolate products containing vegetable fats could be marketed in all member states provided they were labelled with a clear, neutral and objective statement in addition to the list of ingredients, that these substances were present in the finished product.

The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, took exception to that and believed that there should be an additional statement. Surely, the requirement for double labelling, the vegetable fat declaration being separate, is superfluous. Where else should vegetable fat be included as an ingredient if not in the list of ingredients? I cannot see the necessity for double labelling. I understand that the industry is prepared to accept the requirement in the short term as superfluous but not seriously damaging.

The Commission did a good job up to a point. But, then, enter left the European Parliament, galumphing on stage, drunk with the power of co-decision, with a series of discriminatory, ill-thought-out and unworkable amendments which, as we have heard, would be damaging to British and Irish chocolate products and utterly at odds with the requirement of the single market.

I hope that I shall not test your Lordships' patience too far if I enlarge briefly on the requirements of the European Parliament. First, and astonishingly, its amendments demanded that all British and Irish milk chocolate made in Britain, sold in Britain and consumed in Britain—let us call it Cadbury's Dairy Milk for the sake of argument—could no longer be sold as "milk chocolate", but only as "milk chocolate with a high milk content". The arrogance is quite astonishing. It is all part of the self-evident benefits of our membership of the European Union, as we are often told.

It appears that we have given away so many of our rights to Brussels that Cadbury's milk chocolate can only be sold in the UK thanks to a derogation which, as your Lordships are aware, is no more than a temporary waiver. Perhaps I may remind the Minister of that when it comes to renegotiating our inshore fishing rights.

The European Parliament voted in its amendment to end that derogation. Another of its amendments also required double labelling with conspicuous wording on the front of the packet, as one might expect to find a health warning on a packet of cigarettes. I do not know whether that is the kind of warning which the noble Lord, Lord Borne, would wish to see; a prominent warning stating, "This product can seriously damage your health if eaten in excess by a chocoholic", as my noble friend Lord Reay tells me he is. I believe that that amendment can be ascribed to a post-prandial lack of focus on the part of the European Parliament.

The Commission, in its recent reply to those amendments, rejected most of the dafter content. The UK/Irish derogation has been restored—at least that is the proposal. Nonetheless, the Commission has accepted the principle of double labelling without any clear indication of where this should be placed on the packet. Although, thanks to derogation—and I suppose that we should be thankful for very small mercies—milk chocolate will still be allowed to be sold as milk chocolate in the United Kingdom, the fact is that under the Commission's current proposals our chocolate will still suffer from discriminatory and pejorative labelling in the rest of the European Union where it will be known in various translations as "household milk chocolate", or "chocolat de ménage", which will not be sold as high quality confectionery but down the counter among the cake mix and Brobat. Do we need the European Parliament?

I read the Government's response to the most recent of the Commission's proposals and I strongly support their sensible and robust line of continued opposition to any double-labelling requirement. I should like to ask the Minister whether the Government will take the opportunity of the UK presidency to go for the full Monty and also press for a single definition of milk chocolate which could be sold as such throughout the European Union. Surely, this is a matter for personal consumer preference and should not be subject to EU or member government interference. That is what the single market is all about and if we cannot get it right with milk chocolate where can we get it right?

Finally, will the Minister give the House an indication, however veiled, of the Government's chances of achieving their aims in the Council of Ministers? In another place, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was unequivocal and robust in the extreme. He stated:
"I make it absolutely clear that the Government will not agree to any situation that discriminates against traditional British products—we simply will not have it".
It is not as simple as that. The process is subject to qualified majority voting. Do we have the backing of enough of our partners to carry the day? I much look forward to the Minister's reply and wish him and his colleagues every success in those negotiations.

8.4 p.m.

My Lords, perhaps I may first pay tribute to all noble Lords who have worked hard to contribute to this interesting and commendably brief report. It is no secret that I am a Euro-sceptic, to use convenient if not wholly accurate shorthand. Like most Euro-sceptics, however, I am open-minded and open to persuasion. In this instance, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, I believe that the European Parliament has got it partly right—and I stress the word "partly".

The argument about how many tropical producers will gain and how many will lose if a greater switch away from cocoa butter is made is inconclusive. One suspects that there is little in it. So I wish to concentrate on the interests of the consumer and to a lesser extent the manufacturer. It is important that the consumer should be able to discover exactly what he is eating without having to use a magnifying glass to find out. Some people, including many of my best friends, do not mind about the ingredients so long as the end product tastes all right. Others, including many people on the Continent, particularly in France and Belgium, and myself take the opposite view. I contend that we have a right to know in order to enable us to choose.

Perhaps I may try to dispel a few red herrings. Chief among them is the obsession among continentals about "chocolate with a high milk content". We know that it is possible to make chocolate with a high milk content without using any non-cocoa butter. All British manufacturers did so before 1950 and a few still do. Conversely, some chocolate with no milk content—that is dark chocolate—is made with vegetable fat, notably Bournville. I am astonished that such chocolate is not mentioned anywhere in the report. Therefore, there is no necessary correlation between milk content and the presence of vegetable fat. I suppose that the right description would be "non-cocoa fat" because surely the cocoa bean is a vegetable. No doubt someone will correct me if I am wrong.

The exact ratio of milk to cocoa which people prefer in their chocolate can readily be determined by trial and error. After all, a chocolate bar does not cost much. Therefore, I wholly agree with the committee that there is no need to re-label milk chocolate as "household milk chocolate", or "chocolate with a high milk content", or whatever.

The second red herring or misconception is that this is a question of Britain versus the rest. In fact, many British manufacturers use only cocoa butter, not only Payne's, whose evidence is given in the report, but also Terry's, a distinguished and old-established Yorkshire firm whose chocolate, almost without exception, is entirely made of cocoa butter, Green and Blacks, the makers of excellent organic chocolate which is more expensive than the rest but worth it, and so forth.

Yesterday, I conducted a brief consumer test in advance of the debate. I visited Tesco's, Safeway's, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer's but did not manage to visit Waitrose. Without exception, their own-brand chocolate contained only cocoa butter. Some had been made for them on the Continent and put under their own label and some had been made in this country. It is perfectly possible for the British and anyone else to produce "pure" chocolate at a reasonable price.

I turn to the interests of the manufacturer. I do not often agree with the Belgians, but they are right to be worried about the possible long-term adulteration of a product for which they are internationally famous. Food adulteration has a long history the world over. After all, the BSE crisis arose from a desire to cut corners in the interest of keeping prices down. I am not comparing chocolate with beef, but the principle is the same.

Therefore by all means let those who are content with what might be described as popular chocolate—chocolate containing vegetable fat—be free to buy it right across the EU. I agree with the committee about that. But let the labelling of the fat content and composition be clear and prominent so that the more fastidious consumers among us get what we consider to be the genuine article. After all, most of us want to know whether we are buying butter or margarine. That is highly relevant to the labelling of ice-cream. Non-dairy ice-cream has to be prominently labelled as such, and rightly so. It would be wholly consistent with the regulations governing the labelling of ice-cream if it were to be made obligatory to indicate the presence of non-cocoa fat in chocolate with equal prominence.

I agree with the committee that it would be going too far to insist that any such indication should be on the front of the packet. On the other hand, I contend that it should be printed in a reasonably large and legible type-face, requiring the minimum alteration of machinery and the precise minimum size to be determined but at any rate to be larger than that used for the other ingredients.

8.10 p.m.

My Lords, I rise to speak very briefly and in support and amplification of what other noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke, has just said. It follows that I am afraid I will not be able to agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, said.

I really just want to point out, not for the first time in your Lordships' House, that the single market is not really working as we hoped it would when the Conservative government supported it so strongly in 1985. The aspect which so often goes against our interest is the system of qualified majority voting, to which my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke referred.

Thanks to single market legislation this system now applies to all our industry and commerce, to our environment, transport, European culture (whatever that turns out to be), and the workings of the common agriculture and fisheries policies and, of course, there are further extensions to qualified majority voting and the co-decision procedure in the Amsterdam Treaty which your Lordships are considering.

I suppose, once again, just for the record, it is worth spelling out how that system of qualified majority voting works. There are 87 votes among the 15 member states, of which 62 are required to carry a motion and 26 to block one. We have only 10 votes and we are often alone. We are often alone because our global economic interests are not shared by the other EU nations.

This is the system which makes us powerless to defend so many other British interests such as our international art market, the impending destruction of which is threatened by a new Euro tax—droit de suite—and much increased VAT. These additional taxes will not apply in New York or Geneva which are the principal competitors of London and so much of our trade is already moving away from London to these centres. For details of this comic, if it were not so tragic, situation, I would recommend that your Lordships read debates in this House of 10th December 1997 and 11th December 1996.

For other examples of the detailed way in which this system works to prevent EU reform in general and against United Kingdom interests in particular, I recommend your Lordships' debate on the fruit and vegetable regime of 18th March 1996, enlargement and the common agriculture policy on 15th October 1996 and the tobacco regime on 9th June 1997.

There are dozens of other examples of British interests which are being threatened or are already damaged by Euro-legislation and which we can do nothing about. These would include, for example, waste disposal, slaughtermen, the working week, herbal medicines, dairy farmers, cheese makers, food transporters, whisky distillers, pheasant shooting, market gardeners and paper rounds. And as I have mentioned before, there is also the excellent lavatory designed by Thomas Crapper.

Obviously I am going to ask the Minister if he can tell the House whether this qualified majority system of voting will apply in this case and with what confidence he thinks the Government face the prospect of carrying their way.

There is one difficulty for my noble friend on the Front Bench, as I have indicated, which is that the Conservative Party, of which, of course, I am proud to form part, still claims that the single market, as opposed to the common market, is its greatest achievement in Europe. Therefore, many Conservatives are reluctant to acknowledge the damage caused by the way the EU's QMV system often works to our detriment.

Apart from that, the single market legislation throws up masses of red tape which is particularly damaging to our smaller and medium-sized enterprises. As I said earlier, generally speaking, it is not working as we hoped it would. But in the particular case of this very irritating situation over chocolate, I really look forward to the noble Lord telling us whether he agrees that the system is not ideal or whether he can assure us that the Government will carry the day in Brussels.

8.15 p.m.

My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for his excellent chairmanship of the committee. I shall reserve my comments to chocolate alone.

I must admit to a great deal of disappointment at the start of my membership of the committee because I was under the impression that we were going to be given vast masses of chocolate to see whether we could detect the difference and taste the vegetable fats. However, I believe that we were following the example set by the Select Committee on Science and Technology which was looking into the medicinal use of cannabis in directing ourselves away from testing the product.

When it was introduced, this directive had the support of all parties, including the Conservative Party. Therefore, it could not be accused of being left on its own. I believe that everybody welcomed the directive. It did not set out to achieve total harmonisation, although that was another of the amendments which was rejected by the parliament. However, it goes quite a long way towards breaking down the barriers to the sale of British-style milk chocolate in Europe.

One of the problems demonstrated by the report is that the report was in reaction to amendments tabled by the European Parliament. Perhaps we should put that in perspective because many of the amendments by MEPs were put forward to protect their own chocolate industries. I took out the press cuttings and looked with interest at the outrage expressed in the British media about the destruction of the chocolate industry in this country and how we were no longer to have milk chocolate. But many of the amendments were tabled in the European Parliament by MEPs from Belgium to protect their own traditional chocolate. It is amazing how culturally divergent the European superstate still is.

I do not believe that the amendments which were tabled should have been carried. I can understand the reason for them. I can understand also the support which the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, expressed for clear labelling on chocolate. He expressed support for labelling on the front of the product. As a member of the committee, I could not support that because I believe that the purpose of the amendment was to denigrate the product itself. I believe that the vegetable fats should be listed among the ingredients. I do not see that there is any difference between the percentage of vegetable fats and any other ingredients. Even though, in theory, E-numbers can be quite harmful to health, they are not put on the front of products.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that vegetable fats are already listed among the ingredients? What the noble Lord suggests would introduce nothing new. They are already listed among the ingredients upon any bar of chocolate that can be purchased in this country.

My Lords, that just emphasises the point. I do not believe that there is any need for vegetable fats to be highlighted to the extent that the amendments pushed for. I believe that people within Europe already travel, and taste and test different types of chocolate, without significant labelling, in countries throughout the European Union without harmful consequences.

I understand the worry expressed by chocolate manufacturers in other countries: that there will be a flood of imported chocolate which would be significantly cheaper and therefore would undercut their traditional markets.

As overseas development spokesman I also take on board the important point raised that countries which produce cocoa are worried about the threat to the price of what is a staple product. The effect that the disease to the plants in Brazil has had in reducing supply should not be underestimated. That has sent up the price recently. However, there are other African countries, some of the poorest in the world, Mali and Burkina Faso, which could happily profit from the production of vegetable fats. I support the view that an increase in the range of products will automatically lead to an increase in consumption. There are few people in this country who eat less chocolate than they did a few years ago.

I believe that the aim of the report, to support the directive, is going in the right direction. I hope that reason will prevail and open markets will be the way of the future.

I conclude by asking the Minister whether he can give the House an assurance that he will look closely at any recommendations that are to be discussed as regards drinking chocolate and the use of the word "chocolate cake".

8.21 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, add my congratulations to the committee for all its work on producing such a robust and clearly argued report and in particular to the chairman, my noble friend Lord Reay, for giving the House the opportunity to debate the issues covered in that report this evening.

This debate goes to the heart of what should comprise the functions of a European trading community. The questions to be answered are these. What powers should be exercised by the Commission and Parliament in determining three things: what manufacturers can make and sell in the United Kingdom; whether they can sell that product freely to others within the European Union, and whether they can sell those products without being forced to adopt labelling which makes them appear to the consumer to be a second class product. These questions fall to be answered with respect to the chocolate directive. There are two main issues, as noble Lords have outlined tonight: the use of non-cocoa vegetable fat, and the sales name for our style of milk chocolate with its high milk content.

I welcome in most respects the Commission's 1996 proposal to revise the cocoa and chocolate products directive. It makes the single market more of a reality. It would allow chocolate with up to 5 per cent. vegetable fat to move freely within the European Union provided that it is properly labelled, although some member states may prohibit its domestic production. I note as others have this evening, that the Commission's proposal for labelling was neutral. A simple statement adjacent to the list of ingredients which informed the consumer that the product contained vegetable fat would surely be sufficient. Several of those who submitted evidence to the committee pointed out that this would introduce `double labelling', but that it would be acceptable as a sensible way out of arguments over labelling. They argue that after all, those manufacturers who do not use vegetable fats could always be free to make a claim to that effect if they so wished.

I note that the committee's report states that it is willing to accept the double labelling as a temporary measure, whereas it is against the matter continuing on a long-term basis. I find arguments against long-term existence of double labelling persuasive. I would, however, go further and say that I believe there is no argument for double labelling to exist in any form. As the noble Lord, Lord Reay, mentioned in opening this debate, double labelling is inherently unnecessary. If so, I could not recommend it to persist now.

Before I entered the Chamber this evening I approached my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch and said that I was to make a statement with regard to my European beliefs which might dismay him. But we have recognised that we are happy to be part of the same party. We have the same objectives, I would imagine, on 99.9 per cent., if not 100 per cent., of issues. Tonight, although we may come from slightly different approaches towards our views on the European Community, I am sure that we agree on the ultimate objective. I consider myself to be very much a European in the sense that I feel at home with the culture and structures of countries within the European Union. I note some scepticism tonight about how one might define culture. All I can say is that, wherever I am within the European Community, I feel that I have some commonality with it.

It is from that angle that I approached the question of this directive and the amendments that were proposed by the European Parliament. I was deeply disappointed by the fact that the European Parliament had decided to vote for an amendment which would discriminate so unfairly against UK producers in two significant ways. First, it would have required front-of-pack labelling of the fact that the chocolate contains vegetable fat. This was clearly intended to make UK chocolate with vegetable fat appear inferior. I cannot believe that it was done for any other purpose. As the report points out, front-of-pack labelling in this country is associated in the public mind only with health warnings. Secondly, the amendment would have meant that the UK designation "milk chocolate" would be replaced in the UK by the term "milk chocolate with high milk content"—gobbledegook that would have served only to confuse consumers.

As the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, mentioned, the Consumers' Association responded, perhaps not with sufficient length to provide him with the information he might have been happy to see. But I noted that one of its comments in its submission was that,
"one recipe is not inferior to the other, they are just different".
With that, I agree. It is not the case that one chocolate is pure and therefore conversely the other must be impure or that one is adulterated and one is real chocolate. They are simply different types of chocolate.

Thirdly, I was disappointed, to say the least, that the definition of United Kingdom milk chocolate was to be confirmed for use in other European languages as "household chocolate", a name which conjures up the idea that it is only suitable for cooking. Certainly, I would say that some cooking chocolates are extremely good, but if one talks of "household chocolate" as a general description, it is certainly one which would appear to denigrate the contents of that chocolate.

Chocolate with a high milk content is traditionally very popular in the United Kingdom and reflects our dairying tradition. I have grown up in the post-war period when "Milk is good for you" was the accepted wisdom—accepted by my parents, at least. Wise or not—and of course I believe they were wise—the taste of our milk chocolate is excellent. I note that the Minister agrees, and he is quite right: it is an excellent taste. I note that in the United Kingdom we consume up to½ million tonnes a year—over 9 kilograms a person—and I confess, as I stand here, that I enjoy my fair share.

On a more practical note, vegetable fats have been used for many years in small quantities to complement the cocoa butter to give the chocolate characteristics we consumers like. My noble friend Lord Reay explained the technical advantages that such use can give to the chocolate.

The amendment moved by the European Parliament and other attempts to denigrate the traditional United Kingdom product ignore the fact that it is in the ultimate interests of all, including cocoa producers, to ensure that the production of chocolate responds flexibly to consumer demand. I understand that many Members of the European Parliament voted for that amendment because they said that they were persuaded that the reduced portions of cocoa in chocolate would damage the economies of developing countries, such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana. I believe that to be a fallacious argument on two counts.

First, as my noble friend Lord Reay said, any expansion of world trade in chocolate and cocoa products is good for primary producers of cocoa beans; it has to be. Whether or not chocolate contains 5 per cent. vegetable fat, any expansion of the market will still require more cocoa to be used. Secondly, the raw materials used to produce the speciality non-cocoa fats also come from developing countries. The shea nuts harvested in Burkina Faso, in villages where the work is carried out almost entirely by women, are a case in point. The trade there has important social and progressive consequences. The women do most of the work. They combine to form village co-operatives to shell and paste the nuts. The profits that they achieve make it possible for them to send their children to school and achieve some measure of economic independence; for example, by forming small businesses such as market gardening. The shea nut trade is at least as important to the economies of countries like Burkina Faso and Mali as cocoa is to the Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.

A more cynical mind than mine—and I heard echoes of this from the Benches to my right from the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale—might come to the conclusion that some Members of the European Parliament were hiding the pursuit of their own national advantage behind the camouflage of a professed concern for the economies of certain developing countries. I hope that we have seen the end of such arguments and the end of those amendments.

Of course, as has been mentioned tonight, there are some producers in the United Kingdom who do not use vegetable fats in their production of chocolate. They are notable, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, commented, for the high quality of their product. As so many products have been bandied around in the debate, perhaps I may add the name of Thorntons to those already mentioned. However, I regret to say that I did no market testing before entering the Chamber; but perhaps I will do so later. There is no reason to believe that they or their continental counterparts will be at a disadvantage in trading or that they will change their recipes if they have to compete equally with traditional UK milk chocolate in the EU. I note that Thorntons recognised that fact on giving evidence to the committee.

It is essential that we avoid putting the interests of individual classes of producers above those of the consumer. The European Parliament amendment was indeed an unwarranted discrimination against an excellent product that our consumers have enjoyed for over 100 years. As I said, I hope that we have seen the end of it.

We on these Benches support and welcome the Government's general approach, which is generally the line that we took when in office. Can the Minister tell the House tonight what progress Her Majesty's Government have made during their presidency of the European Union towards reaching agreement on a new directive, especially bearing in mind the Commission's recent pronouncements? Can the Minister also tell us what bilateral meetings the Government have been able to hold with other member states? Further, can the noble Lord say when the Government expect an agreement to be reached?

On a practical level, if by any chance there were a failure to reach such an agreement—I hope that that will not be the case and I understand that the Government are making all best efforts in that respect—what would the legal position be for our UK manufacturers? Would they return to the status quo? Further, what would they be allowed to manufacture and under what conditions? Above all, we on these Benches would urge that any new legislation on chocolate should allow different chocolate-making traditions to co-exist in a market where EU consumers are free to choose from a wide range of chocolate products.

8.34 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Lord Donoughue)

My Lords, this has been an excellent debate, marked by a near consensus, although I noticed some faint inclination towards the margin of differentiation from my noble friend sitting behind me, and greatly assisted by contributions from three members of this distinguished committee which has produced such a fine report.

I should like, first, to thank the chairman of the committee, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for providing me with a welcome opportunity to respond formally on behalf of the Government to the Select Committee's report on the proposed new directive on cocoa and chocolate products for human consumption. My speech tonight should be viewed as our formal response to the committee.

I shall begin by congratulating the committee. The report provides an excellent summary of a complex subject and a useful analysis of the issues involved which are of particular importance to the United Kingdom. The written evidence also makes interesting reading and demonstrates the range of interests that have been consulted.

The Government are pleased to note that the committee welcomes the stated objectives of the proposed directive, the most important of which is to secure free circulation of chocolate containing non-cocoa vegetable fats, as a measure to implement the single market. Like the previous administration, we firmly believe that different chocolate-making traditions within the European Community should be allowed to co-exist in a genuine single market.

We welcome the committee's rejection of the European Parliament's amendments. I can confirm that, as anticipated, the Commission's amended proposal for the directive (which was finally published in the Official Journal on 17th April) also rejected the majority of the Parliament's amendments. As indicated in the explanatory memorandum that we have submitted to the scrutiny committee, the amended proposal takes account of part of the Parliament's amendment on the labelling of products containing non-cocoa vegetable fats. It now requires such products to be labelled with a "conspicuous and clearly legible" statement, in addition to the list of ingredients and clearly distinct from it, that the product,
"contains vegetable fats other than cocoa butter".
However, contrary to the Parliament's view that the statement should be on the front of the package, the Commission has sensibly concluded that the location of the statement should be left to the manufacturer. Your Lordships' committee has suggested that any requirement for manufacturers to include a separate statement indicating the presence of non-cocoa vegetable fats should be a temporary measure as a possible compromise. The Government understand the merits of this suggestion but remain of the view—and I stress this to my noble friend Lord Borne, while respecting his opposing view—that additional labelling is unnecessary and are opposed to it in principle. But, like the committee, we fully recognise the need to seek to ensure that manufacturers have adequate time to implement any changes in labelling, or otherwise, in a new directive.

It may be helpful if I confirm that the Commission's amended proposal only takes account of three other minor amendments proposed by the European Parliament. These clarify the reference in the text to the Community rules on additives used in foodstuffs and would provide a clearer definition of two specialist types of chocolate—I hope that I pronounce them correctly"—Gianduia" and "Gianduia milk chocolate". All the other amendments proposed by the European Parliament, including the removal of the current derogation for UK milk chocolate, have been rejected by the Commission.

The Government note the importance that the committee attaches to the retention of the derogation for UK milk chocolate and its view that ultimately there should be a single definition of milk chocolate. I should like to assure your Lordships that we will take a robust stance in relation to our own "milkier" milk chocolate and will do all we can to ensure that when the product is sold in other member states it is not labelled in a derogatory manner. I think a point that is often overlooked by our European neighbours is that the higher milk content of our milk chocolate provides a higher value product. It is also "farming friendly" by providing an additional outlet for the milk produced by European farmers.

The Government welcome the conclusion of the committee that the option of using non-cocoa vegetable fats in chocolate throughout the European Union will not necessarily have a negative impact on cocoa-producing countries; and that those developing countries which produce the raw materials for non-cocoa vegetable fats will benefit. There are, of course, significant uncertainties about the possible effect of the proposed directive on cocoa producers and other developing countries. The Government share the view of the committee that long-term development strategies should be based on helping countries respond to shifts in consumer demand patterns.

With regard to methods of measurement for non-cocoa butter vegetable fats, the Government fully agree with the committee's view that there is no need to delay implementation of the proposed directive until more accurate tests are available. Methods which already exist for those fats are no less precise than those for other components in chocolate and these are complemented by in-factory checks of records and recipes, which provide far better reassurance and would be capable of being undertaken on a pan-European basis if genuinely harmonised provisions can be agreed.

I now turn to some of the points raised during the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, asked about progress towards reaching agreement on the directive. I assure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and other colleagues, especially the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe, my noble friend Lord Simon of Highbury, have taken every opportunity to raise the subject in bilateral talks with their counterparts. At a debate in the internal market Council last November we were only five votes short of the necessary qualified majority in favour of the use of vegetable fats. We want to do all that we can to ensure that other member states understand our concerns and to see whether we can find a solution to this matter during our presidency. I hope the noble Baroness will agree that it would not be appropriate to disclose details of negotiations at this stage. As regards timing—

My Lords, I hope the noble Lord can help the House. When he says that we were only five votes short—of course I accept that we should not press him into revealing from which countries the general voting structure emerged—can he tell us whether he is looking for 26 votes to block an initiative, or 62 votes to promote a new one, out of the 87 votes which I mentioned?

My Lords, I do not propose to reveal our strategy in this House. Therefore I would rather not answer that question.

My Lords, it is not a matter of strategy; it is a matter of fact. Are we trying to block something or are we trying to promote something? We need 62 out of 87 votes to promote what would be a new policy, and we need 26 votes out of 87 to block something that we do not want.

My Lords, I am aware of the figures that the noble Lord has put before the House on more than one occasion. However, I do not propose to go beyond my previous reply. This is a matter of qualified majority voting.

As regards timing, I hope that it will be possible for the Council to reach a common position on the proposed directive during our presidency. The existing directive will continue to be implemented until a new directive is agreed. UK manufacturers will be able to continue to use non-cocoa vegetable fats in their products in accordance with existing conditions. They will also be able to continue to make milk chocolate with a higher milk content and sell it as milk chocolate in this country. But when it is exported to member states it will have to be called the equivalent of milk chocolate with a high milk content. In some languages this is translated in a derogatory way as household milk chocolate, as a number of noble Lords have pointed out.

As regards our legal position, if there is a failure in that regard I shall write to the noble Baroness about it. The noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, asked about a single definition of milk chocolate. I have already touched on that. I point out that the Government have proposed such a single definition on several occasions but so far the majority of member states want two separate definitions.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, asked whether vegetable fats should be listed on labels. Our reservation about that is that it would be unnecessarily restrictive for manufacturers and could limit technological developments. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was a member of the committee. He referred to drinking chocolate and chocolate cake. I reassure him that the proposed chocolate directive safeguards the use of such customary names. We shall certainly resist any attempts to change that. I believe the noble Lord said that few people eat less chocolate now than they did a few years ago. I agree with that in general but, sadly, I must confess that it does not apply to me. I am deprived of all the delights of market testing that have been mentioned. This debate has revived happy memories of chocolate delights enjoyed long ago.

In conclusion, I refer to the central question of the noble Lord, Lord Reay. I should make it clear that the Government will not agree to any solution which discriminates against traditional British products or narrows the effective range of choice of British consumers. I say in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, that during our presidency we shall do our utmost to search for a genuinely inclusive single solution which allows all the different chocolate-making traditions in the Community to co-exist within a fair and genuinely harmonised single market. As I have said, my noble friend the Minister has had discussions with colleagues and we remain hopeful that the Council will reach a common position on the proposed directive during our presidency.

8.50 p.m.

My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this brief debate, both those who were members of the sub-committee and those, such as the noble Lord, Lord Borne, and my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who were not members. It is always uplifting for members of European Community sub-committees to find others who are interested in what they say.

As the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, pointed out, the debate was characterised by a considerable measure of agreement. I felt quite comfortable with the support that we received from some of this House's most notable Euro-sceptics—a situation in which, some years ago, I should not have expected to find myself.

I agreed with almost all the remarks of my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke, and with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said—although it is perhaps worth pointing out that non-cocoa fats are contained in many foods without there being any separate statement of that fact on the package. As regards my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch, he went into areas which I should not want to go into myself, at least in this particular debate.

With regard to the slightly dissentient viewpoint of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, I agree with him that the two types of milk chocolate are in some respects different products, and should, I entirely agree, be free to compete with each other on the market with proper descriptions of their differences for the consumer. Our view was that they should be allowed to compete with each other as different forms of milk chocolate in the same product category. We did not see why British and Irish milk chocolate should not be allowed to be sold as milk chocolate. It seems to us that the problem for British and Irish milk chocolate has derived from the fact that they have been obliged to occupy different product categories in the directive.

I thank the Minister for his reply, which I note is to be treated as the formal response to the report. We shall want to study it carefully. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord repeat his firm stance on milk chocolate, and also more generally in his concluding remarks. I appreciate that there is a need for him to be cautious in his remarks about government strategy in the Council of Ministers. I hope he is right in his belief that a conclusion can be reached within the period of the UK presidency. I commend the report to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at eight minutes before nine o'clock.