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House Of Lords Bill

Volume 606: debated on Tuesday 26 October 1999

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3.24 p.m.

[ Interruption.]

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [ Exception from section 1]:

Page 1, line 9, leave out ("no more than").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is the amendment which we heralded at Report stage when we said that we were prepared to accept by-elections as the mechanism for filling vacancies among excepted Peers in the unlikely event that the transitional House lasts beyond the end of the first Session of the next Parliament. Time and again we have emphasised that the Bill itself is a transitional measure providing for a transitional House. That is why we have always believed that the so-called "fastest loser" system, provided for in the first Standing Order under Clause 2 and agreed by your Lordships' House on 26th July, remains the most sensible and the most flexible way of filling vacancies for the entire duration of the transitional House.

The transitional House will be of short duration, but let us proceed on the hypothetical assumptions that it might last for more than two or three years and that the "fastest loser" system might have outworn its effectiveness by that time. That being so, our amendment provides that after such time any vacancy due to the health of an elected excepted Peer should be filled by means of a by-election.

The amendment itself does not spell out what is to be the constituency for these by-elections. The detail is left to the Standing Order. However, for the sake of clarity and completeness, perhaps I may repeat what was said at Report stage. If a vacancy occurs among any of the 75 Peers elected by the respective parties and the Cross-Bench group, then the voters will be the excepted Peers in the relevant grouping. If the vacancy occurs among the 15 office holders, then the electorate will be the entire House. That reflects the constituencies in the initial elections to be held this week and next. But one thing is clear and is common to all constituencies; and that is that no hereditary Peer who has been excluded from the House at the end of this Session will have a vote. Such excepted Peers may stand but not vote and the electorate will be those who remain in the relevant grouping.

Your Lordships will see that we have also brought forward an amendment to provide a fixed number of 90 excepted Peers rather than a maximum of 90 as currently provided for in Clause 2(2). This is to address the concern that was raised by several noble Lords opposite in Committee, that the language might permit fewer than 90 so that vacancies need not be filled. That was never the intention.

The Standing Orders make it plain that "vacancies shall be filled". The difficulty with making that plain on the face of the Bill arose because there could have been doubts about the validity of proceedings in the House if the number of excepted Peers fell temporarily below a number fixed in statute: for example, if for administrative reasons there were a gap in time before the vacancy was filled. However, now that we have a provision for by-elections, it is acceptable to have the fixed number of 90 in statute. That is because, although there may still be times when the number of excepted Peers falls below 90, as a result of this amendment it will be plain on the face of the Bill that just that state of affairs is contemplated and that it is possible for the number to drop below 90 perfectly lawfully while the procedure for filling vacancies contained in Standing Orders or the by-election procedure is completed.

So in bringing forward the by-elections amendment, the Government have honoured the commitment made on Report, as we have honoured all our commitments throughout the passage of the Bill. I am confident that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition will welcome this amendment; it is one for which he himself previously argued. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

My Lords, perhaps I may say at the outset what a pleasure it is to hear the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. He always creates a slight frisson in the House, but perhaps not quite the one he expected this afternoon. These are two important and welcome amendments. They are a substantial step forward from the original drafting of the Bill. I thank the Government for the way in which they have responded positively to our pressure on this point.

The original wording in the Bill left it open to the suspicion that the number of excluded hereditary Peers might be allowed to decline below 90. I accept that that was not the intention and that fears over that point were largely technical. None the less, it is an important change to make.

Although important, the proposal is not nearly as significant as that in Amendment No. 6, to which the noble and learned Lord referred. Again, we discussed the matter in some detail on Report. The system that is proposed is not the most satisfactory, or indeed the most ideal. I myself might have wanted some of the details to be different. But I believe that it is one that will work and will command support on all Benches, including, I hope, this time the support of the Liberal Democrats.

The agreement of the Government to a by-election after the first three years or so of the duration of this legislation is notable and important. It is notable because the Government thereby accept the principle of a continuing representative hereditary peerage; and it is important because the Peers brought in will have that extra authority and legitimacy which the Leader of the House herself said recently would come from their being elected by their peers. Indeed, they will be the only elected Peers in this House. So I welcome the Government's acceptance of the case that we have put and I commend the amendment to the House.

My Lords, the Leader of the Opposition has raised a question regarding the Liberal Democrat view on this issue. We made it clear on Report that we were strongly opposed to the idea of by-elections. It creates all kinds of anomalies, including the fact that when one of the two elected Labour Peers dies, the other will have a personal and individual power to appoint the successor to that Peer. There are a number of other anomalies, but the matter was discussed at length on Report. We certainly do not support it, but we do not on this occasion intend to oppose it.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask for clarification. We have heard a great deal about the situation that would arise on the death of one of the 90 Peers. What would the situation be if one of those 90 Peers is unable to continue as a result of illness or difficult family or financial circumstances? Will that Peer be replaced?

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 10, leave out ("anyone") and insert ("those peers").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, to refer first to my Amendment No. 3, I respect the fact that Members of this House may have had the opportunity to read and consider the report of the Committee for Privileges and its findings on the Treaty of Union 1707. Its influence on House of Lords reform is obvious. No matter what may have been the opinion of individual Peers, I would argue that Amendment No. 3, and Amendment No. 4 relating to the Privy Council, have a common bond. Both the Officers of State and the Privy Counsellors are the monarch's representatives. They bear that honour and responsibility either by succession or by personal choice of our current monarch, Her Majesty the Queen.

One would be naïve to believe that Privy Counsellors, 28 of whom are hereditary Peers, would have achieved that title without the positive recommendation of Her Majesty's Government, whichever government it may have been, who select the names for that esteemed position, which is held by Letters Patent. I beg to move.

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are quite separate from Amendment No. 4. Perhaps I may speak briefly to the first two.

We have been advised that the inclusion of this provision in the Bill would make it hybrid. I do not know whether the Minister will confirm that. As the House reached a judgment on that issue last week, it would seem to us a mistake knowingly to attempt to import hybridity into the Bill—that being despite the fact that the Grand Offices of State of Scotland could certainly bring a speech out of me if your Lordships particularly wished it. But probably your Lordships do not, so I shall leave the matter and turn to Amendment No. 4.

Amendment No. 4 invites the Government to consider the inclusion of all the current members of the Privy Council who are hereditary Peers and have not been "caught" by other measures taken in the Bill. Membership of the Privy Council is a high and singular honour. I say that with some feeling, being a member myself. Fortunately, I am a life Peer, so I do not fall into this category. There are, however, a number of distinguished noble Lords who are members of the Privy Council and who have either decided not to stand for election or are doing so and, as is possible, may not be elected. For example, a group of former Leaders of the House fall into that category. I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, my noble friends Lord Jellicoe, Lord Cranborne and Lord Belstead are all members of that group. My noble friends Lord Denham and Lord Ferrers are two hereditary Peers who have given long and distinguished service to the House. They are Privy Counsellors who would, so to speak, fall by the wayside if they were not to be elected by their colleagues. My noble friend Lord Carrington is a distinguished former Foreign Secretary. He will not be a Member of this House. He will be the only former Foreign Secretary who will not be a Member of one or other of the Houses of Parliament. It is perhaps even more ironic that my noble friend is a former Secretary-General of NATO and will leave this House almost at the same time as Mr George Robertson is appointed Secretary-General of NATO and the Government have felt it important to send him to your Lordships' House. I would have thought that what is sauce for the Robertson goose is sauce for the Carrington gander. Perhaps the Government will look seriously and sympathetically at this issue.

I have not mentioned all the members of the Privy Council, but that does not mean to say that I do not believe they have a good case for retaining membership of your Lordships' House having been given that honour by Her Majesty. In particular, those whom I have underlined illustrate the force of the case for special consideration to be given to this particular group.

My Lords, these amendments fall into two parts. First, they seek to reserve a place in the transitional House for the Lord High Constable of Scotland, this time accompanied by three of his fellow Great Officers of the Royal Household. Secondly, they seek to preserve a place for any hereditary Peer who is also a Privy Counsellor. I believe that the second of the two proposals would affect 20 individuals, not including hereditary Peers of first creation who will be offered a life peerage, hereditary Peers who are also life Peers or members of the Royal Family.

As quickly as possible, I shall deal first with the Scottish office-holders. As my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn made plain in reply to the earlier attempt by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, to save the Lord High Constable of Scotland, the reason why the Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain are excepted in Clause 2 is that both have ceremonial functions in relation to your Lordships' House. They are responsible for the conduct of royal affairs in the Palace of Westminster, for such ceremonies as the State Opening of Parliament and the Coronation. That is why it is proposed that they should retain their places here.

As my noble and learned friend also made perfectly clear, the role and functions of the office of the Lord High Constable of Scotland have nothing whatsoever to do with Parliament. The same is true of the other office-holders named in the amendment. The principal role of the Lord High Constable of Scotland is to ensure the personal protection of the sovereign north of the Border. The role of the Bearer of the Royal Banner is to carry the Royal Banner in the army of Scotland, that of the Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland is to bear the royal insignia in Scotland and so on. I suggest to your Lordships that it is wholly inappropriate to consider allowing those officeholders to remain, given that their offices have nothing whatsoever to do with the work of your Lordships' House.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has touched on one last point. The House authorities have indeed advised the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, that the inclusion of the Scottish hereditary office-holders would make the Bill hybrid because
"[the traditional office-holders] do not constitute a class that is germane to the Bill. Accordingly, this amendment would affect the private interests of some hereditary Peers differently from the private interests of other hereditary Peers".
We went into the issue of hybridity in some detail last Wednesday when we debated the Motions in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, to refer the Bill to the Examiners. It was clear from that debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, rightly said, that your Lordships' House had no desire that the Bill should be hybrid; nor, we were assured, any desire to invoke the procedure to deal with hybridity merely for the sake of delaying the passage of the Bill. I hope that none of these arguments has lost any force since last week.

My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene. I understood from the debate on hybridity that there were no private interests, only public duty, involved in this matter. Therefore, that argument can hardly be used.

My Lords, as I understood it, the point which was made in debate was that the last thing your Lordships' House wanted was that the Bill should become hybrid.

The second part of this amendment enables hereditary peers who are Privy Counsellors to remain Members of the transitional House. I accept that your Lordships' House benefits from the accumulated knowledge, wisdom and experience of the Privy Counsellors among its number, whether or not they are hereditary Peers. It would be invidious to name names, and I do not intend to do so. However, I must remind the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and those who support his amendments of the one and only purpose of this Bill, which is to remove the hereditary principle as the basis for membership of your Lordships' House. It does this regardless of the individual merits of those who happen to be hereditary Peers. The Government have always made it clear that they value the contributions of hereditary Peers and the 75 to be elected by their fellow hereditary Peers, but they are the only hereditary Peers, together with the 15 office-holders and two hereditary office-holders, who will be elected by the whole House and will remain.

There is nothing to stop a Privy Counsellor standing for election to become an excepted Peer, and I am heartened to see that a considerable number have put their names forward for election. But for our part we have no intention of accepting any additional provision over and above the agreed number enshrined in Clause 2 as presently drafted. In those circumstances, I urge the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, not to pursue his amendments any further. To do so would be a clear breach of the agreement and would make the Bill hybrid.

3.45 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord. I disagree with his observations and those of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. This House voted on the hybridity of Clause 1. If noble Lords read, as I am sure they have, what I said following the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, they will understand that I did not make reference to Clause 1 on which the House divided. Having corrected the noble and learned Lord—the need to do so is most unusual—I ask the House to remember that when it divided on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, that the matter dealing with the 1707 Act should go to the Committee for Privileges, 275 noble Lords supported him. I hope that that number will do exactly the same today.

These amendments are not inappropriate at this late stage in so far as they add to the list of excepted holders of great Scottish offices. I take into account the words of the noble and learned Lord. This corrects an apparent drafting oversight which, unless remedied, devalues Scotland's place in the Union. We are concerned here with the United Kingdom despite devolution.

My third amendment goes on to except Peers who are members of the Privy Council because, by parity of reasoning, that particular batch of personal experience and distinction should receive the same recognition.

Obviously, I shall not divide the House on Amendment No. 2, but I wish to have the opinion of the House on Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 2.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 10, after ("Marshal,") insert ("Lord High Constable of Scotland, Master of the Queen's Household in Scotland, Bearer of the Royal Banner of Scotland, or Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland,").

My Lords, the Question is that this amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content". I think the. Not-Contents have it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 11, after ("Chamberlain,") insert ("or as a member of the Privy Council,").

My Lords, the Question is that this amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content". I think the Not-Contents have it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 13, after ("shall") insert ("have t he right to").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, the first point to emphasise is that it is only an enabling amendment. It does not oblige this Government or any future government of any political complexion to do anything they do not wish to do. However, should a future government wish to alter the rules so as to permit the Weatherill Peers who are no longer able for whatever reason to attend on a regular basis to retire and be replaced by other hereditary Peers, probably by means of by-elections, the Procedure Committee would be able to put that into effect, provided the amendment is agreed to, without the need for new primary legislation. I cannot believe that many people would look forward to the prospect of another House of Lords Bill.

The Government will doubtless argue that this is academic since stage two will come into effect in about two years' time. I do not doubt the Government's sincerity in saying this. However, Harold Macmillan has been quoted at least a hundred times in the past 12 months and I do so once again: It is "Events, dear boy, events", that upset the best laid plans of women and men. I think that the Government must recognise this in their hearts. On "Despatch Box" on BBC 2 in the early hours of 22nd October, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, was asked by the interviewer when stage two would come into effect. The noble Lord replied—I am sure I took his words down correctly—"Within a few years, at the very most". I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bach, on the skilful way in which he hedged the Government's bets.

The longer stage one drags on the more likely it is that a significant proportion of the Weatherill 90 will become less active or even totally inactive. This applies especially to the Deputy Speakers, who need plenty of stamina. Those who, unhappily, die will of course be replaced in accordance with the formula which has already been agreed upon. But those who merely become incapacitated will not be replaced as the Bill stands.

Let us take the example of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, whose death most of us were extremely sorry to read about a week or so ago. He used to be an extremely active Peer on the Liberal Benches. I remember this well as he was often helpful and supportive of me on various amendments that I moved in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Indeed, he once backed a Private Member's Bill of mine. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, attended the House on 120 occasions in the 1985–86 Session; on 116 days in the 1987–88 Session; and indeed on 119 days as recently as the 1992–93 Session. But in the last four years of his life he was able to attend only on five days in four years. And that is not an isolated instance. Your Lordships can think of many similar examples of distinguished people whom it would perhaps be unseemly to name at this moment. Not everyone is blessed with the health and vigour of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, or the late Douglas Houghton.

Nor is it simply a matter of advanced age. People can be struck by accident or severe illness at any age. Alternatively, they may be obliged to move house a long way from London, possibly abroad, for the sake of their wives' or husbands' health. Again, younger Peers may be offered the chance of a lifetime to go abroad to work in Singapore, Sydney or San Francisco for five-years or more. No one can afford to turn down the chance of such a valuable career move in the competitive age in which we live.

The Scottish and Irish representative Peers with whom the Weatherill 90 were frequently compared at earlier stages by both the Government and Conservative Front Bench were, I understand, elected for five-year terms. So, in effect, are honourable Members in another place. If they feel no longer up to the job, they have the option of standing down at the next election. They even have the option of applying for the Chiltern Hundreds in between elections.

This modest amendment would allow the same humane principle to be applied to the representative Weatherill 90. I would also contend that it is fully in the spirit of the Weatherill agreement.

The leader of the Conservative Party, Mr William Hague, recently called for more common sense in Government and in our affairs generally. This is a common sense amendment. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will support it. I beg to move.

My Lords, I understand and to some degree sympathise with the points put by the noble Lord. Certainly if Parliament wishes to keep in its counsels 92 hereditary Peers it would be unfortunate if that effective number were lower because of infirmity.

On the other hand, that has always been the way of this House. It is the way with the hereditary peerage. It is the way with the life peerage also. There are some among our number, always at any time, who are not able to be with us as often as they would wish on ground of infirmity. We do not require their replacement and we accept that as part of the way of this House.

Having carefully thought through what the noble Lord said, and knowing that this amendment would arise this afternoon, I believe that we should therefore treat the Weatherill Peers in the same way as we treat all other Peers in this House. They are representative Peers. But they are also hereditary Peers; and the whole essence of hereditary peerage is that, except in the exceptional circumstances of a renunciation shortly after inheritance, it is held for life. Even where a peerage is renounced no one else can take that place so long as the one who has renounced it lives.

There are many these days who decry the hereditary principle, but I do not. It is the way of family inheritance, of property, of the passing of hereditary titles, and of course of the monarchy itself. I do not think that we should muddy or change that. For that reason, I am sorry to tell the noble Lord that I cannot support his amendment.

My Lords, I have listened with respect to the retrospective constitutional view of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. However, I believe that in a reformed House it will not be practical to fail to permit Peers—life Peers—to renounce their peerages. This will follow essentially from the political nature of the new House and the importance of maintaining a political balance. I am, therefore, pleased to say that I would go along very strongly with the feelings expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Monson.

My Lords, arguing the proposition advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the excepted Peers should be treated in no way differently from any other Member of the House, as is proposed by this amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, no Member of your Lordship's House has the right to relinquish his or her membership. That is the current position and will remain the position in the transitional House.

There is no reason why excepted Peers should be any older, any more sickly, or any less able to attend your Lordships' House than life Peers. Indeed, it could be argued that they may well be younger, healthier, keener and more active than any of the rest of us, as no doubt these are some of the criteria that will apply and carry weight with the Weatherill electorate.

The terms of Clause 2 are perfectly clear in this matter. Subsection (3) states:
"Once excepted from section 1, a person shall continue to be so throughout his life (until an Act of Parliament provides to the contrary)".
That means that once a hereditary Peer has been excepted under the elections to be held this week and next, his or her continuing membership of your Lordships' House may only be ended due to death or to stage two of reform. This accurately reflects the compromise agreement reached between the parties and encapsulated in the amendment brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and others and overwhelmingly endorsed by your Lordships' House as a whole. I do not think that there can be any question of altering the terms of that agreement.

I should make one matter clear. In the unlikely event that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, were to find favour with your Lordships' House, unless the Standing Orders also agreed by your Lordships' House were changed, it opens up the possibility of the number of excepted Peers being allowed to dwindle below 90. As your Lordships' House may recall, Standing Orders under Clause 2 currently reflect the agreed policy that vacancies should be filled due only to death, not retirement or any other reason.

We have had a fair amount of debate at earlier stages of the Bill about the possibility of a retirement age. I do not believe that it is worthwhile to go back over those debates now. We have made it plain that this Bill is a single purpose Bill to end, and now to restrict, membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage. There is no intention on our part to change any aspects of the terms, conditions and other arrangements of your Lordships' House. These may all be matters for stage two, but we are not here to decide them now.

In all the circumstances, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, for his solitary support.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has missed the point. With 751 hereditary Peers, it does not matter too much if a few, through no fault of their own, drop out and become inactive. There are plenty more where they came from, so to speak. However, it is extremely important where there are only 90. Every diminution in numbers has an effect.

As regards the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, it is right to say that Standing Orders would have to be changed. That is a point that I believe I tried to make at the beginning of my speech. I am sorry if I did not make it with sufficient clarity. Of course they would have to be changed. There would have to be a belt and braces arrangement to ensure that nothing could happen without the consent of the Procedure Committee, which is absolutely as it should be.

For obvious reasons, I am not privy to the Government's innermost secrets, but I assume that they held one of two attitudes to the Cranborne and Weatherill amendment. The first is, "We do not like the idea that 90 active hereditary Peers should remain in this House, but we agreed in order to get the Bill through and will therefore abide both by the letter and by the spirit of the agreement". The alternative attitude was, "We do not like the idea of 90 active hereditary Peers remaining in this House, but we are obliged to stick by the letter of the agreement. However, the spirit is expendable. If there is any loophole via which the agreement could be effectively watered down so as to reduce the number of active hereditary Peers, we will exploit it to the full". Sadly, it seems that the Government have opted for the second alternative.

If I had had more support, I would have divided the House without hesitation. As I have not had such support, unless other noble Lords indicate otherwise, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 1, line 14, at end insert—
("( ) Standing Orders shall make provision for filling vacancies among the people excepted from section 1; and in any case where—
  • (a) the vacancy arises on a death occurring after the end of the first Session of the next Parliament after that in which this Act is passed, and
  • (b) the deceased person was excepted in consequence of an election.
  • that provision shall require the holding of a by-election.").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 7:

    After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—

    Exception From Section 1: Non-Voting Peers

    (" .—(1) Notwithstanding subsection (2) of section 2, section 1 shall not apply in relation to 90 people who are holders by succession of a hereditary peerage and who satisfy the condition set out in subsection (2), who shall be entitled to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords in accordance with this section and by or in accordance with Standing Orders of the House, which may be made in anticipation of the enactment or commencement of this section.
    (2) The condition referred to in subsection (1) is that such person had received a writ of summons at any time before the day on which this Act is passed.
    (3) Any question whether a person is entitled to receive a writ of summons in accordance with this section shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments., whose certificate shall be conclusive.
    (4) A person entitled to receive a writ of summons in accordance with this section shall not be qualified to vote—
  • (a) on any question to be determined by the House or by any Committee of the whole House; or
  • (b) subject to subsection (5), as a member of any other committee of the House appointed to consider any Bill, Measure or instrument.
  • (5) Standing Orders of the House may provide that a peer entitled to receive a writ in accordance with this section shall be qualified to vote in any such committee as is referred to in subsection (4)(b) in such circumstances as Standing Orders may prescribe.
    (6) In this section "vote" means to give voice upon question put or take part in a division.
    (7) A peer entitled to receive a writ of summons by virtue of this section shall continue to be so entitled throughout his life (until an Act of Parliament provides to the contrary); and in the event of the death or disqualification of such a peer no vacancy shall arise.
    (8) Nothing in this section affects the validity of proceedings of the House of Lords or of any committee of that House conducted before this section is commenced or before provision is made by virtue of it for the exception of peers from section 1.").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment would permit 90 hereditary Peers to remain in or, perhaps I should say, return to this House as speaking Peers. We have discussed the merits and demerits of speaking Peers on many previous occasions. I do not propose to go over that old ground; nor do I propose to dwell at length on Amendment No. 58 which I moved on Report on 30th June (col. 378) and for which this amendment largely stands. On that occasion I moved a similar amendment. However, I provided in the amendment that the 90 Peers should be divided between political groups. Because that amendment would make the Bill hybrid, I did not press it. It therefore does not fall to me to make any strong suggestions to the House as to how the 90 should be divided or elected. That would have to be left to the House itself on the advice of the Procedure Committee.

    Having considered the debate in June, I have looked again at my amendment and made certain adjustments to it. The first is that the right to come in as one of the speaking Peers would be limited to those who, as stated in subsection (2),

    "had received a writ of summons at any time before the day on which this Act is passed",

    whenever that may be.

    In subsection (4) I have provided that hereditary Peers who had speaking rights could also, Standing Orders provided, vote in Select Committees and the like (off the Floor of the House) to which they happen to be appointed.

    Finally, in subsection (7), I have made it clear that this is intended to be a one-off arrangement and that the death of any Peer who remains in or comes back to this House will not generate further returns or by-elections.

    When the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General, Lord Williams of Mostyn, replied to the debate, it was quite clear that the Government could not accept the amendment because they did not, under any circumstances, want any further representatives of the ancien régime in this House. He said:

    "It is right to say that after all this time we have decided very few things. We have decided two at least: first, that this House does not wish to see a two-Writ system".

    That question has not been decided. A two-Writ amendment allowing all hereditary Peers to remain was, I believe, rejected or withdrawn at an earlier stage. This amendment bears no resemblance to that amendment. The noble and learned Lord went on,

    "secondly, that the House does not wish to alter the numbers in Clause 2" [Official Report, 30/6/99; col. 382.]

    This clause stands entirely apart from Clause. 2 and would have no possible relationship to the Weatherill amendment. I suggest that it should be considered on its merits. I beg to move.

    My Lords, as I understand the amendment, it has two elements, as has been underlined by the noble Lord who has just spoken. The first is that there should be an extra 90 hereditary Peers as part of the transitional House. The second is that those extra 90 hereditary Peers should have the right to speak but not the right to vote. Both of those elements have been considered almost ad nauseam in the course of the passage of the Bill.

    As far as concerns the first element, I had thought that the House had made it perfectly clear that while it was prepared to accept an extra 90 hereditary Peers in the transition, it was not prepared to go beyond 90. That is certainly my position, and I suspect that it is the position of many of those who sit on these Benches.

    As regards the issue of speaking but non-voting Peers, my recollection is that this was first raised at the very first Committee sitting on this Bill. The question that this would be a desirable importation into the Bill has been raised on every single occasion since then, and on each of those occasions it has been defeated. At this stage in the Bill's passage, I firmly believe that we should not revert to two fundamental issues which have been discussed a great deal and upon which the House has already made a decision.

    My Lords, I very much admire the careful thought that my noble friend Lord Coleraine has given to this amendment. I deprecate the Government's habit of saying that this or that amendment has come too late. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, has again suggested that we have debated this in full in the past. Perhaps we have. However, it is never too late for your Lordships to improve a Bill. Therefore, I will not follow the line that has been taken by the noble Lord, Lord Richard.

    My difficulty with this amendment is rather more fundamental. Although the concept of non-voting Peers is one that found favour with your Lordships in 1968, it is not one which is, rightly or wrongly, on the table today. I understand that it would need quite a shift in government thinking for it to be taken on board, and I have difficulties with it in any case.

    I have always been opposed to the idea of two categories of Peer. As I said only last week, this is a poison that the Government have injected into this House by this Bill. But in creating a class of non-voting Peers, we would be including in our number a class of second-class Peers. I suggest that that would be demeaning to them and unhelpful to the House. Are we to listen to protracted debates while those who have no vote feel compelled to express their opinion in voice? I do not believe that that is a way forward.

    It may be argued that this is a way to keep available to us the advice of some people who this House would always want to hear but who we might otherwise lose because they are hereditary Peers. If we want to keep the wisdom of hereditary Peers among us, let us keep them as full Members of our House, as the Bill now provides—albeit, not enough—and not propose the kind of half life which will over time prove unsatisfactory to all.

    Although I admire my noble friend for bringing the amendment to us one more time, I am sorry that on this occasion I cannot support it or commend it to the House.

    My Lords, the purpose of the new clause is to provide for a further 90 non-voting hereditary Peers to be retained. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, for going to some lengths to correct the technical faults in his previous approach during earlier stages of the Bill.

    I am afraid we have to disappoint him by saying that we still do not accept either the underlying principle or the arguments which he has adduced. I shall deal first with the principle. Our manifesto commitment was to remove the right of hereditary Peers to sit as well as to vote. We have agreed to a modest transitional measure in respect of the Weatherill Peers. That, however, is as far as we are prepared to go. Our commitment to the principle of ending the right to a privileged access to this House by reason of birth is not dimmed, and it applies to those who may not vote as much as to those who may.

    As has been pointed out in our earlier debates, on most normal Bills votes are taken comparatively rarely. Indeed, even on this Bill, despite the many days we have spent discussing it, we have had comparatively few Divisions. If that is not a Chief Whip tempting providence, I do not know what is! They happen to have included the issue of whether a two-Writ system would be desirable and the number of hereditary Peers who should be excepted from the effect of the Bill. But this proposal would give a further 90 hereditary Peers a privileged right to have a voice heard; a privileged right to hold Ministers to account; and a privileged right to examine witnesses before a Select Committee.

    The noble Lord says that he wants a bank of expertise to be available to the House from those who could contribute, but do not have the time or the stamina to make a full-time commitment. Is he proposing any way of ensuring that the Peers he desires to fulfil his proposals are actually the ones who do so? What is to prevent Peers turning up to speak on subjects on which they are not experts? There is ample experience, both inside and outside the House, among the life Peers.

    The noble Lord's proposal cannot be entirely to do with numbers. I recall at an earlier stage that he did not think the House could function properly without the help of the hereditary Peers, because something over 500 life Peers would not be enough. How would 90 who are only intended to be part-time and experts, and non-voting, help with that?

    Moreover, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, pointed out at an earlier stage, would such a proposal not spoil the free and frank way in which all Members of this House are given equal attention? There were also doubts expressed in our earlier debates, which I think are justified, about the wisdom in a parliamentary Chamber of giving anyone the right to speak without also giving him the responsibility to decide.

    To summarise, two-Writ systems are not acceptable to the Government. Changes to the number of excepted hereditary Peers are not acceptable to the Government. If the noble Lord is, after all, minded to put his amendment to the vote, I hope that the House will join us in voting against it.

    My Lords, I am going to vote straight; in other words, vote obsequiously. But I cannot sit here and have it assumed that there is something in Labour principles which is against the idea of some Peers coming here and speaking but not voting.

    I was meaning to go back to Keir Hardie or to 1960 when the Labour Party—

    My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will give way. We are at Third Reading and the only person who should speak after the Minister is the person who moved the amendment, unless there is a particular question of fact which the noble Earl wishes to put to me.

    My Lords, I do not know about the relevance of that, but I am sure that it was! I thought I was docile but I am not servile. The noble Lord needs a lot of refreshing to cope with me! Thirty years ago this House—Labour leaders, leaders of all parties and everyone—accepted the principle of some hereditary Peers coming here and speaking and not voting. No question of principle was involved; it was accepted by the Labour leaders long before some of the younger fellows here were born.

    Now I am docile so I shall put it straight because I am instructed to: I cannot accept the idea that there is something wrong in principle with the notion of two kinds of Peer.

    My Lords, I am more than grateful for the entirely factual intervention of the noble Earl. I shall not spend much time replying to the Government Front Bench. However, I want to say to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde that I am sorry that the wind has changed as far as he is concerned. I detect that perhaps he has been speaking with my noble friend Lord Cranborne or reading earlier debates in which he spoke. The noble Viscount first suggested that a nonvoting Peer was a second-class Peer. If that were the case, I should be happy to be a second-class Peer, but I am not given that opportunity. For one reason or another, I do not think that this is an opportune moment to test the feeling of the House on such an amendment. I beg leave to withdraw it.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    4.15 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 8:

    After Clause 2, insert the following new clause—

    Number Of Members Of House Of Lords

    (" . The maximum number of persons entitled to receive a writ of summons to the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House is 750.").

    The noble Lord said: My Lord, Amendment No. 8 seeks to place a limit of 750 on the size of your Lordships' House. Those of your Lordships who have had a chance to glance at the manifesto of the Labour Party and the Government's White Paper on reforming your Lordships' House will be aware that distinct principles underlie the plans for the composition of your Lordships' House at stages one and two.

    For the composition of the House at stage one, the principle will be that each time there is a general election there will be an adjustment in the number of life Peers to reflect the overall result. The principle for the transitional House is that there will be broad parity between the Government and the main opposition party, with proportional increases for the other parties and a substantial representation by the Cross-Benchers.

    Today we are considering the transitional House, but I cannot resist saying, in passing, that the plans for the House at stage two, if they reflect what is said in the Labour Party's manifesto, are seriously flawed. I say that for two reasons. First, if we have to adjust the number of life Peers each time there is a general election in order to reflect the result of that election, your Lordships' House will grow in size exponentially. Very soon its membership will exceed 1,000 and more.

    Secondly, if the composition of your Lordships' House reflects the composition of another place, if this House is a photograph of another place, what control will your Lordships' House be able to exercise on that other place? Therefore, I hope that between now and the time when the Government consider their plans for stage two they will reflect on the principles set out in their manifesto and reconsider the position.

    As regards the composition of the transitional House, the principle of broad parity has been made crystal clear by the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal both in Committee and at Report stage. Perhaps I may draw your Lordships' attention, first, to the Hansard report of 11th May 1999. The noble Baroness said, somewhat late in the evening:

    "Let us say that we have agreed that x will be the number"—

    that is, the total number of Members of your Lordships' House. She continued:

    "Within x, the Government will merely seek to ensure that there is almost precise parity with the official Opposition. That is a guarantee of the overall ceiling, which is rather clear, on the size of the House". —[Official Report, 11/5/99; col. 1194.]

    Just before that, the noble Baroness elucidated the meaning of the expression "Official Opposition", by saying:

    "There is only one Official Opposition party in this Chamber at any one time. But if the government of the day—that is, the Labour Party—are to have broad parity with the Official Opposition, that means parity with the Conservative Party".— [Official Report, 11/5/99; col. 1191.]

    Just over a month and a half later, on Report on 30th June, the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal again addressed her mind to this particular matter. The noble Baroness quoted paragraph 7 on page 32 of the Government's White Paper, Reforming the House of Lords, which stated:

    "We set out in our manifesto the broad principle which we believe should govern the appointment of life peers but our present intention is to move towards broad parity between Labour and the Conservatives. The principle of broad parity and proportionate creations from the Liberal Democrat and other parties would be maintained throughout the transitional period".—[Official Report, 30/6/99; col. 347.]

    It is my submission that nothing could be clearer than those statements about where the Government stand on the situation which will be maintained throughout the life of your Lordships' House in its transitional stage.

    The noble Baroness also hazarded on Report a view of what the total number would be that would properly reflect those principles in the event that—I should qualify myself—the Weatherill amendment were to pass and become law. The noble Baroness estimated that the size of your Lordships' House would be in the order of 700 Members.

    Your Lordships will no doubt be pleased to hear that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition have made their own calculations. Taking into account the Weatherill amendment and applying to it the principles of parity between the Government and the Official Opposition party, proportionate increases for the Liberals, and a substantial representation for the Cross-Benchers, we believe that the figure that will be arrived at will be somewhere between 715 and 720 Members.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, says "Too many". That, I believe, is a matter which he might take up with someone he knows very well on his own Front Bench.

    My Lords, that will leave the Government some 30 to 35 spaces to fill in the way that they believe appropriate within the rules that they themselves have imposed upon themselves. The noble Baroness also said on Report that she felt that that number was adequate to meet the various tasks that the transitional House would face throughout its life, however long or short that may be.

    I am well aware that when the noble and learned Lord comes to reply, he may well say to me, "What is all the fuss about, then? The principles are clear: the number is going to be something over 710. Why do we need a fixed number in the Act at all?"

    My answer to that question is in two parts. First, we do not yet know—and indeed cannot yet know—how long the transitional phase will take. We hear optimistic estimates from the Government of two or three years. But let us suppose that the transitional phase lasts five, 10, 15, or even 20 years. What weight will undertakings given in Committee and in the Report stage of the Bill as it goes through your Lordships' House carry 10, 15, or 20 years later with the government of the day?

    Let us suppose that the government of the day find that your Lordships' House, with a composition consistent with the principles of broad parity, does not like a Bill that is served up to them by the other place. Let us suppose that your Lordships' House is obstinate. Fifteen or 20 years later a government might well say, "We are going to change the rules", which they can do unless there is an overall cap on the size of the House.

    Secondly, the Government have expressed themselves to be quite determined in their intention to move to stage two. Many pundits talk about the shape of the House in stage two. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, say that about 700 would be too many. Many believe that the second Chamber should have fewer Members than another place. Many also believe that your Lordships' House should have a substantial number of elected Members.

    If that is to be the case, the number of life Peers likely to survive at stage two could be no more than 200, 250 or perhaps 300—we cannot be sure. However, one thing of which we can be sure is that the larger the transitional House grows, the fewer life Peers will survive to serve in the stage two House.

    Therefore, the larger the transitional House grows, the bigger the problem facing the government who seek to shift your Lordships from stage one to stage two. I wonder whether, in the course of those debates, the voices in your Lordships' House will demonstrate the graceful self-restraint which the voices of noble Lords have demonstrated throughout the debate on this Bill.

    4.30 p.m.

    My Lords, as I believe the House is aware, the procedures for Third Reading in this place differ from those in another place. There are times—I must admit that this is one—when I believe that the other place has it right. In the other place, there are no amendments on Third Reading. The whole Bill is revisited, much of it having been dealt with on Second Reading, if the Bill is considered in its entirety with further amendments. I have felt for some time that it is a change in our procedure which at some stage should be properly considered.

    Certainly I reflected on that matter today when I looked at the amendments, most of which, although they were not repetitive, could easily have been proposed at an earlier stage of the Bill. Most of the ground is familiar to those of us who have sat through many days of debate over a period now of some six months. There is always an argument for some sensible tidying up at this stage, and I certainly should not complain about that. I do not complain about the government amendments in that respect. However, it was very much in the spirit of our view about how Third Reading should be treated that my noble friend Lord Goodhart made it clear that we did not intend to vote on the previous amendment. Indeed, it is not our intention to vote in favour of any of the amendments before the House today.

    The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, chose not to move the amendment standing in his name. It would have been very bold of him to do so because he remembers our fourth day in Committee, as do I and as does the House. On that occasion the noble Lord moved an amendment to the effect that a figure of 615 Peers should be written into the Bill, being roughly the figure that the Government would need. However, again as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will recall, in his very engaging way, 45 minutes later he said,
    "I surrender; I do not pretend that the figures were entirely correct".—[Official Report, 11/5/99; col. 1192.]
    Therefore, when I say that the noble Lord is bold, it is in allowing this amendment to stand and in allowing the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, to propose it.

    I draw attention to one other occasion in the course of our earlier debates. That was during a debate on Report on 2nd June. Then, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House confirmed our understanding of the object of broad parity between the two largest parties in your Lordships' House and proportionate creations for the Liberal Democrats and for other parties. The meaning of "proportionate" is as set out in the Government's White Paper in relation to votes cast at the previous election.

    Because I, too, may get my sums wrong, I am reluctant to embark upon a detailed study of the figures, about which there must be still some doubt until our four little elections have taken place. However, it appears likely that when the Bill reaches the statute book about 665 Peers will be entitled to sit. But at that stage there would be no broad parity between the Labour Benches and the Conservative Opposition. In accordance with paragraph 7 of Chapter 6 of the White Paper and the view expressed in this House—a view not opposed from the Conservative Benches—it will be entirely in order for the Government to make additional creations to make up the number. I would put that figure at about 40, but the figure might differ by five or six either way. At the same time, it would be appropriate to make proportionate creations, again in keeping with the plain undertaking that the Government have given openly.

    If we had broad parity and proportionate creations, my estimate would then be that the number of Peers entitled to sit in your Lordships' House would rise from 665 to about 740. The significance of that figure is that there will be, either between the passage of this Bill and the end of this Parliament or the passage of this Bill and the next stage, vacancies for 10 additional Peers. Again, there would have to be broad parity and again there would have to be proportionate creations. In that case, there would be room for about four new additional Conservative Peers between now and an unknown date.

    Some good working Peers will lose in the ballot. What about them? There will be former Cabinet Ministers knocking at the door. What about them? There will be men and women who have contributed generously to party funds. What about them? However, I put it to noble Lords on the Opposition Benches that, with only four additional Peers at their disposal, they will not have much scope between the passage of this Bill and the next stage. It is a sobering thought. It is not for me to give advice to those on the Conservative Benches, but I should be extremely cautious indeed in tabling such an amendment unless a figure had been agreed in advance with Ministers and with the Liberal Democrats. If it had been an agreed figure, they could then have decided whether it should be 750, 775 or 800—think of a number and write it into an amendment.

    It is ironic that the Conservative Party, which year after year has been content with a House of nearly 1,300 Peers, should suddenly feel that there must be a cap, and a cap of only 750. It is a very odd way to proceed. I should like to know the logic in it.

    Of course, I agree that with a figure of 750 there would be too many Peers. I said that on a previous occasion. If the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was not listening at that time, he can read what I said in Hansard. A House of 750 would be much too big for the long term. Indeed, I have mentioned a House of perhaps 300 to 400. However, we need to see how the transitional interim House works: whether the Members who are now sitting on these Benches and will still be here in a few months' time will be active working Peers; whether it may be necessary to supplement them; or whether it will be possible to reduce the numbers. We do not know. To Conservative Peers and to all your Lordships sitting here today—there are many faces that we have not often seen before and I am very glad to welcome them—I say respectfully that they should think very carefully and do the sums for themselves, because they may be excluding the possibility that they themselves will be sitting here again after this Bill has passed.

    My Lords, on Report my noble friend Lord Stanley and I also moved an amendment on the question of numbers. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, was right to draw attention to the difficulty in deciding what the numbers should be. It was precisely for that reason, after discussion on the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Stanley, and myself, that I wrote to my noble friend Lord Kingsland on the Front Bench, and to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, to see if a meeting could be arranged to discuss the numbers.

    I had the courtesy of a reply from my noble friend on the Front Bench. I did not receive a reply from the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. I saw the noble Lord some time later outside the Chamber and reminded him that I had written to him. He promised to get in touch with me to discuss the matter. We have not had that meeting because he has not been in touch with me. It is for that reason that I wholly support the number proposed by my noble friend Lord Kingsland.

    It disappointed me somewhat that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, did not acknowledge my letter or follow up our brief discussion outside the Chamber. However, it occurred to me that that was perhaps done out of the kindness of his heart because there had been some sort of deal between the Liberal Democrat Party and the Labour Party on the question of proportionality about which he did not wish to tell me and he thought that it was better that I should be kept in the dark.

    My noble friend Lord Kingsland drew to the attention of the House the remarks of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House at col. 347 of Hansard on 30th June. That was in reply to a question which I asked the noble Baroness about what exactly she meant by "proportionate". As your Lordships will have listened to my noble friend Lord Kingsland, I shall not read that out again. However, the noble Baroness did not answer my question. I believe that I asked the Government Front Bench on four or five occasions what exactly they meant by "proportionate" as it related to the other parties in this House. We understand what they mean by broad parity between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, but there is no clear definition of "proportionality".

    I believe that my noble friend Lord Kingsland summed up the matter extremely well when he said that there is great concern about the exponential growth that this House could achieve if the interim stage were to last a long time. It is with that concern in mind that I support my noble friend in his amendment and hope that he will take it to a Division.

    My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, can he remind us what his figure was at Report stage?

    Yes, my Lords, indeed I can. I believe that my noble friend Lord Stanley and I proposed a figure in excess of 800, but since then I have had the opportunity to discuss the matter with my noble friend Lord Kingsland and have agreed his figure.

    My Lords, it is always a pleasure to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, particularly when he endeavours to import the habits of another place into your Lordships' House. The noble Lord and I were together briefly in another place. One of the things that I noted was that it was not particularly effective as a revising Chamber.

    If a large proportion of our time is to act as what his noble friend, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, called "the legislative housemaid", it seems to me that whatever the merits or demerits of the way we handle Bills, there is a great deal to be said for maintaining the habit of your Lordships' House of being able to introduce amendments at Third Reading as well as at earlier stages.

    The size of both Houses of Parliament is a question which, quite rightly, is beginning to exercise people interested in this constitution at a time of change. I venture to suggest to your Lordships a sensible and compelling case for reducing the size of another place. It is one which I suggested in a Bill to which your Lordships were kind enough to give a Second Reading this summer.

    There is, perhaps, a rather more difficult argument to put forward in favour of a smaller or very small upper House, reformed or otherwise, for one simple reason advanced with great clarity and elegance, if I may say so, by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon, in his evidence to the Royal Commission chaired by my noble friend Lord Wakeham.

    My noble and learned pointed out that so long as your Lordships' House is peopled by unpaid amateurs—I use the word "amateurs" in the best sense, as a compliment rather than an insult—it is inevitable, particularly when those amateur politicians are expert and active in their respective fields of endeavours, that they will tend to turn up sometimes rather sparingly. Nevertheless, as your Lordships know, many Members of your Lordships' House are listened to with great attention even though they are only occasional contributors to your Lordships' debates. They are busy acquiring their experience, authority and expertise in their individual realms of endeavour.

    As my noble and learned friend points out in his evidence, this is an argument for a larger House in the upper Chamber as opposed to a smaller House in another place. That is a distinction which, even at this late stage, I should like to draw to the attention of your Lordships.

    There is an argument for a larger upper House so long as we are not a House of professional, paid, full-time politicians. I hope that your Lordships would agree that we already have one House too many consisting of those. To have a second would be perverse.

    The argument put forward so elegantly, as usual, by my noble friend Lord Kingsland boils down to the question of broad balance. That is a phrase with which I became familiar during the course of my conversations with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. As the whole House knows, that was an integral part of the agreement to which we came. It was put before your Lordships' House and your Lordships have finally to decide one way or the other today.

    To what extent can we rely on the undertaking given by the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues in the Government that during the transitional phase of your Lordships' House, which has been ushered in by this Bill, they will seek no absolute majority but merely parity with the principal opposition party which, at present, is my party?

    One of the agreeable aspects of dealing with the noble and learned Lord—I pay tribute to him once again—is that through thick and thin he has unquestionably stuck to the letter and spirit of our agreement. Based on experience, I have no doubt, therefore, that the noble and learned Lord will stick to his word, as I am sure will his colleagues.

    The high proportion of your Lordships who have been members of Cabinets will know that Governments of both complexions are subject to intense pressures which, rather regrettably, once in a while cause them to undermine the undertakings given by their predecessors. This is not an ad hominem attack on Members of the present Government.

    If by some misadventure the transitional House lasts rather longer than both the noble and learned Lord and I would like, it becomes important to have some means of assuring ourselves that it would be difficult, under those circumstances, for his successors to abrogate the agreement he has made and which I have no doubt he will keep.

    It may be appropriate for me to ask the noble and learned Lord for a legal opinion. Perhaps I am entitled to do that on the Floor of this House without him charging me. That request is stimulated by the experience of sitting as a lay member of the Privileges Committee during the hearings that took place in recent days.

    During the course of those proceedings, some play was made about the extent to which judges can rely on the famous Pepper v. Hart judgment. I believe I understood correctly that noble and learned Lords sitting as judges on that committee made it clear that they were not altogether happy that the Pepper v. Hart principle should apply without qualification and, indeed, that many of them had endeavoured to hedge around the Pepper v. Hart conclusion with all sorts of restrictions.

    In view of the undertakings that have been given by the noble and learned Lord, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House and all Members of the Government who have spoken on this matter, to what extent will Pepper v. Hart principles be available for us to rely upon in the matter of broad parity? If not at all, my noble friend Lord Kingsland is right to wonder how far we can rely in the long term on the undertakings given by the noble and learned Lord if, by some misadventure, this transitional House was to last longer than his tenure of office, which I hope will be a very long one.

    That is my question and why I venture to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, is wrong to suggest that we should undertake in this instance the procedures from another place. I also suggest that my noble friend Lord Kingsland is right, even at this late stage, to press for some reassurance from the noble and learned Lord on this important matter.

    4.45 p.m.

    There is a simple way of reducing the numbers in the House. However, I would not table an amendment because I realise that it would gain virtually no support. I refer to the fact that there should be a retiring age for appointed Peers, such as myself, who reach an age when perhaps their utility becomes markedly less.

    Perhaps I may say how much I enjoy listening to the noble Viscount. Curiously, he reminds me of Milton's Comus. The noble Viscount will remember that in that masque there is a noble lady who becomes lost in a forest, having been separated from her two brothers. She meets a shepherd who, of course, is Comus in disguise. He says, "Come along with me and I'll show you the way out of the forest" and leads her to his palace. There he is surrounded by his rout of oughly-headed monsters. He makes no pretence at all about what he is at.
    "I, under fair pretense of friendly ends
    With well-plac't words of glozing courtesie
    Wind me into the easie-hearted man
    And hugg him into snares".
    Nobody will accuse the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor of being an easy-hearted man: warm-hearted, yes, but easy-hearted, no. As for the noble Baroness, I cannot conceive she would wish to be hugged by any Member of the Opposition.

    Nevertheless, why has this dilemma arisen? It is because of what we call the Weatherill amendment. Here again, the noble Viscount is so remarkably like Comus because he always referred to it as the Weatherill amendment.

    "Thus I hurl
    My dazzling spells into the spungy ayr
    Of power to cheat the eye with blear illusion".
    The illusion is that it was the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, who invented it. Of course, it was the noble Viscount who did that and increased our numbers in the interim stage. I have no doubt that that will cause great trouble to the Government at the second stage, when every effort will be made to prolong the life of the 90 Members. It is for that reason that I ask the House not follow the line that the noble Viscount has taken.

    I ask the noble Baroness a very important point. If by any chance the Third Reading was refused or the Bill was not passed, I ask for an assurance that the so-called Weatherill agreement would not be reintroduced into the House in another place. That assurance would give some people great pleasure.

    My Lords, I wish to make one point. As I read the amendment, I came to the conclusion that it was a very ingenious way of preventing any future government—I stress "any future government"—from swamping the House by creating a great number of Peers. In the early part of the debates many noble Lords tried to find ways of achieving that. I hope that the Government will look at this amendment for a second time and see that from their point of view it could have a real advantage. It would avoid the Lloyd-George method of threatening the House. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will consider this amendment in that sense. That point has not been touched on by anyone else although it is inherent in the amendment. That is all-important. There is to be a transitional House. If this amendment is included in the Bill now, it has to be taken into account at a later stage.

    My Lords, there are two reasons why we believe that this amendment is inappropriate. First, we do not think that we should do anything in this Bill which appears to pre-empt the conclusions and recommendations of the Royal Commission. A statutory provision of the kind envisaged in this amendment would inevitably be taken as giving an indication of what in future would be a suitable overall size for the second Chamber. Indeed, noble Lords opposite, in one of their earlier promotions of an amendment of this kind, made that linkage explicit when they proposed a number which was identical with the very figure which they had recommended in their evidence to the Royal Commission. We believe that the Royal Commission should be allowed to formulate its own recommendation, starting from the functions of the second Chamber, and without any attempt by us to pre-judge the number that it might produce.

    Secondly, we believe that it adds nothing to the undertakings which the Government have already given about the way in which life peerages will be created in future. The real safeguards about abuse of the appointments process are related to the balance of forces in the House, not the overall numbers. In our White Paper, and in successive debates in this House, we have spelled out what those guarantees are. None the less, I suppose that it is some three months since the issue was last addressed. Therefore, perhaps the time for repetition has arrived. I can do no better than to repeat and endorse what my noble friend the Leader of the House said on 1st May. She said,
    "We do not intend to seek more than broad parity between the Labour Party in the House and the main Opposition party. We will allow proportionate creations from the other parties and we intend to maintain a significant Cross-Bench presence. All of those pledges are designed to ensure that your Lordships' House becomes genuinely bipartisan and is better equipped for the primary function of taking a dispassionate look at the details of legislation".—[Official Report, 1/5/99,co1.1188].
    I have said before that I am confident that the transitional period will be short and that during that time there will be no question of anything other than broad parity and proportionate creations to which the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, referred.

    The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, asked me to give him from the Dispatch Box some free legal advice. It now seems to be a very long time since I last gave legal advice for little reward. I am not about to begin giving it free even when the request is made from as necessitous a source as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne!

    However, I can say that Pepper v. Hart has no bearing on these undertakings because they are not an exegesis of any provisions of the Bill. I repeat that the undertakings previously given on stage two issues are for another day. We urge the House to reject this amendment if the noble Lord decides to press it to a Division.

    My Lords, I say briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that had he had the discussion that was suggested to him by my noble friend Lord Caithness he would have seen clearly that the appropriate figure was well below the one he quoted. Far from having a margin for manoeuvre of three or four, he would have had a margin of between 30 and 35.

    I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for underlining the principles set out by the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal at Committee and Report stages. However, I very much regret the fact that the noble and learned Lord is not prepared to incorporate a ceiling into the Bill given the reasons that I have suggested. I do not accept that, in some way, the Bill should be unconstrained by a maximum figure because of the work presently being undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. Indeed, it seems to me that the best way to further the work of that noble Lord is to insert an overall figure. But the Lord Chancellor has given undertakings. The Opposition will be vigilant in ensuring that they are met. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 3 [ Appointments Commission]:

    moved Amendment No. 9:

    Page 2, line 21, leave out ("least") and insert ("most").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 10. The two amendments in effect make one amendment to the Bill. The matter at issue is Clause 3, the appointments commission, which was inserted into the Bill after a Division on the advice of my noble friends on the Front Bench. It is one amendment about which in my opinion it can possibly be said, using the jargon of these Benches, it makes a bad Bill a little better.

    Clause 3 of the Bill gives certain functions to the appointments commission and one of them, set out in subsection (4), is that,

    "It shall … make proposals to the Prime Minister for nomination as Cross Bench peers".

    However, the subsection says that it should do that,

    "at least every 6 months, and at most every year".

    There is a certain internal inconsistency about that arrangement. I suggest it should have provided that the commission make proposals "at most" every six months and "at least" every year.

    Amendment No. 9 is designed to clarify an inconsistency or error in an amendment which I supported at an earlier stage and I hope it will find favour with the House. I beg to move.

    5 p.m.

    My Lords, I am sorry to tell my noble friend that I cannot get too worked up about exchanging "most" for "least" and "least" for "most''. However, what is important about this part of the Bill is that we seek some assurances from the Government in relation to Clause 3 and the wider aspects of the commission's work. Whether the commission makes recommendations at six-monthly intervals and at least once a year may be important, but it is not nearly as important as the fact of the commission itself.

    Clause 3 is in the nature of an amendment which your Lordships insisted on inserting in the Bill in an attempt to ensure that this House does not become a House of patronage dependent entirely on the Prime Minister of the government of the day.

    Of course, the Government will assure us, as they have done, that they intend to set up such a commission. I suggest that the Government Chief Whip, who is to reply to this debate, will give us those assurances and say that my noble friend need not trouble with his amendments. It is a "trust us" operation. But your Lordships know all the various "trust us" phrases. This is very much, "I am from the Government. Trust me".

    I say to the Government, "We are trying to be helpful to you, so trust us". By asking for this commission we are helping the Government to fulfil their commitments. So perhaps the Government Chief Whip will tell us when we will get an appointments commission. Do the Government intend to ask the House of Commons to remove this clause from the Bill on the ground that they will give us an appointments commission off their own bat? If so, when will we get it? How many lists will be drawn up for your Lordships' House before we get it? In particular, will we have an appointments commission before the millennium list comes about? I have great fears that it will be as large and extravagant-looking as the Dome.

    The Government have been long on promises on this commission and short on action. Therefore, I hope today, while I am not going to bother too much about "most" and "least", that the Government will give us an assurance that the commission will be set up very quickly after the Bill's passage and prior to the publication of the lists of new Members of your Lordships' House at the turn of the year.

    My Lords, I hope that the Government's anxiety to answer the important questions asked by my noble friend Lord Mackay will not obscure to them the importance of the drafting changes my noble friend Lord Coleraine drew to their attention. If we do something every six months, we do it more often than if we do it every year. It means that the two qualifying words are the wrong way round, as my noble friend rightly pointed out.

    My Lords, the purpose of Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 seems to be to correct the grammar of the original clause, which was drafted by the Opposition. I am surprised the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, as a former teacher, is not concerned about the grammar in the Bill; it is important.

    The appointments commission will be set up as soon as practicable after the passing of this Bill. It is pretty rich of the noble Lord to ask that question. It was the insertion of Clause 3 which delayed the setting up of the commission because the clause is defective. However, it is the clause in the Bill which is presently before Parliament and the activities of the Opposition, as the noble Lord well knows, in inserting the clause in the Bill against the wishes of the Government delayed the setting up of the commission.

    Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 seek to correct the grammar of the original amendment. But to the Government it is a matter of stunning neutrality whether or not the amendments are accepted. It was a clause inserted by the Opposition against the wishes of the Government; we were opposed to its insertion. We have already made it clear that we shall be asking our right honourable and honourable friends in the other place to take it out. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 do not make any difference to our overall attitude to the clause.

    Having said that, the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, is probably right in his proposals. At the least he has shown that the present drafting of Clause 3 is ambiguous. We assume that its intention is to provide that the appointments commission may make two rounds of appointments a year and must make one. But is that what it says? The noble Lord thinks not and I have some sympathy with him. The question is whether we are defining frequency or interval. The House will have to determine which it thinks is right and vote accordingly if the noble Lord presses the amendment. From these Benches, we shall not oppose it.

    My Lords, I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish did not feel that this was something to get worked up about when the amendment he and his colleagues moved is possibly inaccurate. However, having listened to the Government Chief Whip, and in the hope that this amendment will have the approval of my Front Bench, I commend it to the House.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 10:

    Page 2, line 21, leave out ("most") and insert ("least").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 11, which also affects Clause 3, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 12.

    One of the functions of the commission under this clause is to report to Parliament whether or not certain criteria are being observed. One of the criteria, according to the Bill as it now stands, is that,

    "the proportion of the Cross Bench peers to the total number of life peers in the House remains as it was on the day before the passing of this Act".

    The effect of that paragraph is to compare a mixture of life and hereditary Peers existing on the Cross Benches before the Act with life Peers only on their Benches and the Benches of the House after the Act. The effect would be to greatly magnify the number of Cross-Bench Peers who would be entitled, under the amendment, to sit, and to provide for a much greater number than was ever in the contemplation of my noble friends.

    In this case I am taking a view that will diminish the rights of the Cross-Benchers under my noble friend's amendment whereas before I was trying to make it work more satisfactorily in their favour. Subsection(7)(c) should read, "the proportion of the Cross Bench peers to the total number of peers in the House remains the same as the proportion of the Cross Bench life peers to the total number of life peers in the House". I beg to move.

    My Lords, I think, on past experience, that I shall tell my noble friend that I am not very fussed one way or another and the Government will promptly indicate that they quite favour his amendment. Then we will all be happy. I can see my noble friend's point. From the way that the clause is drafted, it seems to compare all Peers on the one hand, and then, on the other hand, life Peers. My noble friend's amendment would make it quite clear that the proportionality would be of life Peers on the Cross Benches to life Peers in the House at the time that the Bill comes into place.

    Although I may be wrong, I calculate that the Bill as it currently stands would require that the present proportion of Cross-Bench Peers to the total of life Peers, which would have to be maintained, would be about 23.6 per cent. I do not know quite how the 0.6 per cent of the Cross Benches feel about that, but I suppose whether or not anyone gets in on that figure will depend very much on what it is a percentage of.

    I do not quite know what the consequence of my noble friend's amendment would be in terms of a significant number change to the Bill as it stands. No doubt the Chief Whip will again inform us. If he is quite relaxed about it, then I am happy to be relaxed about it. However, I am not relaxed about the knowledge that, frankly, whatever we do with this clause, the Government propose to knock it out in the other place. I really do not accept the excuse that the commission would have been set up by now if we had not tabled this amendment. I cannot for the life of me see why this new clause changes anything. Indeed, the Government could simply set up the commission, or indicate when they intend to do so, regardless of what we seek to insert in the Bill—especially as they are quite clear that they will overturn it in the other place. I look forward to hearing what the Chief Whip has to say.

    My Lords, before I deal with the amendment, perhaps I may respond to the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. As I said earlier, we were advised that it would be inappropriate to try to set up the commission if there was a Bill before Parliament which was designed to establish a commission in a way with which the Government did not agree. I give way to the noble Lord.

    My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I do not agree with his argument, but I will accept it for the moment. Does that mean that the moment this Bill is passed we can expect the Government, within a week or two, to indicate the setting up of the commission?

    My Lords, the commission will be set up as soon as practicable after the Bill is passed. I will not say that that will happen in a couple of weeks, as the noble Lord would like me to. It will be very quickly after the Bill is passed. In fact, it would have been established by now in shadow and would, perhaps, be considering the New Year's Honours, but the Opposition have delayed the process by inserting Clause 3 into the Bill.

    I turn now to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12—

    My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord can tell me whether my memory is wrong in recalling that certain commissions or shadow commissions were set up in connection with Northern Ireland while the Northern Ireland legislation was actually going through the House? It did not seem to restrain the Government then, so why should it restrain them now?

    My Lords, I am told that there was no amendment to that legislation which would have taken out the power of the commission. Therefore, the noble Lord's point is not correct. We were advised that it would be constitutionally inappropriate.

    The purpose of Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 is to allow the Weatherill Peers to count towards maintaining the proper proportion of Cross-Bench Peers and to ensure that a true comparison of like with like is taking place. As with the previous amendments, we do not think that these amendments make the difference between acceptability or not of Clause 3 as a whole. In any case, they deal only with a reporting requirement, and not with the actual criteria for creations.

    Once again, I think that the noble Lord may have spotted a genuine problem with the drafting of Clause 3—I wonder who did the drafting for the Opposition. We assume that the intention of Clause 3(7)(c) is to provide that the Cross-Bench share of the House remains roughly where it is now. Comparisons of the Cross-Bench share of the whole House and the Cross-Bench life Peer share of all life Peers both produce a figure between 20 per cent and 25 per cent. This is the sort of figure which I had always understood most people regarded as a reasonable and a ballpark figure for the transitional House.

    However, a strict analysis of the current wording of the clause would suggest that, in future, the proper Cross-Bench share would be two-thirds of the House, as that is the proportion that all Cross-Bench Peers, including hereditary Peers, currently bear to the total number of life Peers. The comparison could be made accurate by inserting the word "life" into the clause before the term "Cross Bench".

    The noble Lord has proposed a different approach, which takes account of the Weatherill Peers on both sides of the equation. As between the two approaches, we make no judgment. But either would be better than what is presently there. Therefore, if the noble Lord wishes to press the amendment to a vote, or put the matter to the House, we shall not resist it. That is entirely without prejudice to what my honourable friends in another place will do to the clause as a whole when the Bill is returned to them.

    My Lords, it seemed to me that my noble friend did get a little hit more healthily worked up about getting this right. He said that he could not work out the true figures. I must confess that I did not have them to hand, but I knew that there were about 220 Cross-Benchers who were hereditary Peers and that that was bound to have a considerable effect. I was glad that the noble Lord from the Government Front. Bench was able to provide me with the full figures. I hope that this amendment will find favour. I seek the opinion of the House.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 2, line 41. leave out ("as it was") and insert ("the same as the proportion of the Cross Bench life peers to the total number of life peers in the House").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    5.15 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 13:

    Page 2, line 42, at end insert ("; and
    (d) more than half of the total membership of the House of Lords is composed of peers who, in the opinion of the Commission have experience of, and expertise in, fields other than (or in addition to) politics").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have degrouped this amendment with Amendment No. 14 and have informed the Table, both Front Benches and the Deputy Speaker.

    My noble friend Lord Caithness and I moved similar amendments to this in Committee and on Report, a principle of which received support from both Front Benches. The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was particularly sympathetic on Report. Her main objection was that the time was not right. I hope that your Lordships will agree with us that this most certainly is the time to decide, and let the public know, who are to be the future Members of the interim House, which, inevitably, must influence the final reformed House—if that is ever to happen.

    Indeed, the prime concern of the odd person outside the Chamber, who is at all interested in your Lordships' House. is not that the hereditary Peers should continue but who is to follow us. I should have liked a much more explicit amendment, but then I fear it would have been considered a wrecking amendment; and this amendment is not. The amendment spells this out by stating that over 50 per cent of the Members should have had, or, more importantly, continue to have, experience and expertise in some other sphere than politics. Everyone in your Lordships' House knows those who fall within that category. They have been referred to today, not least by my noble friend Lord Cranborne. Sometimes they are euphemistically called "specialist Peers".

    Although I have not put my name forward for one of the 92 hereditary vacancies, I am most anxious that your Lordships' House should have credibility in the future. Bearing in mind that the standing of professional politicians is at an all-time low—partly because they are alleged to know everything about nothing—this amendment would ensure that your Lordships' House would not be so condemned. It would ensure that at least 50 per cent of the Members' main reason to be there was outside party politics. I am absolutely convinced that that is what the great majority of people would like to see.

    Before I get castigated by the loyal party members, I should say that I fully accept that there is a need for the dedicated, professional politician. However, like good claret, even though it is French, too much of it is disastrous. In any event, our amendment suggests that 49 per cent of the House could be dedicated party politicians.

    On Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, had the following problems with our amendment. She asked whether the Law Lords and Bishops would be included. They, like life Peers, would, as of right, be Members of the interim Chamber. Of course if the noble Baroness wants to allow our amendment to affect the composition of the final reformed Chamber I am sure that we on this side of the House would be delighted, but somehow or other I doubt whether she or her noble friends would appreciate that very much.

    The noble Baroness and other noble Lords—I think the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, in particular—asked how expertise and experience would be defined. The Prime Minister has promised us an appointments commission; indeed it is now in the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has said, if it is taken out of the Bill it will be put back again quite soon afterwards. If the appointments commission cannot make a decision on that matter, I know not what use it will be. For instance—if I may make a personal point here—I know that even I after a few minutes' conversation can tell whether someone who claims to be a competent and experienced farmer has those qualifications. Please do not say therefore that my amendment is defective because the body cannot judge who is who. If it cannot do that, please let us not have an appointments commission.

    The noble Baroness's final objection—I have to say she would be inconsistent if she did not say that—was. "Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow", in which she was supported, I am sorry to say, by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, whom I do not think is present.

    My Lords, I see that he is. Over the past 28 years I have had the privilege to move amendments to 78 different Bills. This will be the last, which I fully realise will be a great relief to the Government and no doubt to many, if not most, of my own Front Bench. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I am sure we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for tabling this amendment. There is nothing much of interest or seriousness on the Marshalled List of amendments and as we have many hours ahead of us we may as well go into one of our favourite modes which is that of a sixth form debating society. This is precisely the kind of thing that is so beloved by sixth formers.

    In introducing the amendment the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, did not feel that he had any obligation to meet the kind of point that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, had made; namely, of telling us what he meant by experience and expertise, or telling us how we determine that separately from politics. My experience of life has been—notice that I use the word—that those who most protest that they are not political and are not committed always turn out to behave in a definite and particular way. I remember when I was a student at the London School of Economics that one of the most famous professors said that he always considered all problems on their merits. A brave student piped up and said, "Yes, and then you always end up voting Conservative!"

    I take a dim view of this kind of amendment. I think that it is insulting to those who devote themselves to politics. Speaking as a party hack who always loyally supports my own Front Bench, I have never felt that it was disreputable for someone to say, "I devote my life to politics". Indeed I do not see how parliamentary democracy can work without people who are committed to politics. I am less enamoured than some Peers of the Cross-Benchers. I am much more enamoured of the committed political Peers who take a party Whip and make a contribution in a definite and positive way.

    I have two further remarks. It seems to me that my noble friend the Leader of the House was quite right; namely, this is not the time—nor in this Bill—for this kind of amendment. Further, once you start to go down this line, you end up with essentially unworkable amendments. As I say, I think that it is useful to occupy the hours with this kind of debate because I cannot see that the other amendments are useful. But subject to filling out the time, I really do think that it is about time this Bill is passed into law.

    My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Stanley on the amendment. As he has said, we have tabled this kind of amendment before but we have widened it for the very reasons that he spelt out so clearly, as indeed did my noble friend Lord Cranborne on an earlier amendment.

    It is our duty as a House—and indeed I believe it to be the duty of the interim Chamber—to review, revise and improve on the quality of draft legislation. I am not disrespectful of full-time politicians. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for whom we have much admiration, that they play a useful part. I have no hesitation in saying that I was a full-time politician for 10 years of my life and I believe that that will be an essential ingredient of the House. However, I also believe—I hope that your Lordships will agree with this—that an added ingredient of this House, as opposed to another Chamber, is that it gives a wide breadth of experience outside politics which is necessary for the revision of draft legislation. There are plenty of examples all around the House. I refer to the Labour Benches and the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, with his experience of the City. If he is not part of the interim House, his experience will be missed.

    I believe that the last thing this House wants to become is a cosy cartel of professional politicians. I believe that we also want Peers who do not attend on an every day basis. I think that those who attend infrequently are listened to and are well respected. They have played an important part in this Chamber. I hope that a similar kind of Peer will be included in the interim Chamber.

    Over many years my noble friend Lord Stanley and I have tabled amendments together, when in opposition in the 1970s and when in government in the 1980s. It has been a great pleasure to work with him. I believe that the whole House will miss my noble friend. I tried to persuade him to put his name into "the hat" but the House will be the poorer for his going. I think that the least one can do is to pay tribute to him by accepting this amendment.

    My Lords, I support this amendment. Amendment No. 14 is drafted in parallel terms. It has one major difference; namely, that it includes mixed ages. When we are talking about a criterion—

    My Lords, I believe that we have degrouped Amendment No. 14, as I believe that the noble Lord wished. Therefore I think that it would be better to discuss Amendment No. 14 when we reach that amendment.

    My Lords, I echo briefly the closing words of my noble friend Lord Caithness when he paid tribute to my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley who has been such a distinguished Member of this House for so long and has brought his real expertise, knowledge, understanding, and—dare I say, as a former government chief whip—independent nature to this House. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, will remember well, on more than one occasion the Conservative government lost a measure at the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley. It is a deep regret to me that my noble friend has not put his name forward to stand in the elections.

    It is in that tone that I express my great respect for both my noble friends who have put forward their ideas. The aim of the amendment is one that I can sympathise with; namely, to ensure that the House retains the broad spectrum of rounded experience that it has always had. We do not want to become a House of professional politicians fawning on ministerial answers and proposing laudatory Motions in praise of whoever happens to be the Prime Minister of the day. I understand that the Government have said that they want a more representative House, but at times that has seemed to mean little more than obedience to the political correctness of whoever is Prime Minister.

    We have proposed a new, open, independent and statutory system of appointment. For the life of me I cannot understand why the Government seem unwilling to accept it wholeheartedly. After all, they said they wanted it and the Labour Party's propaganda states that the Prime Minister has given up patronage already. It does not feel like it from where I am looking or, I imagine, from where some noble Lords on the other side sit.

    When he winds up, I hope that the Government Chief Whip will confirm that the Government want a broad range of experience and accept that the spirit of the amendment is right. I know what my noble friends intend in moving the amendment—we should all sympathise with it—and I wish I could be confident that the Government will accept it.

    The amendment also gives your Lordships an opportunity to ask the Government some direct questions about the appointments commission, questions that so far they have not begun to answer. Can the Government Chief Whip confirm that the Government will follow the lines put forward by the House in the amendment that has been accepted into the Bill? Will they set up a statutory commission or will it be run at the whim of the Prime Minister? Are they preparing a commission already? If not, why not? When do the Government propose to have the commission in place? Will it be ready to deal with recommendations that are put forward by the Prime Minister for the New Year's Honours List?

    It will not have escaped the notice of the House that it was recently mentioned in the press—it may or may not be true—that the New Year's Honours List in recognition of the millennium will be very substantial and that we can expect a number of new Members.

    It is important that these questions are answered today. My noble friends are entirely correct to have probed this matter. If the Government stay silent behind promises that have already passed their expiry date, the suspicion will grow that they do not want an appointments commission until they have appointed a House that suits their purposes. That would greatly damage the House.

    5.30 p.m.

    My Lords, before I turn to the amendments and deal with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, perhaps I may pay a further tribute, on behalf of these Benches and personally, to the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. He referred to the amendments and the changes to Bills that he has made in the past. He will remember that we shared some amendments with which we defeated the previous government on agriculture Bills. I remember particularly one important amendment on rural housing. He said that he could tell whether a farm was any good from a few moments' conversation. I prefer to look at the crops and livestock.

    Turning to the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the appointments commission, we have made our intentions absolutely clear: it will be set up under the Nolan rules; it will be non-statutory and a public body; and it will be set up as soon as practicable after the passing of the Bill. The insertion of Clause 3 into the Bill has delayed the setting up of the commission. Clause 3 introduced into the Bill an incompatible provision. We were advised that it was improper on constitutional grounds to proceed with a different approach while Clause 3 remained in the Bill. That is the advice we received. The insertion of Clause 3 has delayed the setting up of the appointments commission. It is not for me to comment on the possible contents of the New Year's Honours List.

    As the noble Lord said, Amendment No. 13 seeks to draw continued attention to the desirability that the House of Lords should continue to contain a significant non-political element. As with the last group of amendments, we regard this issue as more of a private one between noble Lords opposite and their own Front Bench, who supported the insertion of Clause 3 into the Bill. The succession of amendments demonstrates just how badly the clause was drafted. As we pointed out on Report when noble Lords moved an amendment which would have obliged the appointments commission to ensure that 50 per cent of the House had non-political expertise, there seem to us to be formidable problems of definition in the approach. How does one decide what "experience of" and "expertise in" mean? How recent does it have to be? How full time? To continue the farming analogy, is it based on conversations the appointments commission may have with potential Members of the House, or does it look at their crops and livestock—that is, at their practical experience?

    The amendment simply requires the appointments commission to report on whether the criteria have been met. It does not say what it is to do about it if they have not been met. There is no provision for saying that the commission must immediately nominate sufficient Cross-Bench Peers to meet the requirement; nor could the appointments commission prevent the parties making further nominations on their own account which could dilute the non-political element again.

    On the whole, unlike the previous group of amendments, we consider that this provision will—to paraphrase an expression often used by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde—make a bad clause worse. I would advise the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. As with previous amendments, if he wishes to ask the House to include it in the clause, we shall not resist.

    My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask one question. The noble Lord said that Clause 3 would inhibit or delay the setting up of the commission. Why should that be so?

    My Lords, I have been given to understand that there is an incompatible provision present in the Bill which concerns the way we intend to set up the appointments commission. We were advised that it would be constitutionally inappropriate to proceed with a different approach while Clause 3 remains in the Bill—a Bill which is before Parliament and which has not yet received the opinion of the other place.

    My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, including the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I did not agree with him because I had already said that I like party hacks just as much as I like the noble Lord.

    I am touched and flattered by the remarks made about me. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is not moving the amendment with me because he would have then had the pleasure of destroying his own arguments, as he has done in the past.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 15:

    After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—

    Life Peers

    (".—(1) No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a life peerage conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958, other than—
  • (a) 400 holders of peerages conferred under that Act who are elected in accordance with subsection (2) or at a by-election in accordance with subsection (5), and
  • (b) 16 holders of peerages conferred under that Act who have declared to the Clerk of the Parliaments that they are ready to serve as Deputy Speakers of the House of Lords or in such other office as the House may require and who are elected in accordance with subsection (3) or at a by-election in accordance with subsection (5).
  • (2) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) shall be the holders of peerages conferred under the Life Peerages Act 1958.
    (3) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) shall be the members of the House of Lords at the date on which the election is held.
    (4) A person elected under this section shall continue to be entitled to receive a writ of summons to the House of Lords and to sit and vote in that House throughout his life.
    (5) On the death of a peer elected under this section, a by-election shall be held for the filling of the vacancy.
    (6) Standing Orders of the House of Lords may make further provision relating to the holding and conduct of elections and by-elections under this section; and a person may be elected under this section by or in accordance with Standing Orders made in anticipation of the enactment or commencement of this section.
    (7) Any question whether a person is elected under this section shall be decided by the Clerk of the Parliaments, whose certificate shall be conclusive.").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 15 is associated with Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 21. It is a fairly simple amendment in so far as it enables life Peers also to be elected. After the Bill has passed, we shall be in the curious position that hereditary Peers will be the only ones who have been elected to your Lordships' House. It is a pity, therefore, that life Peers are not elected too.

    Throughout the passage of the Bill we have heard a lot about the "legitimacy" or otherwise of hereditary Peers. It is a strange kind of word. It is rather like other Civil Service words such as "coherent", "cohesive", "effective" and "efficient". I never know what they mean. Now we come to "legitimate". The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said:

    "The presence of the hereditary peerage has weakened the legitimacy and the effectiveness"

    those are two of the words—

    "of our second Chamber".—[Official Report, 20/1/99; col. 583.]

    The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General said,

    "We believe that the House which will result from the passage of the Bill will be more democratic, more legitimate".—[Official Report, 20/4/99; col. 1082.]

    The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, said that the Bill,

    "will have the effect of providing a more legitimate House".— [Official Report, 20/4/99; col. 1149.]

    The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General even talked about "illegitimacy", which is always a sensitive subject. He said:

    "the present privilege of hereditary connection is illegitimate in our House".—[Official Report, 30/3/99: col. 42.]

    "Illegitimate" means "against the law". There is nothing remotely illegitimate about hereditary Peers being in Parliament when the law allows them to be there. That does not mean to say that there is not an argument—even if it is a rotten one—for changing the law. That is another matter. There is no question of hereditary Peers being illegitimate when they attend your Lordships' House. When Ministers talk about illegitimacy in this context they are using fine-sounding magisterial words which are wholly inappropriate.

    I hate to pick on the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General again, particularly when he is not here—he has got plenty of people with howitzers to support him, if necessary—but he said that the House which will result from the Bill will be more democratic. With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, what he says is complete nonsense. There is nothing remotely democratic in the way noble Lords are appointed by a Prime Minister, whether that is because one is his friend, one has contributed to party funds or any other cause. Then of course one may happen to have got onto the elevator that takes one up to the attention c f the Prime Minister. What on earth is democratic about that? The answer is nothing.

    However, to use the Government's own terminology, when the 90 or so hereditary Peers have been elected they will be the most democratic and the most legitimate Members of the House, far more so than the life Peers who have arrived in the House by appointment. I simply ask noble Lords: why should not life Peers also be appointed? I beg your Lordships' pardon; elected. The word "appointment" trips so easily off the tongue nowadays because everyone is appointed.

    After some thought, the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General stated that he had once been elected to the Bar Council. That is a start, and I am sure that the noble and learned Lord would top the poll in any election in which he stood. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has also gone through that particular election. I do not know. However, I am sure that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House has not because that is not her forte; in that her forte is not being a barrister rather than not in being elected. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, may well have passed that hurdle and have been elected, because he is a legal gentleman.

    If all life Peers were subject to election, as they have forced upon the hereditary Peers, then the Attorney-General and all the other life Peers would have the legitimacy—I use that lovely government word—of having been elected. It would be a democratic process, and what is wrong with that?

    Plenty of Peers are given their peerages, but then never come to your Lordships' House. I shall not embarrass those noble Lords by rehearsing their names—

    My Lords, my noble friend has shown his usual intelligence and perspicacity by pointing out that they are not here to be embarrassed. However, I shall refer to one noble Lord who was also referred to by my noble friend on the Front Bench. He mentioned the previous Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Robertson. He has been given a peerage but understandably has said that he has no intention of attending here, because he holds an important job in Europe as the Secretary-General of NATO. However, he will be able to come here when eventually he leaves that position. However, others have held that post before him. My noble friend Lord Mackay referred to my noble friend Lord Carrington. A few years ago my noble friend occupid that post with distinction, but what will happen to him? Unless he puts down his name for election—I understand that he has not done so—he will be ejected from your Lordships' House. However, when the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, retires, he will be able to come here. Where is the fairness or the legitimacy, or indeed the democracy, in that?

    It would be better if life Peers were also elected. That is the purpose of my amendment. As my noble friend Lord Kingsland said in his carefully argued speech on Amendment No. 8, to which I listened with fascination, the time will come when the House of Lords may well be elected, and most life Peers will then go too. I do wonder whether life Peers will want to go on to the hustings to seek the votes of the proletariat. I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will visit B&Q to find out whether he can secure some votes there?

    One also wonders whether the voting proletariat will wish to vote for the life Peers. I am sure that many will, but then many will not. I do not believe that the life Peers should smile so widely—I see that the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, is smiling very cheerfully now—because the time will come when it will be their turn to be on the end of this greasy pole. The fact is that once the hare has been let out of the bag—namely, reform of your Lordships' House—you do not know where it will run. It would be better for the life Peers to get dug in to your Lordships' House, as it were, by seeking election now, rather than to wait for Boadicea's chariot to come round a second time with those long knives and chop them up as well. For all those reasons, I suggest that noble Lords approve this amendment. I beg to move.

    5.45 p.m.

    My Lords, the noble Earl is following the lead of his noble friends Lord Stanley of Alderley and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in keeping our debating society going rather than discussing serious matters. However, he is right in saying, as was his noble friend Lord Kingsland, that when we come to build the new House of Lords, the life Peers will have to face up to their positions and their destinies. I look. forward to that happening soon, and I say only that compared to the behaviour of the hereditary Peers some of us will do that in a much more correct and proper fashion.

    Oh, yes, my Lords. To echo the words that I know noble Lords opposite did not like when expressed by my noble friend the Leader of the House, we will not be clinging to the furniture. We will know that reform implies that a considerable number of us must go. We will then have a House of a viable size, and that number will be much lower than anything suggested by several noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord Kingsland. For the House to shrink to a sensible size, many of us must go. We shall have to face that fact, and I can say only that I look forward to it. I have had a great time here, as has the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. However, there comes a time when one must go. I do not see that as a problem, and I am delighted that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has put down the amendment so that others can now place on the record their views.

    I should like to record one more point. I do not have the slightest intention of standing for election, either among my fellow Peers or placing myself before the electorate. I have never stood for election to anything, and I firmly believe in achieving high positions by merit, or by being a hack—noble Lords can make their own interpretations. At this stage in my life I have no intention of seeking election to anything.

    I believe that we should thank the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for reminding us that once the Bill has been passed, we shall have to face that harsh reality. I can say only that I look forward to facing it because, for the first time this century, we shall be building a decent House of Lords.

    My Lords, I rise only to say that there is quite a serious objection to a highly amusing amendment; that is, that it wholly pre-empts the work of the Royal Commission that has within its remit the constitution and reconstruction of this House, on recommendations which may well in due course impinge upon what has already been decided by this House on the Weatherill amendment. Furthermore, I do not believe that any of the life Peers can smile too much, certainly not an octogenarian such as myself. I have already made it plain that inevitably, sooner or later, the question of the life Peers will receive consideration. I assuredly would not stand for election for the simple reason that nobody would elect me.

    My Lords, I rise briefly to say that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is a great entertainer, and once again he has treated the House to his amusing words. Those of us present at the time will remember his marvellous speech on the subject of whether the Bill should refer to "a hereditary Peer" or "an hereditary Peer". However, behind the wit the noble Earl has made a perfectly fair point. I believe that life Peers do recognise that we will have to go. I should like to summarise the attitude of the noble Earl with a misquotation from T.S. Eliot: "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a giggle". I have to say that I think a giggle will be better than a whimper.

    My Lords, perhaps I may add to the debate by saying how much I admire my noble friend Lord Ferrers. I am never quite sure what noble Lords opposite think of my noble friend, but his voice has been heard in this House for nearly 45 years and it is always of great benefit to the House. He has an unerring ability, always with good humour, to put his finger on the nub of the matter. He has an ability to identify illogicality in the case made by the Government and home in on it. That is why, sometimes, he appears to get under the skin of the Front Bench opposite. I suspect that he has done so again today.

    I do not think that it is possible at this late stage to accommodate my noble friend's proposal in the Bill; and even he might acknowledge that. But I do think that he has raised a question that will not die and that it should be called the "Ferrers Question". Why, if the heirs to beneficiaries of patronage past are unacceptable in the House, are the beneficiaries of patronage present so acceptable? If it is right, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House said in a recent edition of the House Magazine, that the election of some hereditary Peers from among the total number of hereditary Peers gives those elected a greater legitimacy, why would the same not be true for life Peers? That is the nub of the argument made by my noble friend Lord Ferrers.

    The day that the Government began to push the hereditary peerage from this House was the day that the life peerage—the receivers of present patronage—moved to the front of the stage. This Bill has made it inconceivable that a reform Bill could be introduced without addressing the present status of the life peerage. We may find in time that the "Ferrers Question" becomes part of the Lords' answer, but that would be to anticipate much and to go far beyond any conclusion that our party has yet to reach. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will not press the amendment to a Division as I would be unable to support it. But, in so saying, I submit that the "Ferrers Question" will hang in the air, and the more Peers that the Prime Minister sends to this House, the more he will need to find an answer to it.

    My Lords, the "Ferrers Question", as I understand it, is that if the hereditary Peers who stay in the House are to be elected, why should not the life Peers who stay in the House be elected as well. That is how the noble Earl posed his question to us. The answer to the question is this: the purpose of the Bill has always been to remove the right of people to legislate on the basis of heredity. That is the limited purpose of the Bill and that has always been stated to be the limited purpose of the Bill. What the second stage of reform will be is a matter for the two Houses of Parliament to decide after the benefit of the Wakeham commission's report on the second stage of reform. So if the aim of the Bill is to remove the right to legislate on a hereditary basis, that is why the hereditary Peers go, subject to the Weatherill amendment, and the life Peers stay. That is the principle of the Bill and that is the principle often stated.

    Accepting that principle, what is the point of choosing again between those life Peers who have already been chosen? Every life Peer in this House has been explicitly selected on the basis of his or her past career or potential contribution to this House for the purpose of being a Member of it. There is no other proper rationale for a person to be in this House as a life Peer. For as long as it is necessary to have a peerage to be a Member of the second Chamber, all those explicitly selected for that purpose, which is life Peers and hereditary Peers of first creation, should continue to have that right to sit. So that is my answer to the "Ferrers Question", as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, put it, and I think it is the answer that we have been giving throughout the proceedings on the Bill.

    Quite separately from the question of principle, the amendment itself also seems to be unworkable. First, for example, it provides for the electorate of the 400 life Peers to be all the holders of life peerages. Perhaps wisely in the light of last week's debate, it does not say anything about a party split. Neither, of course, does the present Clause 2 of the Bill; but nor does Clause 2 contain any provision ruling out the Standing Orders making provision for separate party elections. This amendment does. We think it highly unlikely that Standing Orders could ever override the specific provision in the Bill. Perhaps it is the noble Earl's idea that the House in the future should be entirely non-political. But we have to start from where we are and many life Peers are party political appointments.

    Secondly, I am not at all sure where in the future the candidates will come from. Why should anyone accept a nomination as a potential working Peer if he has no guarantee that he will ever be called to work in the House? Why should anyone offered a peerage on the basis that he is good Cross-Bench material actually decide to stand for election? Could one force him to do so? I am also slightly puzzled as to why the noble Earl (who I thought was of the school that the existing life Peers, after the hereditaries had gone, would find it quite difficult to cope with the workload of the House) thinks that they could cope when their number was down to 400. If there are 400 who care enough about the House to stand for election, presumably they care enough to turn up and fulfil their responsibilities anyway.

    As we have said again and again, this Bill is not about life Peers; it is about hereditary Peers. The Royal Commission will report shortly. That is the time to consider what transitional arrangements might be needed for life Peers. I urge the House to reject the amendment.

    My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I was surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said that this was the continuation of a sixth-form debating society. I do not think that it was anything of the kind. It happens to be a very serious amendment, as I endeavoured to point out.

    My noble friend Lord Campbell said that it is an amusing amendment. I do not know whether it is particularly amusing. He also said that the one reason why it could not possibly be accepted is that it pre-empts what the Royal Commission is going to do. But the whole Bill pre-empts what the Royal Commission is going to do. So that, even coming from my noble friend, is a rotten argument!

    I knew that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, would try to destroy my amendment through a mass of rhetoric; and he did not do too badly—in the eyes of some! Did your Lordships notice that he did not use the word "legitimacy"? He changed it to "rationale". I bet he crossed that out at the last moment. He said that my amendment would not work because there would not be enough noble Lords to undertake the workload and he asked who on earth would do it. That is not much of a compliment to the life Peers. I presume that they would just have to choose the very young, hefty packhorses to stay up all night.

    I am interested in the amendment because I introduced an amendment in your Lordships' House earlier in the Bill's passage to suggest that your Lordships should be known not by their title—because that is not what people want to come here for—but by their surname followed by ML, which I knew would meet with the favour of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House because she wrote an article about it. However, when I came to put the amendment to the test I found that the Government Whips had been put on, and noble Lords on the government side marched into the Division Lobby in order to be able to continue to call themselves "Lords", including the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, because of course she was under the direction of the Chief Whip.

    The Chief Whip made a curious remark this evening. He said that he did not think that we had had very many Divisions. I am going to have a Division on this amendment because, even if the Government have put on their Whips and said that the amendment is not acceptable, I just want to see all the noble Lords on the Benches opposite traipse through the Division Lobby in order not to be elected.

    5.59 p.m.

    On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 15) shall be agreed to?

    Their Lordships divided: Contents, 186; Not-Contents, 238.

    Division No. 1

    CONTENTS

    Ailesbury, M.Clanwilliam, E.
    Ailsa, M.Clark of Kempston, L.
    Alanbrooke, V.Clifford of Chudleigh, L.
    Aldenham, L.Clinton, L.
    Alexander of Weedon, L.Cobbold, L.
    Alton of Liverpool, L.Cochrane of Cults, L.
    Amherst of Hackney, L.Coleraine, L.
    Annaly, L.Coleridge, L.
    Arran, E.Cornwallis, L.
    Ashbourne, L.Cromartie, E.
    Balfour of Inchrye, L.Cross, V.
    Banbury of Southam, L.Cunliffe, L.
    Bathurst, E.Dartmouth, E.
    Belhaven and Stenton, L.Davidson, V.
    Belstead, L.DeL'Isle, V.
    Berners, B.Denham, L.
    Blyth, L.Derwent, L.
    Boardman, L.Devonport, V.
    Boston, L.Dilhorne, V.
    Bruntisfield, L.Donegall, M.
    Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.Dudley, E.
    Burton, L.Dulverton, L.
    Butterfield, L.Dundee, E.
    Byron, L.Dundonald, E.
    Caithness, E.Dunleath, L.
    Calverley, L.Eccles, V.
    Carew, L.Eccles of Moulton, B.
    Cavendish of Furness, L.Ellenborough, L.
    Chalfont, L.Elles, B.
    Chesham, L.Erroll, E.
    Chilston, V.Exmouth, V.

    Falmouth, V.Munster, E.
    Ferrers, E. [Teller]Napier and Ettrick, L.
    Fisher, L.Napier of Magdãla, L.
    Forester, L.Nelson, E.
    Gage, V.Newall, L.
    Gainford, L.Norfolk, D.
    Glenarthur, L.Norrie, L.
    Gormanston, V.Norton, L.
    Gray, L.Pearson of Rannoch, L. [Teller]
    Haddington, E.Peel, E.
    Halifax, E.Pender, L.
    Hamilton of Dalzell, L.Plumb, L.
    Hampden, V.Pym, L.
    Hampton, L.Reading, M.
    Harris of High Cross, L.Reay, L.
    Hastings, L.Rennell, L.
    Hawke, L.Renton of Mount Harry, L.
    Holderness, L.Romney, E.
    HolmPatrick, L.Rotherwick, L.
    Hothfield, L.Saint Albans, D.
    Iliffe, L.St. Germans, E.
    Inchcape, E.Saint Levan, L.
    Ironside, L.Saint Oswald, L.
    Iveagh, E.Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
    Jeffreys, L.Sandford, L.
    Kemsley, V.Sandys, L.
    Keyes, L.Selsdon, L.
    Killearn, L.Sharples, B.
    Kinnoull, E.Shuttleworth, L.
    Kintore, E.Sidmouth, V.
    Knutsford, V.Skidelsky, L.
    Laing of Dunphail, L.Slim, V.
    Lauderdale, E.Spens, L.
    Leathers, V.Stair, E.
    Lindsey and Abingdon, E.Stanley of Alderley, L.
    Liverpool, E.Stevens of Ludgate, L.
    Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.Stockton, E.
    Lloyd-Webber, L.Stodart of Leaston, L.
    Long, V.Sudeley, L.
    Lonsdale, E.Suffield, L.
    Lucas, L.Suffolk and Berkshire, E.
    Lucas of Chilworth, L.Swansea, L.
    Macclesfield, E.Swinton, E.
    Mackintosh of Halifax, V.Tebbit, L.
    Macpherson of Drumochter, LTeynham, L
    Mancroft, L.Torphichen, L.
    Marks of Broughton, L.Torrington, V.
    Massereene and Ferrard, V.Townshend. M.
    Mersey, V.Trefgarne, L.
    Middleton, L.Trenchard, V.
    Mills, V.Verulam, E.
    Milverton, L.Waterford, M.
    Monckton of Brenchley, V.Wedgwood, L.
    Monro of Langholm, L.Weir, V.
    Monson, L.Wigram, L.
    Monteagle of Brandon, L.Willoughby de Broke, L.
    Montrose, D.Winchester, M.
    Moran, L.Wise, L
    Morris, L.Wrenbury, L.
    Morton, E.Wynford, L.
    Mountevans, L.Yarborough, E.
    Mountgarret, V.Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

    NOT-CONTENTS

    Acton, L.Barnett, L.
    Addington, L.Bassam of Brighton, L.
    Ahmed. L.Berkeley, L.
    Alderdice, L.Blackstone, B.
    Allenby of Megiddo, V.Blease, L.
    Amos, B.Borrie, L.
    Archer of Sandwell, L.Bradshaw, L.
    Ashley of Stoke, L.Bragg, L.
    Attenborough, L.Brett. L.
    Avebury, L.Bridges, L.
    Bach. L.Brightman, L.

    Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.Hattersley, L.
    Brookman, L.Hayman, B.
    Bruce of Donington, L.Hilton of Eggardon, B.
    Burlison, L.Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
    Burns, L.Hollis of Heigham, B.
    Callaghan of Cardiff, L.Holme of Cheltenham, L.
    Campbell of Alloway, L.Howells of St Davids, B.
    Carlisle, E.Howie of Troon, L.
    Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.Hoyle, L.
    Carter, L.[Teller]Hughes of Woodside, L.
    Castle of Blackburn, B.Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
    Chandos, V.Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
    Charteris of Amisfield, L.Hylton, L.
    Chorley, L.Irvine of Lairg, L. (Lord
    Christopher, L.

    Chancellor)

    Clancarty, E.Islwyn, L.
    Clarke of Hampstead, L.Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord
    Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.

    Privy Seal)

    Clement-Jones, L.Jeger, B.
    Clinton-Davis, L.Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
    Clwyd, L.Jenkins of Putney, L.
    Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.Judd, L.
    Cooke of Thorndon, L.Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
    Crawley, B.Kennet, L.
    Currie of Marylebone, L.Kilbracken, L.
    Dahrendorf, L.King of West Bromwich, L.
    David, B.Kirkhill, L.
    Davies of Coity, L.Kirkwood, L.
    Davies of Oldham, L.Lea of Crondall, L.
    Desai, L.Lester of Herne Hill, L.
    Dholakia, L.Linklater of Butterstone, B.
    Diamond, L.Lipsey, L.
    Digby, L.Lockwood, B.
    Dixon, L.Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
    Donoughue, L.Longford, E.
    Dormand of Easington, L.Lovell-Davis, L.
    Dubs. L.Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
    Eatwell, L.McIntosh of Haringey, L.
    Elder, L.[Teller]
    Evans of Parkside, L.McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
    Evans of Watford, L.Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
    Ewing of Kirkford, L.Mackie of Benshie, L.
    Ezra, L.McNair. L.
    Falconer of Thoroton, L.McNally, L.
    Falkland. V.Maddock. B.
    Farrington of Ribbleton, B.Mallalieu, B.
    Faulkner of Worcester, L.Mar and Kellie. E.
    Filkin, LMarlesford, L.
    Gale, B.Marsh, L.
    Gifford, LMason of Barnsley, L.
    Gilbert, L.Merlyn-Rees, L.
    Gladwin of Clee, L.Methuen, L.
    Glanusk, L.Miller of Chilthome Domer, B.
    Goldsmith, L.Milner of Leeds, L.
    Goodhart, L.Molloy, L.
    Gordon of Strathblane, L.Monkswell, L.
    Goudie, B.Montague of Oxford, L.
    Gould of Potternewton, B.Morris of Manchester, L.
    Graham of Edmonton, L.Murray of Epping Forest. L.
    Grantchester, L.Naseby, L.
    Greene of Harrow Weald, L.Newby, L.
    Gregson, L.Nicol, B.
    Grenfell, L.Northfield, L.
    Grey, E.Norton of Louth, L.
    Hacking, L.Ogmore, L.
    Hamwee, B.Onslow, E.
    Hankey. L.Orme, L.
    Hanworth, V.Patel, L.
    Hardie, L.Paul, L.
    Hardy of Wath, L.Peston, L.
    Harris of Greenwich, L.Phillips of Sudbury, L.
    Harris of Haringey, L.Pitkeathley, B.
    Harris of Richmond, B.Plant of Highfield, L.
    Harrison, L.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
    Haskel, L.Prys-Davies, L.
    Haskins, L.Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

    Randall of St. Budeaux, L.Temple of Stowe. E.
    Razzall, L.Templeman, L.
    Rea, L.Tenby, V.
    Redesdale, L.Thomas of Gresford, L.
    Rendellof Babergh, B.Thomas of Walliswood, B.
    Rennard, LThomson of Monifieth, L.
    Renwick of Clifton, L.Thornton, B.
    Richard, L.Thurlow, L.
    Rochester, L.Thurso, V.
    Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.Tope, L.
    Russell, E.Tordoff, L.
    Sainsbury of Turville, L.Turner of Camden, B.
    Sandberg, L.Uddin, B.
    Sawyer, L.Varley, L.
    Scotland of Asthal. B.Vinson, L.
    Sefton of Garston, L.Walker of Doncaster, L.
    Serota, B.Wallace of Saltaire, L.
    Sewel, L.Walton of Detchant, L.
    Warner, L.
    Shepherd, L.Warnock, B.
    Sheppard of Liverpool, L.Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
    Shore of Stepney, L.Watson of Invergowrie, L.
    Simon, V.Watson of Richmond, L.
    Simon of Highbury, L.Weatherill, L.
    Smith of Clifton, L.Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
    Smith of Gilmorehill, B.Whitty, L.
    Stoddart of Swindon, LWigoder, L.
    Stone of Blackheath, LWilkins, B.
    Strabolgi, L.Williams of Crosby, B.
    Strafford, E.Williams of Elvel, L.
    Symons of Vernham Dean, B.Williamson of Horton, L.
    Taverne, L.Woolmer of Leeds. L.
    Taylor of Blackburn, LYoung of Dartington, L.
    Taylor of Gryfe, L.Young of Old Scone, B.

    Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

    6.15 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 16:

    After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—

    Constitutional Bills: Voting Rights Of Hereditary Peers

    (" . Section I shall not apply in respect of any proceedings in the House of Lords on a constitutional bill or a bill including constitutional provisions, and any person who is or becomes the holder of a hereditary peerage shall be entitled to sit and vote on such proceedings.").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am glad that the House has had the opportunity of a preamble to my amendments. I do not believe that my first statement will come as a surprise to anyone in the House. Many hours have been devoted to debating the merits of reforming this revising Chamber. The many words written in newspapers, magazines and articles that cover the same subject indicate the size, nature and importance of this constitutional beast.

    Those of us who read Sir Robin Day's article in the Daily Telegraph on 2nd September will be aware that he listed the occasions on which this House had been subject to review since the Reform Act 1832. He quoted the Reform Acts 1867 and 1887, the Ballot Act 1872 and the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, as well as the Life Peerages Act 1958. Those and other reforms have, step by step, broadened and transformed our Parliament as upholder of the democratic

    constitution. Surely, no one can argue that Members of this House are, or have been, blind to its faults over the past 100 years.

    I remind another place that this House agreed to a massive reform of its composition and influence some 21 years ago, only to be turned down by the House of Commons. It was with deep regret, and obvious surprise, that on 30th March we heard the noble Lord, Lord Randall of St Budeaux, say that he had met with an "unexpected feeling of hatred" within the corridors and Benches of this House. I admired the contents of his well balanced speech but was shaken by his initial impression that this was a "House of Hate".

    I turn to the former Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and to the present holder of that office, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, and request that they examine their consciences, for they have not appeased but propagated the unnecessary feeling of spite—"SPITE" being a n acronym for "socialist ploys inclined towards envy"—that has marred such an important period during which we have been negotiating the future of this country's constitution.

    As a hereditary Peer, I am likely to have been slighted for a greater period of my life than many life Peers because I have a title, or was born with a title (if that is a little more pleasing). For the Leader of the House to slight me out of spite and to belittle hereditary Peers as nothing better than Armed Forces material or farmers—I hope that the Chief Whip also notes this—ruffles the feathers somewhat. When another place posts our peace-keepers to Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and now East Timor, and the present Government appear to show continued disrespect for farmers' support of the rural way of life, we in this House are supposed to act like parliamentarians and not be subject to a system of "flooding" by politicians. Surely such a bias smacks of power preservation by the executive—the Cabinet, the leaders of the policy-making body which regulates this country's future. Surely both Houses of Parliament can credit this nation's population with sufficient intelligence to note that such a bias is designed to benefit the fat cats of the Cabinet.

    Since 1997 more and more electoral privileges, human rights and choices have been removed or outlawed by another place; and yet, when it comes to making a monumental constitutional choice as to who should monitor our legislators and harness the possible dictatorial nature of the executive's wishes, this House has been persuaded against holding a referendum—asking the people their opinion about how well this House, as it is composed, reflects public opinion on farming, Europe, demands on the Armed Forces, education, pensions, the disabled, health, management of our services, the infrastructure, and so on.

    The Government were elected as the people's choice by 30 per cent, or thereabouts, of the electorate on what they promised in their manifesto. I agree that the removal of hereditary Peers was one of the intentions expressed in the Labour Party manifesto, but so was a freedom of information Bill, better standards of education, shorter waiting lists for medical attention, and the removal of sleaze—the usual political bilge that the electorate expect at every single election. They were promised a referendum on Europe. Do they really think that they will have one? Those in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales were lucky. They were given a referendum on a matter of constitutional importance: devolution. This House, this body of mature individuals, does not pretend to be anything but a practical listening institution which hopes and endeavours to work with the elected Chamber in good faith to produce sound legislation for entry on to the statute book.

    Although, like another place, we are subject to lobbyists, most of us are at, or close to, the zenith of our careers and do not care for being lectured on, or told repeatedly, our responsibility and duty. But having considered the House of Lords Bill in full, and having been told that we are to elect 90 hereditary Peers for an interim Chamber two months before the Royal Commission presents its report on a proposed interim Chamber, it is clear that this House of Parliament is being subjected to arrogant bullying, not the considered opinion the nation expects from its leaders.

    Parliaments should be able to distinguish between mere casual opinion, which should not be paramount, and the way laws affect people's livelihood and settled way of life. If they do not do so, they will encourage and be subject to media rule, a mode espoused by fascists and communists alike. Such extremists are permitted to introduce whatever takes their fancy under a smokescreen of misinformation and a persistent drizzle of indoctrination.

    Taking account of the well considered statements made by your Lordships since 1998 acknowledging our role as the final revising body of Parliament, and not abrogating that responsibility, it is clear that the House of Lords Bill contains defects and requires redrafting.

    I recognise that many noble Lords have offered themselves for election by their hereditary Peers on 3rd November. Seventy-five may attain that goal. By considering the legal facts, the details given to noble Lords on the subject of the constitution, and taking notice of their consciences, noble Lords will see that the fair governance of this country is most important. I remind your Lordships that infidelity to the truth destroys dignity. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I rise not because I had intended to say anything on this amendment, but because the noble Lord was moved to say something about me in the course of his remarks. I listened to what he said with great interest. I found it impossible to relate it to the amendment he was supposed to be moving.

    The noble Lord accused me of arrogant bullying, and of slighting him because he has a title and out of spite. I am very sorry if he feels slighted. I am very sorry indeed that as a hereditary Peer he finds himself at the sharp end, so to speak, of the Bill. I do not slight him. My meaning is very simple: "We don't want to lose you but we think you ought to go". Why do we think you ought to go, my Lords? The answer is simple. The noble Lord used the phrase that the function of this House was to be a check on the executive. I agree that the function of this House is to be a check on the executive, in particular when the executive has a majority of 170 (or whatever it is) in the other House of this Parliament. But the reason that the hereditary peerage has to go is that the composition of this House in its present form means that it cannot do its job as a check on the power of the executive properly and well.

    I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, does not take that as a personal slight. It is, as I see it, a fair reflection of the state of play between both Houses of Parliament. Since the 1968 attempt at reform, this House has laboured continually under the imposition of a majority of this House being of the hereditary peerage and, indeed, a majority of that hereditary peerage taking the Conservative Whip. Looking at the facts and the composition of this House, it seems impossible to come to any other conclusion than that it is the illegitimacy of the composition of this House which deprives it of, and removes it from, the proper position that it should occupy in the British legislature.

    I am sorry if the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, thinks that that is a Socialist ploy inclining towards envy. It seems to me a realistic appreciation—it is one that I and the party on this side of the House have held for some time—of what has to be done to this House to make it effective. If the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, wants to make it effective, I am surprised that he is not voting with us.

    6.30 p.m.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, has made an immense contribution to the passage of this Bill at all stages. No one who has heard him promote his amendments can have any doubt whatsoever about his sincerity, his determination and his passionate attachment to the cause he seeks to promote.

    Many of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord have been of a high standard and have posed testing and apposite questions to the Government. Often his perspicacity has illuminated dark corners of peerage law or, more widely, our constitutional law.

    I felt, however, that his speech was too wide-ranging for the text of his amendment which refers to constitutional matters and constitutional law. If a lawyer were to be responding to his advocacy in court, he would say that the problem with the noble Lord's amendment is that it is void for uncertainty.

    What is a constitutional Bill in your Lordships' House or another place? I tried in the early stages of the passage of this Bill to argue that a Bill altering the composition of the sovereign was a constitutional Bill. However, the Government were quick to point out that that gave it no special status in our constitution.

    It is difficult to define what amounts to a constitutional matter. Even if that can be agreed by some, it is difficult to know who should decide what it is. There are no answers to either of these questions in the amendment. In those circumstances, I fear I have to say to the noble Lord that his amendment serves no practical purpose.

    I would rather turn your Lordships' attention to the amendment that was passed at Report stage in your Lordships' House by my noble friends, Lord Mancroft and Viscount Goschen, which sought, at least at this stage successfully, to entrench the quinquennial Act in the law of our nation. I earnestly hope that noble Lords on the Government Benches opposite will not seek to have that amendment overturned when it goes to another place.

    More widely, the important question of what constitutional role your Lordships' House should play in the transitional phase is a matter that the new House will need to consider at an early stage. If the Government are right that the new House will be more legitimate than the previous House, it is also right that the new House should have new responsibilities, and those responsibilities should encompass constitutional matters. It will be the task of your Lordships' new House to determine what they are. That is the proper moment for a debate on constitutional matters and what constitutes those matters and not, I submit, in this Bill.

    My Lords, I wonder if I may bring the House back to the grouped amendments which I believe we are discussing; namely Amendment No. 16 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Chudleigh. I believe that he has ungrouped Amendment No. 28.

    I am so sorry, Lord Clifford. I do apologise. That is in no way a slight. It is simply forgetfulness on my part. May I ask him whether he has ungrouped Amendment No. 28?

    My Lords, I have put in that preamble in order to support.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak to Amendment No. 16, which is the amendment, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, that I believed we were discussing.

    It may be helpful to your Lordships to know that the effect of the amendment is to allow any hereditary Peer, whether or not he has previously been a Member of the House, to return to take part in any proceedings on a constitutional Bill or a Bill containing constitutional provisions. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, used the legal expression that this was "void for uncertainty". Perhaps I can explain it in layman's terms. There is no attempt in the amendment to define what Bills might fall into these categories, nor is there any attempt to spell out what arrangements, if any, the hereditary Peers in question would have to go through in order to turn up for these debates.

    This is now the third time that we have considered an attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, to preserve a role for hereditary Peers in this somewhat undefined area of constitutional Bills or Bills including constitutional provisions. With this Third Reading amendment, I suggest that we revert t o what I might call the somewhat extreme version which I understand the noble Lord originally proposed at Committee stage, whereby any hereditary Peer, whether or not he has ever been a Member of this House and whether or not apparently he is a minor, an alien or a bankrupt, can simply turn up and take part in proceedings on certain Bills.

    I know that my noble friend Lord Peston may well rise to say that this is another example of sixth form debating on a subject which is not central or serious. Let the House be in no doubt that the amendment is quite unacceptable to the Government for the reasons which we gave when it was previously discussed. First, it is unacceptable to us because it implies that life Peers, by the simple fact of being life Peers, are not to be trusted to deal adequately with these constitutional issues. It implies that there is something about the mere status of a hereditary Peer—not experience but simply status—that makes him better able to judge the needs of the country, in these particular respects, than those who may be charged with that task by the people—that is, those in the House of Commons—or the life Peers.

    Parliament is the guardian of our constitution. That simple but profound statement was echoed by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, when, on a similar amendment in Committee in your Lordships' House on 29th April 1999 he said:
    "I find it constitutionally odd that Parliament itself should not be trusted to perform one of its central functions in its control of government;"—[Official Report, 29/4/99; col. 466.]
    Nothing that has been said today alters that fundamental position, so elegantly put by the noble Viscount. If the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, seeks the opinion of the House on Amendment No. 16, I hope that your Lordships will reject the amendment.

    I thank the Leader of the House for her last few comments. My preamble contained a particular statement specifically designed to show her and other members of the Government that the House feels, as I do, that it should be reformed. I hope that that was understood.

    With regard to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in relation to slight, I talked about slighting farmers and the Armed Forces because they were hereditary Peers, or vice versa.

    Usually, as on this occasion, this House considers legislation, returning its opinion to another place and asking its Members, the executive, to think again before committing the legislation to the monarch and then to the statute book. So many details, though not all of them, have been presented to your Lordships on this occasion, that I am asking your Lordships to think again and to remember that the people of this country, the electorate, will be affected should we condone the disbandment of this essential, independent part of Parliament. Should we relinquish our responsibilities towards the electorate? Despite the fact that we are unelected, we have responsibilities. We have responsibilities to monitor the executive and to give a balanced, well considered opinion of legislation.

    We should remember the opinion of a particular Member of another place in 1968, a man named Enoch Powell, a Conservative who, together with the late Michael Foot, overturned the Bill which I previously mentioned. He said something which I think we all ought to remember. He said:
    "Too often today people are ready to tell us that this is not possible or that is not possible. I say, whatever the true interest of our country calls for is always possible. We have nothing to fear but our doubts".
    I ask your Lordships to consider what I have said. I shall withdraw my amendment, in the light of the fact that we have yet to consider Amendment No. 18. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 7 [ Commencement and transitional provision]:

    [ Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

    6.45 p.m.

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be convenient to the House if I say that Amendment No. 25 has been degrouped from this group of amendments, which leaves solely Amendment No. 18 and those which are consequential upon it, if that is correct. That is what I understand.

    I have not taken very much part in the proceedings on this Bill since it came to your Lordships' House. I felt at the very beginning that I had a fairly clear idea of how things would go. I felt that I did not have too great a chance of changing those things. I also felt that at times I might well be at odds with some of my colleagues on the Front Bench in my approach to the Bill. Therefore, I have not joined in many of your Lordships' debates until this stage.

    A similar amendment was discussed at about midnight on 30th June and was withdrawn by my noble friend Lord Mountgarret. In reply, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, observed that it would delay the Bill and that he was against delay. That was the totality of his argument against the amendment. I have to say that I am in favour of delaying the Bill. A century or two would suit me reasonably well, but if I could have a little less I should have to be content.

    Delay for its own sake is not the purpose of the amendment. The first point I want to put to the House, and the prime reason for tabling the amendment, relates to the interests of justice and what we now regard as common human or democratic rights. Every man and woman has the right to be represented in this Parliament. Those who are not Peers are able to stand for, and to vote in elections to, the House of Commons. Peers are not in that position. None of us, unless we have been recently ennobled, was able to vote for the present House of Commons. Now, the hereditary Peers are to be thrown out of this House. It is a breach of the understanding that Peers did not vote in general elections or parliamentary elections because they had the right to sit and vote in this place, because no hereditary Peer voted for the present Parliament.

    If the Bill is enacted and comes into effect at the end of this Session of Parliament, for up to two and a half years hereditary Peers will have no representative in the Commons and they will not be represented by their own voice in this House. That is the change that is being undertaken and, in my judgment, it is a breach of faith. As the Bill was originally drafted, it was an absolute breach for there were to be no hereditary Peers elected by their colleagues to continue to sit here. Now there are to be 92. Are there, my Lords? It would be most helpful if the Minister in replying to the debate could be clear in giving an undertaking that the so-called "Weatherill amendment" will not be reversed in the House of Commons.

    The Minister may say that Ministers here cannot give guarantees about what happens in the other place. I know that, but I recently heard the Prime Minister himself giving what he called a "guarantee" that while he was Prime Minister he would not allow to pass any legislation outlawing fishing or shooting. The fact that he does not have the power to do that, because the Scottish Parliament can do it, is beside the point. He says that he can give those guarantees. Presumably it has been discussed in government and a decision has been made. Perhaps we should have it clearly set before us tonight, if necessary on the Motion that the Bill do now pass, whether or not the Government will resist and vote down an attempt to tamper with the Weatherill amendment.

    There is a second thought here. As the Bill is presently drafted, there will be no time to receive the report of the Wakeham commission or for the Government to make their position clear on it. Of course, the Government claim a mandate for expelling the hereditary Peers, but they have no mandate for stage two. They say that they do not know what stage two will be. It seems to me that it would be for the better health of our democracy if the Bill did not come into effect until the proposals of the Wakeham commission, the Government and the other political parties were made known. It would seem sensible that the delay should run up to the general election. All the parties will then be able to put forward proposals for stage two after a reasonable period in which they have been considered, discussed internally and put to the electors.

    We do not know whether the Government intend to hasten through another House of Lords Bill for stage two. Again, it might help if the Minister would give an assurance about a second Bill. It would help if he gave an assurance about how long the 92 hereditary Peers will remain.

    I was made even more uneasy today by what we were told of the Government's attitude towards Clause 3 of the Bill. There may be some drafting defects in the proposals in the Bill for a commission, but to leave a hole there would be an even greater defect. Will there be put into the Bill in the other place the Government's intention on that aspect so that when it comes back here we may hear their proposals; or will they simply be by order, done in what was referred to as an independent and non-statutory manner?

    Recently, we had a glaring example of the Government's idea of what shape an independent, non-statutory commission should take. They set one up in order to select the Labour Party's candidate for the London mayoralty. It gives us little confidence in the way the Government behave towards such matters. I remember that not long ago it was one man, one vote. It still is; and we k low the one man, we know where he lives and we know that he casts his one vote!

    The matter could be eased for him by something that I read about in the newspapers the other day. It appears that a company is manufacturing robot dogs. It was claimed that they could be trained in three weeks. Well, we have until May for the mayoral elections. That is ample time to produce a dog called Dobbo which will roll on its back and put its legs in the air whenever it is commanded to do so by its master.

    There can be few people in this House whose confidence in the Government's commitment to the democratic process, or to the fair and reasonable selection of candidates for high office, has not been badly damaged by the events of the past month relating to the selection of the Labour candidate for mayor.

    For all those reasons, it would be appropriate if we agreed tonight that this Bill should not come into effect until the end of this Parliament. What is the rush? I am told that there has been great anxiety on the part of the Labour Party to do something about this ever since 1911. That is a wait of 88 years. Would two more make any difference? Is it not better to get things right than suddenly to go hell-for-leather in a scuffle to get the Bill through at the last moment?

    This is a reasonable amendment. It accepts the Bill and does not attempt to turn it over in any way. It merely says, first, that the hereditary Peers should not be deprived of their ability to vote and speak in this House until they have been given the opportunity to elect their own representatives in the other place. Secondly, it says— I say this with some regret—that we do not trust the Government when they say that they will produce these wonderful ideas at some future time, but are not prepared to do so before the Bill comes into effect.

    The noble Baroness the Leader of the House smiles her usual smile on these occasions. If she were to ask her colleague and friend from the other place, Mr Ken Livingstone, whether he would trust this Administration with the selection of people for high office, she would receive a clear reply.

    My Lords, I have not as yet spoken in this debate, but I have often been provoked by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, over many years. I once did him the grave discourtesy of accusing him of being basically a nice man. Since then, and indeed before that, he has tried very hard to dispute the charge that I levelled against him. On this occasion he has made some very strange statements. He said that the Bill we are debating tonight is a "breach of faith", despite the fact that a majority of 170 in the elected other place proposed this Bill and sent it to your Lordships.

    I respect, and have always respected, the fine work done by many hereditary Peers, but that is not a justification for them to stay in a second Chamber. I equally have great respect for many life Peers, who do a great job of work in this second Chamber, but equally, that is no justification for there being a second Chamber of that kind. It is positively sensible—indeed, dare I say to noble Lords opposite, it is common sense—to start with legislation first and foremost, as we have done in the manifesto, to dispense with the rights of hereditary Peers full stop. Since then, there have been changes.

    The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, asked what was the view of the Front Bench. I cannot answer for them at the second stage, but I personally am not in favour of unicameral parliament. The only serious democratic Chamber is, in my view, a wholly elected one— I make no apologies for saying so. The mixture of elected and nominated Peers, which we are led to believe might be installed, frankly might well be hybrid in the sense in which noble Lords have tried to dispute the present Bill. The trouble for the Government, and indeed, the other place, on stage two is that if there were an elected, or even partially elected, second Chamber, that second Chamber would want real powers. I make it plain that, in my personal view, that is the reason why it will not happen.

    The Bill we are debating tonight was originally very simple. It became far more complex through the acceptance of an amendment which has come to be known as the "Weatherill amendment", but we all know that the author of the amendment was the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. I was surprised earlier to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, from the Front Bench say that the Government have by this Bill created two classes of Peer. With great respect, it was not this Government who did that; it was the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. That is what created two classes of Peer. It was part of the deal which we are now discussing in this Bill tonight. Previously the Bill was not at all complex. It became so when the Government were persuaded by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, in his usual charming way, to accept his proposals. I make it clear that I do not agree with them.

    I should prefer the Bill without those complex clauses. I make that quite clear to your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, asked what was the rush and said that we could wait. If the Bill did not pass tonight and we therefore entered a new Session with a simple Bill, I personally should be very happy indeed. I assume that that is unlikely to be the case because the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has already told us that he will recommend the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and his colleagues not to vote down this Bill. For my part I hope that they do vote it down. We could then move to a simple Bill, and that is what I support.

    My Lords, I rise to give my wholehearted support to the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. Some of my noble friends have asked me to explain why I support this amendment so firmly and wholeheartedly. I owe to the House the obligation of explaining why I do so.

    This amendment can almost be described as the "last-chance saloon". If it is not accepted by the House, the only logical alternative for those who object to the Bill is to vote against it on the Question, "That the Bill do now pass". Some noble Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, would welcome that and I believe that many noble Lords will suggest it when the time comes. I have difficulty with that procedure. I feel that there is an intellectual and logical problem in a House which passes a Bill on Second Reading and then rejects it at Third Reading, when all that has happened to it in the mean time is that some concessions have been made by the Government.

    Having said that, I have great sympathy with those now pressing the case for the Bill to be rejected. That is why this amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is so important. I hope that neither the noble Lord, Lord Peston, nor anyone else will say that this is a sixth-form debating society or a sixth-form debating point. It is a vital point. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, has said that he does not mind delay. That is what the amendment proposes. It does not propose that the Bill be rejected, nor that the principle of the removal of the hereditary peerage should be reneged upon, but simply that it should be delayed for a period. I regard that as a very serious constitutional point.

    Before I go any further, perhaps I should make one interjection into my general argument. It is especially relevant to the fact that this amendment has been tabled by a Conservative Peer. One of the things about which I am sorry is that the Conservative government, when they were in power, did not take some steps towards reforming this House. Had they done so, we should not be in the mess in which we now are. Let there be no two ways nor mealy-mouthed talking about this: the whole of this Bill, everything concerned with it and the additions around it are a mess. It is a greater mess than anything I have seen in my 35 years in your Lordships' House. I have to make that point. I am sorry that when the Conservative Party was in office it did not do what in my view it should have done; that is, adopt an orderly, civilised, long-term approach to the problem.

    I also believe that the Government and the governing party have lost a great deal of sympathy by the way in which they have handled this Bill. At the beginning, some people—not too far from where I stand at the moment—felt a certain sympathy for the new Labour Party and the new Labour Government and for the things which they were trying to achieve. However, I believe that the Bill, and the way in which it has been handled, has destroyed, abated and dispersed a great deal of that sympathy. That is a great shame because it could have been handled in a much more orderly and civilised manner.

    I believe it is not going too far to say that hereditary Peers are being treated in an almost humiliating way. They are being cast out at the drop of a hat with no right to return here even, as far as we can see, for a cup of tea or to read a book in the Library; they will be without any kind of redress. Suddenly, families which have had an association with this House for hundreds of years are to be cut off. That is all right. That is what the Bill and the government policy intend. However, I believe that some noble Lords will agree with me when I say that the matter could have been handled in a more civilised, orderly and sensitive way. I, for one, am sad that that has not been the case.

    This amendment now gives us an opportunity to stand back at a little distance, with all the experience that we have had of the debates on the Bill, and take advantage of whatever advice is given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, when his Royal Commission reports, and to look at things in a new light.

    The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that we should not pre-empt the Wakeham report in any part of this legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh have already said, the whole point of this Bill is to pre-empt the Wakeham Commission. I believe that it is very odd to give to a distinguished Member of this House the commission to decide upon, or at least to recommend upon, the long-term future of this House and, while he is still in the middle of it, to take steps to alter the House in a constitutionally profound and radical way. That appears to me to be totally illogical and wrong.

    As I said before during this debate, I believe that this is a bad Bill. I do not like the Bill at all. I wish it had never come into the House. I want to see it defeated in one way or another. I have already said that to throw it out at Third Reading for many reasons, including one that I have mentioned, is probably not the ideal solution. In my view the ideal solution is to do what the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, asks us to do; that is, to agree that the Bill should come into force not at the end of the Session but at the end of the Parliament. That is an important difference, of course, but it does nothing to undermine the Labour Party's manifesto nor to undermine its right and obvious determination to change the nature of this House. That is why I give this amendment my wholehearted support.

    Before I sit down, I should like to add something which I hope will not be taken amiss by anyone. My experience of the whole debate on this Bill since it was first introduced into this House has been somewhat unhappy. I regret having to say this but I believe that the debate has sometimes been vindictive and acrimonious. Some noble Lords have either never read or have never understood the Standing Order on asperity of speech. There has been a great deal of that over recent weeks and months. Whatever else we may lose from this House—and I believe that we are about to lose a great deal—I hope that we shall not lose our traditions of civility. In that context I hesitate to use the expression noblesse oblige because it might be misunderstood. Therefore, I should like instead to use a somewhat old-fashioned word: I hope that we shall not lose our dignity.

    7 p.m.

    My Lords, before I address myself to the arguments of my noble friend Lord Tebbit, I suggest that, during the course of what I have to say, noble Lords should remember the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and that those remarks should run as a sort of leitmotif through what I have to say in the next few moments.

    I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, let the cat out of the bag It was extremely interesting that so authoritative a figure as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, approved so loudly, although from a sedentary position, of the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, when he said that he would welcome this Bill returning to its original form. In view of the majority which pertains down the Corridor, I hope that my noble friends will remember the remarks of the noble Lord. Lord Barnett.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the analysis of my noble friend Lord Tebbn, speaking particularly as he does—and has done so often in the past—as something of an expert in the ways of Labour governments. If I understood him aright, my noble friend had divided his argument into two main parts. The first part was an elegant restatement—certainly far more elegant than I have ever managed during what have seemed to be endless debates in your Lordships' House on this subject—and reasoning behind that rather inelegant slogan which I believe I coined, it seems aeons ago: no stage one without stage two. I am pleased to find that my noble friend and I agree wholly on that slogan. The Government would have been very wise indeed to have followed it. In fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said, if we had done so, without any question we should not have been in the mess that we are in today.

    During the course of his restatement of why this is the wrong way to approach reform of your Lordships' House, I do not believe that my noble friend made the connection—if I may venture to suggest with the greatest of respect to him—which flowed from a number of the reasons he gave for saying that we should return to insisting upon that. The first reason was—and it is again one with which I agree—that it would have been very much better to have waited for the results of the Royal Commission before deciding on reform of your Lordships' House. I do not believe that anyone on this side of the House will disagree with that. I suspect that a great many people on other sides of the House will not disagree either. I wholly agree with that.

    I also agree with my noble friend's suggestion that there was an inequity in depriving a number of your Lordships of the implied benefits of sitting in this House. That was the counter-party to their not being allowed to vote for membership of another place or, indeed, to stand for membership of another place.

    If the Bill passes in its present form, there will be a period—perhaps 18 months or two years—during which many of us who are not fortunate enough to sit in this House will be represented nowhere in Parliament until the next general election. That, of course, is self-evidently true. However, I am well aware that the argument which I am about to put to my noble friend will not be one that he will find enormously seductive. In many ways, neither do I. But recently I was privileged, if that is the right word, to sit on the Committee for Privileges. It was put forcibly that a breach existed on this very point under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Your Lordships will be aware that the three noble and learned Lords who served on that committee and guided us, as lay-members, were very clear that the margin of appreciation doctrine made that point invalid because of the relatively short period between the passage of the Bill and the next general election.

    I am well aware that my noble friend is, if anything, even more sceptical than I am about some of the effects of the ECHR on our own parliamentary system. Nevertheless, it seems that it is difficult for us to argue that point when it is governed by something to which we have already signed up.

    Both those points carry enormous weight with, I should think, all of my noble friends. They certainly do so with me and clearly have persuaded my noble friend. They are supplementary arguments to the perfectly obvious point that we should not undertake a reform of your Lordships' House stage by stage but that the matter should be undertaken in one fell swoop.

    This is where my noble friend's argument about the unreliability of the Government comes in. He is self-evidently right, again. This Government are profoundly unreliable. We know that they are extremely cavalier—I put it no higher—in the way in which they deal with constitutional matters. I need lay only one example before your Lordships. Your Lordships will remember that the Government had no scruples about indulging in two pre-legislative referendums before introducing in this House devolution legislation for Scotland and Wales. We know equally that both those referendums were rigged. I have no doubt that the Scottish result would have differed little, even if it had not been rigged. I wish I could say the same about the Welsh referendum.

    We also know that the effect of this constitutional outrage of pre-legislative referendums is clear. It emasculates the will of Parliament to give proper scrutiny to constitutional legislation. We know that that is yet another example, which is even more powerful, dare I say, than the ones adduced by my noble friend in support of his argument, for illustrating the Government's inherent unreliability.

    However, I would say to my noble friend that the Government decided to change your Lordships' House in at least two stages; possibly more. I am highly sceptical as to whether stage two will appear for some time. However, that is no more than idle speculation. We also know that we are presented with a Government who have a vast majority in another place. The Government are utterly determined, no matter what happens, to get this Bill through in one form or another whether we like it or not. The Government Front Bench in your Lordships' House has made that clear beyond peradventure more times than I care to remember.

    I do not trust the Government, although I have the greatest respect for the people in it. However, as a government—not as individuals—I do not trust them further than I can spit, and that is not far with a dry mouth. It is for that very reason, that they are unreliable, that we have two guarantees that there will be a powerful incentive for the Government not to remain with an entirely nominated House. The first is that the Bill will have to return here from another place. If they break their agreement—which they have not so far—and we have kept our side of the bargain, I, for one, would have no hesitation in doing my best to ensure that the revised Bill, in the form which the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, and, I dare say, most of the Labour Party, would like to see it, as amended, is thrown out. I remind my noble friend that your Lordships will still be in a position to do that.

    My second point is that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will recognise that in spite of the overwhelming force down the corridor, we have at least managed to persuade the Government, in however inadequate a form, to proceed to stage two. I am no defender of what the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, kindly and probably quite wrongly attributed to me as author of the Weatherill amendment. It is far from perfect. However, it is at least some inducement to a government which have, over and again, said how much they dislike the idea of hereditary Peers, to proceed to stage two if only to get rid of the provision for the 92 Peers which your Lordships have ensured is inserted in the Bill. That is not a copper-bottomed guarantee, but at least it is inducement for them to proceed to stage two.

    I apologise to the House for taking so long. Of course my noble friend is right in his analysis: the Government are unreliable. He is right about no stage one without stage two. However, the truth of the matter is that unless we can hang on to what we have, the Government will ensure—with the greatest of pleasure, I am certain—that the desires of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will be satisfied.

    7.15 p.m.

    My Lords, I should like to reinforce exactly the comments of the noble Viscount. I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. Many of us would have preferred the original Bill. Because we know the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the influence he has with his own party—or we thought he had—for the sake of the Government's other legislation, and in order to ease the path of the Bill through the House, we were ready to support the compromise of the 92 hereditary Peers. In my view, they should all go, and go quickly. I have always thought that. However, we were ready to support it.

    I make clear that if in any way attempts are made to alter the composition of the Bill or its timing, certainly I and, I imagine my noble friend Lord Barnett and many others, will feel entirely relieved of our obligations to support the compromise which we have steadily supported all the way through and will continue to do so as long as no change is made. From the murmurs of assent of my noble friends, I see that perhaps I carry one or two of them with me.

    I should like, therefore, to reinforce the comments of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. The gloves are off. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, always manages to take them off. However, he usually makes a rather stronger argument. He does not normally have to bring in, in defence of his case, Ken Livingstone on a matter regarding the procedure for selecting candidates in the Labour Party. I am sorry to say that that only goes to show how weak his case was on this occasion. There were not even those flashes of humour which I normally associate with him and much like and respect. Perhaps I may say that it was not the best speech I have heard from him. I doubt if he thinks he has a case.

    Frankly, the only case he has is, "I don't like the Bill. I am going to use every stratagem and scrape I can in order to delay it". That is his only argument. I am sorry to say that I do not agree with him. I shall use what power and influence I have, which is very little, I am bound to say. I shall certainly use my vote and my influence, if I have any, with those in another place to stick to the original Bill. That is my position and it always has been. It has always been the position of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. We will stick to our view on these matters.

    If noble Lords opposite feel that it is worth their while to preserve the 92 Members in order that we should then proceed to a sensible reconstruction of this Chamber—which I hope we will have; I put my views to the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, several months ago—they will not attempt to delay the Bill or to mutilate it in any form. If they do not think it is worth their while preserving the 92 Members and proceeding on that basis to a reconstruction, they will vote against the Bill. Those of us who try to have some influence on the Government know what we will do if they do that. The Government should then return to the original Bill and put it through under the Parliament Act. We have a majority in the country. It wants hereditary Peers to go. I have always wanted that and I hope that they are going tonight.

    My Lords, I can truly say that I yield to no one in my admiration and, from a distance, my affection for the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. I cannot understand why he excites himself in this manner. This Bill is put forward as a way of allowing the Government time. In my view it is put forward in the interests of the Government. It is buying time for them to perform a very important function which is entirely missing at the moment from their programme.

    I emphasise that a vote for this amendment is in no way a vote against the Bill, which is preserved in every particular. The Weatherill Amendment is preserved in aspic. We are simply saying that the Bill should come into full operation at the end of a Parliament rather than in the short order which the Government have chosen.

    It has not been mentioned in all our long debates, as far as I can recall, but the main reason for some delay is the present state of public opinion, understanding and education. Whatever view we take about the so-called mandate, whether we regard it as a wholly bogus proposition or as holy writ, as the Labour Party regards it, opinion polls have repeatedly suggested that there is no full-hearted enthusiasm for the mutilation of the present House before knowing what is to take its place. In this House we have enjoyed endless debates over many months. We have had remarkably interesting and instructive speeches from all quarters. But the electorate does not bury its head in Hansard to try to follow the intricacies of the argument.

    I strongly welcome the announcement by the editor of the Daily Telegraph that that paper is reinstating a parliamentary report as a regular feature, which has been dropped from most other papers including The Times which was once regarded as the paper of record.

    My anxiety is that the Government, for their own party reasons, is racing ahead of public opinion and understanding. A major job of education has to be done in the next year or two whatever emerges from the Wakeham report. I call in support a rather unusual ally. The noble Lo d, Lord Goodhart, on the Liberal Democrat Benches made a remarkable speech at Report stage on the issue of a referendum. Of course, the noble Lord was on the wrong side on that matter. But the remarkable thing about his speech is that it is an all-purpose economical one which does just as well when it is stood on its head. For example, he said that the issue of hereditary Peers had been settled in 1910 because two general elections were fought on that particular matter. That is absolutely correct. But to compare that with a brief mention in a mandate including 200 or 2,000 more succulent pledges in 1997, is quite a different story.

    On that occasion the noble Lord said that in 1910 the elections had been concerned wholly with the issue of hereditary Peers and not just majoring on it. The important point I want to emphasise is that the noble Lord said that the problem with a referendum is much more serious than the matter having been decided 80 years earlier. He said,
    "It will be extremely difficult to explain to the public what it is all about".—[Official Report, 10/4/99, col. 1052]
    That is the state of innocence of the public. They would be unable to face a referendum, according to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, because it would be difficult for them to understand what it was all about.

    I have taken that matter very seriously because it puts the mandate in a rather diminished mode. The intellectually convincing case for this amendment is that it leaves the Bill intact in its present form, complete with the Weatherill safety boat. It allows time for Her Majesty's Government to consider their constitutional arrangements for the future, to heed the Wakeham report and, above all, to engage in an urgent, continual and sustained effort to educate the electorate in these constitutional matters.

    My Lords, there is a defective thread in the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, my noble friend Lord Tebbit and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. None of them appears to recognise that no stage one before stage two suffered an unnatural death by slow strangulation at the hands of the great cross-party contrivance to ratify the deal, to confirm the Weatherill amendment and its implementation under Standing Orders.

    I opposed that unsuccessfully. I stood by on no stage one before stage two throughout the Bill, but unsuccessfully. I have not changed my personal views. But I defer to the will of two-thirds of this House. It has to be accepted that although many of us at one time—and I, alas, still—believe that the only answer is no stage one before stage two, another answer has been found and ratified by the House.

    Amendments Nos. 18, 20 and 21 have substantially the same effect as a set of amendments introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Mountgarret, and myself tabled in the wake of the 15-minute speech—perhaps less than that—of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, on 30th. Tune at about midnight. That amended Clause 7(2) and has caused a multitude of problems. It was not fully explained at the time or since. The object of the amendment to Clause 7(2), in substantially identical language to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, was to force the Government to have a meaningful debate if the matter was not referred to the Committee for Privileges. The Government opposed the application to send it to that committee. Your Lordships decided that it should. The matter was put to the committee and in the result the noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, and I withdrew our amendments.

    The purpose of this amendment, in almost identical terms, is otherwise. If I heard the noble Lord. Lord Chalfont, aright, he said that in one way or another this Bill has to be opposed or has to fall. I have forgotten quite how he put it. This amendment is one way. A vote against the Bill do now pass is another. I am grateful that the noble Lord nods in agreement. So this amendment is a killer amendment. and let me explain why.

    On the practicality of the situation, if this amendment were to be carried into the Bill, as I understand the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, and other noble Lords opposite, the Government would simply remove the Weatherill amendment when it goes to another place and take the Bill as it is. Frankly, why should they do otherwise? I am looking at the practicalities. I do not want them to do that, but why should they not?

    I want to take one other short point. The situation is that the House agreed by a massive majority the terms of the sale of the successor entitlement. Having agreed them, how can we now renege on them? Having granted, as we did, planning permission for the erection of a new House which is now near to completion, will it not be seen by the people as being rather quixotic to serve a demolition order now. I speak only in deference to the view of the House. My personal opinion was always and still is otherwise.

    7.30 p.m.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when he addressed the House a few moments ago, said that we should avoid acrimony; that we should read the rule against asperity. I wish the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, had taken his advice. In a few short minutes the noble Viscount accused his party of "rigging" two referendums. He used the phrase, "I do not trust them further than I can spit and I cannot spit very far". I hope the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, will address his remarks to that side of the House as well as looking at this side.

    If I may say so, the noble Viscount did not express himself tonight with his usual "elegance", as he so fondly describes the speeches of others. His message is sometimes distorted by the elegance with which he expresses it. But I assume that what he was telling his colleagues on the Conservative Benches was that he was not in a position to support his noble friend Lord Tebbit in his amendment.

    The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, is absolutely right; this is a killer amendment. If it is carried I sincerely hope that the Government will treat it as such. I have no great love of the Weatherill amendment. My views on it were made clear when it was passed. If the Weatherill amendment has to go because of the way in which the Opposition behave, so be it; then the Government have at their disposal the Parliament Act. If we have to use the Parliament Act, I shall not be discontent that the Bill should go through in that way.

    However, I am determined about one thing, so far as I can influence it; that is, that the Bill will go through. Noble Lords on the other side of the Chamber should be under no illusion about this. The Labour Party has spelt this out for years. Indeed, when it came to the last election we could not have been clearer about our intentions in relation to this House. Not only did we say what we wanted to achieve; we also said the way in which we were going to achieve it.

    We said that we would do it in two stages. We said that the first stage would be the abolition of the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote. We said that thereafter there would be a test of public opinion. I concede that the manifesto said that that would be done by a joint committee of both Houses. Later on the Government came to the conclusion—rightly so—that it should be done by a Royal Commission. We said that when the results of that public consultation were out, we would consider them and bring forward proposals for further representative and democratic reform.

    The matter could not have been clearer. Nobody who looked at that manifesto—I am sure noble Lords opposite did—could have been in any doubt what the Government were proposing. We have done exactly what we said we would do. For the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to say that the Bill is in a mess only proves that he does not like it. For those of us on this side of the House, the Bill is proceeding in a somewhat protracted way through Parliament. It has been down the far end. It came up here and is now going through its proceedings in the House of Lords. I trust that tonight it will leave the House of Lords and go back to the House of Commons.

    My Lords, will the noble Lord, Lord Richard, give way? It is true that I do not like this Bill; it is a bad Bill. I have said that many times before and he has said what he said tonight many times before. But may I make this point? The Labour Party and the Labour Government may have made up their mind what they want and what they are going to get. That does not mean that the rest of us should lie down and accept it.

    My Lords, I have not suggested that for an instant. Of course one should have healthy, lengthy, protracted and rigorous debate. But at the end of the day, when the Government have made their position absolutely clear, I am saying to the House tonight that to pass this amendment is a clear denial of the Government's right to get their legislation. It is not a difficult point to grasp. I am sure that even the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, understands it. Indeed, I know he does because it is precisely the point that he would have made if he were standing in my position tonight.

    I want to make just one other point. Much of the confusion on the other side of the House in relation to this Bill comes from a desire to confuse stages one and two. I have a firm view about stage two. I believe that we will not reform this House properly unless we have a considerable, directly-elected element in the new House. I have never made any secret of that. Indeed, my noble friends Lord Barnett and Lord Peston said very much the same thing this afternoon.

    But that is not the point tonight. That is the central argument that will take place when the Royal Commission has reported. Tonight we are saying farewell to the hereditary Peers' right to sit and vote; no more and no less. An attempt to put that back for another three years is a mere attempt at delay, and delay, and delay. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, shakes his head. But that is what he wants to do; to delay the Bill.

    My Lords, I am sorry; the noble Lord nodded. That is much more important than a shake in this instance. Of course he wants to delay the Bill. He does not like it. He does not want to see it implemented. But we on these Benches like the Bill. We want to see it implemented. We have a public manifesto. We had a mandate at the last election. We have an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. We have had it in this House for nine months. With great respect to the hereditary Peers, for whom I have considerable admiration, the time has come that this Bill should now pass

    My Lords, I have attempted to speak on this amendmen six or seven times. As I may be the first hereditary Peer to speak on it after nearly 59 minutes of discussion I should perhaps declare an interest. I shall be brief, as colleagues will be pleased to know.

    I thank the noble Lord, Lord Richard, for enlightening us on much of the situation. I should like to quote from his helpful speech over a year ago, on 14th October 1998. It is the only speech as far as I can see—I have researched this carefully—from the Government in relation to timing. Amendment No. 18 concerns timing. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Tebbit for bringing it forward. It is not a killer amendment. It is an amendment of sophistication. Last year the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said this:
    "I do not envisage legislation on the report of the Royal Commission until the first or second year of the next Parliament, so that the whole process would take around four years. As I said earlier, in many ways the issue of the hereditary peerage and its right to sit and vote in this House in some ways resolves itself into a question of timing. Should that step be taken at the beginning or at the end of the prccess? In all candour, I have heard no convincing arguments for postponing it. Indeed, when pressed, the opponents to the Government's proposition seem to condense the point to one of not being able to trust the Government to do what they say".—[Official Report, 14/10/98; col. 947.]
    It was very helpful of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, to give us a time-scale because we had had none whatever until that time—that was about six months before the Bill was introduced in your Lordships' House. That time-scale clearly indicates that the Government had quite a long time-scale in mind.

    This amendment which is such a very good one, would allow time for further consideration and, indeed, would assist my noble friend Lord Wakeham who will almost certainly ask for an extension of time. I remind your Lordships that the first public hearing was held on 12th May. It really stretches credulity to a great extent if my noble friend is expected to report by 31st December, or thereabouts, knowing that the subject has nearly 90 years of history behind it. If he is going to devote enormous care, as I am sure that he will, to certain reports which came before his own Royal Commission, he will be looking at the Bryce commission of 1917–18. If any noble Lords have looked, as I am sure that they have, at its recommendations and the sense of balance and objectivity which come from the words of Lord Bryce and his commissioners, they will realise what a very difficult task has been placed in the hands of my noble friend Lord Wakeham.

    I support this amendment. I do not believe that it is a "killer"; I believe that it is an enabling amendment.

    My Lords, I, too, do not like the phraseology used of a "killer amendment". I must take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, in this respect. I am not sure that it is within the remit of your Lordships' House deliberately to seek to frustrate the Government's policy which has been clearly laid down. However, I believe that this House should—and does—assist the Government genuinely and sincerely to try to enact legislation in a right and proper fashion.

    The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, very kindly referred to me as his noble friend. I am very honoured to feel that perhaps de facto I am, although politics does not permit that. None the less, the noble Lord did make reference to the fact that this amendment is almost exactly the same as the one that I, with the great assistance of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, put forward in Committee. A number of arguments were deployed then; indeed, we got flak from the Government who said, "All you want to do is to delay the whole thing". That is not true. It is not a question of wanting to delay the whole thing: there would be no delay if only the Government had taken the Bill step by step.

    For the life of me, I cannot see how anyone who runs a business or any enterprise can make dramatic changes to the entire set-up without giving thought to what is to replace it. That is all, no more no less. Unfortunately, the Government were incalculable and said, "No, we don't like this; we don't agree with it". I then withdrew the amendment in the hope that the Government would give the matter a little more thought. But, alas, it was not to be. So, on Report, I tried a different tack; namely, relying on the question that hereditaries had received their Writs for this Parliament and, therefore, by right ought to be here for the remainder of the Parliament. I later learnt that that was to be referred, very sensibly, to the Committee for Privileges for it to adjudicate thereon. The answer has since come back, "No, that is not correct".

    I cannot speak for the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, but that is the reason why I withdrew the amendment that I intended to move on Third Reading. However, I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, is raising the matter and is able to deploy the magnificent arguments in the lucid style for which he is so well known. I feel that he should be given maximum support.

    There is an expression,
    "fools rush in where wise men fear to tread".
    I would not like to be accused of suggesting that noble Lords in the Labour Party are foolish, or that they are fools, either in the particular or in the generality. That would be wrong. However, they are acting in a foolish way in not thinking through what will come next after we trot out into the twilight. Some will go to Church and sing:
    "Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways".
    The efforts of the Almighty will be greatly taxed if He is to forgive the gross foolishness of this, if it is proceeded with in this manner. For that reason, I feel that your Lordships' House has a duty to support the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, and consider where we are going, what we are doing and how we are going to do it before this Bill comes into force.

    7.45 p.m.

    My Lords, I want to respond to a number of points that have been made in this fairly lengthy debate. A number of words have been used which, speaking as a hereditary Peer, I found quite offensive. The noble Viscount, Lord Mountgarret, spoke of the Government acting foolishly and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, spoke of uncivilised behaviour. He also spoke of losing expertise from the House, which is certainly true in part, and of losing dignity. I have to say that I believe that to be wholly untrue. I have sat through most of the proceedings on this Bill—

    My Lords, I never said that this House had lost its dignity; I said that I hoped that it would not. We must be accurate about these things.

    My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord if I misquoted him. Indeed, I agree with him. It is right that this House should not lose its dignity, but I think it is in danger of doing so because it is not accepting the often repeated words of my noble friends on the Government Front Bench. They have repeatedly said that they recognise the individual contribution of many hereditary Peers; but that the Government will stick by their manifesto commitment and their intentions, which have been as plain as a pikestaff for as long as the Labour Party has been in existence. So I really cannot see that there is any objection to the Government's intention.

    The Government have been consistent and determined. When the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, started toying with the idea of invoking the European Convention on Human Rights, it very nearly took my breath away. I am a parliamentarian in the Council of Europe, which, of course, is the custodian of the ECHR. I was in Bucharest last week and talked to some Romanian parliamentarians. When I explained to them how I became a member of the British legislature, they just could not believe it. It was completely beyond their comprehension that there were hereditary Peers anywhere in the British legislature. Therefore, to talk about the ECHR, which, as I said, is the custodian of human rights, is beyond my understanding.

    In conclusion, it is worth repeating that the reason for this Bill is a matter of privilege—it seeks to abolish the hereditary privilege which is wrong in principle. For that reason alone, the Bill should pass. I hope that it will do so quickly.

    My Lords, this debate is not about whether or not the Bill should pass; it is about whether this amendment should be accepted. It is also about whether or not this amendment is some new animal, recently introduced into your Lordships' House, called a "killer amendment". It has been so described by an ex-Leader of the House, by an ex-Prime Minister and by an ex-Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but we have not yet heard from the Government Front Bench and that is where power lies. This is realpolitik; it is not about the elegance of our exchanges, the length of our history or our courtesies to one another; it is about political power, as the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, said in a most notable speech some four or five days ago.

    The facts of the realpolitik are that Her Majesty's Government have a commanding majority in the other place and an agreement in this House. Everything turns on the definition of that agreement because if to pass this amendment would be a breach of that agreement, then the Government are off the hook and can do away with the 92 places so far secured. My own aspirations apart, it will be valuable to have 92 voices available at the time when this House decides with the other place what the succession to this House will be. If there were to be no such voice the country as well as your Lordships would be a great deal the poorer because those voices owe their privilege of speaking to no one except their ancestors who are not here to complain about their use. As my father was made a Peer on the recommendation of Ramsay MacDonald I am perhaps relieved that that criticism is not available. However, he moved far across the Floor of the House before he died!

    The reality of the situation is that this debate turns on the definition of that agreement because if this amendment were to breach that agreement, it would flaw that concession. I myself cannot see how it can. I do not think that a government ought to hold a House of Parliament to ransom and say, "You may not send any discussion about any particular aspect of this Bill to the other place or we shall then destroy the final sound of your hereditary Lordships' voice in this Chamber". But this is realpolitik; they have the ability to do so. I think, therefore, we have to be guided by my noble friend Lord Cranborne who has made it fairly clear that if we were to take that step it would put the Government in a position not to renege on but to withdraw the concession. I avoid provocative words because I think that that is a good thing to do at this stage of a debate. I must say with the greatest respect that I think that is the advice we should follow and that explains why I am wearing a black tie today.

    My Lords, I am not quite sure whether I am abashed or gratified at having been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in such kindly terms a moment or so ago—perhaps both. I have intervened in the debates on this matter two or three times and I think that I have made my position fairly clear. On the whole I approve of the Bill although I have certain reservations about the detail. These reservations have been dealt with—that is, ignored—by the Government and we are where we are now.

    I have to say that I agree almost entirely with the comments of my noble friend Lord Richard who spoke a little earlier except in respect of one matter; namely, when he spoke about an elected House. Both he and I have some experience of elections, sometimes happy and sometimes less happy. I have divided views about the value of elections. I shall not go any further into that.

    However, what worries me here arises from what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said a moment ago when he reminded us that we were not dealing with the fact that the Bill should now pass—though, oddly, we seem to have been doing that—but rather with an amendment. It struck me that the great difference between this House and the other House is that we can move amendments at Third Reading, which the other place is unable to do. However, there is, or has been, in my 20-odd years in this place, an underlying convention as regards the nature of the amendments moved at Third Reading. It was generally thought that Third Reading amendments were marginal, tidying up amendments to "tweak" a Bill. This amendment is nothing of that nature and is not an appropriate amendment for Third Reading. I would go so far as to say that it is a total abuse of parliamentary procedure that this amendment should be on the Marshalled List.

    It is not my place to put amendments on the Marshalled List but it is the place of Members of this House to put down only such amendments as are appropriate to the stage of the Bill with which they are dealing. This matter has been debated several times in this House already. There is absolutely no reason whatever why it should creep in as an amendment at Third Reading. It is totally out of order and should never have been put down. Those who put it down should have had more respect for this House than to have put it down. I say that it should be thrown out and the Bill should go through as it stands.

    My Lords, as it states, and as has been said, the effect of this amendment is that the Bill would come into force as an Act at the end of the Parliament instead of at the end of the Session. That effect is consistent with four connected aims and it enables an improved means for expediting those connected aims.

    First, there is consistency with the Bill. The aim of the Bill is to remove automatic parliamentary rights from hereditary Peers within this Parliament; its method is to do so by the end of this Session. The aim of the amendment is the same: to remove automatic parliamentary rights from hereditary Peers by the end of this Parliament. That is what the terms of reference state. If its different date constitutes a delaying tactic for Lords reform unrelated to substance, then of course it would not command cross-party support. If, on the other hand there is evidence that it is not a delaying tactic, and that it is in fact related to substance, its different date can command a greater degree of cross-party consensus for implementation of the Bill.

    Secondly, there is consistency with the Weatherill proposals. Clearly if the amendment of my noble friend Lord Tebbit does not alter the Bill and affects only the date when the Bill comes into force, then, by definition, it does not affect the Weatherill amendment which is already part of the Bill.

    Thirdly, there is consistency with the Wakeham commission. Certainly a professed intention of this Bill is to implement stage one of Lords reform before the Royal Commission reports. However, by accepting the amendment of my noble friend Lord Tebbit, we still achieve stage one of Lords reform as the Bill, and the Weatherill amendment within it, are guaranteed to come into effect by the end of the Parliament.

    Fourthly, and not least, is the amendment's consistency with the objective itself of Lords reform and the amendment's improved method for achieving a balanced version of Lords reform. The reason for this is simple. If we pass the Bill as it is, we are left in doubt—as a number of noble Lords have said—whether stage two will be reached before the elapse of a great many years, let alone within this Parliament. Yet as my noble friend's amendment states a different date for implementing stage one, it may itself appear to delay Lords reform. In fact, it does the reverse. The later date which it states for implementing stage one makes it far more likely that stage two will be carried out at the same time and by the end of this Parliament.

    My Lords, my noble friend Lord Tebbit made several important and powerfully argued points. I do not believe that it was his intention to introduce an amendment that would block the Bill. However, it must at least be arguable that that would be its effect. Let us be under no illusion: the Government—I do not need to speak for them as I am sure that they will tell us charmingly enough in due course—will not accept a deferred commencement of this kind. They have made that view plain on several occasions during the course of our debates on the Bill.

    My noble friend introduced a secondary point which concerned the European Court of Human Rights. The issue has not been widely debated but perhaps the Minister who replies will answer this question: can he say whether the bringing about of hereditary Peers being unrepresented in a Parliament—which will then tax them and pass laws affecting their property rights—is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights? Can he say who the Government consulted about that issue?

    As to the point made by my noble friend about seeking to delay the introduction of the Bill until at least the Royal Commission has reported and the Joint Committee of both Houses has sat—thereby delaying its introduction until the end of this Parliament—it is my understanding that the Government will not accept it. I agree that it may be entirely logical to wait for the Wakeham Commission; I agree that it may be sensible to wait for the outcome of the Joint Committee of both Houses which will follow; I agree that it may be statesmanlike to seek cross-party agreement on such a far reaching measure as change to one of our Houses of Parliament. But it should long have become clear to your Lordships that on the issue of this Bill we are not dealing with a Government who are logical, sensible or statesmanlike; we are dealing with a Government who are increasingly pig-headed, foolish and partisan. We are dealing with a Government that will have their Bill come what may.

    If some of my noble friends do not believe me, they have only to remind themselves of the speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Callaghan, Lord Barnett, Lord Richard, and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, who have made the point time and time again. We have heard it before. Those of us who were here on one of his frisson days will have heard it directly from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. He has said in the past that any kind of sunset clause, sunrise clause or commencement clause is unacceptable to the Government; they would consider the Bill defeated and the Weatherill compromise dead.

    To be blunt, there is no chance of the other place—dominated as it is by the factions circling around No. 10—agreeing to this House dictating to them how and when this Act of Parliament, as it would be, should come into force. Your Lordships' House does have that right, but we do not have the power. The end result is likely to be that instead of playing our game the Government will tip up the table and rewrite the rules. They will use the rule of decreed power of the Parliament Act, for which they have already shown considerable relish. The end result will be that far from having all our hereditary colleagues here for another two or three years until the next general election—as I believe they should be—we will find a House of patronage imposed on this country by the rule of decreed power of the Parliament Act, probably in the course of the next four or five months. There would be no hereditary Peers left here; we would have a totally appointed House by Easter. That would be bad for the House and bad for the country.

    It does not please me to say that, although my heart may tug in the direction of the Lobby if my noble friend presses his amendment, a cool head points elsewhere. I hope that my noble friend will not press his amendment. If he does, I will abstain and encourage my noble friends to do the same. If we do not want this Bill to pass then we should address that issue directly later this evening when the Motion is put before your Lordships.

    My Lords, let me address the argument advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, in support of his amendment. He asks the House to delay the implementation of the Bill from the end of this Session until the end of the Parliament, a delay of potentially in excess of two years. What reason does he give for that? He gives two reasons. First he says "common humanity requires it" because hereditary Peers, who will be removed by the Bill from sitting and voting, did not have the opportunity of voting for an MP in the other place. He said that that is unfair; that it is wrong that they should not be represented. Should the Bill go forward in its present form the hereditary Peers—unlike practically everyone else in this country—will have one representative in Parliament to 10 hereditary Peers. In those circumstances, it seems odd that it can be seriously suggested that common humanity requires their representation.

    The noble Lord's second argument in support of his amendment is that there should be no stage one before stage two. His amendment has nothing whatever to do with stage two. The implementation of the Bill does not depend upon stage two coming into force but only upon the end of the Parliament being reached. So his second argument is not touched by the amendment.

    In his third, disconnected, point in support of his amendment, the noble Lord questioned whether we can be sure that the other place will uphold the Weatherill amendment. As has been repeatedly said, the Weatherill amendment was agreed to by the Government in exchange for obtaining in substance their legislative programme during the course of this Parliamentary Session. It is for the other place to judge whether the agreement made by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, is upheld.

    In regard to the fourth point in support of the noble Lord's amendment, he said that one cannot trust the Government because an electoral college has been set up to select the mayoral candidate for London. The electoral college set up to select the mayoral candidate for London allows all sections of the party to be represented in the ballot. With great respect to the noble Lord, that is a wholly fallacious basis on which to say the Government cannot be trusted in relation to the undertakings they have given in relation to the appointments commission—undertakings which the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, accepted at an earlier stage of the debate; undertakings that he accepted in the making of the agreement.

    When considering the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, I ask the House to consider whether there has been any basis advanced to justify the up to two-and-a-half year delay that he proposes. Upon analysis, there is absolutely none. I ask the House to reject the amendments.

    My Lords, I shall be as brief as I possibly can. To my enormous surprise, a simple amendment has been debated for an hour and a half. That is vastly in excess of what I expected; I am absolutely astounded.

    I am grateful for the support which has been given by a number of noble Lords, not least from the Cross-Benches by the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Chalfont.

    We heard an extraordinary number of Second Reading and Third Reading speeches, which were either being made or remade, or perhaps some of them have been made several times. We even had the experience of some advice from Bucharest on democracy. If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, slightly misunderstood the point I was making about the breach of faith. I think he has probably now picked-up that point from others during the course of the debate.

    I was slightly surprised that the noble Lord claimed that the Weatherill amendment was the work of my noble friend Lord Cranborne, and he alone. Who on earth else was there at No. 10 Downing Street? Who was my noble friend talking to when the Weatherill amendment proposal came out? Good gracious me, was it his work alone? I heard a number of others mentioned as being there—the Prime Minister, Mr Campbell and all kinds of other distinguished people. That was a very extraordinary point.

    If I may say to my noble friends who spoke about the ECHR, I can understand their view that the deprivation of the rights of hereditary Peers was probably not a sufficient misuse of power to be illegal. It is a wonderful example of the housemaid's baby not merely being rather small, but because it will be dead before long one does not have to mind too much about it.

    I believe that I have dealt with the major points that have been raised. The noble and learned Lord who replied to the debate on the amendment was rather hurt that I questioned the procedures adopted by his party for selecting its candidate for the London mayoralty. I do not believe that my comments were any more or less relevant to the debate than a number of other speeches that have been made; perhaps they were a little more relevant, but not by very much. However, the noble and learned Lord should understand that if there are 30 people in London who think that that is a fair and democratic way of doing business, there must be some 10 of them sitting on the Front Bench opposite. Goodness only knows where the other 20 are, but I think very few people have met them. Let us be honest; that has been all about fixing up the candidacy. That is why we mistrust this Government.

    I regret that the re has been so much hurt over the issue of the lack of trust between the Opposition and the Government. I regret that some hard words have passed here and there this evening. However, when listening recently to the Prime Minister, I heard in my mind the echo of two great speeches of the 1945 Labour Government: "We are the masters now", and, "Lower than vermin".

    I accept that, on the whole, hereditary Peers are Conservatives, and therefore, according to the Prime Minister, they are of a class that should be extinguished. We know that Conservatives are to blame for all the evils in this world. They are to blame for resistance to trades union reform. They are to blame for Stalin's purges, the murder of Stephen Lawrence—

    Even recently I find, according to the Prime Minister, that the hard men of the IRA are the men who are Conservatives. If that was so, they misdirected themselves as to which party conference they should have gone to a few years ago.

    As enough noble Lords in the House have heard the debate and probably want to go to dinner, it might be wise if I take the feeling of the House. Therefore, I shall take the amendment to a Division.

    8.12 p.m.

    On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 18) shall be agreed to?

    Their Lordships divided: Contents, 154; Not-Con tents, 238.

    Division No. 2

    CONTENTS

    Ailsa, MEllenborough, L.
    Alanbrooke, V.Falmouth, V.
    Alexander of Tunis, E.Fisher. L.
    Annaly, L.Forester, L.
    Arlington, B.Gage, V.
    Arran, E.Gainford, L.
    Ashbourne, L.Gisborough, L.
    Balfour of Inchrye, L.Gormanston, V.
    Banbury of Southam, L.Grantley, L.
    Belhaven and Stenton, L.Gray, L.
    Bell, L.Gretton, L.
    Biddulph, L.Grey, E.
    Blyih, L.Halifax, E.
    Boston, L.Hambro, L.
    Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.Hamilton of Dalzell, L.
    Burton, L.Hampden, V.
    Byron, L.Hankey, L.
    Cadman, L.Harding of Petherton, L.
    Calverley, L.Harmar-Nicholls, L.
    Carew, L.Harris of High Cross, L.
    Chalfont, L. [Teller]Harris of Peckham, L.
    Chesham, L.Hawke, L.
    Chilston, V.Head, V.
    Clanwilliam, E.Hemphill, L.
    Clark of Kempston, L.Hesketh, L.
    Clifford of Chudleigh, L.Holderness, L.
    Clinton, L.HolmPatrick, L.
    Clitheroe, L.Hothfield, L.
    Cochrane of Cults, L.Iddesleigh, E.
    Coleraine, L.Iliffe, L.
    Coleridge, L.Inchcape, E.
    Cowdray, V.Ironside, L.
    Craigmyle, L.Iveagh, E.
    Cross, V.Jeffreys, L.
    Cunliffe, L.Keyes, L.
    Dartmouth, E.Killearn, L.
    DeLaWarr, E.Lansdowne, M.
    Denbigh, E.Lauderdale, E.
    Derwent, L.Lawrence, L.
    Devonport, V.Lawson of Blaby, L.
    Donegall, M.Leathers, V.
    Dudley, E.Lindsey and Abingdon, E
    Dundee, E.Liverpool, E.
    Dunrossil, V.Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.

    Long, V.Saint Levan, L.
    Lonsdale, E.Saltoun of Abemethy, Ly.
    Lucas of Chilworth, L.Sandford, L.
    Lytton, E.Sandys, L.
    Macclesfield, E.Skidelsky, L.
    Macpherson of Drumochter, L.Spens, L.
    Marks of Broughton, L.Stanley of Alderley, L.
    Massereene and Ferrard, V.Stevens of Ludgate, L.
    Milverton, L.Strathalmond, L.
    Monckton of Brenchley, V.Strathcarron, L.
    Monk Bretton, L.Sudeley, L.
    Monson, L.Suffolk and Berkshire, E.
    Moran, L.Swansea, L.
    Morris, L.Swinton, E.
    Morton, E.Tebbit, L.
    Mountevans, L.Temple of Stowe, E.
    Mountgarret, V.Teynham, L.
    Moyne, L.Torphichen, L.
    Munster, E.Torrington, V.
    Napier and Ettrick, L.Trenchard, V.
    Napier of Magdãla, L.Verulam, E.
    Naseby, L.Waterford, M.
    Newall, L.Wedgwood, L.
    Norrie, L.Weir, V.
    Norton, L.Westmorland, E.
    Nunburnholme, L.Willoughby de Broke, L.
    Pearson of Rannoch, L. [Teller]Winchester, M.
    Pembroke and Montgomery, E.Wise, L.
    Plumb, L.Woolton, E.
    Rennell, L.Wrenbury, L.
    Renwick, L.Wynford, L.
    Romney, E.Yarborough, E.
    St. Germans, E.Zouche of Haryngworth, L.

    NOT-CONTENTS

    Acton, L.Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
    Addington, L.Clement-Jones, L.
    Ahmed, L.Clinton-Davis, L.
    Alderdice, L.Cobbold, L.
    Amos, B.Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
    Annan, L.Congleton, L.
    Archer of Sandwell, L.Crawley, B.
    Ashley of Stoke, L.Cromartie, E.
    Attenborough, L.Currie of Marylebone, L.
    Avebury, L.Dahrendorf, L.
    Bach, L.David, B.
    Baldwin of Bewdley, E.DaviesofCoity, L.
    Barnett, L.Davies of Oldham, L.
    Bassam of Brighton, L.Desai, L.
    Berkeley, L.Dholakia, L.
    Blackstone, B.Diamond. L.
    Blease, L.Dinevor, L.
    Bledisloe, V.Dixon, L.
    Borrie, L.Donoughue, L.
    Bradshaw, L.Dormand of Easington, L.
    Bragg, L.Dubs, L.
    Brett, L.Eatwell, L.
    Bridges, L.Elder, L.
    Brightman, L.Evans of Parkside, L.
    Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.Ewing of Kirkford, L.
    Brookeborough, V.Ezra, L.
    Brookman, L.Falconer of Thoroton, L.
    Bruce of Donington, L.Falkland, V.
    Burlison, L.Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
    Callaghan of Cardiff, L.Faulkner of Worcester, L.
    Carlisle, E.Filkin, L.
    Carlisle, Bp.Gale, B.
    Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.Geraint, L.
    Carter, L. [Teller]Gifford, L.
    Castle of Blackburn, B.Gilbert, L.
    Charteris of Amisfield, L.Gladwin of Clee, L.
    Chorley, L.Glanusk, L.
    Christopher, L.Goldsmith, L.
    Clancarty, E.Goodhart, L.
    Clarke of Hampstead, L.Gordon of Strathblane, L.

    Goudie, B.Murray of Epping Forest, L.
    Gould of Pottemewton, B.Newby, L.
    Graham of Edmonton, L.Nicol, B.
    Grantchester, L.Northfield, L
    Greene of Harrow Weald, L.Ogmore, L.
    Gregson, L.Orme, L.
    Grenfell, L.Patel, L.
    Hacking, L.Paul, L.
    Hampton, L.Perry of Southwark, B.
    Hamwee, B.Peston, L.
    Hanworth, V.Phillips of Sudbury, L.
    Hardie, L.Pitkeathley, B.
    Hardy of Wath, L.Plant of Highfield, L.
    Harris of Greenwich, L.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
    Harris of Haringey, L.Prys-Davies, L.
    Harris of Richmond, B.Puttnam, L.
    Harrison, L.Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
    Haskel, L.Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
    Hayman, B.Razzall, L.
    Hilton of Eggardon, B.Rea, L.
    Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.Redesdale, L.
    Hollick, L.Rendell of Babergh, B.
    Hollis of Heigham, B.Rennard, L
    Holme of Cheltenham, L.Renwick of Clifton. L.
    Hooson, L.Richard, L.
    Howells of St. Davids, B.Rochester, L.
    Howie of Troon, L.Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
    Hoyle, L. Russell, E.
    Hughes of Woodside, L.Ryder of Warsaw, B.
    Hunt of Kings Heath, L.Sainsbury of Turville, L.
    Hutchinson of Lullington, L.Sandberg, L.
    Irvine of Lairg, L. (LordSawyer, L.

    Chancellor)

    Scotland of Asthal, B.
    Islwyn, L.Sefton of Garston, L.
    Jay of Paddington, B. (LordSerota, B.

    Privy Seal)

    Jeger, B.Sewel, L.
    Jenkins of Hillhead, L.Sharp of Guildford, B.
    Jenkins of Putney, L.Shepherd, L.
    Judd, L.Sheppard of Liverpool, L.
    Kennet, L.Shore of Stepney, L.
    Simon, V.
    KilbracKen, L.Smith of Clifton. L.
    King of West Bromwich, L.
    Kirkhill, L.Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
    Kirkwood, L.Stair. E.
    Lea of Crondall, L.Stern, B.
    Lester of Herne Hill, L.Stone of Blackheath, L.
    Linklater of Butterstone, B.Strabolgi, L.
    Lipsey, L.Strafford, E.
    Listowel, E.Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
    Lockwood, B.Taverne, L.
    Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.Taylor of Blackburn, L.
    Longford, E.Taylor of Gryfe, L.
    Lovell-Davis, L.Templeman, L.
    Macdonald of Tradeston, L.Tenby, V.
    Mcintosh of Haringey, L.Thomas of Gresford, L.
    [Teller]Thomas of Walliswood, B.
    Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.Thomson of Monifieth, L.
    Mackie of Benshie, L.Thornton. B.
    McNair, L.Thurlow, L.
    McNally, L.Tope, L.
    Maddock, B.Tordoff, L.
    Mallalieu, B.Turner of Camden, B.
    Mar and Kellie, E.Uddin, B.
    Marlesford, L.Varley, L.
    Marsh, L.Walker of Doncaster, L.
    Mason of Barnsley, L.Wallace of Saltaire. L.
    Merlyn-Rees, L.Walpole, L.
    Meston, L.Walton of Detchant, L.
    Methuen, L.Warner, L.
    Miller of Chilthome Domer, B.Warnock, B.
    Milner of Leeds, L.Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
    Molloy, L.Watson of Invergowrie, L.
    Monkswell, L.Watson of Richmond, L.
    Montague of Oxford, L.Weatherill, L.
    Morris of Manchester, L.Wedderburn of Charlton, L.

    Whitty, L.Williams of Mostyn, L.
    Wigoder, L.Williamson of Horton, L.
    Wilkins, B.Woolmer of Leeds, L.
    Williams of Crosby, B.Young of Dartington, L.
    Williams of Elvel, L.Young of Old Scone, B.

    Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

    My Lords, I beg to move that further proceedings after Third Reading be now adjourned. In moving this Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the House does not return to this business before 9.25 p.m.

    Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

    Air Traffic Control

    8.26 p.m.

    rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether arrangements for air traffic control at London's airports are satisfactory and what is their response to recent reports of near misses between civil aircraft.

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, this debate in the dinner hour may come almost as light relief after the supercharged atmosphere which we have just experienced and which has gripped the House. After the debate on the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Tebbit, the House seems almost like a ghost town. However, the safety of our skies—the air traffic control of our airports and over our cities—is no small matter. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Brett, has chosen this debate to make his maiden speech; on a topic on which he is more than qualified to speak. I wish him well. I am also very pleased that other noble Lords and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, are to take part in the debate. That will give the Minister a chance to dig deeper into his brief.

    As the time is limited, I shall come quickly to the purpose of the debate. In case there is any confusion, I should say that I intend no criticism of either the regulatory body or National Air Traffic Services, the service provider. Both are recognised internationally as world leaders. National Air Traffic Services, in particular, is a highly professional body of some 1,500 people who provide an efficient and vital service dealing with the most dense air traffic in the world. We should recognise that it is not only the custodian of our national air space but it has a major impact on our economy, security and public safety.

    The air traffic market is huge. In 1998 159 million passengers passed through British airports; British carriers have doubled their number of passengers over the past 10 years; and air transport movements stand at 1.8 million a year. Having said that, I am sure that the Minister will agree that: there is no room for complacency about safety. I am concerned that there are factors which, if not watched, could lead to this excellent record of safety being inadvertently undermined.

    The first issue is the very pressure of the annual growth of traffic. It is remorseless and stands at about 7 per cent a year. The capacity needed to meet this growth lies in the London area—at the West Drayton centre. The second is the constant reports of increased numbers of overloads of air traffic controllers, where too many aircraft enter a sector. That undoubtedly affects the stress level of the controllers. The third is the number of incidents of "airproxes", or near misses, where aircraft have passed too close to each other. They include quite a number of risk bearing incidents. I believe that there were 34 such incidents last year.

    A fourth, perceived factor is the increase in aircraft kept in a holding pattern waiting to land. It particularly affects short domestic services. I understand that during the summer of last year Edinburgh flights often spent 25 minutes in a holding pattern.

    The fifth factor is crucial. We still do not know how successful the Swanwick centre will prove to be. So much depends on it. The delays have been embarrassing. The latest forecast is that the centre will come into service in the year 2002. I hope that the Minister will be able to restore our confidence. I hope that he will tell us that the development has now reached the stage of a design audit being passed and that the centre will meet future capacity for many years.

    I want to touch on the future plans of the recently announced ownership of NATS. As regards the public-private partnership, there is a view that the very fact that this body will move into the joint private sector could lead to a lowering of safety standards. I find that argument wholly unsustainable. It has not happened to British Airways or the British Airports Authority. I do not see why NATS would suffer.

    However, I hope that the Minister will confirm that those working in NATS will not be left in limbo regarding their jobs, their pensions and their future. Not only would that be unfair; it would be extremely damaging to this vital service. It could interfere unwittingly with efficiency.

    A matter close to my heart, and I suspect to the Minister, is the future centre at Prestwick. We do not hear much about it. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell the House that there is a planned programme, that we know what the investment is likely to be, how many jobs are likely to be created and when the centre will become operational.

    The 14th Report on Aviation Safety referred to the importance of English being the "language of the air". The report went further. It stated that the Government should seek to make that mandatory through the JAA. I am sure that everyone would agree with that recommendation. Safety can so easily be put at risk through a misunderstanding of language. The increased number of foreign pilots using British air space and flying British aircraft makes the urgency of a firm decision the more important. Perhaps the Minister will comment.

    One final issue that I should like to raise with the Minister relates to the progress of Euro-control—in regard to which I believe the United Kingdom is one of 27 member states. I understand that one of the objectives is to harmonise and improve air traffic management with centralised flow management. Whereas I can see the advantage to British carriers in crossing Europe, are we being invited to give up any of our responsibilities regarding our air space? Perhaps I may ask the Minister also about the introduction of the traffic collision avoidance system on each major aircraft, which is due to come into operation in the next two months for airlines of all 27 member states. How many airlines have agreed, and how many have not agreed, to fit the system?

    I very much look forward to the contributions of other noble Lords and the noble Baroness. No doubt we shall receive a robust, decisive reply from the Minister. Britain has a proud record in air safety, whether it be on a registered aircraft, British airlines or in our managed air space. But with the planned expansion of all three London airports to handle an ever-increasing traffic flow, vigilance will remain paramount in future if we are to hold on to our proud record.

    8.36 p.m.

    My Lords, I rise with gratitude and trepidation to make my maiden speech—gratitude for the opportunity to speak on a matter on which I believe I have a contribution to make; gratitude to the noble Earl for introducing the Question and making salient points; and gratitude to all the other noble Lords who have gone to dinner. I should have been rather more nervous making the speech to a crowded House. I have a sense of trepidation, but I do not suggest that nerves alone are the reason, although I have all the nervousness of a maiden speaker. I know that your Lordships are kind to maiden speakers. My trepidation relates to the possibility that I may offend one of the conventions of the House; namely, I may not make a maiden speech which passes the test of not being controversial.

    My credentials for speaking on this issue are these. For 10 years, up to April this year, I was general secretary of the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists, the body that organises the air traffic controllers, engineers and professional staff of both the Civil Aviation Authority and the National Air Traffic Service. Prior to that, I was the officer who physically took care of the affairs of the air traffic control service. For a number of years I was executive secretary to the ground engineers, an international body of air traffic engineers who maintain the radar and equipment. Finally, I checked my "frequent flier" collection and discovered that I made 79 journeys through London airports in 1998. The mystery is that I am here. All those journeys emanated from, and returned to, London airports. So I have presumably lost one of the flights in terms, of "frequent fliers", otherwise I should not be here.

    My task is easy in that I believe the Minister's answer to the Question will be yes—yes, with qualifications. I am sure that he will be able to quote statistics, take pride in the CHIRP system—a non-attributable system of reporting, which is now needed in other areas of transport. I believe that the Minister will be able to give us good news as regards the prospects for Swanwick successfully coming on stream.

    The problem is this. I believe that there is a dark cloud hanging over the air traffic control system in the future. I refer to the proposals that are still being pursued for a part privatisation of the ownership of the air traffic services of NATS and the full privatisation, in effect, of the day-to-day running of that organisation. The proposal has little support outside this House. I do not know the opinion of this House, but I know that the proposal is actively and vehemently opposed by the staff of NATS, the airline pilots of this country, and by the House of Lords Select Committee; and public opinion is opposed to it. A reputable, independent public opinion poll of over 1,000 people, obtained over the past two or three days and published today, indicates that 72 per cent of those polled are opposed to the Government's proposals, and only 16 per cent support them. Indeed, 68 per cent believe that the proposals will damage air safety standards in this country. The latest doubter of the proposals is a consortium of airlines, including British Airways and Virgin. Anything that unites those two airlines has to be remarkable. But they are now coming together to ensure that the privatisation of NATS does not allow it to pass outside the industry. Interestingly, their reasons for doing that are safety, investment and costs.

    The declared position of the Government is that they wish to provide air traffic control services in future in the private sector independently in terms of the provision of investment—some £40 million is required in the next five years—and also to raise some £500 million from the sale to the private sector of a 49 per cent interest.

    The view of the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists—I declare an interest as its honorary adviser in this House, but my opinions here are my own—is clear. It has proposed at least three other methods to achieve the same end: first, investment that is not attributable to the PSBR; secondly, an IPOC, which is an independent company owned by the Government—the Post Office is an example—that can invest freely. Thirdly, it has proposed a trust. Our Canadian colleagues have created NAVCAN Canada which is a 3 billion Canadian dollar trust with stakeholders where funding is independent of government. Fourthly, there is the much under-stated but very valuable opportunity to issue bonds on occasions like this. The 5 per cent per annum plus growth of the sector and guaranteed en route charges mean that bonds would be very attractive to the City.

    I should be interested to hear the Minister on one very curious matter. We now all pay an airport duty tax: £10 for domestic and £20 for international flights. That will raise this year some £700 million. Only 1 per cent of that money would provide for the National Air Traffic Services investment programme each year. As I understand it—I ask for confirmation—currently none of that money goes back to the aviation industry in any form.

    We should also look at the motives of the organisations that oppose this move. Is the IPMS ideologically opposed to privatisation? No. Is it Luddite? Indeed, no; it supports the privatisation of British Nuclear Fuels. Are air traffic controllers and colleagues acting cut of fear for their jobs, as the noble Earl suggested they might be? The jobs of air traffic controllers and engineers are safe. IPMS represents on a voluntary basis 96 per cent of those staff. Is there a fear of monetary loss in any form? They are being offered a 5 per cent share in a company which in the view of the Government is conservatively estimated to be worth £100 million. The sum of £50 million is being offered and declined, not because they are against share ownership. The IPMS pioneered share ownership in Amersham International, one of the first privatisations under the previous administration.

    Why is it that air traffic controllers and NATS staff are opposed to it? The answer is, simply, safety. NATS has a fine record. It has no record of industrial action and a very sound record of productivity: 8 per cent growth year on year. In the UK en route charges have come down by 12 per cent in real terms since 1990. Across the North Atlantic the reduction has been 18 per cent. Working practices have been examined and changed by agreements. NATS returns to the Treasury a real profit, which in 1997 was £55 million. All of that has been achieved without compromising air safety. There has never been a mid-air collision in this country between passenger-carrying aircraft. The staff at the coal face of aviation, both engineers and controllers, fear that with the commercial ethic there will be a gradual erosion of safety. They would rather not see that happen in an organisation which they believe to be imbued with safety from top to bottom, and it is that fear which carries them forward.

    The staff also have the support of British airline pilots—BALPA —100 per cent of whom are employed in the private sector and are subject to commercial pressures. They do not want: to see a privatised air traffic control. In the short time available, I ask the Minister to give an assurance that the door is not closed to further consultation. We believe that there are better ways to achieve the Government's end. I support the Government and their Transport Bill. Without the privatisation of NATS in the next Session I believe that it will be a tremendous Bill; with it the Bill will be of less value. When the Government came to power I was told by Ministers that their attitude to privatisation was one of pragmatism, not dogmatism. If they cannot see that public opinion, the traveling public, the staff and pilots in this country have grave doubts about the proposal, I fear that if it proceeds dogmatism will have triumphed over practicality.

    8.44 p.m.

    My Lords, I declare an interest. I am President of BALPA, to which my noble friend has just referred. I am delighted to welcome my noble and very dear friend to these Benches and the House in general. He has made an admirable and short speech that was very much to the point. He has had a distinguished career in the trade union movement, in particular in the IPMS, and he is an expert on the subject of air traffic control. We look forward to hearing from him on those matters and many others in future.

    I very much share the apprehensions that my noble friend expressed about the possibility of the full or semi-privatisation of a service which has distinguished itself on the national and international stage as far as aviation is concerned and the way it has co-ordinated safety and standards. We are entitled to be very proud of NATS. The case for the radical change envisaged in discussion over the past few weeks and months needs to be made out beyond reasonable doubt. I do not believe that that has happened up to now. The price for mistakes in this respect would be much too high. Lives could be placed in jeopardy, and the reputation for safety that NATS has earned could be sullied.

    I do not seek to make a case against all privatisations. Privatisation of British Airways has been very successful. I seek to make out a case that privatisation in this area is not something to be lightly entertained. The benefits that NATS provides for the airline industry are enormous. As my noble friend said, without exception airlines take the view that the Government should not take the course that they propose.

    To change the basis of management could raise two very important issues. Not only could safety be compromised but the whole work of NATS could be undermined. At the moment it is a very efficient, well managed organisation. All this must be viewed against the background of a vast increase in air traffic movements. It has an impressive record in the face of undoubted capacity constraints that have been imposed on the system as a whole. Despite all of that it has managed to achieve a reduction in charges of nearly one third at major British airports—and it is innovative and dynamic. If some difficulties have emerged, as they have, I believe that they have arisen directly from the delivery of air traffic control infrastructures rather than from the NATS management itself.

    I had responsibility for aviation in the Labour government of the 1970s. I also had responsibility for transport in the European Commission. I can say without fear of contradiction that the services provided by NATS in this country have been remarkable, and they have been lauded by many organisations within the European Union as proving to be greatly beneficial to the aviation system as a whole. I do not doubt that investment is needed; it always is in an organisation of this kind. It must be brought up to date. But why should NATS not be allowed to borrow from the financial markets within PSBR limits?

    I do not believe that the public-private partnership scheme is one that will work effectively in relation to this particular industry. There are long-term dangers. The reason flight crews, air traffic controllers and many others mentioned by my noble friend have supported NATS is that they believe that here is an industry that works and safety goes to the very heart of everything that it does. And that is not something that should be obstructed or deflected from by any plans to denude it of some of its strength. Why imperil a system whereby military and civil air traffic are so well integrated? Is there any insuperable financial burden involved here? I do not think that anyone can make out a case on that basis. I do not have time to go into all the relevant matters relating to that.

    What I wish to do is to touch on the possible alternatives. An independent, publicly-owned company, governed and managed by stakeholders, a Companies Act company with the Government retaining the shares and having the freedom to borrow in the financial markets, seems to me a far better route to follow. The principal shareholders could include the Treasury, civil and military authorities, airlines and customers, managers and employees. In that way accountability would be assured.

    The other possibility is the bond finance model which has occurred in the United States. There long-term investment in the public infrastructure has been assured.

    A model has also been devised in Canada: a non-share capital corporation charged with operating and developing the air traffic control infrastructure.

    No country, even where privatisation has been practised on a substantial scale, has engaged in privatising this service. The partnership envisaged is not, I believe, a genuine one. It is a decision to entrust air traffic control to private sector management; and I do not believe that the case has been remotely made out for that. With respect, I think that it is a misconceived idea and the safety functions should in no way be compromised. I hope that the Government will reconsider their position.

    8.51 p.m.

    My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his excellent and well-informed maiden speech. Unfortunately my asthma medication has affected my voice, as it does from time to time, which means that I shall be brief. Perhaps I should withdraw the word "unfortunately".

    On 16th July of this year at col. 641 of the Official Report I drew attention to the fact that in one hour there were 98 movements at Heathrow. That is one take-off or landing every 36.7 seconds. It is a tribute to the air traffic controllers that this was achieved safely and that both before that date and subsequently aircraft have been monitored and routed safely from all our airports.

    Safety in terms of the number of reported airproxes where NATS was implicated have fallen over the past three years with the number of risk-bearing incidents falling further. Passengers have safety at the forefront of their minds when it comes to transport of all types and, like other public corporations, NATS has to ensure that all operations are both safe and efficient. This has been achieved.

    Other noble Lords have mentioned the new centre at Swanwick. It is forecast that with suitable development of appropriate operational procedures and tools, this centre has the inherent capability to handle far more movements than can be possible at London ATC. Notwithstanding lack of investment, significant improvements have been delivered in the form of the automatic dependent surveillance broadcasts, separation monitoring function, and final approach spacing tool. In association with its European partners, a new traffic management system has been developed.

    It is proposed that a partial privatisation of NATS take place. I fail to see the advantage of that. A recent edition of the IPMS Bulletin quotes a former Minister for Transport as saying:
    "The only way to make it more profitable is to cut costs: this is bound to carry a serious risk of compromising safety standards".
    NATS runs exceptionally well now and will continue to do so in the future.

    8.53 p.m.

    My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for introducing the debate—a peaceful lull and an opportunity for refreshment for some in the midst of battle. Will it not be sad if, as a result of that battle and whatever our feelings on the rights and wrongs of the main case, we shall no longer have the noble Earl with us in our debates in which he so often distinguished himself.

    I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Brett, on a most informative and expert maiden speech. I was glad that he did not eschew entirely controversy. I do not think that we shall become very angry with him for that. We look forward to many more contributions from him with the same level of expertise which is always valued in this House. From my point of view, the only problem with his speech is that he has taken all my best bits. As noble Lords will see from the way that I hold my sheets of paper, some reconstruction has had to take place.

    I share all the expressions of confidence in NATS made by every noble Lord who has spoken. We are extremely lucky to have such a splendid, reliable, trustworthy and internationally well regarded service at our disposal, living as we do under some of the most crowded skies anywhere. Recently, I was lucky enough to watch some of the air traffic controllers at work at Manchester Airport. Of course, there is no comparison of frequency of movements, and so on, with Heathrow. But it was fascinating to watch their monitoring not just of the Manchester Airport movements but those taking place over central England, north to Prestwick and south to London.

    Noble Lords have referred, I think rightly, to the public's lack of confidence in the proposals to change the status of NATS. Such anxiety reappeared following the Paddington rail crash. There is no real connection between the Paddington rail crash and the structure of NATS. But, rightly or wrongly, the public have become alarmed about the safety of public transport. Rightly or wrongly, the public have become sceptical that private companies can be relied upon to put safety above profit. That, I think, is the nub of some of the public opposition. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has not been very supportive (to put it mildly) of the proposals. Such sterling Members of the House of Commons as the honourable lady Mrs Gwyneth Dunwoody and the former Minister for Transport, Dr Gavin Strang, have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the proposals. I understand that no fewer than 115 Labour MPs have signed a Motion urging the Government to find another method of securing the future financial well-being of NATS.

    There are other problems. It is not just a matter of safety but of how structural change interacts with the need to continue the modifications and improvements at Swanwick, which is already £180 million above budget and six years behind the completion date first envisaged. At the same time, many of us were glad to hear that the modernisation of Prestwick is now being undertaken. These are difficult projects to manage, as the history of Swanwick has made perfectly plain. One is bound to ask whether structural upheaval fits well in the context of a need for clear, constant and successful management of projects which are already under way or in the pipeline.

    I and those on our Benches support the separation of NATS from the CAA. However, there is no reason why that separation needs to be carried out in the context of a partial privatisation of any part of it. At the same time, we very much oppose the dispersal of any of the CAA's functions into other bodies. We believe that the CAA should remain at the centre of the governance or regulation of safety in this country. It possibly may one day become the British arm of the European regulatory organisation which it is anticipated may one day be established.

    We very strongly feel, as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and others have said, that there are other ways in which we could secure the necessary finance for NATS, which I believe amounts to about £1 billion over the next 10 years, without going down this road. Indeed, an emergency resolution to this effect, stimulated by the announcement in July of the Government's firm intention to go ahead, was passed at our conference. Let us not forget that the road chosen by the Government involves not the Government or any government organisation but the private partners in the PPP making all the day to day decisions on the running of NATS. I believe that we really need to look again at a public interest company, at the Canadian example and at other examples that noble Lords have suggested.

    I urge the Government to tell us today that their minds, as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis said, are not closed and that they will look again at the very serious concerns of the public, the politicians and the people who have spoken in this debate.

    9.1 p.m.

    I thank my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for introducing such a topical debate. I also join other noble Lords in contragulating the noble Lord, Lord Brett, on an excellent maiden speech. If may slightly rephrase the normal wording, I hope that I shall be here to hear many more contributions from him!

    I was Minister responsible for aviation during a period in the late 1980s when there were serious delays in air traffic control. Many of those were caused by industrial action on the other side of the Channel. It is a great tribute to the management of National Air Traffic Services, to the controllers themselves, and to their union, of which the noble Lord, Lord Brett, was then in charge, that we have experienced nothing of that sort over here for a very long time indeed.

    We have a very good air safety record in the United Kingdom. Despite very large increases in traffic over many years, the number of airprox incidents—they used to be called "air misses" in my day—namely; those with a risk of collision in categories A and B, has fallen to 1.2 per 100,000 flying hours last year, from 2.37 in the year before and 2.87 in the year before that. However, as my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and others have said, there is no room for complacency.

    What is worrying, however, is the increase in the periods of overload—up to 49 in 1998–99, compared to 24 the previous year and 16 in the year before that. Indeed, the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee of another place said in its report on aviation safety in July this year:
    "We are extremely disappointed, and very concerned, by the reports of increased numbers of overloads of air traffic controllers at LATCC. We believe that they are evidence of the risk to safety posed by continued delays of NERC at Swanwick".
    This business if full of acronyms. NERC stands for New En Route Centre. The report continues with other such remarks. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say in response to that.

    What is needed, of course, is the new capacity in the ATC system that is to be provided by the new centre at Swanwick. I had the pleasure of visiting Swanwick this summer. It was the first time that I had been there since I dug the first sod of the new building as Minister back in 1991. There is no arguing that, for very good reasons, it is running very, very late. Can the Minister now give us the latest on its opening and tell us how much extra capacity it will provide? Can the Minister also say who is to bear the costs of the delay in opening? What is the cost overrun, and is it true that most of the cost overrun will in fact fall on the contractors and not on the CAA?

    I turn to the question of future funding for investment in NATS. It is estimated that NATS requires some £100 million of capital investment per year. At the moment, that would have to count as part of the PSBR. We know that the Treasury does not want that. On this side of the House, we support the privatisation of NATS. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, the Minister and I are probably alone in the House on that. Certainly the rest of the Back-Benchers in the Liberal Democrat Party are not with us. Indeed, it was in our manifesto at the last election. However, we are well aware of the views of many in the Labour Party and in the House tonight. The idea was described as "crazy" by the former Labour Party transport spokesman, the right honourable Member for Oxford East, Mr Smith, when in opposition. He said:
    "Labour will do everything to block this sell-off. Our air is not for sale".
    What do the Labour Government now propose? They propose a public/private partnership by means of a disposal of 51 per cent of the shares, handing over day-to-day control to the private sector and, of course, keeping a golden share. When we sold 51 per cent of British Telecom and kept a golden share, it was described by the then opposition as a "privatisation", and indeed it was. So is this. However, we welcome the albeit late conversion by the party opposite. It is not just the Conservative Party that describes this as a "privatisation". The IPMS, the union of the noble Lord, Lord Brett, and the air traffic controllers' union, suggests that the PPP is "privatisation by another name".

    Can the Minister say whether there will be legislation in the next Session? We on this side of the House hope that there will be, because NATS' need for investment is becoming desperate. We would also like that to be a separate Bill, not part of some giant transport Bill dealing mainly with rail and road.

    Of course, safety is the main concern of NATS. However, I do not believe that safety will be jeopardised by a transfer to the private sector, and here I part company with the noble Lord, Lord Brett, and others. Indeed, I welcome particularly the reference made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, to the separation of the regulator—in this case, the safety regulation group of the CAA—from the provider, NATS, which is, of course, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CAA. I challenge anyone to suggest that British Airways has become any less safe since it was privatised; nor has BAA in any of its safety-related activities.

    On the question of the railways, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, referred briefly, I do not believe that in the recent tragic accident at Paddington there is any evidence that privatisation played a part. But, of course, we shall have to await the report of Lord Cullen.

    However, I would take issue with those who say that because there is a profit motive, that will cause people to take unacceptable risks. I remind noble Lords that even the old British Rail tried to make a profit or, more usually, to make a smaller loss and not to breach its EFL. Far better a profitable company which can afford to take safety really seriously and invest for safety than one which has to skimp and save and try to cut corners, possibly on safety.

    We are also concerned about the possible future ownership of NATS. Could it be allowed to fall into foreign hands? There is an issue of national security here, especially because of the joint RAF/NATS operations. What of the golden share? Are the Government concerned about the European Commission's recent challenge to the Government's ownership of golden shares?

    The Minister's reply will be interesting. I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this Unstarred Question tonight. I have run out of time and I look forward to the Government's reply.

    9.9 p.m.

    The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
    (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston)

    My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for bringing this important subject before your Lordships. I have listened with interest to the views of noble Lords. Air traffic control provides a vital service to the nation's economy, to the 100 million or so passengers who use London's airports each year, and to public safety. Therefore, perhaps I may reassure your Lordships' House that the Government are fully committed to maintaining and improving wherever possible our high standards of aviation safety.

    The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, asked about the safety aspects of services related to London's airports. The provision of air traffic control services to aircraft approaching and departing from London's airports is centrally co-ordinated to gain safety benefits, capacity increases and improvements to the efficiency of the service. The services are combined into one operation and provided from one location.

    The London Terminal Control Centre, and its modern, purpose-built operations room at West Drayton, functions very effectively to provide integrated control services at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, and at other airports, and uses some of the most up-to-date and sophisticated equipment. The controllers there enjoy a very close working relationship with the air traffic control staff at the airports who are now responsible for the services in their immediate vicinity and, together, they are among the most highly trained and motivated in the world.

    These centralised services also bring benefits in terms of the optimised flows of traffic so that air traffic control and airspace capacity are maximised to reduce delays. However, noble Lords will wish to be aware that delays can be induced through the imposition of restrictions to traffic flows in the UK and Europe to provide another safety valve. I can assure the House that flow restrictions can be imposed quickly to ensure the safe separation of traffic while services are maintained with the maximum flexibility.

    The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, expressed concern at the pressure on air traffic controllers through overloads, as did the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. Despite the reduction in the number of airproxes recorded in 1998, there was an increase in the number of overloads reported by controllers at the London Terminal Control Centre. That was partly due to management encouraging staff to report such incidents. Feedback on overloads allows action to be taken to prevent further problems and it is important that staff can report them openly.

    The noble Earl's example does not necessarily mean that safety has been compromised. There is rarely a loss of separation between aircraft as a result of such incidents. I assure your Lordships that all reports of overload incidents are investigated thoroughly and actions arising from those lessons are learnt and implemented. In 1999, the trend in the overload reports is consistent with the number of reports in 1998.

    As regards airproxes, we are far from complacent. Several noble Lords expressed concern about near-miss incidents in the past. All airproxes are a matter of concern. But all recommendations are followed up quickly and carefully and the Civil Aviation Authority ensures that appropriate corrective action is taken. Therefore, despite the high taffic growth in the 1990s, the number of reported airproxes in UK airspace has been falling. Indeed,1998 saw the lowest figure in more than a decade, with 13 airprox incidents reported in the London area in contrast to 22 in 1997. That picture is mirrored nationally and the trend in airprox reports in 1999 is similar to that experienced in 1998.

    Noble Lords asked about the new ATT centre at Swanwick. That will be introduced into operational service as soon as possible, consistent with the need to ensure its safe operation. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, that the most likely date for that remains the winter of 2001/2002. That was noted by the DERA report in November 1998. Since then NATS has met all its target milestones in this project.

    The main advantage that Swanwick will offer is the capacity to deal with much larger numbers of aircraft flying over the rest of England and Wales. Until Swanwick opens, measures will be taken to ensure that traffic flows are kept within capacity.

    I was asked about the costs. I am aware of the need for commercial confidentiality in some areas, but I shall explore which areas would be exempt for that and write to the noble Lord on that matter.

    I also reassure noble Lords that we still expect the new Scottish centre, Prestwick, to come into operation by the winter of 2005–2006. NATS has told us that the existing centre is able to cope until then. Noble Lords may recall that the new Scottish centre was originally planned to be a private finance initiative project, but when we came to Dower and examined the proposed PFI, we saw that the contract NATS had been obliged to negotiate by the previous Government was not viable. However, we believe that the new arrangements we are putting in place will allow Prestwick to develop into operation by the winter of 2005–6.

    The noble Earl. Lord Kinnoull, asked about the question of the English language. I agree with him about the need to maintain its status as the international language of the air. He also asked about Euro-control and the European airlines' take up of various systems. It is a matter of some complexity. I do not have the answer to hand, but again I undertake to write to the noble Earl on that matter.

    My noble friend Lord Brett feared that his speech was controversial. I found it very cogent and informative. I congratulate him on his maiden contribution and I look forward to taking his advice on this and many other matters in the future. With regard to the consultation on our plans for the PPP. noble Lords will wish to be aware that they have been developed in full consultation with stakeholders in the industry, including the trade unions. We launched a formal consultation in October 1998 when we published a paper setting out our outline proposals for NATS. Interested parties were invited to comment by the end of January 1999. In all, we received 230 responses from across the aviation industry and we published the report on the consultation in July.

    Although the formal consultation has ended, my department is continuing to consult with the aviation industry as the detail of the policy is being developed. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made it clear in another place that that process of consultation is ongoing. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for aviation recently met union representatives and the safety regulator to discuss concerns about safety issues. He is planning further meetings with unions and pilots' representatives, and intends to invite NATS' management to participate. We are also in the process of discussing our proposals with Members of another place.

    There is no need for a new process of consultation. We are not stopping consulting and shall continue to talk to the industry. We believe that there is support for our plans within the industry, and considerable interest from potential investors and from our overseas counterparts, a number of whom are contemplating following our lead.

    The question of the opposition of NATS staff to our proposals was raised. Certainly some staff have expressed concern, which is hardly surprising. Everyone is apprehensive of such changes. The NATS staff are a key factor in the future of the PPP and we hope that they will come to see, in the course of this debate, that the PPP is an opportunity and not a threat. Not only will staff have 5 per cent shareholding in the new partnership company, but they will be represented on a stakeholder council. I assure the House that this is not an old-style privatisation. NATS has a lot of potential opportunities in an expanding global market-place. The employees' shareholding will enable staff to share in the company's success.

    I treat the contribution of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis with great respect, given his ministerial experience and the European dimension to the work he has done. He urged the Government to consider a trust model, perhaps along the lines of NAV Canada if the Government's overriding objective is to raise money from a partial sale of NATS. However, we are not driven solely or even primarily by financial considerations, but by what we can do for NATS and for UK aviation.

    When they looked initially at the options for the future of NATS, the Government considered model trusts and not-for-profit company models. We agree that those models have some attractions. Principally, they would lend themselves to stakeholder involvement. However, we felt that the drawbacks outweighed the advantages. The ownership structure would be complex to put together because we would need to ensure that no one stakeholder could dominate and that there was no conflict of interest. We would need to have provision for the emergence of new user stakeholders and the disappearance of existing ones. We felt that the structure was not necessarily conducive to maximum efficiency. Although the proceeds are not our main objective, it was also felt that we nevertheless have a duty to the taxpayer. It would be difficult to achieve value for money because of the lack of a competitive sales process. Canadian law is not like ours. The nearest equivalent to NAV Canada and UK law would be a company established by Royal Charter, such as the BBC.

    The Government rejected the concept of an independent publicly-owned company, a so-called IPOC, for NATS. I assure your Lordships that the Government considered a number of those public sector solutions for NATS. Indeed, we have incorporated many aspects of the IPOC into our proposals for the new partnership company. For example, either would be able to secure access to private capital, separate safety regulation from operations and include a role for the Government to ensure that the company was operating in the national interest. I assure my noble friend that we have ensured in the structuring of the deals in prospect that national interests will be maintained through the Government's ability to use their position through their golden share.

    However, we believe that our new partnership company does more. It introduces top-level project and financial management skills, commercial freedom to expand into foreign markets, private sector efficiency drivers, and it provides proceeds for use in other transport projects.

    I turn briefly to the points made by my noble friend Lord Simon. I was very pleased to hear his praise for the London ATC centre. However, I am afraid that I cannot agree that there is no advantage in the proposed PPP. NATS' business—and it is very good at it—is air traffic control. Where I believe that it is less experienced and consequently less skilled is at project management, as the Swanwick project has shown. I do not dispute that Swanwick was a massive undertaking. Nor do I underestimate the effort that NATS put into the project and in ensuring that the London centre could continue to handle traffic safely until Swanwick became operational.

    However, there are areas in which NATS is less strong and we brought in Bechtel to assist in managing the new Scottish ATC centre project.

    I return to the core of the original proposition. I conclude by saying that the air traffic control arrangements serve London's airports very well. It operates in a high density, complex environment due to the proximity of the airports and the volume of traffic. However, a measure of success of those services is that they are well appreciated by all the airspace users. They are also the envy of Europe and of the rest of the world.

    I apologise to those noble Lords whose points I have not been able to meet in the time available. I shall certainly write to them on any points that are outstanding. I assure your Lordships that this Government believe that our air traffic control system is safe, efficient and effective. I assure noble Lords that it will continue to be so under this Government.

    My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 9.25 p.m.

    Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

    [ The Sitting was suspended from 9.23 to 9.25 p.m.]

    House Of Lords Bill

    Proceedings after Third Reading resumed on Clause 7.

    [ Amendments Nos. 19 to 21 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 22:

    Page 3, line 24, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall, before any election or by-election is held to the House of Commons or the European Parliament,").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 22, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 23, which is consequential, and Amendment No. 24, which is related but not consequential.

    I do not think that this will take a great deal of time. Perhaps I might christen the amendment, at the beginning, the "Kensington and Chelsea by-election amendment" and explain to your Lordships the reason for the amendment by reference to that by-election.

    If the Government get their way, in mid-November a number of your Lordships will no longer have a seat in this House either because your Lordships will decide not to stand or, having stood, will not be successful. That is a situation which some of us from another place have experienced and we know exactly how that feels. Despite no longer being Members of this House, those noble Lords—at least in Scotland—will have a large black "L" beside their names. I am not sure about the situation in England. That will indicate that they cannot vote in a general election. Any of those noble Lords who are registered in the constituency of Kensington and Chelsea and want to vote in a by-election some time between now and, let us say, January or February, will find that they are not allowed to vote. They will no longer have a seat in this House but they will not be able to vote in that by-election.

    I think that your Lordships will agree that that position is unfair. I shall not argue the point strongly because I am not a great expert in such matters, but it could also be an infringement of those noble Lords' rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. I noted yesterday that the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, suggested that depriving convicted prisoners of their right to vote is an infringement of the rights conferred by Article 3 of the First Protocol. I do not know whether that is the case. However, the noble Lord, Lord Lester—who I am sorry is no longer in his place—has told us on a number of occasions that he is a great expert. I have no reason to doubt that. I gather that he appears occasionally in those courts. Therefore, he certainly knows more about such matters than I do. If he thinks that there may be a case which suggests that convicted criminals should not be deprived of their vote, I should have thought that hereditary Peers should at least be considered in the same way as convicted criminals, if not slightly more favourably.

    If any noble Lords in Kensington and Chelsea are deprived of their vote in the by-election, they might arguably be able, if they could afford it, to retain the noble Lord, Lord Lester, to look after their interests in the European Courts. I am not really relying on that argument. As the Government lay such store on the European Convention on Human Rights, they ought to be absolutely sure that they are not infringing that right.

    We discussed this matter at an earlier stage. Mindful of the rebuke from the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, I return here with something of a tweak, which is due entirely to the by-election in Kensington and Chelsea. On 17th May—it seems a long time ago—we discussed this matter in general terms. I was then thinking of a by-election in the Falkirk constituency caused by Mr. Dennis Canavan resigning on his election as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. I was concerned about the rights of any hereditary Peers in the by-election. Mr. Dennis Canavan has not yet resigned. The position may still be that any hereditary Peer living in that constituency may be deprived of a vote in the by-election.

    The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, in answer to me, said that the orders which the Government intended to bring forward would, they hoped, make sure that every hereditary Peer who lost the right to sit in this House would be on the register by February 2000. I see today that we have in his place the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I nearly said that a number of times when we discussed the Welsh Bill and various other constitutional matters. It was not then the case, but it is now a pleasure to call him properly the noble and learned Lord. I note that he is answering on this amendment. He will be aware of what his noble and learned friend Lora Falconer said on that day.

    Is that still the timetable? When shall we see the regulations? Will they be in place in time for the new register? It is already being made up. The qualifying date was 10th October. I know that there is time for people to be put on the register, but we now have to be sure that the new regulations will be put in place in order to preserve the right of your Lordships who have lost the right to sit in this House to vote in connection with the other place.

    Related to those regulations is Amendment No. 24 and in some ways also Amendments Nos. 22 and 23. would welcome some words on the timetable and assurances about the timing of the regulations from the noble and learned Lord. It would be helpful to hear some assurances that the regulations might be in place for a by-election perhaps later this year.

    Amendment No. 24 is about the regulations themselves. In the earlier debates in May I wanted to put on the face of the Bill provision for a seamless transfer from losing the right to sit and vote here to being on the electoral register. But the Government were against that. They said it was best done by regulation. That is to be dealt with by the negative resolution. I believe that it would be better to deal with it by the affirmative resolution, whatever the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee may have said. That would be best. Therefore, Amendment No. 24 asks that it be done by the affirmative resolution.

    It would be as well for the Government to give in because I fully intend to pray against the regulations if only to have a discussion to make sure that they are properly carried out and put in place as quickly as possible. I should have given this amendment to my noble friend Lord Coleraine who has had much more success than I in persuading the Government to accept amendments. I still hope that the Government might treat me as kindly as they treated my noble friend earlier today.

    I believe that I have made the requests behind these amendments perfectly clear to the Government. They are about parliamentary elections. European elections are included because, for some reason I have never quite understood, the Bill refers to elections to the European Parliament as well. It may be that I should have probed that earlier on. All Members of your Lordships' House had a right to vote for the European Parliament. I do not know why that matter is in the Bill, but the reason that it is in my amendment is to try to be logical with the Bill otherwise the noble and learned Lord would have reprimanded me for not being so. I beg to move.

    9.30 p.m.

    My Lords, I am a little surprised that the Conservatives appear to be so worried about their chances of winning the Kensington and Chelsea by-election that they are desperate to get all those hereditary Peers on to the register.

    My Lords, the noble Lord is being very unkind. For all I know there may be some members of his party who are hereditary Peers and who live in Kensington and Chelsea.

    My Lords, having been a candidate on three occasions in parliamentary elections for the old Kensington constituency, I have to say that it was my impression that there were several hundreds, if not thousands, of Conservative hereditary Peers living in that constituency.

    I assume that it is the intention of the Government to lay the necessary regulations for allowing hereditary Peers to vote in parliamentary by-elections as soon as possible and that that will be done in time to enable them to vote in that by-election, unless the Writ is moved extremely quickly. If that assumption were wrong, I would take a more favourable view of this amendment; but if that undertaking is forthcoming, I see no reason to doubt it.

    It is not a case of hereditary Peers getting on to the register. They are already on the register and entitled to vote in both local and European elections. It is the same register. All that will need to be done is to remove the block that prevents them from voting in parliamentary elections—and that should be a simple matter.

    Amendment No. 24 puzzles me a little for two reasons. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, indicated, the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation, of which I am a member, decided that there was no need for the affirmative procedure here even though this is technically a Henry VIII clause and gives power to alter other legislation. In the special circumstances, the committee felt that an affirmative resolution was not necessary.

    Secondly, use of the affirmative procedure would actually delay matters. As I understand it, a negative resolution statutory instrument takes effect as soon as it is laid before Parliament, but there has to be a delay between an affirmative resolution being laid in draft and being voted on in both Houses. I cannot see, therefore, why the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is so keen on the affirmative procedure.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, as always, was very gracious in his introduction of these amendments. He mentioned on three occasions the word "timetable". After the 19th day of considering this Bill, "time" and "table" are not concepts that I readily recognise.

    There is no more to be said on Amendment No. 24 than what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and indeed prefigured by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. He asked about timetabling in a subtext. I can tell him and the House that officials have begun work on drafting the regulations with the aim of permitting hereditary Peers, other than excepted Peers, to vote in any parliamentary election taking place after the coming into force of the new electoral register. There are bound to be one or two persons in the Kensington and Chelsea by-election who will not be able to vote. That is true whether or not they are hereditary Peers. That is always the case. One is bound to have marginal anomalies in any registration system.

    Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 are unnecessary. They add nothing to the powers the Secretary of State would already have. The power under the noble Lord's amendment can only be used immediately prior to an election or by-election, but not subsequently. The noble Lord raised one or two interesting questions in relation to disenfranchisement. Perhaps I may repeat a point made by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton.

    Hereditary Peers, on the Weatherill compromise arrangements, will be able to have Members of Parliament; one for every 10 of them, as opposed to most citizens in this country who have a Member of Parliament, one to every 50,000 or 60,000. So they are not being disfavoured; on my mathematics—it is a field I enter into with caution in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish—they are being well favoured.

    The noble Lord also asked about the question of instructing the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, and wondered whether any of your Lordships had any cash available. I had understood that any cash readily available for litigation had already been disbursed to Mr. Beloff, and others, in the Committee for Privileges. I had the deeply disagreeable experience then of reflecting on the fact, as the hours and days passed by, that I was the only one present who was not earning any money of any sort.

    The European Convention on Human Rights was raised in front of the Committee for Privileges. It was deployed as a question distinctly before that committee. I believe it is fair to say that it was not thought much of, for reasons that one can readily recognise. I think that I have dealt with the probing nature of the noble Lord's question. I realise that we need to get on with the regulations, but, until this Bill becomes an Act—which is not entirely in the hands of my noble friend the Leader of the House, nor, indeed, in mine—we will not be able to get on with very much, will we?

    My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, can he say whether there is any reason why Peers who are already on the register in Kensington and Chelsea, as voters in European and local elections, should not, under the regulations, be allowed to vote immediately without having to wait for the new register to come into force?

    My Lords, the regulations need to be amended to deal with that situation. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, for raising a question about parliamentary elections. The reason for including the European parliamentary elections is that it will be much more convenient for hereditary Peers to be able to register singly to vote for the European parliamentary elections, which I know they can do at the moment; in other words, it is an added convenience for those who will be leaving this House.

    My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for the last explanation relating to something which has puzzled me for some time. I am not entirely sure that I am convinced about that, but I am sure that the Minister—even if he is not very well paid—is quite correct in that regard. However, I think that everything is relative when it comes to these matters.

    I am grateful for the assurances that the regulations will come forward in time to enable those of your Lordships who will not be here to be included on the registers to vote in parliamentary elections from February. I am more relaxed about Kensington and Chelsea because I anticipate an overwhelming Conservative majority, and I do not think that even thousands of hereditary Peers would make much difference to that; indeed, it will still be overwhelming. As I said, I am grateful for the Minister's assurances and look forward to seeing the regulations, perhaps tabling a little Prayer against them and, if necessary, having a little debate on them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 25:

    After Clause 7, insert the following new clause—

    Duration Of Act

    (". This Act shall cease to have effect at the end of a period of three years beginning on the day on which it is passed, unless during that period—
  • (a) a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament has reported Oil the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Reform of the House of Lords, and
  • (b) a Minister of the Crown has introduced into either House of Parliament a Bill providing for the election of at least one third of the members of the House of Lords by those entitled to vote in an election for the House of Commons.".
  • The noble Earl said: My Lords, I am honoured, and have been honoured, to take the Conservative Whip in this House. However, this evening I speak primarily as the inheritor of a peerage which dates back to the creation of the 1st Baron Dartmouth in 1682, over 300 years ago. In that time, my forebears, along with the forebears of other hereditary Peers, gave significant service to this House. In particular, my grandfather's brother, the 7th Earl of Dartmouth, was Lord Great Chamberlain in the 1920s, having previously been the Member of Parliament for West Bromwich.

    In consequence of the passing of this Bill, Weatherill amendment or no Weatherill amendment, about 90 per cent of the hereditary Peers will be leaving this House for good. It marks the end of a long period of British history and, I also believe, a long period of distinguished service. Before we go, my argument this evening is that we should demonstrate that the principle of "no stage one before stage two", which has been enunciated with great clarity and eloquence by the Conservative Front Bench, and others, over a long period of time, was not just, as has been suggested, a device to save our own skins or to prolong our membership of this House, but that as Peers our goal has always been to do what is best for Britain and what is best for the constitution.

    To be specific, this country needs an effective second Chamber. I am sure that if we can agree on one thing everyone who is a Member of this House can agree at least on that. In case one needs any further confirmation, one need look no further than the 500 or so government amendments that it was necessary to table in this House to the Greater London Authority Bill.

    A revising Chamber has to be credible to be effective. To be credible there has to be democratic legitimacy. In the 21st century this means, inevitably, that there will have to be a substantial elected element. I say in passing that it is noteworthy that all the genuine Conservative reformers of this House, from Lord Curzon right through to my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern—who I do not think is present—have all been in favour of there being a significant elected element to this House. Of course, a significant elected element has also been favoured by reformers in other parties and by Peers of no other party as well.

    The figure of one third in the amendment is in one sense arbitrary but in another sense it has been carefully chosen because it enables the position of life Peers to remain unaffected. Let me make it crystal clear as the tabler of this amendment that, should it pass, the position of life Peers as holders of peerages for life would be sacrosanct.

    I must make two other important points of detail in relation to the passing of this amendment. First, the amendment does not contradict the Weatherill amendment. That would remain if this amendment were passed. More importantly, it does not contravene the Salisbury Doctrine. What the amendment does is to put on the face of the Bill—this is our last chance to do it—a commitment to reform. What the amendment does is to put the Government on the spot as to whether their oft stated intentions as to meaningful House of Lords reform are in fact genuine. Otherwise, the effect of the amendment is that the Bill lapses and we shall return in three years' time. What the amendment does is to send a message to my noble friend Lord Wakeham as to the clear wishes of the House.

    If I may be allowed a small personal note, as the inheritor of a hereditary peerage of some longstanding, the passage of this amendment allows those of us leaving to do so with honour, knowing we have done all that we can to deliver to the country a credible and thereby improved second Chamber which is what the country needs for the 21st century. I beg to move.

    9.45 p.m.

    My Lords, if no one wishes to intervene, I shall offer a few thoughts after 54 years here. I want to say quite clearly that I am an admirer of the contribution of the hereditary Peers to this House over the past half century. Why do people like to come to this place? Why do people want to come here at all? Perhaps it is because of the building but it is not only that. There is something about the culture of this place that people really respond to.

    I have been here quite a few years. I am not the eldest Peer, although I nearly am. However, other people have been here longer; for example, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. We were here quite a time before there were any life Peers. Nevertheless this House has some culture, intellectual, moral and religious. The question is whether the hereditary Peers have contributed to that. There is no doubt that they have made an enormous contribution. When I say the hereditary Peers, out of 750 of them only a proportion have made an enormous contribution. But can one leave the position like that? One cannot leave it like that. There are some 750 hereditary Peers, two-thirds of whom attend either infrequently or not at all. So there must be reform. With the help of the Government Chief Whip I have sat up all night in order to vote in favour of the Bill; I shall do so again tonight. There must be this reform.

    But, in the end, what will happen to the whole culture of the House? Are we only going to say, "Oh well, the hereditary Peers did a good job in their time. They have had it."? Will we benefit at all from their legacy? I said earlier when I intervened—I was perhaps out of order—that the best solution was the one I suggested 30 years ago when I was the Leader of the House—it was accepted by the leaders of all the other parties at that time. I suggested that we should let the next generation of hereditary Peers come and speak but not vote.

    But that is out. The next best thing is the Weatherill amendment. I shall vote against anything that interferes with the passage of the Bill. If it is not passed, we shall end up with something much worse; we shall not have the Weatherill amendment. I hope to heaven the Bill goes through as it is.

    My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, makes an extremely valid point. He asked whether we will benefit from the legacy of the hereditary peerage. I agree with his answer that the best way for the successor House to benefit is to accept the 92 hereditary Peers currently provided for in the Bill and for them to continue into the new House—perhaps for a very long time.

    Turning to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Dartmouth, many of the essential questions he raised were discussed in an earlier debate. I responded to them when we discussed the amendment of my noble friend Lord Tebbit. The essential difference between the two amendments is that my noble friend Lord Dartmouth proposes that this House should come back into being if certain things are not done. I suggest to my noble friend—I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will make the point more forcefully than I—that that is even less realistic when it comes to the likelihood of the Government accepting an amendment.

    However, my noble friend makes a good point about a more democratic future House. He is quite right to follow the line of the report produced by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern and the evidence given by our party to the Wakeham commission, and to say that, in considering stage two, an elected House, or an elected element to the House, cannot be excluded as the Government clearly seek. It is such a fundamental point. That is why the Government have spent the whole of this debate, from when it started, from the moment they were elected, not wanting to discuss stage two. My noble friend has done us a service by reminding us of just how much the Government seek to duck that issue.

    Sadly, that is as far as it goes. I hope that my noble friend will not press his amendment. I look forward to the reply of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. If the amendment was agreed to, I suspect that it would be ultimately counter-productive. In the light of the decision of the House on the earlier amendment, I trust that my noble friend will not press his amendment.

    My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for his support in my opposition—which he correctly anticipated—to these amendments. Both noble Earls spoke of the contribution that hereditary Peers have made to the history of this Chamber. I have on several occasions said that my personal belief is that that is so; some hereditary Peers have contributed very significantly, not only to the life and work of this Chamber but also to the life and work of the nation; so have some life Peers, and life Peers may well do so in the future. I am hopeful and confident that they will. So there is nothing between the two noble Earls and myself about the past contribution made by the hereditary Peers.

    I sense in the Chamber that your Lordships would like me to follow the example of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and be relatively brief. I hope that I am not being disagreeable or discourteous when I say that this amendment simply could not work under any circumstances. If one examines it, one realises that the House would have to reconstitute itself after three calendar years following the coming into effect of the Bill as an Act unless a committee of both Houses had reported, and a Minister of the Crown had introduced into either House a Bill providing for the election of at least one-third of the Members by those entitled to vote in a parliamentary election. It simply could not work. The amendment would automatically bring this House back into life three years after the Bill was passed. That could happen in the middle of a parliamentary Session, or it might be at the tail end. Bills might be going through your Lordships' House. It would be completely unmanageable.

    Many noble Lords have observed that they may wish to stand for election to the other Chamber. They might well have been elected, and then they would be ejected from that Chamber to return to this place. Even a moment's scrutiny demonstrates—I hope that I say this courteously to the noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth—that it is not workable.

    I do not stand on those comments alone. I am entirely in accord with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and I shall put this as briefly as I can. We have traversed this ground many times before. The House has indicated its view and I do not believe that I can do the House any further service by expanding upon the objections.

    My Lords, I rather thought that someone would say that we must keep the Weatherill amendment, and I am glad that the noble Earl referred to that. However, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, made it clear in his remarks that the 92 surviving hereditary Peers by virtue of the Weatherill amendment are in effect 92 hostages to good behaviour. I should make the point that the Weatherill amendment ensures only a very short-term survival of those 92 hereditary Peers, and has been achieved at a very heavy price. That comment would be borne out if one attended a Labour Party constituency meeting.

    Previously, the hereditary peerage had some slight reputation in the country for being public-spirited, disinterested, altruistic and selfless. I shall quote from a speech made by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, on 11th May, when she said:
    "The publicity which the noble Viscount's action received at the time"—
    that is to say, the action of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne—
    "was such as to make he people of this country think that it"
    namely, the Weatherill amendment—
    "was entirely a ploy by some of the hereditary Peers to save their own skins".—[Official Report. 11/5/99; col. 1129.]
    That is something we should bear in mind, because I am afraid that that is how it looks. By reason of the Weatherill amendment, as a group the hereditary peerage has now lost that regard and the small respect in the country which previously it had enjoyed. I wish that my noble friends would take full cognisance of that fact.

    Since they have come to power, this Government have been trashing our constitution in a dangerous and irresponsible manner. Sometimes it takes place in a relatively minor way, such as the compulsory closed party lists for the elections to the European Parliament. Sometimes it takes place in a more major way. I refer to the rules for referenda which consistently tilt the playing field in the Government's favour. The latest and most blatant example of this has caused even the Government's own appointed ethics committee to protest. More seriously, the Government trash our hard-won constitution most of all in their open contempt for both Houses of Parliament. This disreputable Bill is the most important example of that contempt.

    The noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is right to say that in practice this amendment would probably be unworkable, but that is precisely the point. The purpose of this amendment—

    No, my Lords, it is so that the Government keep their promises and introduce stage two. It would ensure that the Government do not have a House of supine appointees run by the control freaks at No. 10 Downing Street.

    The purpose of the amendment is to hold the Government to account and to make them keep their promises. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde urged me not to call a Division. Normally, I would not have called one. However, in today's Daily Telegraph the editor rightly said that noble Lords should support the amendment. Under the circumstances, I think that it would be wrong for me not to give them this opportunity.

    On Question, amendment negatived.

    10 p.m.

    Clause 8 [ Interpretation and short title]:

    moved Amendment No. 26:

    Page 3, line 36, leave out ("House of Lords") and insert ("Removal of Hereditary Peerage Rights").

    The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the noble Earl. Lord Dartmouth, is a difficult act to follow but I shall make a short and simple speech on this short and simple amendment. It requires almost no explanation. It is quite clear what it purports to do. I feel strongly that the term "House of Lords Bill" has very little meaning in itself. As there will be more House of Lords Bills, it has even less relevance. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has already said, the basic point of the Bill is exactly as I have described it in my amendment—the Removal of Hereditary Peerage Rights. I think that it is only right and proper that the Bill should be called by the proper name and should give an indication of what it is going to achieve.

    I hope that the Government will consider this an appropriate thing to do as just calling it the House of Lords Bill is neither here nor there—it could refer to the improvement of the building or the replacement of the carpets. The Long Title will have to be very long, but I believe that the Short Title should have the correct description of the contents of the Bill. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I rise briefly to say that I think that my noble friend Lady Flather is absolutely right. Indeed, earlier today I recall one noble Lord saying—I cannot remember who but certainly he spoke from the direction of the Government Front Bench—that the Bill is about the removal of hereditary Peers or the disposal of the hereditary peerage. So I ask noble Lords on the Government Front Bench: why not be absolutely open, honest and frank about what you are doing and change the title of the Bill'?

    My Lords, I am grateful to see the position of the Official Opposition. Indeed, had the noble Baroness been sitting in her more accustomed place on the Cross Benches, she knows that my personal regard for her would have caused me to think very carefully about the amendment, which of course I have. But I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, reflecting on the position as it will continue in the life of this country, that the rights and privileges attached to a peerage, as we all now know, are not limited to membership of this House. It is not right to say that all the rights and privileges of the hereditary peerage are being removed. Therefore, the title proposed by the noble Baroness would be a misnomer. I look for the full support of every hereditary Peer for the principled and considered stand which I have taken.

    My Lords, that reply was very interesting. I cannot refrain from commenting on the fact that I have returned to the fold, which I left only temporarily, as the noble and learned Lord knows very well, in protest at something that happened. We all know what that was. I have never crossed the Floor, and I never said that I had left the party. I am extremely disappointed that the noble and learned Lord's regard for me has gone down as a result.

    My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness a question. I declare an interest as a Cross-Bench Member. Just out of interest, will she tell us why she came to the Cross-Benches, and why she left?

    My Lords, I should have thought that that is somewhat irrelevant on this occasion. It is not the subject of the amendment. As my rights are not being eroded in any sense, I am entitled to go to the Cross-Benches; I am entitled to return to my party of origin; and I am entitled to cross the Floor if I so choose.

    My Lords, thank you. It begs the question: had I crossed the Floor, would the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, have had yet more regard for my amendment apart from the regard that he has for me?

    My Lords, I should have had more regard for the noble Baroness, but not for her amendment.

    My Lords, I am relieved to hear that. I would still press the noble and learned Lord to consider this matter again and perhaps come up with a better Title. I still do not feel that "House of Lords Bill" is an appropriate Title for this fundamental change to the constitution. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Preamble:

    moved Amendment No. 27:

    Insert the following new Preamble—
    ("Whereas it is expedient that provision should be made for bringing to an end the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords:
    And whereas it is intended to further reform the House of Lords as soon as may conveniently be accomplished:
    And whereas it is intended, pending such further reform, to make provision for an approximate equality between the representation of Government and Opposition parties in the House of Lords, and for the maintenance of a substantial independent element in that House:").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, we take a great deal of care of the fabric of this building. In that regard the Government have an admirable record of conservatism on which I congratulate them. We should take equal care of the fabric of our constitution.

    Our constitution represents the accumulated wisdom of our peoples over hundreds of years. As such, it is in its very essence and purpose conservative. One might therefore think that it was under considerable threat from a Government who say that they abhor everything conservative. But that should not be the case.

    The Government have an enormous programme of constitutional change in hand. If they expect to gain respect for the changed constitution from those who succeed the present one, they must want those who succeed to be conservative, at least with a small "c". The amendment addresses the question of maintaining respect for the constitution.

    These days, constitutional change should be evidenced in a resolution of Parliament. The Government say that the word of the Prime Minister is enough. My noble friend Lord Cranborne has dealt with the limited life of the word of even the best of Prime Ministers. By their support for the by-election amendment, the Government have admitted the possibility that the interim House may be with us for a long time. The prime ministerial word is just not a suitable fabric for this part of the constitution. I introduce this amendment in order to put the promises that the Government have made, and reiterated today, regarding the constitution of the interim House on a proper constitutional footing.

    As the noble Baroness the Leader of the House said earlier, Parliament is the guardian of our constitution. I agree with her completely. It should be Parliament that puts the seal on the promises that the Government have made, so that they may endure for as long as is necessary until the interim House is replaced.

    A Preamble should present no obstacle to the Government. It has no legal effect. It does not affect the interpretation of any parts of the Bill. It will present no obstacle to any of the plans that the Government have outlined for the near or even slightly longer-term future. It is utterly anodyne so far as the Government are concerned, particularly because all that the draft contains is government policy, or to some extent an over-statement of government policy in the Government's favour.

    I do not believe that the Government can have any objection to this addition to the Bill, except perhaps to wonder why it is necessary at all. For that I point noble Lords to the preamble to the 1911 Act. That part of the 1911 Act has been quoted endlessly by the Government on this Bill. I am sure that many of us have had it in mind as we have considered our proper relationship with the Government while our overwhelming presence in this House continued. Every change in the constitution of this House since 1911 has been in the direction set out in that preamble. It has been slow but sure; it is the tortoise that has overtaken our "heirs".

    The 1911 preamble has commanded respect for the best part of a century. If those same promises and ambitions had been set out merely in the words of Lloyd George, they would have been long forgotten and ignored. Surely the Government, who are intent on doing so much to our constitution, want to maintain respect for it. If they do not respect the constitution as they change it, they are in danger of asking their successors to treat their own constitution with similar contempt. If, through the passage of this Bill, we allow it to become an accepted principle that the word of the Prime Minister of this country is enough to effect constitutional change, it will be dangerous not only for the longevity of the Government's own reforms, but for all of us. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I recall that earlier today the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor gave full support to both principles set out in the third paragraph of the preamble; that is, equality between the representation of government and opposition parties in the House of Lords and the maintenance of a substantial independent element in your Lordships' House. I can see no reason, therefore, why the Government should wish to oppose this amendment.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, returns to an issue that we have discussed before in various forms. He deals with the issue of a preamble to the Bill which he has raised in different debates. Without hinting that I necessarily agree with anything that the noble Lord says, perhaps I may say that he has played an intellectually energetic part in the progress of this Bill. I have enjoyed his contribution both on the Floor of the House and in private conversation with him. I believe that the noble Lord does not intend to press this particular amendment to a Division. However, in case he has changed his mind, or some other noble Lord takes it upon himself to move the amendment for him, it would be appropriate to repeat why the Government find inappropriate an amendment that inserts a preamble into the Bill.

    Our objections are based on the ground of principle. I entirely accept that the words to which the noble Lord has spoken tonight reflect nothing that the Government have not themselves said several times. We intend to move to the next stage of reform and we pledge ourselves to both broad parity between the two main parties and a continuing strong, independent presence in the House. We do not, however, believe that provision needs to be made beyond the Prime Minister's pledges since these are, after all. matters for the exercise of the prerogative.

    We have already been round this course several times in relation to purpose clauses. I can only repeat what I have said before. Acts of Parliament are legislative vehicles that are supposed to do something. They are not places for uttering aspirations. I accept that in the past—I recognise the noble Lord's point about the preamble to the 1911 Act—this practice was more common. There was a preamble to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill in 1968 that dealt with some of the same proposals now before us. But, on the whole, in 1999 that is not how legislation is drafted. We rely on the operative words of an Act to tell us what the legislation means, while the Long Title informs Peers and Members of Parliament about its subject-matter and purpose. Words that do not mean anything have no place in modern legislation, and that practice certainly predates the present Government.

    To summarise, the preamble which the noble Lord proposes, while spelling out nothing more than the truth, contains one term which is self-evident, but is probably more properly dealt with in the Long Title to the Bill, and two terms which are simply descriptions of what it is intended will happen in future. Neither type of expression has any place in modern legislation of this kind. I am reminded of the strictures of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale—I do not see him in his place—on the prolixity of today's statute book which surely apply to the noble Lord's amendment. I beg him to withdraw the amendment.

    My Lords, of course I shall withdraw the amendment. I accept defeat, but sadly. It will be of great interest to hear details of the appointments commission once the Government tell us. They have been quite secretive about the details. I look forward to that; and it may calm many of the fears and concerns I have about how the Government's promises will be enacted.

    I do not share the concerns of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House about preambles to Acts. The year 1911 is not that long ago as regards this House and a Government who prefer in place of the 1911 precedent a procedure which goes back to the Divine Right of Kings. But perhaps that suits this Prime Minister better. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [ Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

    In the Title:

    [ Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

    10.15 p.m.

    My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. It is now over a year since this House began to consider the Government's manifesto pledge to legislate to end the right of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in Parliament. Taking account of all the debates in your Lordships' House, including the Bill, the White Paper, the debate on the Report of the Procedure Committee and the debate on the reference to the Committee for Privileges, we have spent some 19 days—I do not need to remind your Lordships that some of them have been exceedingly long days—considering this question. I do not think that anyone can fairly claim that the relevant issues have not been fully aired, duly explored, and duly responded to.

    It is customary at this stage of the Bill to go back to first principles and, although it is already late, I should like to do so tonight because the basic principles of this Bill are clear and simple, and can be simply put.

    The Bill is a central part of the Government's programme to modernise the British constitution. It is the start of a process to reform the second Chamber of Parliament to make it fit to serve the whole country in the 21st century. We believe that a necessary first step is to remove the profoundly undemocratic element that the hereditary Peers represent. We believe that it is a change long overdue.

    Perhaps I may repeat—my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General said it recently—that although we believe that the change is overdue, I and no one on the Government Front Benches belittles the contribution of individual hereditary Peers to this House. Many of them have been most distinguished and assiduous in their duties. I should like to pay special tribute to the hereditary Peers who sit on these Benches. We have all been continuously impressed by the dignified and constructive way in which they have taken part in the proceedings on the Bill. If they are unsuccessful in the elections next week they, and indeed other hereditary Peers in other parts of the House, will be missed. However, as I said in my very first speech on reform last October, the time has come to wish them well and to say thank you and goodbye.

    The Labour Party's manifesto commitment to initial stand-alone change for the House of Lords was precise and explicit in the run-up to the election in May 1997; so precise and explicit that the Bill before us today, even as it has been amended, is only a little longer than the original proposal on which the Government were overwhelmingly elected. Of course it is because the Bill was exactly previewed in the election manifesto that on its passage through this House the Salisbury Convention has been properly adhered to. I must put on record my gratitude to the Opposition Front Bench and Liberal Democrat spokesmen for reinforcing their acceptance of the Salisbury Convention at every relevant point in our proceedings.

    The Bill which we must now pass is not, of course, the same Bill as that which came to us from another place last March. The Government readily accept some of the changes. The Government agreed to the inclusion of Clause 2 as a way of easing the passage of both the Government's programme and the hereditary Peers.

    I once again pay tribute to the work of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, who have so effectively prepared the way for the new Clause 2. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and his Cross-Bench colleagues deserve great credit for proposing and carrying through the amendment which has now become Clause 2.

    So far, everyone in this House has stuck to the spirit and the letter of the undertakings which lay behind this important change to the Bill. Today, for example, the Government have introduced amendments, to which your Lordships have now agreed, to make Clause 2 yet more acceptable to the excepted Peers. I anticipate that these arrangements will hold in your Lordships' House. However, the amended Bill must now, of course, be considered in another place. I cannot prejudge how my right honourable and honourable friends will respond to it in its different form. That is a matter for them.

    The Government regret the insertion of Clauses 3 and 5. We believe that Clause 3 is unnecessary in the context of the transitional Hoduse. It is internally inconsistent. It raises difficult questions about the relationship between the Crown and Parliament which have not been resolved. It is our view that Clause 5 is a rather insulting provision. The debate which led to its inclusion demonstrated an attitude to life Peers which we on these Benches found offensive. I suspect that my honourable friends in another place will take the same view. However, that again is a matter for them.

    For the present, your Lordships' duty is to give them an opportunity to take a view on all these matters. It is not constitutionally right for this House to deny the elected House the chance to consider whether a Bill which has been amended in this way is, in its new form, acceptable to the other place. Your Lordships make much of your constitutional right to ask the other place to think again. In order to do that, they must have the Bill before them. By every tenet of the conventions under which your Lordships operate, therefore, the Bill should pass. I commend it to the House.

    Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

    10.24 p.m.