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Lords Chamber

Volume 743: debated on Thursday 28 February 2013

House of Lords

Thursday, 28 February 2013.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool.

Royal Assent

The following Acts were given Royal Assent:

HGV Road User Levy Act,

Mental Health (Discrimination) Act,

European Union (Approvals) Act,

Scrap Metal Dealers Act,

Prisons (Property) Act,

Canterbury City Council Act,

Leeds City Council Act,

Nottingham City Council Act,

Reading Borough Council Act.

Personal Statement

My Lords, I wish to make a Personal Statement. On 10 December 2012, during a Report stage debate on the Crime and Courts Bill, I intervened to answer a suggestion that judges did not need protection, as reported at col. 865 of the Official Report. I had not prepared what I was going to say. I referred to death threats that I had received as a judge from dissatisfied litigants. Most unfortunately, in referring to the people who had made such threats against me, I included the unwarranted suggestion that the organisation Fathers 4 Justice was among those who had made such threats. It was not true that Fathers 4 Justice had made any death threats against me.

It was also unfortunate that two West Country newspapers reported what I had said in this House. I did not speak to either newspaper. Fathers 4 Justice got in touch with me by e-mail and I immediately withdrew the allegations and apologised unreservedly to them. I offered to write to the newspapers but Fathers 4 Justice asked for a public apology. The most convenient way to do so seemed to be by a Personal Statement to this House.

I reiterate that I withdraw any allegations of death threats against me by Fathers 4 Justice and apologise unreservedly to them.

Burma

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the current situation in Burma, with reference to the Kachin, Shan and Rohingya ethnic national peoples.

My Lords, we welcome the direction of reforms in Burma but continue to raise concerns over human rights and ethnic reconciliation. In Kachin state we are encouraged by the recent reduction in fighting and agreement by both sides to pursue political dialogue. We continue to monitor the ceasefire and humanitarian situation in Shan state. In Rakhine state we continue to press the Burmese Government to improve coordination of humanitarian assistance, to ensure security and accountability and to address the issue of Rohingya citizenship.

My Lords, in thanking the Minister for that comprehensive reply, may I highlight the seriousness of the situation? I have just returned from Kachin state where a 17-year ceasefire was broken by the Burmese army. Fighting continues with widespread violations of human rights, including torture, killings, rape and an aerial bombardment causing 75,000 civilians to flee to camps or hide in the jungle. In Shan state, a military offensive caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, and the Rohingya people have been reduced to conditions of severe destitution and massive displacement.

Therefore, can the Minister give an assurance that Her Majesty’s Government, while welcoming recent reforms, will press the Burmese Government to protect and promote the rights of all ethnic national peoples?

The noble Baroness, as always, comes to these Questions with the most up-to-date information that could possibly be obtained, and I thank her for the enormous work that she does in Burma, as well as in many other places around the world. Our policy is one of constructive engagement on human rights, and ethnic reconciliation is a central part of that. I can assure the noble Baroness and the House that we take the humanitarian challenges in Burma extremely seriously. Indeed, the Minister with responsibility for Burma, Hugo Swire, when he visited that country, travelled to Rakhine state with a view to making representations to the regional governments as well. It is a matter on which we continue to press the Burmese Government and on which our ambassador there is hugely engaged.

My Lords, when the EU common position on Burma is reviewed, as it will be in April, what position will the Government take on the EU sanctions that were suspended on the specific understanding that there would be progress on human rights and democratic reform in Burma? Is it not the case that in many respects human rights violations have significantly increased, especially with the Rohingya and Kachin, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has said? Is it not the case that the Government should therefore support the reintroduction of some of the measures that were suspended, and resist efforts to lift sanctions completely unless and until there is significant progress on these issues?

As the noble Baroness will be aware, the sanctions were suspended in April last year, and it was made clear at that stage that they would be lifted only if the Burmese Government was measured positively against the benchmarks set by the Council conclusions of earlier that year. Those benchmarks are that there should be free and fair elections, and that there needed to be progress on political prisoners and ethnic reconciliations. These matters will be discussed again in April this year but, as the noble Baroness is aware, for those sanctions to remain suspended or not to be lifted requires unanimity at the EU level. We in the United Kingdom will be pressing for those measures, those benchmarks, to be tested against the Burmese record.

My noble friend raises an important question. The Rohingya have been described as some of the most wretched people because of the way in which they have been abused over many years. They are left in a situation where real questions are being raised by the Burmese Government about their citizenship. The Minister responsible for Burma, Hugo Swire, visited Rakhine and met leaders of the Rohingya community. Last week, I was in Bangladesh and became the first British Minister to visit the Rohingya refugee camp at Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. We are looking at the problem from both sides of the border. Ultimately, however, the issue of citizenship of the Rohingya people is what needs to resolved. There is a history of these people being in Burma for the past 200 years. They now need to be recognised.

My Lords, it has been a great pleasure to see the developing relationship of the UK Government, particularly the Prime Minister, not only with the Burmese Government but with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is incredibly influential in this situation. Will the Minister outline what representations the UK Government have made to Aung San Suu Kyi about the growing concern among nations that are being looked to for aid about the treatment of groups of people who have a different religions background and, particularly in relation to the Rohingya people, those who are of a different racial group from the majority population?

I simply repeat what I said earlier. On every occasion, whether it is the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Hugo Swire or, indeed, Francis Maude, who was there only last year, we have taken the opportunity to raise the issue of minority groups. All communities must deserve rights as Burma moves forward on its democratic journey.

My Lords, would the Minister confirm that since 2012, around 5,000 Rohingya Muslim people have been murdered and that many thousands have disappeared? As she has rightly described, they are living in a system of 21st century apartheid, their citizenship rights having been formally stripped from the constitution. Will she urge the government authorities in Burma to revisit this question and inquire of the UN special rapporteur on religious liberty whether he would be willing to make a visit to the Rohingya people in Arakan state?

The noble Lord makes an important point. I will be meeting the UN special rapporteur on religious freedom in the next two months. This is certainly a matter that I can raise with him. Ethnic reconciliation is a central part of all discussions that we have with the Burmese Government.

My Lords, going back to Kachin and the conflict there, does the Minister accept that the use of fighter jets to bomb civilian populations is a significant escalation by the Burmese army? While we welcome attempts at a ceasefire again, will the Government urge both the Chinese and Burmese Governments to, first, allow the UNHCR to look at the refugee situation and give humanitarian assistance and, secondly, press for an overall peace settlement for all three ethnic groups? This is a long overdue matter and the civil war has been going on for 60 years. It is time now for a comprehensive peace, rather than just ceasefires that break down.

We are, of course, concerned about the acts of the Burmese Government in Kachin. I can assure my noble friend that we have played our part: we have had experts who were involved in peacebuilding in Northern Ireland visit Burma on a number of occasions to assist with the peacebuilding in Kachin. We are also one of the three members of the peace donor support group, which also assists with peacebuilding. Moreover, we allocated a further £1.5 million in December of last year, bringing our total spending on humanitarian aid in Kachin to £3.5 million. We will continue to press them, and of course, the Chinese Government.

Dyslexia: Apprenticeships

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made in ensuring that all dyslexics have access to the assistance recommended by Ofqual when taking apprenticeship qualifications.

My Lords, a guide entitled Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration is published each year by the Joint Council for Qualifications. The guidance was updated this year to include improved examples of how arrangements can support the needs of dyslexic learners. Awarding organisations are responsible for defining suitable arrangements and assessment centres are responsible for their operation. Awarding organisations and centres have complaints procedures to address any specific problems as they arise.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Does she accept that these arrangements—or at least the principle behind them—have been in place ever since I first asked about this subject? Does she also accept that when dyslexics have failed a written test, a procedure that requires a written complaint may not be the best one available for someone who is dyslexic or comes from a dyslexic family? Will the Government undertake to make sure that there is a vigorous enforcement process here and that things such as online testing papers which are not compatible with voice recognition technology, and ways of taking exams which are not taught during the classroom process, are not acceptable in the future?

I pay tribute to my noble friend for his tireless championing of those who suffer from dyslexia. I stress that the process for any complaint is to exhaust the centre’s procedures first—and that would be a face-to-face meeting, not necessarily a written procedure—and then go to the awarding organisation. If that does not work, complaints can be raised with Ofqual. However, Ofqual has been proactive in this respect and is in active discussion with the British Dyslexia Association to try to get a sense of the scale of the problems. So far it has come up with the problem in software compatibility to which my noble friend referred, and it is working with awarding organisations to try to address that.

May I put it to the Minister that it is often the case that young men and women who have difficulty in passing written exams can go on with encouragement to become excellent journeymen and journeywomen? I hope that the Government’s apprenticeship scheme recognises the fact that not everyone can be academic and so clever in terms of reading and writing.

The noble Lord makes a very important point. It is absolutely right that people who are practically very skilled often find that making an assessment in a written paper poses much more of a problem for them. On apprenticeships, there has been a change to functional skills that focus on applying knowledge rather than having to pass written tests, and these are widely available as part of the apprenticeship programme. The noble Lord makes a very valid point about the value of people whose skills do not lie in writing.

My Lords, I think that it is accepted that it is essential to have the intervention of a trainer in cases where dyslexia is identified in the workplace to provide an individualised training and support plan that will give people real inclusion in the workforce. That important one-to-one interaction is the most efficient means of providing essential support and assessments. What assessment do the Government make of the number of qualified trainers available to support dyslexic apprentices in the workplace?

My noble friend is absolutely right that one to one is often the most effective way of enabling people to reach their potential in that area. We are working with different schemes. The recent diversity in apprenticeships pilots highlighted the importance of one-to-one interactions and extra support. The National Apprenticeship Service is beginning to implement actions as a result of those pilots.

My Lords, perhaps I could ask my noble friend whether any trainers are available for people in this House, either as Members or working for the House. The spectrum of dyslexia is more serious in some cases than others. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office employs trainers for the people who work there. I am sure that the Minister will not have a reply to this, but it would be very useful for us to know, because sometimes things happen in this House that are of great benefit to many people that are never communicated to them.

My noble friend makes a very important point. As she surmised, I do not have a direct answer. I feel that it would be for the House authorities and other people to look into that, but we heard what she said and will try to take forward some ideas.

My Lords, does this issue not raise a more general point about the direction of the Government, who in the exam system are moving away from an appraisal system throughout the period of learning to just a three-hour exam at the end of the process? Does the Minister agree that that will discriminate against people who have special educational needs in all sorts of forms, who would be much better assessed and appraised over a period of time than in one three-hour exam at the end of the process?

The noble Baroness takes us rather wide of the Question, which is on apprenticeships. All the issues surrounding final assessments and examinations in schools are under discussion at the moment. On apprenticeships, there has always been a stress on practical application and seeing what people can do rather than what they can write down. Ongoing assessment and testing are part of an apprenticeship scheme all the way through.

Medical Research: International Rare Diseases Research Consortium

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support, if any, they are providing for the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium.

My Lords, the UK is a global leader in rare diseases research. The Government are pleased to be engaged with activities marking Rare Disease Day today. The Department of Health supports the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium. The National Institute for Health Research is a member of the consortium and has actively engaged with the work of the consortium from the outset. The Government are committed to providing faster diagnosis and better treatments for people with a rare disease. We recognise the importance of international collaboration in rare diseases research, and of its translation, in achieving this goal.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a sufferer from myelofibrosis, which is one of the 6,000-plus rare diseases that have been identified which affect 3.5 million people in the UK. May I ask my noble friend to comment on how the £100 million genome sequencing project is expected to contribute to the understanding of rare diseases? Secondly, will the rare diseases stakeholder forum that he announced yesterday consider the value to both patients and the NHS of care co-ordinators, which was emphasised by the NGO Rare Disease UK?

My Lords, we have just announced the establishment of a rare diseases stakeholder forum. As my noble friend rightly mentions, it will be established shortly to bring together a wide range of stakeholders, including organisations representing those with rare diseases, to ensure that the patient voice is part of the discussion that we must have leading up the publication of the UK plan for rare diseases. The 100,000 genomes initiative, which my Department is funding, is about pump-priming—the sequencing of the genomes of 100,000 NHS patients—with the purpose of translating genomics into the NHS. This capacity will be allocated specifically to cancer, rare diseases and infectious diseases. The service design work will be completed by June and we aim to put contracts in place by April next year.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that recent research in genomic medicine has led to the progressive introduction of orphan and ultra-orphan drugs, some of which are capable of reversing partially or completely the genetic effect of many such rare diseases—not least, for example, muscular dystrophy? However, these drugs are extremely expensive and are therefore likely to be commercially unsuccessful because they help only a relatively small number of patients. Now that the Government have abolished the Advisory Group for National Specialised Services, can the Minister assure the House that, when responsibility for providing those drugs on the NHS falls to the national Commissioning Board on the advice of NICE from April this year, those rare diseases and their drugs will be given appropriate priority?

My Lords, yes I can give that assurance. As the noble Lord will know, we laid regulations specifying those specialised and highly specialised conditions which the NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for commissioning. I can also reassure him that the focus on research into rare conditions will not be lost. Indeed, I am sure that he will be aware that the National Institute for Health Research has recently specifically invited submission of research proposals into interventions for very rare diseases. The call encouraged multidisciplinary research proposals as well as study designs and approaches to recruitment of patients.

My Lords, I declare my interests in the Register in the health service. Following on from the previous question, I understand that the commissioning costs of rare diseases will be met nationally by the NHS Commissioning Board. However, when patients require regular medication, which would presumably be prescribed by their GP, will funding responsibility fall on local clinical commissioning groups? If so, will they be given specified resources to fund what are often very expensive treatments?

My Lords, the funding for expensive treatments will be very much the responsibility of the Commissioning Board. However, of course the noble Lord is right, because a patient with a rare disease will need to be treated along a pathway of care, some of which will be specialised and some of which will be more routine. It is therefore important that we build into our UK plan for rare diseases an awareness of that pathway so that this is a seamless process. The commissioning must be joined up between the board, clinical commissioning groups and, indeed, local authorities that provide social care.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his interest in rare conditions. I declare an interest as my wife, like many others, has suffered from birth from arthrogryposis, a neuromuscular condition. She received a correct diagnosis only at the age of 52 years. Even now, in her 70s, she is struggling to receive appropriate treatment. Would the Minister consider seriously Rare Disease UK’s recommendation for designated care co-ordinators to oversee the situation to ensure consistent treatment and to provide single oversight to help patients and to avoid wasting resources and duplication within the NHS?

I am grateful to my noble friend and I extend my sympathies to his wife. Unfortunately, with many very rare diseases, it often takes a great deal of time for a fully fledged diagnosis to be arrived at. I welcome the suggestion put forward by Rare Disease UK for co-ordinators and we will certainly look at that idea positively. I can tell him that the imperative to look at rare developmental disorders in children is the focus of a project that the NIHR and the Wellcome Trust are funding through the Sanger Institute in Cambridge. Scientists are analysing the genomes of 12,000 children with developmental disorders who could not be diagnosed following routine genetic evaluation. We are hopeful that that will produce some interesting results.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that my university is involved in finding treatments for some rare diseases. An international collaboration has set the ambitious goal of finding treatments for 200 rare diseases by 2020. One of the important research areas has already been mentioned, which is the sequencing of the genome of patients with rare diseases. The other area, which alludes to the question asked by the noble Lord about the care of those patients, is that of finding new diagnostics so that we can diagnose those diseases early. What are we doing through the NIHR or through biomedical research centres to encourage the development of new diagnostics for those diseases?

My Lords, most of the NIHR biomedical research centres are conducting research on rare diseases, including on diagnostic biomarkers, and I have a rather long list of projects which the NIHR is funding. The diagnosis of a rare disease, as the noble Lord rightly mentioned, is often key to ensuring early intervention and the correct treatment. I can tell him that my department is directing considerable resources towards that, and I would be happy to write to him with the details.

NHS: West London Hospitals

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their plans for the future of hospitals in west London, especially accident and emergency departments.

My Lords, the reconfiguration of front-line health services is a matter for the local NHS. Any decisions regarding changes to services are taken locally and are subject to the four tests for service change. On 19 February, the NHS North West London Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts decided to proceed with a “Shaping a Healthier Future” service reconfiguration programme in north-west London.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that A&E waiting times are increasing in the areas covered by the four hospitals even before the closures have taken place? There is enormous local concern about a plan to, as it were, reduce services in a series of hospitals more savagely than anything else in the history of the NHS. In particular, the plan includes the proposed demolition of Charing Cross Hospital and its replacement by a handful of beds. Is it not the case that the Minister or the Secretary of State has the final decision and that it is quite possible for the Secretary of State to say, “No, I do not accept this. Think again.”?

My Lords, we believe very firmly as a general principle that the reconfiguration of services works best when there is a partnership approach between the NHS, local government and the public. That is why we are strengthening local partnership arrangements through the health and well-being boards. To answer the noble Lord’s question, it is entirely possible for a reconfiguration decision to be referred upwards to the Secretary of State by the overview and scrutiny committee of a local authority, and in that event it is customary practice for the Secretary of State to receive independent advice from the independent reconfiguration panel. However, we have not reached that stage yet. We have agreement locally as to what these arrangements should look like and I think that we should wait to see how the plans develop.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Whittington Hospital, which serves a densely populated area of Islington and of Haringey, where there is no other hospital, suddenly announced in January without any proper consultation its major plans for reconfiguration, including changes to buildings and services? Those plans include the downgrading of the A&E department of the hospital, where I have spent many an unhappy hour with my children and other family members but receiving an excellent service, to an emergency care service. Does he think that it is appropriate to do this without proper consultation and explaining the plans to local people?

My Lords, I cannot comment specifically on that particular set of proposals. However, I can say that we made it very clear nearly three years ago that reconfiguration proposals, wherever they arise, should be underpinned, as should the arising decisions, by four reconfiguration tests. Local plans must demonstrate support from GP commissioners; a strengthening in public and patient engagement, which is the issue raised primarily by my noble friend; clarity on the clinical evidence base for whatever is proposed; and support for patient choice. We expect that where proposals of this kind arise, those four tests need to be met.

My Lords, again I declare my interest in health. On that, I am puzzled because of what has happened in the case of Lewisham A&E where the clinical commissioning group itself is clearly absolutely opposed to the downgrading of that A&E service. Why has the Secretary of State determined to go ahead with those changes?

Five out of the six clinical commissioning groups involved in that area were supportive of the changes. It is true that Lewisham CCG was not. However, the four tests were looked at and it was clearly determined by the trust’s special administrator that those tests had been met.

My Lords, will the Minister recognise that parking needs of both visitors and patients need to be fully taken into account when making this sort of decision? I declare an interest as being an only-too-frequent visitor to Charing Cross A&E over the last year. It would have been impossible to get to Chelsea and Westminster hospital where the parking is appalling, both for myself and for my visitors.

I agree with the noble Baroness that this is most certainly a factor. In the case of north-west London, an independent equalities impact assessment was undertaken to check how the proposed options would affect all strata of local population under the Equality Act in particular. The assessment found that the impact on travel times by car, and indeed by blue light ambulance, would be minimal under all three of the options that were being looked at. The point that I am making is that in any context, it is important to factor in the effect on travel for all patients likely to be affected.

My Lords, I am shocked that the use of the word “reconfiguration” by the Government has brought into the English language an alternative to “cuts”. Will the Minister not accept that what is being proposed in the four hospitals in the north-west London region are savage cuts which will damage services for local people? That is the bottom line.

No, I do not accept that at all. A reconfiguration is about modernising the delivery of care and facilities to improve patient outcomes, develop services that are closer to home and, most importantly, save lives. It is not about saving money.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the downgrading of anything is very depressing, worst of all for patients when they want upgrading?

My Lords, I think that often when plans are explained to patients, they realise that the word “downgrading” is inappropriate. For example, in north-west London, there has been a lot of unnecessary worry about urgent care centres as substitutes for A&E units. The majority of people who attend A&E can very well be treated in an urgent care centre on the same site, and patients who dial 999 will be taken by ambulance straight to the appropriate hospital. Therefore, I think there is, in some senses, a false debate going on here.

House of Lords: Membership

Motion to Agree

Moved By

That, notwithstanding the normal practice of the House, this House resolves that no introductions of new Peers shall take place until the recommendation in paragraph 67 of the First Report of the Leader’s Group on Members Leaving the House, chaired by Lord Hunt of Wirral (HL Paper 83, Session 2010–12), has been followed.

My Lords, I want to make it clear at the beginning that it is my intention to accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I have listened carefully to Members in all parts of the House and I think it would be more constructive to have a debate on the three issues set out in that amendment than to have a rather arid discussion about the royal prerogative and introductions into the House. I hope, therefore, that in a short debate we can concentrate on the three issues that are raised in what I hope will become the amended Motion.

Of course, the three issues are the same as those set out in the Bill that we sent to the House of Commons in September of last year. I want to make it clear that it is no longer my Bill and I hope that we will hear no more references to the “Steel Bill”. I will read out what it says:

“A Bill to make provision for Peers to cease to be Members of the House of Lords by way of retirement or in the event of non-attendance or criminal conviction”.

Fortunately, my name has disappeared from the Bill. It is no longer my Bill; it is our Bill. It is a Bill that we approved unanimously back in September. It is due to appear again in the Commons tomorrow, when Eleanor Laing will again present it, but it will as usual be blocked by the government Whips. Frankly, we are so near the end of this Session that there is no realistic chance of the Bill passing.

I want to remind the House that on 6 February, in a Question raised by our former Lord Speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the noble Lord, Lord Hill, said to me:

“He, I am sure, can use his powers of persuasion with colleagues in his own party, including the Deputy Prime Minister. I know that he will try and we will then see how we get on”.—[Official Report, 6/2/13; col. 261.]

Armed with that wonderful quotation, I indeed sought to have a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister. This proved rather difficult. We were about to go into recess; he was in Africa. I was in Kenya and Uganda throughout the Recess and one of my colleagues, who has a rather warped sense of humour, suggested, “You and Nick should have some Ugandan discussions”—as though we do not have problems enough.

We ended up having quite a lengthy and amicable telephone call on the subject on Monday evening. But I am afraid I have to report to the House that I failed in my powers of persuasion. The nearest concession that I got from the Deputy Prime Minister was that he would have further discussion with our Leader, the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and I understand that that is going to happen. I hope very much that his powers of persuasion will prove more effective than mine. I intend to pass the ball back to him. I hope that if the House approves the amended Motion today, that will strengthen his hand in the arguments with his colleagues in the Government.

I want to draw the attention of the House to a Written Answer that appeared in Hansard, perhaps significantly, on Thursday 14 February, which was of course the day that we rose for the Recess, so very few Members will have seen this when it was published on the Friday. It was a Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to offer support to the House of Lords (Cessation of Membership) Bill [HL] in the current parliamentary Session”.

The Written Answer is as follows:

“The Government do not intend to offer support to the Bill. In the absence of full reform, it is the Government’s view that there is no easy set of smaller reforms to the House of Lords. In a modern democracy it is important that those who pass legislation should be chosen by those to whom the legislation applies. So reform measures must include introducing elected Members to the House of Lords.

Also, the three core measures of the Bill would not deal with the size of the House of Lords. Provision for retirement is an extension of the non-statutory voluntary retirement scheme, already in place. Only two noble Lords have taken advantage of this so far. Members would only be required to attend once every session to sustain their membership and only future criminals would be removed from the House of Lords”.—[Official Report, 14/2/13; col. WA 176.]

We should analyse that extraordinary Written Answer. The first point is that, of course, the question of fundamental reform of the Lords will come back again, presumably at the next election and in the next Parliament.

None of us knows which party or parties will form the next Government, but it will take years before we get fundamental reform. In the mean time we should consider what we do with the present House in its unreformed condition. This is purely a housekeeping measure intended to improve the workings of the House. It is not, in any sense, a reform measure.

We also have to bear in mind that it was in the coalition agreement that the balance of the House should be altered to reflect the views of the electorate at the previous election. I think I am right in saying that this was an agreement made in the time of the previous Government as well. All three parties agreed that this should be done. If that is the case, we will get into a position where we could have leapfrogging of increases after every election. If there is to be an interim strategy of that kind as part of public policy, there needs to be an exit strategy as well. That is why we are pressing for these three changes.

As for the assertion that a retirement scheme is already in place, which only two Members have taken up, it is not a retirement scheme at all. It is simply an extension of leave of absence and those two Members who think they have retired will find that they get in the post a Writ of Summons for the next Session in two or three months’ time. The Chairman of Committees and his committee are trying to reduce the amount of postage and costs to the House—as they told us by sending us mail on only the second day. Yet here we are sending out mail to people who think they have retired.

On a point of clarification, is it not the case that next Session we will not get a Writ of Summons? That comes only after the end of this Parliament.

If that is right, I accept the correction, but the basic principle is correct. Members have not retired; they have simply got leave of absence. That is the point I make. It is technically correct to say that the Bill does not reduce the numbers in the House, but that is not a valid point. What it does is to give this House the statutory authority that the original report, by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, said we needed to devise a scheme of retirement. All sorts of schemes have been put about. If these were not times of austerity, we could have had a retirement or resettlement grant, or the opposite—a cut in the allowances paid to Members who have served over a certain number of years or reached a certain age. We could leave it to each of the parties and groups in the House to come to some arrangement. We could even have an age cut-off in our Standing Orders. All these are possibilities, but there is no point in debating them because we do not have the power to do any of them

All we ask of the Government is to let us have the statutory authority to bring to an end the present law, which says that, whether you like it or not, you are a Member of this House for life and that this the present situation. As for the sentence that only future criminals would be removed from the House of Lords, what does that mean? Are the Government seriously suggesting that the Bill should contain retrospective legislation? It simply does not make sense. This Written Answer was in the name of my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire. He is not just my noble friend in a technical sense, he is a very old personal friend, going back to the time before either of us was anywhere near the Palace of Westminster. I know that he is a highly intelligent man. He could not possibly have written this stuff. These phrases and assertions appear time and again in the briefing given to the Deputy Prime Minister when he appeared before the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee and in letters that he wrote to me and to others.

Somewhere in the machinery of Whitehall, these arguments are being put about, which are unsustainable. The House should reassert what it said back in September and say bluntly to the Government, the House of Commons and the public that we are keen to see this modest housekeeping change so that we reduce our numbers and our costs; and say to the Leader of the House that we wish him all the best in trying to get these measures through to the Government. I beg to move.

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by

To move, as an amendment to the above motion, to leave out from “that” in line 1 to the end and insert “this House affirms the recommendation in paragraph 67 of the First Report of the Leader’s Group on Members Leaving the House, chaired by Lord Hunt of Wirral (HL Paper 83, Session 2010-12), that “restraint should be exercised by all concerned in the recommendation of new appointments to the House”; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to support proposals, in line with legislation passed by this House, to.

(a) allow members of the House to retire permanently from the House;

(b) provide for the exclusion from the House of any member who does not attend the House during a Session save where that member has leave of absence in respect of the Session in accordance with Standing Orders of the House, or where a Session is less than six months long; and

(c) provide that a member who is convicted of a serious offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than one year shall not attend the sittings of the House.”.

My Lords, in moving my amendment to the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, I mean no criticism of the noble Lord. Indeed, I—and, I am sure, all Members of the House—are grateful to him for his determination to bring this matter back to your Lordships time after time.

The substantive point, surely, of what the noble Lord has said is that we have a pressing issue today concerning the size of the House, appointments and recruitment. We need to deal with this matter now, rather than let many more years go by before we engage, as the noble Lord has said, in sensible housekeeping.

The failure of Mr Clegg’s substantive Bill on reform surely means, as the noble Lord has said, that it will be a matter of years before a substantive proposal for reform could be put into practice. Indeed, if one took the proposals of the current coalition Government and those of the previous Government, it would be 2020 even if a substantive Bill were presented and passed after the next election—both of those being subject to some uncertainty given the history of Lords reform over 100 years.

We need to make progress on incremental, sensible changes to your Lordships’ House. I detect a real consensus for some progress to be made today. We are already experiencing considerable tensions as a result of our size. We have had the proposals from the Chairman of Committees, speaking for the Privileges Committee, on reforming the system of Oral Questions because of the problem of the number of Peers wishing to ask them. Often noble Lords are not even able to get into the Chamber for Question Time, which is surely much of the focus of our daily activity.

It is disturbing that there are rumours around this place that the Government intend to appoint dozens more new Peers in the next few days or weeks. I am sure that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will point to the coalition agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, has also referred to it. We were certainly not party to any such agreement before the last election. I am mindful of the paper from Meg Russell, the distinguished academic from UCL, who wrote in April 2011 that the objective of a House of Lords membership that is proportional to general election vote share is unrealistic. She said then that it would require the appointment of, at a minimum, 269 new Peers, and that this would have disastrous consequences for the operation of the Chamber, would be unpopular with the public and would be a foolish and unsustainable course to pursue. It if were continued as a principle at every subsequent general election, the size of the House would spiral ever upwards unless some mechanism for removing Members were also adopted.

I understand that there clearly is a need for fresh blood to be introduced into your Lordships’ House from time to time. I certainly also understand that if the coalition Government were finding that their core legislative proposals were not able to get through your Lordships’ House, their case for making more appointments would be stronger. However, that is not the case. The coalition is winning most of the votes that take place. My understanding is that, in this Parliament so far, the Opposition have won about 22% of the votes. That compares to the Opposition winning about 30% of the votes against the previous Government. Even from the Government’s point of view, it is difficult to see the argument that they need a huge number of new Members because of difficulties in the process of getting their legislation through.

Is the idea of large numbers coming in even not more reprehensible when a very high incidence of those would be financial donors from the business community, which is tantamount to giving bribes to political parties to become Members of this House?

My Lords, that is certainly a point of view. However, I am hoping today that the House might adopt a rather consensual view because I sense that, whether we come from one of the parties or from the non-aligned or Cross Benches, there is a genuine concern about the need to sort out issues to do with the size of the House and retirements and appointments. I will therefore desist from responding to the noble Lord’s intervention.

The Leader of the House enjoys enormous respect here and rightfully so. I ask him to take note of this debate, put aside further large-scale appointments to the House, and work with others in the House to suggest a sensible way forward that deals with the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. The fact that rumours of large-scale appointments have been with us for many months suggests that the Government know it is not the right thing to do.

The sentiments behind the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, are perfectly understandable and I am most grateful for his acknowledgement that he is prepared to support my amendment. I put my amendment down because I did wonder whether it was right for the House to seek to prevent the introduction of new life Peers who had already been appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. As the noble Lord, Lord Steel, has such a distinguished pedigree, I did wonder what Mr Asquith would have made of his Motion, given that, with the King’s approval, Mr Asquith threatened to flood the place with new Members if the House resisted the Parliament Bill in 1911. At that time the House agreed to let it through. I wonder what Mr Asquith would have made of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, if their Lordships had prevented the flooding of the House in that period. I am also aware that the noble Lord has received a letter from the chairman of the Appointments Commission, the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, who is concerned that if the Motion were to be put into effect Cross-Bench appointments would not be allowed to take place.

We all agree with the sentiment behind the noble Lord’s Motion. My amendment deals with these matters in a sensible way. Above all else, this is not about politics but is an attempt to achieve consensus and to recognise that many Members of your Lordships’ House wish to see progress made. It is an indication to the Government that they need to desist from making large-scale appointments at a time when the House is already full. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will be brief. Perhaps I may remind the House that I try hard to speak personally, especially on occasions such as this, and that I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Cross-Bench group. That will become all too evident very shortly.

The noble Lord, Lord Steel, has vast experience in both Houses of Parliament and indeed far beyond. Furthermore, he has an enviable record of championing changes designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this House. However, as I hope the House will understand, I was extremely unhappy about the content of the Motion that he has put down on the Order Paper. I am grateful and pleased that he has accepted the amendment.

The one thing on which we can at least agree is that the membership of the House is too large. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has made plain, this results in colleagues feeling frustrated when they are denied the opportunity to serve on committees that are dealing with matters of special interest to them and, moreover, when their important contributions to our debates are limited to three minutes or even less. There is a real issue to be faced about the membership of this House. In my view, the Motion is not helpful. I was going to speak about the report to which the Motion refers but as the noble Lord, Lord Steel, has accepted the amendment I will move on.

Only yesterday two new Cross-Bench Peers were announced. I very much hope that at the appropriate time your Lordships’ House will make those new Members extremely welcome. This House has a record of doing that and we should avoid the danger of giving the impression that we are resisting new Members. My concern is solely about tactics and timing. My fear is that the amendment will be perceived to be either irrelevant in the current situation or, at worst, provocative. I well recognise the thought that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has given to the amendment and I do not doubt for one moment the good intention behind it. However, I still fail to see how it will have a significant impact on reducing the size of this House and, in particular, the pressure on the facilities and costs. We already have a voluntary retirement scheme that has not been a great success. Any form of financial inducement to make such a scheme more popular would, in my view, especially in the current circumstances, be inappropriate. Trying also to reduce the membership of the House by excluding those who do not, for whatever reason, attend regularly could be counterintuitive in that it would run the risk of encouraging them to attend your Lordships’ House.

The frustrations frequently expressed are sincere, although I cannot help but feel that we are in danger of giving the impression that we want to resist any newcomers into our House. That would be to the disadvantage of the work of this House in revising and improving legislation for the benefit of our fellow citizens and holding the Government to account. In recognising that the House is too big, I nevertheless fear that the amendment will not have the desired effect. I hope that out of this will come something that will be a stimulus to much more detailed discussion across the House in order that we can work towards achieving consensus. That said, I will, as always, listen carefully to the debate.

My Lords, I am a great admirer of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, who has given great service to our nation and to this House. Although I agree with him that the two new Members who have been announced should be given the warmest of welcomes—we all agree with that—I regret to say that I cannot follow the logic of his other remarks. I wish to give my strong support to the initiative taken by my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood, to whom we are all in debt, and very much to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who has moved his amendment moderately and persuasively, and I hope in a way that will have garnered support in all parts of the House.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Since he is a great advocate of reducing the size of this House, might I commend to him the traditional trade union solution to dealing with redundancies: last in, first out?

If that became the will of the House we would all have to accept it, wouldn’t we? My old and mischievous friend from another place makes his point with his customary tact. It is now 11 years since my noble friend Lord Norton and I formed a group called the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber. My noble friend Lord Norton, who did that group great service as our convenor throughout those years, cannot be here today because of his teaching duties at his university. We miss him and the contribution he would have made. We formed that group, over which I have had the honour to preside, because we believe that this Chamber is effective but could be much more effective. We were always committed to an appointed House rather than an elected one, but we also recognise the fact that the House as it exists can and should be improved even though many people in this House—by no means the majority, but a number of very distinguished Members—would like to move towards election. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has made that his position in the past. Nevertheless, surely we can all recognise that the House as it exists is not only capable of improvement but cries out for improvement, not only in its size but in the way in which we do business. We all owe a great deal to noble Lords such as the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, who have been working hard in this regard over recent months and years. Whatever one’s ultimate view is, surely we should not stand in the way of what the noble Lords, Lord Steel and Lord Hunt, have referred to as “housekeeping reforms”.

To the Deputy Prime Minister, who has shown an interesting flexibility of mind and memory in recent days, I say, “If you believe that the best is elected, then do not let the best be the enemy of the good”. We think that this House as it exists—and on Mr Clegg’s own admission it cannot be fundamentally changed for some years—should now be changed in the way proposed in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. We all hold my noble friend the Leader of the House in the highest regard. I very much hope that he will take it upon himself as Leader of the House—leader of all of us—to convene a meeting to discuss ways and means of approaching the problems referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Steel and Lord Hunt. He would be doing us all a very great service if he exercised his initiative in that regard and I very much hope that he will. Of course, our expertise and experience, notwithstanding the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, must be refreshed and revived, but if many more Peers are introduced into this House without addressing the current problems we will bring this House into disrepute.

Like the rest of us, my noble friend sees the expected approach of large numbers as rather like a torpedo. He is now choosing one of two paths put before your Lordships and I would like to know his explanation of that. On the face of it, the admirable amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is actually hortatory—it advises and says that something may be done—whereas the principal Motion is prescriptive and states that it shall be done. The second is not in our gift; the first is. If you want to put out a net to catch the torpedo, surely it must be the first and not the second.

I understand and sympathise with the point made by my noble friend, but the fact is that there are issues like royal prerogative that have to be taken into account. We do not want to precipitate—this was implicit in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—a major constitutional crisis. What we want to do is address the housekeeping issues in this House. That is a simple and reasonable aim. This is declaratory, of course it is, but, if we have a vote at the end of this debate, I hope that the House will declare that it really is concerned about these matters. We are asking the Leader to do what he can to bring some common sense to bear.

Surely it is wrong that a particular person should be the stumbling block in the face of sensible reform. Mr Clegg has many admirable qualities, but he should not be allowed to be the arbiter of our constitution. That is wrong. He introduced a Bill, which failed. I am proud to wear this morning the tie made by the 91 stout Tory rebels who frustrated that Bill in July by saying, “You cannot get this through because we will not give you the time to do so”. Mr Clegg recognised that, and he should now recognise that if he believes in parliamentary democracy, and if he believes in this House as being a fundamental part of this democracy as it is the moment, it should be as effective as it possibly can be. If we continue to appoint new Peers without addressing the issues so eloquently talked about by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, we will run the risk of making this House fall in public repute and indeed become something of a laughing stock, which it should not be. That would fly in the face of history and of what has been achieved by so many, particularly over the years since 1958 when life Peers were introduced. If this comes to a vote, I urge Members to vote in significant numbers to show that there is indeed a consensus in this House on these modest proposals.

My Lords, I want very briefly to put a couple of points to my noble friend the Leader of the House before he responds to the debate. I wonder whether he might reflect on the fact that in the previous Labour Administration, some 40% of the new recruits to this House were added to the Labour Benches, compared with 21% to the Conservative Benches and 15% to the Liberal Democratic Benches. Even more significantly, in May 2010, immediately following the general election, there were additional recruits to your Lordships’ House—28 Labour Members, 18 Conservative Members and nine Liberal Democrat Members. Will my noble friend reflect on the very interesting Pauline conversion, if I might put it like that, of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, who suddenly seems to find the overpopulation of this House such a terrible problem? Apparently it was never a problem under the previous Administration, nor was it a problem even in May 2010. I am the last person to turn against a sinner who repenteth, but there is an important question to put to the opposition Benches about their change of attitude.

Would my noble friend also note that some of the Members who now object so strongly to further appointments were indeed the most vociferous when the Government came forward with a proposal to end a fully appointed House? My noble friend Lord Cormack, who is a very staunch defender of the primacy of the House of Commons, may have forgotten that the Government’s Bill received a considerable—indeed, a uniquely—sizeable majority at its Second Reading. That was an attempt to sort this problem out. It had indeed built very firmly on the proposals put forward by Mr Jack Straw, in which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, played a very important part. Again, he seems to have changed his attitude.

I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that this Motion as amended would still be inappropriate at this time. Having had, I accept, an expression of concern on all sides of the House about this problem, I very much hope that the Motion, even amended, is not put to a Division because I think it will have more power if it is not seen to be something that is divisible and therefore divisive in your Lordships’ House.

My Lords, I was just sitting here quietly, looking forward to the conclusion of the debate without, I hoped, a Division, but hoping that if there was a Division it would result in a resounding majority for the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and my noble friend’s amendment. However, the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, make it impossible for me to remain in my seat because I think he suggested that the previous Labour Government paid no attention to what he now considers a very sensible proposal that the membership of this House should reflect the result of the previous general election.

I remind the noble Lord of the facts. I know that facts can sometimes ruin arguments, but the facts are as follows. He may recall that the 1997 general election resulted in a Labour majority of something over 150 in the House of Commons. I will be honest enough to say that I almost wish I had thought of this at the time. It would have been extremely tempting to argue that the membership of this House should reflect the huge majority that the Labour Party had in 1997, and on which it was re-elected, with an almost identical majority, in 2001. The noble Lord can do the maths rather than me, but there would have needed to be a colossal addition to the Labour Benches in this House to reflect that.

I ask for a little indulgence and sympathy towards my dear old party from all quarters of this House. The Labour Party eventually became the biggest party in this House in 2005: that is, eight years after we received a colossal overall majority in two successive general elections. We have been the biggest party in this House for eight years out of the 110 years of our existence as a political party. I do not think it is being greedy to say that eight years is not too bad. If the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, did argue for a huge influx of Labour Peers at that stage, it was obviously on one of those days when I did not attend the House. I simply put it to him that he ought to reflect on that.

Perhaps one other matter on which the noble Lord should reflect, in this of all weeks, is the election in Italy, a country which adheres to the constitutional principle that the second chamber should be elected and have pretty well equal powers to those of the first chamber. He should reflect for a moment on whether that is a good idea to incorporate here. While he is about it, he should reflect on whether the proportional representation system of election to the Italian Parliament provides stability and security for a Government. One or two of the noble Lord’s theories have been road tested this week and I could not forbear but to refer to them. On that note, I will sit down.

My Lords, tempted as I am, I will not follow the reflections of the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, on second chambers across the world. During my time as Lord Speaker, I developed a very good 45-minute lecture on second chambers around the world, but I suspect that the House would not appreciate hearing it today.

Like others, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, for giving us the opportunity to consider this issue today and, if I may say so, even more grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for bringing a proposition before the House that I think is in many ways more acceptable than the original one of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, given the interpretation that people could put on that and the suggestion of constitutional impropriety or of being unwelcoming to new Members. I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Laming, had to say on that. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Steel, I was deeply depressed when I read the Written Answer that appeared in Hansard on 15 February. While it is understandable that the Government should feel frustrated at the loss of their proposals for an elected House, those proposals were indeed lost. The reality of the situation is that we have two and a half years until the next general election and some time beyond that during which this House will continue to be an appointed House. It is constitutionally and politically irresponsible not to take at least some modest measures now to take us forward.

I am not a supporter of an elected House. I am a supporter of a rather radical reform of this House which is not encompassed in what is before us today, or the Bill before another place. However, I have to accept that that reality cannot be achieved at the moment. The elements in the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, provide a minimum basis for us to take forward some of the changes that are need in your Lordships’ House. It will not radically reduce the numbers but, having been deeply involved with these issues for some time, I believe that not having a legislative base on which to build the House’s consensus—as I hope it will develop—on retirement is a terrible impediment to going forward. One thinks of resources as being about money and people, but as a Minister I learnt that, in politics, resources are also about legislative time. Allowing retirement to be a reality—in future “life” not meaning “for life”—is enormously important.

The issue of those with criminal convictions, though very small, narrow and, of course, not retrospective—how could it ever be?—is important for this House. It is also an important basis for our own disciplinary action in future. Even this minimalist legislative change is enormously important and would give us the basis on which to go forward. The other day, I asked the Leader whether he would do the service to this House that could be done by allowing us that minimum basis. I am very encouraged by the fact that there are those who, like the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath—though unfortunately not the noble Lord, Lord Tyler—believe in an elected House but still recognise the problems and the reality of the years ahead. Noble Lords who want to participate in the business of the House sometimes cannot because they cannot be within the Chamber. That is not a proper way for us to continue. We want to welcome new Members and if we are to do so, we also have to find a way in which membership of this House can cease. It is our responsibility to try and do that. We will not achieve it overnight. There will not be immediate unanimity about the grounds for retirement and how we go forward. However, since 1999 we have had constant reasons why proposed changes were not exactly right. We have had constant reversals to proposals for incremental change on the basis that we were going to have all-singing, all-dancing proposals for election. It has got us into terrible trouble over numbers and over financial support for Members. Those who were arguing that we needed to change that system sooner were told, “Don’t worry because very soon we will have a Bill, we will have elections, we will have a salaried House”.

It is not responsible to continue to do nothing. We have to make a start somewhere and I hope very much that the House will today make that view very clear.

My Lords, I very much welcome this debate. It is important that we bring pressure on the Government to carry out the urgent changes that have been set out by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and those on the Opposition Front Bench. I certainly welcome that. Like others, I was concerned about the Written Answer to which the noble Lord, Lord Steel, referred.

The noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench pointed out that it will clearly be a long time before there is any likelihood of our moving towards an elected Chamber. However, there is another point. I am optimistic on that issue because it is absolutely clear, despite the rather mixed procedure on voting in the other place, that its Members now clearly understand that it is not in their interests to have an elected House of Lords with regard to the situation both at Westminster and in their constituencies. It is high time that it is recognised that this is the case and that we should not go further forward on that point.

In all events, it is important that we deal with the issue of the size of this House and the other issues mentioned in the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to the arrangements set out in the coalition agreement. Again, the coalition should recognise that that is not a sensible way of dealing with the size of this House. We do not know on either of those points what will appear in the manifestos—the reality is that manifestos are cooked up behind closed doors, with virtually no consideration at all for Members of Parliament in either House. We cannot tell, but I hope that on both matters such proposals will not be included in either of the main parties’ manifestos.

The Motion proposes that there should be no increase in the number of Members until the size of the House is determined—I do not have the exact wording. However, it is extremely important that the Government clearly set out how they envisage the programme for the House of Lords. The House is getting bigger and bigger and, presumably at some stage, its size has to be reduced. The danger then, particularly after an election, is that it increases again. The Government need to say what they think is the maximum size possible within that transitional period and what the ultimate aim ought to be. We need some guidance on the optimum size of the House.

The other points that have been debated concern the various amendments in what I am still inclined to call the Steel Bill. We should simply go ahead with them, and the block in the House of Commons ought to be removed. It is difficult to avoid the impression that a sense of pique on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister is leading to that block. We ought to go ahead with those changes, and we can perfectly well do so way before the date of the next general election.

Finally, perhaps I may make a more controversial point. Paragraph 47 of the Hunt report suggests that provisions for retirement might be made. I realise that this is highly controversial, but once a Treasury Minister, always a Treasury Minister. If there is one crucial issue in the Government’s policy at the moment, it is to reduce the deficit. On the proposal that one should create, for example, an incentive scheme whereby a modest payment was made based on the expenses incurred in the previous full year, minus travel expenses, it would be helpful to see to what extent that might produce a significant reduction in the size of the House. At all events, it is a means of saving public expenditure, which I hope would be acceptable.

I have one final point about the position of my own Front Bench. I am told that the position normally is that they vote against things that are not government policy. That is a rather strange doctrine: many good proposals are not government policy; that is no reason to vote against them. As for the proposals in the amendment, I think it is clear that the House has already approved them in the shape of the legislation sent to the other place. To then go and vote against them seems a very strange attitude to take.

My Lords, I think that we have a good debate and that the outlines of the issues that the House will want to consider are already clear. The points that have been made very forcefully by a number of noble Lords have been well made; obviously I have heard everything that has been said. Although I recognise that I am new to this job, one issue on which I can be in little doubt about the opinions of this House is that which we have been debating today. Noble Lords have already been extremely generous—I might say unstinting—with the advice they have given me at every possible opportunity. I am glad to say that I have had a chance to discuss these issues with many noble Lords who have already spoken today and I will continue to do so in future, because I think that that is the right way to take the matter forward.

Coming new to the subject, I cannot have the great expertise and history that many noble Lords have on this matter. We have seen it again demonstrated by the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, and my noble friend Lord Tyler. These issues go back a long time. However, I do at least bring a fresh pair of eyes to some of these issues. Given that the underlying issue to which all noble Lords have referred is the size of the House, I thought that I should start by going back to look at the figures to see by how much the House has grown. This is what I found.

The House that Tony Blair inherited on taking office in 1997 had 1,067 Peers eligible to vote. Of course, that was before the removal of most of the hereditary Peers following the 1999 reform. The House that Gordon Brown inherited on taking office 10 years later in 2007 was smaller: there were 738 peers eligible to vote. As of this week, there are 761 Members of this House eligible to vote; that is 23 more than in 2007. We have had some discussion about the proportion and size of the number who have been introduced, so I looked at the numbers for the Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Cross-Bench Peers in particular. In 2007, 698 Members sat on those Benches and were eligible to vote. I accept that the equivalent figure today is higher: today it is 704, which is six more than in 2007. Those figures come from the House of Lords Library note of 27 June 2012; for this week’s figures, I consulted the online House of Lords registry.

Given that the overall number of Peers eligible to vote is not so different from five or six years ago, that brings me naturally to the important question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, about the exercise of restraint in new appointments to the House, which is referred to both in his amendment and in my noble friend Lord Steel’s Motion.

My Lords, would the noble Lord be kind enough to give us the details of the average attendances from 1997?

I am coming on to talking about attendance and participation, which I recognise as an important issue. As far as the exercise of restraint is concerned, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, refers to the Leader’s Group recommendation on the creation of new Members of this House. That read:

“Whilst we cannot recommend that there should be a moratorium on new appointments to the House—since, while the purpose of the House is to provide expertise, we must ensure that that expertise is refreshed and kept up to date”—

a point, I think, on which all noble Lords agree—

“we do urge that restraint should be exercised by all concerned in the recommendation of new appointments the House, until such time as debate over the size of membership is conclusively determined”.

I would argue that this recommendation has been followed and that the Prime Minister has indeed shown restraint. Since the well publicised lists of May and November 2010, a total of eight new peers have been created, six of them on the Cross Benches; 42 life peers have, sadly, died. I suggest, therefore, that the Prime Minister’s record is consistent with the recommendation from the Leader’s Group, both in terms of exercising restraint and in ensuring that expertise is refreshed and kept up to date.

I now come to the point about which I was asked. The real issue is not so much the absolute number of those entitled to vote but attendance. Surely we all agree that attendance and participation are good things that we ought to encourage. That is one of the reasons why I am extremely keen, as a new Leader, to try to find new ways to help a wider range of Members to play a greater role in this House. That is why, as an early priority, I shortly plan to put proposals to the Procedure Committee that will provide more time and opportunities for Back-Bench Members to lead debates. My intention is to build on the work of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, who, with the support of the Liaison Committee and the House, initiated a modest expansion in our Select Committee activity to include more pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny as well as a greater emphasis on single-session committees. I am keen to do that in order to ensure that a wider range of Members have the opportunity to serve on our Select Committees.

Noble Lords have raised the matter of Question Time. I welcome the fact that the Procedure Committee is due to come forward with some revised proposals on how we might make it easier for a wider range of Members to table Oral Questions. There is also the question of how we might encourage more Members to come in on supplementary questions and broaden participation. I am acutely conscious of how crowded the Chamber is during Question Time, just as it is at PMQs in another place. When you spend as much time as I now have the pleasure to do in your Lordships’ House, it is clear that, at other times of the day, this House is not as crowded as it is during Question Time.

As well as talking about the need for restraint, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, reiterated the support of this House for the proposals in the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood. Indeed, the House has already made its position clear. We passed the Bill without a Division and sent it to the other place last summer. It contains measures which my noble friend Lord Steel described as “housekeeping” and for which it is clear that there is widespread support in this House. I know that my noble friend is keen that the Government should take the Bill forward. As he said, he made his case directly to the Deputy Prime Minister earlier this week; he was the right person to talk to, as he is the Cabinet Minister responsible for this matter. Despite that, the Government’s position remains that we do not wish to facilitate the passage of the Bill. I understand that the Deputy Prime Minister made clear why that is the case. As my noble friend Lord Tyler said, it is because the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly last year in favour of an elected House of Lords. With that in mind, no Government could credibly support a package of measures that could be perceived as anointing an all-appointed House.

I am grateful to the noble Lord. I find this a confusing argument. If the will of the House of Commons was so clear and unambiguous, why are we not now spending our time debating the House of Lords Reform Bill? The fact is that the House of Commons purported to will the ends but refused to will the means. If you do not will the parliamentary time, you do not will the statute. I suggest to the noble Lord the Leader that the view of the House of Commons was not quite as unambiguously in favour of an elected House as he suggested.

Clearly I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that there was a difference between the extremely clear view expressed—a 71% majority in favour in principle of an elected House—and what happened. As she said, when push came to shove some of the consequences of an elected House, such as the issue about the balance of powers between the two Chambers and so on, perhaps became less compelling. However, that was the situation and the Government have made it clear that they will not bring forward further legislation to reform the House in what remains of this Parliament. This position was welcomed by many in the House.

I am keen to preserve the spirit of consensus that my noble friend Lord Hunt generated. However, with respect to the Leader of the House, who I hope will be engaging in discussions with the Government and other authorities, the question of legitimacy that he raised—that it would not be legitimate when something had been done to appear to do the opposite subsequently—must be truly addressed. Does he recognise that not only was the idea of proportionality lost in the proposals for this House but it was previously rejected under this Administration by the country in the referendum on the alternative vote system? Given that there is an apparent consistency about the legitimacy of the processes and non-contradiction, will the Leader assure us that, given the fact that proportionality has been rejected by the country in an overwhelming vote and then lost during the proposals for reform of the House of Lords, the idea of proportionality through appointment to this House will not be pursued?

On the point about proportionality, the noble Lord will know that in the coalition document, the parties set out their position—although, as I argued earlier when I referred to the exercise of restraint, progress towards that form of words has not been put into effect in the same way. I agree with him about the importance of this being a consensual debate. I do not seek to make it political.

Perhaps I may just finish this point. As things stand, it is clearly the case that the proportion of Labour Peers in this House is greater than was the case in the popular vote at the general election. It has not been the case since then, in 2010 or subsequently, that the Government have sought to redress the balance in a dramatic way. As we heard, many new Labour Peers were created. Therefore, I hope that restraint and the measured way in which the Government have proceeded with new appointments have provided the noble Lord with some reassurance. We are not saying that we rule out the measures that the Bill in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Steel, seeks to enact. We are saying that they should be considered in their proper context as part of a wider reform of the House.

If I may, I will say something briefly about the effectiveness of the measures proposed in the Bill to substantially reduce the number of Members who attend this House each day. This point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Laming. In other words, would my noble friend’s Bill tackle the problem of size that it seeks to address? There has been mention already about the non-statutory, voluntary retirement scheme that has been put in place. Two Peers have taken advantage of it. Therefore, there must be some reason for the reticence of Members in volunteering for retirement. I am not personally persuaded that making the scheme statutory would overcome that reticence. Some supporters of my noble friend’s measures suggest that some kind of payment might help overcome this reticence. I should make clear, as I have done before, that the Government do not support making taxpayers’ money available to Members of the House to encourage them to retire. That would be wrong, and it would be seen to be wrong. I am glad to hear that my view on this is shared by all groups and all parties.

On excluding infrequent attendees, I say that those Peers currently put no pressure on the Benches at Question Time. If pressure is to be reduced, the people who need to retire are those who attend, not those who do not. I agree strongly that criminals should be excluded, but, unless there is a grand conspiracy in the House of which I am currently unaware, the suggested policy would not reduce the number of those currently attending the House.

My Lords, as a member of the Leader’s Group under the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and as a Whip in your Lordships’ House, I would not hazard a guess as to the number of noble Lords who would take permanent leave of absence. However, I recollect, when I was in both those roles, a number of noble Lords who attended quite regularly and with great difficulty because they felt that they had been asked to come in and serve for life. I would not dream of naming them, but some are quite regular attendees because they feel honour bound to attend because they feel that, were they to cease to attend, their expertise, which some have said they feel is a little out of date, would not be replaced in the interest of not making the House too large.

I understand that point. As is normally the case with the noble Baroness, it is sharp, perceptive and fair.

I am conscious that the House would like to move forward. I will say a brief word on the Motion that was moved by my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood and about our powers of regulation in this area. The Leader’s Group got it right when it said that it could not recommend a moratorium on new appointments to the House. That must be correct. The Life Peerages Act 1958 gives the Queen the power to create peerages for life, with the right,

“to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords and sit and vote therein accordingly”.

Therefore, I agree with the way that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and my noble friend Lord Cormack approached the issue. I cannot see that our right as an individual House to self-regulate includes the power to override that Act of Parliament.

I have set out why I believe that the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lord Steel calls for much action that has already been taken, and restraint that has been exercised. I have listened to the debate and recognise clearly that Members on all sides feel very strongly about the question of size. However, I hope that the figures that I shared with the House demonstrate that some beliefs about the issue of overall size are not quite borne out by the facts.

I believe very strongly that we must do more to accommodate rising attendance and the consequent increase in demand from Members, especially newer Members, for opportunities to take part in our work. I have strong sympathy with those who are uncomfortable about Members convicted of a serious prisonable offence returning to the House. Pending primary legislation to exclude Members on those grounds, I would certainly support steps to explore measures that we ourselves might take to discourage Members in that category from taking part in the work of our House.

Those are two areas in which we can help ourselves. On the remainder, noble Lords have set out their clear views forcefully. I have attempted to set out the Government’s position. I have no doubt that our discussions, both on the Floor and elsewhere, will continue. I will certainly play my part in those. In the mean time, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, will withdraw his amendment.

My noble friend asked for restraint. Perhaps I may suggest some restraint on the part of Her Majesty’s Government. I can think of no more appropriate opportunity to put this point. I have watched the House of Commons for a great many years. I have noticed how it changes during a Parliament. At the beginning of a Parliament, the wisdom and experience of those who have served is diluted by many who come in with their head full of theories but no understanding of what the effects would be. As we have been not promised but led to expect legislation in the next Parliament, perhaps I may ask my noble friend to exercise his greatest efforts to see that reform is not undertaken in the first two years, so that those who talk about it will know about it.

My Lords, I am always in favour of people knowing about the things that they are talking about. I always listen with great care to what my noble friend Lord Elton says.

My Lords, I shall respond very briefly. I welcome the willingness of the Leader of the House to seek advice from Members of your Lordships’ House. He is a fresh pair of eyes and we very much look forward to working with him. I also very much support his work in trying to encourage Members who perhaps are not as active as possible to participate more in the future. Ultimately, though, I was disappointed with his response. He started to trade statistics and there always seems to be a risk in doing so. My general conclusion is that whatever Government are in power, in general and over time that governing party will tend to see an increase in the number of seats they hold in the House of Lords. I certainly agree that we need fresh blood form time to time, and I actually agree that restraint has been shown so far. As the noble Lord, Lord Elton, said, the issue is the future. The rumours which have been around this House for quite a long time now are that the Government want to make a very large number of new appointments in the next few weeks or months. Above all, I hope that the noble Lord will consider this. The plea of restraint is very much directed at those future appointments.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, helpfully reminded the House of my own views on Lords reform. I was hoping that my noble friends behind me might forget that, but they are right—I have consistently voted in favour of an elected House. However, the Leader of the House essentially says that because the Commons voted at Second Reading for Mr Clegg’s Bill, that means that it would be wrong to put to them proposals for incremental housekeeping. As someone who favours an elected House I strongly refute that. First of all, that Bill did not go through. Secondly, under the proposals of Mr Clegg, or indeed those of my right honourable friend Mr Straw, if a party pledged an elected House of Lords and that party came into power in 2015, the first element of elected Members would not come to your Lordships’ House before 2020. That is seven years away. For the Leader of the House to say that no useful housekeeping or incremental change can take place before that moment is a matter of regret. I think that is the implication of what he said.

I do not think that we can wait. We need to indicate to the Government that sensible change ought to happen as soon as possible and say that we very much hope that restraint will be exercised in the appointment of new Members. It is important that the House has a way of indicating its support for those intentions, so I will put this to the vote.

My Lords, I beg to move formally the substantive Motion as amended and, in doing so, would say simply that the House has spoken very clearly, which I hope will strengthen the hand of the Leader of the House in future discussions with the Government.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Succession to the Crown Bill

Committee

Relevant documents: 14th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee and 11th Report from the Constitution Committee

Clause 1 : Succession to the Crown not to depend on gender

Amendment 1

Moved by

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, leave out “28 October 2011” and insert “31 December 2060”

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will hesitate for a moment or two so that colleagues can leave the Chamber. We will then take his Amendment 1.

My Lords, I have never quite understood, and do not now understand, why it is thought so necessary that this Bill should be driven through with such speed. The plain fact is that the arrangements it seeks to change—I do not disagree with all of them—have been in place in some cases for many hundreds of years. Why we need not only to drive the Bill through swiftly but also to backdate one of its provisions is not immediately obvious to me. I therefore propose that, at the end of the first clause, we should provide that it should come into effect in, say, 50 years’ time, which is a very short time in relation to how long these arrangements have been in place. That would be an appropriate change to the Bill and I beg to move.

My Lords, given that we support the Bill, this amendment does sound rather like, “Please make me chaste, but not quite yet”. Some of us have waited, particularly for the first part of it, for many years and we certainly would not want to see any delay. Therefore, we hope that the amendment will not be passed.

My Lords, I want to add a note of concern to that of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne by referring to the report on the Succession to the Crown Bill produced by the Constitution Committee, which holds the strong view that there is no need for haste.

My Lords, the effect of my noble friend’s amendment would be, as he has indicated, to delay the removal of the male gender bias in the line of succession for almost 50 years. Perhaps I may pick up the point made by my noble friend Lord Elton and his reference to the report of your Lordships’ Constitution Committee. It is fair to say that since that committee reported, there has not been any undue haste. The time made available for debate on this Bill in the other place was not even fully used up, and in your Lordships’ House we are proceeding in the normal fashion with the appropriate elapses of time between the different stages. There is certainly no intention to cut short the debate in this House.

My noble friend has asked why we are doing this now and at this speed. The position is that the Prime Ministers of 16 Commonwealth nations, of which Her Majesty is the head of state, agreed during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Perth in October 2011—that is why the date has been put into the Bill—to work together towards a common approach to amending the rules on the succession to their respective Crowns. It is fair to say that that was the product of considerable work and discussion over many years. Indeed, discussions were ongoing during the previous Administration in this country. All these countries wish to see change in two areas, the first of which is covered by this clause, and that is to end the system of male preference primogeniture, under which a younger son can displace an elder daughter in the line of succession. It is right and appropriate that this clause will remove a piece of long-standing discrimination against women that may well have been acceptable in earlier centuries, to which my noble friend referred. This provision will modernise and affirm the place of our constitutional monarchy.

At Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, said that:

“If in the future within the line of succession a younger son were to take precedence over an older daughter, it would seem to be at least controversial and at worst discriminatory, out of date and out of touch. To make this change now, therefore, strengthens the monarchy because it avoids any risk of such deep controversy”.—[Official Report, 14/2/13; col. 802.]

That is why this is an appropriate time to make the change, because it will be done without affecting anyone who currently would have a prior claim on the throne. If, however, we wait for a situation where there may be a daughter and then a younger brother, and we tried to make the change then, it is inevitable that that would be more controversial.

Perhaps it is also worth reflecting that if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have as their first born a son, have only sons or, indeed, have only daughters, the effect of this clause may not bite until the next generation, possibly after 2060. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, made clear, it would be controversial and possibly even destabilising to the monarchy to have this kind of debate at that point. We look forward to the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child knowing that we can celebrate, when this Bill is passed, that whether the baby is a boy or a girl they will have an equal claim to the Throne. I therefore invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I hope that we will not hear too much more about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference where it was all said to be agreed. These matters are not agreed by ministerial diktat, however senior and distinguished the Ministers may be, but by the Parliaments of the countries concerned, and in some cases by a referendum as well. When the Heads of Government agreed all this in Perth back in 2010, it was subject to parliamentary approval in the relevant countries. That parliamentary approval has not yet been received, not least in this country. I hope very much that we will be thinking in terms of parliamentary approval rather than ministerial diktat, upon which my noble and learned friend seems to be relying.

I entirely accept what my noble friend says on the importance of the Parliaments; indeed some of the realms do not necessarily feel they need parliamentary approval, but obviously in this country we do. I am sure that he would agree that we needed prior agreement before any measures could go forward to the respective Parliaments.

Yes, but that is not included in this clause. That said, I do not wish to delay your Lordships on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Amendment 2 not moved.

Clause 1 agreed.

Amendment 3

Moved by

3: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Succession to the Duchy of Cornwall not to depend on gender

In determining the succession to the Duchy of Cornwall, the gender of a person born after 28 October 2011 does not give that person, or that person’s decendants, precedence over any other person (whenever born).”

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 3. If His Royal Highness and the Duchess of Cambridge have a daughter, she may, thanks to the Bill, be able to become queen. However, she cannot as of right become Duchess of Cornwall or Countess of Merioneth. That seems to be an anomaly, particularly with the Prime Minister’s focus on equality. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the amendment. I do so because many years ago when I was a struggling barrister, I was appointed Attorney-General to the Prince of Wales, which carried with it also being Attorney-General to the Duchy of Cornwall. Therefore, I do have some—albeit from rather long ago—experience of what the Duchy of Cornwall is and how it works.

In his reply to the Second Reading debate, the noble and learned Lord made three points, at column 830, about how the Duchy of Cornwall would be affected if this Bill becomes law, as I hope it will. I very much apologise that I was unable to be present, but I was abroad. First, he pointed out that Princess Elizabeth, when heir to the Throne, did not become the Duke of Cornwall. Secondly, he pointed out that if the Bill becomes law and the heir to the Throne is a daughter, the title would go into abeyance in the ordinary way. Thirdly, he pointed out that if the heir to the Throne is a daughter, she will not suffer financially from the title going into abeyance because of the Sovereign Grants Act 2011, to which the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, had drawn attention during the debate.

As to the first point, it is of course true that the title fell into abeyance when Princess Elizabeth was heir to the Throne. As to the third point, it is clear that the heir to the Throne will not suffer financially anyway, so to some extent we can disregard that as a relevant point. However, I question the second point, and whether there is any need for the title to go into abeyance. Why, I ask the noble and learned Lord, should it?

It seems to me that to enable the heir to the Throne to become Duke of Cornwall if female is the logical extension of the provisions of this Bill. It is within—if only just—the royal title. Obviously, there is no difficulty in a female heir to the Throne being called the Duke of Cornwall because, as we all know, the Queen is also the Duke of Lancaster. In addition to what I submit is the logical extension of this Bill, there is a practical reason why I support this amendment.

I remember very well meetings of the Duchy council, which the Prince of Wales, then a very young man, would always attend. He took a close interest in the affairs of the Duchy. One must remember that we are not talking about just a paper title but a large estate and what has become a large business in recent years. It is my belief that the Prince of Wales’s experience in chairing the Duchy council and dealing with a large estate and matters of business has served him very well in subsequent years.

That experience, which has served the present Prince of Wales well, should not be denied to a future heir to the Throne if she is a woman. In fact, one might almost say it is all the more important that she should, as heir to the Throne, have the sort of experience that the present Prince of Wales has had. I hope that that experience will become available irrespective of the gender of the heir to the Throne. This may come as a bit of a surprise to the noble and learned Lord, but perhaps he will consider the matter and take advice from the Duchy of Cornwall itself if necessary—I could perhaps give him advice—that this is a sensible extension of the Bill.

My Lords, I, too, support this amendment and will add a small footnote to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, has just said. I understand that an amendment would be needed to the Duchy’s founding charter, drawn up in 1337, to enable a female heir to inherit. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, stressed, this is a Bill that provides for gender equality. If that principle is to be fully and completely embodied in it, action must surely be taken to revise the founding charter of the Duchy of Cornwall so that a female heir to the Crown can succeed to it.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, so wisely pointed out, there is a further practical consideration. If the Duchy is not held by an individual but placed in abeyance and administered by its council, there is a real risk that its affairs will not be administered with efficiency and skill. There is a strong view held by many that the absence of a Duke of Cornwall between 1936 and 1958 led to a serious decline in the running of its estates and other properties, a decline from which the present Duke, now the Prince of Wales, successfully rescued it. For these reasons, I support this amendment.

My Lords, I, too, support my noble friend’s very important amendment. I was going to make the point that I have heard repeated again and again—which my noble friend Lord Lexden has made very strongly for me—that not only does the Duke of Cornwall need a Duchy but the Duchy needs a Duke. Estates, businesses, or whatever you may choose to call them in the modern day and age, that are run by councils, groups of trustees or boards of directors are all very well but in the case particularly of a large agricultural estate such as the Duchy or Cornwall—and there is none larger or better run—the present Duchy of Cornwall runs so well because the Duke of Cornwall has taken such an interest in it, and if there were not a Duke, regardless of that Duke’s sex, I think that would not happen. My noble friend Lord Lexden’s point is absolutely valid.

Another point that has been made, which I will repeat, is that the splitting apart of ancient titles is unsatisfactory and untidy. In dealing with important constitutional matters, although these are technicalities and perhaps of interest only to historians, politicians and noble Lords who can be bothered to spend their Thursday afternoons in your Lordships’ House, they are important matters and need to be done tidily. I do not think they are done tidily in the Bill.

Lastly, when my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace responds, will he assure the House that the Duke of Cornwall—the Prince of Wales—was consulted over this and that he is comfortable with the way in which the Bill is going forward? I do not wish my noble and learned friend the Minister to breach any confidences or step outside the correct procedures but it would give comfort to the House to know that the Government had consulted His Royal Highness and that the Duchy and the council and the Duke of Cornwall himself were comfortable with the way in which this is proceeding.

My Lords, I do not intend to delay your Lordships on this matter. All I will say is that a number of years ago now I had to deal with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in his capacity as the Duke of Cornwall in connection with the use of Dartmoor as a military training area. He dealt with it with enormous skill and understanding and we were grateful to him for that. If this amendment seeks to preserve and encourage those arrangements, I am in favour of it.

My Lords, I support this amendment, but for rather different reasons from those of some other noble Lords who have spoken. It is ironic to me that we are having a debate, quite rightly, about equality between men and women in inheriting titles. I understood from what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, said at Second Reading that if the next heir to the Throne is a lady, she could be called either the Prince of Wales or the Princess of Wales—heaven knows; I would have thought she would be a princess, but I am no expert. If she can be called the Princess of Wales, why can she not be called the Duchess of Cornwall, or the Duke of Cornwall, or whichever way we want to put it? It seems extraordinary, really.

At Second Reading, I spoke about a number of issues that I had with the current structure of the duchy: whether it is in the private or public sector; what it does with its revenue; and the ability of the Prince of Wales to approve legislation. Frankly, this is one of the few Bills that he and Her Majesty should have a view on because it affects them in their roles. However, there are an awful lot of other issues on which I have not put amendments down because I was advised that they were a bit outside the Long Title, so I shall be looking to prepare and propose a Private Member’s Bill on some of these issues in the next Session, I hope. When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, said that he had been Attorney-General to the Duchy of Cornwall, I thought, “Fine, the Duchy is getting free legal advice from some of the best lawyers in the land”. However, it then goes to tribunals and says it is a private organisation. Well, no other private organisations get free legal advice from an attorney-general. There are many other issues to discuss on that, but I support the amendment as a logical extension to the Bill. I look forward to hearing the Government’s response.

My Lords, we are dealing with anomalies here and seeking to remove them. One reason we are doing that is because it sends a very clear signal about the attitude of the state towards certain issues. That is why so many of us are such supporters of the removal of gender discrimination in this way.

I genuinely find it difficult to understand why, if we are going to do that, we have not thought through one or two other things that are also signals. The concept of the heir to the Throne having this remarkable opportunity, which history has given them, of running a significant estate and dealing with significant matters of business is something that has characterised the monarchy for a long time and has given the present heir a remarkable opportunity, which he has used to huge effect.

I do not think it right to put before the House a Bill that specifically denies a female heir that opportunity. I know what will happen. She will in effect be the Duchess of Cornwall. I have no doubt that she will be asked to take the chair. I have no doubt that all this will happen. But what I find so difficult—I rise on this point only because it is a continuing concern of mine—is that we do not understand that when you decide you are going to deal with an anomaly, you have to deal with it. You cannot say, “I am going to deal with this bit of it, but I have a particular concern that it would mean changing something that happened in 13-something”. What a good opportunity to remind people of the great length of our history and of the fact that at this moment something has changed and we want to put it right.

So far I have found the Government at their least compelling when they have found it impossible to recognise that these things hang together. I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, can accept that this will not make any difference in the other countries of the Commonwealth. No one will say, “I am frightfully sorry, I cannot vote for this because I am not prepared to give the Duchy of Cornwall to a female”. Surely this is something we can sort out properly. If the argument is that this might affect the issue of primogeniture with regard to your Lordships’ House and those who were once in it, then the answer is simple: this whole Bill is about the monarchy. We are talking about the monarchy. We are not talking about anybody else. Nothing inevitably comes from this, except possibly a spirit of change. There is nothing that is a precedent.

On this occasion, could we please see that this is a sensible thing to do? Would it not be good to do a sensible thing because it is sensible, rather than to argue about it because there is another argument?

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Deben has been singing from the same song sheet as my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. In effect, he is saying that this is too complicated to rush and we need more time on much more detail. We are on only the third amendment and already we are looking at a series of complexities which have not so far been considered. This Bill is riddled with the potential for unintended consequences of the type we are talking about. We need much more thought and much more time. In the two weeks since Second Reading I have had a great many communications from your Lordships, mostly disagreeing with something I said on that occasion. I have a shortlist of what the principle points are and they are not really addressed in the process today.

First is the point that no Parliament may bind its successors. One of my contentions is that the deed of rights does effectively bind its successors, as does the Act of Settlement. The question of entrenchment was not considered at all, yet it is fundamental to that issue. There is the issue of the sovereignty of Parliament and of the Crown. The Crown in Parliament is a special factor and an expression which needs to be redefined in that context. There is also the question of the limitations that the Bill seeks to avoid and thus whether the constraints which normally apply do not apply to the limitations of power. Amazingly, one of your Lordships accused me of committing “desuetude”. I do not have a clue what desuetude is, but I assure you that it has nothing to do with what has been going on in the Liberal Democrat party.

If the tabloids think they have a new story, I wish to make the point that this Tory Peer has never done desuetude in his life as far as he is aware and if he did, it was an accident and he was lured into it unawares. I found that desuetude is not recognised under British law and does not apply, so we can kick it into touch. On all the other issues, particularly the right of this House to accept the delegation of the royal prerogative, I stand firmly in my belief that we do not have the right to act accordingly and we have been ill advised and inadequately advised about our proper role and authority.

We do not have time available for all these great issues. My concern is that although we could go into them individually now or at some other time, at the rate we can process with this, we do not have enough days or months available to consider this important Bill. I am not opposed to it, but I will leave your Lordships with two thoughts. There are two awful, unintended consequences which we have not thought of. First, if we pass this Bill we have effectively done away with the need for a Scottish referendum because we have driven a coach and horses through the 1707 Act of Union. It no longer exists because you cannot pass this Bill compatibly with the separate proclamation and coronation oaths required by the 1707 Act.

Secondly—and I hate to say this—I fear that if we pass this Bill we have in effect created what will amount to the accidental and unintended abdication Bill. I cannot see how this Bill can be given Royal Assent, and without it, it cannot pass. In those circumstances, the only way it could ever be passed is during an interregnum, which can happen only with the death of a monarch or an abdication. There would then have to be an interval of several days before the proclamation of the new monarch in which this Bill could be passed. I cannot see that it could be done in any other way. We are in an area of total ignorance and floundering. We need more time and more guidance.

My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook. In particular I endorse everything said by my noble friends Lord Lexden and Lord Mancroft. One point to make by way of modest qualification is that I understand there are a number of other dukedoms and titles held by the Prince of Wales which might also need to be changed and modified to bring them into the needs of this Bill. As long as this does not delay action on the Duchy of Cornwall, I hope that the Duchy of Lancaster and any other such duchies should be looked at quickly as well. It would be better to have one composite solution to the problem rather than a piecemeal one.

My Lords, I have a question for the noble Lord, Lord James. As far as I recall, he spoke at Second Reading about the House committing collective treason. Why has he not put down some amendments in Committee to take these arguments forward, so we do not all commit treason?

My Lords, I sought guidance on this. I did not get adequate guidance to enable me to formulate a wording which I could see was appropriate. I wholly agree that it is required. Given time it can be done, but we do not have time.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, says, the issue is a sensible one. I then break with the tradition of everyone else who has spoken by saying it may be a sensible issue, but the issue is about property, the ownership of an estate, about title—as reflected in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Lang—or about a business, in the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. While it may be an important issue, it is not about the constitution of this country and therefore not really appropriate to what is an important and, in our view, welcome change in our laws of succession. That is what this Bill is really about.

It is quite possible that the founding charter governing the Duchy of Cornwall may need changing—I had not realised that it was in 1337. Interestingly, 600 years after that, from 1937 to 1952, the title fell into abeyance. Our present monarch seems to have done a fantastic job without the benefit of being the Duke of Cornwall in that period, so I am not certain that this needs to be done. If it does, it should be done by another way and not in this Bill, which is about our rules of succession. I hope that this is what your Lordships’ House will address itself to.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Northbrook for introducing this amendment, which has generated a considerable amount of debate and discussion. I understand where he and other noble Lords who contributed to the debate are coming from as they seek to remove gender bias in the descent of the Duchy of Cornwall. I will try to clarify the current situation. The title can pass only to the eldest son and heir of the monarch. Thus—as has been indicated—when she was heir presumptive to the throne, Her Majesty, as Princess Elizabeth, did not hold the title of Duke of Cornwall.

As has been said, the title and inheritance of the Duchy were created by King Edward III in 1337, and vested in the Black Prince by a charter having the authority of Parliament. My noble friend Lord Deben said that this was an opportunity seek to remove anomalies. It is fair to say that this one is perhaps even slightly more anomalous than it might appear on the surface. The mode of descent specified by the charter is unusual, and differs from that which commonly occurs in respect of hereditary titles. The monarch’s eldest son is automatically Duke of Cornwall immediately that he becomes heir apparent. However, if the monarch has a son who is the heir apparent and that son dies before the monarch, leaving a son of his own—a grandson of the monarch—the grandson would become heir apparent but would not be Duke of Cornwall because he is not the son of the monarch. It is not just a question of daughters not inheriting the title; it would be that grandsons did not, either.

With the Duchy of Cornwall we therefore have an unusual and interesting piece of English history that does not conform to the standard rules of descent for hereditary titles. However, it is exactly that: a piece of English history and not an issue that is of direct relevance to the succession to the Crown—as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, indicated—nor to the other realms of the Commonwealth. I made it clear at Second Reading that it is not the Government’s intention to deal in this legislation with UK-specific matters. This amendment very much falls into that category.

My noble friend Lord Lang referred to other titles, to which the same arguments apply. I tried during my reply at Second Reading to set out what would happen to these. I am happy to write to my noble friend to outline the cases in these situations.

My Lords, when the Minister writes to our noble friend Lord Lang on the various other titles, would he include an answer to the point I raised at Second Reading: whether the Princedom of Wales can be passed to a female if the sovereign of the day so decides? He was not able to give me an answer to that at Second Reading, as I recall. If he could touch on the matter in his letter to our noble friend Lord Lang, I would be greatly obliged.

My Lords, I understand that the creation of the Princedom of Wales, let along the matter of it going to a daughter, is very much a matter for the personal decision of the sovereign. The current Prince of Wales did not automatically become Prince of Wales upon Her Majesty’s accession in 1952; that did not happen until 1958. It is a matter for the sovereign, and I will seek to set that out in a letter which I will copy to others who contribute to this debate.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, raised a query about the efficient running of the estate between 1936 and 1952. There have of course throughout history been stretches when there has been no Duke of Cornwall, and the Duchy continues to today. I pay tribute to the leadership which the present Duke of Cornwall has given. When I was in the other place, my constituency, Orkney and Shetland, could not have been more remote from Cornwall. Even in Orkney and Shetland, however, we were aware of the work of the Duke of Cornwall on his estate. I see my noble friend Lord Maclennan of Rogart in his place. Certainly, closer to home, I know of the work of the Duke of Rothesay in respect of the Castle of Mey estates since he inherited them from his late grandmother. Those tributes were rightly paid.

As a footnote, I also commend the Duke of Cornwall for the work that he has done in setting up the North Highland Initiative: three separate charitable companies to promote the well-being of the area.

Indeed. I certainly am aware of that and the contribution that my noble friend has also played in these developments.

As was perhaps surmised by my noble friend Lord Deben, there is of course nothing to stop a female heir having an active role in the running of the Duchy, but that would be a matter for the sovereign to decide at the appropriate time. As has already been recognised, a female heir apparent will not find herself at a financial disadvantage. The Sovereign Grant Act 2011 broadly ensures that financial provision equivalent to the income from the Duchy is made for the heir apparent.

As was indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, the Bill seeks to achieve three things set out in the first three clauses. It is about succession to the Crown. It is relevant to the other realms of which Her Majesty is Queen and head of state. I do not believe that this is the legislative vehicle in which to address a number of the other issues which have been raised. For these reasons I invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate—to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for his useful contribution on legal aspects; and to the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, for his observation that the Duchy’s founding charter would have to be changed and his comment about the serious decline in the fortunes of the Duchy when there was no Duke of Cornwall. My noble friend Lord Mancroft made a good point about whether there has been consultation with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I also noted the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, about denying a female heir the opportunity of being Duchess of Cornwall.

I am still not entirely familiar with my noble friend Lord James of Blackheath’s meaning of “desuetude”. I took note of the comments of my noble friend Lord Lang of Monkton about other changes that might be necessary. What the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, said about a grandson not automatically inheriting was interesting. I am concerned that when you open the box and the genie of unintended consequences comes out on this Bill, all these issues need to be looked at.

There has been a lot of interest in this amendment. I will seek further discussions with the Minister before Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 3 withdrawn.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do resume. In doing so, I draw the attention of noble Lords to the debate that follows, on which the timing is very tight. I invite noble Lords to keep to their allocated time.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 2.48 pm.

Research Councils UK: Open Access Policy (S&T Report)

Question for Short Debate

Tabled By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the third report of the Science and Technology Committee, what assessment they have made of the implications of Research Councils UK’s open access policy.

My Lords, this debate follows the publication of a short inquiry by the Science and Technology Committee into the implementation of the policy of open access. I start by thanking the members of the Select Committee for their excellent contributions to this short inquiry.

Open access is the most radical transformation in academic publishing since the first scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, was published in 1665. As an aside, when I talk about “science” in the next few minutes, I use the word to be akin to the German “Wissenschaft”, meaning scholarship, learning and research across all disciplines including the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

The challenges of the transition to open access apply to all academic disciplines, although the details may vary from subject to subject. I will first explain the traditional model of scientific publishing. Researchers, having garnered results and written them up, submit a paper to a scientific journal, which has an editor who sends the paper out for peer review, decides whether or not to accept the paper for publication and, if revisions are needed, supervises those. The publisher then edits the revised paper and prints it.

The significant costs of that process are born by individuals or institutions paying subscriptions to the journal. It is a model in which the consumer rather than the producer pays for access to academic research. Some journals are purely commercial enterprises, but many are owned by learned societies that use the profits from publishing to support research, such as sponsoring studentships or conferences in their own discipline.

This traditional model has been radically changed in the past decade or so by the advent of online publishing, which presents the possibility of anyone, anywhere in the world, accessing scientific articles. Part of this disruptive change has been an increasing shift to open access, meaning that the consumer can read the literature free of charge. Perhaps the great majority of academic journals now allow readers free access but usually only after a delay following publication; this delay, or embargo, on free access enables the journals to maintain their subscription-based model and people or institutions that pay get a head start in reading the latest articles.

There is also rapid growth in a more radical form of open access, in which the producer or author of the article pays the full costs of having it refereed and published via a so-called article publishing charge or APC. The consumer therefore gets free, immediate access and there is no embargo. In the jargon of the trade, the embargo model is known as green open access while the instant access, the producer-pays model, is known as gold open access; some journals operate a hybrid system.

Recognising that this landscape is changing very rapidly, the Government commissioned a report on the topic and advice on how to proceed. The report was produced last year by a stakeholder group chaired by Dame Janet Finch, the former vice-chancellor of Keele. The Government agreed that the recommendations of the Finch report would be implemented forthwith.

That is the background; why did we carry out our inquiry? We were not questioning the move to open access. It is an inexorable trend and it is generally considered to be desirable that everybody should have access free of charge to new research results and data. We had, however, heard informally from both publishers and academics that the implementation plan following the Finch review was not proceeding adequately. In the words of one commentator, we were heading for a “car crash” on 1 April 2013, the date for the implementation of Finch recommendations. We therefore inquired, as a matter of urgency, into what was happening in order to identify the root of the problems and make appropriate recommendations and report well before 1 April. We have done that, and our report has been welcomed by all stakeholders. The bodies responsible for implementing the Government’s policy are the Research Councils UK—the RCUK—and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. They are providing funding to cover the costs to the author of publishing scientific research under the preferred gold model.

Here are some of the key issues that emerged from our inquiry about this transition. The first, and perhaps most important, relates to embargo periods. It is generally recognised that for the foreseeable future, most journals will operate a hybrid of gold and green open access even if, as the Government wish, gold is the final destination. Therefore, a crucial question for both the publishers and for academics is the length of embargo periods. For publishers, longer embargos are more likely to sustain the subscription-based model. The Government’s position has been that the starting point should be flexible, allowing for longer embargo periods but moving gradually to shorter periods. However, the research councils, through RCUK policy and guidance, require an instant change for all research funded by the councils to short embargo periods. Crucially and happily, in its evidence to our inquiry, RCUK appeared to change its position and said that it would adopt the flexible starting point that is the Government’s policy.

Can the Minister confirm that RCUK will revise its policy and guidance, as we recommend, to reflect that it will adopt a flexible position and that the research councils will explicitly refer to the “decision tree” on embargos endorsed by BIS and the Publishers Association? This tree makes it explicit that if the author does not have access to funds to pay for the APC—in the early years RCUK expects to fund about only half the APCs—longer embargo periods are acceptable. Will the Minister also confirm that the policy of the Higher Education Funding Council for England will align with that of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills?

Our inquiry also highlighted the possibility of various unintended consequences of the open access policy, as well as lack of clarity. For example, who will pay for the APCs when UK research council-funded scientists are collaborating with scientists from other countries, as happens in many of the top laboratories? Is the UK taxpayer to subsidise other countries’ scientists? This has not yet been clarified. Will there be a race to the bottom, in which journals cut corners in peer review and editing to minimise their charges to authors? Will UK scientists be allowed to publish in journals that do not comply with RCUK policies? Could charging for publishing drive scientists from other countries away from UK journals? Academic journal publishing is a significant industry with a turnover of more than £1 billion a year and 80% of that is export.

These, along with a number of other points, emphasise that the UK is entering unchartered territory. It is one of the first countries to adopt an open access policy with a stated preference for gold open access. Can the Minister therefore confirm that, as we recommend, RCUK will carefully monitor the consequences of the new policy, not only in 2014 but also at further stages during the five year implementation phase? We suggest reviews in 2016 and 2018. We also suggest that, if the unintended consequences and disadvantages turn out to be more significant than anticipated, the RCUK should modify its policy. Other noble Lords may refer to the implications for learned societies, so I will not address that issue here. Let me end with two final points.

RCUK’s consultation was clearly inadequate. We recommend, and I seek the Minister’s confirmation that this will be accepted, that BIS should undertake a review of the consultation process and ensure that lessons are learned. Finally, we were surprised to find that, although there was much talk of the benefits of open access, no analysis of these benefits has been done, either by BIS or by RCUK. Does the Minister agree that in implementing one of the most fundamental changes in academic publishing in 350 years, it would be appropriate to understand the benefits, especially in light of the considerable costs to the science base involved? Open access is a disruptive change to academic publishing. It is potentially beneficial and desirable but it must be introduced with clarity and care if it is not to have unexpected disadvantageous consequences to the UK science base.

The House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for introducing what is to many a complex subject but one, as he pointed out, which has radical implications for academic publishing. He very clearly set out some of the knotty issues which must be rapidly resolved. In this inquiry conducted by the Select Committee the process has been as valuable as the product. When we invited written evidence, we rapidly received more than 60 submissions, just about all accepting the principle of moving towards open access—not an issue, as the noble Lord has explained—but with greatly differing views on the wisdom of the present preferences and timetable of the Government and the research councils to achieve this desirable aim.

Having recognised that this is a desirable aim, we should be highly supportive of the leaders in this field; the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust have led in this respect. The MRC open access mandate has been in place since 2006 and compliance with this mandate has increased from about 24% in 2006 to almost half last year, and at the end of the transitional period proposed by the research councils of five years they hope to achieve 100% compliance.

For the areas of biomedical research with which the Medical Research Council is concerned, without doubt the gold open access model has much to favour it. That certainly is why the MRC and the other research councils have preferred the gold open access model over the green. As well as dispensing with the need for embargoes, it lends itself well to some of the quite sophisticated procedures nowadays, such as text and data mining, all of which have enormous commercial importance and importance in promoting the dissemination of knowledge.

As we have just heard, the gold model requires article processing charges—APCs—and in the case of the Wellcome Trust, the cost, which it calculated at between l% and 1.5% of its total research spend, has been met by the trust. It simply says it believes that in the field of biomedical research, the benefits flowing from open access more than justify the additional cost. It strongly supports the commitment of the research councils to provide funding via institutional block grants to meet the cost of gold open access APCs.

As the Select Committee notes, there is considerable doubt as to whether everyone who wants to publish via the gold route will be funded for the APCs. It further notes that, while the principle of favouring open access was almost universally accepted, the one-size-fits-all approach certainly was not. It is evident that the research councils now accept this and are prepared to be much more pragmatic and flexible than perhaps the original proposals seemed to imply.

The concerns of a number of organisations were particularly centred on the risk of being the first mover. While in biomedical research it is certain that the gold open access route ultimately will be followed by most other countries, it is by no means evident for other disciplines, particularly but not exclusively the humanities and social sciences. The green route, once a suitable repository is in place—many obviously now are in place—is a cheaper route. It does not rely on APCs, which at least in the early stage will have to be rationed. The very real difficulty of some researchers, such as independent scholars, in finding up-front funding for their APC is met by the green route. They have no problems. It is true that embargo periods will restrict the flow of research findings for a period but in practice we have already seen that in many cases this does not present insuperable problems for many disciplines. In other words, people are finding ways around it in so far as it represents an issue.

Subscription journals will not all wither and die. Some will be here for many more years. Therefore, having identified the direction of travel, it will be as well to recognise this and other concerns, and to ensure that in our enthusiasm for being an international leader we do not do ourselves an unnecessary disservice. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, referred to the problems for periodicals, particularly those of learned societies. These learned societies very often rely on subscription journals for promoting their charitable objectives and their discipline, including public outreach, bursaries for students and fellowships, all of which are commendable causes. However, one has to recognise that periodicals and subscription journals first and foremost are there to disseminate knowledge. Clearly, they will have to move with the times and recognise, as the noble Lord reminded us, that things have changed dramatically in academic publishing.

Nevertheless, it is important to ensure that the transition, although abrupt as it will eventually have to be in many ways, is carried out as expeditiously as possible. It is clear that for some the repository route and green open access will not be what the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills called in its written evidence to us a legitimate second-best alternative gold. However, for some it still will remain a perfectly viable option and a legitimate, long-term strategy. For that reason, I welcome the response of the research councils to our report, which recognises that this possibility should at least be tested in future months and years.

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for introducing this debate. I should begin by saying unequivocally that I am in favour of the open access to academic journals for anyone, without distinction or qualification. Having said as much, I declare that I am not in favour of the proposals of the Finch report. I shall voice my severe misgivings later.

The backdrop to these proposals is the manner in which digital technology has impacted upon the production of the journals and the manner in which their vast legacy is nowadays handled and controlled. At present, a few overpowerful commercial suppliers are dominating the markets for academic journals. They are deriving excessive profits from their position as virtual monopolists. The profitability of these enterprises can be explained by their market power and by the extraordinarily favourable way in which they acquire their principal assets, which are texts for publication. They are in possession of valuable legacies of published material stretching back in time, often by as much as a century, from which they can derive considerable rents by granting access to their electronic archives.

To my knowledge, the oldest collection of back issues is from the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which dates back to its beginning in 1665. This collection has been digitised by JSTOR, which is a not-for-profit operation for the electronic archiving of journals that began in 1995 under the auspices of Princeton University. JSTOR represents a countervailing force, which is limiting the strength of the commercial monopolies. The principal clients of the commercial monopolies, the universities, often feel greatly aggrieved. University librarians and bursars are angered by the expense of paying for access to the legacy, which is an expense that cannot be avoided by any institution of higher education that supports research. The academic staff are angered by the manner in which the commercial journals presume upon their time and exploit their labour without offering any financial recompense.

The free services of academics consist not only in the supply of articles for publication but also in their services as editors and referees. In recent times, authors of technical papers have been rendering another valuable service; that is, typesetting the articles. Nowadays, the authors can typeset their own papers in the universally recognised languages of TeX and LaTeX, which can be converted to the publisher’s formats with few, if any, editorial or typographical intercessions.

The outcome is to relieve the authors of unnecessary drudgery and to enhance the profitability of the journals. If anyone wonders why this unpaid labour is supplied so plentifully, the answer is that the achievement of publication is essential to the advancement of an academic career. The journals, therefore, have a captive workforce. The commercial journals have been acutely aware of the threat that digital technology in the hands of its clients can pose to their enterprises and they have taken steps vigorously to protect their interests.

Their greatest fear surely is that the workforce might decide to serve its own interests by publishing rival journals that do not presume to profit financially from their labours. Such journals already are in existence and they are becoming quite numerous. In the main, they dispense entirely with printed volumes and rely on the web freely to disseminate their output. Already, many of these electronic journals have acquired a status and an esteem that is commensurate with that of many of the time-honoured journals. For that reason, they attract submissions of the highest quality.

In my perception, such journals offer a paradigm of open access. There is open access on both sides. Authors can submit their articles without paying submission fees. Access is also free to any reader. I suggest that there is nothing to prevent the national research councils from taking the unprecedented step of providing small subventions to such journals. The monopoly of commercial journals is under threat from such developments. Also, their monopoly over the legacy of journals is only partial. Many of the journals owned by learned societies have contributed their back issues to JSTOR, which, ostensibly, has impeccable charitable motives.

It is against that backdrop that we must scrutinise the recommendations of the Finch report. Before doing so, we should note that the membership of the committee that produced the report contained representatives from the big commercial academic publishers. Surely, it was they who cautioned that the development of open access should not be allowed to destabilise what, in their estimation, is most valuable in the research communications ecosystem; namely, their own position.

From the committee’s deliberations has emerged a recommendation in favour of the so-called gold option. As we know, this proposes that articles should be made available immediately and free of charge in return for a payment by an author, or by their institution, to the publisher of an article processing charge, an APC. An estimate of £1,750 per article has been mooted, which would provide a very generous income to the commercial publishers, seemingly of an assured nature. Where would this money come from? It is blithely assumed that it would be provided by research councils or by the author’s institution, using a block grant given for the purpose. This would surely deny authors access to journals unless they were in receipt of a research grant, or unless they could prevail upon their institution to support their submission. It would give those institutions powerful control over what has hitherto been regarded as the province of an essential academic freedom: the freedom of authors to submit their articles whenever and wherever they choose.

Clearly, not all journals would merit the submission fee, or APC. Journals would be divided into those that were sanctioned to receive the APC and those that were denied it. It would be difficult to start a new journal, because the APC would not be granted before it had established its reputation. The commercial suppliers of established journals would come to occupy impregnable positions, and they would become even more profitable. This is a nightmare scenario, and I hope it will never materialise. Now is the time to stop the prospect of any such eventuality. However, it is doubtful whether the UK has sufficient leverage over the international market to influence it to any great extent. I hope therefore that this will never materialise.

My Lords, I am a member of the Science and Technology Committee and participated in this short inquiry. I would like to thank our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for initiating this inquiry, which I think has been extremely timely. As the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, mentioned, we have already seen some reaction, both from the research councils and from HEFCE, regarding the clarification of their own positions. They have made it clearer that they regard the process of moving to open access as a journey rather than as a one-off, rather disruptive movement.

The report of the working group chaired by Dame Janet Finch was extremely good. It emphasised to a very considerable degree this process of a journey. It noted that it would take time for the world to move towards open access. It said that there was already a very considerable momentum behind that movement, particularly in the world of science journals, but it would be a journey over time. During that period—and indeed for a very considerable time to come—some journals would be published under the gold open-access route and some published under the green open-access route. Under that route, after a period of time, the articles would be placed in a repository and would become available for open access, but with the requirement of an embargo period. Some journals would operate under a hybrid scheme, whereby you could pay upfront to access journals through open access, but the journal would also publish articles for which there was no upfront payment. Those would be put behind a paywall and would be accessible only behind that paywall.

This would mean that, at least in the short run and probably over some period of time, universities would be confronted by a situation in which their libraries would have to continue purchasing the journals concerned as not everybody would be able to use the open access system. Universities would have to pay for their own researchers to make the upfront payment—partly through the research councils or through funders such as Wellcome—if they decided on full gold open access. At the same time they would also have to pay to purchase the journals.

We should bear in mind that the UK publishes only some 6% of the world’s scientific output. Ninety-four per cent of the world’s scientific output comes from other countries. The arguments for gold open access, which in many senses is the best of all worlds—we all acknowledge that it is a very good route to go down—are somewhat similar to the arguments for free trade. If we all indulge in free trade there are very considerable benefits to everybody concerned. On the other hand, if a country moves to open up its markets without other countries also pursuing a free-trade route, then essentially its markets are open to competition but other countries retain protectionism and do not open up their markets. That is a very unsatisfactory situation. It is why the process of opening up towards free trade has been a very long one involving multinational negotiation. The rounds under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and subsequently under WTO took a very long time. Countries sat around the table and essentially traded off particular aspects.

That is not fully taking place in the world of open access. Which way journals are going and which way countries are going is rather arbitrary. As a result of this, we in Britain will be in danger if we move too fast. It is quite clear that the initiative came from BIS. The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, was very anxious that we should be the first mover here and that we should to some extent use this to try to kick-start the multinational process that is moving but needs to be accelerated. There is a danger that we will open up our science to access from the rest of the world without the rest of the world opening up theirs to us.

There is a need to consider the time taken here. There is also a need to monitor what is happening and how far the rest of the world is moving. The diagram on page 13 of our report shows that most countries are very much still using the green-gold hybrid system. More countries are going down the green route than the gold route. It is not yet clear that the general move will be towards gold open access. Green open access is a very real option and it is an alternative. There is therefore a need to monitor what other countries do over the course of time and a need for some form of cost benefit analysis.

Partly because I come from a social science background, I have been extremely concerned about the position of the learned societies. They have faced difficulties in relation to the process, both in terms of time and in terms of the preference for gold open access. It is quite clear that many of these societies exist by subscription, but 80% or 90% of their subscriptions come from overseas subscribers. Regarding access to these journal articles without having to pay a subscription, in the social sciences and the humanities you very often have to wait two years for an article to be published. To have to wait another 12 months for others to access it means very little. The consequence is that for many of these learned societies the whole process of publication is not viable. This raises very important issues which need to be considered. As I say, I am delighted with the reaction we have already had from the research councils and from HEFCE. I look forward to seeing further moves in this direction.

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on gaining this debate. I compliment him on his excellent opening speech, which so clearly explained the issues and the reasoning behind our recommendations. I also compliment Christopher Atkinson, our clerk, who once again provided highly professional support to the committee on this inquiry, which was mounted in a very short time. I join other members of the committee in supporting the recommendations of our report, especially that Research Councils UK should include reference to the five-year implementation phase in its requirements documents so that everyone is aware that it is not asking for a precipitous implementation of its rules. I also feel that the long-term aim of migrating entirely to gold access, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, needs continually to be reviewed. I was particularly troubled by the fact that many of the most important US journals with which I am familiar, and in which I have published, such as Science and the journals of the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society and the IEEE, do not seem to have plans to offer gold access. It would significantly reduce the impact of some of our most important research if they were not available to our researchers in engineering and the physical sciences. I was, however, reassured by David Willetts’s statement that,

“we will be reviewing implementation in 2014 and that will give us flexibility on timing and everything else”.

I wish now, with your Lordships’ indulgence, to talk about something that is not directly a part of this report. It is the complex situation encountered when considering when and how to publish new science that contains ideas that have potential for commercial application. This was not something we considered, although the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and I asked questions of our witnesses about whether the move to open access would have any effect on patents and commercialisation. We were told that this was a separate matter. This was a correct answer in the context of this inquiry, but this matter is none the less of great importance to the UK economy. Over the past few decades there has been a steady shift of research, as opposed to development—unfortunately, we almost universally elide these two—from industry to universities, with a consequent increase in expectation about the potential commercialisation of ideas emerging from academic research. Much of our applied science and engineering research addresses science that is of interest because it has the potential of benefiting mankind through commercial development. Indeed, on examining the 36 units of assessment in the Research Excellence Framework, I identified at least 15 units in which patents might well be one of the outputs.

It is not always the case that early and wide access to research results is good for our economy. One of our witnesses, Professor Walmsley of Oxford University, referred to this issue, saying:

“Our policies internally at Oxford are to try to capture that IP in a manner that is consistent with UK law—i.e. getting the IP protected before one comes out and publishes”.

I am not aware, however, that this is widely practised and can find no advice on this issue in the description and guidance literature for the Research Excellence Framework. Patents are of course recognised output for the REF, and it is stated that all forms of research will be assessed on a fair and equal basis, but there is always a tension between the wish to publish new results and the need to wait until potentially valuable intellectual property has been protected. In fact, the incentives for academic researchers seem strongly biased towards publishing as early and as widely as possible. I am sure that any formal requirement to ensure that IP was protected before publication was approved would be controversial, as it would be regarded as a constraint on academic freedom. To counter this in industry, many leading technology companies, at least in my experience in the US, directly reward employees for their IP output to compensate them for the loss, for a time, of recognition in the wider world for their advances. I have no specific recommendations to make on this issue, but it is a topic that should be considered in depth by the funding councils, the research councils and by vice-chancellors, with the aim of improving our ability to secure the economic potential of our academic research before we share all our ideas with the entire world over the internet. There has never been a time when an increase in our ability to commercialise academic research would be of more benefit to the nation.

My Lords, in the early days of the Royal Society, its secretary, Henry Oldenburg, started Philosophical Transactions. This was the world's first scientific journal. It is still going and was the prototype for the tens of thousands of refereed journals that exist today.

Printed academic journals were a real advance in the 1660s and have served us for 300 years, but they are now surely anachronistic: the legacies of Gutenberg and Oldenburg are not optimal in the age of Zuckerberg. Online journals offer vastly greater ease in tracking down published research and accessing all research resources. It is only with the advent of the internet that open access has become feasible.

Among academics, the open access campaign is pushing at an open door. Researchers like their work to be freely available to everyone, including those with no institutional affiliation, but achieving this goal is a bigger challenge in some disciplines than in others. My own field, physics and astronomy, is more or less there already. That is because of a well organised web archive started in the 1990s by Paul Ginsparg in the US. I look at this archive every day and far less often at actual journals. However, we still value the peer review provided by “traditional” journals and want our papers to appear in one as well—for accreditation reasons rather than for increasing the number of readers. In our field, the journals survive. Theoretical physicists have, in effect, green open access with a zero embargo period. If the paper is published, the journal version appears and remains on the archive. However, I realise that other disciplines are less lucky, with a real gap between current practice and the eventual goal. It is rather sad that, thanks to Paul Ginsparg, the educated public can read everything on superstring theory, which will not enlighten them much, but cannot freely access all comprehensible writings in the humanities.

There is a global move towards open access. Indeed, just last Friday, a paper from Dr John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, enjoined all government agencies to come up with proposals to implement enhanced open access to the results of all the research that they fund. However, what is not clear is whether the so-called “gold” route will be widely followed globally. Let us remember that we publish less than 10% of the world’s research. Unless other countries follow the gold route, we will be paying twice: foreign scientists will benefit from our decision but we will not get a reciprocal benefit. That is why it is important that BIS should assess the value for money and that RCUK and HEFCE should keep the situation under review in an international context.

The open access issue is in any case being overtaken by new media developments. Traditional journals, even in electronic form, are no longer the sole mode of dissemination of scientific results. Blogs and wikis are playing a growing role. It is not obvious that the traditional scientific paper or monograph will, or should, continue as the prime vehicle for communicating science and codifying the consensus.

Even the accreditation role of journals may one day be trumped. Learned societies or groups of universities could organise a refereeing or quality control system which could be grafted on to a web archive and could do this more cheaply than traditional publishers—certainly, than commercial publishers.

What needs to be communicated and accessed is no longer just written texts. Huge data sets now exist in physics, genetics, climate science and other areas. Data mining and mashing will offer new routes to discoveries. One would hope that these data can be accessed and downloaded anywhere by anyone.

Despite the widespread support for open access in academia, academia displays undue rigidity in some respects which plays into the hands of commercial publishers. Surely it is far from optimal that the career prospects of young academics depend on a single monograph or on the bibliometric scores of a few papers. It is even worse if there is an “institutionalised” pecking order of journals, with a frustrating and morale-sapping delay while young authors struggle for acceptance in a top-ranked journal. One of the most deplorable remarks that I heard recently was from a professor responding to the question, “How do you decide whether a paper is good?”, with the reply, “By the journal it’s in”.

Even if our committee’s recommendations are taken into account, implementation of the Finch report will still surely lead to a lot of petty accounting and administration in universities, where the funds made available will cover the cost of gold access for only 10% of Russell Group publications, and petty administration within RCUK and HEFCE, where someone is going to have to monitor the embargo policies and APCs of thousands of journals and deal with the issues when there are foreign co-authors, or when the journal of choice is a foreign one that does not meet our access criteria.

The move is superfluous in subjects like mine. It may have unintended downsides in the very different context of the humanities, as the British Academy in particular has been concerned about. I personally doubt that these elaborate regulations will actually allow new ideas to percolate more freely than would have happened anyway, given the pressures from authors and the rapidly changing IT scene. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has explained, our report took the Finch committee’s recommendations as its starting point, and we should therefore welcome the positive response that it has elicited from those charged with implementing its intricacies.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for securing this debate, and all noble Lords for the contributions that they have made. This has been a very high-quality discussion.

In previous debates of this type, I have complained that often the good work done by your Lordships’ House in terms of its committees has often been spoilt by the long delays between the publication of their reports and the time that we have been allocated in this Chamber in order to discuss them. I was therefore rather startled to read that this report was published only on 22 February 2013, less than one week ago, and I am puzzled by that. I do not expect an answer from the Minister because I am sure that it is not in his hands, but while I am obviously delighted that we are absolutely at the sharp end regarding this report and its impact—rightly so, because it is very important—it is slightly odd that it seems to have jumped the queue in front of other things that we might have been discussing. Nevertheless, we are where we are.

We have all benefited from the committee’s work in this area in terms of what we have heard today, which has raised issues that are at the very heart of the information society, and in particular has also drawn attention to the interesting tension between the business model currently used for academic publishing, particularly for journals, and the aspirations behind open access that were reflected in the Finch review.

We have also learnt during the debate that there are still some queries about whether the Finch review is the last word in this area; I do not think it is. As the noble Lord, Lord Rees, said, in some senses this must be a transitional moment because so much of what is being talked about seems to be pushing at an open door.

Nevertheless, we are left with some questions for the Government to pick up, particularly with regard to the recommendations and conclusions at the end of the report, starting on page 19, some of which need to be put to the Minister in the hope that he will respond positively—in the first place, the need to ensure the clarification of RCUK’s policies, given the work of the committee, particularly the changes to policy guidance to ensure that this is keeping them going on that. I look forward to hearing what progress has been made there.

The report recommends that there is a need to monitor international developments carefully. We know that they approach barriers right across the globe; while it is obviously moving well in this country, it will be successful only to the extent to which we are able to get progress across the other countries with open access policies. Again, are the Government doing all that they can to co-ordinate with other countries what those policies are?

Mention has been made of the pressure that the changes being discussed will place on the learned societies, which we obviously need to keep a close and careful eye on. I would be grateful if the Minister could update us on what stage the discussions have reached on that point.

As I said, this is perhaps a transitional moment but it is also a phased and developed plan and there is a need to commit to review. The recommendations in the report are for a further review in 2016 and then an end-of-stage assessment in 2018. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain what will take place to put these regulations into effect.

There are two points that the Government themselves need to take control over. The first is the full cost-benefit analysis of the open access policy, particularly given the current economic climate. This needs to be brought forward, and I would be grateful if the Minister could update us on that. The other point, particularly in relation to the history of what we have heard about today, is that there was confusion and different perceptions about what RCUK was doing in terms of its consultation process, and we would be grateful if the Minister could comment on that and what progress has been made in making sure that the lessons are learnt about that arrangement.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in today’s debate. This House always benefits from having Peers who can speak with experience about their fields of expertise, and it has been a great privilege to listen to the contributions today from those with such detailed knowledge of our research and academic sectors. I will do my best to answer all the points raised but if I do not have time to cover any specific points, I will ensure that I will write to noble Lords.

The Government’s open access policy for publicly funded published research forms part of the Government’s transparency agenda. It is important that taxpayers should have access to the research that they have funded. Innovation and economic growth stand to benefit if greater utilisation can be made of the results of this research.

The Government’s innovation and research strategy of December 2011 referred to our overarching commitment to transparency and open data. The Government are committed to ensuring that publicly funded published research should be accessible free of charge. Free and open access potentially offers significant social and economic benefits. By spreading knowledge created by the UK’s science base, we will raise the prestige and productivity of UK research and facilitate its even greater use to beneficial effect.

To expand access in such a way that the policy implications would be well understood, the Government facilitated an independent group of stakeholders chaired by Dame Janet Finch. The Finch group concluded in June 2012 that a mixed economy for open access was most appropriate, but with the policy direction set towards “gold open access”. Gold requires payment, by the researcher, of an up-front article processing charge, with the advantage of making the information freely available immediately to all users and without restriction of use. The Government’s open access policy has a strong preference for gold open access but, in keeping with the mixed economy recommended by the Finch group, also accepts “green open access”, which allows the publisher to charge the user a subscription or access fee to reach the published research during an embargo period.

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Universities and Science recently discussed the Government’s open access policy with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, during his Science and Technology Committee’s recent inquiry into open access. The committee’s report, published on 22 February, makes clear that it accepted that the Government are committed to the policy reflected in the Finch group’s recommendations. The committee did not challenge the conclusions of the Finch group or the Government’s open access policy. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for his keen interest and contribution in progressing this important matter.

The Government have also written to the inquiry being held by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee in another place. The Government have made clear that open access entails a journey, not a step change. Higher education institutions and their researchers will continue to be free to choose their research publication channel, but choice brings responsibility. They will be expected to responsibly strive to comply with RCUK’s stated open access policy—that is, preferably to use gold, or alternatively green, with embargo periods of no more than six or 12 months, for science and technology subjects and arts and humanities subjects respectively.

The policy framework for this transitional process, or journey, is as published by the Government in response to the Finch report and illustrated in the decision tree on the Publishers Association website. This illustrates how longer embargo periods of 12 to 24 months are acceptable for researchers when funds to pay the necessary article processing charges for gold open access are not available to the researcher.

Researchers will therefore be expected, when possible, to publish in journals that comply with RCUK’s policy. As I have said, however, they will remain free to choose which publication best serves their interests and requirements. This allows for a robust policy but one with the necessary degree of flexibility to address the concerns raised by the British Academy and others. The Government’s policy will accommodate the needs of different researchers and their respective disciplines.

Government’s assessment of the implications of RCUK’s open access policy has therefore considered its impact on stakeholders, including researchers and publishers alike, as represented in the Finch group. Indeed, the Government’s open access policy for publicly funded research is more responsive to the needs of all stakeholders than the equivalent policies being proposed in Europe and, as announced on 22 February 2013, by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the United States. By making funding available through the research councils for gold open access and simultaneously allowing green as an alternative, with longer embargo periods when there is no funding available to the researcher for gold, the Government’s policy is sustainable and well balanced.

A well structured policy is important since open access is expected to strengthen direct and spillover benefits from research to stimulate economic growth. Publicly funded research can lead to important innovations. The internet and global positioning satellite technology both stem from publicly funded research. They now contribute to the global economy and enhance the quality of our lives, producing a significant return on the public investment first made.

By improving access to the results of research, open access could further enhance this process, as observed for the publicly funded human genome programme. The success of the human genome programme—in which a $3.8 billion investment drove $796 billion in economic impact and created 310,000 jobs—was partly attributed to the emphasis placed on open access. We now have an even greater opportunity, by exploiting the internet itself, to further amplify the benefits of publicly funded research. By publishing research papers in an open access way, we allow computers to search for results and, particularly for gold open access, to apply those findings without restriction. This improves the productivity of the science base.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his very helpful response. However, will he confirm that RCUK will revise its policy and guidance statement to reflect what he has just said—namely that the research councils will follow the decision tree which has been adopted by BIS and was produced originally by the Publishers Association? The Minister said that that was the Government’s position but I want to be clear that RCUK is following that and is revising its guidelines and policy statement.

I thank the noble Lord for that question. To the best of the Government’s knowledge, RCUK has accepted the decision tree. However, I will write to the noble Lord once we have the paperwork on the implementation, which I believe will be by the end of this month.

The Finch group’s recommendations achieved a balance between meeting the Government’s transparency agenda objective, preserving the integrity of the peer review process for published research and effecting change in a sustainable way. Even so, a preference for gold access was recognised by the Finch group to have a modest cost. It concluded that there could be a transitional cost of some £50 million to £60 million per annum.

The Government have accepted that the cost of publication is a legitimate cost of research. For a fixed science budget, gold access represents an opportunity cost to some in the science base for research forgone. The Government needed to understand the implication of this and their own independent economic analysis, as already submitted to another place, indicated a cost of some £50 million per annum, or 1% of the science base budget of £4.6 billion per annum.

According to the World Economic Forum, UK universities are second only to Switzerland in terms of university-industry collaboration. UK universities are effectively translating the results of research to business. We can witness how important this is when companies such as Tata make substantial inward investments in the UK’s world-class automotive industry. Companies such as Jaguar Land Rover benefit from their links to the UK’s science base, as exemplified by their collaborative research agreement with the Warwick Manufacturing Group of the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya. Even so, publicly funded research is often difficult to find and expensive to access. This can defeat the original purpose of taxpayer-funded academic research. It limits understanding and innovation. The Government’s open access policy, coupled with the new Gateway to Research being developed by the research councils to directly link small businesses to research results and the people behind them, will open up a new age in the translation of research for innovation. The UK’s economy and its people—the taxpayers who fund research—will be the beneficiaries.

I will now address a number of questions raised by noble Lords. As I said earlier, the decision tree is accepted by RCUK. We accept the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that it is a rapid change, with 2013 being the start of the process. However, it is a journey, not an overnight change. It is feasible to implement policy from 2013 since it is the start of the process of transition over the next five years. All research suggests that it is not disruptive change, but rather reasonable change. Within this five-year period, we will see what we can do to accommodate the concerns of the stakeholders if any difficulties arise in the transition process. Therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, can rest assured that we will look into and address the concerns of the stakeholders.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, mentioned a cost of £1,750. This is a broadly based average figure. He was not in favour of what he implied was a monopolistic position. However, the reality is exactly the opposite, as confirmed by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. This is very much like free trade. We are taking the lead in this matter compared with our European and American partners.

I may not have covered a number of questions raised by noble Lords but they can rest assured that I will write to them. We will make sure that this policy is implemented as smoothly as possible. Obviously, that process will be reviewed and we will definitely address stakeholders’ concerns.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, talked about other countries. Europe is moving to mandatory open access in the EU framework. The Americans are also now working on this subject. They want to support free access and make sure that free access publicly funded research is fully utilised and benefits the people of the United States.

I hope that I have covered some of the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and other noble Lords. I will certainly look into this again and make sure that responses are provided as quickly as possible.

Succession to the Crown Bill

Committee (Continued)

Relevant documents: 14th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee and 11th Report from the Constitution Committee

Amendment 3A

Moved by

3A: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—

“Royal marriages: heirs of the body

(1) A marriage is a Royal Marriage for the purposes of establishing the claim of any person to succeed to the Crown as heir to the body if that Marriage is a marriage between a man and a woman.

(2) A person is disqualified from succeeding to the Crown as an heir to the body of a Royal Marriage if they are not the offspring of both parties to that Marriage.

(3) This section does not apply in any case where both Houses of Parliament pass a resolution to the effect that it shall not apply.”

My Lords, I apologise for not having contributed at Second Reading. I had put my name down to speak but I was unavoidably delayed in coming to the House and rang to withdraw my name. However, I did listen to all the very thoughtful debate that I was able to. A core concern from noble Lords on either side of the argument was that succession to the Crown should be removed from controversy. I share that view and it is in that spirit alone that I have raised the issues in this amendment which were only momentarily touched on in another place.

I must also apologise for the lateness in tabling the amendment. This is because I have been involved in discussions with the Public Bill Office until yesterday morning about the most appropriate form of raising this matter. In some respects, the questions raised here and in Clause 2 are the same and that is whether there is an unintended risk, if certain issues are not addressed with clarity and foresight now, of future controversy over the succession and even of a disastrous unintended consequence of dividing the Queen’s various realms.

Two modern social developments lie behind this issue. The first is the techniques and ethics of the procreation of children and social attitudes towards them which have been fast-changing, still are changing and will continue to change. Secondly, at some time in the future a monarch and his or her consort may wish, where no other course is available to them, to seek to procure a child by use of a donor. That child, the first of whom would have been the heir if born naturally, would become a much loved member of the Royal Family and one whom many might wish to see as their monarch. There are clearly seeds of controversy there. The second issue is that it seems likely that the Parliament of the United Kingdom, although not those of all Her Majesty’s realms, will very shortly legislate to allow same-sex marriage. These measures, taken together, will alter for all time the concept of what a family, including, potentially, a Royal Family, could be.

I must make it clear that I take no view on same-sex marriage for the purpose of this issue. In case anyone should think there is an ulterior motive, I should make it clear that I do not believe that all the consequences of that momentous social change have been thought through and I would not have been inclined to take the step without more notice to the public and wider and more open consultation. Be that as it may, I did not want to raise the issue of the Crown, in any circumstances, in our debates on the same-sex marriage Bill, lest it be seen as an attempt to use the monarchy as a device to debate that Bill. That would be deplorable: I would not and will not take such a step. The issue is, none the less, fast upon us. As we are legislating in this Bill to change the laws on royal marriage and succession, it would be wise to reflect on the potential impact on the Bill also now before Parliament on same-sex marriage and how those two Bills might, in future, interrelate.

The governing phrase as to the conveyance of the right of succession in the Bill of Rights, which is reused in Section 1 of the Act of Settlement and is left unchanged by this legislation is that he or she be the “heir of the body” of the Electress Sophia of Hanover and her successors, being Protestants—which we will discuss later. There is surely scope for contentious argument, if not litigation, over what, in the new circumstances of the 21st century, is the definition of those ancient words “heir of the body”. That phrase does not require that the heir should be the heir of two specific bodies. Indeed, the originating Act of Settlement includes reference to the body of a monarch and a prospective monarch alone. What then if, in the context of either a different or a same-sex marriage—the question is immaterial—the sperm of a King is used to procure a child of his body on a donor woman or, even more directly, a child is born from the body of a regnant Queen by use of a donor? Some might ask whether the child is the heir of the body of that regnant Queen. This is the only method by which an heir of the body could be procured by a same-sex married monarch, and the human impulse of such a loving couple may well be to seek to procure such an heir. Will some not see that child as a legitimate heir of the monarch’s body if that marriage has been accepted by the British people? Might that child not feel that he or she has, in turn, a human right to expect to succeed to his or her mother or father?

I am grateful for the correspondence I have had with my right honourable friend the Attorney-General on this subject. It is not for me to place his opinion before the House but, in essence, I am reminded that the laws governing succession require that the descendant be the natural born child of a husband and wife, that they have been enshrined in our constitution for generations and that they have become part of our common law. Indeed so, but we are about to legislate, specifically and deliberately, to change the law of marriage in this realm. As we are often reminded, what is long enshrined in the common law of England is not necessarily proof against legal challenge, not least in the field of equalities and human rights. I would like to be assured that the common law will continue to be an adequate bulwark against division and controversy.

It has also been put to me that Section 48(7) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 is worth noting. This Act states that nothing in the Act that relates to parenthood,

“affects the succession to any dignity or title of honour or renders any person capable of succeeding to or transmitting a right to succeed to any such dignity or title”.

It may well be that the Crown is encompassed within that definition as a dignity, and the word “dignity” does indeed occur in the 1700 Act. However, it is not so explicitly stated and certainly not in a way that is clear to tens of millions of non-lawyers who are subjects of the Crown. The public rightly see the Crown as separate, distinct, beyond and above. It is, indeed, the fount of all title or dignity of honour. It would be wise to put it beyond all doubt or challenge that the succession to the Crown is engaged by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. Furthermore, are we certain that it is not arguable in a court, in default of a statement to the contrary, that the UK Parliament had decided, in legislating to redefine marriage, to alter the nature of marriage completely and thus that, in the context of a fully lawful same-sex royal marriage, the definition of—I return to the words—an heir of the body in the Act of Settlement might constructively be widened by the courts from the hitherto understood common law definition as it applies to the UK Crown. It might be wise to put the fact that Parliament had no such intention—if it does, indeed, have no such intention—beyond any doubt.

My right honourable friend the Attorney-General and my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench, who has been saying this again today, have argued that it would not be appropriate to go beyond what was expressly agreed by the realm Heads of Government in Perth. I accept that argument but I am not arguing that we should go beyond that: quite the reverse. I am simply suggesting that we should put in the clearest possible stops and stays to ensure that we can never, in this realm alone, be taken by legal process and challenge, rather than deliberate decision of Parliament, beyond what was agreed and where other realms might wish to go.

Our Queen is monarch of 16 realms, in not all of which is the view embodied in the legislation on marriage now before Parliament shared or likely to be shared. In Canada, gay marriage is already legal, the Australian Parliament has recently rejected it. A divergent view on the legitimacy of a royal marriage might, and a divergent view on the legitimacy of an heir would, break the union of realms. In 1837, the dominions of the Crown were irretrievably separated because of differing rules on the succession. Hanover did not allow female succession, so Queen Victoria could not rule Hanover, which passed to her uncle. It seems inherently unlikely that in the present diverse evolution of social policy in the Queen’s realms that any progeny of a same-sex marriage—even same-sex marriage itself—would be accepted in at least some of the existing kingdoms. Is it not important, therefore, that those realms, at this time of change both in the rules of succession and in the UK in the law of marriage, should all be held explicitly to a common understanding of what a royal marriage and, most importantly, an heir of the body means for the purposes of succession?

I do not claim that the words in the amendment, which I obviously do not intend to press today, are right, although they attempt to state the common law as I understand it is intended to be. I ask my noble and learned friend to consider at a later stage of the Bill, either in a formal statement of the existing law or, better, in the Bill to record the fact that Parliament’s intention is, and will remain, that for the purposes of the succession, Section 48(7) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act has and will have force in relation to the Crown, unless and until our Parliament determines otherwise and, further, that for the purpose of determining an heir of the body, the definition of marriage and parenthood does and will remain as it was at the time of the introduction of the Bill, unless the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the other realms decide otherwise.

All this may seem to be highly remote, but we should consider what might happen in the future. Here, the efforts of, for example, the Duke of Sussex’s son, Sir Augustus D’Este, in the courts and before the Committee of Privileges in the Sussex peerage case in 1844 demonstrate the personal propensity of a person of undoubted royal descent to contest for legitimacy by legal process. How much more are those corridors open today? This could happen one day unless we have and keep total and specific clarity.

The monarchy and unity of the Queen’s realms must be protected from potential litigation and controversy, not just beyond all reasonable doubt, but beyond even unreasonable doubt. I therefore submit that without prejudice to the decision on same-sex marriage or the evolution of the ethics of childbirth, it would be prudent to put these points for now beyond any doubt and, ideally, in a legal form that reflects the understanding of the law to which all 16 Parliaments of the realms now and will, unless they agree otherwise, continue to ascribe. That is what the amendment attempts to do. I beg to move.

My Lords, I will be brief. I am sure that the Minister will give good answers to the questions raised. Perhaps he may also, for my clarification, let us know about the implications for adoption in this. I am sure that it is in the noble and learned Lord’s briefing. We agree that the Bill is to change the rules of succession as regards gender and the ability to marry someone of the Catholic faith, rather than open up and perhaps decide on interesting issues. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord True, this issue is remote. We are talking about some years ahead, and perhaps we might leave the matter to our heirs and successors to decide.

My Lords, I share some of the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord True. The plain fact is that the single-sex marriage legislation that is on its way through Parliament appears to be generating some unlooked-for consequences—and this issue may well be one of them. I hope that my noble and learned friend can reassure us.

My Lords, I observe that this matter is outwith the terms of the Long Title. However, the Title has been postponed and it is possible to amend it, if necessary.

I thank my noble friend Lord True for the amendment and for the sensitive and thoughtful way in which he moved it and presented his concerns. Indeed, I seek to reassure him that the amendment is unnecessary.

Subsections (1) and (2) of the proposed new clause state the current position in respect of heirs of the body and adoption or artificial reproduction. I recognise that my noble friend indicated that he was not making any claims as to the drafting of the amendment but he said something that I have previously said—it is important that the succession is removed from controversy and there should be certainty. Subsection (3) could be an opportunity for some controversy if a case had to come before both Houses of Parliament. However, the spirit in which my noble friend moved the amendment was to try to seek some clarity on this matter.

The laws governing succession to the Crown that require that the descendant be the natural-born child of a husband and wife have been enshrined in our constitution for generations. Children who have been adopted may not succeed to the Throne, whether their new parents are of opposite sexes or the same sex. As my noble friend said, it is immaterial; indeed, even without the Bill, the issues he raised are pertinent. I repeat that children who have been adopted may not succeed to the Throne, irrespective of whether the parents are of opposite sexes or the same sex.

It was never our intention to codify all aspects of succession to the Throne in the Bill. Rather, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, indicated, the agreement reached among the realms was quite specifically limited to removing the male bias and ending a specific discrimination against Roman Catholics, and it is not appropriate that we go beyond what was expressly agreed.

Although the Adoption Act 1976 and the Family Law Reform Act 1987 refer only to the succession of titles being left unchanged by their reforms, the Lord Chancellor stated at Second Reading of the Bill that became the 1987 Act that there was no intention to alter the rules on the descent of the Crown. It is also worth noting, as my noble friend observed, that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 states that nothing in the Act,

“affects succession to any dignity or title”,

or,

“renders any person capable of succeeding to or transmitting a right to succeed to any such dignity or title”.

The Bill will maintain the position under the Adoption Act and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 referred to above. It will not change the way the Crown, or titles or dignities, descend. We also consider it to be unnecessary to define marriage for the purposes of this proposed new clause as set out in subsection (1). Only a natural-born child of a husband and wife can succeed to the Throne. That is quite clear. I have tried to keep my response brief and concise, and I hope that it provides the reassurance that my noble friend seeks and has properly raised. I invite my noble friend to withdraw the amendment.

My Lords, I hope that my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench will take time to consider this matter between now and Report, and that my noble friend will also occupy that time. The answer that my noble and learned friend has given does not entirely cover everything because becoming Queen or King is rather more than receiving a dignity or title. The term used in the Bill is “possessing” the Crown, which is different from inheriting a title, and that is surely what we are concerned about.

We will certainly reflect on this matter and I can assure my noble friend that considerable consideration has been given to it. However, I take the points that he and my noble friend Lord True made and will give further consideration to them. Nevertheless, I hope that I clearly indicated our view with regard to an “heir of the body”.

I accept that that is the current position. I hope that we shall be reassured if it remains the same on Report.

My Lords, I am grateful to those who have participated in this short debate and apologise for the length of my opening remarks. However, this is an issue of profound potential importance, not only as it affects our country but the Queen’s realms as a whole. It is inherent in the Perth agreement that we have an acquis agreed by all the realms, and no door should be left open to the crawling peg of equalities, rights and other challenge by a potential heir who is excluded from the Crown—as they feel, unfairly—against their rights by the existing deposit of the law.

I am not a lawyer, but I am concerned as an historian that the base of the law and the phrase “heir of the body” is a very ancient phrase which is buttressed only by the common law and the doubtful cover, in my view, of the clause from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act that I cited. I agree with the interpretation of my noble friend Lord Elton that that Act may be deficient in terms of providing protection for the Crown from the kind of challenge that might arise. My right honourable friend the Attorney-General made this point to me also, but I am afraid that I do not find full comfort in the remarks made by the Lord Chancellor at a time when the developments in the technology and science of birth and reproduction, and certainly the developments in the nature of the law of marriage, were far distant in the future and not necessarily conceived of. I say to the noble Baroness that this might be remote, but perhaps people thought before 1936 that certain things might be remote. It is the duty of Parliament, when legislating on something as grave as the succession to the Crown which Her Majesty holds on our behalf, to think about the future. It may, of course, be no more remote than that the child whom we all so fondly expect may be born gay.

I will return to the matter and would be grateful for further discussion with my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench to see if we cannot find a way of clarifying this. I am not going to go beyond the Perth agreement, but I think it is important that we have “awful clarity”—in the old language—on this very great matter. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 3A withdrawn.

Clause 2: Removal of disqualification arising from marriage to a Roman Catholic

Amendment 4

Moved by

4: Clause 2, page 1, line 7, at end insert “provided that agreement has been reached with the Vatican that any children of the union can be brought up as Anglicans”

My Lords, with Clause 2 we come to the kernel of the Bill. As your Lordships will know, that clause at the moment reads:

“A person is not disqualified from succeeding to the Crown or from possessing it as a result of marrying a person of the Roman Catholic faith”.

It is a simple, unambiguous statement, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. These are questions of profound significance to our constitution. Therefore, I am going to suggest that we add the amendment that I have tabled, which continues that clause by saying,

“provided that agreement has been reached with the Vatican that any children of the union can be brought up as Anglicans”.

We have talked recently about clarity; my noble friend Lord True talked about it in his amendment. We have also talked about certainty. Like my noble friend Lord True, I was prevented from taking part in the Second Reading debate. I was sorry that I could not listen to much of the debate, but I was utterly committed to an event that took me away for some two or three hours—otherwise, I would have tried to air this subject then. That is why I put down an amendment which I hope is helpful to your Lordships’ House and will improve the Bill.

We have in England an established church, of which the Queen is the Supreme Governor. That is a fact and it is a constitutional fact of profound significance. I do not in any way wish to discriminate against any person of any faith, but our constitution rests on the fact that the monarch is the Supreme Governor of the established church. We have an established church; we have bishops who sit in this House and I am delighted to see the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby here this afternoon. I hope that he will be able to contribute to this debate. We have an established church, which means that every man, woman and child in England has the right to the services of that church. Every one of us in England lives in a diocese; every one of us lives in a parish and every one of us is entitled to the services of the parish priest, the diocesan bishop and to the other appointed dignitaries. Every week, those of us who are practising Anglicans pray for the Queen as our Supreme Governor.

I understand the motivations of those who have introduced this Bill. I think it has been rather rushed, and a number of noble Lords have mentioned the words “possible unintended consequences” during the course of our deliberations. We could be facing a very difficult unintended consequence if we do not further clarify the Bill in this particular regard. Therefore, I am suggesting that there should be some proper agreement or concordat—call it what you like—with the Vatican to say that the children of a union with a Roman Catholic partner in the marriage are not obliged, according to the Roman Catholic canon that exists, to be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. We cannot have a Roman Catholic—in no sense is this casting aspersions on anybody—as Supreme Governor of the Anglican Church; it is just not possible. At the same time, this is such an integral part of our monarch’s role, and the establishment of the Church of England is so bound up with the constitution of our realm, that we need some form of concordat or agreement sanctioned at the highest level of the Roman Catholic Church. That means the Vatican and, ultimately, the Pope.

As I have referred to the Pope, perhaps noble Lords will forgive me if I digress for half a moment to express the warmest good wishes to His Holiness as he retires this very day from active service. He is a man for whom I have the highest possible regard, and many of us in the Chamber—and many in the House who are not in the Chamber this afternoon—were greatly moved when he addressed us in Westminster Hall a couple of years ago. I very much hope that the new Pope will be held in similar regard.

First, we need to talk formally with the Roman Catholic hierarchy in this country—with Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, and his senior colleagues. Then we need to make an approach to the Vatican, so that there is no ambiguity or doubt that any children of such a union could be brought up as Anglicans. My proposition to noble Lords is very simple, but it is one of considerable importance and significance.

I do not claim that the words of my amendment, which is kindly supported by my noble friend Lord Freeman, are perfect—of course they are not. I am more than happy to talk to anybody, in any part of the House—with my noble friend the Minister and others—about different wording if that seems more appropriate. However, I feel completely convinced that there must be some reference along these lines in the Bill. If we pass the Bill into law and it becomes an Act with no such reference in it, we may be building up problems for the future that we do not want.

Some have suggested that in the event of our having a Roman Catholic sovereign, there could be some form of regency arrangement. That may sound superficially attractive, but a regency can last a very long time. Our beloved Queen has now been on the throne for 61 years. Had she been a Roman Catholic and had there been a regency, we might have gone through two or three regents in the time, so I do not think that that is an answer.

The only sensible—I will rephrase that—the only watertight answer is to have something in the Bill that makes it plain that an agreement has been reached with the highest authorities in the Roman Catholic Church that should such a union take place, the children of that union could be brought up as Anglicans and could therefore properly take on the very real and weighty task and obligation of being Supreme Governor of the Church of England. This is a responsibility that Her Majesty has taken extremely seriously throughout her reign, and that she has discharged with infinite wisdom and grace, and in a way of which we can all be proud, whatever our personal faith or lack of it. With those few words, I beg to move.

My Lords, I associate myself with the final few words of my noble friend Lord Cormack about the nature of Her Majesty and the way in which she has discharged her duties. Not only has it been remarkable but it has been so remarkable that it may have blinded us to the nature of the discussion that we are having today. In the past, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England was a Calvinist and a Lutheran. The only reason they were able so to be was that they were prepared to say, of their own volition, that although they were Calvinist or Lutheran, for this purpose they would be a member of the Church of England. I make no comment on them; I merely say that it was possible. Indeed, before the Act of Supremacy, James II was both a Catholic and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Therefore, the idea that this is impossible is factually wrong. I start with that. I do not think that my noble friend needs to interrupt me because he will have other things about which to interrupt me when I get to them.

I say to the Minister that I accept that this is a very anomalous circumstance. I will now say something very carefully because I do not want it to sound hurtful. I mentioned the remarkable role that Her Majesty had played. There is no doubt that, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she has brought something to the religious life of this land that has been unique and remarkable. However, there are few theologians who can easily argue that this position has a serious theological basis today. We all know that the reason we have it is that the state decided to nationalise the church—that is what happened—in order to get its hands on money and power. It is no good ignoring that. It is not a prejudiced comment. I used to believe it when I was an Anglican, so I cannot be criticised for saying it. That is what happened. The arrangement today arises from an attempt to bring together the facts of history with the perfectly reasonable desires of religious people to make the establishment work. I am in favour of the establishment; I do not want the Church of England disestablished. I pray that, one day, the Church of England and the Catholic Church will again become one. However, I have to say that this proposal is ridiculous.

First, we will put something into the Bill which we have not done since the Act of Settlement. We will allow a foreign potentate, the Pope, to influence the way in which our future Queen or King will be decided. I am a Roman Catholic and I am proud of my allegiance to the Pope. I find this allegiance in no way contradicts my allegiance to the Queen of England. She is the Queen of England as far as I am concerned because I am English, but I realise that she is also the Queen of Britain. I defer to my noble friend. I see no contradiction between those allegiances any more than I see a contradiction with my pride of being a citizen of the European Union. These are citizenships and relationships which we can hold together. This is important as each one contributes to the strength of the other. However, will this House suggest that, for the first time, the Pope shall become a constitutional figure? I find that an impossible answer.

Secondly, in what position does this amendment put His Holiness? Must he say, “The Church’s teaching is this; canonical teaching is this; but, in order that we might do a deal with the British Crown, we will say something quite different about the heir to the Throne”? That looks to me precisely the sort of deal, a political deal, about which many reformers complained. I cannot possibly put my name to something which proceeds in that manner. Then, one has to ask His Holiness to say something most remarkable; that, despite the Church’s teaching, children of the union can be brought up as Anglicans. Therefore, the Pope says that, they get married and they say, “The Pope may say that the children can be brought up as Anglicans but we do not want that”. What, then, do we say in this constitutional arrangement? Do we say, “You better listen to the Pope. We have now brought him into the constitution so we must do so again to sort this out”?

What happens if they bring the child up as an Anglican and he does not think much of it? In fact, I was brought up as an Anglican and I was a member of the Synod of the Church of England. I became increasingly clear that the Anglican Church had moved from being part of the Catholic Church to being a sect because it had decided that it had its own rights to make its own decisions about the teachings and the doctrines of the Catholic Church. Once it did that, it seemed to me to change its position. Therefore, I ceased to be an Anglican and I became a Catholic. What happens if the Pope has said that the heir to the Throne may be brought up as an Anglican, he is brought up as an Anglican and he says to himself, “In truth, I think that the Pope is right—with the exception that he has done a deal with the British authorities. I have therefore decided that I will become a Catholic”? What do we do as a society then? Do we say, “We are frightfully sorry, you are not allowed to decide that”? That is precisely the situation which will arise under this particular amendment.

There may be many ways of dealing with this. I have my own particular way, with which I shall not bother the House as I know very well that the Government are determined not to take it seriously. It seems to me perfectly right that the Church of England should have a Supreme Governor. In normal circumstances, the Supreme Governor should be the monarch where the monarch is an Anglican. But where the monarch is not an Anglican, the monarch should nominate as Supreme Governor someone from the family who is an Anglican. That seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable way forward. It would stop us having a special arrangement for Roman Catholics in this insulting way.

We do not have an arrangement whereby the heir to the Throne can marry a Muslim as long as the Muslim authorities agree that the children are brought up as Anglicans. The Muslim authorities are in exactly the same position in terms of this issue, although I think on very little else, as His Holiness. They are not going to agree to it either. What I would say to all Members of the House is this. It is insulting to the largest church in the United Kingdom—the Catholic Church. It is insulting to isolate Catholics as if there is still something about them today—in 2013.

I want to end with a comment to my noble friend. On Sundays, Anglicans do not pray for the Queen as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, they pray for the Queen. At exactly the same time, although in larger numbers and with greater enthusiasm, Catholics pray for the Queen. There is no distinction between our prayers. The fact of the supreme governorship does not relate to the way in which subjects pray for their Queen. The only reason I raise this is because on these occasions there is always just a little hark back towards a feeling that there is a position before the Almighty that makes the Church of England special. The Church of England has an important history and its evensong is in many ways one of the finest services produced by any church of any kind. However, let us remember that we live in a pluralist society and that much of this anomaly is something that most people cannot and do not want to understand. To introduce an amendment that would enshrine the very things that historically we have sought not to have in Britain seems to me to be preposterous.

My Lords, I support the objective of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, although I have reservations about its wording. I should say hastily that I am speaking for myself and not as a former member of the Royal Household. The House may have noticed that earlier there was a small cluster of former members of the Royal Household, but we have now widened the gaps between each other.

My view is based on the limited scope of this Bill and the assumption that we are not talking about the establishment of the church or about changing the position of the monarch being the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and thus the requirement that the Supreme Governor should join in communion with the Church of England. That, to my mind, is not the issue, rather it is much more limited to the proposal in the Bill. At Second Reading, I asked the Minister whether we could seek greater clarity on the requirement that those in the line of succession must be brought up within the Anglican faith. All I am seeking to do is to minimise misunderstandings that otherwise could arise from the passing of this Bill in connection with Clause 2.

There is a disparity between what the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said, and what the Archbishop of Westminster said at the time of the Perth agreement in October 2011. Archbishop Rowan Williams said that,

“there needs to be a clear understanding that the heir is brought up in”,

the Church of England environment. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster said:

“I fully recognise the importance of the position of the established church … in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today”.

That is a helpful message, but the two are not clearly in line, and in my view there is something of a lack of clarity in this. Of course, this is something that may never happen in our lifetime, but nevertheless it could happen. It is in order to minimise the risk of misunderstanding that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is moving the amendment.

In my Second Reading speech I suggested that the Minister should agree to have some further discussions with the Roman Catholic leadership in this country to see whether we cannot get a clearer understanding, and I would be grateful if, when he comes to respond to the debate, he would let us know if he has anything to report at this stage.

My Lords, I apologise for being unable to be here earlier, as I had a long-standing engagement, and also for not being able to participate in the earlier stages of this Bill. I am afraid that unusually, because I have the highest regard for my noble friend, I do not feel able to support this amendment at all.

I have some history on this matter. I believe that the provisions contained in the 18th century legislation with quite vile language about Roman Catholics should be removed from the statute book. As Secretary of State, I think I described it as the constitution’s grubby little secret. When I first came to this House, I was unwise enough to bring forward a Private Member’s Bill to deal with this issue. I was ambushed at the very first stage by my late and much missed friend, Lord St. John of Fawsley, who by use of procedure, prevented me from even being able to speak to my Bill or to introduce it again for a year. As a result, I realised that this was a much more complex issue which required considerable discussion and was not suitable for Private Members’ Bills.

It is therefore a great disappointment that this legislation has been rushed through the House of Commons as it has, without proper debate, on a timetable which we normally reserve for Bills concerned with terrorism or some immediate national interest. For the life of me, I do not see why these matters have been dealt with so quickly. In opposing this amendment, for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Deben spelled out so clearly—I will not repeat the arguments—I would like to say as a member of the Church of Scotland, although I worship in the Episcopal Church of Scotland, so I am a kind of hybrid, I find it extraordinary that the opportunity was not taken in this legislation to remove the prohibition on the monarch themselves being a Catholic.

I have a specific question for the Minister to deal with, on which my noble friend Lord Deben touched. As I understand it, the role of the monarch as head of the Church of England is not a canonical role, and therefore there is no reason, as my noble friend said, why the monarch has to be a member of the Church of England. There may be other issues that arise from that, and I appreciate that the example of James VII or James II—depending on your perspective—may not have been an entirely happy one. However, it did not end in tears because he was a Catholic and head of the Church of England; some other issues resulted in it ending in tears.

The Deputy Prime Minister has brought forward this legislation on the basis of extending equality, although it is rather ironic that we should be talking about equality in the context of the monarchy. It seems to me quite extraordinary that we have not been able to take that further step and remove the prohibition on the monarch being a Catholic. In the 18th century, there were very good reasons for having this language; it was about the security of the nation. Indeed, the very Act of Union itself occurred as a deal; the Scots were bailed out from the huge losses which had been created by the Darien scheme, and in return the Protestant succession was secured. That was what it was about. Therefore, to leave on our statute book words which cause great offence to many Catholics and non-Catholics in our country is shocking and it is sad that the Bill does not deal with it.

In support of his amendment, my noble friend Lord Cormack has suggested that some deal would be done with the Vatican. Of course, we have to have regard to our constitutional history but, as my noble friend Lord Deben pointed out, the independence of the monarchy is fundamental to our constitution. Although the Vatican is no longer a foreign power which will encourage the French or anyone else to usurp the Throne—those days are long since past—it would be totally inappropriate to have an amendment of this kind. However, I agree with my noble friend in so far as moving this amendment highlights the anomalous position of this legislation.

I should just make it clear that I would not want to see the Church of England cease to be the established church. My goodness me, secularism is rampant in our country at the moment; this is not the moment for something of that kind and I would not support it. The heir to the Throne has talked about being “Defender of Faiths”, and it is a mistake for the Church of England to appear to take a position that has the unfortunate effect of making people believe that it cannot continue to be an established church while removing that discriminatory language from our statute and constitution.

My Lords, I have some sympathy with the objective of my noble friend Lord Cormack’s amendment, but I have considerable doubt as to whether it will achieve what he seeks.

I rather doubt whether the Vatican would be willing to give the sort of undertaking that my noble friend suggests. It sounds as though that would be very difficult indeed for it. Whether or not our sovereign might be of some different faith, not of the Church of England and perhaps even Roman Catholic, is a wholly different but of course crucial issue. I have tabled subsequent amendments that touch upon that, although I suspect that we have discussed it pretty fully under this amendment. I think that my noble friend’s amendment will not achieve what he desires and I hope, therefore, that he will not press it.

My Lords, I, too, much regret that I was unavoidably prevented from attending Second Reading but I hope that I may none the less speak briefly to this amendment.

First, I support the Bill wholeheartedly. Furthermore, I understand and agree with the motives behind the amendment. Both the Bill and the amendment are timely and necessary. I fear, however, that I cannot support the amendment as drafted. More clarity and public commitment from the Roman Catholic Church on the subject of the upbringing of an heir to the Throne would indeed be most welcome, but I think that that desired outcome would be more likely to be achieved by quiet negotiation than by ultimatum. The amendment has a ring of ultimatum about it, at least to me. For that reason I cannot give it my support. None the less, I hope that we can find a satisfactory form of words that carries perhaps less threat and more promise, both to the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.

The noble Lords, Lord Forsyth and Lord Deben, have both got very close to being the first Peers in this debate to mention that here we are addressing the concern of whether we can alter the Bill of Rights. Sooner or later, that issue will have to be debated in much more detail than allowed for by today’s agenda.

I have one technical question for the noble Lord, Lord Cormack: does he believe that the papacy is able to commit its successors any more than, as he no doubt believes, one Parliament can commit another?

My Lords, this has been a very good debate and, has just been mentioned, will inform a number of the amendments that we are due to discuss. Maybe we will be able to move a little faster as a result.

The amendment, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Freeman and Lord Cormack, makes abolition of the Catholic marriage ban conditional on an agreement with the Vatican that children of such marriages should be brought up as Anglicans. As for preserving the Protestant succession, the amendment is unnecessary because under the present rules no Catholic will be able to succeed. As we have heard, it seems highly unlikely that the Vatican is in any position to make children of mixed marriages be brought up as Anglicans, should we require it to. In any case, we understand that this is a matter already delegated to the Catholic hierarchy in the UK.

However, as several noble Lords have suggested, this issue raises the question of whether any religious test should be preserved as one of the rules for succession. As we will hear from the noble and learned Lord, that will perhaps be a matter for another time, but I will come back to it in later amendments.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack for introducing this amendment. It has generated a passionate debate and raised important issues, not least ones also reflected in our Second Reading debate about the upbringing of children should there be a mixed marriage. The noble Lord, Lord Luce, quite properly indicated that this Bill is limited in its scope and does not deal with the established church or the monarch as Supreme Governor. I know the passion with which my noble friend Lord Forsyth takes a view—which I share—on the wording of some 17th century legislation. That wording is offensive, but as the noble Lord recognised from his early attempts with a Private Member’s Bill, these matters are hugely complex and I do not believe that this Bill is the appropriate place to deal with them.

As the noble Lord, Lord Luce, indicated, at Second Reading he and the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, asked if I would meet representatives of the Catholic Church. I did so earlier this week. I can inform the House that I came away with a clear message that in the instance of mixed marriages the approach of the Roman Catholic Church is a pastoral one. It was considerably stressed to me that the Catholic Church will always look to provide guidance that supports and strengthens the unity of the partnership and the indissolubility of marriage. It is in this context that the Catholic Church expects Catholic spouses sincerely to undertake to do all they can to raise their children within the Catholic Church.

However, where it has not been possible for the child of a mixed marriage to be brought up as a Catholic, it has been drawn to my attention that the Catholic parent does not fall subject to the censure of canon law. The clear signal was that the overriding concern in Catholic pastoral guidance to couples in mixed marriages—it was drawn to my attention that there are many mixed marriages today in England and Wales—is the unity and indissolubility of the marriage. I assure the House that it is not the case that the children of all mixed Protestant and Catholic marriages must be brought up in the Catholic faith.

It is also important to note the important concept within the Catholic Church of subsidiarity. As a Presbyterian I do not pretend to understand it, but it is one that I have certainly heard associated with the Catholic Church. We perhaps debate the word in another context, but within the organisation of the Catholic Church, subsidiarity is an important concept and much decision-making is devolved to a local level, including decisions relating to mixed marriages. Quite simply, the Vatican does not get involved. My noble friend Lord Deben highlighted both the constitutional implications and significance if the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Cormack were to be carried. It would raise constitutional issues and would put the Pope in a very difficult position, one that I suspect the Vatican does not aspire to have thrust upon it. In its recent letter to Members of your Lordships’ House on this issue, the Church of England stated:

“The present prohibition…is not necessary to support the requirement that the Sovereign join in communion with the Church of England”—

that is, the prohibition on marrying a Catholic—and therefore:

“Its proposed removal is a welcome symbolic and practical measure consistent with respect for the principle of religious liberty”.

The Archbishop of Westminster, as quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Luce, welcomed the decision of the Government to give heirs to the Throne the freedom to marry a Catholic, and recognised the importance of the position of the established church in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today.

What was the Government’s motivation in removing the prohibition on the heir to the Throne marrying a Catholic? Was it to enable the heir to the Throne to marry a Catholic, or was it to remove the discrimination against Catholics?

My Lords, it was both. It was to allow someone in the line of succession to the Throne to marry a Catholic and to remove that discrimination. I know that the noble Lord’s subsequent question would be, “Why don’t you remove the ultimate discrimination?”. However, as he acknowledged, from his own efforts to do something, this is a much more complex issue. He says that he does not wish to disestablish the Church of England. Many would argue that if we went down that road, it possibly would lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England. There is a proper debate to be had there, but this emphasises that that is not the purpose of this Bill. However, where an opportunity has arisen to remove at least one area of discrimination, it has properly been seized.

My noble friend Lord Deben made the point that, if this genuinely is an issue, it already exists in another context. My noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine raised the point at Second Reading which my noble friend Lord Deben made about Islam. My noble friend Lady Falkner asked whether the perceived,

“constraints on the children of Catholics being bought up—and the Catholic Church’s perspective on that—would be different if the monarch was married to a Muslim, as is currently permissible? Muslim children are, likewise, expected to be brought up in mixed marriages as Muslims. So the anomaly exists in the case of other faiths, but perhaps not in the case of Catholics”.—[Official Report, 14/2/13; col. 805.]

That was the point that my noble friend was making. Therefore, the amendment of my noble friend Lord Cormack seeks to address one problem but does not extend to include every faith that currently exists. It is certainly not the Government’s plan that we should do so.

We will obviously return to this issue of establishment and whether the sovereign could be a Catholic in some of the later amendments. However, I readily appreciate the very human concerns. When you are dealing with affairs of state and issues of the constitution, you must remember that you are also talking about two people who want to get married. That is why it is appropriate that there is a pastoral dimension to this and that it is done at a pastoral level. I hope that, with these reassurances, my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend the Minister for his response, but not entirely convinced. We have had an interesting short debate. Some of the language used by my noble friend Lord Deben was reminiscent of the 18th century pamphlet at its best. He could be a little more careful about his use of the words “insulting” and “preposterous” merely because he does not happen to agree with the arguments advanced.

The fact is that many people in this country are concerned. Parliament has a duty to address this issue. Mentioning a foreign power in legislation is by no means unprecedented. However, I take the point of my noble friend Lord Fellowes; indeed, I made it obliquely myself in my introductory remarks when I said that I was not wedded to the words of the amendment. I wanted to have a debate on the subject. This we have had. I would be glad to talk to my noble friend Lord Fellowes and others before deciding whether to pursue this, which I may well do on Report. The issue deserves mature and thoughtful debate. It is of importance for we do not know how long. There may be no problem in the next century; there may be one within a very few years. One just does not know. However, when we are legislating in good faith for a long time—in spite of the fact that no Parliament can bind its successors; we can repeal whatever we like tomorrow—we have to do our best to make it as clear, precise and right as we possibly can. This is why my noble friend Lord True was wise to introduce his debate. We need to try to anticipate the sort of problems that may exist, if only to answer them and have them answered by Ministers and others before we move on to see the Bill on the statute book, which it assuredly will be before too much longer.

While expressing the hope of discussions with my noble and learned friend the Minister and others before Report stage, and reserving the right to introduce an amendment on Report—certainly not in the same words, but along similar lines—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 4 withdrawn.

Amendment 5

Tabled by

5: Clause 2, page 1, line 8, leave out subsection (2)

My Lords, this amendment, together with Amendments 6 to 9, go to the very heart of the issue we have just been discussing. Together they provide for a fundamental change in the present prevention which applies to our sovereign being a member of the Roman Catholic faith. This is a huge issue. I do not think it would be right to deal with it rapidly in the course of the swift passage of this legislation. I therefore will not proceed with these amendments.

Amendment 5 not moved.

Amendments 6 to 9 not moved.

Amendment 10

Moved by

10: Clause 2, page 1, line 10, at end insert—

“(6) In the event of a person of the Roman Catholic faith succeeding to the Crown by virtue of subsection (5), the title of Defender of the Faith and the function of Supreme Governor of the Church of England shall pass to a regent qualifying with the provisions of section 3 of the Regency Act 1937.”

My noble friend Lord Northbrook has attached his name to the amendment. It raises a slightly different issue. It is another way of dealing with the matter touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in his Amendment 4. It is a way of dealing with this matter by way of a regency. Your Lordships have considered and discussed this possibility on previous amendments and I ask your Lordships to consider it again now. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Trefgarne in his amendment. I first raised the issue in my speech at Second Reading, so I claim a little credit for the idea. As my noble friend has said, it sidesteps a key problem if the heir is a Catholic and keeps a link between church and Crown.

My Lords, I shall speak briefly to this amendment and pick up a point which my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace made in his response to the previous amendment when, with typical skill, he used something I said as an argument against me. I had said that the issue was too complex to be dealt with by a Private Member’s Bill. I was persuaded by the late Lord St John of Fawsley that this was not a matter suitable for being dealt with by a Private Member’s Bill and was best left to the Government to deal with. It is not really good enough for the Government to say that this is a very complicated area and it would mean having to deal with the whole issue of maintaining an established church and therefore we have gone for half a loaf. In my speech on the previous amendment I asked my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace to explain why it is not possible to devise a basis on which the monarch can remain head of the Church of England but not actually be of the Anglican faith. This amendment, moved by my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and supported by my noble friend Lord Northbrook, is a particular approach.

I do not think it is necessary to create a regency in order to do so. We did not have the opportunity to hear the view of the Church of England in respect of the previous amendment. Even if the Government’s position is that they will not do it in this Bill, it is disappointing that they are not able to explain what the options and difficulties are about it. My noble and learned friend did not fall into the trap when I intervened in his speech and asked him what the Government are trying to do here. Are they trying to end discrimination against Roman Catholics or are they just trying to enable the heir to the Throne to marry a Roman Catholic? I would be horrified if it is the latter. Of course, that is a good thing to do—if two people want to get married they should be able to do so—but I thought that this was part of a wider agenda of ending discrimination against Catholics. We need to understand why the Bill has not provided for that and why the idea contained in the amendment could not provide a way forward.

These amendments go to the heart of whether the present Anglican establishment in England can or even should remain in its present form. They raise issues which it would be irresponsible to dismiss out of hand. Therefore, I suggest that all parties come together sooner rather than later to ensure that the subject remains a topic for further parliamentary consideration. That might be by way of using the existing committee structure—perhaps the Constitution Committees in both Houses might wish to take this on—or even through the facility in your Lordships’ House for setting up a committee for this very purpose. It seems to us that the spirit of change, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and the points just made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, are too important to be left on the table. They need to be addressed, otherwise they will rancour, come back and hit us in places that we do not necessarily understand at this time.

I sense in the debates that we have had so far a willingness to engage at a level which is not possible within this Bill because of its particular purposes and focus but which would help to create a better understanding at least and possibly an opportunity for a road map for change. It would be important to take that up.

My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Trefgarne indicated in moving this amendment, this is one of the key issues raised by this Bill. Certainly, his Amendments 10 and 11 and the consequential ones to the schedules are interesting and were flagged up at Second Reading. They are an interesting way of addressing what has been seen as a dilemma: if the sovereign was to be a Roman Catholic, how could that person also be the Supreme Governor of the Church of England?

When I tried to answer my noble friend Lord Forsyth’s question as to whether the proposal was to allow the heir to the Throne to marry a Roman Catholic or to remove discrimination, I think I said that it was both, and it is. Clause 2 is of symbolic importance because it removes a discrimination which I believe does not have a place in our society today. As I think I also indicated, and as has been accepted across the Chamber, these issues with regard to the sovereign being a Roman Catholic go much wider than the person who may ascend to the Throne being married to a Roman Catholic. The Government are committed to the Church of England as the established church in England with the sovereign as its Supreme Governor. I note what the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, says about a possible further examination. Certainly, the Government have no plans to do so. Indeed, the Government suggesting to Select Committees what they may or may not do probably is not good form. But he has made his proposal and there will be others who will have heard it. It may be that a Select Committee will choose to do that but I do not think that it would be appropriate for the Government to take that initiative.

I now turn to the idea of separation of the roles of sovereign and Supreme Governor.

Before my noble and learned friend leaves that point, will he indicate whether the Government are ready to enable such work to be done given the compression of time that we have had in discussing these matters? Would they be prepared to permit the Bill to proceed at a pace which would allow a Select Committee, such as the Constitution Committee, to consider these matters?

My Lords, I am afraid that I will have to disappoint my noble friend in my answer. I do not believe that this is the appropriate Bill for taking this forward. This Bill seeks to deliver on three particular issues and I do not believe that that would be appropriate. I do not diminish the importance of the issues. It is very obvious that some people see this Bill as a Trojan horse for disestablishment and some are frightened in the opposite direction. I do not believe that this Bill is appropriate for that. Therefore, I cannot give my noble friend the encouragement or the assurance that he seeks with regard to allowing such a discussion. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, was suggesting that it should be done in a timescale that would affect this Bill.

On the idea of separating the roles of sovereign and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, obviously it is self evident that that would represent a very major change to the role of the monarch in relation to the established church and undoubtedly would require extensive consultation. It is a significant diversion from the traditional role of the monarchy over recent centuries. The Government consider that the change in the law effected by Clause 2 is a valuable one but we do not believe that it is necessary for the Bill to go beyond that and to delve into the significant wider issues that this amendment raises.

The proposed amendments also open up a series of extremely difficult questions about the relationship between the sovereign and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and indeed whether such an arrangement could support the continued established place of the Church of England. For example, how would the coronation and accession oaths be taken? The oath of accession includes a promise to maintain and preserve the Protestant religion and Presbyterian Church Government. Who would take this oath? Presumably it would not be appropriate for a regent who is a Supreme Governor of the Church of England to give any oath in respect of the Church of Scotland, and therefore would not be sovereign to make that statement. That one issue shows the host of different issues that would come up when the issue is examined in more detail.

As I have indicated, the Government have no intention of introducing any change in this matter. Given that both the Catholic Church and the Church of England have been very supportive of the changes that are actually in the Bill, I believe that we have found an appropriate balance through the legislation as drafted. I therefore invite my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I could help him on the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Every year, at the opening of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the monarch promises to defend the Presbyterian Church Government in Scotland—I will not get the words exactly right. I think that she does that in a personal capacity, not as head of the Anglican Church. She promises to defend it, so there is no reason why a Catholic monarch could not still promise to defend the Presbyterian Church Government in Scotland. To confuse that with Presbyterianism in England would be different.

I apologise if I did not make myself clear. I did not mean to suggest that it was as Supreme Governor of the Church of England that she made the oath with regard to the Presbyterian Church Government in Scotland. I was in fact suggesting the opposite; it would not be appropriate for someone who was appointed as a regent—a Supreme Governor—to make that oath. I think that that would be wholly inappropriate. It raises the question of whether a monarch who was indeed a member of the Roman Catholic Church would be in a position to make any commitment regarding the maintenance of the Protestant religion and the system of Presbyterian Church Government.

My noble friend Lord Forsyth asks why. I think that it raises some very interesting issues that have not been thought through. This is why I say that we should not go down this road. I do not propose to go down this road; I suggest that there is a host of issues, and that is why we should not go down the road proposed by the amendment.

My Lords, the problem is that the noble and learned Lord says this opens up greatly different avenues. However, frankly, the Government ought to have thought about these avenues before they brought in the Bill.

With all respect to my noble friend, that is the reason why the Government have not gone down this road. The Government have actually sought to do three very clear things: remove the male bias in succession; remove the current prohibition on someone in the line of succession marrying a Catholic; and repeal the prohibitions in the Royal Marriages Act 1772 and replace them with others. Those are three very precise points. I made the point that to go wider than that raises the kind of issues I highlighted. That is one reason why the Government have not gone down this road.

My Lords, by ignoring the amendments of the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Trefgarne, it seems that the Government are just leaving everything to chance, in the case of there being a Catholic heir.

This is not leaving it to chance. The law as it stands at the moment is quite clear that a Catholic cannot ascend the throne.

My Lords, the problem was articulated at Second Reading, and I do not wish to extend this debate too much. The problem ultimately will be a human problem, as it was in 1936. That human problem, if it arises, will concern a child who is an heir, either the heir presumptive or a child who by some accident becomes the next in line, a popular expectant heir to the throne, who, whether from birth or by proximity to the Catholic faith when being brought up, believes that they cannot take up the duties of a monarch without the support of the church that they love. That might well be the Catholic Church.

The problem with the halfway house that we have before us is that it opens the door to such a crisis without resolving all the complexities that my noble friend quite rightly said lie at the end of that path. That human drama will be played out in the 21st century through all eyes of the media and television as almost a piece of spectacle—it was in 1936. That is the danger that many Peers sought to point out at Second Reading. I could not support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Cormack; equally, I think that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne is flawed, because I agree with my noble and learned friend on the Front Bench that there are things that a regent could not undertake.

There is a danger in the lack of clarity inherent in this Bill, for well meaning reasons, opening a door to a place we know not where. Not all discrimination in this matter lies on the Anglican side—I speak as one who lives the most happy of mixed marriages but who is never permitted to go to the altar table to share communion with my wife. Let us go forward with caution. It is not right for the Government so readily to detach the opening of the door by the legitimisation of a marriage from a proper and serious contemplation of the potential consequences if a human drama comes to be played out when an heir believes that they can proceed only with the support of the Catholic faith, whether they professed it previously or profess it at the time when they become heir to the Throne.

My Lords, before my noble friend Lord Trefgarne replies, perhaps I may pick up on a point where I do not believe that the argument of my noble friend Lord True holds. Under the law as it stands—and there is no proposal here, nor do the Government have any proposals to change the law—the sovereign may not be, nor have been, a Roman Catholic. Therefore, the situation which my noble friend Lord True suggested, where the sovereign comes to the Throne having to agonise as to whether to renounce the Catholic religion, just would not arise, because, having been a Catholic, he or she would not be eligible to ascend to the Throne.

I entirely concur with my noble friend’s opening remarks: these are very much human matters at the end of the day. There is a human dimension to it, and that is why, in response to the earlier debate, I sought to reflect the discussions which I had with representatives of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales so that this is looked at at a pastoral, human level, which seeks to reflect the importance of the union of a partnership and the indissolubility of marriage. It is against that background that decisions should be made and advice given with regard to the upbringing of a family. I accept that there is a human dimension to this, but I should perhaps clarify that the dilemma that my noble friend was suggesting cannot occur because the position is that the sovereign must not be, or have been, a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

My Lords, I had not appreciated this until my noble and learned friend said it: he said that not only would a Catholic not be able to ascend to the Throne but that someone who had been a Catholic but had then converted to be an Anglican could not ascend to the Throne. That has nothing whatever to do with the position of being Supreme Governor of the Church of England. That is a simple discrimination against Catholics. My noble and learned friend said, “Oh, the reason that we have made this Bill focus on just these three areas is because the issues are so complex”. It is clear that he will not accept the amendment, and I accept some of his arguments for that—but, in listening to this debate, can he not see that there are a number of issues? The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, suggested that we should have a Select Committee, or some kind of body to look at these issues, and park the Bill while that is going on. What is the rush here? What is the reason for our needing to rush forward with this legislation at this pace?

Perhaps at the end of the day, it might be concluded that it was impossible to reconcile maintaining an established Church with removing this discrimination against Catholics. However, if the Government say, “Oh well, this is just a Bill that’s dealing with these matters”, bear in mind that this legislation has to be approved by all the other Parliaments around the world. Would they not think it very odd if we came forward with this Bill now and then a short while later came forward with the other bit of it? Or is the proposition that this is just too difficult? If it is too difficult, why on earth did the Government embark on this journey in the first place?

I would like to add a word. There is a real danger that we are treating exceptionally complex matters far too simplistically. The constitution of our country, which is not written, has often been compared to a beautifully constructed watch—take away one ostensibly tiny piece of the mechanism and the whole thing falls apart. Some fairly unpleasant things were said about my amendment earlier on, but there we are; that is the rough and tumble of debate. However, I really believe that those of us who are concerned about this issue—coming from slightly different points of view, I accept—are on to something that the Government have not bothered to think through. They have said, “Oh look, this is so complex that we’ll just concentrate on these things”, which is equivalent to saying, “This watch is beautifully constructed; we’ll just look at the hands in the face and forget the bit behind”. There is merit in the interesting suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson—if I may have his attention for a moment—or at least in the Minister calling a meeting in his room for people who are concerned, and possibly in going forward to a special committee. This is not really the ideal forum for a detailed discussion of these exceptionally important and complex matters, which reach out we know not where.

My Lords, I have already responded to the point from the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and indicated that I am not in a position on behalf of the Government to commit to establishing a committee to look at these matters. It is clear that there are committees of this House and indeed of the other place that could do so. Obviously the Government would contribute to any such committee that we had invited to do this, but I do not believe that that is a pathway that is inconsistent—nor did the noble Lord suggest this—with proceeding with the relatively straightforward, although constitutionally important, issues that are in the Bill.

My Lords, at the end of Second Reading a week or so ago, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, moved to refer this Bill to a Committee of the Whole House, I suggested then to your Lordships that it would have been much better considered by a Select Committee of the House to which witnesses could have been called and had their evidence taken—perhaps even a Joint Select Committee involving Members of the other place. However, the Minister refused to agree to that; oh no, we would go to a Committee of the Whole House, as we are now doing.

If ever there was a case of unlooked-for consequences, this Bill is certainly it. There are a number of aspects of this matter that quite clearly the Government have simply not considered or, if they have, they have chosen to disregard. That is really not good enough, and we are going to have to return to this issue at the next stage for sure. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 10 withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed.

Amendment 11

Moved by

11: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—

“Removal of disqualification arising from individual’s religion

(1) A person is not disqualified from succeeding to the Crown or from possessing it as a result of that person not joining in communion with the Church of England as by law established; and all provisions to the contrary in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement are accordingly superseded.

(2) Where a person who succeeds to the Crown or possesses it declares to the Privy Council that he or she is not in communion with the Church of England as by law established, the person who is next in line of succession to the Crown and who is in communion with the Church of England shall perform the functions of Supreme Governor of the Church of England in the name of and on behalf of the Sovereign.

(3) The provisions in subsections (3) to (5) of section 3 of the Regency Act 1937 apply to such a person who is Supreme Governor, with the substitution for references to the Regent of references to the Supreme Governor.”

I do not intend to speak to this amendment at any length. We have covered some of its detail, although by no means all of it, in recent discussions, but I would like to hear what the Minister’s response to it would be. Without wishing to detain your Lordships, therefore, I beg to move.

My Lords, the position with regard to this amendment is very similar. It is a different structure for having, as it were, a divergence between the person who is the sovereign and the person who is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Some of the difficulties and arguments which were expressed with regard to the regency are also applicable to the slightly different structure proposed in Amendment 11. I am not sure that I can elaborate on that much further as I think that the arguments are very similar.

I understand what my noble and learned friend is saying. However, the amendment that I now propose does not confine itself to the Roman Catholic faith, or the possibility of the sovereign or the heir to the Throne being Roman Catholic, but deals with all other possible faiths. At the moment, many legal restrictions apply to the Roman Catholic faith in this regard but none applies to Muslims, the Jewish faith or any faith other than the Anglican and Roman Catholic faiths. Therefore, that matter certainly bears additional consideration, but perhaps not today. In the meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 11 withdrawn.

Clause 3 : Consent of Sovereign required to certain Royal Marriages

Amendment 12

Moved by

12: Clause 3, page 1, line 12, leave out “6” and insert “12”