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Age Limits on Health Care

Dr. Vincent Cable accordingly presented a Bill to amend the National Health Service (Primary Care) Act 1997 to prohibit the refusal or delay of treatment on the basis of age; and to establish an inquiry into the prevalence of age discrimination in the National Health Service: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 28 March, and to be printed [Bill 48].

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Orders of the Day

House of Lords Bill

Considered in Committee [Progress, 15 February].

[Mr. Michael Lord in the Chair]

Clause 1

Exclusion of hereditary peers

Amendment proposed [15 February]: No. 2, in page 1, line 6, at the end to add the words
'except that--
(a) 75 hereditary peers shall be elected as members of the House of Lords in accordance with subsection (2).
(b) 14 hereditary peers shall be elected as members of the House of Lords in accordance with subsection (3).
(c) the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earl Marshal shall be members of the House of Lords.
(2) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) shall be the holders of a hereditary peerage.
(3) The electors for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) shall be the members of the House of Lords.
(4) The Secretary of State may by order make such provision about the conduct of the elections under this section as he considers appropriate.
(5) No order under this section shall be made unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing it has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.'.--[Mrs. Laing.]

4.21 pm

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord): I remind the Committee that, with this, we are discussing the following amendments: No. 3, in page 1, line 6, at end add

', unless he or she is the first holder of a hereditary peerage.'.

No. 25, in page 1, line 6, at end insert

'and any transitional arrangement enabling certain hereditary peers to continue their membership of that House shall cease to have effect on the expiry of the period of twelve months from the date of publication of the final report of the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament announced in Command Paper No. 4183'.

No. 16, in clause 4, page 1, line 14, leave out from 'force' to end of line and insert

'on a date not less than six months after the passing of this Act nominated by the Secretary of State'.

No. 17, in page 1, line 16, leave out 'Session' and insert 'date'.

No. 18, in page 1, line 16, at end insert--

'(2A) Prior to nominating a date for the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall make inquiry and lay a report before both Houses of Parliament, setting out the names of all current hereditary peers who have played a significant role in the workings of the House of Lords during the ten years preceding the passing of this Act; and such hereditary peers shall be entitled to remain members of the House of Lords, pending the enactment of proposals for the wider reform of the House of Lords following the report of the Royal Commission and public consultation concerning its proposals.'.

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New clause 12--Peerage of Scotland--

'( ) Nothing in this Act shall be taken to prevent sixteen peers from the peerage of Scotland from voting in the House of Lords.'.

No. 10, in title, line 1, leave out 'End' and insert 'Restrict'.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): It would be folly to repeat the arguments made so eloquently, forcefully and passionately yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), but I wish to reflect on some of the points that arose from her speech. She claimed no originality for amendment No. 2. Indeed, Labour Members suggested that it was in fact the Weatherill amendment.

Whatever its genesis may have been, the amendment has become the Alastair Campbell amendment, for it is quite clearly the amendment that the Government suggest, in chapter 5 of the White Paper, that they would be minded to accept. It is extraordinary that an amendment should be owned, in a sense, by a member of the Executive who has no place in either part of the legislature, but that is a measure of the pass to which we have come, and for which the Bill should be something of a remedy.

There appears to be a contradiction in the motives behind the amendment, for which, incidentally, I have no great enthusiasm. I accept my hon. Friend's point that the amendment will make a bad Bill marginally better. However, I believe that the Government intend the Bill to last for a long time, and I am keen to see the amendment carried only so that the settlement that arises from the Bill may be marginally better than it would otherwise be.

Last night, the Committee heard several Labour Members complaining that the opposite was the case, and that the arrangements that we are debating are for a transitional period. To me, the important transitional arrangement will be that made between this afternoon, when Labour Members vote against the amendment, and the day on which the same Members will vote for it when returns as a Lords amendment. They may comfort themselves with the thought that these are just transitional arrangements.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): I share my hon. Friend's concern about that transition, but he could go further. Given that the amendment is in fact the Alastair Campbell amendment, is it not interesting that the Government Whips will force Labour Members--most of them, at any rate--to vote against the amendment today but for it when it returns? That shows both the extent to which Parliament is being bypassed and to which Labour Members are simply Lobby fodder.

Mr. Swayne: That is true. Labour Members, who hope merely for a transitional stage, are trusting a great deal to the Executive. In effect, they are writing a blank cheque. I have no doubt that the arrangements that are being put in place are made to last rather than to be transitory.

The Government have said that there is urgency about proceedings on the Bill. Surely, if there were any urgency, the royal commission would have been set up 20 months ago and we would now be discussing its findings and putting in place the stage 2 reforms. The very fact that that is not the case leads me to suspect that the arrangements are built to last. Curiously, I support the

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amendment for that reason--so that the arrangements that are put in place, which I fear will last, are better than they would otherwise have been had the Bill been unamended.

Labour Members will finally vote for the amendment, when it comes back from the other place, for precisely the opposite motive. They will be voting for it in the hope that the arrangements will be transitory. It is curious that both sides of the House will at some stage end up voting for the provisions of the amendment for different motives.

I hope that Labour Members will be proved correct and that the arrangements will be transitory. In many ways, I have little enthusiasm for the amendment, although it bears my name among others. It would improve the situation, but the state of affairs is far from satisfactory. What is least satisfactory about it is that Back-Bench Conservative Members have tabled the amendment; it should have been the Government. In a sense, we have provided a service to the House by allowing it the benefit of line-by-line scrutiny of the amendment in Committee. Otherwise, the Bill would have ended up in much the same state as it is in now. I regard that as regrettable indeed.

Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool): As debate on the amendment has continued, it has become increasingly clear that the Opposition are trying to flog a very dead horse and are doing so at inordinate length. That serves as a good example and a good taste of what the Government would have faced in the House of Lords had they not done precisely what they are doing, which is to create an arrangement whereby they can fulfil two objectives.

Those objectives are simple and straightforward: the first is to secure the passage of the Bill as expeditiously as we can; the second is to do so in such a way as to protect the rest of the Government's programme. The Government and, in particular, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, carry that dual responsibility. In the debate yesterday, the attacks of the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) on my right hon. Friend, tearing into her and accusing her of astonishing and intolerable hypocrisy, smacked of enormous humbug. She is doing precisely what he would have done had he been in her position, given that he would bear exactly the same responsibility, which is to ensure the passage of this Bill as well as to protect the rest of the Government's programme. The facts of political life are that, if we are not careful, we may achieve only objective 1 at the expense of objective 2, unless we can obtain the good will of the other place.

4.30 pm

The reason why we have to go to some length to secure the good will of the other place in the passage of the legislation goes to the heart of one of the reasons why the Bill has been introduced in the first place, which is that, as we all know, the Conservative party has an in-built 3:1 majority against us in the other place. No matter what we do, no matter what we introduce and no matter how valid and well-drafted the legislation, if the Conservative party wants to, it can wheel out its battalions and stop the Labour Government carrying out their will, fulfilling their

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mandate and implementing their manifesto. It is to meet that potential obstruction that we have to take the measures that we are taking.

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