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Mr. Evans: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman may have been led astray, so I should mention that we are in Committee.

Mr. Evans: Thank you, Sir Alan.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South): What happened to the other point of order?

Mr. Evans: The point of order has been more than adequately dealt with. Labour Members like to close down debate whenever they can, but the House of Commons is here to scrutinise the Bill before us. If we cannot do so here, where can we do so?

Mr. Tyrie: Has not the problem that we have just encountered arisen as a direct result of our having before the Committee a Bill which will almost certainly be amended in the other place? We are not being given the opportunity to debate what it is almost certainly the Government's intention to put on to the statute book.

The Chairman: Order. This is not a debate about a debate. It is about clause 2.

Mr. Evans: In that case, I shall add nothing to my hon. Friend's excellent intervention, Sir Alan.

Clause 2 is about a certain number of people who will retain their titles, but lose their rights to sit and vote in the other place. However, a number of hereditary peers will receive sitting and voting rights after the Bill becomes an Act. However great that number may be, does the simplicity of the clause mean that those peers will have no right to vote at a general election because they are continuing to represent themselves in the other place?

The second question relates to the number of peers who will be elected by other peers in the other place. A number of hereditary peers will help to elect a group of peers who will remain in the upper House for some indeterminate period of time. We do not know when stage 2 will come about. We are talking only about a transitional House, which could be with us for a long time. We simply do not know how long it will exist. There is the example of other changes, such as that of 1911. It took 88 years for us to get round to this reform. Who is to say that it will not be a further 88 years before we get round to the reform now proposed?

4 pm

Will the hereditaries who will be able to vote for other hereditaries to remain in the Lords be allowed to vote at general elections and or even stand for this House, even though they will have helped to elect legislators for the other place? That is a straightforward question, but it is one of the anomalies thrown up by clause 2. Such peers

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will be allowed to vote once for a group of people in the upper House and once for someone in this House. The Minister may say that that will affect only those who vote in the election for hereditary representatives. All hereditaries will be eligible to vote for the peers to remain in the upper House, but some may not take up their voting rights. Is the Minister about to say that peers who vote for legislators in the upper House cannot stand for this House or vote for legislators in the lower House? If they do not take part in the first election, will they have full rights? That would mean that they would vote only once, for Members of this place.

The Minister and the Leader of the House think that this is a simple Bill, but it has not been thought through. As with many of the constitutional changes, the Government have not fully considered its effects. Will the Minister direct his attention to some of the anomalies raised by clause 2?

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): This is the first time that I have participated in a debate on the second Chamber. I have an interest to declare in that, in the fullness of time, I stand to inherit a hereditary peerage and could benefit from the provisions of clause 2 as drafted. I therefore have a personal interest in it, which I make plain. You will perhaps forgive me, Sir Alan, if I do not declare that interest in every debate in which I might subsequently participate.

I wish to support what my hon. Friends have said, but first I want to tell the Minister that I broadly support clause 2. I have long thought that the second Chamber needed fundamental reform. I believe that we should start with functions. Its powers need to be substantially increased so as to be a check on this House. That can be done only if we are prepared to confer proper legitimacy on it. I favour a second Chamber that is wholly, or very largely, directly elected. The consequence of that is that I support clause 2 as a natural corollary of my general position.

I come now to the personal point, which causes great concern. It is known that the Weatherill amendment--or is it the Cranborne amendment?--may well receive sympathetic attention from the Government. I would be deeply concerned if, as a consequence of creating a college of hereditary peers capable of electing 91 or any other number of representative peers in the second Chamber, people such as myself who may wish to remain a Member of this House, but still take a peerage, would find ourselves disfranchised or disabled from doing so. That point was made by the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans). The Government must address it, because people such as myself would be deeply distressed if the consequence of accepting the Cranborne-Weatherill amendment was disapplication of the provisions of clause 2 to persons such as me and one or two other right hon. and hon. Members.

I have one other point in support of what my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley said. There will have to be some amendment to clause 2 if we accept the Cranborne-Weatherill amendment. Once we create a college of hereditary peers who elect representative hereditary peers to sit pro tem in the other place, unless we disqualify that group--those who are in the electoral college--we shall have given them two votes. We shall

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have given them the ability to vote within the electoral college for representative peers as well as to vote for people in this House.

Mr. Tyrie: It could not happen to a better group.

Mr. Hogg: That may be so, but the question whether it is democratic is one to which the Committee must turn its attention.

So I have a personal interest that I do not seek to conceal. I do not wish to find myself unable to take advantage of clause 2 should I decide to do so. There is a serious problem. It cannot be resolved finally today, but I hope that the Minister of State will understand the force of the arguments that my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley, the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and I have made and that he will deal with the problem should the Cranborne amendment be moved and accepted.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). I agree with a great deal of what he said. I was interested by his choice of words in his initial remark: he said that he was one of those who would benefit from the Bill. Anyone who believes in democracy will agree with him. He will be relieved of the duty to go and sit in another place. He will be able to continue sitting and speaking in a democratic Chamber chosen by the people of a constituency and to be accountable to them. The things that go to the heart are the things which we value most in our democracy.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will benefit, it follows that those who are left in the other Chamber--the life peers chosen not by heredity but by patronage--will be at a distinct democratic disadvantage. The clause discriminates against life peers if we believe, as I do and the right hon. and learned Gentleman does, that to sit in a democratic Chamber is an advantage, a benefit and a precious right. The condemnation of people in the other House to be the only people in our democracy who are not part of it is something which the House ought to consider before it proceeds with the Bill.

Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I think that the Bill is a fine and historic piece of legislation. I agree specifically with the clause in so far as it advances the argument. However, it has the unfortunate consequence of, probably inadvertently, disadvantaging life peers. Hereditary peers gain enormously from the clause, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. They become electors. They become eligible for election. They can be chosen by vote. They will sit in this House, which is about as great a privilege as anyone can have in our democracy. But the life peers will not be chosen by the people and be accountable to them. They will be chosen by oligarchs. They will be chosen by the few--oligos. That is an extremely sad and wrong position for them to be in. It is extraordinary for this House, as a result of a reform taking us into the 21st century, to be creating a new oligarchy--that is what the new electoral college will be, and that is wrong. It can be put right. The Bill is not the end of the story.

I hope that when my hon. Friend the Minister replies he will emphasise that when the royal commission looks at the next stage it will be able to correct the inadvertent

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defects and consequences of the clause and the Bill. If he does not, and if the royal commission decides that the second Chamber will not be part of our democracy, because it is not directly and democratically elected but chosen by oligarchs, that will be wholly wrong and we should be extremely wary of that. In my view, and that of many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, we shall have reformed one enormous defect of the other place--its hereditary principle--but not the other great defect, which is that the second Chamber is neither chosen by, nor directly accountable to, the people of this country. It is not part of our direct democracy.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will give the Committee some reassurance that Lord Wakeham and the royal commission will give that matter serious consideration. One of the commission's options, as laid out in the White Paper, is to consider a directly elected Chamber that would avoid any taint of oligarchy. Only then can Members of that Chamber benefit in the way that the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham rightly tells us he, too, will benefit.

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