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Dr. Fox: I am impressed by the elegant way in which the Minister comes up with some of his arguments, but the argument about someone attaining the age of 18 is not the same. In one case, we are increasing the franchise by allowing those who knew that they were to take part eventually to do so and, in the other, we are disfranchising those who did not know that they were to be disfranchised.

Mr. Hoon: They should have read the Labour party manifesto a little more carefully.

Mr. Grieve: My hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) has, in part, picked up on the point that I wished to make. The parallel of the 18-year-old is not valid. However, the issue is not whether hereditary peers read the Labour manifesto--that is irrelevant. The point is that a class of people over the age of 18 are entitled to vote for election to this House. The only ones who are deprived of that right--apart from those disqualified because they are lunatics or felons--cannot vote because they are entitled to represent themselves during the currency of the Parliament.

It is halfway through the Parliament--and not at its end--that the Government are intending to deprive those people of their power to represent themselves without giving them the power to vote on what happens in this Parliament between the time that they are disqualified and its end. I believe, therefore, that they should be removed and disqualified at the end of the Parliament.

Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman made precisely the same point earlier, and I will not weary the Committee by responding precisely as I did then.

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I think that I have dealt with all the points that were raised. I considered carefully the points made by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). He is always anxious that I should deal in detail with his observations. I think that I have done so. I will not speculate on how precisely clause 4(3) will operate. That is why we have made it permissive. We may not need to use it, and that would be the best solution.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3


Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Forth: In the cause of trying better to understand the clause, I have had a look at the Peerage Act 1963, to establish what is affected by the schedule to which the clause refers. It would help me if the Minister were briefly to explain what the clause does and why.

I am especially interested in the reference to section 2 of the Peerage Act 1963, which may touch on the matter raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). That section is entitled

and covers the eventualities in which there is an overlap between membership of the two Houses.

That affects the matter of timing. Unless I am misreading the situation, which is entirely possible, because the Act is rather dense--no, nobody has risen to the bait--the provision may not be as relevant as it might be to my right hon. and learned Friend and to any other Member of Parliament who is in the fortunate position of being the possible inheritor of an hereditary title.

The schedule deletes altogether sections 4 to 6 of the Peerage Act 1963, which refer to

For example, section 4 says:

    "The holder of a peerage in the peerage of Scotland shall have the same right to receive writs of summons to attend the House of Lords, and to sit and vote in that House, as the holder of a peerage in the peerage of the United Kingdom; and the enactments relating to the election of Scottish representative peers shall cease to have effect."

That is to be repealed. What lies behind that? I may be the only one who has not understood, and if so I offer the Committee my apologies, but if others have shared my difficulty in grasping the relevance and impact of the schedule, it would be helpful for the Minister to give us some background.

Mr. Swayne: I, too, have had the benefit of reading the Peerage Act 1963. I was able to follow the logic of the exclusions in the schedule, which flow from clause 2 of the Bill, save in one respect. It may show only my ignorance, but the ignorance of a member of the

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Committee is a proper concern for the Minister. My query relates to the extent of the repeal as it affects section 2, which states:

    "Where a peerage is disclaimed under this Act, no other hereditary peerage shall be conferred upon the person by whom it is disclaimed, and no writ in acceleration shall be issued in respect of that peerage to the person entitled thereto on his death".

That provision will be repealed, and I hope that the Minister will explain why.

Mr. Forth: I noticed that point as well, but I did not mention it because I did not want to make my comments any longer than was necessary. However, I wondered whether that was the very mechanism that had benefited Lord Cranborne and whether there was a sinister element in its repeal, given recent events.

Mr. Swayne: I hope that the Minister will be able to clear up any doubt on that score.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): I wish to ask the Minister a more fundamental question than the subtle ones that have been asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne). Why does any part of the Peerage Act 1963 need to be repealed in the light of the Bill? If it does nothing else, the Bill will prevent holders of hereditary peerages from sitting, voting and speaking in the other place. It will specifically allow holders of hereditary peerages to vote in elections for this House and to become Members of Parliament. Someone who today sits in the other place could become a Member of this House and use, if they wanted to, their hereditary title. The Speaker would call--

Mr. Letwin: Lord Speaker.

Mr. Garnier: Yes, we could even have a Lord Speaker or Lady Speaker. That aside, the whole purpose of the Bill is to disable hereditary peers from taking part in the legislation of the other place and to enable them to take part in the legislation in this House. The Peerage Act 1963, in the long title, authorises

The whole Act will become otiose, because by implication, it will be entirely repealed by the Bill. I hope that the Minister can deal with that point.

The purpose of the Peerage Act 1963 was to allow successors to hereditary peerages--we remember the case of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), or Lord Stansgate as he was for a short time--and, presumably, unwilling peers to renounce their hereditary titles, which after all were awarded to their forebears and not to them, so that they could stand for election to this House.

5.15 pm

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): Is it true that the Peerage Act 1963 would become otiose? What would happen if one of the Weatherill peers died towards the end of this Parliament? Would he be succeeded by his eldest son or would the other peers elect a new peer?

Mr. Garnier: I do not know, but I would guess that the son of a Weatherill peer, as my hon. Friend called them,

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would be entitled to inherit the honour and the name, and be entitled to call himself the second or third Lord Leigh of Gainsborough, or whatever it might be. He would not, as a consequence of his father's death, be able to step into his shoes as an elected hereditary peer. I do not know whether the Government have yet invented a system for by-elections within that class of hereditary peers who will be members of the new House of Lords.

Mr. Letwin: Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that it would be extraordinary if the Government had invented any such mechanism, because they deny all knowledge of the proposal to which he refers?

Mr. Garnier: I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend, but for the very reason that the Government deny it, I would not find it in the least bit extraordinary. I have dealt, in interrogatory form, with the first part of the long title of the Peerage Act 1963. It continues:

By definition, the only people who are included in that class of peer are hereditary peers. Since 1963, no new life peerages that would fall within that description have been created.

Mr. Hogg: Hereditary peerages.

Mr. Garnier: Hereditary peers have been created, but there have been no new hereditary peers in the peerage of Scotland or any new creations of peeresses in their own right in the peerages of Scotland, England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, although life peeresses have been created, of course. I suggest that there are no peers in that class who would not already be caught by the provisions of the Bill and expelled from the other place.

The long title continues:

Unless the Minister can provide me with some ingenious examples of peers of Ireland whose rights will be unaffected by the Bill, I suggest that clause 3 and the schedule are unnecessary.

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