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Mr. Swayne: I apologise to the Minister. When I asked my question a few moments ago, I read out correctly the part of the Peerage Act 1963 that confused me, but I misidentified it. It is section 3(2) that contains the exclusion that I wish to be explained.

Mr. Hoon: Clause 3 is a simple, straightforward measure and part of a determined campaign by the Government to keep the statute book as simple and straightforward as possible. It introduces a schedule to the Bill. As a result of clauses 1 and 2, certain provisions of the Peerage Act 1963 will no longer be required--for example, those which require a peer to disclaim a peerage before he or she may stand for membership of the House of Commons, a point that the hon. and learned Member

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for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) reached eventually--and the schedule repeals those provisions. It is as simple and straightforward as that.

Mr. Hogg: Will the Minister tell us which bits of the 1963 Act are required?

Mr. Hoon: As ever, the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes straight to the point. Certain of its provisions are required, and I shall write to him in due course about them.

Mr. Garnier: When the Minister writes to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), will he not only identify which parts of the 1963 Act are required, but provide a full explanation of why they are required?

Mr. Hoon: I shall certainly do that.

Mr. Hogg: Would the Minister put a copy of his letter in the Library of the House of Commons?

Mr. Hoon: Of course.

Mr. Swayne: I suspect that the Minister's explanation was written before the debate because he has made no attempt to address my specific question. I understand entirely that the exclusions follow from clause 2, except in respect of the subsection to which I drew attention. May I also expect a letter from the Minister?

Mr. Hoon: Yes.

Mr. Leigh: My intervention was brushed aside by the Minister and the Leader of the House. May I offer the Committee a scenario that could happen to one hon. Member of this House. Let us say that an hon. Member has a father who is an hereditary peer--I can think of at least one. Let us say that the father is elected to be a Weatherill peer. Let us say that the father subsequently dies before the end of this Parliament. At present, the situation is quite clear. If one's father is an hereditary peer and one is a Member of the House of Commons, one's office is immediately closed by the Serjeant at Arms and one is not allowed to sit in this Chamber. One then makes one's choice.

Under the new arrangements, if an hon. Member has a father who is an hereditary peer, but not a Weatherill peer, there will be no problem. He will go on sitting in this House. However, what would happen if his father was a Weatherill peer? Would the hon. Member be allowed to make his choice between sitting here and being allowed to stand later for election as a Weatherill peer? If so, we should be giving that person--as I have said, I can think of at least one example of an hon. Member to whom this situation might apply--an entirely unfair position. He would be able to sit in this House, or to stand as a Weatherill peer.

Mr. Forth: I am beginning to regret the brevity of my remarks. I had skipped over this matter. I pointed out that the deletion of section 2 of the Peerage Act 1963 took out

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the bit that referred to disclaimers by Members of the House of Commons and parliamentary candidates. My hon. Friend has picked up a point with which I failed to deal adequately. The deletion of the whole section, in a way that the Minister has not yet been able properly to explain, would leave us in a serious position.

Mr. Leigh: That is part of the difficulty that we face. We know perfectly well that there will be a class of Weatherill peers, but the Government refuse to acknowledge that those peers will exist. They claim that it is a hypothetical situation. My point is perfectly justifiable. The Minister has argued that one cannot have one's cake and eat it, and that one cannot be a Member of the other House and be allowed to stand for this place. Why, then, should someone whose father happens to be an hereditary Weatherill peer be placed in the uniquely advantageous position of being able to choose, in his own time, whether to stay here or go to the other place?

Mr. Hoon: I shall repeat my earlier mantra on whether or not there are to be amendments to deal with the arrangements suggested by Lord Cranborne. It may or may not occur, and we may or may not have the kind of debate that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) referred to.

The hon. Gentleman has at least saved the taxpayer the cost of a first-class stamp, however, as I can now deal with the point made by the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne). I was right in my earlier comments.

Mr. Garnier: He is sometimes right.

Mr. Hoon: Every so often, that is so.

Clause 3 and the schedule are a tidying-up measure. They reduce the size of the statute book. The hon. Member for New Forest, West was concerned about writs in acceleration. Our repeal ensures, for the avoidance of doubt, the removal of writs in acceleration, which might otherwise have been available had the provision been left in. This is a tidying provision arising from the 1963 Act, which dealt, as it had to, with writs in acceleration. Those writs will no longer be possible, because they apply only to hereditary peers, who will not have the right to sit. This is simply a means of ensuring that a piece of legislation that is no longer necessary is removed from the statute book, which I am sure the hon. Member for New Forest, West would welcome.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Commencement and transitional provision

Mr. Letwin: I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 14, leave out 'Session of'.

The Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 6, in page 1, leave out lines 15 and 16.

New clause 1--Duration of Act (No. 1)--

'.--( ) This Act shall cease to have effect at the end of the Parliament in which it is passed.'.

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New clause 2--Duration of Act (No. 2)--

'( ) This Act shall cease to have effect twenty four months after the publication of the final report of the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament announced in Command Paper 4183.'.

New clause 10--Purpose of Act--

'.--The purpose of this Act is to make interim provision for the membership of the House of Lords pending further legislation to substitute for that House a Second Chamber constituted on a different basis.'.

New clause 13--Duration of Act (No. 3)--

'( ) This Act shall cease to have effect and the repeals referred to in section 3 shall be ineffective when the present Parliament is dissolved unless a subsequent act has been passed affecting the composition of the House of Lords.'.

New clause 18--Termination of Act--

'This Act shall cease to have effect at the expiry of the period of three years beginning with its passing.'.

Mr. Letwin: The intended effect of all the amendments and new clauses is the same, although they seek to achieve it by different means. The need for them arises from the shambles and the constitutional outrage being perpetrated by the Government. I do not use those words lightly; this is the least impressive example of major constitutional reform that has been engaged in in the entire English-speaking world. The Government have introduced a Bill--in particular, clause 4--without having the slightest idea of the medium-term and long-term shape of the arrangements that will replace what is being removed. The Government have admitted as much.

Under those extraordinary circumstances, which historians who write the history of this patch of the Government's activities will find even more extraordinary than they seem to us to be, there is a need to try to introduce some semblance of constitutional propriety. The amendments and new clauses seek to provide that semblance. They do so by the simple expedient of asking the Government to alter the Bill so as to produce the effect that they say they wish to produce. It does not seem particularly outrageous to require that of a Government.

The effect in question is to make the interim Chamber an interim Chamber, rather than its being what many Government Members have said they believe it will be--namely, a Chamber that will exist, if not in perpetuity, at least for a period comparable to the 88 years during which the current Chamber has existed under not wholly dissimilar circumstances. We do not want a five-clause Bill that contains not the slightest description of that Chamber--and on which the greatest of efforts have been made to prevent the Committee from debating the constitution of that Chamber--to produce an 88-year Chamber.

Strangely, the Government do not want that either. We seem to agree on that matter. All we ask, therefore, is that the Government should ensure that the replacement Chamber cannot be more than an interim Chamber.

There are two means by which that can be achieved. The Minister will have noticed that we are trying both.

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