Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I beg to move the amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, our Chairman of Committees, for moving his Motion in such an able and succinct way. The House will be indebted to him for that. It is with some diffidence that I speak on the subject considering, as we are, a report of a committee of our House of eminent and learned colleagues. I am sustained by the knowledge that here, on the Floor of the House, we are all equal, with equal rights and duties to give our counsel. It is our duty, each of us equally, to consider this matter and to come to a judgment.

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1094

It has been suggested that I am speaking for the Irish peerage. Not so. I speak for the rights and privileges of Members of your Lordships' House. By virtue of the Act of Union of 1800 between Great Britain and Ireland, as the noble Lord explained, the Irish peerage elected 28 of its number to sit here in our House of Lords. They had a seat in the House for their lifetime, with the rights and privileges of other Members of your Lordships' House. When they died, an election was held for a replacement.

In 1922, the Irish Free State was set up. In 1966, the House agreed to a Privileges Committee Report (the Antrim case) which said:

    "That the provisions of the said Act relating to the election of Irish representative peers ceased to be effective on the passing of the Irish Free State Agreement Act, 1922, and that the right to elect Irish representative peers no longer exists".

In that case Lord Dilhorne said in his opinion:

    "In one sense the 28 elected peers were representative of the Irish peers who elected them just as the four lords spiritual who sat by rotation represented the other lords spiritual but it is to my mind clear that they were only elected to sit and vote on the part of Ireland.

    When the Free State and Northern Ireland were created, Ireland as an entity ceased to be part of the United Kingdom. It necessarily follows that there was no territory called Ireland to be represented in the United Kingdom Parliament and thereafter it was in my opinion no longer possible to elect an Irish peer to sit and vote in the House of Lords on the part of Ireland for to do so would have meant the election of peers to represent a territory which had ceased to exist as a political entity and as part of the United Kingdom.

    For these reasons, in my opinion that part of the Union of Ireland Act which provided for the election of Irish peers to the House of Lords must be regarded as having become spent or obsolete or impliedly repealed in 1922".

My contention is that the implication of that judgment was that there was no basis for Irish Peers to sit in this House. In effect, the Act of Union of 1800 had been torn up. But some Irish Peers continued to receive Writs of Summons and sit in the House after 1922. Since there was no other basis for their sitting in this House, they sat by virtue of a Writ of Summons, and based on the precedent that there was effectively created for each of them a barony by Writ of Summons.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, they sat after 1922 because they had been elected for life. It was agreed that they should continue to sit for their lifetime, although the right to elect further Irish Peers had ceased and was repealed in 1971.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord did not listen closely to my remarks. When he reads them in Hansard tomorrow, he may consider them more fully.

I believe that there are fewer than six cases that meet the criteria. The Barony of Farnham is one of them. The present Baron Farnham is the grandson of the first creation—his father having died at El Alamein as a result of wounds. I believe that he should receive his Writ of Summons.

I have been a little concerned about some of the things said in the committee's proceedings; in particular, the reference to Irish representative Peers. We must draw a distinction between the method of selection of Peers and their situation once they have taken their seats

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1095

in the House. I give the example of the Spiritual Bench in your Lordships' House. Its Members are effectively selected by the established Church (the Church of England) to sit in the House, but when they take their seats they speak for themselves. They do not speak for the Church of England.

We must recognise that those Irish Peers who sat by virtue of the Act of Union 1800 did not sit in this House representing Ireland; they sat in this House representing themselves, as we are all summoned to do, to give our counsel and not represent any outside interest.

Some of us sit in this House by virtue of ancient, or less ancient, titles; and some sit by virtue of statutory provision, and receive Writs of Summons by virtue of those Acts. If those Acts were repealed, the basis for the seat would be removed, but if they receive the Writ of Summons, and take their seat, there would be conferred on them a barony by Writ of Summons.

In conclusion, I should like to quote the words of a counsel for James, Duke of Atholl, in 1735, who said:

    "They insisted likewise that when any one is called to the House of Peers and actually sits there his Blood is thereby ennobled and his Lineal Heirs will be so for ever afterwards".

I hope that the House will uphold the ancient rights, and it is on that basis that I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the above Motion, leave out ("agreed to") and insert ("referred back to the Committee for Privileges for reconsideration").—(Lord Monkswell.)

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, I hope that we shall not take a great deal of trouble to listen to the debate on this amendment. Basically, it is nonsense.

Looking around the House, in particular at the Benches behind me, I see that a few Baronies by Writ now exist. My noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton may be one and my noble friend Lady Strange may be another. Although they existed prior to the 17th century, they were validated in the 17th century by the Committee for Privileges because there was the anomalous practice of medieval monarchs issuing writs without Letters Patent. They are the only peerages by writ which can exist, and they exist only in the peerage of England and not in the peerages of Ireland, Scotland or the United Kingdom. There is not an ancient right, except in respect of those who already possess them and their descendants.

Since the 17th century, peerages of all kinds—whether in the peerages of Ireland, Scotland, England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom—have been limited by Letters Patent. The descent descends only to the heirs male of the body because that is how the Letters Patent are framed. As appears from the report, the Barony of Farnham was not a peerage of the United Kingdom but of Ireland. Effectively, it no longer exists. It was established by Letters Patent and the descent, therefore, descends only to the heirs male of the body by reason of the Letters Patent and not by virtue of any writ received.

The matter does not stop there. The barony from which the noble Lord's amendment descends was a barony to sit in this House for life. That is all it was. It

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1096

gave no right of descent per se to its successors. In fact, for reasons referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell—I must not be taken to accept the context in which he put them—it has been held that the habit of electing representative Peers to sit in this House arose solely by statute under the Act of Union with Ireland, which has since gone by the board and disappeared into the realms of history. There never was anything else to it.

Such Peers sat for life, and that was the only right that they had. When they died no one else succeeded them. It was a barony for life created by statute, which is now obsolete and, in effect, repealed. That is all there was to it. This appeal is as near unarguable as a point of law as anything I have ever seen. I ask the House not to waste a great deal of time discussing it but to reject it out of hand.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I am sorry to disagree with the noble Viscount. I do not believe that this is a waste of time—

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: I am not a Viscount!

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, no, in no way. For a number of reasons, I wish that I could support the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. First, he stands for a tradition of independence while preserving loyalty to the party, which is enviable and should be preserved in this House. In many years from now he may occupy the kind of position which is occupied by my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington. But that is some way off. In the meantime, I hope that he will subordinate his independence to his loyalty in order to achieve office in the next administration.

As I am wearing an Irish Rugby Union tie which was given to me by an Ulster protestant, I am prejudiced in favour of anything that would produce more Irish influence in this House. Of course, County Cavan is wonderfully well situated for that purpose. It is in Ulster and it is also in the Irish Republic. In that sense, I am on his side.

It would be unwise of me to say that I am the only person but perhaps I am one of the few people who played tennis as a partner with the late Lord Farnham. I am greatly indebted to him because he helped me to reach the final of the County Cavan tennis tournament. He was what we call in England the local squire. Farnham Castle dominated the county courts and therefore we were given a colossal handicap. The late Lord Farnham was a fine man and we reached the final of the tournament. The local young men were terrified of the great Lord who presided over the whole scene at Farnham Castle and the courts at County Cavan. A couple of unimpressionable young fellows, who were Davis Cup players, came from Dublin. They had never heard of Lord Farnham or of me and so they swept us aside. However, we got as far as the final and I was in partnership with Lord Farnham. Afterwards, I apologised to him and said, "I am afraid that I let you down". He said, "You can't keep going all the time". I suppose that that was well meant but it did not console me very much. At any rate, perhaps that can be said about this case. He reached the final but he could not keep going all the time and win.

5 Jul 1995 : Column 1097

I have another recollection of Lord Farnham which I must give because I believe that it will endear him to the House, whatever the result of the Motion. Every year there was a tennis dance at Farnham Castle, overlooking the courts. Every year Lord Farnham, who was a loyal Britisher, insisted on "God Save the King" being played. It was during the 1930s. Of course, a number of local nationalists would walk out and therefore there was always a question of whether the dance would take place.

I hope that when we in this House think of Lord Farnham—this House is the most loyal of British Chambers—we shall think of him having "God Save the King" played 15 years after the signing of the treaty. That was the only place in Ireland where it was played and his memory should be happily preserved. However, I am afraid that I cannot vote for the amendment.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page