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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Bill envisages that it is the business ratepayers, normally the tenants, who will participate and pay charges. However, one of the possible consequences of a successful BID scheme would be to push up capital and rental values. Some tenants might feel that this was unfair. Amendment No. 26 enables a business tenant who thinks that the owner should bear part or whole of the scheme charge to apply to the county court. The court would then have discretion to apportion the charge between landlord and tenant or, at the request of either party, determine the lease.

I fully endorse the efforts made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, to draw up a provision aimed at producing a greater degree of equity between landlord and tenant. However, I wonder whether the amendment as drafted is necessarily the most appropriate way to address the point. In particular, the noble Lord will want to consider whether court proceedings are the most effective means of determining these matters. I have two particular concerns. First, the court would have the quite draconian power to determine the lease on the request of either party. It is not clear why it should have the power to terminate a private contract, especially in view of its wide discretion to apportion charges between landlord and tenant. Secondly, there is potential for a large number of cases. It is quite likely that many tenants will wish their landlords to make some contribution to the cost of the BID. It is equally likely that landlords will wish to resist. This would add significantly to the burden on the courts. I note that in this regard the Bill provides little guidance on how to determine cases.

The noble Lord has identified a particularly important point about balancing the responsibility between tenants and landlords within the area of a BID. However, bearing in mind these concerns, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment and consider in due course a more appropriate mechanism for finding the right balance.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am not altogether surprised by the line that the Minister has taken. I hope that there was a note of tentativeness in the way that I moved the amendment. This is certainly not the only possible solution. As to the possible burden on the courts, it is my understanding that the comparable provision in the Factories Act has given rise to very few cases, and that knowledge of the fact that there is power to apply leads the parties to reach

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an agreement. There are a number of trip wires at earlier stages in the process--consultation and so on--which would enable owners to make known their views very forcefully. I take the Minister's point that to terminate the lease would be a draconian measure. I believe that that is drawn directly from Section 170. That may not be appropriate in these circumstances.

I am happy to accede to the Minister's request. I do not press this amendment. I am equally convinced that we must find a solution to the problem, and in the end that may have to be done by the courts by one procedure or another. If there is no agreement it must be resolved by someone. We will take account of the important points that the Minister has made. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.15 p.m.

Clause 14 [Alteration of business improvement district charges]:

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 27:

Page 6, line 5, leave out ("all") and insert ("three-quarters of").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 27 which is another probing amendment. Clause 14 provides that the level of the charge can be increased if all the ratepayers who are liable to pay it agree to that increase in writing. I am by no means convinced that the agreement of three-quarters of the ratepayers to an increase is the right number, but rather than be tedious and specify 99 per cent. or some other such figure I simply look for a device to query the practicality of the provision. As drafted, one chargepayer can block what may be a small sensible increase. I shall be grateful to receive any clarification that the noble Baroness may be able to provide.

Lord Bowness: I support an investigation or further discussion of how the Bill can be amended to avoid the requirement that all ratepayers should agree. That may bring to an end something that is very worth while. I am sure that the appropriate figure can be reached in discussion.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am glad that the noble Baroness has moved this as a probing amendment. I do not feel able to accept it as it stands. I believe that if ratepayers have decided to go ahead with a scheme on a certain basis and are already coercing the minority--whether it be one-third or less who are against the scheme--this will add additional burdens. They might find it extremely difficult if they were to be coerced still further. It was for that reason that originally we inserted "all" so that all of them would have to agree if the figure was to be raised.

I accept my noble friend's point that it would be rather silly if 1 per cent. suddenly dug in their toes. Perhaps we can consider it. I would lean toward making it all, but I would certainly not want a scheme to be frustrated because one or two very unreasonable people who represented a very small share dug in

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their toes and said, "If you want us to agree, ante up". That would be the wrong spirit in which to approach the matter. Maybe we require some kind of de minimus disregard. We shall think about it. I do not think that the figure of three-quarters is right.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: We support the principle behind Amendment No. 27 moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and look forward to hearing the outcome of discussions as to whether three-quarters is the precise figure.

Baroness Hamwee: I am grateful for the indication that further consideration will be given to this matter. As the noble Lord was speaking, it occurred to me that the right balance might be a given proportion but also with reference to a proportion of the charge. As the noble Lord put it, there should be a de minimus provision. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clauses 15 to 28 agreed to.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 28:

After Clause 28, insert the following new clause--

Local authority discharge of functions

(" . Nothing in this Act shall be interpreted as constituting an express provision within the meaning of subsection (1) of section 101 of the Local Government Act 1972 (arrangements for discharge of functions by local authorities); and accordingly, a local authority may arrange for the discharge of their functions as respects the establishment of a business improvement district by any other local authority.").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment earlier. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [Interpretation]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 29:

Page 8, line 45, at end insert--
(""proper officer" means an officer appointed by a local authority for the purposes of Part III of this Act;").

The noble Lord said: The definition needs to be inserted into the Bill. "Proper officer" must be defined because reference is made to it in earlier parts of the Bill. Perhaps I may assure noble Lords who are anxious to debate the Crown or the countryside that we covered the legislation as quickly as we could. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: This is a sensible clarifying amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

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Succession to the Crown Bill [H.L.]

1.22 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

I should like to make it clear at the outset that I am a supporter of the Royal Family and a believer in this country having a monarch. There are no conditions in which I would favour a president for Britain. However, that does not mean that as we approach the 21st century we should not consider any changes to a system that has served us so well for centuries. So I ask the House to approach my Bill in a positive way. With that in mind, I will put forward my reasons for why I believe this piece of legislation deserves the support of your Lordships' House.

First, it is important to place on the record that this Bill will have little or no effect for at least two generations--in real terms, probably around 60 or 70 years. Therefore, there is unlikely to be a single Member of this House alive to see the results of the Bill. Her Majesty the Queen, if her mother is anything to go by, will surely continue to be our monarch for many years to come. In the fullness of time, she will be succeeded by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, her first born, who in turn will be succeeded by his first born, His Royal Highness Prince William, who is only 15 years old. So the earliest the Bill could take effect would be if Prince William's first born was to be a girl. Indeed, if it were a boy the Bill would not be enacted until the 22nd century.

The Bill would have no effect on the present Royal Family, making no difference to the status of the Princess Royal, so it could hardly be described as a revolutionary concept. While I am on the subject of the Princess Royal, I would suggest that had she been the first born, this debate would not be taking place in a half empty House of Lords on a Friday afternoon, but in every household in the country. Although I am delighted by the prospect of King Charles III, I am not fearful of Queen Anne II. I might add that it was on the advice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, that I decided to ensure that the Bill would not take immediate effect.

I suspect that our great grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that this subject was even considered worthy of debate. I feel confident that the House has noted that since the publication of my Bill, it has been met with overwhelming public support and been welcomed by the press. Indeed, a leader in The Times went so far as to say that it was surprised that the then Conservative Government had not come up with the idea themselves, or at least it should have been suggested by the then Opposition rather than a Conservative Back-Bencher in the House of Lords.

During the past months, my letter bag has been equally supportive, with only two letters opposing the Bill. The first suggested at great length and in considerable detail that God had put men on earth because he intended them to be superior to women. If that is the case, I am bound on this occasion to think that God got it wrong. How many men in this House

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would dare to suggest that they are superior to their wives? And in that I include Members of the Cabinet and shadow Cabinet. In my own case, the subject is not even worthy of discussion.

Who among us would say that on balance our kings have more impressive records than our queens? I will happily be a standard bearer for Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II against any three kings my opponents might care to select. More important, history has shown us that more often than not queens have the advantage of longevity. That has made it possible for our present monarch to be able to advise nine Prime Ministers since Winston Churchill. Queen Elizabeth II is respected and admired from one side of the globe to the other. The idea that her great granddaughter should not be allowed to take the throne ahead of a younger brother is not only farcical, but insulting to half the population of this country.

The second letter that I received opposing the Bill I took far more seriously. The writer put forward the argument that it was dangerous to tinker with the constitution. But if that argument had great validity, this House would never have passed the great Reform Bill of 1842 or agreed to women's suffrage in 1928. Mind you, it was extremely difficult to get either of those Bills through this House because many of your Lordships' ancestors voted against them, so I shall not be surprised to face some opposition today.

Some of your Lordships have put to me the thin edge of the wedge argument; namely, that if the Bill became law, hereditary Peers would be the next in line. I know that many of your Lordships feel strongly about that. I shall not dwell on the subject long because I know that my noble friend Lord Gainford will concentrate on that aspect of the argument. However, I would not wish to be accused of avoiding the issue so I shall say only that if it is good enough for the Royal Family, I do not see why it should not be good enough for the rest of us.

Others in your Lordships' House have suggested to me that perhaps this is not the appropriate time to be discussing this particular subject, while our Royal Family is facing its present difficulties. To them I am bound to say perhaps they would be kind enough to let me know when it is the appropriate time because with the present tabloid press, I cannot see that being in the foreseeable future. I repeat that that same press would make much more of a meal of it if Prince William's first born were to be a girl.

As I walk around the corridors of your Lordships' House, I am told time and time again that often it is the Peers who, because of their independence of mind, are more in touch with the views of the people. If that is the case, then those same Peers will have been left in no doubt how the people feel and will accept this Bill as no more than a tiny and common sense step forward in our constitution.

Therefore, I ask the House to support this small step forward so that it never crosses the minds of our yet unborn great grandchildren that we were either out of touch or that we considered that men were naturally superior to women. There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken on the flood, leads on to fortune. Let this

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be a time in the affairs of women when, in your Lordships' House, not in the Commons, we are seen to be bold, progressive and in touch. My Lords, God Save the Queen. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare.)

1.32 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on the admirable speech with which he introduced the Bill and I rise to speak in support of it. There seem to be three powerful reasons which coincide in its favour. The first is that the reasons for the present rules of succession are long passed. There is a Latin tag which, since your Lordships do not favour the way in which lawyers pronounce Latin, I shall translate. It really means that where the reason for a legal rule has ceased, let the rule itself be brought to an end.

As I say, the reasons for the present rules of royal succession are long past. They reflect the rules by which real property--that is, land--descended before the reforms of 1925. Those rules in turn depended on the feudal law. The feudal law itself presupposed that the feudal inferior had to produce himself as an armed horseman or a body of armed horsemen and together they constituted the royal army with the monarch himself at the head. But it was considered for a number of reasons that that role of armed chivalry was not suitable for a woman and hence the rule of male primogeniture. Sometimes, as your Lordships know, if only from Shakespeare, some monarchies went much further. The French took over the rule of the Salian Franks whereby the Crown could not merely not descend to women but could not descend through a woman. It was because our system was different that the English kings maintained their claim to the French crown throughout the middle ages.

The Salic rule or anything like it was never applied in this country. On the contrary, a woman might inherit but she was postponed in her inheritance to her male siblings. When one looks at it like that, that is surely even more derogatory to the female sex than a total exclusion, because it is invidious. One is bound to ask in these days--and as the noble Lord said so resonantly--why should a woman be postponed in her moral right to her male siblings?

It is because our rule is particularly derogatory to women, as well as being quite out of date, that I come to the next reason which was indeed adumbrated by the noble Lord in moving the Bill. In a word, that is feminism. I confess to being a card-carrying feminist, although not, I hasten to add, of the bra-burning wing of that sorority. However, I do rather favour not mere egalitarianism but the way it was considered by Burke when he spoke of that generous loyalty to rank and sex. It is for the reasons that the noble Lord gave when we compare ourselves to our wives and mothers that we feel a humility which also speaks very strongly in favour of this Bill.

But even when strong reason and decency of feeling speak in favour of a measure, in this country we still tend to look at the matter pragmatically, in the light of

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experience. But experience too reinforces the two considerations which I venture to put before your Lordships. It was only a few years ago that we had a female monarch, a female Prime Minister, a female Leader of your Lordships' House and a female Lord Mayor of London, all highly admired in their achievements. Perhaps I may add how delighted we are and how suitable it is that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is to speak in this debate.

But it is not only those women. We have had experience of women monarchs. I believe that we have had six female monarchs since the Tudors inaugurated the modern monarchy. I suppose that the role, position and status of Queen Mary I is controversial by reason of religious differences and no doubt we must wait for the biography by Lady Russell to form a just and balanced view.

The second Queen Mary shared her throne. Of the remaining female monarch one has only to think of Elizabeth I. One thinks of Queen Anne. She was perhaps not a charismatic figure but she presided over some of the great victories of the British army, which stood against, not for the first nor for the last time, continental hegemony. After Queen Anne, there was Queen Victoria and our present Monarch. In view of those sole monarchs--Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria and our present monarch--who can say that experience, too, does not speak strongly in favour of this Bill?

There are two other matters with which I shall venture to deal. The first has already been dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Archer; namely, the view that your Lordships took on a Bill that was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, a few Sessions ago to alter the rules of succession of the hereditary peerage. I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, is to say something in that respect.

I can only say that I see no reason why this Bill's principles should be more widely applied. I hope that we shall not hear any talk of the thin end of the wedge. A great Conservative political thinker and active statesman said that the British Constitution is full of wedges which the good sense of the community refrains from driving home. Therefore, I hope that noble Lords will not be deterred, if they think that the Bill is right on its merits, from acclaiming it.

I turn now to the final matter. It relates to subsection (2). I venture to doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Archer, is entirely right in his reading of that. I would not have thought in any case that it is necessary, because this is not a procedural Bill, but one that affects substantive rights, so it would not in any case be read retrospectively. However, its incidence falls on the passing of this measure. One can envisage melancholy circumstances which might cause its provisions to be called into action in that event. We would very much welcome the views of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, on the matter. I venture to think that it is a matter of such importance that the Law Officers should be asked to advise on it.

I cannot speak categorically in view of the fact that the noble Lord himself is so certain of the effect of the Bill but I crave to venture a tentative doubt. Subject to that, I wholly support the Bill.

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1.43 p.m.

Lord Gainford: My Lords, first, I should like to crave your Lordships' indulgence. As some noble Lords know, I had a bit of bad luck recently, although things are improving. The result of what happened is that my face and voice are not now my fortune, if indeed they ever were before. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships can hear me. I speak in support of my noble friend's Bill. I first showed that support by acting as Teller on 9th December 1996, when the opinion of the House was sought as to whether my noble friend might present his humble Address to Her Majesty concerning his proposed Bill. Since then, I have been very much looking forward to this occasion.

This century has seen a revolution in the status of women. A hundred years ago most women were virtually powerless unless they had men to speak or act for them. I can remember my late mother recalling her own grandfather saying, "No woman must be allowed to handle her own affairs". Many women were quite prepared to accept that situation, even to the extent of being shocked by, or even despising, members of their own sex who attempted to break out into independence or enter various professions such as that of a doctor.

Since that time women have advanced rapidly. No doubt two world wars in which women showed how they could do men's work were an influence. They are now in almost every profession, even the priesthood. Indeed, their presence in your Lordships' House is one proof of that progress. We have had a lady Prime Minister and also in another place we now have a lady Speaker of the House. It may not be long before we have a noble and learned Baroness sitting on the Woolsack.

Such a thing was foreseen way back in 1934. The late A. P. Herbert was the brains behind a brilliant review titled "Streamline" which was produced by the late Charles B. Cochrane. Florence Desmond was among the performers. One item on the programme was a musical sketch entitled, "Perseverance", which was a take-off of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Gondoliers". There was a singing entrance line for a lady. She who came in singing:

    "I am the Lady Chancellor, I am;

    But once I was a nurse and pushed a pram".

It was a good joke and audiences loved it. However, looking back, I wonder whether it might just have been a tiny bit prophetic.

With the advance in the status of women there must come an eventual change in hereditary laws, which even royalty may have to consider. In supporting this Bill, just like my noble friend I declare my total support for the Monarchy. I am an ardent monarchist. The last thing that I would want to see is anything that would diminish the influence of our Royal Family and the respect that the public has for it. That applies particularly at present, because it has recently had to take some rather hard knocks.

There are some who think that the male prerogative in inheritance is the status quo which must be preserved, almost as if it is a case of divine right. Of course, chauvinism will raise its head. We all get it in certain ways, and I am not excluded. Mine could be summed

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up in something that my elder daughter said to me. She is someone--and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, mentioned this--in whom I have a particular interest, and I was really speaking on her behalf when the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, attempted to bring in a Bill to enable daughters, especially those of a Peer like myself who has no son, to inherit peerages. I can just about remember her words. She said, "Dad, you are loyal to Her Majesty. You were loyal to Lady Thatcher when she was Prime Minister. You supported women seeking ordination. You struggled in the House of Lords for daughters to be able to inherit Peerages: why do you still object to ladies coming into the Pavilion at Lord's?" That matter is, of course, now a subject of news reports.

Whatever progress is made and whatever heights women rise to in the future, we men trust that one privilege will not be taken away from us: namely, the right to court the lady of our choice, win her heart, marry her and provide for her, even if she is much more skilled at earning a higher income. Women are beautiful and wonderful creatures. I enjoy their company. Someone once suggested that I was a dirty old man. I retorted: "I am not a dirty old man; I am a very sexy senior citizen". Yes, my Lords, they are lovely creatures. They can drive a man up the proverbial wall, across the ceiling and down the other side. But we love them.

I recall again 9th December 1996. I remember that some newspaper reports showed interest in what had happened in this House. One headline read: "Judging Jeffrey's Bill". That is what we are doing today in this Second Reading debate. Let us grant it a satisfactory and just verdict.

1.49 p.m.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, this little Bill is an extraordinary piece of machinery for constitutional change with wide ramifications. To have it before the House on a Friday afternoon when the House is three-quarters empty does no credit to the procedures of the House or the arrangements for our business. It is a bad Bill and when the Question is put I shall shout, "Not content".

1.50 p.m.

Lord Cockfield: My Lords, I apologise for appearing in the anonymity of the gap in the speakers' list. I express no view on the merits or demerits of this Bill but, as I said on an earlier occasion in your Lordships' House when talking about the proposal by the Government to deprive hereditary peers of their rights, I object to constitutional change taking place by the method of a thousand cuts. For good or ill we now live in a different world from the one we inhabited less than 12 months ago. It is in particular a world in which there is great constitutional change beginning to occur. The Government have been playing this by playing one card and putting the rest of their hand under the table--not even against their chest--where no one knows precisely what will happen to the cards.

This is another example of trying to deal with important matters separately without looking at the whole. I very much regret to say that my noble friend

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Lord Archer destroyed his own case almost in his first sentence--I am sorry that he did not get someone to vet his speech, even if it was a lady--by saying that it would be 60 or 70 years before his Bill took effect. It seems to me that before that period of 60 or 70 years has expired we ought to look at the question of major constitutional change. I deliberately do not use the word "reform" because that has certain implications. But we ought to look at major constitutional change as a whole because we in this generation, or indeed in the next few years, may take decisions which will be of major importance so far as the future of this country is concerned.

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