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Lord McNally: My Lords, does the Minister agree that when a 14 year-old child is driven from her home into protective police custody by the harassment of journalists, that is shaming and shameful to us all? Will the noble Lord assure us that the inquiry which the Home Secretary announced today into these matters will deal with the question of loopholes in the present law and whether the present law is being pursued with due rigour? Will the noble Lord also ensure that the Press Complaints Commission looks into the matter of cheque-book journalism by proxy, by which newspapers can enter into contracts with authors who can then pay convicted criminals for their stories? These are matters of great concern. Problems coming down the track mean that this issue should be dealt with with due urgency.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I join the noble Lord in saying that it is repugnant that a 14 year-old girl should be hounded in this way. She is going through a severe trauma at the moment. I am sure that the whole House will join me in saying that our thoughts and heartfelt
Lord Wakeham: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that both payments to convicted criminals, either directly or indirectly, and harassment by journalists, are serious breaches of the Press Complaints Commission's code of conduct? I can confirm that we have received a complaint; that we are conducting an investigation and that our report will be published as soon as it is available.
Lord Taverne: My Lords, was it not unusual and perhaps unwise for No. 10 to take up this case? Was not that bound to increase the mass hysteria which has been whipped up by the popular press? Might it not have been better to have considered the consequences of raising this matter rather than going for some cheap, immediate, populist publicity?
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I reject immediately the noble Lord's comment about cheap publicity. There was no such intention. I am sure that the Prime Minister was right--he was asked a Question on this in the House of Commons yesterday--to point to the gravity of the matter and to say that it is repugnant that anyone should benefit from such terrible crimes. The Prime Minister was portraying the fact that this Government are determined to ensure that no one else can benefit similarly in the future.
Lord Milverton: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that many of us feel pleased that the Prime Minister had the courage to speak out against that vile practice? Many of us are very glad that he did. I do not consider that the Prime Minister was seeking cheap publicity.
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for agreeing that the aim was not cheap publicity. This is a serious matter and it is extremely important that we consider the issue as quickly as possible to ensure that no one else can similarly benefit.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, if investigations show that nothing can be done and that no prosecution can be laid against the people who perpetrated these matters, do the Government intend to introduce legislation to correct the position?
Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: My Lords, when the Minister and his colleagues are looking at whether the present law or any future legislation might prevent such payments being made, may I invite the noble Lord to ensure that there is nothing in the provisions of the Human Rights Bill to prevent such a law being enforced?
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, we shall, of course, consider that. This is a difficult area raising complex issues. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has asked his officials immediately to begin a review to see whether any steps can be taken to deal with such cases in the future. We shall certainly bear the Human Rights Bill in mind in such a review.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that where criminals participate in the publication of articles or the production of programmes, such publications or programmes have a strong tendency to exaggerate understanding of, and sympathy for, the action of the criminal and must therefore be seen as unfair to the victims and their families and that on that ground alone, quite apart from the question of profiteering, some law should be introduced to prevent it happening?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, referring to the answer given by the Minister to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, does the noble Lord agree that the Government are not under exactly the same constraints as the previous government to attempt to pacify the press in the run-up to the last election? Therefore, might not the present Government feel a little braver in approaching a privacy law in these important matters?
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an interesting point. He says that the previous government had to pacify the press in the run-up to the election. I can tell the noble Lord that the present Government do not lack courage in dealing with any issue whatsoever.
Lord McNally: My Lords, does the Minister particularly welcome the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, since there have been attempts to dress up this exercise as an academic study when it has been hawked around Fleet Street to the highest bidder and marketed and cross-marketed very successfully by the promoting newspapers?
Lord Hoyle: My Lords, like the noble Lord I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, this afternoon that immediate action is being taken in relation to this matter. We must await the outcome of the deliberations. But, like the noble Lord, it is a sorry matter that this has been the subject of a press war in relation to circulation and that this matter has been hawked around to find the highest bidder.
Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be convenient for the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise for the Whitsun Recess at the end of business on Thursday, 21st May and return on Monday, 1st June.
Baroness Nicol: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Building Regulations 1991 and the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 1985 to secure the provision of further information to purchasers and certain other occupiers of dwellings with respect to the energy rating of dwellings; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Moved, That Standing Order 38(5) (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Wednesday, 6th May to allow the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill to be taken before the Motion in the name of the Lord Geddes; and that Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Thursday, 7th May to allow the Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.--(Lord Richard.)
Moved, That the Lord Razzall be appointed a member of the Joint Committee in the place of the Lord Wigoder; and that the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath be added to the Joint Committee.--(The Lord Chancellor.)
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise as Leader of the House to move that the House take note of the report produced by the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction. I begin with a few words about the procedure for this afternoon's debate. There are two Motions on the Order Paper today: one to take note of the Select Committee's report and a second to give effect to the committee's recommendations. The first Motion allows a debate to take place on all the issues arising out of the report. It is normal in your Lordships' House to take note of a report of the Select Committee when it is debated. In this case, however, in order to give effect to the recommendations of the report a further, more substantive resolution of the House is required and the second Motion on the Order Paper today has that effect. That Motion is the one to which noble Lords have tabled amendments, to which I shall return in due course. I hope that there will be one substantive debate, on the first Motion, to which I imagine the House will agree without a division. The amendments to the second Motion will then be called and decided without, I hope, further debate. The second Motion will then be put and decided.
I should perhaps explain why I am moving this Motion rather than the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, who chaired the Select Committee with such distinction. There are two reasons. The first, as so often in your Lordships' House, is one of precedent. There is a recent one in the history of your Lordships' House. In 1663 a similar Motion to give effect to a report from the Committee of Privileges entitled "Concerning the introduction of Peers by descent" was moved by the then Lord Privy Seal. As that was only 42 years after the creation of the ceremony over 350 years ago, it is a worthy precedent. The second reason is that it was on my Motion that on 27th October last year the House decided, after going through the usual procedures for a humble Address, to refer this matter to the Select Committee whose report is now before the House. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, will not mind my having first bite today; and I am very much looking forward to his speech.
Turning now to the report itself, as Leader of the House I am very grateful to the Select Committee for the efficient and speedy way in which it conducted its work. I am sure the House will join me in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, who chaired with his usual aplomb this Select Committee on which all parties and the Cross-Benches were represented, and which included both life Peers and hereditary Peers. It is a great tribute to the noble Lord's skills as chairman that the report was unanimously agreed. While it is a tradition of your Lordships' House that Select Committee reports are almost always unanimously agreed by the committee, on a subject such as this where many in the House hold strong and often contradictory views such unanimity could never have been taken for granted. I am greatly looking forward to the speeches by the members of the committee, in particular that of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, whose experience as a former Chief Whip was doubtless very helpful to the committee in forming those unanimous conclusions.
The House may allow me briefly to summarise the committee's recommendations as set out in Part 3 of the report. The Select Committee proposes that a ceremony of introduction for newly created Peers should be retained but modified. Robes would continue to be worn but hats would not, thankfully in my view. The ceremony of placing of Peers would be abolished, as would the practice of kneeling before the Lord Chancellor. The Clerk would read the Letters Patent but not the Writ. Instead of the placing ceremony, the Select Committee recommends that, following the procession into the Chamber, where each member of the ceremonial party should bow on reaching the Bar, the new Peer should move directly to the table for the Reading Clerk to read the Letters Patent and for the Oath to be sworn. Led by Black Rod, the new Peer would process behind the Clerks' chairs and, stopping at the front of the Cross-Benches, the Peer and supporters would bow to the Cloth of Estate. The procession would then move along the Spiritual side of the House with the new Peer shaking hands with the Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack.
The Select Committee recommended that Garter King of Arms should no longer play a part in the ceremony as the placing of Peers is to be discontinued and as it is in this area that Garter performs his main function in the present ceremony.
The committee made three further recommendations not directly connected with the ceremony. First, the new Peer and his supporters should return, not robed, to the Chamber after the ceremony and sit for the first time in that part of the House where the new Peer intends to sit in the future. Secondly, new Peers should be given a leaflet explaining the significance of the ceremony to their future role as members of this legislature. Thirdly, no more than two Peers should be introduced on any one day, save in exceptional circumstances.
I have no hesitation in commending all of these recommendations to your Lordships today. I believe that the report of the Select Committee represents the best traditions of the House, which takes a sensible and balanced approach to reviewing both its work and its procedures. The House has always sought sensitive evolutions from existing practices. In recent years, we
The House might recall that when the Select Committee on the Ceremony of Introduction was being established I argued that some form of ceremonial should be retained, but that it should be modified to make it more appropriate to present times. I am delighted that the Select Committee has taken this general line in its recommendations. As paragraph 21 of the report states:
The recommendations of the committee show a balance between retaining the dignity and traditional values of the ceremony and improving it, in line with the objective I expressed in October that the ceremony should not lead to,
I believe that an appropriate ceremony for modern times should provide a proper introduction for new Peers to the rest of the House; should be dignified and in accordance with the traditions of the House; and should be conducted in a manner which avoids tedious repetition and avoids bringing the House into disrepute. I am delighted to say that, in my view, the recommendations from the Select Committee admirably meet all these objectives.
The Select Committee has proposed doing away with what seemed to me to be the most arcane elements of the ceremony. The doffing of hats and bowing to the Lord Chancellor, and indeed the whole of the ceremony of placing of Peers, may have their roots in some dim forgotten past, but appear quaint and irrelevant to many today. These elements no longer carry meaning in the House--placing indeed conflicts with the doctrine that all Peers are equal--and add to the impression that the ceremonial is overlong.
Perhaps I should at this point remind the House why I have not argued, and never have, for the ceremony to be abolished. This is because it is quite clear that the day on which a Peer first sits in the House is a great occasion for the Peer, and the Peer's family and friends. I believe that a ceremony of introduction is an important part of that sense of occasion and I would oppose its abolition, as I have previously made clear.
Your Lordships will see from my second Motion that I have gone a little further than the Select Committee's report in recommending that the ceremony for Bishops should also be reformed. The Select Committee heard evidence from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, who had consulted his colleagues. The Select
In tabling the Motion for your Lordships today I considered this position most carefully and concluded, after discussion within the usual channels, that it would be anomalous not to allow the House today to have the opportunity of combining a reform to the ceremony for temporal Peers with a parallel reform for Lords Spiritual. After discussion with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Norwich, I am happy to say that he agrees with my Motion as it stands. It is the intention that a newly introduced Bishop will, immediately after shaking hands with the Lord Chancellor, proceed, with his supporters to the Bishops' Benches. All three Bishops will be robed. Otherwise, the changes proposed by the Select Committee will be applied to the Bishops' ceremony. I look forward to the speech of the right reverend Prelate on these points.
I turn now to the recommendation from the Select Committee that Garter King of Arms should no longer play a part in the ceremony. In this regard, the Select Committee has gone further than I suggested in my speech to the House when we debated the Motion on 27th October last year. The committee made this recommendation because of its other recommendation that the placing of Peers--the part of the ceremony in which Garter has a direct and special role--should be removed. I am sure all Members of the House would wish me to say how grateful we are for the work which Garter has done and will continue to do behind the scenes. I note that the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, has tabled an amendment to reinstate Garter. I should perhaps say that I was a little surprised to see the noble Duke's amendment on the Order Paper today, in the light of the robust evidence he gave to the Select Committee, that:
I will listen with great care to what he has to say and will listen most closely to his explanation of why he does not take this wholly sensible and consistent attitude towards the recommendation relating to Garter. I have to say that I hope the House will consider carefully before seeking to undo this element in the carefully crafted package of recommendations from the committee. However, perhaps I may emphasise that the reinstatement of Garter is a matter for the House when it votes on the noble Duke's amendment.
I look forward to the noble Lord's speech, in which I am sure he will tell the House just exactly what he has in mind. At the moment, I have no idea what he has in mind. I also look forward to the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, in which he will no doubt make the case for his amendment, the effect of which would be to accept the need for change, but to delay change until next Session.
We have the chance today to make a small but important piece of history. It is in the best spirit of the House to look initially at itself and to modify its activities when it is right to do so. We had an opportunity only this week to see the ceremony once again, so our evidence is recent. My noble friend Lord Sheppard of Liverpool took his seat on the Government Benches on Tuesday. I know that my noble friend will not object if I say that as a result of the committee's report he may be the last person to do so by means of the ceremony as it stands at present. Since it began as long ago as 1621, it is perhaps not ignoble to be the final recipient of the honour of that procedure.
I think I have said enough. I look forward to the debate ahead and to the contributions of the noble Lords who have indicated a wish to speak. For the moment, I commend the Motion to the House and I beg to move.
Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for explaining the procedure for the debate and the two Motions standing in his name on the Order Paper. My amendment is no criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, and his colleagues on the Select Committee. As the noble Lord the Leader of the House said, it is a remarkable achievement that he has managed to obtain an agreed report. Apart from the proposals regarding Garter, who I agree should not be excluded, I believe that the Select Committee has retained the essential elements of the ceremony and its dignity. We like ceremony in this country; we are good at it, none better; and life would be very drab without pageantry.
I am glad, too, that the Select Committee proposes to retain the traditional words of the Letters Patent. Such ceremonies should have phrases in them which are not in common use. The Authorised Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer have an enormous hold on the people of this country. It is partly because the language was flowering so beautifully when they were written, but it is also because they are different.
My main criticism of the Government's substantive Motion concerns timing. I invite the House to consider the question: why now? This is not a party matter. It is an important domestic issue which concerns the whole House. When the Government were first elected, they said that they would listen. That was a very welcome statement. It is disappointing that the Government did not decide to listen first to the House before tabling their substantive Motion. Had they done so, it may well be that
My second and main point has been made before on many occasions by the Liberal Democrats, from the Cross-Benches as well as by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition. I suggest to the House that it really is not possible to reach an informed judgment on introductions in isolation from other reforms of your Lordships' House which the Government have not yet presented to Parliament. In major constitutional matters of this kind, I do not believe that a piecemeal approach is satisfactory. We need to see the whole picture if we are to take an informed view.
I give one example to your Lordships of the difficulties which may arise if we proceed now. We are told that the Government may propose an elected element in this House. If that were to happen, it would involve a completely new ceremony. Instead of the Monarch creating and summoning, electors would send. We should then need an introductory ceremony similar to that which exists at present in another place. Therefore, we should need another change. I do not believe that it is wise too often to make changes to venerable ceremonies of this kind.
My amendment would not postpone by one single day the Government's reform proposals. The noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal is a senior Member of the Government and is also the Leader of the House. I know that he listens very carefully to views which are expressed in all parts of the House. I submit to the noble Lord that he could accept the amendment in my name without in any way harming the Government's programme. In doing so, the noble Lord would earn the gratitude of the House.
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