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Lord Carter: However, my Lords, listening to him this evening, I did just wonder whether that Channel 4 "Peer of the Year" award had slightly got to him. Listening to him, I could not help remembering Mark Twain's remark about someone preaching like a Baptist on moonshine.
We heard a lot from the noble Lord as the constitutional spokesman. But we still do not know what is the Conservative Party's policy on reform. I have referred already to the eulogy of the hereditary principle in the 1997 campaign guide. As far as I know, there were no proposals in the Conservative manifesto to reform the Lords. We all know what the Conservative Party is against but what does it support? What are its proposals for reform? I give one example. We understand that it supports the Weatherill amendment, although I do not believe that noble Lords opposite have actually said so in this debate.
The noble Lord referred to the European Parliamentary Elections Bill as a bit of a struggle. Every defeat of the Government on that Bill was by the votes of hereditary Peers. The life Peers won every vote on that Bill in both Sessions. I have already referred to the fact that that was the only occasion since 1949 when there was the use of the Parliament Acts on a whipped Bill. We still do not know what is the Conservative Party policy on reform. We have set out our policy clearly. It is clear. We have a Bill to remove the hereditary Peers' right to sit and vote. Have your
Lord Carter: What is "ha, ha" about that? We have appointed a Royal Commission, followed by a Joint Committee which will produce proposals for the final stage of reform. They will be considered by Parliament and, if approved, will be put into place.
In conclusion, as I said at the start of my speech, we have had a full and wide-ranging debate and many differing views have been expressed. I have made it clear that these Benches will not take part in any Division on the Opposition amendment. But, on a positive note, I will set out again the Government's objective for the reform process and I cannot do better than quote from the White Paper. It says,
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, it is always such a pleasure to follow the Government Chief Whip--he makes the indefensible sound so reasonable. He has done it many times before and he has done it again this evening.
Anybody who came into this debate yesterday afternoon with a very fixed view as to what future shape the House of Lords should have will undoubtedly have changed that view many times during the course of what has been a fascinating and, at moments, exciting debate. I suspect that it made the job of the Royal Commission considerably more difficult, but I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Wakeham and the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, who has sat through so much of this debate.
I believe that we were right to have this debate. As I said in my speech, this was the debate the Government never wanted; the White Paper they never wanted to publish; the Royal Commission they never wished to appoint. But this debate proved how right it was to do it and how right it was to table this amendment.
The amendment is a simple and broadly-based one. It is designed to appeal to as many people in the House as possible. That is why I was so delighted to have the broad support, though I suspect I shall not have the specific support this evening, of the noble Lord, Lord Richard.
Lord Richard: My Lords, with great respect, the noble Lord either has not listened to me--perhaps I was not speaking loudly enough--or he has not understood. I never supported his amendment. Indeed, I specifically argued in my speech for a reduction in the powers of
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, that is the second time in the course of this debate that the noble Lord has put the record straight. But he did say it because I wrote it down; I thought it was important. He said that the aim of the reform should be to "strengthen the second Chamber". My amendment does not even go as far as that. It simply says that the powers of this House should not be reduced.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, was good enough to say that he supported the principle of my amendment but for a technical reason in relation to "take note" Motions, he did not feel able to support it in the Division Lobby. That is up to him.
One thing that I very much welcome is the sight of so many Labour Peers in the House this evening. It is sad that more of them were not around earlier during the course of the debate. They would have found it interesting and may well have learnt much as well. It is also regrettable that we did not hear from them. This was a debate on the future of the House of Lords. It is not about the Bill; it is not about hereditary Peers. It is about the kind of House which they will substantially inherit since there are so few hereditary Peers on their Benches. Yet they have shown a tremendous lack of interest.
This morning in The Times there was a report, written following a substantial survey by that newspaper, about the so-called "working Peers" of the Labour Party. Over the course of the past two days we have witnessed what is a genuine misnomer. They are not working Peers; they are shirking Peers. That is not just a contempt of this House; it is a contempt of Parliament and it is also a contempt of the people who elected the Labour Party.
My amendment is concerned with not reducing the powers of this House any further. I wish to put it to a vote. I very much hope that it will be supported widely on all sides of the House. It is important that this House's voice should be heard. I commend it to the House.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Hooper): My Lords, the Question is that the original Motion, as amended, be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say "Content"; to the contrary "Not-Content". I think the "Not-Contents" have it. Clear the Bar.
The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, Tellers for the "Not-Contents" have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 51. A Division therefore cannot take place, and I declare that the "Contents" have it.
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