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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on another attempt to delay progress on this Bill, although in this instance I do not believe that his heart is in it. Equally, I could challenge him--although I shall not as he was gracious enough to say that he did not intend to press his concerns about this Motion--that much of what he had to say was, as he rightly pointed out, repetition of the points that he made (very effectively if I may say so) at Second Reading.

Perhaps it would be sensible for me simply to confirm, as I have done both at Second Reading and at every other stage when we have debated the subject matter that we are again considering in detail this afternoon, that the commitment the Government have made to this Bill is a manifesto commitment. Because the reform has always been said to be in two stages does not mean that one stage is insubstantial or in any way not to be supported and taken through as we intend.

The noble Lord will recall that this means that the normal conventions of this House, including the Salisbury convention, which his noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish confirmed yet again in his wind-up speech at Second Reading, would be adhered to during the debates on this Bill, stand firm.

Perhaps I may say a word about the way in which we hope to proceed. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for emphasising "consensus". That is precisely the way in which we hope the business on this important Bill will be conducted. I believe that the usual channels have now agreed the first three days in Committee on this Bill. It would be the wish of the Government that this Bill could be considered in the appropriate detail and in the appropriate way, but not necessarily delaying your Lordships until an unreasonable hour. On those nights we would hope to finish at a reasonable time.

However, I point out to the whole House that it has not yet been made clear by the Official Opposition whether they have any indication of how many further days they want to take. We shall therefore have to wait and see how we progress. I must also point out that we attempted to achieve agreement through the usual channels for the amendment colloquially known as the

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"Weatherill amendment" to be taken as first business in Committee. Such an agreement would have benefited our discussions. It would have meant that we could have had the substantive discussion on the amendment. But that could not be agreed and therefore I hope that we shall proceed in the normal way with the normal understandings.

The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition referred to the Mackay commission's report. It is of some interest to us all. It makes clear that there are a number of concepts and issues to be raised in considering the long-term reform of your Lordships' House and does not come out with any one firm proposition. There is therefore no other firm proposition on the table for us to discuss at this time. Let us hope that we can proceed by consensus to long-term discussion at the appropriate moment.

The noble Lord raised the question of the Mackay commission. I should perhaps say that I was immediately struck when I first read it that nowhere in that report is there any hint whatsoever that there should be any special role in the long-term reformed second Chamber for the hereditary peerage. Indeed, the commission's report-- I am sure noble Lords have studied it--goes out of its way to say that the link between the peerage and membership of the second Chamber should be severed. I stress for the benefit of the whole House that if the Conservative commission accepted that the rights of the hereditary peerage are to be ended in your Lordships' House, that is important and should be considered when we look at amendments.

I draw your Lordships' attention also to what the right honourable gentleman Mr. Hague said on the publication of that report:

    "The hereditary peerage and the right to sit in Parliament is going anyway under the Government's proposals and so we must deal with that situation". It would be helpful if, in that spirit, the noble Lord would advise those members of his party who have tabled amendments which do not accept that understanding, which seems now to be the official position of the leader of his party and of the commission set up by the leader of his party, to withdraw them so that we can move quickly through the Marshalled List to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill That, I suggest, is the nub of the amendments that we shall consider.

As we have not yet been able to reach agreement on the timetabling and as I do not yet know whether the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will be able or will wish to indicate to Members of his Back Benches that they might withdraw what I describe in the light of the Mackay commission as irrelevant amendments, I suggest that we now move to the substantive debate on the Government's proposals. We have every intention of pressing this Bill on to the statute book but, of course, wish to hear your Lordships' views on the details of the amendments proposed and suggest that we begin to do so.

3.15 p.m.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, will she say why she should regard all amendments that do not refer to the Weatherill

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amendment as "irrelevant"? They are not irrelevant; they are extremely important.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, the noble Earl misunderstood me. What I said was in the context of what was reported as being of great significance in changing the context of this Bill; that is, the report of the commission chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. I suggested that those amendments which referred to the continuation of the hereditary peerage, which seems now not to be accepted by some official spokespersons for the Conservative Party and indeed by Mr. Hague, should perhaps be considered as irrelevant.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Campbell of Alloway moved Amendment No. 1:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--


(".--(1) Sections 1 to 3 and 4(3) and (4) of this Act shall not come into force until the people of the United Kingdom have approved their coming into force before the implementation of any of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the reform and composition of the House of Lords, in a referendum conducted in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life set out in chapter 12 of Cm 4057-I.
(2) The referendum referred to in subsection (1) shall not be held until the recommendations of the Royal Commission have been reported on by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament.")

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 2, which is accepted with much gratitude, and Amendment No. 111 to Clause 4 which is consequential. I much regret having to move these amendments at all. It would have been preferable if the noble Baroness the Leader of the House had been able to accept the very constructive suggestion of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde.

The spirit of these referendum amendments all but evaporated some time ago in "No day named" until it materialised as a reasoned amendment to the "Take note" Motion on the White Paper. It was withdrawn then to avoid unrepresentative division and pre-emption of my own Front Bench. This was at the request of my own party and a body of opinion on the Cross-Benches. Since then, until today, it has hovered around in limbo.

The constitutional commission, to which both noble Lords have referred, does not bite upon the referendum amendments at all; nor does it bite upon the transitional House amendment, which I think is Amendment No. 31, because the constitutional commission did not quite consider the question as to whether a transitional House should be set up. But, for the purposes of the report, and quite reasonably the Committee may think, the commission on the options for reform made the hypothetical assumption that a transitional House would have been set up by the time those options materialised. It was on that assumption that the commission concluded that independent members in a reformed

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chamber can only be to the disadvantage of the political parties. Well, if so, then so be it, but as yet the House of Lords retains its indigenous ethos and independence; it retains its guardianship function of the constitution when the nation is substantially divided against the Government, as indeed is the case on this Bill.

On the reasoned amendment, the House of Lords concluded that the Government introduced the Bill for party political advantage. None of the six noble Lords whose names appear in support of these amendments is so motivated. The three members on these Benches do not speak for their party; the three members on the Cross Benches have no party for which to speak. We are moved by a tenable belief in a common purpose as a matter of principle. This is--and I say this to the noble Baroness with respect--no ploy, no filibuster to delay, no wrecking amendment contrary to the conventions of the House of Lords. Due notice has been given to the Government of the intention to take the opinion of the House, subject to when we may conclude, if so advised. I am unable to give any assessment. I have been asked by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, but as we have done no lobbying we do not know what measure of support we have nor who will speak.

These amendments, in accordance with the wishes of the people, would delay commencement of the Act until its substance had been approved by the people on a referendum fairly conducted to be held before enactment of any recommendations of the Royal Commission. The purpose is to assert the will of the people; to enjoin due governance under the Queen in Parliament; and, albeit against the odds, to seek the support of this House for some accommodation. To this end, must we not look to the people and accept their judgment as the ultimate arbiter of our differences? If so, hence the referendum.

Legitimacy derives from the will of two-thirds of the people, as expressed in the opinion polls, who wish to retain the composition of the House of Lords only until the substance of proposed reform is known, a point which was not taken on board a moment ago, if I may say so with respect, when the noble Baroness the Leader of the House was replying to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. Hence delay until the substance of the Act is approved after the Royal Commission has reported. The people do not want to put to sea in a sieve with any proverbial owl or pussycat. They rejected the stale manifesto commitment reflected in the Title and Clause 1 of the Bill. The Bill as it stands is but a work of supererogation taught by arrogance of constitutional impiety, only 2 per cent. of the people having any recollection whatever that the manifesto proposed reform of the House of Lords.

In substance, these referendum amendments have already commended themselves to your Lordships' House on the reasoned amendment, notwithstanding the anathema pronounced upon them and on all other amendments: save the deal (as now presented by Weatherill Amendment No. 31) which the Government were then minded to accept, notwithstanding the threats of dire consequences made in the speech of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House on the Motion to take

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note of the White Paper and by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in his celebrated speech on Second Reading.

May I say, in the irenic spirit to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, that neither that anathema nor those threats were entirely well conceived, for it was no part of the deal between my noble friend Lord Cranborne, whom I see in his place, and her right honourable friend the Prime Minister, as no doubt the right honourable gentleman would confirm, that in anticipatory deprivation of parliamentary entitlement the deal should be used to hammer the House of Lords into submission to pass this Bill by consensus. It was never part of that deal.

I speak to these amendments but as an untrainable apprentice to my noble friend Lord Cranborne, who laid the foundation stone long, long ago. My noble friend has always maintained that stage 1 without stage 2 is wrong, and he said so again on Second Reading. His concept of a referendum on constitutional matters, in context with the guardianship function of the House of Lords, was perfected--I do not know whether any Members of the Committee have seen it yet--in Clause 3 of his Parliamentary Government Bill, a masterpiece of draftsmanship. It is a concept which expressly acknowledged that only the broad assent of the people can confer the authority to legislate,

    "on any provision substantially affecting the constitution", a concept invoked indeed by the present Government in Chapter 2 of their White Paper:

    "Parliament is where the will of [the] people is expressed ... Parliament is the core of political accountability". They say also that,

    "Parliament must rest on the will of the people". In the context of the referendums on devolution,

    "the people have made known what they want".

The resolution of the House of Lords on the reasoned amendment in fact endorsed the commonsense approach of the people. It was carried against the Government with some Liberal Democrat and Cross-Bench support by 192 to 126 votes at very nearly three o'clock in the morning. That is a substantial majority of one-third, especially at that hour. It carried the concept that,

    "the Bill radically alters the historic composition of the House of Lords for party political advantage", and had been introduced without prior consultation and consensus as to the role or composition of a successor House.

It is the selfsame situation which arises to be addressed on these amendments. The hereditary element on that occasion which supported the Government was one Duke, a terce of Earls, a sprinkling of Viscounts and a wee clutch of Barons. It is evidently appropriate that some assurance should be given, for it is respectfully suggested that perhaps the last, if not the most noble, act of selfless service which the hereditary Peers could render to the body politic is to seek to safeguard the wishes of the people and to support these amendments.

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As to the assurances, the arguments in support of these amendments, which I put forward, are in no way inconsistent with the speeches made by such noble Lords which I have read. These amendments cannot and do not pre-empt the work of the Royal Commission as to the composition of the successor House. They cannot and do not entrench or seek to entrench the extant successory entitlement to membership of your Lordships' House. Again, with respect, I draw the attention of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House to that assurance.

If these amendments were to be carried into the Bill, there would be no substantial division between the Government and the people on this constitutional question, such as is now the case. But as such is the case, is it not the acknowledged function of your Lordships' House to seek to provide some measure of constitutional protection and safeguard and to consider whether it is appropriate to delay the legislation from taking effect as proposed by the amendments?

The Weatherill amendment, Amendment No. 31, has no legitimacy derived from the people and ignores the current state of public opinion. But, if qualified, as it would be, by the referendum amendments, it could assume an aura of legitimacy in conformity with the very concept expressed in Clause 3 of the Bill of my noble friend Lord Cranborne. It would avoid pre-emption of the work of the Royal Commission and inhibit fulfilment of the "Quintine" prophecy heralded by paragraph 7.26 of the White Paper.

To accommodate the Weatherill amendment, No. 31, the mould of the Title must be cracked. That is done by the Title Amendment No. 152 which seeks to substitute "restrict" membership for "end" membership. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor appreciated, that would open the door to a series of other amendments to restrict. The noble and learned Lord expressed the Government's attitude to such amendments on a previous occasion.

This has nothing whatever to do with the referendum amendments, which are entirely free standing. The question of choice--I wish to stress this--that your Lordships have between any form of transitional House amendment and these referendum amendments simply does not and cannot arise save unless (and there is one proviso) it is the settled preconception, come Hades or high water, to support and safeguard the hope of a tentative offer by the Government to accept Amendment No. 31 and only if no other amendments are to be carried into the Bill.

On Second Reading, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde truly said about an amendment referring to the deal (the arrangement made and reflected in Amendment No. 31) that it falls short of making a bad Bill better.

At all events, there are many serious problems in relation to Amendment No. 31 as it stands which will have to be sorted out by a series of amendments at various stages of the Bill. Those gremlins may well be laid to rest to the satisfaction of your Lordships' House, or not. I have had a word with my noble friend Lord Cranborne on that matter, as on other matters. It may take much time and more than one stage to sort that out.

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There is no reason whatever, on that account, to wait until many other problems have been sorted out at subsequent stages, or not sorted out, to delay a vote on this Bill.

No assurance of safe conduct of passage in another place may be given for any amendment carried by your Lordships. The Motion as tabled in another place and the Official Report of the proceedings on the Bill in another place preclude any such assurance. If the referendum amendments were rejected, the extant hereditary entitlement would soon be severed under Clause 4. If the proposal of the Constitutional Commission at paragraphs 61 to 64 were to be accepted by the Royal Commission this is what would happen: the senate would be instituted at the first meeting of Parliament after the election; all life Peers would lose their right to sit; the House of Lords would disappear at the dissolution of that Parliament; and up to two-thirds of the transitional House would be transferred to the senate. Is that the sort of scheme which commends itself to your Lordships? Is it not preferable to delay implementation of the Act until the recommendations of the Royal Commission have been known and the people have been offered an opportunity to express their opinion of the substance of the Act on a referendum, perhaps to be held in the spring?

If judgment were to be sacrificed to wishful conjecture, to the dictates or the convenience of this Government or to the opinion of the hour, the people would be betrayed. If that is done in due course by another place, so be it: but surely not by your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Gray moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 2:

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