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Lord Northbourne: Before the noble Lord sits down and rather than having to move my amendment in order to speak again, perhaps I may say this. I do not believe he answered any of the points I made. I hope he will read the Official Report because I believe that a purpose or object clause could be extremely helpful for those of us who are concerned about the future of your Lordships' House.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: With great respect, I have dealt with that. I said that it has no sensible place within the context of a Bill as limited as this. When we come to the discussion on Amendment No. 31, the Weatherill and other related amendments, the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will be dealt with. But they are not dealt with by a purpose clause for reasons abundantly stated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. That is why I referred to him by way of a general citation. They have no proper utility in
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My experience of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, on the various Bills in which we have taken part is that he either gives a long, full and most interesting answer or he goes for brevity. This evening he has gone for brevity. I do not think it has improved his argument in any way. He might have done better trying to address some of the many points which Members of the Committee have put.
In his interesting speech, my noble friend Lord Cranborne talked about the possibility of having a preamble to the Bill. That seemed to be dismissed on the grounds that there was a preamble to the 1911 Bill and nothing much happened. Some Members of the Committee may think that a good reason for having a preamble to this Bill. It may be for others to argue that.
My noble friend was taken up to a slight extent by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, when he discussed the legitimacy of the various Members of your Lordships' House. If I had thought about it, I would have realised that it was true; I discovered that the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and I share one thing in common. We were both nominated by Mr. John Major while he was Prime Minister. I am not sure whether that makes us both John's cronies, but certainly it tells your Lordships how we both got here.
I was discussing this matter with my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. I asked him whether he was more or less legitimate than I was, as his peerage resulted from the appointment of his grandfather by Winston Churchill, who was the elected Prime Minister at the time. I find that a very difficult question to answer. I know that neither my noble friend's grandfather nor I gave large sums of money to our political parties. I was sent here--I can say this without batting an eyelid, although I think that probably the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, may not be quite in this category--by Mr. John Major, not because I was a crony but because I was a friend of his, and I like to think that he thought I might play some modest part in the proceedings of your Lordships' House. Some of your Lordships may sometimes regret that Mr. John Major ever sent me here, but others of your Lordships may appreciate it. I am not sure how we shall end up this evening, or indeed after many evenings discussing this Bill on that particular note.
I do not believe that it helps our argument to discuss which of us is more democratic or more legitimate. I myself take the view that it is a pretty close run thing. I also take the view, so far as concerns the Salisbury convention, that this is not an issue which impinges only on hereditary Peers. However, if that is the way the Government wish the argument to proceed, that is fine: they will live to regret it.
That concerns me when I discuss amendments to government legislation, because I believe that my position is certainly a good deal more legitimate than that of the other place. At least I am not in the category of those who have never stood for elected office. I am not sure whether the Bar Council counts, but I had better be terribly careful because its members are very influential, very important and much richer than I am and can certainly afford to sue me if I were to say anything out of place. I know I am safe in here but--you never know--they might find a way around that. However, I will allow the Bar Council as a serious body from which to receive an electoral mandate. I notice also that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, was the elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. I accept that being elected the Dean of the Faculty in Scotland is a great deal more important than being elected chairman of the Bar Council south of the Border!
Other noble Lords have not been elected to anything, and perhaps they have not even tried: that is probably wise of them, if I may say so. Other noble Lords have tried, tried, tried and failed. I have tried, succeeded, tried and failed, and so I have a semi-democratic legitimacy; or, occasionally in my life I have had democratic legitimacy. However, I do not think it takes us very far to argue that, and I will return to the question of democratic legitimacy later.
The noble Lord, Lord Bach, intervened. I am not sure whether the noble Lord has been elected to anything, or has even tried to be, and so I do not know which category he comes into. He said that he did not want a purpose clause because he wondered where on earth would it all end. That is exactly the point we are putting to the Government: where on earth is it going to end? My noble friend Lord Crickhowell said that the Government have not the smallest idea of what they want in stage two. My noble friend Lord Caithness, quite rightly, said that this stage may last for quite a long time and therefore a purpose clause is essential.
I am very cautious about crossing swords with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. We have debated a number of issues on previous occasions and I am always pretty careful to try, if I possibly can, either to agree with him or to take away what he has had to say and think about it. However, I think that I will disagree with him because the noble and learned Lord said that a purpose clause would be of any value only if there was any possibility that there might be some ambiguity in a piece of legislation. There is huge ambiguity in this piece of legislation, in that the Government do not know what to do next. They keep bringing forward this half of the Bill, and they have no idea where they are going to go with the next half of the Bill.
That in itself is a good argument either for a preamble or for a purpose clause. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, seemed to be following his Central Office brief pretty well and so I am sure he is right and a purpose clause is not necessary because we could not agree about what it would contain. I think that we would be able to agree about what it would contain, and I shall suggest about
The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in his attempt at a purpose clause, reminded us that there was a modern obsession with purpose clauses and object clauses. In the Foreign Office, after the election, I think they were called "mission statements". I am not entirely sure whether they remember their mission statements these days, but it is not a bad phrase. Let us have a mission statement for this Bill, a preamble or a purpose clause.
The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, mentioned the important points in relation to purpose clauses. The three proposals here underline the role not merely of this House, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, mentioned, but of Parliament. There are a number of key words in the three different versions in front of your Lordships: "more legitimate", "more democratic", "increase the independence of Parliament", "enhance its ability to scrutinise legislation"; and then we have "democratic legitimacy" again and "more effective scrutiny".
Those are the key words, and I say again to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, that we should be able to agree on them. Do we not all agree on the importance of improving the scrutiny of legislation? The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, mentioned in particular European legislation. I could add to that all forms of secondary legislation. I do not think that we deal with secondary legislation at all well. I do not think that we scrutinise it properly. We accept it, as does the other place, in whole or in part and we have a convention that we will not vote against it, although the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has tried to find ways around that by cleverly devising systems which, while not actually opposing it, qualify secondary legislation. The other place votes, but again it votes on the whole and not on individual parts.
We will deal with a piece of secondary legislation on Thursday night which, in my view, requires a tiny amendment, but there is no procedure to make any amendment. We either have to accept it in full, as has the other place, or reject it in full. I think that is a mistake. I am referring to the rules and regulations relating to the European Parliamentary Elections Bill. There is no provision for a recount, or at least the provision for a recount arises prior to anybody actually deciding that there will be a need for a recount. When we discussed this point in relation to Scotland and Wales, even the Government agreed that there was a serious problem here. But because we are unable to make a small amendment we are left with either accepting or rejecting the regulations as a whole. That is an impossible position. Therefore, the question of the scrutiny of legislation, and in particular secondary legislation, is very important.
I have suggested that those were key words, and some of your Lordships may well wonder where they came from. I cannot speak for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, but in the case of the amendments in my name and the names of my noble friends I can tell your Lordships exactly where we found some of those words. We took some of them from the
I challenge any of the Government's supporters to get up and say that the word "democratic" does not have good credentials as far as concerns the Bill. If they do they will be in some trouble, albeit disobeying the holy writ of the manifesto. That was one of the sources. The other words emerged from the debate on the White Paper without a Division. Therefore, everybody in your Lordships' House agreed with the words:
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