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The Earl of Longford: Can the noble Viscount repeat what he just said?

Viscount Cranborne: I apologise to the noble Earl. Perhaps I was not as clear as I should have been in making my point.

However, it occurred to me that it would have been a convenience for anyone who is used to using one name not to have to change it yet again, especially if, like me, one is getting increasingly advanced in years and has become attached to the name one ends up with. Indeed, ambitious politicians may prefer their public to know them by one name rather than the public having to get used to knowing them by another.

The Earl of Longford: The whole thing about titles is pretty phoney. I am called "The Earl of Longford" but I am not entitled to sit here as such. It is an Irish

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title like that of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, and that of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. I repeat: it is all phoney. I cannot understand what all this bother is about.

Viscount Cranborne: The noble Earl makes my point for me even better than I could. I am not making some legalistic point. I am trying to persuade the Committee that this is a practical, if rather selfish, matter. Whether one sits as "Lord Cranborne" or as "Lord Hatfield of Newtown" matters not a bit to me. However, I find it tiresome to have to change one's name more than is absolutely necessary. Purely for convenience for the very small number of noble Lords who are affected by this, it would be helpful to have reassurance along the lines suggested by my noble friends. As the noble Earl clearly implies, this is not a matter of huge importance but it is one which, nevertheless, is perhaps more appropriate for the Committee stage than Second Reading.

The Earl of Northesk: Perhaps I may attempt to clarify the point a little by reading out the text of Section 1(4) of the Life Peerages Act 1958, which I am sure the Government Front Bench has readily to hand. The section says:

    "Nothing in this section shall enable any person to receive a writ of summons to attend the House of Lords, or to sit and vote in that House, at any time when disqualified therefor by law". The fundamental point here is not that an hereditary Peer could not become a life Peer; indeed, that is not at issue. What is at issue is that the force of statute of the Bill we are considering will disqualify hereditary Peers by statute; therefore they could not be in receipt of a Writ of Summons to attend the House of Lords. That is the fundamental point.

Lord Desai: When I heard the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, speak, I recalled my schooldays. One of the great difficulties of reading British history is that the names keep on changing. Someone was known as Wood, then became Irwin, and then became Halifax. I thought they changed names to make people forget what they had done, as it were. One could have several careers in that way!

I may be getting this all wrong but I presume that the Bill states that no one is entitled through a hereditary peerage to attend this Chamber. However, retaining that title, the same person could under another title attend as a life Peer. The Bill does not prevent that, as far as I can see. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, may not be able to attend this Chamber as a hereditary Peer, but if he was to be called by some other excellent term--perhaps we should call him Lord Hatfield--he could attend under that name. The same person can have different persona as far as the law is concerned. That has always been the case. I do not know what the fuss is about. Obviously when the noble Viscount becomes Lord Hatfield he may want to be known as Lord Cranborne, and I am sure we shall indulge him in that.

Viscount Cranborne: As usual, I did not make myself clear. All I was suggesting is that I have no

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objection to sitting as one thing and being called another. All I seek--as my noble friend seeks in the proposed new subsection (2) of his amendment, as I understand it--is that this would be permitted as a matter of convenience. I wholly agree with my noble friend Lord Northesk that the more important part of this technical amendment is contained in the proposed new subsection (1).

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: My noble friend has just given me a look.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: I intended to be helpful and also to commit political suicide at the same time by saying that I think I can shed some light on this matter. As regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to reassure him with regard to that point. As regards the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, on the proposed new subsection (2)(b) of the amendment, my understanding has always been that Peers simply use their senior title. In the case of any hereditary Peer who subsequently receives a life peerage, that life peerage would be junior and therefore he would continue to sit in this Chamber under his hereditary title.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: In the hope that I too may attract a look from the noble Baroness I venture the opinion that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne was absolutely justified in claiming that he was putting forward this amendment in order to assist the Government and indeed the whole Committee. By way of brief preface I must say that I feel, not for the first time, much sympathy for the noble Earl, Lord Longford. However, if I may say so, it is all right for him because he has his life peerage. However, those who are concerned about the point of this amendment worry about what will happen when someone who is currently a hereditary Peer and who loses that by virtue of this Bill--if it is enacted--is subsequently sought to be made (if I may use that horrible syntax) a life Peer. My noble friend's point is that that proposal will be caught by Section 1(4) of the 1958 Act, which states,

    "Nothing ... shall enable any person ... to attend the House of Lords ... at any time when disqualified therefor by law". Let us suppose that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, had to wait a little for his life peerage until such time as this Bill is enacted, he would then be disqualified by law. Therefore under the terms of the 1958 Act he would be unable to be made a life Peer.

In case the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, were to say that no one will be disqualified, one needs reassurance in the light of the terms of Clause 2 of the present Bill, which speaks of disqualification. Clause 2 states:

    "The holder of a hereditary peerage shall not be disqualified by virtue of that peerage for--

    (a) voting at elections ... or being elected as, a member of that House".

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    Therefore disqualification is a concept which is known to this Bill. I think therefore that my noble friend has a real point here. No doubt it can be put right if it is found to be a good point. It is proper to raise it in Committee.

I share the sadness of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, at having lost his hereditary right to sit in this Chamber by virtue of an Irish peerage. I myself have a family--

The Earl of Longford: I am afraid the noble and learned Lord has the whole thing completely wrong. I am not here because of an Irish peerage; I am on the same footing as Lord Lucan.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: I was trying to make that point indistinctly; namely, that the noble Earl was rather sad that Earls of Longford are no longer entitled to sit qua Earls of Longford.

The Earl of Longford: They never have been!

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Irish Peers were once entitled to sit in the House of Lords. At any rate, if they were not, they should have been. As someone who is connected to the ancient Irish barony of Fermoy, I have an interest, which I declare. It was said of one of my forebears,

    "The noble Lord Fermoy He is a beautiful boy 'Twas said in his youth He tried to tell truth He failed and now he don't try".

Baroness Strange: There is not really much confusion here. I started life as Drummond; I got married and became Evans. We moved into the family house and became Drummond again, and then I became Strange. The only confusion is when my husband and I share a hotel room together under different names!

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that contribution and to all noble Lords who have spoken on the subject of the supposed looks that I have cast. I shall attempt to study my notes with religious intensity. I hope I shall be able to explain to the noble Lord and the noble Earl that although I realise their amendment is designed to be helpful and constructive, I think that probably the first part is unnecessary. I believe I can convince them that the remaining part is also probably unnecessary, if not unworkable. If I do so without using too many double negatives, I hope noble Lords will understand, because they are right in saying that the matter depends on issues of disqualification.

There is nothing in this Bill which removes the right of hereditary Peers to be Members of the House of Lords. From being uniquely qualified for membership, they will not become uniquely disqualified. The Bill of course removes the right to be a Member by virtue of the hereditary peerage. Membership by virtue of any other legitimate route remains perfectly possible. Indeed we have always made it clear that we intended this to be the effect of this Bill. Before the noble Lord,

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Lord Weatherill, and the noble Viscount suggested various ways in which a number of hereditary Peers might remain in the Chamber, the Government had always made it clear informally--before we reached the point of discussing the details of the Bill--that we expected that some of those who would now be legitimate candidates, and would fall under the so-called Weatherill amendment, were likely to be offered life peerages, as noble Lords have said. We have been given some examples of that.

We have already offered life peerages to hereditary Peers of first creation. As has been pointed out, they are under the net, in the sense that they have already been offered those life peerages. We would not have done that if the effect of the Bill was to make it impossible. I assure the Committee that we were aware of Section 1(4) of the Life Peerages Act, to which the noble Earl rightly drew attention. That section is about ensuring that the normal rules of disqualifications for membership of the Chamber apply to life Peers. If, for example, a Peer were to be disqualified from receiving a Writ of Summons as a hereditary Peer either because he was a minor or because he was bankrupt, he would not be able to circumvent the disqualification by becoming a life Peer.

The present Bill is not about disqualifications from the House; it is about ending one of the routes of membership to the House. The disqualifications remain untouched by the Bill. It will still be possible to be debarred from the House for bankruptcy; it will still be impossible to confer peerages on aliens or on minors. In that respect, the new clause tabled by the noble Lord might be defective in the sense that it might actually oust the existing provisions of Section 1(4) in respect of hereditary Peers so that in future a bankrupt hereditary Peer could take his seat in the House of Lords by virtue of receiving a life Peerage. I am sure that that is not the intention of the noble Lords concerned, but that might be the consequence of the clause. I am sure the noble Lords do not wish to see legislation achieve an effect they do not intend.

As to the second part of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, the noble Earl, Lord Longford--he is not rising to make an additional point--has made some of the points about the confusion which may arise when Peers sit under different titles. But the proposed new clause says that in effect someone who is disqualified from attending, sitting or voting in the House by virtue of the hereditary Peerage can, none the less, attend and so forth as an hereditary Peer if he also possesses some other route of qualification. That seems to me to be a fairly illogical position to have reached and probably one in which the constructive and helpful aims of the noble Lords might be regarded with some scepticism because they might lead to the introduction of more hereditary Peers by that route. Whether or not that is what was intended, I suspect that could possibly be an outcome.

Someone who is given a life Peerage in order to enable him to sit in the House of Lords should sit as a life Peer. An hereditary Peerage will not in the future confer a right to sit in the House and so it appears slightly odd to suggest that it might do. When a person

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who achieves a life Peerage comes to the House, there is, as several noble Lords have said, no problem at all about what he should be called. We have already had our attention drawn to the 45 Members of the House who are known by Irish titles but who sit by means of a UK barony or some other UK title which is actually junior to the title by which they are known. We have already heard the noble Earl, Lord Longford, describe precisely his situation in that respect.

I think I can help the Committee a little further. The noble Lord, Lord Aldington--I am glad to see him in his place--has kindly given me permission to quote the correspondence between Ministers and Garter in respect of his position, which has led to some general discussion about how noble Lords in this position would be treated. Perhaps it would be helpful to the Committee if I read from the guidance which has been given.

    "The advice we have received from Garter King of Arms is that any new peerage cannot have the same nomen dignitatis as an existing peerage. This means"-- and of course in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, he is a Peer of first creation--

    "that any peer of a first creation accepting a life peerage must have a new title. In Lord Aldington's case this could be achieved by adding a geographical description to his name. However, even if Lord Aldington has to slightly change his title to receive a Writ of Summons, his hereditary title will remain the senior title and it is by that title he would be known in the Lords". But that is not by virtue of his hereditary Peerage. I hope that is clear. I think that the attempt which is not perhaps in Amendment No. 6--I may be suspiciously reading more into it than is there--to suggest that Peers who returned as life Peers would be regarded as sitting by right of their senior hereditary Peerage rather than using that name and sitting by right of their new life Peerage would be unacceptable to the Government. Frankly, that would fail adequately to break the link between the right of birth and the right to a seat in the legislature, which is precisely what the Bill is intended to achieve. I hope that that explanation is helpful to the Committee.

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