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Lord Trefgarne: I am grateful to the noble Baroness. Let me say at once that there was no intention that the amendment should provide some secret route for hereditary Peers back into the House after the Bill becomes an Act, if that is what happens. I was, and remain, genuinely concerned that the provisions of the Life Peerages Act 1958 to which I referred will create difficulties for the creation of new life peerages for those who formerly sat in the House by virtue of their hereditary peerages. Nonetheless, I will study very carefully what the noble Baroness has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I may return to the matter again at another stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I intervene at this point. I am not doing so as Minister responsible for the Bill but as Leader of your Lordships' House. Amendment No. 7 and Amendment No. 8 with which it is grouped and which have been tabled in the name of the noble

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Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, have been printed on the revised Marshalled List. But I am advised by the authorities of the House that in their present form the amendments are irrelevant to the subject matter of the Bill.

As the House knows well, order in your Lordships' House is in the hands of the House as a whole but we look to the Clerks to give advice and to the Leader of the House to give guidance on matters of order. The Companion to the Standing Orders makes that clear in the case of the relevance of amendments, and the working group recently chaired by my noble friend Lady Hilton of Eggardon, on which Peers from all parties and all parts of the House were represented and which reported unanimously to the Procedure Committee earlier this year, stressed on a parallel case that Lords should take the advice of Clerks in such matters. It is a consequence of our procedures that the House has collective responsibility for observing these procedures and that all Members of your Lordships' House therefore need to co-operate to see that procedures are observed.

It is in that spirit that I would seek to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, not to move Amendment No. 7 or Amendment No. 8 in their present form today. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has received notice from the Clerk of the Parliaments in the usual way that he was writing to me with this advice and I have of course given the noble Lord notice of my intention to raise the matter at this time.

Lord Strathclyde: I am grateful to the Leader of the House for raising this issue. This is the first time that I have heard of an amendment being tabled and the Leader of the House having to make the kind of statement that she has just made. From that point of view, it is an interesting event and relatively unique.

The House will, I hope, appreciate that, as Leader of the Opposition, and following the good guidance of my predecessor, on matters of the House I shall seek to support the noble Baroness. I do so again this evening unreservedly. But it is worth exploring the issue just for a moment and I hope that we shall be able to hear from my noble friend Lord Trefgarne. I understand that he has an entitlement to bring this issue to the House and he ultimately has the right to ask the House to have a view. I am not suggesting, incidentally, that he should do so on this matter.

I too have received a letter from the Clerk of the Parliaments raising the issue outlined by the noble Baroness. I understand that the problem that has arisen on the drafting of my noble friend's amendment is a relatively minor one. I should like to know whether it would be in order for my noble friend to put forward a manuscript amendment to deal with a relatively minor issue which arises only because my noble friend, perhaps deliberately or not--I do not know because I have not spoken to him in detail about these issues--has excluded the right of retired Law Lords to sit in the House. It may be that that was the purport of my noble friend's amendment. But if it is not, I think I am right in saying that he could move a manuscript amendment.

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He may choose to do so or he may not. But my main purpose in intervening is to say that we accept the guidance of the Leader of the House and we accept that she has been advised by the Clerk of the Parliaments in accordance with his duties.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Before the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, rises to speak, I, too, am advised that if a simple manuscript amendment is tabled, which I understand could then put the amendment back into its original form on the Marshalled List, that would be in order.

9 p.m.

Lord Trefgarne: I am obliged to the noble Baroness and to my noble friend. Let me say at once that I am minded to accept the advice of the noble Baroness and not to proceed with these amendments, certainly not in their present form on the Marshalled List.

As my noble friend said, the purpose and the deliberate effect of my amendment as tabled was to exclude the right of retired Law Lords from the so-called club facilities of this place, which are to be denied to all the hereditary Peers, who are to lose their rights to come to this House.

I was told that the Bill dealt only with hereditary Peers, not with life Peers, but Law Lords are in effect life Peers and that my amendment was therefore out of order. I found that advice more mystifying than usual because in Amendment No. 78, which we shall discuss later in the course of this Committee stage, life Peers are expressly covered. The amendment stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Archer. Therefore, I remain deeply mystified as to why my amendment was not allowed.

That said, that remains the advice of the Clerks. I accept the noble Baroness's request and shall not move these amendments. However, I reserve the right to return to the matter at the next stage.

[Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 not moved.]

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 9:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Purpose of Act (No. 3)

(" . The purpose of this Act is only to alter the composition of the House of Lords and to extend the right to stand for election and vote for membership of the House of Commons, and therefore nothing herein shall be used to justify a reduction of the powers of the House of Lords, which are necessary to the effective discharge of its responsibilities.")

The noble Lord said: We have reached this moment rather sooner than I had anticipated. That just goes to show how difficult it is to predict the progress of this Bill, and indeed many others.

This new clause is another purpose clause. However, I do not wish to go over the same ground as we covered prior to the dinner break regarding the difference between a purpose clause and a preamble, or indeed the nature of such a clause and the desirability of including one in the Bill. That is a debate to which we shall return at another stage. We shall certainly work hard to find the right kind of purpose clause. We believe it

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appropriate that there should be one. We very much hope that it might be possible to convince the Government that that is right. I should also make it clear that I have no intention of pressing this amendment to a Division.

The main purpose of this clause is to probe the Government's thinking on the powers of the House of Lords. As I have said many times, while the composition of the House is important, what is even more important are the roles, functions and powers of this House, and in particular what will happen in the future to the powers of this House either in the interim stage or in the longer term.

On 23rd February, in a two-day debate that we held on the White Paper that had been published by the Government, an amendment to the Motion was carried by this House, by which the House urged Her Majesty's Government,

    "in carrying forward the proposals in the White Paper to set as their objectives an increase in the independence of Parliament and an enhancement of its ability to scrutinise legislation and hold the Executive to account; and therefore specifically calls on the Royal Commission to reject the proposition in paragraph 7.26 of the White Paper that the available powers of this House might be significantly reduced".--[Official Report, 23/2/99; col. 955.] I am sure the House will remember the occasion well. Although a Division was called, the party of Government decided, for reasons best known to themselves, not to vote. They abstained in person and, as my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish said in reply to an earlier debate, on the whole accepted the premise behind the Motion that was passed. I was glad to hear that.

The effect of the Bill as drafted is, deliberately I presume, however regrettable that presumption might be, to exclude those hereditary Peers now in the House from having any say in the future powers or functions of the House. I regret that. I do not believe it is the right way to go about altering the nature of a sovereign Parliament. Also, I do not believe that the present House, with all its wisdom and experience over many years, should be denied an opportunity at least to have a view about future powers.

This amendment seeks not only to give the present House an opportunity to debate the issue now, and for the Government to give us an idea of what they believe the future powers of the interim and long-term House will be; it also gives us an opportunity to "mark the card" of the future House as well as pointing the Government in a certain direction.

The present powers are essential to the workings of the House. It does not use all of them very often. But sometimes, as on clear-cut issues, it does. One such issue arose recently in relation to the closed list. Then the House of Lords uses its powers. Even then, rightly, the Commons can override it. But when it does, the world sees and hears the windows being kicked out by the executive. I make no complaint about that. One of the purposes of this Chamber is to seek to embarrass the Government when it thinks they are doing something wrong.

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We do not want to slide towards a situation whereby the executive--whatever executive--can capture effective, if not absolute, control of the House and reduce the powers of the Chamber and therefore the independence of the Back-Benchers. This amendment, albeit a declaratory one, puts a modest barrier in the way.

What will be the Government's view? They will say, "Why worry?", and, "Look at our manifesto". The manifesto states that,

    "The legislative powers of the House of Lords will remain unaltered". That offers good assurance. But again, I wish to probe slightly what that means. With this Government we have learnt, and it is a good thing to learn, that we need to look at the small print, as with so many other matters. It would therefore be helpful if the Government would inform the Committee as to whether that commitment refers to the interim House only, which is what the context of the manifesto implies, or whether it means for all time. If the Minister who is to reply does not have his copy of the manifesto, it does not matter. If he does not wish to answer in the context of the manifesto, I am happy. However, it would be good to have a view as to what the Government believe the long-term future is.

From time to time we have heard how careful the drafting of that section of the manifesto was; so careful that only a few hours ago the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that no purpose clause was necessary. He may be right, but we shall continue to probe it at future stages.

It would be helpful if he or the Minister replying could answer the following questions. Does it mean, for example, that the powers over secondary legislation would remain unaltered? I suppose it could. Does it mean that the powers currently enjoyed by this House to delay legislation would remain, or would they be curtailed? Alternatively, does it mean that things would remain exactly the same? I take it from the quote in the manifesto that it might, but it does not entirely say so. Perhaps the noble Lord will confirm that. There is still room for suspicion because the Government have given conflicting signals on the powers of the House in the past.

One of the problems about the debate is whether the Bill is a stand-alone Bill or part of a two-stage process. It strikes me that there is a tension between the two objectives. There may not be that tension, in which case I hope the Government will explain why not. I am trying to find out what are the Government's objectives in all this. That will help us to do our job and scrutinise the legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, when Leader of the House, argued for a restriction on the power to reject legislation. If he did not do so as Leader of the House, I know that he has done so since. I wish to know what thoughts the Government have on that extremely important issue.

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Following on from that, the terms of reference for the Royal Commission appear to leave out consideration of powers. I am glad to say that that has not been changed, although it has been clarified by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. She laid out the position in our debate on the White Paper. Powers which according to the manifesto were to be unaltered were now to be looked at or, in the words of the Leader of the House,

    "The terms of reference ... must legitimately include looking at powers, especially in relation to the legislative function".--[Official Report, 22/2/99; col. 846.] Again there is a tension between what the Royal Commission's clarified terms of reference are and the words of the manifesto that the powers remained unaltered. I wonder where we are on that.

That leads to the now infamous paragraph in the White Paper, Chapter 7, paragraph 26, which says that:

    "A better approach might be to reduce the theoretically available powers". The House has examined this in detail in the past and I do not wish to do so again. However, paragraph 7.26 suggests that for the future the Government would like to look at the powers, the ability to delay legislation approved by the House of Commons; arrangements to introduce the Parliament Act for Bills which start in this House; and also what they call "special" procedures where the second Chamber wishes to insist on amendments which have been considered and rejected by another place.

There is also the suggestion of formal conciliation arrangements between the two Houses; and, finally, the powers that I have already mentioned over secondary legislation. I cannot help but believe that there is something afoot. There may not be, but at this stage of proceedings on the Bill there is an opportunity for the Committee legitimately to probe what is going on, what is at the back of the Government's mind. That will lead us, I hope, to being able to frame suitable amendments at successive stages so that we can help and guide not just the Government but perhaps a future House as to what the powers should be. I hope that I have clarified the purpose behind the amendment. I beg to move.

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