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Lord Monson: Perhaps I may say what a pleasure it is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Randall. His comments are thoughtful, sensitive and, above all, constructive. His proposals will be worth studying in detail.
It is a pity that such an enormous portmanteau of semi-related constitutional amendments, some of considerable complexity, are being taken so late in the evening. It is a pity, too, that the grouping is a trifle eccentric, if I may say so. My Amendment No. 23 and possibly other amendments in the grouping make no sense at all without the paving Amendment No. 16 in
The purpose of Amendment No. 23 is to meet all the legitimate grievances of the Labour Party, whether that party be in government or in opposition, concerning the present composition of the House. I stress the word "legitimate" as distinct from the doctrinaire grievances.
Labour has long complained--and I have long sympathised with its complaints--that it is too often defeated by the in-built Conservative majority (with a capital "C") and on other occasions by the rather larger in-built conservative majority (with a lower case "c"). Although the defeats, when Labour is in government, are nearly always reversed speedily enough in the other place, nevertheless they are an irritant to Labour. No one enjoys being irritated time and time again.
This amendment would therefore bar most hereditaries, or all hereditaries, depending on the progress of Amendment No. 31, from voting on government Bills but not from voting on Private Members' Bills, which are not, I submit, a legitimate concern of the Government; nor would it bar them from speaking at any stage of any Bill.
In its effects, the amendment falls, on the one hand, more or less mid-way between Amendment No. 27 in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and my noble friend Lord Moran and the closely related Amendment No. 60 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine--neither of which would permit hereditaries to vote on anything at all--and, on the other hand, some of the amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Selsdon, Lord Randall and Lord Pearson of Rannoch, which would appear to give hereditaries restrictive but still fairly extensive voting powers at the cost of greater complexity.
I believe that this amendment is both moderate and workable and I invite the Committee to consider it. May I also, en passant, commend the modest amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, Amendment No. 30, which seems not only extremely reasonable but almost unchallengeable from the point of view of principle.
Lord Crickhowell: The speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of St. Budeaux, was brave and helpful. He complained about the confusing way in which these matters have been handled. He then proceeded to give the most effective response possible to the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, had chosen to treat us. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, had decided that the best way of dealing with the Bill was to say that, because they had decided to make it a simple Bill, no one should be allowed to debate anything that might improve it. No alteration could be made; no suggestion could be put forward or, if it was, it would be casually dismissed without argument.
This evening we have two attempts by my noble friend Lord Selsdon and the noble Lord, Lord Randall, to try to make sense of a thoroughly bad and negative Bill and to try to build into it the kind of transitional arrangements which are the proper way in which
However, there is another cause of confusion and I should like to take this opportunity to complain about the way in which all these amendments have been grouped. I know the situation has been made somewhat better because a number of noble friends have chosen to withdraw their amendments at this time, as is their right, and to bring them forward and debate them separately. I believe that my noble friend Lord Marlesford proposes to do that and I was glad to have the intervention right at the start from my noble friend Lord Clanwilliam. Also, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, intends to move his amendment.
However, it is extraordinarily unhelpful to come to the House and expect us to absorb and bring together our thoughts about a set of wholly unrelated and unconnected amendments. We have been dealing with subjects far removed from one another. My noble friend Lord Selsdon was dealing with Peers' voting rights and with Peers who are without voting rights. We were to have a set of proposals from my noble friend Lord Clanwilliam about members of a wide variety of elected bodies having the right, after a given period, to receive a writ of summons. We have had the--
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: If the noble Lord will allow me, as has already been said from this Front Bench, it is open to any noble Lord to ungroup any amendment from the grouping which has been suggested. We try to achieve agreement on groupings. If we fail, there should be no problem. There is no reason to take up the time of the Committee to complain about groupings.
Lord Crickhowell: I think there is every reason to take up the time of the Committee at this point, because it may mean that we will have a less disastrously unsatisfactory grouping of amendments presented to us at later stages of this Bill. I think one is entitled to protest about the grouping of a whole series of amendments which have no connection at all with each other and which cannot be intelligently and sensibly debated together. It is not helpful to the Committee. I hope that it will not occur on another occasion, and I say to the noble Lord that if he wants to speed up the proceedings on the Bill this is not the way to do it. That is all I intend to say. I was about to finish and if the noble Lord wants to delay the Committee further, of course I will give way. However, I have made the point
Lord Henley: Perhaps I can assist the House on this occasion. We have a number of groupings under Amendment No. 10. I and other colleagues tried to advise the noble Lord the Chief Whip and others that it would be better if they were ungrouped. That was not accepted and we now have them there. I remind the Committee and my noble friend of the words at the top of the groupings list
Lord Crickhowell: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks. The simple point is that when we come to the House prepared to speak we do not have the slightest idea which amendments will be separated in this way. Therefore, for the remainder of the Committee stage it is an extraordinary inconvenience that should not arise.
Earl Ferrers: I have a great deal of sympathy for my noble friend. When I saw all of these amendments grouped together, some of which were punctuated by my own, I became lost, but I was a good boy and went along to ask if I could de-couple my amendments. I de-coupled the whole lot so effectively that I de-coupled two that should not have been and they had to be coupled again. It is impossible to decide how one's own amendments relate to all the other complicated amendments that have been tabled. The answer is to take the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard at his word and unhook all of the amendments that we do not want to be grouped in this way. That is a lot simpler and will make the debate a great deal easier.
I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of St. Budeaux. He said that hereditary Peers must go. I thought that that remark was fairly rich. Someone who has been in the House for perhaps 12 months decides that everyone else who has been there for years must clear out. I admired him for his fortitude in recognising a good thing. It is funny how a lot of noble Lords on the other side of the House long to come here and as soon as they arrive they seek to kick out everyone else in a most delightful way. My noble friend Lord Selsdon said that hereditary Peers knew their place and when to go. Maybe he knows his place and when to go. All I can say is that I know when to go, and it is not now.
I find it hard to agree with Amendment No. 109 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall, which provides that the proportion of government seats in the House of Lords must reflect that in the House of Commons. For example, what happens if one has the misfortune to have a monster Labour majority in the House of Commons and a very small Conservative minority, as happens now? One creates a whole lot of extra Labour Peers in this House. Noble Lords shake their heads. Perhaps they will desist because it puts me off. If I have got it wrong they can explain why. At the next election five years later there is a monster Conservative majority and a very small Labour minority and one has to create a whole lot of new Conservative Peers. Therefore, it grows like Topsy. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Randall, is becoming very anxious. Obviously, I have got it wrong. If he wishes to interrupt then, as the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said to me courteously the other day, I shall be quite happy to give way to him.
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