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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I do not know the precise figures with regard to the number of people who attend and work regularly as life Peers, but, even if it is 300, that would still make us one of the biggest second Chambers in the world. A figure of 500 would make us the biggest second Chamber in the world. I am completely confident that there are enough people who devote themselves to this Chamber as life Peers to make it work effectively.
Viscount Mountgarret: At this late hour I do not wish to detain the Committee long, but it concerns me greatly that every time we come to the argument about this Bill the Labour Party spends its time referring to the manifesto and what it has undertaken to do in the manifesto. If someone is prepared to use the same argument time and time again to try to justify his cause, one has to call into question whether the cause is justified. I say that because the Labour Party is indeed carrying out its manifesto commitment. I do not think that anyone disagrees with that. I do not think that we should disagree with that. It is not a case of what one is doing, but of how one is doing it. That is what causes many people in this Committee grave concern.
Earlier today the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that he felt like a metronome going this way and that way. There are 13 amendments grouped with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, and I too feel like a metronome going tick, tock. I do not know what we are actually discussing. As the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said, you do not just because you do not have time to debate the matter properly tear up and kick out 700 people and try to lump them together.
One amendment refers to actions taken by a Minister of the Crown. I believe that is Amendment No. 23. Amendment No. 25, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, refers to almost the same thing with regard to a Minister of the Crown. However, that has not been grouped. So I do not know whether or not we are grouping these amendments. It would surely be better to deal with each point as it comes up so that it can be given careful and due consideration, which is the very thing that the Royal Commission was set up to do. We are here trying to do the very thing that the Royal Commission has been set up to do. We just cannot do it in the space of a few days' debate. It is wrong.
Perhaps I may refer briefly to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Randall. I am much taken with it. It has much merit and much thought behind it. I am only surprised that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, did not put his name to the amendment. It reminds me of the position of the Irish Peers. Being an Irish Peer myself, I want to make this point. Twenty-four Peers of Ireland were allowed to represent the Peerage of Ireland in your Lordships' House until 1922. When the arrangement with Ireland came to an end, the need for having representative Peers of Ireland was extinguished. Yet those Peers who had been elected were permitted to remain on for the rest of their lives. It was only a few years ago--I cannot remember how many--that the last representative Peer of Ireland died. He was not replaced and so none is left. There are some hybrids like me who are fortunate enough to have an English Peerage.
I believe that the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Randall, is perfectly fair and right. The writ of summons received by hereditary Peers--the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, had something to say on this point--ought not to be superseded--I am not saying it cannot be--by whim, feeling, emotion, envy or jealousy. That should not be done. It is wrong. We should extinguish ourselves gradually over a period of time.
I do not believe the noble and learned Lord when he says that this will take 60 years. With the greatest respect to many noble Lords present, I find it difficult to believe that many of us will be sitting here in 60 years' time. Therefore, the time taken to extinguish antiquities such as myself and perhaps other noble Lords--I do not wish to be rude to them--will be very much less. I hope that in our debates we will remember that we are going to help the Labour Party--I am going to help the Labour Party--get through its manifesto commitment to reform and perhaps even abolish the hereditary Peers, but not in the hurried, unacceptable and offensive way in which it seems to be doing it. That is the nub of the problem.
Earl Ferrers: Perhaps I may make one point. I had a certain rebuke from the noble Earl, Lord Longford. However, that does not worry me because I always received rebukes from the noble Earl when I was in the Home Office. He said that, although the present incumbent is more astute than I am--I quite agree--he
Lord Selsdon: Noble Lords will have noticed that I have come down to earth. I have come down to the same level as my noble friend Lord Ferrers, who had the nerve to suggest that, while I knew my place, I knew when to go. I have no intention of going, and I do not wish to go. But I am confused. It was not my intention that my simple amendment based on a Labour Party treatise should be linked together with a whole range of other matters that I did not fully understand.
The noble and learned Lord opposite in his "Epistle to the Trojans", which he read so magnificently, led me to believe that he was not sure where he stood; that he was skating on some form of thin ice. I had rather hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Randall, who spoke after me at Second Reading, would have the Floor to himself. He is a good and honourable man whose thoughts are sound and sincere.
From this place nearer to earth, I must say that I am still confused, but at a lower level. Therefore, with that sense of confusion, I suggest that I might be allowed to return to this issue at a suitable later date. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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