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Lord Carter: The Committee should--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Carter: The Committee should know that Chief Whips are only allowed out after midnight.

In replying to Amendment No. 18 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 64 and 153. Amendment No. 18 is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 26. Amendments Nos.64 and 153 are consequential. As the noble Earl said, Amendment No. 26 is at the heart of the group. The amendment seeks to allow hereditary Peers who have served for seven years in any of the bodies listed in the amendment to receive a Writ of Summons to sit and vote in the House of Lords. In the case of the House of Commons, any hereditary Peer elected to that Chamber will be entitled to a Writ of Summons on the day after he ceases to be an MP. This has the effect of ensuring that such a Peer who has been elected to the Commons and subsequently loses his or her seat in an election can continue to remain in the legislature by taking a seat in the second Chamber. Therefore it is proposed that a Peer who has been rejected by the electorate comes straight to the House of Lords. That seems to me a rather curious concept of the democratic legitimacy that the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, referred to.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: I know the noble Lord will be glad that I am not talking about organic farming but the fact that the person concerned has done seven years' service in a relevant body is sufficient. The whole point of the amendment is that seven years' appropriate service is proof of democratic legitimacy.

Lord Carter: I am not sure that the noble Earl entirely understands his own amendment. It states that if a Peer has lost his seat in the House of Commons he immediately receives a Writ of Summons to come to the House of Lords. Therefore he has been rejected by the electorate but he comes to the House of Lords.

If a hereditary Peer is currently sitting in one of the eight bodies specified in the amendment, and has been for seven years, he will be able to continue in the Lords after this Bill is passed. I must point out that the amendment refers to a regional assembly in England, but that concept does not yet exist. Also the amendment is not clear as to whether the Peer will sit for life or for the duration of a parliament. The amendment refers to a

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Writ of Summons which of course entitles the bearer to attendance for the duration of one parliament only. If it were for life, a Peer who had been a Member of the House of Commons could not seek re-election there. My speaking notes state that this amendment rather misses the point. After what I have just said, I think that that is rather a kindly way of looking at the amendment.

The Bill is designed to end the rights of hereditary Peers to sit and vote in your Lordships' House. The Committee will not be surprised at that piece of information. That is not because we think they are all incapable of holding public office and that they should prove their worth in another elected body but because we do not accept as a matter of principle that in social, economic or any other terms the hereditary Peers can reasonably be considered to be representative of the people of the country as a whole.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, says that the amendment is ingenious. Many years on the Opposition Front Bench have taught me that when someone uses the word "ingenious" he is a little bereft of argument. The noble Lord gave a long list of Peers in various legislatures. He displayed his knowledge of many colleagues. If I did not know the noble Lord better, I would say he was engaged in something of a filibuster.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: If I had been engaged in something of a filibuster, I would have listed all Members of your Lordships' House who are members of local authorities and explained the work that they did. That would have taken a longer time because many Members of this Chamber are members of local authorities. Therefore the noble Lord should be cautious as regards accusing me of perhaps filibustering, because I can do so.

Lord Carter: Well, we all know that. That is why I said it was only something of a filibuster. I also noticed that the noble Lord carefully did not deal with the central weakness of the amendment which I have already pointed out. Allowing the bodies listed in this amendment to act as a kind of workplace where hereditary Peers can spend a seven-year apprenticeship before entering this Chamber is a rather curious approach to the parliamentary process. If hereditary Peers wish to continue in the public service and stand for election to another body, that is all well and good. But to suggest that once they have completed a seven-year stint they can then by right return to this place is unacceptable. Why does this amendment discriminate against all the others who have served in an elected Chamber for seven years? Why are hereditary Peers particularly selected for this process?

The amendment is defective in drafting; it is wrong in principle; it is bad in logic. I trust that the noble Earl will withdraw it.

Lord Harlech: It is of interest not merely to those of us in the Chamber at this late hour but to the country as a whole that the Minister and he who convenes this House is also in a position where he convenes agricultural workers, who provide food for this country.

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That is important. My reason for referring briefly to this matter is that you cannot start to explain how you cannot do that that is on statute and still have an organised union. You must be careful as to whom you are organising, the union or the country. You must be very careful what you say.

Lord Carter: I refer the noble Lord to page 65 of the Companion to the Standing Orders, which clearly states that a debate must be relevant to the question before the House.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: I thank the noble Lord for his answer to my amendment. My introduction was curtailed. It was only six minutes. I threw away several pages of notes.

The object, which the noble Lord seems to have missed, was to retain an element of the hereditary principle. As I said, I know that noble Lords opposite do not like that principle, but I suggested a way whereby a small amount of that vital element should be retained as a memorial to the service of hereditary Peers in this House. I shall return to the matter at the next stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 1, line 5, leave out ("by virtue of") and insert ("because he holds")

The noble Earl said: I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 68 and 155. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who will reply, that he need not be too worried and apply himself too hard, as he normally does, to the amendment. This is an exploratory amendment. It attempts to find out exactly what is meant. The three amendments deal with the same point. The phrase in the Bill is, "by virtue of". Clause 1 states that,

    "No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage". I do not know what "by virtue of" means. I merely think that it is better to say, "No-one shall be a member of the House of Lords because he holds a hereditary peerage".It is simpler and more understandable. "By virtue of" seems to encompass something rather greater than "because he holds". I can give only one example, although it is not the reason for tabling the amendment. It could be said that my noble friend Lord Cranborne holds his position by virtue of a hereditary peerage even though he does not sit in this Chamber because he holds a hereditary peerage. The words may have been chosen deliberately to exclude my noble friend. If that is so, it is slightly ungenerous. I merely think it is easier to use the words, "because he holds"; then everyone knows where they are. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think the answer to the noble Earl's question is essentially contained in paragraph 6 of the Explanatory Notes. It indicates that,

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    "The exclusion from membership applies to all those who are members of the House by virtue of a hereditary peerage, including ... any holder of a peerage by virtue of acceleration... and ... any holder of a hereditary peerage by virtue of the termination of a peerage in abeyance". We were looking for a proposition that was sufficiently flexible to cover direct and indirect relationships. "By virtue of" achieves that. We chose a broad proposition in order to be sure that any Member of the House whose membership was in any way connected or related to hereditary peerages would have his membership of the House ended. I can confirm the thought that was in the mind of the noble Earl.

Earl Ferrers: Oh dear! Oh dear! I was holding out hopes that the noble Lord and the Government would be more generous. My noble friend is here by accelerated arrangement--whatever the description is--and came up by that route. Having been a Member of another place, he could have been made a life Peer. Had he been made a life Peer, he would have been continued; because he is here by accelerated promotion, he will be discontinued even though he is not an hereditary Peer. That seems to be a bit tough. The noble Lord can relax; I shall not dispute the matter any further. I do not say that I will not revisit the problem later, but I am grateful to him for explaining what I thought were rather complex words. I am glad to know that there is a reason for the complexity. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1 a.m.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 20:

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