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Viscount Cranborne: I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He has intervened so many times in my speeches that I was dying for a chance to intervene in one of his. I just want to ask, in a spirit of pure inquiry, how it is that he is opposed to the hereditary principle but at the same time attributes cleverness, which I certainly do not possess, to me, because of my inbreeding.
Lord Barnett: If the noble Viscount took my remark as an insult, it was not intended as one, I promise him. I do believe that he has a great pedigree. I believe that I have one, but it is from a different source. I was not insulting him. I do believe that he is not the kind of man, or kind of noble Lord, who would lightly agree to something without good reason. He did not allow himself to be sacked as leader of his party here just for some simple reason. He obviously did it because he hoped to retain a fair number of hereditary Peers in your Lordships' House for a long time. That is why he did it. He can get up and disclaim that if he wishes: I see he is shaking his head.
However, in my view it is vital that the transitional House should be a sensible one. I have always assumed myself that some hardworking, able hereditary Peers--and we all know many of them, including the noble Viscount--who would be made life Peers. That is what should have been done and that might even have been a good compromise. We could even have given them more than 92. That is the way I always assumed we would deal with this matter.
As I have said, I recognise occasionally the need for compromise: indeed, it is inevitable if we are not to have elective dictatorships. I strongly support the idea in other cases such as the United Nations, NATO and elsewhere, that there is a recognised need for compromise. This one has been made, as has been said, on Privy Council terms. I understand that. I was not involved personally and it was not practicable that I should have been involved; but I know, because of that, that my noble friends will try very hard to make this deal stick and to make a second Chamber a reality.
However, I believe that this compromise goes much too far. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor would like me to support this amendment and I know that my noble friend the Chief Whip would also like me to support it, for obvious reasons. I want briefly to explain why I cannot support it and why I think it is a shambles. Even if I could agree with 10 per cent--and I believe that is too many--and if I could agree with the election procedures--which I frankly do not because they are far too complex-- I think it is far too complex. Why do we need to have 15 deputy chairmen elected from the hereditary Peers? Is it being suggested that out of the 75 that we are going to have from all the life peerages there would not be 15 sensible chairmen? I am simply unable to understand that. I know the noble Viscount wanted about 100
Who decides what happens when those 15 deputy chairmen die or, to make things even worse, if they do not die? If they are unable to serve we will then have more than 92 because presumably we will then elect--the noble and learned Lord can correct me--another hereditary Peer while the previous deputy chairman is still there. So we will have more than 92. I see the noble Viscount is smiling: of course he would be delighted. However, as just one of the major problems, who will decide when a deputy chairman or one of the hereditary Peers becomes unfit or unable to serve? I assume--
Lord Barnett: I will thrash it out later, in the interests of my chief Whip. I shall be moving one or two amendments which I will refer to on another occasion, but I really must continue with a few questions that have been raised already. I assume the deputy chairmen will continue to take their party whip. In other words, they will not be just deputy chairmen but party speakers and voters as well: or will they not? Perhaps my noble and learned friend will tell me.
The plain fact is that the election procedures are matters which should concern every noble Lord. They are not set out in the Bill. They are set out in a Standing Order, which does not exist. There is no Standing Order yet. We have a draft memorandum. We are proposing to put in that draft memorandum huge new burdens and powers on the Clerk of the Parliaments. I am sorry that he is not here, but perhaps his friend will tell him that I have enormous regard for the Clerk of the Parliament. We should not be placing those burdens and powers on his shoulders. If we are going to do something like this then it should be this House that should do it, not the Clerk of the Parliaments. We are Members: we should decide how to do it.
We are told by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, who knows that I have enormous respect for him--indeed I told him in advance that I was going to speak against this amendment--that this is a "detail". We are dealing with a draft Standing Order; presumably we shall see the final Standing Order when the Bill has completed its stages through both Houses. Therefore, we are asked to support an amendment which refers to a Standing Order which does not exist. I assume that when the Standing Order comes to this House we shall have an opportunity to debate and amend it. Perhaps my noble and learned friend will be able to explain.
However, other questions arise and I wish to deal with a few, the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, having dealt with others. Why are 75 hereditary Peers to be elected by the parties and not the whole House, as are the other 15? Why are there vacancies only when there is a death? And there will be many vacancies because some noble Lords will not be capable of serving--I hasten to add no one present in your Lordships' House today. We are told that when Members die their places will be filled
We are then told--this is the important point--that if this scheme lasts for more than five years, which it almost certainly will, there will be an alternative. But the draft memorandum did not mention an alternative. The proposal is nonsensical because we are also told that the 15 deputy chairmen will be appointed to other duties, too. I should be interested to know what other appointments they could have. What is even worse is that the draft memorandum explains that if there is a tie we shall elect Members of Parliament by drawing lots. It really is coming to something when Members of a legislature of this Parliament are elected by drawing lots.
Lord Barnett: I hope that the noble Earl will be able to stay in your Lordships' House under the arrangement. His noble friends will be able to vote for him to stay and he can make such points on a regular basis. I shall not have the opportunity to vote for or against him, unless he stands as one of the 15 deputy chairmen.
The memorandum is only a draft--we do not yet have the Standing Order--but we are informed that expert advice will be sought on elections. I should be interested to know where the Clerks or anyone else will find experts on such an election. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, he is asking us and we are being advised to buy a pig in a poke depending on Standing Orders which do not exist and will not exist until the Bill has gone through both Houses. Although I have great respect for the Clerk of the Parliaments, I believe that it is wrong to give him such powers.
My noble friend Lord Peston is unable to be in the Committee as he is chairing a Select Committee upstairs, where I should be. He and I have tabled an amendment which seeks to make the Bill slightly better by dispensing with by-elections and the complex procedures contained in the draft Standing Order.
I shall conclude with a small and simple point. Our amendment proposes that when a Peer who is accepted dies he should not be replaced. In any event, we are assured that the transitional House will exist for only a short time, so why bother with by-elections? If, as I fear, the transitional House will exist for a long time, hereditary Peers will be maintained for a long time. But that is not the proposal of my noble friends.
What is the defence put forward by my noble and learned friend? The only one he can put forward is that the deal was struck by him and other Privy Counsellors in all honour and the Standing Order could not have been included in the deal because it did not exist. It still does not exist, so I hope that I am not being told that it is part of what we are voting for. I understand and appreciate the fact that the Government wish to honour the deal that they struck, but it is not something that I have to like.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: I oppose this amendment in principle--and we are dealing with the principles and not the details. Many of the reasons I oppose it have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, on careful analysis. Other aspects of my opposition in principle were covered by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers--but not all of them. I say with respect to my noble friend Lord Cranborne that I cannot accept that there is any effective incentive to the Government to go to stage two if we give them the amendment. I see the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, in his place. On a previous occasion, he dealt with this aspect in a way which I believe is right and I find wholly acceptable. I have always adhered to it since.
I do not take the view that we trouble ourselves over-much on this debate in principle about the Parliament Acts. Let us be frank; they dangle over our wretched heads like the sword of Damocles. Any amendment--for example, my referendum amendment or an amendment to increase the numbers--will be overturned by the Parliament Acts if the Government do not like it. Therefore, it is a little premature to worry too much about the Parliament Acts in relation to this amendment. If the Government do not get what they want, sooner or later they will invoke the Parliament Acts. That is the fact of the matter.
Therefore, when we are considering in principle, which is a logical and should be an objective analysis, whether we shall support the amendment, the question of the Parliament Acts is utterly erroneous.
I wish to say at the outset that the integrity of purpose of the noble Lords who made this imperfect arrangement some time ago, and as now presented in the amendment to be implemented by the proposals contained in the Clerk of the Parliaments' 13th draft, is not to be called in question. It is well understood and well respected. The log-jam over "no stage one before stage two" could be shifted only by compromise. That compromise, made so long ago, was made in good faith, but made without the authority of the people or the rank and file of either House of Parliament. It has not been ratified by the people or, as yet, by either House of Parliament. The purpose of this debate is quite simple; that is, to seek ratification of your Lordships' House in principle tonight. I suggest that we should not give it.
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