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Baroness Park of Monmouth: Will the noble Earl give way? I strongly support the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, that in agreeing to the amendment we are striking an important blow to maintain the continuity of the work of the House. It is not a matter of honour or dishonour, it is a matter of practical common sense. We need to work and in order to work we need some hereditary Peers.
The Earl of Dartmouth: I think I put my arguments with some clarity, precision and fluency. I am sorry that I could not get the noble Baroness to agree with them. My closing point is this. In view of the remarks by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the amendment can be fairly characterised as a bribe, and a very inadequate bribe at that. The Committee, especially the hereditary Peers, should oppose the amendment.
Lord Weatherill: We have had a long, interesting and fruitful debate. I am sorry if other Members of the Committee have not been able to speak, but I sense that the feeling of the Committee is that we should proceed to a Division on the matter.
I start by saying how grateful I am to all Members of the Committee who have spoken in the debate. I am particularly grateful to the Chief Whip, for having put to the Committee last week the suggestion that this amendment should be taken on its own. If it is agreed, it should be incorporated into the Bill. I express my gratitude to those noble Lords who withdrew their amendments and will re-submit them later.
It is only right and fair to commend the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, for the part which he played in making the arrangement. I pay tribute to him. As the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, said, this was an arrangement, a compromise, which was arrived at through the usual channels, with the exception of the Liberals. It never occurred to me that the Liberals were not being consulted because, as I understand it, they sit on a number of government committees, one of them being the constitutional committee. It surprised me that they did not know about the matter.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, that one of the reasons I was concerned about coming to an arrangement was the point he and the noble Baroness made about the Select Committees of the House. When I, as the Convenor, had to appoint members to Select Committees, 75 per cent. of the Cross-Benchers were from the hereditary peerage. That was because the life Peers on the Cross-Benches were far too busy carrying out operations and going about their business in the real world outside. It is an important point that the Select Committees of the House should be carried on in the interim period in a proper way. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, for what he said about it.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, that I did not go in detail through the method of election because, as I indicated, the matter would arise later in our deliberations. It is an important point and I hope I did not give him the impression that it was not. He has given notice that he will put down an amendment on re-committal and we shall have an opportunity to debate it then.
The Earl of Caithness: In view of the rather extraordinary circumstances in this House where we do not seem to be able to continue a Committee stage in the usual fashion, I should like to ask this. In his discussions with the Government, was the noble Lord given any indication whether they would accept any amendments to his amendment when it is re-committed? If any amendments are accepted, will it break the noble Lord's understanding with the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor?
Lord Weatherill: I am not a member of the Government, so I could not possibly answer the question. I negotiated the amendment which we are debating today with the Government in good faith. Whether they will accept further amendments to it is not a matter for me.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. It is the same question in a sense and it is a crucial one which has been put to my noble friend Lord Caithness. The noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, was there. Quite recently, in the negotiations, did the noble Lord receive any form of commitment from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House or the Government Chief Whip to the effect that any amendment to this amendment would be accepted? Did he receive any form of commitment as regards not amending the Bill otherwise?
Lord Weatherill: I have to say no to both those questions. It was not a matter for me at the discussions to ask the Lord Chancellor or the Government whether they were going to accept amendments or not. I am content that they are very happy to accept this one.
Perhaps I may come to a conclusion. I began by saying that my expertise in moving amendments is somewhat rusty. In my closing remarks I draw attention to Amendment No. 152. I should have made it clear that it is a consequential amendment dependent on Amendment No. 31 on which we are about to seek an opinion. With those remarks I would like to test the opinion of the House on the amendment.
Lord Rowallan: Surely it is the convention of this House that we can continue at Committee stage without a guillotine. Are we reverting to what is becoming an often recurring procedure in the other place of suddenly not being allowed to debate matters? This is a very serious issue. Before we have a vote on the Weatherill amendment we should find out whether the House is in agreement to the debate being curtailed.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: In my earlier intervention I formed the impression that it was the view of the majority of the Members of the Committee that we should invite the noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, to speak and then invite the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, to conclude this part of the debate.
Lord Lucas: In that case the Question should be that the Motion is now put. This is Committee stage. We should be allowed to respond to what has been said and continue the discussion, perhaps not for long. But there is absolutely no reason for curtailing the debate just because the other side of the House has finished giving
Lord Coleraine: I respectfully submit to the Leader of the House that many of us who withdrew our amendments to enable the debate to continue in this way this afternoon did so in the reasonable expectation that it would not be curtailed.
Lord Elton: Surely the purpose of withdrawing amendments was to allow us to discuss the main principle of the Weatherill amendment, which is what we must now decide. The purpose of having a recommittal Committee is to have the debate which the noble Lord is presently denied. As regards curtailment of the debate, I, for one, would be perfectly satisfied if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor alone wished to intervene now and we were to listen to his answers. Otherwise, we need to decide the matter in the Lobby, get on with it and continue with this argument in the recommitted Committee.