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The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): I will do my very best. The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, described this as a narrow point and the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, as an arcane point. I must say that I am deeply disappointed to find those adjectival descriptions attached to a point of such importance.

This seeks to exclude new holders of Baronies by Writ from sitting in your Lordships' House in the future. I am happy to reassure your Lordships, and indeed the expectant world outside, that this amendment is not necessary. All life peerages are created by Letters Patent. In the case of Viscountess Rhondda, in 1922 it was noted that as recently as 1856 the practice of creating Baronies by Writ had ceased. If for some reason a Writ of Summons were to be issued in error (and I entirely endorse the points made by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi), as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, said, a very large "if", to someone who was not a Peer, for instance if they shared a rather common name, like Williams, with another newly created life Peer, there are, I am happy to reassure your Lordships, at least three distinct remedies available.

The first, as noble Lords will know, is the issue of a Writ of Supersedeas which cancels the Writ issued in error. Despite the efforts of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, I do not think that the Writ of Supersedeas has actually been abolished and it certainly has not been translated into modern English. I know that he is listening with great care and therefore I may be the last person in the civilised and discovered world who is able to use that term. If that Writ is issued before the person in question even attempts to take his seat, that is the end of the matter. That is the first safeguard. Secondly, if the person in question attempted to take his seat, which would be a very ungentlemanly and ignoble thing to do, he would be stopped at the time of the Ceremony of Introduction as he would not have a Patent of Creation to present. Thirdly, if, it says here, by some miracle (though I would not myself have used that term unless so instructed) someone got as far as being introduced into the House, he would be excluded by this Bill, which illustrates its transcendental virtue because Baronies by Writ are hereditary peerages.

I think that I have dealt as comprehensively or, as the noble Earl, Lord Dartmouth, would say, as lucidly as I possibly can with this point. In the Farnham case--the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is, as always on these

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matters, quite correct--it was argued by the petitioner, which was heard by the Committee for Privileges in 1995, that the 11th Baron had sat in this House by virtue of the creation of his Barony by Writ. The committee--my noble friend Lord Strabolgi is right again--dismissed that argument. The case concerned an Irish peerage. The argument of the then Attorney-General was accepted by the committee, that the 11th Baron had sat in this House in accordance with the Union with Ireland Act of 1800 until he died rather than by mistake.

The Earl of Northesk: I am grateful for the explanation by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. All I sought to tease out of this issue was whether or not Baronies of Writ, if created as new, were actively covered by the Bill. I have heard what the noble Lord has said. I shall simply reflect on it and, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Trefgarne moved Amendment No. 55:

After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--


(" . A Lord who is disqualified from attending, sitting or voting in the House of Lords by virtue of section 1 may nevertheless be a member of the Committee for Privileges, subject to and in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House, and any such Lord who is a member of that Committee shall be entitled--
(a) to admittance to the Palace of Westminster as if he were not so disqualified, and
(b) in the performance of his functions as a member of that Committee to all the rights and privileges of any other member of that Committee who is not so disqualified.")

The noble Lord said: I rise to move Amendment No. 55 which stands in my name and in the name of my noble friend Lord Northesk on the Marshalled List. The Committee for Privileges has of course a pretty wide remit. It is not just concerned with those matters relating to noble Lords sitting in this House. Indeed, if the Bill is passed, as is now proposed, it will still need to be concerned with the affairs of hereditary Peers who will still exist of course but will not be able to come to this House, sit in it or vote in it. It seems to me wrong that in those circumstances that group of people, who may be the principal group of people with whom the Committee for Privileges will be concerned, do not have a right to sit on the committee which has the power of life and death over their titles and their peerages. I am therefore proposing in this amendment that hereditary Peers, although not being allowed under this Bill to come to this House, should nonetheless be able to sit on that committee and, if I may put it in this way, deal with the effects of the Bill and other matters in connection with their peers.

Of course the Crown is entitled to refer peerage questions to others other than the Committee for Privileges. Perhaps it is envisaged in future that there will be a committee of disqualified Peers to hear peerage cases of the kind to which I have referred. It seems to me much easier to allow hereditary Peers, although not perhaps being allowed to come, to sit and to vote in

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this House, to attend and serve on the Committee for Privileges and thus be able to assist in the work of that body. I beg to move.

Lord Strabolgi: I have the honour to be a member of the Committee for Privileges. I have much enjoyed the several years that I have been there. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for explaining the purpose of his amendment and I must say privately that I should much like to be able to continue sitting on the committee after I have been expelled from this House. On the other hand, I do not think one can claim any particular expertise as a member of the committee which could not be shared by one's successors who are life Peers. The committee does not sit by itself round a table. The claimant's case is presented by counsel. A great deal of paperwork is given to the committee in advance. The Attorney-General appears for the Crown. Four Law Lords sit on the committee and they go into these cases in tremendous detail.

I think the noble Lord probably had in mind the question of the medieval peerages. But of course those are not the only claims that come before the committee. Mention has been made of the Farnham case, a fairly modern one, and of Grey of Codnor, on which I sat also, which was a medieval peerage claim. But with Moynihan, of course, having been created in 1929, we were dealing with a modern peerage. So we are not really concerned only with the older peerages and the Baronies by Writ.

In addition to the distinguished Law Lords who sit on the committee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, who also sits from time to time, has an unrivalled knowledge of peerage law. I do not think that it would be necessary to bring back hereditary Peers who are former Members of the House, although, personally, I think the idea is a very attractive one.

9 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: I shall not make a long speech. This is the Committee stage and I am delighted to give way to anyone at any time, but I do so with grace, not through obligation.

I have served on the committee for some 15 years, many years before the noble Lord joined us. His contribution has been terribly useful. I declare this interest: the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and I are old friends. That does not mean to say that I would say his contribution was of great value if I did not truly think so. I have sat on that committee on occasions when the noble Lord made a very important contribution because he knows his subject.

I have no interest to declare. I can be turned off the committee by the House--the membership comes up for a vote every year--and as a life Peer I have no interest. I have come to support my noble friend Lord Trefgarne in his amendment. I think it is sensible, I think it is fair, and I think that the hereditary Peers are entitled to have people on the committee who are hereditary Peers. In a fundamental sense it is almost like King Alfred's trial

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by jury. Until, I think, 1936, your Lordships' House had the competence to try noble Lords because they were of the same quality, the same rank.

The amendment does not break a fundamental concept of the manifesto. I cannot see why the Committee for Privileges should not consider the amendment reasonable. I hope that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will come back to this point because it is a fair disposal. I am sorry to have taken so long.

The Earl of Northesk: Perhaps I may approach the amendment from a slightly different perspective. In so far as we can we are bound to work to the Government's declared intent. Ministers have gone to great pains to explain as categorically as they may that the sole purpose of the Bill is to terminate the link between the hereditary peerage and its right to participate in the legislature. As the Lord Privy Seal emphasised in Committee last Thursday, the Bill,

    "does not abolish the hereditary Peerage as such...All the titles, precedence and other privileges not connected with membership of this House will remain. All that we are concerned with now is the right to sit in a legislature in a House of Parliament".--[Official Report, 29/4/99; col. 538.] I hope that I have summarised the position accurately, if only because on occasions this purpose has been broadened by comments from the Government Front Bench. For example, again in Committee last Thursday, the Lord Privy Seal claimed at col. 537 that the basic proposal is,

    "that all automatic connection between the hereditary peerage and this House should be severed". In the interests of consistency I should again make the point that the drafting of our amendment seeks to deliver absolute clarity on this matter by referring to attending, sitting or voting in the House of Lords rather than using the Government shorthand of "membership of the House". It creates a huge difficulty. As my noble friend Lord Trefgarne explained, the ultimate arbiter of matters relating to the peerage, of what the Lord Privy Seal described as all the titles, precedence and other privileges not connected with membership of this House, is the Committee for Privileges. Contrary to the contention of some, it is not only concerned with ruling as to the validity of claims to a right to attend or sit in the House. In fact the Lord Privy Seal conceded the point. She said, at col. 534:

    "But the arrangements for former Members might indeed become a matter on which concessions were granted, by, for example, the Committee for Privileges or the Procedure Committee".

Irrespective of the removal of the hereditary peerage from the House there is every likelihood that the Committee for Privileges will be required to deliberate on any disputes relating to any individual peerages--for example, matters of succession that may arise in the future. Like it or not, unless the Government have it in mind to establish some other mechanism to determine such issues, it is inescapable that to some extent an automatic connection between the hereditary peerage and the House will continue. What flows from this--and this is the issue that the amendment seeks to probe--is the supposition that it would be wise to have no

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hereditary peerage present on the Committee for Privileges in so far as its deliberations will relate to matters concerning the hereditary peerage.

Contrary to the proposition of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, there is a strong case for the committee having as much understanding of arcane questions of peerage law as it can muster. Far be it from me to place an Indian sign upon, or seek to cavass for, the noble Lords. But by way of example, the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, or my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, whose knowledge and expertise in these matters is valued and respected by us all, would be an ideal candidate to perform such a role.

That brings me full circle. As I have mentioned, it is clear that the Government attach negligible importance to the future House having understanding of or empathy with--that is the important point rather than expertise--the hereditary peerage. Given the stated purpose of the Bill, I can see that there is a rationale for that so far as the House's legislative function is concerned. But it is more difficult to stretch that rationale, as it were, to the judicial functions of the Committee for Privileges, particularly when, on occasions, it is required to perform those functions on behalf of the hereditary peerage.

To an extent it is a matter of fairness and natural justice. After all, anyone seeking, for example, an adjudication on a matter of employment law has the right to take his or her case to an employment tribunal, secure in the knowledge that the membership of that tribunal will have an intimate understanding of the body of law relevant to the case. The concept of the membership of the Committee for Privileges being formulated along the same lines is entirely consistent with that. In those terms, and notwithstanding the Committee's acceptance earlier of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, it could be said to have made this proposal unnecessary in the short term. I nevertheless hope that the Government may have some sympathy with the underlying principle.

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