Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Whether that is right or wrong, the noble Lord has just destroyed his own argument. That means that if noble Lords are in opposition and not liable to turn up, they are liable to be dispossessed of the opportunity to come here at all simply because they are in opposition and do not bother to turn up. That is the necessary, inevitable and logical conclusion of the observation made by the noble Lord. Whether he intended it to be the conclusion on which I focused, I am not sure.

The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, asked about the relationship of the Labour Party's evidence to the Royal Commission. It is precisely that; that is, evidence put forward by the Labour Party. It will be supplemented by oral evidence. I repeat again the comments so often made by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. When we have the recommendations of the Royal Commission, a joint committee of both Houses will consider them and the Government will come to a view. There are practical difficulties deriving from the amendment.

The Earl of Northesk: I thank the Minister for giving way. I sought to clarify one simple point. The Labour Party submission exists, it is a public document. The point of clarification I seek is that surely we are entitled to believe that in some way it informs current Government thinking.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I can only repeat what I hoped I had said plainly earlier. It is the Labour Party submission. It will be supplemented by oral evidence. The Government will come to a concluded view in a rational way after seeing what the Royal Commission has said--that is why one sets up a Royal Commission--and listening carefully to the deliberations of the committee of both Houses. There is no provision in the amendment--

The Earl of Onslow: Perhaps I may ask if the Prime Minister saw that evidence and approved it. If he did, it must therefore be Government policy.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: There is an internal fallacy there. The fact that the Prime Minister has seen and approved something does not necessarily make it government policy in every conceivable circumstance. He may have views of his own about a wide range of matters. Of course the Prime Minister saw the evidence before it was submitted. We are going about this in the proper way and we shall not be deviated from the proper course.

If one sets up a Royal Commission, one ought to be prepared to attend to its conclusions. If one invites a committee of both Houses, which, by definition, will

13 May 1999 : Column 1413

have an authoritative composition, one ought to have the courtesy and ordinary sense to listen to what it says; and, thereafter, come to one's concluded view.

In this amendment, contrary to the Weatherill amendment, there is no provision for elections to be held in advance of the rest of the Bill coming into force. That would mean that elections could not take place until the Bill was in force and, if the Bill was in force, all life Peers would already have been excluded by virtue of this clause.

There is a specific question from my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham to which I must now attend. He asked whether or not the mayor of London could be a Member of your Lordships' House. I am not sure who the Labour candidate will be, but when he or she is successful I do not see any impediment to the mayor of London being invited to come here by a grateful nation and a thankful Prime Minister.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I apologise for interrupting my noble friend, but the question that I was really asking was whether that was likely to be compatible with the attendance criteria envisaged in the amendment.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: That would depend on the degree of flexi-time in the London assembly. It is possible that the mayor of London would be able to pop into the House for Prayers in order to secure his or her attendance allowance, which I believe is what some noble Lords do, and then depart for happier climes immediately down the road.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Perhaps I may paraphrase Stanley and ask whether this is a case of "Lord Livingstone, I presume?"

Lord Williams of Mostyn: In fact, Stanley was not his real name at all. It was John Rowland from North Wales, born in the workhouse at St. Asaph! The noble Lord is relying on an impostor who had to change his name--of course, quite unlike some of your Lordships.

If one wants to look at this "in the round", as people will keep saying, one would have to consider the position of the Bishops. They do not attend every day. But, despite the fact that they represent only one section of the Christian Church, I am sure that most noble Lords would recognise that their contributions are valuable. Indeed, I would make the same point about the Law Lords. Both the Law Lords and the Bishops have, if I may use the phrase, held on to the day job. Nevertheless, they do attend and provide contributions which are extremely important. They are listened to with great care and are generally effective.

Lord Richard: I trust that my noble friend will forgive me, but I should like to raise a point regarding something he just said about the Joint Committee of both Houses. I take it that the Government will not express their views on the shape of the second-stage Chamber until after the Joint Committee has reported. Alternatively, is the position--as I have understood it to be--that the Government will express their views on the

13 May 1999 : Column 1414

shape of the second Chamber after the Royal Commission has spoken and that, thereafter, the matter will go to the Joint Committee for implementation? Can my noble friend help me in that respect?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Yes. It is the second alternative. I said that the Government would come to their concluded view after we had taken account of the view of the Joint Committee. There is no point in setting up a Joint Committee of that prospective virtue, value and weight unless one is going to listen with great care to its advice.

I turn now to Amendment No. 93D, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine. We do not see a place for this proposed new clause in the Bill. It would create two separate distinct classes of life Peer. It would include enforced semi-retirement for those over the age of 75 and would separate into classes those who could attend and vote and those who could not. I cannot see how that would work in practice. Once one got to the age of 75--just approaching the prime of life--one would then be disentitled to vote.

So, on the proposal of the noble Lord, a Peer could attend and speak but not vote. But would he be able to table an amendment to a Bill? I do not find provision for that in the noble Lord's amendment. I am simply raising a question. Would such a Peer be able to ask questions? The noble Lord nods his head. Would he be able to introduce legislation? The noble Lord remains silent. There are difficulties involved. I give way to the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine.

Lord Coleraine: I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. A noble Lord who is not a voting Lord would be entitled to introduce legislation, but not to vote on it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I think that illustrates the bizarre nature of the proposal. One could have an impassioned Second Reading speech from a noble Lord of 75 years and one day. By the time he got to be 77 years and one day he might have got to Third Reading and he might be able to speak on all those occasions but not discharge the elementary duty of voting. I recognise that this is a genuine attempt by the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, to improve matters but I think that, once one teases out the detail, it does not.

In summary, therefore, I hope the Committee will recognise that I have once again in the best tradition of this Chamber approached all these amendments with an entirely open mind before advising the Committee to reject them.

Lord Northbrook: Before the Minister sits down, I hope I may clarify a point. I understood him to say that life Peers were appointed for life in this Chamber. However, I understand--if I am correct in this--that the

13 May 1999 : Column 1415

Labour proposals to the Royal Commission suggest that, if there is an appointed Chamber, not all life Peers will be part of it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I do not immediately recognise that as an accurate quotation from any evidence that has been given. However, I repeat, at the risk of tedium--at least to myself, if not to everyone else present--that we are dealing with a Bill that attends to the first stage. The evidence is given to the Royal Commission, which is to make recommendations for a succeeding stage.

Lord Coleraine: I return to my amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has kindly dealt with certain of the lacunae in my amendment. He will obviously be aware from the way I spoke that it was a probing amendment, or perhaps a sighting shot. I am grateful to him for pointing out where he feels I may have gone wrong on the technical drafting aspects. However, as regards the question of the dual writ and voting and speaking Peers, of course I recognise that the analogies with 1968 are not sure in all cases and cannot be taken too far. But one thing is certain; namely, that in 1968 it was well accepted in all parts of the Chamber that there was no particular difficulty about having life Peers or hereditary Peers; and that hereditary Peers were speaking Peers who could introduce amendments and ask questions but could not vote. No difficulty was envisaged with that at that time. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his attention to my amendment and to the others who have spoken on it. I shall certainly not return to it in its rightful place in the Marshalled List.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page