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Lord Carter: I was not aware that it was not on the list. It is news to me. The noble Lord and the noble Baroness know that I am not referring to the grouping but to returning to amendments which were grouped earlier. The House decided on that group and noble Lords with amendments in that group did not indicate that they would return to them later. The noble Lord and the noble Baroness are not out of order; it is just extremely unusual and I wonder why they are doing it.

Lord Boardman: I intended to speak very briefly. We debated the amendment and an earlier amendment, which I did not move and which I sought to withdraw. With the amendments on the Marshalled List today

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I wish to raise two points on which the Government did not take the opportunity to reply earlier. I think it is right and fair that the Government should be given the opportunity to answer the relevant points in this debate.

In her earlier reply, the noble Baroness referred to the arguments coming from myself and my colleagues on this side of the House who were speaking in favour of the amendment as being essentially reasonable. But she did not explain why the amendment was rejected. I also referred to the duty, as I believed it, of the Government to take into account the report of the Royal Commission, which they had been persuaded to establish, before making drastic changes to the constitution.

It seemed to me that that gave the opportunity for the kind of consultation between the parties to which the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, referred. In 1968 I was present at debates in the other place which were quite memorable. If I may remind the Committee, in that case this Chamber consented and agreed to consultation, notwithstanding that there was a large Conservative majority at that time. Matters were agreed--rightly, I believe--by parties getting together and taking what they then thought was the right course, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan said.

It is unfortunate that, given the opportunity for consultation, the Government in response to these amendments have said that the Royal Commission is for another day. It is very important that the effect of the Bill when it becomes an Act should be deferred until there has been an opportunity for the House to consider the report of the Royal Commission. It may be that what I have included in the amendment about the votes of both Houses can be fairly criticised; it may be that the amendment of my noble friend Lady Blatch is more appropriate; but I feel that the Government should have an opportunity to reply to those two points. For that reason, having spoken to the matter in the debate on the second day in Committee, I feel it right to speak to it again and to give the Government the opportunity to respond.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: Perhaps I may speak briefly to both amendments. They cause a problem for the referendum amendment, which has been redrafted for Report stage to meet the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and my noble friend Lord Elton, and which would bring the referendum into effect without delay without waiting for the report of the Royal Commission. This amendment would pre-empt that situation of the revised referendum amendment on Report.

It also raises the difficulty about the question to be put on the referendum as it is to be formulated, "Do you wish to retain the House of Lords as formulated with the hereditary peerage until a successor House has been established?" On this, there has been no opinion poll since October which shows that the people are in favour of a transitional House. It is a serious matter. Although I accept that 70 per cent of the people wish to do away

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with the hereditary peerage, they do not wish to have a transitional House set up, which is quite another issue. I am in difficulties over both of these amendments.

Baroness Blatch: I rise to speak to my amendment. I understand that no Standing Order prevents me from doing so in this context. I sympathise with the points made by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway because the vexed issue here is the vacuum that will be created by the setting up of an interregnum Chamber without any knowledge of what is to follow.

On 27th April, when last we discussed these amendments, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, accused both my noble friend and I of delaying the fulfilment of the pledge in the manifesto. Perhaps I may remind the noble Baroness that the manifesto pledge has already been broken by agreement across all parties by the inclusion of the Weatherill amendment.

Lord Goodhart: Perhaps I may point out to the noble Baroness that it was not an agreement across all parties. It was an agreement between two of the parties.

Baroness Blatch: I remember there being an overwhelming vote in favour of the Weatherill amendment. The point I am making still has force. There was an agreement which means that the words in the manifesto have already been broken.

Some of us are particularly concerned about the long-term future of this place. It is such a serious point that the world beyond these two Chambers is also interested in the shape, the effectiveness, the role and the functions of a second Chamber. Therefore, I make no apology for speaking to my amendment. However, I must say to the noble Baroness that I did not put down the amendment deliberately to delay the commencement of the Bill. I believe that we should not go forward with an interregnum Chamber until we are confident that what is to follow at least has a shape and form which will bring about confidence.

The noble Lord the Chief Whip has accused both myself and my noble friend of bringing this debate back to the Floor of the Chamber in order deliberately to delay the proceedings. That is an insult both to myself and to my noble friend. We regard these as extremely serious matters. What is to follow in the interim stage is so important that we think it is worth continuing to fight for an effective second Chamber. It is surely right that Parliament should implement such constitutional change as is being promoted only when there is at least some understanding by both Houses of the nature of the ultimate changes.

In the previous debate on these amendments on 27th April the noble Baroness said (at col. 224 of the Official Report) that there has never been any question that once the Royal Commission had reported the committee of both Houses would be set up. Does that mean that we will see a committee of both Houses set up by Christmas? My understanding is that the Royal Commission has to report by Christmas. Does that mean that a joint committee will be set up to discuss the report and to report back? If that is the case, then either my amendment or my noble friend's amendment, or a

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composite of the two, would be highly appropriate. That would be an impetus to get on with stage two rather than delay it.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: This group includes Amendment No. 112 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, and Amendment No. 113 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

A certain amount of this ground has been covered in the contributions helpfully made by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, and following speakers and in the response that I offered on behalf of the Government on the grouping that began with Amendment No. 110F. The amendments present different aspects of mechanisms that might be used to bring about the accomplishment of stage two.

Amendment No. 112 seeks to delay the coming into force of the Act until after each House has come to a resolution that it should do so. The secondary trigger provides that,

    "No resolution ... may be made until the Royal Commission ... has reported". That means that there would be no prospect of the Act coming into force at least until the year 2000, since the Royal Commission's deadline is 31st December 1999. It is most unusual to provide for the commencement of an Act of Parliament by resolution of the House. There is then the possibility, the Bill having been passed, of the House refusing to let it come into force.

I think it is fair to say, without discourtesy, that we have rehearsed, re-rehearsed, reviewed and re-examined these arguments on a number of occasions. The fullest debate took place earlier, when a number of noble Lords contributed, not least the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who is in his place.

We have come to the conclusion, and I hope it is not discourteous to repeat it, that stage one is to be regarded as a desirable objective with which we intend to continue. I know that simply because I say that it is a desirable objective I cannot expect the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, immediately to say that he has been enlightened and to agree. As I have said on a number of occasions, I recognise that others have differing views, but that is our stance. We want to bring in stage one. We have agreed to the accommodation that was arrived at between the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the Government. I have referred extensively to that this evening and I shall not trespass on your Lordships' patience any more.

Amendment No. 113 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, goes one stage further than Amendment No. 112. The noble Baroness adds the refinement that a resolution should not even be put to the House until the Joint Committee of both Houses has reported on the work of the Royal Commission.

The noble Baroness asked a particular question. The deadline is the end of this year. Our intention is that the Royal Commission should report; its recommendations should then be deliberated on by a Joint Committee of

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both Houses; and thereafter, of course, both Houses of Parliament, as is right in our constitutional system, should come to a conclusion.

I am not able to accept either of these amendments for the reasons I have briefly outlined, I hope without discourtesy, because I developed our arguments at considerably greater length in reply to quite a wide-ranging debate earlier. We are not able to accept these amendments.

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