Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): Perhaps I may say at the outset that anyone who was not a party to the making of the agreement is entitled to say and to argue that he does not like it, why he does not like it, and that if he had negotiated it a far better agreement would have emerged. I dare say that those who like to think that might also be ready to acknowledge that they might have failed to achieve any agreement at all. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, would be the first to acknowledge, as I would, that no doubt the negotiating skills of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, are superior to the negotiating skills of each of us--or even both of us combined--but it is just possible that in these circumstances he might have failed to secure an agreement.

At the risk of stating the obvious, these amendments, which seek to reduce to 75 the overall number of excepted Peers, violate the terms of the agreement. It was made absolutely clear from the outset that a consensus had been reached on a fixed number of hereditaries who would be entitled to remain for the duration of the transitional House. The rationale of that has been explained on numerous occasions: one-tenth of the hereditary peerage--that is, 75 hereditary Peers--is to be excepted from Clause 1 of the Bill in proportion to the four groupings of the House; and an additional 15 would be excepted to stand ready to serve as office holders. It is well known that the number 15 was derived from the number of hereditary office holders at the time of the compromise. A one-off election for 15 hereditaries is contemplated. There are 32 such officers of the House, of whom 15 or 16 are hereditaries. The 15 who will offer themselves will obviously have real expertise to offer the House and clearly will be individuals of good conscience.

25 May 1999 : Column 791

Amendment No. 27, which is tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, provides that the pool of potential office holders should be included in and not additional to the 75. The principal argument advanced is that the rationale for adding them cannot be accepted unless there is a guarantee that they will in fact serve as Deputy Chairmen or Deputy Speakers. They are to be elected by the whole House because it is intended that they shall serve the whole House. They will be elected in exactly the same way that such elections are conducted at present. There is no intention to force hereditary Peers who have been elected on that basis to remain in office for life. They will be standing for election in good conscience on the basis that they are ready and willing to serve. For my part, I am willing to accept that they will serve and serve properly if they are successful.

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, does not like it. So be it; reasonable people can disagree. The view of favouring the compromise may be different from the views of others, but we take the view that the compromise was a means of reforming this House by removing, virtually here and now, nine-tenths of the hereditary Peerage--but with the great prize of achieving that outcome by consensus. That is something which has eluded all previous administrations which have sought to address the hereditary principle. Having arrived at an agreement in good conscience, the Government will honour it.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: I think I made a mistake in my opening remarks by introducing them with references to Clause 2 as a whole. Quite naturally, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, among others, allowed himself to get the wrong end of the stick and, to mix my metaphors, to be led down a blind alley. I was simply trying to make clear to the Committee--I appreciate it may be tiresome so to do--that we are not going back on a deal because we had no part in the deal in the first place. That is a reasonable thing to say.

I made plain to the Committee that I fully understand how the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, cannot go back on an agreement they have reached except with the agreement of the other parties. I made that clear before; I repeat it now. The crux of the matter is the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. He rightly said that the parties to the deal cannot rat on it.

Accepting that, I return to the question I raised in my earlier remarks: is it still not the duty of the Committee to consider the issue on merit? Is it not the case that even if Amendment No. 2 were to remain, there is no scope in the Bill--and we should be allowed no scope--to consider whether it might be improved? We have to accept so often in these circumstances that those of us who do not like the principle can nevertheless believe that there is still room for improvement. The only question is: can the

25 May 1999 : Column 792

Committee seek to improve the clause? Clearly, three Members of the Committee are heavily committed to it.

I very much appreciated what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said. He is not in favour of my amendment but he believes that it is reasonable to seek to improve the Bill. That was the view of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. He reminded your Lordships that he, too, has amendments on the Marshalled List. I regret that I find myself in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Peston, because so often I am extremely sympathetic to what he says. But, on this, I think he is simply wrong. The parties are committed but your Lordships cannot be committed unless you choose to be so.

Lord Peston: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I am not certain that I made my view clear. I am not suggesting for one moment, first, that many of the arguments put forward on this occasion by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, are mistaken. The withering on the vine is something which, as a minimum, I should like to have seen happen. Secondly, I believe that your Lordships not merely have the right but the responsibility to comment on these matters. I have no doubt at all that it is valid for the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, and other noble Lords to intervene. I am merely saying that, if my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor then gets up to say that he has listened, he has thought about it but the deal as he has thought it through is one to which he feels committed, I would be concerned about the meaning of our voting against it. I have to say--it may be I am using too strong a word having referred to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, as using too strong a word--that I would regard that as verging on the dishonourable. I feel that I could not bring myself to advise my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, and the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, to rat on a deal. That is the point I am trying to make. I am not remotely denying our right or indeed our obligation to criticise this or anything else.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: I am grateful to the noble Lord. He has explained a personal position, which I understand. I thought he was seeking to draw conclusions for the conduct of the House as a whole and seeking to suggest that those of your Lordships who might choose to support the amendment would in so doing somehow offend against the consensual element in the agreement which was reached between the three parties.

I do not want to detain your Lordships for much longer. I would say only this. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was totally fair. He said that the deal which was negotiated--I am not putting words into his mouth: I think that this is what he implied--was the best deal the parties to it could in the circumstances get. It would not be for me to claim that I or anyone else might have got a better deal. It was a done deal and we are faced with a done deal. That is the way it is. But in those circumstances

25 May 1999 : Column 793

I sought to make what I could only call a modest proposal; that--this is the form of the amendment on the Marshalled List--90 should be reduced to 75. Alternatively, if noble Lords so chose, instead of having this very odd proposal about the Deputy Speakers--I do not think I have had answers to my many questions on that point--they could go for the whole 90, little though I would like it. That was the purport of the amendment. In the circumstances, I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

4.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 50; Not-Contents, 288.

Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Ailsa, M.
Avebury, L.
Bath, M.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
Dholakia, L. [Teller.]
Ezra, L.
Falkland, V.
Geraint, L.
Goodhart, L.
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Harding of Petherton, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hutchinson of Lullington, L.
Jacobs, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Kirkwood, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Ludford, B.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNair, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Meston, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Newby, L. [Teller.]
Nicholson of Winterbourne, B.
Perry of Walton, L.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rochester, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thurso, V.
Tope, L.
Tordoff, L.
Wallace of Saltaire, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.


Aberdare, L.
Ackner, L.
Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Annan, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Bach, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E.
Banbury of Southam, L.
Bell, L.
Belstead, L.
Berkeley, L.
Berners, B.
Biffen, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blatch, B.
Blease, L.
Bledisloe, V.
Boardman, L.
Borrie, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bragg, L.
Brentford, V.
Bridge of Harwich, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Bridges, L.
Brightman, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookeborough, V.
Brookman, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Bruce of Donington, L.
Buchan, E.
Burlison, L.
Burnham, L.
Butterworth, L.
Callaghan of Cardiff, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.
Carew, L.
Carnarvon, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Castle of Blackburn, B.
Chadlington, L.
Chalfont, L.
Charteris of Amisfield, L.
Chorley, L.
Christopher, L.
Clanwilliam, E.
Clark of Kempston, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cobbold, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Coleridge, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cooke of Islandreagh, L.
Cooke of Thorndon, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Cox, B.
Cranborne, V.
Crawley, B.
Crickhowell, L.
Cross, V.
Cuckney, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Diamond, L.
Dilhorne, V.
Dixon, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Downshire, M.
Dubs, L.
Dudley, E.
Dundonald, E.
Dunleath, L.
Elles, B.
Elton, L.
Erne, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Exmouth, V.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Ferrers, E.
Fookes, B.
Forteviot, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Gainford, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gisborough, L.
Gladwyn, L.
Glanusk, L.
Glenamara, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Haskel, L.
Hawke, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Hayman, B.
Hayter, L.
Henley, L. [Teller]
Hereford, Bp.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Holderness, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hothfield, L.
Howe, E.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hylton-Foster, B.
Ilchester, E.
Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Islwyn, L.
Iveagh, E.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jauncey of Tullichettle, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Jeger, B.
Jellicoe, E.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Kelvedon, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Kinloss, Ly.
Kinnoull, E.
Kitchener, E.
Knollys, V.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Lauderdale, E.
Levy, L.
Listowel, E.
Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Longford, E.
Lovell-Davis, L.
Lucas, L.
Luke, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Marlesford, L.
Marsh, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Merrivale, L.
Mersey, V.
Middleton, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Molloy, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monk Bretton, L.
Monkswell, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Montrose, D.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moyne, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Napier of Magdâla, L.
Nicol, B.
Norfolk, D.
Norrie, L.
Northbourne, L.
Norton of Louth, L.
Nunburnholme, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Peston, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Quinton, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rathcavan, L.
Rawlings, B.
Reay, L.
Rees, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Roll of Ipsden, L.
Romney, E.
Runciman of Doxford, V.
Ryder of Warsaw, B.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sandford, L.
Sandwich, E.
Seccombe, B.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Shannon, E.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Shepherd, L.
Shore of Stepney, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slim, V.
Stallard, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Strafford, E.
Strange, B.
Strathcarron, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Sudeley, L.
Suffield, L.
Suffolk and Berkshire, E.
Swinfen, L.
Swinton, E.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Temple of Stowe, E.
Tenby, V.
Teynham, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thornton, B.
Thurlow, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Tryon, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Varley, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Walpole, L.
Warnock, B.
Weatherill, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitty, L.
Wilberforce, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Woolton, E.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

25 May 1999 : Column 795

4.17 p.m.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh moved Amendment No. 2:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page