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Lord Lucas: I have an amendment in the group. Perhaps I might speak to Amendment No. 6. It is clear from the draft Standing Orders that the method of election is one which is still under consideration. The draft Standing Orders show a preference for a first-past-the-post system. I have a preference for something which is more proportional. The first-past-the-post system would produce something, particularly as regards the 15 who are to be elected by the House as a whole, which would tend to be representative of only one set of views or one tendency in the House rather than the broad spread of it. Within the larger groups who are to be elected to represent the hereditary Peers, the Cross-Benches and the Conservative Peers, a first-past-the-post system would tend to produce the same sort of result. I should find it more representative if the electoral system were one which tended to produce a broad spread of representation rather than a sectional one-sided representation.
The Earl of Northesk: I shall say a few words to Amendment No. 20 which is in this grouping. As we all know, there are all sorts of ways in which the word "representative" can be interpreted. Accordingly, part of the purpose of our amendment is to probe the Government's view as to what sort of meaning they attach to "representation" so far as the transitional House and whatever may replace it are concerned.
I have been consistent in expressing my anxiety that what the Government have in mind is to deliver a House that reflects purely political representation rather than anything wider than that. This goes to the heart of my misgivings about the "stage one" process in which we are engaged. For the immediate future, and very probably well beyond that, this House will continue to have as one of its primary functions the scrutiny of legislation. With due deference to our colleagues in another place, experience shows that a political Chamber is not well equipped to perform that function. Therefore, any increase in emphasis upon the political character of this House--an inevitable consequence of the Bill when and if it is enacted--will undermine the capacity of your Lordships to scrutinise legislation properly and effectively. Of itself, I consider that to be undesirable. Hence the design of our amendment, which seeks to try to redress the balance a little.
Perhaps I may also say a few words in the context of Amendment No. 5, which was moved by my noble friend Lord Coleraine. This gives me the opportunity to tease out a particular concern that I have long had about the whole Weatherill amendment. Given the nature of the bargain struck between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and my noble friend Lord Cranborne, we are all aware that it necessarily relies upon an arithmetical formula as a mechanism to give it effect. That raises a number of questions.
Secondly--I should perhaps have raised this matter in the context of the last group of amendments--the implication of the draft Standing Orders is that, given the rigidity of their arithmetical formula, no hereditary Peer, once elected in his particular peer group, will be able to resign his party affiliation. To do so would be to upset the delicate mathematics upon which the arrangement is based. Therefore, regardless of where his conscience might lead, he is tied for the duration of the scheme to belonging to the party label under which he sought election. To my mind, this is unconscionable.
I have no doubt that it is an unintended consequence-- never mind the hybridity explicit in my noble friend's amendment--but this sails close to representing or is an actual breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. For convenience, I shall cite the relevant texts. Article 9 states:
"Everyone has a right to freedom of expression ... to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority". Article 11 states:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others". Article 14 states:
"The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as ... political or other opinion". To compound matters, it could be argued that those promoting the scheme, not least the Government, may fall foul of Article 17 ("Prohibition of abuse of rights") and of Article 18 ("Limitation on use of restrictions on rights").
Lord Weatherill: The noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, seeks to put on the face of the Bill the split between the various parts which make up the 90 "excepted Peers". However, there is one crucial difference from the proposal that we originally made which, alone, makes the proposal unacceptable to me personally; that is, that the Labour Party has been arbitrarily deprived of its share of the 75 Peers to be elected by the parties. The numbers which make up the 75 are logical: they reflect the balance of forces among the hereditary Peers who had received a Writ of Summons and were not on leave of absence when we published our proposals. There is no logical reason to decide that one element of that can be transferred from one party to another.
I believe that this sort of split is better dealt with in Standing Orders; nor am I sure that I can understand how we can ever require a Standing Order to do something. The Standing Orders of this House are a matter for this House. So I suspect that this amendment may also be technically defective. In any case, perhaps I may repeat the point which was so well made by the noble Lord, Lord Marsh; namely, that to have an amendment of this kind on the face of the Bill would allow the other place to dictate how we should manage our own affairs. I believe that that would be unacceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, and indeed to most, if not all, of your Lordships in this House.
Lord Trefgarne: Perhaps I may add a few words to the debate about Amendment No. 20, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Northesk. One of the great strengths of the hereditary peerage, which has been so widely acknowledged in our discussions on the Bill, is the different range of expertise that noble Lords who are hereditary Peers bring to this Chamber. The essential purpose of our amendment is to try to ensure that that range of expertise continues to be reflected in the hereditary peerage when there is just a comparatively small number of them in your Lordships' House following the enactment of the Bill, amended as now proposed, in due course.
I hope that the Government will agree with that concept. However, if they cannot propose a formal form of wording for the face of the Bill, I hope that they will at least bless a Standing Order which would have the same effect.
Lord Goodhart: I appreciate the generosity of the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, in offering to transfer to us the two places among the hereditary Peers--what I might called the "Weatherill Peers"--who are allocated at present to the Labour Party. It is a tempting bait, but I have no hesitation in rejecting it. Nothing whatever would induce us to deprive, let us say, the noble Lords, Lord Acton, and Lord Ponsonby, of the chance of opposing each other in an election for the two places that the Weatherill Peers will have on the Labour Benches.
Having said that, I must admit that I rather welcome the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. It produces a rather more satisfactory formula than the one in the proposed Standing Orders. Under the latter, the Weatherill Peers would be representative of the balance of party affiliations among the hereditary Peers, whereas, under the noble Lord's amendment, the Weatherill Peers would be representative of the balance of party affiliations among your Lordships' House as a whole. That is clearly something which we find preferable.
We also welcome very warmly the conversion of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, to the single transferable vote as a means of selecting the Weatherill Peers. As he said, the first-past-the-post system will clearly not produce a spread of opinion within the party affiliations. It is clearly desirable that that should be done. As usual, we
For one moment, I wondered whether the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was worried about the possibility of rival slates of Europhobe and Europhile candidates being put forward for election within the Conservative hereditary Peers. However, be that as it may, in the unlikely event of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, choosing to press his amendment, we may well wish to support him.
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