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Page 1, line 9, leave out ("no more than 90 people shall be excepted from section 1;") and insert ("45 people shall be excepted from section 1 with full voting rights and 135 people shall be so excepted with sitting but not voting rights;")

The noble Lord said: Grouped with the amendment are Amendments Nos. 13 and 24 in the name of my noble friend Lord Dundee, which he will speak to later; Amendment No. 14 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank; Amendments Nos. 15 and 19 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon; Amendment No. 16 in the name of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne; Amendment No. 17 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson; and Amendment No. 18 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.

The amendments in the names of my noble friends Lord Dundee and Lord Trefgarne, and the amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Monson and Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, all seek to increase the numbers of hereditary Peers to be covered by the Weatherill amendment. Although I am in complete agreement with the intention that I assume lies behind them, I see serious difficulty with the consequences.

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That applies also to Amendment No. 12, which my noble friend Lord Vivian will move and speak to separately.

Nothing is said in the amendment about the intended split between the parties of additional hereditary Peers. It is plain to me that, to the extent that the amendments are intended to lead to an increase--or may result in an increase--in the number of Conservative hereditary Peers, the result will be to achieve an equal increase in the number of Labour life Peers, to be appointed under the broadly comparable principle set out in the White Paper, as well as to some increase in the number of Liberal Democrat life Peers who will come here under the proportionate creation principle. For that reason, I am not able to give my unqualified support to those amendments.

The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, would reduce the number of Weatherill Peers from 90 to 50. It would be foolish of me to second-guess what the noble Lord may say about the split of those Peers but I like the sound, at least, of any amendment that reduces the numbers of Weatherill Peers. My own amendment would reduce the number of Weatherill Peers elected according to party and Cross-Bench grouping from 75 to 45 voting Peers while introducing 135 speaking hereditary Peers whom one would expect to come from hereditary Peers of existing elements and from others who have a contribution to make based on experience and expertise. The speaking Peers would be Peers who would not expect to attend on a day-to-day basis but who should nevertheless be here and be heard.

I am not proposing to divide the Committee on this amendment or to speak to it at length if only because I have no suggestion to offer at this stage as to how the speaking Peers should be divided between the political parties and the Cross Benches except that the division should be a fair one. I put forward the amendment merely for consideration and discussion. I stress again to the noble and learned Lord that I have not tabled the amendment with the intention of calling a Division on it--I realise the difficulties--but only so that the point can be made and considered and, possibly, taken on board by the Procedure Committee in due course and by the noble and learned Lord and those who were involved with him in coming to the Weatherill agreement.

I ask the noble and learned Lord for an assurance on one point. Among the deadly sins which he outlined at Second Reading is a particularly heinous one. He said that support for any amendment increasing the magic number, 75, or abstention on any such amendment where abstention assisted its passage, would by itself be a breach of the Weatherill compromise from which the most dire consequences might follow. My amendment reduces the number 75 to 45. I think it has to be seen as closer than Weatherill to the strict orthodoxy of the Labour Party manifesto. I hope that I may be reassured and be told that my proposal for the introduction of

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some speaking Peers is not seen as a colourable, a disingenuous and a flawed attempt to escape the Lord Chancellor's trap. With that hope, I beg to move.

Lord Vivian: I hope your Lordships will agree to my amendment, Amendment No. 12, being taken within this grouping in order to save the time of the Committee.

The scope of the amendment attempts to ensure that during the transitional period of your Lordships' House sufficient wisdom, experience and knowledge would be retained and that the House would remain an independent and representative body, providing for part-time membership and drawing on expertise whenever necessary. To achieve all of this, the amendment proposes an increase to the already agreed figure of 92 hereditary Peers, which was incorporated by the so-called Cranborne-Weatherill amendment. The transitional stage of your Lordships' House will retain the same powers, functions and role as exist at present and there will continue to be a requirement for a minimum daily attendance figure of some 400 Peers if the current workload is to be undertaken efficiently.

Although the figure of 400 includes the current committee work in the House, it does not cover overseas parliamentary visits, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and other parliamentary groups, those who might be sick and those who might have to be absent on exceptional duty. At present, the daily attendance figure of 400 is found from some 1,200 Peers. It is illogical to think that it will be easy to find the same 400 from a pool of only about 750.

I draw the Committee's attention to the Labour Party's submission to the Royal Commission. There is not a great deal with which I disagree apart from the remarks made about the hereditary peerage. However, much in the submission applying to the future reformed House is applicable to the transitional House. On page 40 of the submission the presence of part-time members of your Lordships' House is stressed:

    "Consideration needs to be given to the size of the reformed House of Lords. The Labour Party believes that there should be a target membership which fully accommodates the presence of part-time members". On page 24, it states, on a representative chamber, that,

    "it should fairly represent political opinion in the country, it should be representative of the different interests in the country (such as business, labour, education, science and the arts), and it should be representative of the people as a whole"-- to which I would add the peerage, and it,

    "should address questions such as the age, gender and ethnic composition of its membership, and how fairer representation can best be secured". On page 30, it states on the size of the Chamber:

    "We should avoid the dangers of reducing the size of the House by too much: the House of Lords is already about to lose 750 members with the removal of the hereditaries, though 92 will be restored by the Weatherill amendment. The Labour Party does not believe that the House of Lords should be a small full-time body. This would threaten the role of independents and experts who might find it difficult to comply with such an obligation".

I believe it behoves us on all Benches to ensure that there will be sufficient Peers with knowledge, expertise and wisdom remaining in your Lordships' House for the

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transitional stage. With that in mind, I believe the transitional House should have a complement of about 750 Peers, of whom some 578 should be life Peers and around 172 should be drawn from and elected by each constituent party of the hereditary peerage as is proposed for the 92. I expect your Lordships may ask me why the Weatherill figure of 92 should be more than doubled. The reason is that, although the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal has stated in the past that there are some 500 life Peers, only 228 of them attended on any one day in the previous Session of Parliament. It was very seldom that they attended and only when there was a most important issue.

If one takes this maximum attendance figure of 228 life Peers and adds to it the 92 hereditary Peers, one can only reach a figure of 320--a shortfall of 80 in the required figure of 400 Peers. As it is highly unlikely that any more life Peers than 228 will attend, an extra 80 Peers could be drawn from the hereditary peerage which, added to the agreed figure of 92, would then give a total of 172 hereditary Peers. Without them there are not enough Peers to run this House. Parity between the two major parties would not be difficult to establish and could be achieved easily within a House of 750 Peers by the Government introducing more life Peers within this ceiling to make the balance.

If the Government are so convinced that stage two will take place by the end of this Parliament, can the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor explain why this proposal to increase the number of hereditary Peers during the transitional stage would not be feasible, especially as Labour's manifesto pledge has changed to allow a number of hereditary Peers to remain during the transitional stage? If 92 hereditary Peers are now allowed, why not 192 or 172, as I have proposed, until stage two is implemented?

If the Government are unable to concede to this additional number of hereditary Peers, which should not be difficult for them to justify as they have already removed their manifesto pledge for stage one of the Bill--your Lordships touched on this in discussing the previous amendment--a certain amount of consensus might be established if the Government were to agree to accept an application from the leader of the Conservative Party for life peerages for the Conservative Front Bench and those distinguished public servants who have become Privy Counsellors, as mentioned by the Lord Privy Seal in a recent debate. There has been no significant debate on the composition of your Lordships' House during stage one, but this amendment draws your Lordships' attention to what the size of this Chamber should be. I submit that as the roles, functions and powers have not changed, a ceiling of about 750 Peers would ensure that the House functioned efficiently and there would be no loss of wisdom and expertise.

Without solutions of that kind, I submit that the House will not be run properly during the transitional stage. It will not be able to scrutinise legislation in the same careful way as is achieved at present; the standard of debate will be lowered and there may not be enough Peers to carry out Committee work competently unless the House is based on a realistic daily attendance figure

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of 400 drawn from 750 Peers. Furthermore, this House will no longer provide an effective check on the executive, and consequently will not be able to safeguard the interests of the nation.

I ask the Government to think carefully about these remarks to ensure that the House functions effectively and efficiently, and with sufficient wisdom and expertise, during the transitional period. I shall return to this matter at a later stage.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Goodhart: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 14, which is part of this group. Most of the amendments in the group propose an increase--in some cases substantial--in the number of Weatherill Peers. We object to all of those amendments. There is no possible justification for retaining a larger number of hereditary Peers. The only justification for keeping any is the ground suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne; namely, that retaining some hereditary Peers creates an incentive to go ahead with stage two. A figure of 90 or 92 would be more than enough for that.

Turning to Amendment No. 11, we should welcome a reduction to 45 in the number of such Peers with voting rights. But the amendment still retains a total of 180 hereditary Peers--double the Weatherill number--of whom 135 would have speaking rights only. We do not approve of the retention of Members with speaking rights alone. They would clearly be "second-class citizens". Frankly, it is difficult to imagine why anyone should want to continue in this House on that basis.

Our Amendment No. 14 proposes a reduction in the number of Weatherill Peers to 56. Why 56? The answer is easy enough. We have already discussed the position of the 15 Deputy Chairmen and I shall not return to that. The argument for the remaining 75, as has repeatedly been made clear, is that they would represent an agreed figure of 10 per cent of the strength in this House of each party, together with the Cross-Benchers. Thus, Labour has 18 hereditary Peers; 10 per cent of that figure is 1.8. No doubt if the noble Lord, Lord Randall of St. Budeaux, were present, he might suggest that each of those two had 0.9 of a vote! The proposal is that the number should be rounded up to two. Similarly, on these Benches, we have 24 hereditary Peers, so the figure is rounded up to three. The remaining 70 are divided between Conservatives and Cross-Benchers. It is proposed that the Conservatives should have 42 and the Cross-Benchers 28.

So one would presume that the Conservatives would have between 411 and 420 hereditary Peers. The answer, however, is that they have nothing near that figure. The latest figures, as at 1st May, indicate that 299 hereditary Peers by succession took the Conservative Whip. At 1st November 1998, the approximate date of the Cranborne-Irvine agreement, the figure was 298. There are also three hereditary Peers of first creation who will be offered life peerages; so they do not count.

On those figures, the Conservatives are entitled not to 42, but to 30 Weatherill Peers. Similarly, the 208 Cross-Bench hereditary Peers by succession should mean not 28 Weatherill Peers, but 21. Those figures

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exclude: 77 hereditary Peers belonging to no group, not even the Cross-Benchers; 70 Peers without Writ of Summons; and 58 on leave of absence. It is not clear on what basis those Peers can be taken into account. It seems that the Conservative figures assume that most of them are Conservatives and the rest are Cross-Benchers. That cannot be correct. Surely the appropriate step would be to allow those without Writs or on leave of absence to vote for 13 of themselves on the basis that the successful 13 would undertake not to attend your Lordships' House!

We have been fed throughout with inaccurate figures. The question is: how did that come about? We simply do not know. Was the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in such a hurry to do a deal with the noble Viscount that he did not investigate the figures? The draft paper prepared for the Procedure Committee on the Weatherill amendment states that the figure of 75 represents 10 per cent of the total of the hereditary peerage. That figure is, of course, correct. But it is reached only by including those who do not belong to any group, those who do not have Writs, and those who are on leave of absence. There is no justification for allocating any of those either to the Conservatives or to the Cross-Benchers. They should be left out of the count altogether.

The correct figure for Weatherill Peers, therefore, leaving aside the question of the 15 Deputy Speakers, is 56: 30 Conservatives; 21 Cross-Benchers; three Liberal Democrats; and two Labour. It seems that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, must have talked the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor into a deal that goes far beyond anything that he could reasonably have expected. If we are to have Weatherill Peers at all, surely we should rely on the 10 per cent formula, not on an inaccurate application of the formula to the facts.

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