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Viscount Trenchard: My Lords, I am pleased that my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch has brought forward his amendment again in an improved form. I congratulate him both on his courage and on his good sense. I spoke in support of my noble friend's amendment in Committee and with the leave of the House I should like to do so again, although I promise to be briefer.
I voted for the Weatherill amendment because I thought that it would make a bad Bill better. However, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, should we not try to build on his achievement and make the Bill better still--or rather, even less bad, depending on how you look at it.
We are told that it is impossible to consider whether there are better ways to bring about stage one reform of this House because Weatherill represents the only compromise to which the Government are prepared to agree. However, it is fundamentally wrong, especially on a matter of such great constitutional importance, not to try to improve further on the Weatherill proposals. I believe that my noble friend's amendment is better from the point of view of all parties. It would certainly be better for the country. It has, as it were, something for everyone.
Under my noble friend's amendment, the government party achieve parity with the Conservative Party immediately; the Liberal Democrats would have 60 voting Peers rather than 48 or so, which I believe is what the Weatherill amendment would give them; Conservative Peers would be able to elect the 200 Peers whom they want to represent them as voting Peers. The Government would have discharged their manifesto commitment in that no one would be a Member of this House only because he holds a hereditary peerage. Several noble Lords opposite have questioned whether other amendments debated today would satisfy the manifesto commitment, but the degree to which that commitment would be satisfied by my noble friend's amendment is rather greater than the degree to which many other manifesto commitments of all governments have been satisfied. The Cross-Bench Peers would be the largest group. They would be able to choose the 240 Peers they wished to represent them. Their presence would ensure that this House did not become too party-political. Under the Weatherill proposals, the Cross-Bench Peers will not be a large enough group to prevent the politicisation of the House. All elected Peers would have their authority enhanced, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has told us in connection with the Weatherill amendment. But under my noble friend's amendment their authority would be doubly enhanced, because they would have been elected by all their peers, not just by the hereditaries.
My noble friend's amendment also permits all present Members of the House to continue to sit and speak. That has several advantages. First, if there were a second election before stage two was implemented the electorate would have a chance to get to know the
I am no lawyer and certainly do not understand hybridity. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will enlighten us in his reply to my noble friend. I cannot understand the argument that my noble friend's amendment would make the Bill hybrid any more than it is already with or without the Weatherill amendment; rather, Peers would still be able to participate even though not all of them could vote. I therefore believe that the degree of hybridity in the Bill would be reduced by my noble friend's amendment. The effect of his amendment would be rather similar, at least in the short term, to that moved earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of St. Budeaux. Both amendments correct the substantial imbalance in voting strength between the two largest parties without depriving your Lordships' House of the benefit, if it be such, of the contribution that any one of your Lordships may bring to this place.
I have some sympathy with the objectives of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Randall, although I believe that his weighted voting system introduces complications which the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Pearson does not. The Bill incorporating the Weatherill amendment is not as effective in achieving parity of voting strength between the two major parties as either my noble friend's amendment or that of the noble Lord, Lord Randall. In reply to his noble friend Lord Randall, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that the Government were unable to support the amendment because the actuarial calculation showed that the last hereditary Peer would die in 2068. But it is likely that under Weatherill the same actuarial calculation would predict that the last of the 92 exempted hereditary Peers would die not much earlier than 2068. But, surely, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, misunderstands that the amendments moved by his noble friend Lord Randall, my noble friend Lord Pearson and the Weatherill amendment, which is now Clause 2 of the Bill, are all proposals for the transitional House.
The Weatherill amendment has made a bad Bill better and it is incumbent on your Lordships' House to try to make the Bill better still. The very sensible amendment introduced at Committee stage by my noble friend Lord Marlesford, which would have provided those of your Lordships who are Privy Councillors with a through train to the transitional House, would have been one way to do so. I am very sorry to see that so far he has not tabled that amendment again at Report stage. I hope that he will still do so or, if not now, at Third Reading.
My noble friend Lord Strathclyde earlier this afternoon mentioned various other ways in which your Lordships could improve the Bill beyond the Weatherill amendment. I agree with him, and will give him my wholehearted support. However, I believe that the scheme introduced by the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pearson would provide for a better transitional House than that which would result from any other amendment that your Lordships have debated during our deliberations on the Bill. I hope that your Lordships will support it.
Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I have added my name in support of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. Like so many of us in this House, I am not legally qualified but do heed advice from those who are. I believe that the majority of noble Lords in the House have received a copy of counsel's opinion on this particular Bill.
One of the pieces of advice that I have been given relates to a statement made in 1876 by Lord Cairns, who is well known to the legal profession, relating to the constitution. Perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I refer again to the opinion which I may have sent to many noble Lords. It may help them to understand why I put my name to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. The point relates specifically to hybridity rather than numbers although the two issues are interrelated. Lord Cairns described public law. The noble Lord, Lord Williams, may wish to correct me if I am wrong. Public law is the law of the constitution, peerage law and the law of Parliament. The law of real property, that is to say land, is private law. Those are two distinctions.
Noble Lords will understand that many hereditary peerages create private law as well as public law rights. All peerages originally created by Writ, and most peerages created by Letters Patent confer private property rights. The modern peerages created by Letters Patent, in particular those with no link to the land, probably do not create private property rights and are governed by public law only.
It is clear that that differential impact probably makes it questionable as to whether or not the House of Lords Bill is a hybrid Bill. My convenor sits alongside me. However, I fear that by creating two divisions within the peerage--that is, Lords of Parliament as a particular class, and those without parliamentary rights as another--the amendment of my noble friend Lord Weatherill almost certainly makes Clause 2 hybrid. The same would be the case as regards the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. We shall all be interested to hear the response of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, to the amendment.
Lord Newby: My Lords, at this time of the evening, we look forward with eager anticipation to the response--indeed, the dissertation--of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, on hybridity. If the question of hybridity arose, we on these Benches would be opposed to it.
The only Members of your Lordships' House affected by the amendment would be the Conservatives--they would lose 250 Members--and the Cross-Benchers who would lose 75 Members. They would still be able to sit and speak in this House but would be unable to vote. It is a limited amendment which is completely at odds with the fundamental purpose of the Bill.
It also has within it a number of anomalies for which in theory I should be grateful. As I fall under subsection (1)(d) of the new clause--I received my peerage under the Life Peerages Act in one of the four Sessions preceding the Session in which this Bill will be passed--I am one of the unique category of people who will never have to stand for election. The Bill provides that any person who became a Member of your Lordships' House during that period is in a separate category and in the same position as the Lords Spiritual and any holder of a peerage under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act in not being required to stand for election under any circumstances.