Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Earl of Kintore: My Lords, for a number of centuries before the 1707 Act of Union, the honour of Earl Marshal of Scotland rested with my family. Despite our Jacobite indiscretions of the '15, the '19 and the '45, we retained it until 1746, when we were attainted. The tenth and last Earl Marshal and his brother had to go abroad.

15 Jun 1999 : Column 273

I feel therefore that the honour is now vacant in Scotland and does not attach to the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed a brief word. In Committee, the noble Lord, Williams of Mostyn, said that his advice was that there was no ambiguity in the Bill. With respect to his advisers, no one who heard the immensely authoritative speech of my noble friend the Duke of Montrose on that occasion could assert that with any confidence.

This Bill may well have to last and it would be right as a courtesy to the knowledge of my noble friend, and to the history and traditions of England and Scotland, and no disservice to the Bill, to accept the amendment to which the noble Earl has given his authoritative support. I very much hope that the Government will have the good grace to accept it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, when we last discussed these matters, the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, had cast his net much wider and had included the Lord Great Chamberlain of Scotland as someone whose interests should be considered. We had an interesting discussion about Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk being 28th hereditary Lord Chamberlain in the absence of the noble Earl who moved the amendment.

The purpose of the amendment is to put beyond doubt the identity of the accepted Peer office holders, Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain of England, on the basis of the Weatherill compromise. There is no doubt--

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, it is not to put the matter beyond doubt. We are not in doubt as a result of the Minister's previous comments. It is in order to accord them their correct and lawful titles.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention, which is most helpful. If there is no doubt, there is no need for these amendments. They can be referred to properly and correctly in alternative ways. There are two references in other legislation to the Earl Marshal, only one of which contains the words "of England". That is Section 4, as your Lordships will readily recall, of the House of Lords Precedents Act 1539. From recollection--

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, that was when England was England and Scotland was not part of the United Kingdom, so the reference could have been only to one Earl Marshal. I cannot believe that that Act referred to Scotland.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, since it is necessarily 1539 followed by 1707, and there could not have been any ambiguity or difficulty, the words "of England" would not have been necessary at all in that context.

The question is: do we need to alter this Bill? I am the last person here not to have a consciousness of different traditions. I am grateful to accept what the noble Duke said about my experience in Wales, although I do not accept that either Scotland or Wales are remote parts of

15 Jun 1999 : Column 274

the United Kingdom and certainly not backward. The amendments are not incorrect, but they are not necessary and they are not of any real substance in the context of this Bill. They cannot affect precedence in Scotland, which is important; they have no relevance as to whether or not an attainder could be overturned; it is not a question of whether they are lawful or correct but of whether they are required in this Bill.

There is no possibility of the Earl Marshal (of England) attempting to impose or extend his jurisdiction to Scotland. I know that these are important historical matters and they are important matters of description and precedence in Scotland, but they do not bite upon the content of this Bill. Therefore, not being unsympathetic--I genuinely find these issues of interest--they are not of relevance in the context of this Bill.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may explain that we are not trying to extend the influence of the Earl Marshal of England. It is simply that if someone claims the title of Earl Marshal of Scotland there will be two Earl Marshals. There is no indication which one is referred to in the Bill.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Duke entirely mistakes my point. My reference to jurisdiction was in specific reference to the noble Earl's point, which was that unless one had the description in this Bill "Earl Marshal of England", there might be the prospect that the Earl Marshal of England might try to extend his jurisdiction to Scotland. My response was to the noble Earl's specific point that this description, or non-description, in the Bill would have no relevance in that context.

Everyone, with or without Pepper, or Hart, or both, knows perfectly well what is referred to. It is otiose, though of historic and heraldic interest, that they be included in the Bill, but this is not a vehicle for the protection of historic heraldic interests, which are not impeached, impugned or attacked in the slightest way in this Bill.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I do not know what to do. I find it quite ridiculous. I presume, therefore, we will now see the references to "of England" removed from the Roll of the House of Lords and "of England" removed from all future references to these hereditary great officers of state.

I find it quite incredible that the Government cannot get it right. This is not even in the words of their own Bill, which they produced from the Commons, but in an amendment inserted by Cross-Benchers and by agreement, so it does not even affect the position of the Government. I hear other words used strangely in this regard. People keep referring to the fact that I am "illegitimate" when I am quite legitimate here. What might be illegitimate is the fact that the wrong titles are used for two of the great officers of state. That is far more illegitimate than perhaps the fact that I may not be

15 Jun 1999 : Column 275

democratically representative which is what is normally meant when the world "illegitimate" is used to refer to me.

I know that sounds rather muddled. However, I do not suppose that, with the number of Government troops sitting behind the Front Bench, it is worth calling a Division. On the other hand, I feel for the sake of the Scots that I should.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down or withdraws the amendment, I find it strange that the Government are not prepared to accept the amendment. Let us suppose that by chance a spelling mistake had crept into the Bill. It would be perfectly legitimate to say that there is no ambiguity, no confusion, that it does not really matter; yet I cannot believe that a spelling mistake would not be perfectly happily corrected. What is the problem with being accurate in legislation?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the legislation is not inaccurate; nor is it ungrammatical. The only grammatical errors that I have detected have been, on occasion, in amendments moved by some noble Lords on the Benches opposite, although I have not pointed them out on every possible occasion.

It is not a question of what is correct or incorrect. Both are correct, as Alice said, or should have said. There is no ambiguity and therefore one does not need to amend the Bill. However, I stress that it has nothing at all to do with attainders, possible revivers, historic precedence or anything to do with heraldry in Scotland. It is absolutely correct to say that it is of validity to say "The Earl Marshal" or "The Earl Marshal of England". We have chosen the phrase which is well known. Both the noble Duke and the noble Earl readily recognise this. There is no difficulty of understanding. There are alternatives. We have chosen the simpler and shorter, knowing that they would irresistibly, on those two grounds alone, commend themselves to your Lordships.

Viscount Mountgarret: My Lords, in order to help my noble friend on what he may or may not do about this, I would rather like to know the views of the noble Earl the Earl Marshal and the noble Lord the Lord Great Chamberlain. It may be relevant and helpful to know that. I certainly would not know which way to go if this was pressed to a Division. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. However, I see that the

15 Jun 1999 : Column 276

ambiguity is not perhaps as great as is made out. I think we should find out what the noble Earl the Earl Marshal has to say about this.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their interventions. I find it absolutely astonishing that we do not even try to get legislation accurate any more. I am afraid to say that I know that if I was to go to any of the proper legal authorities--forget about heraldic; this has nothing to do with heraldry; one is the Earl Marshal "of England" and the other is the Lord Great Chamberlain "of England"--there would be no two ways about it. To describe them as anything else is inaccurate and illegitimate. That is the illegitimacy. However, I shall not win a Division so there is no point in pressing it. It is quite late enough. I find it astonishing that we try to pass laws like this in which we are historically inaccurate. However, with those comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 19 not moved.]

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page