Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hughes: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, may I ask him, having regard to his opening words about the Treaty of Union, whether he believes that, so long as there are at least 16 life Peers living in Scotland, the spirit if not letter of the treaty would be fulfilled?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, all I am saying is that neither the Treaty of Union, nor any law which has followed it, has required the Peers of Scotland--that is, the Peers created before 1707--to have 16 of their number in this House.

The Earl of Perth: My Lords, perhaps I may ask one question. Do I take it that since here and now the Scots are well represented, that will go on and the Government will make sure that they will be well represented one way or another? That is all I am interested in.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I feel that the people of Scotland are extremely well represented in the House at the moment, even without the pre-1706 Peers. Their departure would be a loss. It would be for each individual political party, as it nominates people, to make sure that that continues in the transitional House.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his reply and for dealing with the actual issue of the Treaty of Union and not some of the surrounding issues that have arisen during

22 Jun 1999 : Column 887

the debate. We shall come to the question of Scottish representation in general terms in the next group of amendments. I am always cautious when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, asks me a question that sounds particularly legal, because I am sure that he knows the answer before he asks it. Therefore, I say to him that what I intend to suggest in my amendment, as to the Peers and peerage of Scotland, are those Peers who are solely Peers in the peerage of Scotland and not those Peers who have Scottish peerages and have obtained along the way, so to speak, or their ancestors have, peerages of either Great Britain or the United Kingdom. I hope that that answers that question.

I was interested in the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe. He described my arguments as a lost cause. I say to the noble Lord that it is a little like persuading his government to plant conifers in England--a lost cause in which we have both been involved to some extent.

As far as the opening of the new Scottish Parliament is concerned, I hesitate to say it, but my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and I seem to have received the invitations. We will therefore have a watching brief for the rest of your Lordships' House to make sure that it does not exceed its powers on its first day of sitting.

To return to the arguments of the noble and learned Lord, I think what he has said to me, if I can paraphrase it, is that although he does not disagree with Lord Cooper in his judgment, he is simply pointing out that the Articles XXII and XXV fall to be considered under those articles of the treaty which could be altered, could have subsequent modification, and were not unalterable in all time.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, does the noble Lord recall that in our debate in Committee I made it clear that the general view was that Lord Cooper's words, which were obiter--meaning that they were not necessary for the decision that he reached--were not regarded as representing the law? Indeed, they have not been followed in any subsequent cases. I provided a detailed answer to that point in Committee and I am surprised that the noble Lord has not come back with any detail to suggest that I was wrong on the previous occasion. Does he not recall that and does he not believe that he would be wrong to think that that was my position?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, perhaps I may say that the noble and learned Lord explained it better today. At least I have understood it better, but that is probably my fault. We have had an interesting debate. I am persuaded, unless someone convinces me otherwise after they read what the noble and learned Lord has said, that what the Government are doing in the Bill does not infringe the Treaty of Union. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28B not moved.]

22 Jun 1999 : Column 888

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 29:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" . Standing Orders of the House shall provide that on any day when the House sits for public business the membership of the House includes at least sixteen peers who are domiciled in Scotland.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall be fairly brief on this amendment. We have moved away from the narrow question of the peerage of Scotland into the question of those Peers who are resident in Scotland and who, in the new House, could include some who are hereditary Peers elected by their colleagues and those others who are life Peers, like myself, the noble Lords, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, Lord Hughes, Lord Taylor and Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld, and some of my noble friends on this side of the House who will continue to be here.

I have no doubt that the Government will tell me fairly quickly that there are more than 16 of us. That is true. I suppose that if I were attempting to be moderate in my amendment I would be looking at some fraction of the House--perhaps one-ninth to reflect the current composition of the Commons or perhaps 9 per cent to reflect the composition of the Commons after the next Boundary Commission, when the number of Scottish MPs will be reduced from 72 to about 58. Perhaps I should have gone down that road. All I am trying to do through this amendment is to tie in the historic position of the Treaty of Union and put on the face of the Bill that there should be at least 16 Peers in your Lordships' House who are domiciled in Scotland.

I appreciate the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. However, if that is the only fault with the amendment, I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, will--

Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, the noble Lord has the choice of his own alternative form:

    "Scotland is the part of the United Kingdom with which they have the closest connection". There is no objection to that.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble and learned Lord. That is clearly the amendment from the group on which I should rest. That is what we mean. There are some Peers who have a limited connection with Scotland but do not live in Scotland. It is those who live in Scotland, who go there every weekend and consider Scotland to be their home, that I am interested in.

As I said, I think that I am being modest in suggesting 16. All the amendment is doing is putting down a marker to the Government and to the appointments commission, when it is set up, that they should always ensure that the Scottish position is represented. My noble friend Lord Gray has other amendments in this

22 Jun 1999 : Column 889

group which address the same issue in different ways. I shall leave him to speak to his amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Gray: My Lords, in supporting my noble friend Lord Mackay, I shall speak as briefly as I can to my amendments in this group. They are Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 and related consequential amendments, Amendments Nos. 36, 38 and 39. Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 are alternatives to the amendment moved by my noble friend and those to which he spoke. Apart from the reference to Article XXII, with which my principal amendments open, the main difference from my noble friend's versions is that my amendments exclude Ministers of the Crown and persons appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 from the minimum number of Peers to represent Scotland.

The only difference between my Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 is the minimum number of Peers specified. Amendment No. 33 calls for a minimum of 16. We have all heard about the 16. In light of earlier discussion, that does not need explanation.

Amendment No. 34, however, specifies 24 Peers domiciled in Scotland as the minimum representation. The minimum of 24 is realistically proportionate to what obtains at present. In arriving at that figure I have taken the present average attendance of life and hereditary Peers and adjusted it to take account of the number who remain in the interim House. At present there are 40 life Peers who give addresses in Scotland: 12 Conservative, 13 Labour, four Liberal and 11 Cross-Benchers. If one deducts the eight who are Ministers of the Crown or judicial appointees, 32 are left as a potential maximum. That may easily decrease or increase. I cannot guess how many hereditary Peers, if any, may be elected to the interim House.

Allowance must be made for non-attendance. To peg the number at 16 can never reflect the level of Scottish representation that presently obtains with regular attendances in your Lordships' House. I submit that 24 would be fairer. I would be interested to hear the views of others as to what is preferred. I regard it as of paramount importance that the Bill should acknowledge in some way the Scottish treaty right to representation, and that is why I have tabled these amendments.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the amendments in this group effectively raise the question whether there should be either 16 or 25 Scottish Peers in this House who are domiciled in Scotland. We have explained on a number of occasions why we believe that the interim House will provide more than adequate representation for the people of Scotland. I make just two other points in this regard. First, it may well be positively detrimental to the people of Scotland if one builds into the Bill a minimum number. That minimum could all too easily become a number that one regarded as satisfactory to represent the people of Scotland. I do not believe that that is necessarily in the interests of the people of Scotland.

Secondly, during the period of the interim House the obligation will be on both the Government and each of the political parties to ensure that the people of Scotland

22 Jun 1999 : Column 890

have adequate representation. The Prime Minister has made clear that, subject to very exceptional cases, he will simply pass on the nominations of each political party to the appointments commission. In effect each political party will be in a position to assist the proper representation for the people of Scotland. With the greatest respect to the noble Lords, Lord Gray and Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, this amendment is neither necessary nor sensible.

As a separate issue, we have difficulties with the form of all of these amendments. First, they seek to impose obligations on the Standing Orders of this House. This is a very unusual way to proceed. We do not think that your Lordships should be comfortable with the idea of statute law being able to lay down conditions for the Standing Orders of this House. Secondly, none of the amendments say what happens if the condition is not fulfilled. For example, will the House be unable to sit until the situation is rectified? Whose responsibility is it to rectify it? To take an example, why should it be the responsibility of the Government if they have 15 Scottish domiciled Peers among their number and no one else has any? Yet under our other proposals the Prime Minister will be unable either to nominate representatives of another party or insist that they recommend only those who fulfil the requirement. Nor do we believe it is reasonable to say to an existing Peer that he must become domiciled in Scotland.

For all of those reasons, I respectfully submit that these amendments are not sensible, necessary or properly thought out. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. In default of withdrawal, I recommend that the House votes against it.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page