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Baroness Young: My Lords, I very much hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, who I understand will reply, will seriously consider the suggestion that my noble friend made in his closing remarks. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, will know, I have raised this matter with her privately. I have also written to the noble Lord, Lord Boston, about the matter. The Minister is looking as if I have said something that is quite wrong, but I make these points because I regard this as a very serious issue.
I do think--I speak as a life Peer--that this is very difficult for hereditary Peers, many of whom have been Members of your Lordships' House for many years and whose families have certainly been here for possibly hundreds of years. Ninety per cent of them have been told that they are going; just like that. Some have said this afternoon that they find it rather painful. I believe I should find it very painful if someone just addressed me in those terms. But I am not a hereditary Peer, so it does not apply.
However, I take my noble friend's point about what is becoming to the House of Lords. Indeed, the practice of this Chamber and its civilised behaviour have distinguished it from other Chambers. Even though this particular amendment may not be quite right, I really believe that one of the committees of the House should consider the matter to see whether what I have suggested could be allowed; namely, something like dining rights or the opportunity to come in on a given number of occasions during the year for a meal, or indeed the right to use the Chapel and the Crypt, although that is a somewhat different issue. Nevertheless, it is something to which people attach importance. I think that these issues deserve to be looked at with care and consideration.
As my noble friend Lord Ferrers said, it may well be the case that no hereditary Peer ever wants to set foot in the House again, but that would be their choice. However, to say that none of them can do so under any circumstances seems to me to be something which is not really worthy of the House of Lords and, if I may say so, not really worthy of the Ministers. They should seriously consider this matter. I hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, will tell us that it is the Government's intention that this will be considered by one of the committees of the House.
We must recognise in this House that the Labour Government, despite some people's interpretation of the manifesto, have extended a great deal of sympathy by accepting the Weatherill amendment. They thought that that would get the Bill through in a dignified way. However, we are now finding that noble Lords are totally betraying that Weatherill amendment and raising the same issues time and time again.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I am very strongly in favour of the hereditary Peers who are not members of the 95 continuing to enjoy what are called the "ancillary benefits" of being a Member of your Lordships' House, for the reasons given by the noble Earl, and, if I may say so, very movingly by the noble Baroness, who is a life Peeress and former Leader of the House. But, having said that, and despite feeling very strongly that that should be so, I presume to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, that this is really not a matter for legislation, particularly if it can be dealt with in some other way.
As the noble Earl said, the retired Bishops continue to enjoy the "ancillary benefits" of your Lordships' House. As far as I know, there is nothing in any Act of Parliament which says that they may do so. The noble Earl mentioned the Procedure Committee, but I rather think that it would be a matter for the Offices Committee. In my respectful submission, it would be far better dealt with by a favourable answer from the Offices Committee. I very much hope that it might consider the matter and consider it favourably before Third Reading. If that can be done, I presume to think that it would be better if this amendment were not pressed to a Division.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, before today--indeed, before a moment ago--I did not know that my noble friends Lord Ferrers and Lady Young had written to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham. I, too, have written to him and, like my noble friends, I have had what I regard as a wholly unsatisfactory reply. I think it is a matter of great regret that the noble Lord, Lord Boston, who has been replying in such an unsatisfactory fashion to so many noble Lords, including a number of Privy Counsellors, has not bothered to be here to listen to the debate. That is a matter of very considerable regret.
However, I also think that there is a respectable case for saying that the matter ought to be considered by one or other of our committees, rather than writing such a provision on the face of the Bill. But the noble Lord,
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord or indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Young, actually mentioned to the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, that they intended to name him and to criticise him in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has just done. I am sure that he would have been present had he been given notice that these personal remarks were going to be made.
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, if I have said anything offensive, naturally I withdraw it at once. However, I did not receive the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, until an hour or so ago. Therefore, I have not had an opportunity to tell him that I was going to mention his name. In any event, the noble Lord, Lord Boston, is an Officer of the House and he must have been aware that this matter would be raised; indeed, the amendment has been tabled for some while. However, be that as it may; if I offended the noble Lord, or indeed transgressed the rules, I apologise and withdraw whatever I said which may have been offensive.
I believe that it is right for the relevant committee of this House to consider the matter urgently--it is to be hoped before the Summer Recess and certainly long before the Bill, if it is to become law, passes on to the statute book. It is a matter of wide concern to a number of Members of your Lordships' House and it is a matter of regret that it has not yet been found possible for the relevant committee to convene and consider the issue.
I believe that it would be right for the Offices Committee--if that is the right committee, which I fancy it is--to consider the matter urgently. If the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, is able to give an assurance that that will happen, I shall of course take a different view. I am not certain whether it is the Government's view that the committee should consider the matter now or after the Bill becomes law, but the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, has clearly expressed his view on this matter. I regret that very much.
Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I think that we should pause to consider in a more general and wider sense what we have been doing over the past several weeks, and what we shall be doing possibly over the next several weeks for all I know. We are expelling from this House a considerable body of people, many of whom have been here for many years and many of whom have given substantial and considerable service to this House and to Parliament as a whole. I support the Government in doing this. I have been described as being agnostic with regard to expelling the hereditary Peers. That is true, but I know that the arithmetic is wrong and it has to be put right. This is one way of doing it. However, as we are doing something which clearly must be extremely painful to a substantial number of our colleagues we should pause and think
I recall that when I ceased to be a Member of another place--by popular demand--I was still allowed to use certain, admittedly limited, facilities in that other place. I did not use them because I felt that if I turned up there I would feel rather like Banquo's ghost and not wholly welcome there. As we are taking away from people something which they value, we should not take away everything. We should give them something to soften the blow. Like my noble friend who has spoken, I am not sure whether that measure should be put on the face of the Bill. Perhaps this matter should be decided by a committee or by my noble friend Lord Boston. I do not know about these things. However, it should be done somehow. What I really seek from my Front Bench is a demonstration of mercy and a hand offered to our colleagues which they might grasp. That would alleviate the passage of the rest of this Bill. I hope that my noble and learned friend will take note of that--although I do not know that he will.
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