Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, the Leader of the Opposition has raised a question regarding the Liberal Democrat view on this issue. We made it clear on Report that we were strongly opposed to the idea of by-elections. It creates all kinds of anomalies, including the fact that when one of the two elected Labour Peers dies, the other will have a personal and individual power to appoint the successor to that Peer. There are a number of other anomalies, but the matter was discussed at length on Report. We certainly do not support it, but we do not on this occasion intend to oppose it.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, perhaps I may ask for clarification. We have heard a great deal about the situation that would arise on the death of one of the 90 Peers. What would the situation be if one of those 90 Peers is unable to continue as a result of illness or difficult family or financial circumstances? Will that Peer be replaced?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, vacancies arise only on death.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 10, leave out ("anyone") and insert ("those peers").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, to refer first to my Amendment No. 3, I respect the fact that Members of this House may have had the opportunity to read and consider the report of the Committee for Privileges and its findings on the Treaty of Union 1707. Its influence on House of Lords reform is obvious. No matter what may have been the opinion of individual Peers, I would argue that Amendment No. 3, and Amendment No. 4 relating to the Privy Council, have a common bond. Both the Officers of State and the Privy Counsellors are the monarch's representatives. They bear that honour and responsibility either by succession or by personal choice of our current monarch, Her Majesty the Queen.

One would be nai ve to believe that Privy Counsellors, 28 of whom are hereditary Peers, would have achieved that title without the positive recommendation of Her Majesty's Government, whichever government it may have been, who select the names for that esteemed position, which is held by Letters Patent. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are quite separate from Amendment No. 4. Perhaps I may speak briefly to the first two.

26 Oct 1999 : Column 172

We have been advised that the inclusion of this provision in the Bill would make it hybrid. I do not know whether the Minister will confirm that. As the House reached a judgment on that issue last week, it would seem to us a mistake knowingly to attempt to import hybridity into the Bill--that being despite the fact that the Grand Offices of State of Scotland could certainly bring a speech out of me if your Lordships particularly wished it. But probably your Lordships do not, so I shall leave the matter and turn to Amendment No. 4.

Amendment No. 4 invites the Government to consider the inclusion of all the current members of the Privy Council who are hereditary Peers and have not been "caught" by other measures taken in the Bill. Membership of the Privy Council is a high and singular honour. I say that with some feeling, being a member myself. Fortunately, I am a life Peer, so I do not fall into this category. There are, however, a number of distinguished noble Lords who are members of the Privy Council and who have either decided not to stand for election or are doing so and, as is possible, may not be elected. For example, a group of former Leaders of the House fall into that category. I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, my noble friends Lord Jellicoe, Lord Cranborne and Lord Belstead are all members of that group. My noble friends Lord Denham and Lord Ferrers are two hereditary Peers who have given long and distinguished service to the House. They are Privy Counsellors who would, so to speak, fall by the wayside if they were not to be elected by their colleagues. My noble friend Lord Carrington is a distinguished former Foreign Secretary. He will not be a Member of this House. He will be the only former Foreign Secretary who will not be a Member of one or other of the Houses of Parliament. It is perhaps even more ironic that my noble friend is a former Secretary-General of NATO and will leave this House almost at the same time as Mr George Robertson is appointed Secretary-General of NATO and the Government have felt it important to send him to your Lordships' House. I would have thought that what is sauce for the Robertson goose is sauce for the Carrington gander. Perhaps the Government will look seriously and sympathetically at this issue.

I have not mentioned all the members of the Privy Council, but that does not mean to say that I do not believe they have a good case for retaining membership of your Lordships' House having been given that honour by Her Majesty. In particular, those whom I have underlined illustrate the force of the case for special consideration to be given to this particular group.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, these amendments fall into two parts. First, they seek to reserve a place in the transitional House for the Lord High Constable of Scotland, this time accompanied by three of his fellow Great Officers of the Royal Household. Secondly, they seek to preserve a place for any hereditary Peer who is also a Privy Counsellor. I believe that the second of the

26 Oct 1999 : Column 173

two proposals would affect 20 individuals, not including hereditary Peers of first creation who will be offered a life peerage, hereditary Peers who are also life Peers or members of the Royal Family.

As quickly as possible, I shall deal first with the Scottish office-holders. As my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn made plain in reply to the earlier attempt by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, to save the Lord High Constable of Scotland, the reason why the Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain are excepted in Clause 2 is that both have ceremonial functions in relation to your Lordships' House. They are responsible for the conduct of royal affairs in the Palace of Westminster, for such ceremonies as the State Opening of Parliament and the Coronation. That is why it is proposed that they should retain their places here.

As my noble and learned friend also made perfectly clear, the role and functions of the office of the Lord High Constable of Scotland have nothing whatsoever to do with Parliament. The same is true of the other office-holders named in the amendment. The principal role of the Lord High Constable of Scotland is to ensure the personal protection of the sovereign north of the Border. The role of the Bearer of the Royal Banner is to carry the Royal Banner in the army of Scotland, that of the Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland is to bear the royal insignia in Scotland and so on. I suggest to your Lordships that it is wholly inappropriate to consider allowing those office-holders to remain, given that their offices have nothing whatsoever to do with the work of your Lordships' House.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has touched on one last point. The House authorities have indeed advised the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, that the inclusion of the Scottish hereditary office-holders would make the Bill hybrid because

    "[the traditional office-holders] do not constitute a class that is germane to the Bill. Accordingly, this amendment would affect the private interests of some hereditary Peers differently from the private interests of other hereditary Peers".

We went into the issue of hybridity in some detail last Wednesday when we debated the Motions in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, to refer the Bill to the Examiners. It was clear from that debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, rightly said, that your Lordships' House had no desire that the Bill should be hybrid; nor, we were assured, any desire to invoke the procedure to deal with hybridity merely for the sake of delaying the passage of the Bill. I hope that none of these arguments has lost any force since last week.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene. I understood from the debate on

26 Oct 1999 : Column 174

hybridity that there were no private interests, only public duty, involved in this matter. Therefore, that argument can hardly be used.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as I understood it, the point which was made in debate was that the last thing your Lordships' House wanted was that the Bill should become hybrid.

The second part of this amendment enables hereditary peers who are Privy Counsellors to remain Members of the transitional House. I accept that your Lordships' House benefits from the accumulated knowledge, wisdom and experience of the Privy Counsellors among its number, whether or not they are hereditary Peers. It would be invidious to name names, and I do not intend to do so. However, I must remind the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and those who support his amendments of the one and only purpose of this Bill, which is to remove the hereditary principle as the basis for membership of your Lordships' House. It does this regardless of the individual merits of those who happen to be hereditary Peers. The Government have always made it clear that they value the contributions of hereditary Peers and the 75 to be elected by their fellow hereditary Peers, but they are the only hereditary Peers, together with the 15 office-holders and two hereditary office-holders, who will be elected by the whole House and will remain.

There is nothing to stop a Privy Counsellor standing for election to become an excepted Peer, and I am heartened to see that a considerable number have put their names forward for election. But for our part we have no intention of accepting any additional provision over and above the agreed number enshrined in Clause 2 as presently drafted. In those circumstances, I urge the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, not to pursue his amendments any further. To do so would be a clear breach of the agreement and would make the Bill hybrid.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord. I disagree with his observations and those of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. This House voted on the hybridity of Clause 1. If noble Lords read, as I am sure they have, what I said following the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, they will understand that I did not make reference to Clause 1 on which the House divided. Having corrected the noble and learned Lord--the need to do so is most unusual--I ask the House to remember that when it divided on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Gray, that the matter dealing with the 1707 Act should go to the Committee for Privileges, 275 noble Lords supported him. I hope that that number will do exactly the same today.

These amendments are not inappropriate at this late stage in so far as they add to the list of excepted holders of great Scottish offices. I take into account the words of the noble and learned Lord. This corrects an apparent drafting oversight which, unless remedied,

26 Oct 1999 : Column 175

devalues Scotland's place in the Union. We are concerned here with the United Kingdom despite devolution.

My third amendment goes on to except Peers who are members of the Privy Council because, by parity of reasoning, that particular batch of personal experience and distinction should receive the same recognition.

Obviously, I shall not divide the House on Amendment No. 2, but I wish to have the opinion of the House on Amendments Nos. 3 and 4. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 2.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page