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Lord Clifford of Chudleigh moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 10, after ("Marshal,") insert ("Lord High Constable of Scotland, Master of the Queen's Household in Scotland, Bearer of the Royal Banner of Scotland, or Bearer of the National Flag of Scotland,").

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, the Question is that this amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content". I think the Not-Contents have it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Lord Clifford of Chudleigh moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 1, line 11, after ("Chamberlain,") insert ("or as a member of the Privy Council,").

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, the Question is that this amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content". I think the Not-Contents have it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 13, after ("shall") insert ("have the right to").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, the first point to emphasise is that it is only an enabling amendment. It does not oblige this Government or any future government of any political complexion to do anything they do not wish to do. However, should a future government wish to alter the rules so as to permit the Weatherill Peers who are no longer able for whatever reason to attend on a regular basis to retire and be replaced by other hereditary Peers, probably by means of by-elections, the Procedure Committee would be able to put that into effect, provided the amendment is agreed to, without the need for new primary legislation. I cannot believe that many people would look forward to the prospect of another House of Lords Bill.

The Government will doubtless argue that this is academic since stage two will come into effect in about two years' time. I do not doubt the Government's sincerity in saying this. However, Harold Macmillan has been quoted at least a hundred times in the past 12 months and I do so once again: It is "Events, dear boy,

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events", that upset the best laid plans of women and men. I think that the Government must recognise this in their hearts. On "Despatch Box" on BBC 2 in the early hours of 22nd October, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, was asked by the interviewer when stage two would come into effect. The noble Lord replied--I am sure I took his words down correctly--"Within a few years, at the very most". I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bach, on the skilful way in which he hedged the Government's bets.

The longer stage one drags on the more likely it is that a significant proportion of the Weatherill 90 will become less active or even totally inactive. This applies especially to the Deputy Speakers, who need plenty of stamina. Those who, unhappily, die will of course be replaced in accordance with the formula which has already been agreed upon. But those who merely become incapacitated will not be replaced as the Bill stands.

Let us take the example of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, whose death most of us were extremely sorry to read about a week or so ago. He used to be an extremely active Peer on the Liberal Benches. I remember this well as he was often helpful and supportive of me on various amendments that I moved in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Indeed, he once backed a Private Member's Bill of mine. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, attended the House on 120 occasions in the 1985-86 Session; on 116 days in the 1987-88 Session; and indeed on 119 days as recently as the 1992-93 Session. But in the last four years of his life he was able to attend only on five days in four years. And that is not an isolated instance. Your Lordships can think of many similar examples of distinguished people whom it would perhaps be unseemly to name at this moment. Not everyone is blessed with the health and vigour of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, or the late Douglas Houghton.

Nor is it simply a matter of advanced age. People can be struck by accident or severe illness at any age. Alternatively, they may be obliged to move house a long way from London, possibly abroad, for the sake of their wives' or husbands' health. Again, younger Peers may be offered the chance of a lifetime to go abroad to work in Singapore, Sydney or San Francisco for five-years or more. No one can afford to turn down the chance of such a valuable career move in the competitive age in which we live.

The Scottish and Irish representative Peers with whom the Weatherill 90 were frequently compared at earlier stages by both the Government and Conservative Front Bench were, I understand, elected for five-year terms. So, in effect, are honourable Members in another place. If they feel no longer up to the job, they have the option of standing down at the next election. They even have the option of applying for the Chiltern Hundreds in between elections.

This modest amendment would allow the same humane principle to be applied to the representative Weatherill 90. I would also contend that it is fully in the spirit of the Weatherill agreement.

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The leader of the Conservative Party, Mr William Hague, recently called for more common sense in Government and in our affairs generally. This is a common sense amendment. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will support it. I beg to move.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I understand and to some degree sympathise with the points put by the noble Lord. Certainly if Parliament wishes to keep in its counsels 92 hereditary Peers it would be unfortunate if that effective number were lower because of infirmity.

On the other hand, that has always been the way of this House. It is the way with the hereditary peerage. It is the way with the life peerage also. There are some among our number, always at any time, who are not able to be with us as often as they would wish on ground of infirmity. We do not require their replacement and we accept that as part of the way of this House.

Having carefully thought through what the noble Lord said, and knowing that this amendment would arise this afternoon, I believe that we should therefore treat the Weatherill Peers in the same way as we treat all other Peers in this House. They are representative Peers. But they are also hereditary Peers; and the whole essence of hereditary peerage is that, except in the exceptional circumstances of a renunciation shortly after inheritance, it is held for life. Even where a peerage is renounced no one else can take that place so long as the one who has renounced it lives.

There are many these days who decry the hereditary principle, but I do not. It is the way of family inheritance, of property, of the passing of hereditary titles, and of course of the monarchy itself. I do not think that we should muddy or change that. For that reason, I am sorry to tell the noble Lord that I cannot support his amendment.

Lord Coleraine My Lords, I have listened with respect to the retrospective constitutional view of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. However, I believe that in a reformed House it will not be practical to fail to permit Peers--life Peers--to renounce their peerages. This will follow essentially from the political nature of the new House and the importance of maintaining a political balance. I am, therefore, pleased to say that I would go along very strongly with the feelings expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Monson.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, arguing the proposition advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the excepted Peers should be treated in no way differently from any other Member of the House, as is proposed by this amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, no Member of your Lordship's House has the right to relinquish his or her membership. That is the current position and will remain the position in the transitional House.

There is no reason why excepted Peers should be any older, any more sickly, or any less able to attend your Lordships' House than life Peers. Indeed, it could be

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argued that they may well be younger, healthier, keener and more active than any of the rest of us, as no doubt these are some of the criteria that will apply and carry weight with the Weatherill electorate.

The terms of Clause 2 are perfectly clear in this matter. Subsection (3) states:

    "Once excepted from section 1, a person shall continue to be so throughout his life (until an Act of Parliament provides to the contrary)".

That means that once a hereditary Peer has been excepted under the elections to be held this week and next, his or her continuing membership of your Lordships' House may only be ended due to death or to stage two of reform. This accurately reflects the compromise agreement reached between the parties and encapsulated in the amendment brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, and others and overwhelmingly endorsed by your Lordships' House as a whole. I do not think that there can be any question of altering the terms of that agreement.

I should make one matter clear. In the unlikely event that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, were to find favour with your Lordships' House, unless the Standing Orders also agreed by your Lordships' House were changed, it opens up the possibility of the number of excepted Peers being allowed to dwindle below 90. As your Lordships' House may recall, Standing Orders under Clause 2 currently reflect the agreed policy that vacancies should be filled due only to death, not retirement or any other reason.

We have had a fair amount of debate at earlier stages of the Bill about the possibility of a retirement age. I do not believe that it is worthwhile to go back over those debates now. We have made it plain that this Bill is a single purpose Bill to end, and now to restrict, membership of the House of Lords by virtue of a hereditary peerage. There is no intention on our part to change any aspects of the terms, conditions and other arrangements of your Lordships' House. These may all be matters for stage two, but we are not here to decide them now.

In all the circumstances, I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

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