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Lord Carter: My Lords, perhaps I may help the noble Lord. He is correct that the Question before the House is the amendment in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer. If the noble Lord had wanted a general debate on this issue, he should have put down a Motion to draw attention. He has put down a Motion to resolve, which means a vote.

10 May 2000 : Column 1711

Therefore, he was seeking the opinion of the House. My noble and learned friend Lord Archer, with his amendment, is seeking the opinion of the House on his amendment, which the House is entitled to take. If my noble and learned friend loses on his amendment, the noble Lord can then decide what to do with his Motion. The noble Lord put down a Motion to resolve--that is the important point--and not a Motion to draw attention.

Lord Rees-Mogg: My Lords, I am most grateful for that explanation. It appears, therefore, that I cannot ask at this stage for the leave of the House to withdraw my Motion, even though I might agree with the advice of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

I have some difficulties here. I am speaking quite openly to the House and consulting. I am not advising or trying to persuade noble Lords of anything. There is a very even balance between the two arguments. I do not wholly object to the amendment. It has two advantages from my point of view--the point of view of a strict constitutionalist. The first advantage is that it reaffirms--even though, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, pointed out, the word "ultimately" is somewhat ambiguous--the traditional doctrine about the duty of this House. It has another advantage. Although the Leader of the House would not agree to invite the Neill committee into the House--she seems to have a view that that would be wrong because she thinks that it can come in anyway--the amendment does at least welcome it. It therefore gives some colour of decency to the Neill committee coming into the House. It does not come in as an outsider or burglar; it comes in as a welcome guest. Therefore, I do not find the amendment wholly without merit. I do not see it as destructive of the constitutional position that I would adopt.

My position is that, if the House would like me to withdraw my Motion subsequent to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer, may choose to say, I should be only too happy to do that. If the House would rather pass the Motion as amended--there is no doubt where the votes are--I should be perfectly content with that. I am in the hands of the House.

11.42 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, it is a pleasure doing business with him.

It is conventional at this point in a debate to say that it has been a good debate. This has been a good debate. It has been an informative and instructive debate, as my noble friend said, and the two cases have been very effectively deployed. The two issues have been addressed by my noble friend the Leader of the House and I doubt whether anything which she said would benefit from repetition by me. In an earlier debate today a great deal of reference was made to the late hours which we sit. I do not think that I would improve my position in the popularity stakes if I were to contribute to that now.

10 May 2000 : Column 1712

Perhaps I may make just one comment.

Lord Barnett: Just one!

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, as my noble friend said "just one", and he can count if he wishes. Only the very boldest spirits in the debate--two or three of the boldest spirits--have suggested that we do not need a review of how the register is working. The issue is whether that review would be better carried out by the committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Neill, or by a committee of this House. Some noble Lords have used the word "interference" of the committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Neill. I do not think that that was a happy word. There are better words--words like "assistance" and "information". The advantage of the Neill committee is precisely that it is not a committee of your Lordships' House. By welcoming that, we can demonstrate that we are not investigating ourselves. We have a right to reject that course of action. But this is an opportunity to demonstrate that we are not proposing to incarcerate ourselves in our ivory tower.

The question therefore arises: what course ought I now to take? It is always with the greatest regret that I resist the blandishments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, particularly as he is supported by the noble Lords, Lord Campbell and Lord Elton. But I am bound to say that I found the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, more persuasive.

There are real differences between us. I believe that it is in the interests of everyone that they should be resolved. The noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, said in his opening remarks that it was a pity that the House had not had an opportunity to express a view on the subject. The debate has been on a Motion that has been on the Order Paper for a substantial time. All the issues have been well ventilated and this appears to be an opportunity to resolve them. I seek to test the opinion of the House.

11.46 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 111; Not-Contents, 3.

Division No. 1


Ackner, L.
Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Butler of Brockwell, L.
Carter, L. [Teller]
Chandos, V.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gavron, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grabiner, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greaves, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollick, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. (Lord Privy Seal)
Kennedy of The Shaws, B.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lester of Herne Hill, L.
Lipsey, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Nicol, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Patel, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rennard, L
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Serota, B.
Simon, V.
Skelmersdale, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Stern, B.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tordoff, L.
Uddin, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.


Avebury, L. [Teller]
Haskel, L. [Teller]
Simon of Glaisdale, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

10 May 2000 : Column 1714

The Deputy Speaker (Viscount Simon): My Lords, the Question is that the original Motion, as amended, be agreed to.

Lord Rees-Mogg: My Lords, I must ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, unfortunately as the noble Lord has established, the unanimous opinion of the House is not in agreement with his wish to withdraw. Consequently, the Question is that the original Motion, as amended, be agreed to.

On Question, Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Carter: My Lords, who was the one besides the Tellers? I beg to move that the House do now adjourn.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at two minutes before midnight.

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