|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the Speaker requires notice. Whether or not it is 24 hours, I do not know. I shall certainly make inquiries. I repeat: that is the present practice in this House. Nothing further is being introduced.
Perhaps I may make one final point. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, rightly said that the Leader of the House has a number of obligations. So, of course, does he. On all these occasions we try to put our duties as servants of the House before any short-term partisan advantage. In the short time that I have been here--which is a favourite phrase for lawyers--I have never encountered, on any occasion, any decision made by any Leader of the House, of whatever political complexion, that suggested that their independence and regard for this House was in any way being impeached.
Lord Renton: My Lords, during his very full contribution the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, referred to the possibility of the Lord Chancellor having responsibility in this matter. Admittedly, the Lord Chancellor's duties are not strictly analogous with those of the Speaker of the
Let us assume that "Lady Jayclyde" or "Lord Cranby" are Leaders of the House. It seems to me that if this privilege is given to them--and to them alone--we will be reducing the powers of Parliament as a whole. This is a tendency which has gone on too long and too much. That is not a criticism on this issue of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde or the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne. If one takes power from the House and gives it to an individual, that will reduce the power of the House and increase the power of the executive. That is something that all Houses of Parliament allow at their peril.
Lord Wigoder: My Lords, as a final comment before the noble and learned Lord sits down, may I venture to correct an inadvertent slip on his part? If I heard him aright, he said that the report of the Joint Select Committee was printed on 30th March of this year. It was of course printed on 30th March of last year. As a member of that committee I take an interest in this matter. At the rate of progress we are now making, it seems to me that all our recommendations will finally be considered some 52 years hence.
The point made by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is mistaken. The Leader of the House presently has the discretion of which he speaks. The discretion vested--and which will remain vested--in the Leader of the House is to extend the privileges of your Lordships to discuss matters, not to limit them.
The noble Lord, Lord Renton, raised the question of whether or not it should be the Lord Chancellor who had this duty. I make two short points in regard to that. First, this matter was fully considered by the committee at paragraphs 200 and 201. As I said earlier, it came to the conclusion that the appropriate person, probably, was the Leader of the House. I have not had the opportunity to consult the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, but one has to bear in mind that he is at the apex of the judicial pyramid. When one is talking about questions of sub judice, I respectfully suggest that it seems more appropriate that the Leader of the House should have the discretion. To paraphrase one or two words I heard yesterday, it has worked very well in the past; there is no reason why it should not work well in the future.
The noble Lord said: The electoral commission will have a very important role to play in the political life of our country. That role will not just encompass elections to the House of Commons or elections to the European Parliament; it will also encompass elections to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the Northern Ireland Assembly; and it will encompass referendums, or referenda, depending on your preference.
Later on in the Bill we will address the question of the role of the electoral commission in Scottish local government, which I think is the subject of a series of government amendments. Without doubt the electoral commission will have an important role to play in the United Kingdom. I am selecting Scotland here because the powers of the Scottish Parliament are far greater than the powers of the other two devolved bodies set up by government. The powers of that Parliament to make electoral law for local government are different from those which the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies will have.
I might not have tabled this amendment had it not been for events in your Lordships' House last Thursday when the Leader of the House answered a Question from my noble friend Lord Strathclyde about the Appointments Commission which is to be set up. As your Lordship will recall, the chairman of the Appointments Commission is the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham. It was clear that of the three non-political members--if I may call them that--one comes from Wales and one from Northern Ireland. My noble friend Lord Renton then asked about Scotland. He said:
That came as a surprise to almost all the Scots in the Chamber. Indeed the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, who for years and years was secretary of the Scottish Peers Association asked the noble Baroness if the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, lives in Scotland. The noble Baroness did not answer that but said, at col. 1134:
I have to say that I have yet to be convinced that the noble Lord would be considered by Scots as a Scot. I went to the Library to get the biographical details. I looked at Who's Who. The only indication I could see was that he went to a public school in Scotland. That does not actually point to the fact that he is a Scot. The entry did not say anything about where he lives. Clearly, his title indicates Suffolk, which is not one of the counties of Scotland. There was no address in Scotland in Who's Who.
I asked for the biographical details which the noble Baroness said last Thursday she would place in the Library. I discovered that the biographical details had not been placed in the Library, so I was no further forward. However, I have made some progress. My noble friend Lord Northesk looked up the Downing Street website and pulled off the CVs of the members of the commission. They were no help at all, being more limited than the information in Who's Who. I therefore decided to put down this amendment.
I may be absolutely wrong. I have no reason to doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, is a perfectly worthy chairman, but I do not think that the Government can justifiably claim that he is a Scot who represents or is aware of political developments and what goes on in Scotland. If we are to keep this kingdom together--we shall be coming to amendment after amendment about Northern Ireland, all of which suggests to me that the Government are intent on dividing the kingdom, one island from the other--then we have to be mindful of the very different position which the Government have created in Scotland. There is need for a Scot on these United Kingdom
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|